May 222014

Was Fear‘s 1981 performance on Saturday Night Live the first example of the Made for TV Pit Audience phenomenon, which has become de rigueur for VH1 spectacles, the Super Bowl halftime show, and the like? You know what I mean by Made for TV Pit Audience, right? It’s the elite group of “insiders” of an artist’s fanbase who are strategically encouraged to rush the otherwise guarded pit area so they can show the rest of us how the featured artist truly deserves to be admired and adored.
I suspect something’s missing in the story of this “anarchic” Fear performance on SNL. The hardcore kids slam dancing and stage diving didn’t just happen to get tickets to that night’s performance, did they? They didn’t just happen to be standing at a cleared-out spot at the foot of the stage. They were audience props. They were actually the reason for booking Fear, despite whatever story has long been told about Belushi wanting them on, which may in itself have been true. Fear’s appearance on SNL would have added up to nothing without those hardcore kids placed in the pit to show the rest of America how it was done.

  3 Responses to “Roots of the Made for TV Pit Audience: The Hardcore Kids Who “Stormed” Fear’s 1981 SNL Appearance”

  1. misterioso

    Mod, you’re absolutely right: if not for the prop punk kids this would have just been a performance by a pretty crappy band. Instead, it was a performance by a pretty crappy band with prop punk kids.

    But I’ll say this much: I assume you are right and these were actual hardcore kids; today, they would hire some models to dress as hardcore kids.

  2. Yep, Ian McKaye and the f-bomb-dropping Cro-Mags guy were in that slam dance, so there was maximum credibility beyond the probable staging of the entire event. I wonder if there’s any crossover with the punks from that legendary episode of Quincy.

  3. hrrundivbakshi

    I remember reading that the audience watching the Who’s first appearance on the BBC was packed with die-hard mods by Kit Lambert.

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