This is both a tough one and a Tricky one to write about; but we gotta do it anyway…When writing the list for the top “One & Done” cast members a few months ago—or any list for that matter—there’s always going to be at least one name or two that I accidentally leave off for various reasons; either because I completely forget that certain people/things were ever on the show in the first place, or because their impact was so minimal that you sometimes wonder what they were doing on the show, even though you can clearly see them on live television before your eyes……and Tony Rosato was one of those cast members—so my apologies in advance if this tribute is a little on the “Thin” side, or even the “cynical” side, but considering how quickly he came & went (not to mention his own personal troubles after they cut him from the show), you’ll forgive me if the remembrances are a little lacking. Believe me, if this were a eulogy for someone like, say, Dan Aykroyd or Bill Hader, or someone who made a significant enough impact on the show, this would certainly be a little more comprehensive. Unfortunately, not to take away from whatever talents he had, Rosato was a “Caretaker” cast member at best—someone who pretty much rounded out the cast for spacing purposes even though it was well-rounded anyway.
Rosato Passed away on January 10th at the age of 62; something I probably would NEVER have known about if it weren’t for the close-knit group of SNL fans I keep in touch with outside of this page. For those who are not familiar, Rosato was a cast member during the first full year of the Dick Ebersol regime, as well as the first full episode of the same regime in April 1981. Before that, he (along with the much more successful Robin Duke) was a caretaker cast member on another great sketch show; SCTV. On both shows, what you saw was what you got with Tony—a performer who certainly had a lot of energy to spare, but had a little trouble harnessing it. In the linked article above, there was a quote stating “He was once Pegged to be the Next John Belushi”—looking at some of the sketches he did in order to write this essay, I only “sort of” see it. Sometimes he tried a little too hard to be the “Loud” comedic performer; but as we learned several years later with Chris Farley, there’s a fine line between being loud & funny at the same time—and incidentally, HE turned out to be the “Next Belushi” in the worst possible way…but I digress.
Not that Tony didn’t try. Watching some of his clips, there were a couple performances he did that were slightly nuanced and not as over the top as all the other roles he played—a good portion of which were “as himself” at the Upda….I mean, “Newsbreak” desk. One of his bigger contributions to the show was his impression of actor Ed Asner as “Lou Grant”; which—if he was only a few octaves lower, and IMO—is probably one of the most accurate impressions I’ve ever seen on the show…and I’m an unabashed Hader fan. Unfortunately, this seems to be the only MAJOR highlight of his SNL career considering most of the other roles he played were either secondary characters, antagonists/heavy’s, or borderline offensive stereotypes. But since this is a memorial essay, I gotta be fair—that said, here is a selection of sketches Tony did that may be worth another look:
…and if you’re feeling REALLY daring enough to stomach stereotypes for 10 minutes, Frank & Papa.
I won’t mention his personal problems here (largely because the Toronto Star obituary I linked you to does it for me, as well as the continuing notion that this should be a happy place), but I will conclude with this thought: Looking back at all the people who have ever appeared on SNL over the years—whether as a cast member, crew member or host—they will always have the show in common with everybody no matter what these people do with the rest of their lives. Some people choose to build on whatever success they gained while they’re there, some choose to simply fade into the background but still keep busy, while others still simply drop off the face of the earth altogether. Rosato might not have been the most memorable person ever to work in studio 8H; but he did it anyway, and he did his best with the brief time he was there–and really, that’s just about all you can do when you have your big break. It’s unfortunate that he couldn’t break any further outside of bit parts, but sometimes people are content with what they do…Tony Rosato did a year of SNL, and he should be (or should’ve been) damn proud that he did it.