Saturday Night’s Children: Patrick Weathers (1980-1981)

Saturday Night Live has been home to over a hundred cast members throughout the past 37 years. In our column Saturday Night’s Children, we present the history, talent, and best sketches of one SNL cast member every other week for your viewing, learning, and laughing pleasure.

Even among SNL’s sixth season cast – cursed by coming in after the mass departure of the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players – Patrick Weathers fared poorly; he spent seven episodes on the show and was credited as a featured player in only two. Between the backstage troubles with producer Jean Doumanian and onscreen dominance of Piscopo and Murphy, Weathers had little opportunity to prove more than a laconic Big Easy-accented musician-turned-actor with a knack for impersonating his musical contemporaries.

After attending the University of Southern Mississippi near his Laurel hometown, Weathers moved to New Orleans to pursue a career as a musician and comedian. He worked the Bourbon Street club circuit, bending elbows with The Meters, Professor Longhair, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, who invited Weathers to bring his solid impressions of Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, and Elvis on tour with them as an opening act.

After touring ended in the late seventies, Weathers briefly returned to New Orleans and worked as an Elvis impersonator at the Playboy Club in the French Quarter, but he soon grew frustrated with the confines of the King routine and moved to New York to find steady work playing Manhattan clubs, writing for National Lampoon Magazine, and even collecting coke-stained tips as a Studio 54 bathroom attendant before auditioning for SNL in 1980.

During his SNL run, Weathers was mostly relegated to background roles, but his musical impersonations paid off with the “Dylan & Guthrie” sketch with host David Carradine, in which Weathers (as Dylan) visits Guthrie on his deathbed to steal song lyric ideas. Weathers also portrayed Ravi Shankar in a less memorable 1981 sketch called “Ravi Sings,” a commercial in which Shankar (Weathers in brownface) sells his new album of American pop love songs. Aside from occasional background sketch parts, Weathers was barely used elsewhere on the show, but as he reminisced on his stint in a 2003 interview: “It was a really bad season. We were trying to replace these icons – these gods! Nothing we could do was going to be good enough. It was kind of like replacing Goldie Hawn on Laugh-In without the blonde hair and the figure.”

Weathers remained at SNL until the season ended early due to the WGA strike in April, but he did not return to the show in the fall. He turned back to his musical roots and played blues and punk venues before landing a part in the 1982 Broadway musical revue Rock and Roll: The First 5000 Years. The show’s rotating cast and roles allowed him to further bank off his musical impersonator skills but landed him back in the familiar Elvis trap. After starring in the 1984 short Fast Hearts (which you can watch here), he moved to Los Angeles to try film, finding bit parts in Wall Street (1987), Troma’s War (1988), and Grand Isle (1991) – not to mention more work as The King in 1988-1989’s national tour of Elvis: An American Musical – but eventually moved back to New Orleans, where he still lives today. Weathers has made several film and television appearances (Murphy Brown, The Campaign, Treme), has released three albums ( The Queen of Tupelo, Hound Dog Diaries, and most recently Quantum Entanglement), and currently runs several art galleries in the French Quarter.

Saturday Night’s Children: Patrick Weathers (1980-1981)