It was on this day in 1975 that Spain’s fascist dictator Francisco Franco died. Shortly afterwards, Juan Carlos, Franco’s handpicked successor and the grandson of the last king of Spain before Franco seized power, was crowned king and immediately began the process of ending Spanish fascism and restoring a democratically elected government to the nation.
In short, there was much rejoicing around the world that the reign of one of Europe’s last fascist dictators had finally come to an end. However, rather than look at the political ramifications of Franco’s reign and subsequent death, we’re going to look at the comedic ramifications. Yes, shockingly the death of a cruel dictator had comedic ramifications.
Franco’s health had actually been in decline since the 1960s and for years there were rumors that he was on his deathbed. In the fall of 1975, the rumors finally came true, and news outlets around the globe began reporting on Franco’s last days while waiting for his inevitable death. A day wouldn’t go by without an update on Franco’s condition. Typically those updates would simply be along the line of “General Francisco Franco of Spain is still alive.”
When Franco finally died on November 20, the ensuing media frenzy was ripe for parody. So, enter Chevy Chase, lead anchor of NBC’s Saturday Night‘s (later Saturday Night Live) Weekend Update segment. On the November 20 broadcast of NBC’s Saturday Night, Chase led the Weekend Update segment with the news that Franco was dead. Chase then read a statement from Richard Nixon in which the disgraced former president said that “General Franco was a loyal friend and ally of the United States. He earned worldwide respect for Spain through firmness and fairness.” Of course, as he read this statement, a picture of Franco standing with Adolph Hitler and giving the fascist salute was displayed behind Chase.
So, for the next year, spoofing the endless news coverage of Franco’s proximity to the grave became a recurring feature of Weekend Update. Usually, this would involve Chase getting important breaking news that “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead!” From time to time, the Saturday Night Live writers would find ways to spice things up with some delightful variations on the catchphrase, including “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still valiantly holding on in his fight to remain dead.” Nowadays, nearly 40 years after Franco’s death, the phrase “Franco is still dead.” is still used to reference any news story that shows that events are still going on as expected.
Now, how about we congratulate Franco’s momentous achievement of 39 consecutive years of staying dead (A new personal record!) with a Generalissimo? I found this recipe online, and I’ll be honest with you folks, I cannot recommend this mix of vodka and Mountain Dew. That said, it’s fitting that we mix a not particularly good drink on the anniversary of the death of a bad man. Drink it at your own risk.
- 1 ounce Vodka
- 2 ounces Mountain Dew
Pour ingredients over ice in a tumbler.
Tomorrow: A drink from the best of all possible worlds.