John Madden Once Pulled a Legendary Prank on ‘Saturday Night Live’

by Taylor Cunningham
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In memory of the late coaching legend John Madden, his friends and acquaintances have taken to the internet to share both emotional and hilarious memories of their time with him.

And recently, a snippet from Saturday Night Live’s former executive producer Dick Ebersol’s memoir has resurfaced. In it, the self-proclaimed ‘practical joker’ gave Eberol a story of a lifetime.

“With John Madden,” he began. “It was really about the closest I ever came to having a heart attack before I had a real one in February of ’96.”

John Madden Told the ‘Saturday Night Live’ Executive Producer that He was Ditching his Guest Appearance in front of ‘300-Plus’ Fans

In 1982, John Madden served as SNL’s celebrity host for an episode. At the time, Madden had already retired from his coaching position with the Raiders. And he had moved on to his long career in broadcasting.

But Madden’s 1977 Super Bowl win was still fresh in the minds of fans. So, of course, his decorated coaching career was at the center of the episode. And for his opening monologue, he told quips about his players and sideline victories.

However, when the Monday Night Football host showed up at the dress rehearsal to run his lines, he decided to have a little fun at the expense of Dick Ebersol.

As Ebersol wrote, Madden had just walked on stage to rehearse the monologue when he asked Ebersol, who was sitting under the bleachers, to have a moment.

“I stuck my head around the corner so he could see me,” Ebersol remembered. “He said, ‘Come here a minute.’ I came to about halfway to the stage area with a full house, whatever it is, 300-plus for dress [rehearsal]. And he said, ‘I just want to tell you now I’m going to finish this dress rehearsal. And then I’m going to leave. I’m not happy with how things have been going. And I’m enough of a trouper to finish it for this audience. But then I’m outta here. This is just the pits.'”

The executive producer stood in front of the crowd, completely shocked and at a loss for words. And John Madden let Ebersol stew in his anxiety for a moment before letting on that it was a joke.

“I’m standing there and I’m dying,” he said. “And he lets about two or three seconds go and then he gets the biggest smile on his face in the world and he said, ‘You know I’m a practical joker, don’t you?’ The place went nuts. But in the meantime, I had just about had a heart attack.”

John Madden passed away on Tuesday (December 28th). He was 85-years-old.

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