George McGovern, stand-up comic

You knew he was a war hero, college professor, congressman, senator, presidential candidate, author and statesman.

But how about George McGovern‘s career as a comedian? Sure it was short-lived: an appearance on “Newhart,” in which he played himself, or a drab comic version of himself, and this delightfully strange appearance on “Saturday Night Live” on April 14, 1984.┬áHere’s the monologue, here’s a skit he was in and here’s another one.

I like the second skit, “Book Beat,” the most of anything he did on the show, and it gives us a look at the esteemed senator in a mustache. Plus, Joe Piscopo!

McGovern had just ended his brief run for the 1984 Democratic nomination. He took the hosting gig in a bid to raise $150,000 to pay off campaign debts. And he’s not bad in this stand-up spot, although he’s not exactly Henny Youngman, Richard Pryor or George Carlin.

But they didn’t do a lot to battle the Vietnam War, reduce world hunger or to support South Dakota farmers. So there.

Look for the woman in the front row who glows as she watches him tell jokes and go into the audience as part of a gag. It’s his wife, Eleanor.

Oh, and this has a tie to the current political scene in South Dakota, as he does a shout-out to his grandson, Matthew, now known as Matt McGovern, Democratic candidate for the PUC.

Here’s the tease for the episode “SNL” ran the week before, with a collection of politicians from the era “commenting” on McGovern’s role as host.

George McGovern, 90, is now in hospice care in Sioux Falls. It’s a sad time for his family, his friends and really all of South Dakota. But here’s a slice of his fascinating life that may offer a smile at a time when that is surely needed.

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