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SNL’s season 1 ‘Belushi Bee’ returns to NBC — this time on Seth Meyers’ desk

A tight shot of a group of objects on Seth Meyers

If you watched Late Night on Tuesday night, you might have noticed a new addition to Seth Meyers’ desk accoutrement: the seed from a nesting doll, painted to look like SNL legend John Belushi dressed as a bee.

John, of course, was one of the seven original cast members on Saturday Night Live, and played the King Bee in a series of season-one sketches that had almost nothing in common aside from the fact that they revolved around bees.

One of the sketches portrayed the bees as real, overgrown killer bees taking part in a home invasion. But the cast played themselves dressed as bees at other times, as in this 1975 sketch during which Rob Reiner breaks the fourth wall to rant about not wanting to work with bees.

While the first bees sketch — “Bee Hospital” — was meant to be a one-off, NBC execs were so unhappy with how it performed that they unintentionally sparked a battle of wills with creator Lorne Michaels.

Lorne recalled what happened for Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live:

The only note we got from the network on the first show was, ‘Cut the bees,’ and so I made sure to put them in the next show.

He didn’t stop there. The bees appeared in every episode of the 1975–1976 season except the seventh and 12th, including the iconic 11th-episode performance by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as the Bees Brothers, who would go on to become the Blues Brothers.

And then the bees disappeared.Bowen Yang recently gave a masterful performance as a bee ~extracting~ pollen from spring flowers, but the giant bees of season one haven’t graced a stage in 30 Rock in decades.

Perhaps Michaels felt he’d made his point.

What does George Lucas have to do with the SNL bees?

 “George Lucas” (played by comedian Connor Ratliff on the show) thinks the timing is right for the bees’ return, and made his case to Seth during the Late Night host’s Wednesday appearance on The George Lucas Talk Show.

To pay off an 8-year-long bit, the “Star Wars creator” had a package shipped to Seth containing the pillow he’d had his assistant steal from the Late Night tent at SXSW in 2014. He’d long said that he’d return the pillow, which was used as set decor on GLTS, if Seth would appear on the show.

The hostage situation was finally resolved on Wednesday, and the pillow came with a stowaway: a fan-gifted nesting doll painted to look like (in descending order) George Lucas, GLTS talk-show sidekick Watto, producer Patrick Cotnoir, Grogu (Baby Yoda) and the Belushi Bee.

The appearance of the Belushi Bee led Patrick to ask a burning question: “Why didn’t you guys bring that back?”

Seth didn’t have an explanation, but did offer a bit of SNL lore that made up for it: The bees may not have stuck around on our screens, but they were alive and well in the minds of SNL cast members during his time on the show.

When we had a really bad audience, we would always say, ‘They wanted the bees.’ That was always the problem at SNL: On any given night, you could get people who, you know, they’ve been watching since the show started and then maybe they took like 15 years off from watching, and then someone finally gave them tickets and they showed up and they were like, ‘Oh, I hope it’s gonna be a bees night.’

That discussion gave Ratliff an opening for a pitch: 

If you’ll take this directly to Lorne, we would appreciate it so much. The final 11 episodes of season 50 should have bees in them.

Seth suggested that putting bees in 11 of the final 13 episodes would be more fitting, and leave room for a serious news week to break through the bee content — although Ratliff thought the bees deserve more credit for being able to roll with whatever might happen.

Connor Ratliff, in character as George Lucas, holds up a John Belushi doll that's wearing a bee costume.
The George Lucas Talk Show/YouTube

And the tiny Belushi Bee that formed the seed of the nesting doll? It became part of the show’s fundraising efforts for the National Network of Abortion Funds.

In addition to matching the first 10 $500 donations and offering to send the 10 donors a type-written letter as the celebrity of their choice, Seth agreed to a group effort: Raise $40K by the end of the week and the George Lucas doll — the largest of the bunch — would take a place on the Late Night desk.

Lower levels would have activated smaller doll placements, but GLTS viewers had surpassed $40K in donations as of Wednesday.

During the Tuesday taping, though, Ratliff was concerned that the tiny Belushi Bee would get lost in the shuffle, and had a heartfelt favor to ask:

I know you don’t like the bees, or you don’t get the bees, or the bees just aren’t your thing, but I feel like, whatever number we hit to get Belushi Bee on there — he’s so tiny. He’s so tiny. He is (intellectual property) that belongs in that studio. Have him on there regardless of if the number goes higher. Keep that little Belushi Bee — he barely takes up any real estate — next to whichever one is on there.

Seth agreed immediately, and the Belushi Bee could be spotted on Tuesday night’s broadcast, having taken its rightful spot between the Stefon nesting doll and local NBC affiliate mug.

Objects on Seth Meyers' desk at late night, including a wooden figurine about the height of a nickel, painted to look like the Belushi Bee
Late Night with Seth Meyers/NBC

Since donations surpassed the $40K goal, the George Lucas doll will soon join the Late Night desk family, which among other things includes Andy Samberg’s Mummy Whose Doink Fell Off and Seth’s collection of vintage NFL pencils.

As for whether the fundraising goal was set in time for the doll to appear on Wednesday’s broadcast, I was told to watch and find out:

Thanks to “George Lucas,” his fans, his team and Seth Meyers, more than $40K was raised for abortion funds that need it desperately, and the SNL character NBC tried to forget about in the ‘70s has found a way back onto the 8th floor of 30 Rock — this time at home in Studio 8G.

Update, 11:12pm, June 29, 2022: The George Lucas doll has landed!

A tight shot of a group of objects on Seth Meyers
Late Night with Seth Meyers/NBC
Watch the full interview below. Seth joins at about 12 minutes in and sticks around for an hour.