Nowadays less people know Vincent Price and more people know Bill Hader’s impression on Saturday Night Live. (Honestly, I love period-media comedy, and I like Bill Hader, but I think his voice is a little off. At times, his cadence and delivery sound more like Percy Dovetonsils. But I digress.)
Hader is the third Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Player to play the part. First was Dan Aykroyd in 1978. Host Carrie Fisher did a sketch that parodied the American International Pictures’ Beach movies (which is a nod to VP’s cameo in 1963’s Beach Party). Aykroyd played him as a swishy playboy hosting a BBQ to Garret Morris’ Chubby Checker. Years later, Michael McKean delivered my favorite interpretation. (Photo unavailable) He appeared in a PBS fundraiser parody, with Price reading from a cookbook (with ghoulish gusto) and promoting an upcoming appearance in some Hanna-Barbera project. This impression was my favorite interpretation, it was on YouTube, but it’s since been removed, so now it’s as though the sketch never happened. McKean did the gag when he hosted in 1984 and again when he became a regular cast-member in the 1990s.
Sadly Price himself never appeared on the SNL. Kind of surprising for a guy who did so many variety specials and game shows. (Hey die-hard fans, DO check out his 1972 appearance on The Dating Game where he appeared dressed as Dr. Anton Phibes, plugging the sequel and questioning some bachelors on behalf of a young lady. But don’t bother with the ABC Comedy Special John Ritter: Being of Sound Mind and Body.)
One of the better Vincent Price tribute/impressions is in the 1952 Bugs Bunny cartoon, “Water Water Every Hare”. You’ve seen Bugs go up against a Peter Lorre-esque villain, but here he faced that delicate mad scientist who sounds just like Vincent Price. For the record, that is not Mel Blanc doing the voice, but a Looney Tunes bit player named John T. Smith. As far as I can tell he never did the Vincent voice again.
But the best Vincent Price homage is still Tim Burton’s 1982 animated short Vincent. A few years ago when Nightmare Before Christmas was re-released in DVD, the loving tribute was also shown (in 3D!) before the feature. Let’s hope they do it again this season.
And if you feel like paying tribute to that fiendish fop, come by Kevin Geeks Out About Vincent Price!