***** - Undisputed classic
**** - Great
*** - Good/Average
** - Meh
* - Bad
OPENING: EXXICO: YESTERDAY’S TECHNOLOGY
-SNL sponsor Exxico brings you yesterday’s technology at tomorrow’s prices
-A little weaker than last week’s opening; not quite as much sting as the jab at NBC.
MONOLOGUE/SKETCH: MACDONALD AND WIFE
-Susan Saint James clears up a few misconceptions regarding her TV work and gives the audience a chance to vote on the obligatory “host sketch”, a spoof of McMillan and Wife. Ronald McDonald (Joe Piscopo) bests Douglas MacArthur (Tim Kazurinsky) and MacBeth (Tony Rosato); in “McDonald and Wife”, Ronald and Sally solve a murder while using McWords in bed.
-Susan Saint James did come across as very cute and likeable in the monologue, but it wasn’t particularly memorable or funny. The main point of the monologue was more of a preamble to the McDonald and Wife sketch which is why I combined the two segments for the purposes of this review.
-Good lord, was Joe Piscopo’s Ronald McDonald makeup garish or what?
-The actual “host sketch” wasn’t particularly funny either (very one-joke) but the sex references (such as the scene at the beginning with Sally under the covers exclaiming “I can’t find it!”) seem very envelope-pushing, especially for early 80s network TV.
-I did kind of chuckle at the MacNeil/Lehrer and Wife art card at the end (just the look Saint James seems to be giving to Robert MacNeil).
COMMERCIAL: BUH-WEET SINGS
-Buckwheat, the Little Rascal (Eddie Murphy) is grown up and has a new record to promote, but he still pronounces words the way he always has.
-Eddie didn’t have to say anything to get a laugh, as the audience really reacted well to the visual of Eddie Murphy in the wig and suspenders.
-This is one of those sketches that is so well-known and used as the representative for Eddie Murphy’s SNL career so often that it’s a little too familar.
-Like Little Richard Simmons, it was a very simple premise (actually, pretty much the one joke) but executed very well. The song titles like “Fee Tines A Mady” and “Barbah Ob Dabill” being put on-screen actually helped the joke a lot.
-I did like the “????” caption for the Buckwheatized “Bette Davis Eyes”.
-I’d say this is classic, but there were some later sketches with Buckwheat that were a little better done and more creative than this (particularly the whole assassination storyline from season 8).
SKETCH: THE BIZARRO WORLD: THE BLACK HOUSE
-Michael O’Donoghue introduces us to a parallel world that replicates Earth events and customs backwards. A visit to the Trapezoid Office in the Black House shows that Bizarro President (Joe Piscopo) does a lot of things the same way as Earth’s Ronald Reagan.
-A very good sketch, although the best material was when the Bizarro President finally entered the office after the setup. The “Be Cruel To Animals Week” with Eddie Murphy holding the axe while calling “Here, kitty kitty kitty” was hilarious though. Very O’Donoghue.
-Favorite parts from the Trapezoid Office sequence: Last Lady (Christine Ebersole) saying she’s off to visit her masculine son, Bizarro President being told to react to the crisis by going to sleep, and the cabinet appointment scene with a very nasty dig at Al Haig (“For Secretary of State, scary man with morals of a styrofoam cup.”)
-I noticed a few errors in the live version but I can’t remember if they were fixed in the rerun (which is the source of the 60-minute episode): in the first example, Mary Gross starts speaking a little too early before pausing and waiting for Robin Duke to finish. You can also see Mary and Robin start to swap places and put on their Bizarro masks for a second, and the camera switch takes a few seconds before they’re visible again when they’re finally ready to talk.
-Nice touch with the aides leaving through the window they broke when they dirtied up the office.
-Passersby are given a choice of two buttons to push. One is for a crosswalk light: the other is to explode a building across the street. Tom Davis doesn’t look at which one he presses.
-Kind of a predictable ending but it was structured pretty well (rule of three). I did like Davis’ panicked reactions when he realizes what button he pushed.
MUSICAL SKETCH: HERE IN A LIFEBOAT WITH YOU
-As their ocean liner sinks in the background, a couple finds romance in a lifeboat.
-Very cheesy and a bit too much like a bad variety show sketch, especially the pose at the end. There were a few things that helped make it a little darkly funny like them beating back the man who keeps trying to climb into the lifeboat, and I did like the line “Not to be rude, but what’ll we do for food?”
-Addendum [05/28/13]: This was written by Mark O’Donnell with music by Tom Malone.
SKETCH: SHE’S A PIG
-Ellen (Mary Gross) runs into ex-boyfriend Peter (Tim Kazurinsky) at a restaurant and meets his new fiancée, Paulette (Robin Duke), a loud, trashy and rude woman.
-I actually find that Mary Gross’ very meek delivery on her lines made them even funnier, especially the stuff about her slashing her wrists after the breakup, as well as all the lines where she’s giving her opinion on Paulette (the audience really liked her initial “She’s a pig!”)
-Robin was pretty enjoyable as Paulette, especially her sticking her nail in the drink and wiping her armpits with a napkin. Christine Ebersole was also good as Kazurinsky’s Pig-like mother.
FILM: LET’S SEE WHAT’S BOTHERING BOB
-In an educational film, the narration tries to find out why a 1950′s-style suburban father (Brian McConnachie) is distracted and agitated.
-This is the second segment in a row where Mary Gross’ character is named Ellen.
-The audience was mostly dead for this; I’d say this film wasn’t as bad as the audiences’ reaction would imply but it was merely alright. As a satire of those 50′s educational films it was pretty well done (particularly the narration), even though the chainsaw ending did seem a little too much like a weaker stab at black humor.
-I did like the not particularly forceful kick Bob gives his car.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “DESTROYER”
-There’s another tech error in the intro…you can’t see Saint James while she’s talking until the last second or so. I remember in the 60-minute show they switched the order of the two performances and cut the intro so it seems like they just start playing.
-The song is basically “All Day And All Of The Night 2″ but I’ve always enjoyed this song and performance.
SNL NEWSBREAK: BRIAN DOYLE-MURRAY AND MARY GROSS, WEATHER WITH CHRISTINE EBERSOLE, COMMENTARY BY JOE PISCOPO AND EDDIE MURPHY
-Best joke: John Hinckley
-This is the second time they did the gag with the letters breaking off and falling on Doyle-Murray. A definitely unneeded running gag and a classic example of diminishing returns. I can’t remember when they finally stopped with that opening gag.
-The audience really seemed to enjoy the idea of every person in Iran being dead in that one joke. Kind of an interesting reaction.
-The Senesia Floods film item was one-joke and not particularly funny but I did like a couple of the throwaway lines (like the country having a Fiat factory).
-Christine Ebersole’s segment wasn’t very good either; they’ve done the whole “come out for something and get distracted to the point where they never get to doing what they intend to” far too many times on the show (basically, the whole point of “What Up With That”). Whether it works or not depends on the execution, but it just kind of dragged.
-The audience seemed to pick up for Joe Piscopo’s Saturday Night Sports segment. I’ve always thought these were alright and Joe did have a good visual aide with the bobbleheads, especially the few seconds at the end where he’s bobbling his own head and Doyle-Murray bobbles for a second as well.
-Eddie’s segment with the Reagan fan mail was pretty funny, especially his facial expression as he realized that the jokes that Reagan included were all racist, as well as Doyle-Murray laughing beside him.
-Mary Gross’ editorial suggesting potential assassins go kill themselves actually worked because of her delivery. She wasn’t a particularly good fit for the news anchor position but the juxtaposition of her almost cheerful delivery and what she was saying worked.
-Stronger guest material at times but most of the jokes were still dreadfully bad.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “SINGLE WOMEN”
-Christine Ebersole sings Michael O’Donoghue’s “Single Women”, a bittersweet country-tinged ballad about the loneliness and emptiness in the world of singles bars.
-I still can’t believe this song was written by the same man who wrote “Boulevard of Broken Balls”. It’s actually a very good song, very melancholy.
-Christine Ebersole did an excellent job singing here, and the audience reaction at the end really shows they were impressed.
-This is the second time they use the same set from “She’s A Pig” tonight.
SKETCH: HONEYMOON VIRGIN
-In their hotel room, newlyweds Billy (Tony Rosato) and Sharon (Susan Saint James) prepare to make love; Sharon surprises Billy at the last minute by revealing she’s still a virgin at 31.
-Kind of a sweet, low-key sketch, even though it wasn’t very memorable or funny.
-Rosato did sound a lot like Jerry Seinfeld when he was talking about how her inexperience means the onus was now on him to be incredible.
-I did like how the sketch ended with Saint James jumping onto the bed in the same way Rosato was about to when she admitted her virginity to him.
SKETCH: CHEAP LAFFS
-Tim Kazurinsky explains that some pieces don’t make it in the show just because they’re so incredibly cheap, and shows us an example: an ad for Sta-Free Peenie Pads, a product that helps men prevent “trouser tracks”.
-I really enjoyed this. It wasn’t lazy like when the current writers try to do sophomoric body-function sketches, and a good energetic performance from Joe Piscopo as the pitchman.|
-Third appearance of the “She’s A Pig” set.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “ART LOVER”
-A very pretty song with ambiguous lyrics about a man in the park who is obsessed with a young girl: it could either be about a pedophile or a man who has lost his own daughter. I’ve always taken it to be the latter.
FILM: ANDY WARHOL’S TV: DEATH
-Warhol discusses the glamour of death while having makeup applied; his face becomes more and more pixellated as the film goes on.
-I kind of found some of Warhol’s random comments amusing but it really is more of a “WTF” piece; it just kind of ends randomly.
COMMERCIAL: ALAN ALDA’S SENSITIVITY TRAINING FOR MEN
-A macho pig (Tony Rosato) repulses women that he hits on; the bartender (Tim Kazurinsky) suggests that cultivating an image of sensitivity with Alan Alda’s book is the best way to pick up women.
-Kind of funny, especially Kazurinsky’s promise to Rosato that he’ll be “drilling pipe like a demon”. A bit of a late-show throwaway.
-This is the fourth sketch tonight with that same set from “She’s A Pig”.
FILM: ASSASSINATION AFTERMATH
-An emotional janitor cleans the site of Anwar Sadat’s assassination, still littered with bloody newspapers and some of Sadat’s personal belongings.
-Very heavy material for a comedy show. Was Sadat’s assassination really that huge back in 1981? I would assume so, but I don’t think SNL has ever commented on any political assassinations besides this one in such a serious manner. Just imagine Quentin Tarantino introducing a film about Yitzhak Rabin on his 1995 gig.
-I really could have done without the dove with the bullet hole in it; such a ham-fisted image and it ruined the film for me, which is a shame because the lack of dialogue and the sad middle eastern music did work though.
-This may be my dark streak speaking but when I first saw him look at the glasses, I half expected him to put them on and do a Ray Charles impression.
Some strong material again this week, but there was a lot more weaker/mediocre material than I remembered. The first appearance of Buckwheat is the sketch everyone remembers, and there was some funny material in The Bizarro World and Cheap Laffs, but the one thing I thought was the true highlight of the show was “Single Women”. There was still quite a lot of mediocre material, especially on SNL Newsbreak; I’d say it was a more even show than the premiere but overall it wasn’t as good. Saint James was alright but didn’t really do a whole lot (she did marry executive producer Dick Ebersol the day the show was first rebroadcast, though).
-The Bizarro World
-Andy Warhol’s TV
-Here In A Lifeboat With You
-McDonald and Wife
-the first half or so of SNL Newsbreak
Tie: Mary Gross/Tim Kazurinsky
CAST / GUEST APPEARANCE BREAKDOWN
Robin Duke: 3 appearances [The Bizarro World, She's A Pig, Cheap Laffs]
Christine Ebersole: 6 appearances [The Bizarro World, She's A Pig, SNL Newsbreak, "Single Women", Cheap Laffs, Alan Alda's Sensitivity Training For Men]
Mary Gross: 5 appearances [The Bizarro World, She's A Pig, Let's See What's Bothering Bob, SNL Newsbreak, Alan Alda's Sensitivity Training For Men]
Tim Kazurinsky: 5 appearances [Monologue/McDonald and Wife, The Bizarro World, She's A Pig, Cheap Laffs, Alan Alda's Sensitivity Training For Men]
Eddie Murphy: 3 appearances [Buh-Weet Sings, The Bizarro World, SNL Newsbreak]
Joe Piscopo: 5 appearances [Monologue/McDonald and Wife, The Bizarro World, Here In A Lifeboat With You, SNL Newsbreak, Cheap Laffs]
Tony Rosato: 5 appearances [Monologue/McArthur and Wife, The Bizarro World, Honeymoon Virgin, Cheap Laffs, Alan Alda's Sensitivity Training For Men]
Brian Doyle-Murray: 2 appearances [The Bizarro World, SNL Newsbreak]
Tom Davis: 1 appearance [The Button]
Brian McConnachie 1 appearance [Let's Find Out What's Bothering Bob]
Andy Murphy: 1 appearance [Sensitivity Training For Men]
Michael O’Donoghue [The Bizarro World]
guests, cameos and filmed cameos:
Susan Saint James: 3 appearances [Monologue/McDonald and Wife, Here In A Lifeboat With You, Honeymoon Virgin]
The Kinks: 2 appearances
Andy Warhol: 1 appearance
November 21, 1981
July 17, 1982
More video captures of the show are available here.