Thursday, February 16, 2012

Always working for a concept: Father Guido Sarducci and the search for God

Father Guido Sarducci and James Belushi chat about God in an airport lounge on SNL.

Hello, long-neglected blog readers! Recently, while browsing through Saturday Night Live clips on Hulu, I found a rather remarkable (and now removed) sketch from the show's 1983 season. This particular sketch is called "Airport Friend" and it contains one of the most profound ideas I've heard all week. Basically, Father Guido is stranded at an airport, waiting very impatiently for his flight, and an airline has paid Belushi to pretend to be the priest's "friend" during the delay. At first, Sarducci is brusque with the phony friend and tries to shoo him away, but eventually he takes pity on the man, who is just trying to do his job. Belushi explains that he works for jerks. Sarducci says he works for jerks, too, at the Vatican. Everyone in the world, they agree, works for jerks. The exception is the Pope, who works directly for God. God isn't a jerk, says Sarducci. God is a concept. (Yes, this is a phrase which also crops up in John Lennon's song, "God.") And that's what leads Father Guido Sarducci to his epiphany: "You can put a man on the moon, but we'll always be working for a concept."

Recently the AV Club did a nice article about profound comedy. The usual names came up, of course -- Carlin, Pryor, Louis C.K. -- but one name absent from the roll call was Don Novello a.k.a. Father Guido Sarducci. Honestly, Novello has probably made me ponder the big questions of life and death more than any other comedian. I've listened to his album Breakfast in Heaven dozens of times. I wish I could find a video for the title track from that LP, a thoughtful and very funny monologue about the afterlife. But in lieu of that, here's Father Guido's concept for a "five minute university."

And here's Guido explaining life itself and the literal meaning of "paying for your sins":

This is the fairest, most comforting vision of the afterlife I've ever heard, and it encapsulates a lot of what I love about Novello's comedy. The AV Club's Nathan Rabin once pointed out that the Sarducci character "represents the very humane, approachable face of the Church." He's the one comedian who makes me hope that God actually does exist.


  1. I had forgotten Father Guido. Thanks for reminding me of this character. Very funny.