SNL’s ‘Godfather Therapy’ With John Belushi

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John Belushi, as Don Vito Corleone, in SNL’s “Godfather Therapy” sketch

If it seems like The Godfather movie has been around forever, it’s because it has. It had its premiere on March 15, 1972, in New York, almost three years to the day that Mario Puzo’s novel depicting the fictional Corleone family was published.

It’s a well known fact that The Godfather is every guy’s favorite movie. The odds are pretty good that it’ll show up when you’re channel surfing.

Saturday Night Live‘s inaugural season debuted on Oct. 11, 1975. Three months’ later, actor Elliott Gould hosted the series’ ninth episode. During that January 10, 1976 airing – with musical guest Anne Murray, no less – the writing staff spoofed The Godfather in a sketch called “Godfather Therapy,” less than four years after the film was released.

A TV show about a mob boss seeing a psychiatrist? Nah, that would never work. (Little did we know that Tony Soprano would enter our collective consciousness nearly a quarter century later on January 10, 1999.)

When the sketch begins, we see a group therapy session with five patients and Gould as the therapist.

“When we left off at last week’s session,” he says, “Vito was telling us about his feelings towards the Tattaglia family.”

Belushi, as Don Corleone, adjusts his tie and does his best Brando impersonation. “Well, the Tattaglia family is causing me great personal grief… [They’re] moving in on my territory. They’re moving in on the numbers. Prostitution. Restaurant linen supply. Now they want to bring in drugs.” He adds, as an aside: “Also, they shot my son Santino fifty-six times.”

You know, this scene…

Cast member Laraine Newman, who plays a fellow patient, recognizes that the Don is avoiding the subject of the loss of his likely heir.

“Vito, you’re blocking your real feelings,” she says. Gould also presses him on Sonny’s death.

Belushi begins reciting many of the film’s famous scenes (though the writing staff managed to mangle some of the details). “We had to go to the mattresses… Clemenza sleeps with the fishes. Johnny is finished in Hollywood. They blew up Michael’s wife and lovely car. The ASPCA is after me about this horse thing.”

At the 4-minute mark, Belushi recreates the scene where the elderly Vito is playing with his grandson among the tomato plants.

That would be this one…

Watch Belushi doing his best impersonation of Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone, in “Godfather Therapy”

Related: One month earlier, Newman and Richard Pryor spoofed The Exorcist

Surprisingly, while SNL‘s Season One featured such well known figures as Dick Cavett, Desi Arnaz, Richard Pryor, and George Carlin as hosts, the program’s Executive Producer, Lorne Michaels, tapped Gould to host a second episode that year. Go figure.

Gould is a member of SNL‘s vaunted Five-Timers Club. That refers to the select group that have hosted the sketch comedy series five or more times. The other earliest members were Steve Martin, Tom Hanks and Paul Simon (though at the time of the first reference to the “club’s” existence on December 8, 1990, he had only hosted four times; the others made an exception since Simon had served as musical guest on many occasions). Many others have joined “the club” before and since.

Related: SNL‘s classic “Superhero Party” sketch, with Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and Bill Murray

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  1. 122intheshade
    #1 122intheshade 11 January, 2022, 11:32

    For you “Godfather” nerds/fans, there’s a terrific book just out about how the movie got made. “Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli”.

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