Before becoming a founding member of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players on Saturday Night Live, Gilda Radner was making her name as a performer with the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre. Radner was a student at the University of Michigan and already showing her gift for broad comedy.
This week Radner, who died in 1989, was back in the news, in the guise of her most famous comic alter ego Roseanne Roseannadanna. On SNL's Weekend Update, Roseanne would respond to the complaints of a Mr. Richard Feder of Fort Lee, N.J. This week the New York Times writer Matt Flegenheimer wondered what Richard Leder would think about the controversy over the closing of the George Washington Bridge that connects Fort Lee with Manhattan. The closings have ensnared New Jersey governor and presidential hopeful Chris Christie in a scandal.
Mr. Feder is a real person, the brother-in-law of an SNL staff writer. He never wrote letters to Roseanne, but mock complaining letters in his name and Roseanne's withering replies became famous. In one skit quoted in the Times Mr. Feder complained about his attempts to stop smoking, "I gained weight, my face broke out. I'm nauseous, I'm constipated, my feet swell, my sinuses are clogged, I got heartburn, I'm cranky and I have gas. What should I do."
"Mr. Feder, you sound like a real attractive guy," Ms. Roseannadanna said. "You belong in New Jersey."
As it happens, Mr. Feder was caught in the massive traffic jam around the bridge. Radner's brilliance at creating wild and yet endearing characters first came to life here in Ann Arbor.