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Watch Madonna and ‘Saturday Night Live’ Address AIDS Hysteria In a Surreal Sketch From 1985

Watch Madonna and 'Saturday Night Live' Address AIDS Hysteria In a Surreal Sketch From 1985

I came across this pretty remarkable (for better or worse) clip of Madonna hosting “Saturday Night Live” back in 1985 over the weekend on various Facebooks, and it definitely needs to be shared.  Not simply because it’s the first time I’ve seen a clip of Madonna’s one and only hosting gig (she’s been the musical guest — and made numerous appearances — since, but never again full-on hosting), but because it’s something even more rare: The mainstream media addressing AIDS in 1985 in a borderline sensitive manner. 

The sketch — from the 11th season premiere of “SNL” — is called “Pinklisting,” and features Madonna as a Linda Evans-esque soap opera actress who refuses to do scenes with actors “she doesn’t know” out of ignorant fear of AIDS.  It aired the fall after Rock Hudson died, which coincided with tabloids claiming his “Dynasty” co-star Linda Evans was got AIDS from a kiss. The sketch is obviously a play off that, with Terry Sweeney (who was openly gay at the time — and disturbingly remains the only openly gay male SNL cast member in its history) playing a gay soap opera actor who tries to be as masc as possible to make Madonna’s character think he isn’t gay. 

The sketch isn’t really funny, and at first comes across just as offensive as you’d sadly expect from 1985 (which made me feel uneasy given Madonna surely had many friends battling AIDS at the time). But then it sort of turns into an edgy, insightful and progressive (at least for 1985) critique of AIDS hysteria. At least I think it does? I mean it’s definitely not without issue, and I won’t spoil the end — but watch and add any thoughts in the comments. I’m very curious what folks think, especially those who might have seen it when it aired. Also: Look for cameos from Robert Downey Jr, Anthony Michael Hall and Joan Cusack!

(There’s two embeds below, each not seeming to be working for all browsers.. So if it isn’t working for you, click on the links at the bottom of it).

This Article is related to: News



surely it's a joan-collins-type character given the reference to the bitch? and quite the opposite of offensive


I remember seeing this when it aired..It felt so uncomfortable yet as a closeted gay men made love and adore Madonna to this day…this is what the kids today and her critiques don't get…she was the first, she put herself out there for us not for PUBLICITY OR MUSIC PROMOTION like tired wannabes today,… she was , is and will always be the queen and the best ppo star and icon ever

Juan Manuel

pretty hardcore 4 the time!!! luv it!!

Ridiculous talent in that cast, and yet...

This cast was together for only one season, which many cite as the worst one from the show's entire run, and yet they've earned more Oscar nominations than any other. (5 total) Crazy.

Matthew Rettenmund

Saw it live in '85. Nope, it came off as 100% edgy, poking AIDS hysteria in the eye. I think that remains clear today and didn't find it particularly problematic. It was gutsy. Just not particularly funny. Her monologue and the "calls from the car" and Mexican singer sketches were hilarious.


In the context of the hysteria at the time, which was very real, the sketch was certainly topical. Of course it seems dated now.

Joan Cusack's small part got a mention on this page, but Randy Quaid deserves one too!

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