"Bill Swerski's Superfans" was a recurring sketch about Chicago sports fans on the American sketch comedy program Saturday Night Live. It was a prominent feature from 1991 to 1992, and its characters have made various other appearances since its inception. The sketch is notable as a media portrayal of the Inland North dialect of American English that predominates in Chicago, most famously through the distinctive pronunciation of the phrase "Da Bears" (IPA: ˈd̪aː beɻs).
Shortly after Robert Smigel moved from New York to Chicago in 1983 to start his career in comedy, he made his first visit to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play. He noticed a prevalence of large men who wore walrus mustaches and large sunglasses, a look similar to Mike Ditka, who had been hired to coach the city's NFL team, the Chicago Bears, the year before. "There was just a swagger among these very virile-looking men", he recalled. "All sports fans kind of have it."
In the following years, that swagger was rewarded as the fortunes of the city's teams improved. The Cubs and the White Sox both made the playoffs for the first time in decades, the National Basketball Association's Bulls drafted Michael Jordan and in 1985 the Bears capped a 15-1 regular season with victory in Super Bowl XX. Smigel began conceiving of characters based on that sort of fan, and the line "Da Bears!", but could not imagine a setting that would work. He told an improv classmate, Bob Odenkirk, a native of nearby Naperville, about his idea, and Odenkirk reminded him to include the slight hiss the word ends with when pronounced with a strong enough Chicago accent, something only natives of the area would appreciate.
Smigel and Odenkirk eventually joined the writing staff of Saturday Night Live (SNL), but did not write the sketch until the 1988 writers' strike, when they returned to Chicago to stage the improvisational Happy Happy Good Show, as "Chicago Superfans". At that time, played by Smigel, Odenkirk and Dave Reynolds (with an occasional appearance by Conan O'Brien as one of the fan's sons), they were simply sitting on lawn chairs and drinking beer, but making the wild imaginative leaps by which they could assume the Bears would handily win another Super Bowl. The sketch drew considerable laughter, but when it came time to stage the show in Los Angeles, Smigel cut it, believing audiences there would not understand it. 'I'd never thought of it as something that could work on national television,' he said, 'because it just felt so regional."
In January 1991, Chicago native Joe Mantegna hosted SNL. Odenkirk suggested to Smigel that they pitch the fan characters to him, and after the host liked it the writers finally came up with a setting, parodying The Sports Writers on TV, a long-running Chicago-area radio show which had been adapted for television by local UHF channel WFLD-TV in 1985, featuring three veteran local sportswriters, including Bill Gleason, known for his thick Chicago accent, and Rick Telander, a relative newcomer, sitting around a table and discussing Chicago sports. Odenkirk imagined what the show would be like if its panelists were average fans rather than sportswriters. "The key was that table", said Sports Writers producer John Roach. "Men gathered at a table talking about the shit in an unscripted way that lets you eavesdrop on it." The name "Bill Swerski" was a play on the name of Chuck Swirsky, the radio voice of the Bulls.
The sketch premiered on January 12, 1991, hours before the Bears were to play the New York Giants in a divisional playoff game at Giants Stadium, a few miles from NBC's Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center. Mantegna starred as Bill Swerski, along with Chris Farley as Todd O'Connor, Mike Myers as Pat Arnold, and Robert Smigel as Carl Wollarski, a part the writer had intended for Phil Hartman but was assigned by the show's head writer, James Downey, because Downey believed Smigel's accent sounded sufficiently authentic. Smigel said it was easy to play, as the sunglasses allowed him to read the cue cards without anyone noticing, and he could eat during the sketch, which helped him relax.
Kevin Nealon also made a brief appearance as oddsmaker Danny Sheridan in the first sketch—he is promptly sent away by Swerski after giving the Superfans an honest assessment regarding the prospect of Mike Ditka single-handedly defeating the Giants. Subsequent sketches starred George Wendt as Bill's brother Bob, with occasional appearances by Beth Cahill as Bob's daughter Denise. Macaulay Culkin appeared as Tommy Arnold, Pat's young nephew, who played a Pilgrim in a short school program about Thanksgiving, in which an Indian (played by Culkin's brother Kieran) predicted the Bears would lead the Detroit Lions 96-14 at the half. John Goodman played Pat Arnold upon Myers' departure from SNL; the change in Pat Arnold's appearance was attributed to "massive weight gain." Mantegna's absence was invariably explained away by Wendt, saying his "brudder Bill" had just "had anudder heart attack."
The characters were typically shown in Mike Ditka's sports bar, drinking large amounts of beer, smoking, and gorging themselves on ribs, Polish sausage, and similar foods. All of the characters wore dark sunglasses and thick mustaches to resemble Ditka, the popular coach of the Bears at the time, and who was the idol of all the Superfans. In addition to discussing Ditka and the Bears, another frequent topic of discussion was the Chicago Bulls basketball team, and their star player, Michael Jordan, who were winning their first three NBA Championships at the time. Both Ditka and Jordan would make appearances (playing themselves) in episodes of the sketch.
Early sketches had posters in the background with the call letters WBBM, the CBS O&O TV, AM and FM stations in Chicago, though later sketches changed the call letters to WCBM.
The group would discuss upcoming sporting events and inevitably predict a huge victory for the Chicago team, using an exaggerated Chicago accent—a variety of Inland Northern American English—normally culminating in a uniform toast to "Da Bearss" and "Da Bullss", although "Da Cubss" was heard on at least one occasion. Their predictions were likewise exaggerated and their topics of conversation often ludicrous. Typical debates involved Mike Ditka versus a hurricane—in this particular debate, the Superfans believed that Ditka could defeat the hurricane, until it was revealed that the name of the hurricane was Hurricane Ditka, at which point Todd O'Connor had a heart attack out of confusion; who would win in a competition for World Domination—"Da Bearss" or "Da Bullss"; Mike Ditka winning the Indianapolis 500 driving the Bears' team bus; or how many points Michael Jordan could score if he played an entire game by himself while lounging in a recliner.
One episode asked the outcome of the Bulls/Pistons game where Todd said the Bulls would win 402–0—but Jordan would be held to under 200 points. Todd usually predicted shutouts. During the first episode, he predicted that the Bears would defeat the Giants by a score of 79–0, claiming that "the Bears' defense is like a wall. You can't go t'rough it." (The Giants won the actual game, 31–3.) Pat once predicted the Bears would win their game by a score of 31 to negative-7. When asked how a team could end up with negative points, Todd replied, "Ditka'll find a way." One episode featured a Jeopardy!-like game show, pre-empting the Bearless, and therefore unimportant, Super Bowl, starring Bob Swerski as host and the other Superfans as contestants. All the questions dealt with the Chicago Bears, Chicago, or Mike Ditka. The Final Jeopardy! question was "Bears vs. Bulls," which produced hilarious responses from the contestants. The correct answer was revealed to be that such a match-up would tear the fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the planet, meaning the United Nations would have to step in prior to the match to prevent the mass destruction.
The characters appeared in nine episodes in two years. With Ditka's departure from the Bears in 1993 and significant cast changes on SNL, the sketch and characters all but disappeared. They did, however, make a special appearance at the celebration of the Chicago Bulls' 1991–1993 "Three-peat" championship victory. The NBC television network interrupted daytime television to broadcast the short speeches made by the Superfans. Bob Swerski and Carl Wollarski also made a special appearance during Michael Jordan's original jersey retirement ceremony at the United Center in 1994. The final sketch (actually a taped segment narrated by Bill Kurtis, ostensibly a TV documentary piece) featuring the original Superfans was on October 25, 1997 in an episode hosted by Farley. This featured the second appearance by their idol Mike Ditka (he had appeared on an episode of SNL after his firing by the Bears); although, he was at the time coaching the New Orleans Saints, which resulted in a schism amongst the Superfans (Carl had taken up with the Saints, Bob had moved to Jackson, Tennessee—halfway between Chicago and New Orleans—and Todd believed it was 1986 (And had a heart attack if told otherwise). Farley's death two months later seemed to preclude the possibility of any future Superfan sketches.
Beth Cahill (born September 15, 1963) is an American television actress who is best known for having been a featured cast member on Saturday Night Live during the 1991–92 season.Chris Farley
Christopher Crosby Farley (February 15, 1964 – December 18, 1997) was an American actor and comedian. Farley was known for his loud, energetic comedic style, and was a member of Chicago's Second City Theatre and later a cast member of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live between 1990 and 1995. He then went on to pursue a film career, starring in films such as Coneheads, Tommy Boy, Black Sheep and Beverly Hills Ninja. Farley died of a drug overdose at the age of 33.David S. Pumpkins
David Simon Pumpkins is a fictional character played by American actor Tom Hanks. He first appeared in the October 22, 2016 episode of Saturday Night Live (SNL) in a sketch by SNL writers Mikey Day, Bobby Moynihan, and Streeter Seidell. Fans responded positively to the character and his catchphrase, "Any questions?"
Pumpkins has appeared in two episodes of SNL as well as an animated Halloween special that aired on October 28, 2017.Happy Happy Good Show
Happy Happy Good Show was an improvisational comedy revue held at the Victory Gardens Studio Theater in Chicago during the summer of 1988. The cast and writers were largely made up of writers on strike from Saturday Night Live after the 1987–1988 season. The show is most notable for showcasing the performance talents of Bob Odenkirk, Robert Smigel, and Conan O'Brien, as the three had previously only showcased their writing talents. The revue was directed by Mark Nutter.
Video clips of Happy Happy Good Show were shown on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in 2006, when the program was taped for a week in Chicago.Indianapolis 500 in film and media
The Indianapolis 500 auto race has been the subject for several motion pictures. It has also received countless references in television, film, commercials, books, and other media. The following is a list of such references.List of recurring Saturday Night Live characters and sketches
The following is a list of recurring Saturday Night Live sketches, organized by the season and date in which the sketch first appeared.
For an alphabetical list, see Recurring Saturday Night Live characters and sketches (listed alphabetically).List of recurring Saturday Night Live characters and sketches by cast member
See also: Saturday Night Live TV show sketches, listed alphabetically, listed chronologically.The following are the most frequent recurring characters and celebrity impressions on Saturday Night Live listed by cast member.Mel Brandt
Melville "Mel" Brandt (June 18, 1919 – March 14, 2008) was an actor and NBC staff announcer.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Brandt joined NBC around 1948. His radio announcing credits included The Adventures of Frank Merriwell, Author Meets the Critics, and The Eternal Light. In 1975, he announced for a syndicated radio program called Faces of Love.He was one of the stars of the first television soap opera, Faraway Hill, broadcast in 1946 on the DuMont Television Network. His familiar voice was heard over the second animated version of the NBC Peacock from 1962–75, announcing that "the following program is brought to you in 'living color' on NBC." He announced the opening of the television soap opera, The Doctors. His introduction was "The Doctors: The Emmy Award winning program, dedicated to the brotherhood of healing."
Brandt was the series announcer for other NBC-TV programs including The Bell Telephone Hour from 1959 through 1968, and GE College Bowl on NBC from 1963–70, in which his introduction was "Match wits with the champions in America's favorite question and answer game, live from New York, the General Electric College Bowl,", and after a brief plug for General Electric would introduce "the man with the questions, Robert Earle."Brandt replaced Don Pardo as the announcer on Saturday Night Live during the 1981-82 season – except for two episodes from that season in which Brandt was replaced by Bill Hanrahan, better known then as the voice of NBC Nightly News.Mike Myers
Michael John Myers (born May 25, 1963) is a Canadian actor, comedian, screenwriter, and film producer. He is known for his run as a performer on Saturday Night Live from 1989 to 1995, and for playing the title roles in the Wayne's World, Austin Powers, and Shrek films. He made his directorial debut with the documentary Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (2013). He has stepped away from acting for the most part since the fourth Shrek movie. He had a small role in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009) and a supporting role in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018).Recurring Saturday Night Live characters and sketches (listed alphabetically)
The following is a list of recurring Saturday Night Live sketches, organized alphabetically by title. The referenced date is the date when the sketch first appeared.
For a chronological list, see Recurring Saturday Night Live characters and sketches.Recurring Saturday Night Live characters and sketches introduced 1976–1977
The following is a list of recurring Saturday Night Live characters and sketches introduced between September 18, 1976, and May 21, 1977, the second season of SNL.Recurring Saturday Night Live characters and sketches introduced 1990–1991
The following is a list of recurring Saturday Night Live characters and sketches introduced between September 29, 1990, and May 18, 1991, the sixteenth season of SNL.Robert Smigel
Robert Smigel (born February 7, 1960) is an American actor, humorist, puppeteer, comedian and writer known for his Saturday Night Live "TV Funhouse" cartoon shorts and as the puppeteer and voice behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. He also co-wrote the Hotel Transylvania films and You Don't Mess with the Zohan, both starring Adam Sandler.Saturday Night Live (season 16)
The sixteenth season of Saturday Night Live, an American sketch comedy series, originally aired in the United States on NBC between September 29, 1990, and May 18, 1991.
The 16th season of SNL was a transitional one: Several longtime cast members left, and a large number of additions were made to the roster. To ensure that he was not short on talent (and to avoid repeating Jean Doumanian's mistake—and Lorne Michaels's previous mistake in the case of the 1985-1986 cast—of hiring a cast of new, inexperienced cast members with little to no comedic chemistry), Michaels chose to retain most of the late 1980s cast while in the process of hiring the people that would make up the early 1990s cast. At one point during the season, sixteen people were listed as cast members or featured players.Saturday Night Live (season 17)
The seventeenth season of Saturday Night Live, an American sketch comedy series, originally aired in the United States on NBC between September 28, 1991, and May 16, 1992.
This was the final season for Victoria Jackson. At the time, Jackson became the longest serving female cast member, with a total of six seasons on the show. She was later surpassed by Molly Shannon in the 26th season. This would be Beth Cahill and Siobhan Fallon's only season on the show.Saturday Night Live (season 23)
The twenty-third season of Saturday Night Live, an American sketch comedy series, originally aired in the United States on NBC between September 27, 1997, and May 9, 1998.
During the season, a controversy arose in which Weekend Update anchor Norm Macdonald was removed from the Update segment after angering NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer with his O. J. Simpson jokes. The weekly inclusion of O.J. jokes upset Ohlmeyer, who was good friends with Simpson. Ohlmeyer arranged to have Macdonald fired from the segment, but not from the show. Macdonald's final episode as Update anchor was on December 13, 1997. Quinn was then promoted to the job and anchored the segment in the next live episode, which aired January 10, 1998. Even though Macdonald still performed in sketches, he was not happy and eventually quit the show; his final appearance was on March 14, 1998. After MacDonald's departure this was also the final season for Jim Breuer as he left the show at season's end to move on to other acting opportunities.
This season saw the deaths of two former cast members. Six weeks after he came back to host, Chris Farley became the fifth SNL cast member to die prematurely. Similar to his idol, John Belushi, Farley died of a speedball overdose at the age of 33. Two weeks after the season finale, long-time performer Phil Hartman was murdered by his wife. Following their deaths, NBC aired two SNL specials as tributes to Farley and Hartman as they were both remembered during this season.Saturday Night Live (season 39)
The thirty-ninth season of Saturday Night Live, an American sketch comedy series, originally aired in the United States on NBC between September 28, 2013, and May 17, 2014.Superfan
Superfan may be:
A fan (person) who shows a great deal of enthusiasm for something, such as a sports team or entertainer
Student fans of the Boston College Eagles
"Superfan", nickname for football enthusiast Giles Pellerin
"Superfan", nickname for NBA basketball enthusiast James Goldstein
"The Superfans", series of "Bill Swerski's Superfans" television sketches
"Superfan", a 1970s comic strip in Pro Quarterback magazine by Nick Meglin and Jack Davis, later collected in a 1972 paperback published by Signet Books.
"Superfan", nickname for Canadian sports entertainer Cameron Hughes
The IAE SuperFan, an aircraft engine cancelled during its development in the 1980s
"Superfan", Acadia University Athletics fan the Red Menace.The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special
The David S. Pumpkins Halloween Special is a Halloween television special that aired on NBC on October 28, 2017. It stars Tom Hanks as Saturday Night Live character David S. Pumpkins. The 21-minute special was written by and also features Mikey Day, Bobby Moynihan, and Streeter Seidell. Peter Dinklage narrates the story, which follows a brother and sister who go trick-or-treating, meet Pumpkins and catch the troublemakers who had disrupted Halloween.
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