***** – Classic
**** – Great
*** – Good / Average
** – Meh
* – Bad
-Bruce Dern tells Tim Kazurinsky he’s the standout in the cast, but advises him that a short, geeky little guy like him can’t break into film.
-Kind of an odd opening: it wasn’t particularly funny and it kind of ends weakly with Bruce threatening to walk after Kazurinsky makes a crack about his tendency to only play psychos and then Tim telling him to cut the crap because they have a show to do, then saying “Roll the montage”.
-I did laugh at Eddie telling Bruce “Don’t choke” and Bruce telling Tim his face had so many zits it looked like someone rubbed a chocolate bar on it.
SKETCH: SKI TRIP
-Jack’s (Bruce Dern) date for a ski trip cancels on him, but he sees an opportunity when his downstairs neighbor Debra (Mary Gross) comes up.
-I wasn’t too wild about this sketch. It had a long, dull setup. Most of the funny lines were the random afflictions that the neighbor’s dog suffered from.
-I did find the transition from the talent entrance to this sketch really cool, where Bruce walks across the studio onto this sketch’s set, which is actually attached to the right side of the home base stage (the door in the sketch is the one on the stage with an extra wall put up beside it).
VOX POP: WHO DO YOU HATE?
-Various people on the streets of New York tell the camera who they hate.
-This was the first “man on the street” segment they would do during the Ebersol era; they would mainly do them the next season. They’re basically filler segments and they really can’t be rated, but they’re entertaining little diversions and this one had a few funny bits like the black man who hates blondes and the guy railing against his mother in law.
SHOW: FOCUS ON FILM
-Raheem Abdul Mohammed (Eddie Murphy) denies that there’s anything going on between him and friend Clint (Clint Smith) after they saw “Making Love” together.
-This is the first on-camera appearance of Eddie Murphy’s friend Clint Smith, who would be a frequent extra on the show throughout the Ebersol era. Clint doesn’t have any lines in this sketch but him just sitting there wordlessly was pretty funny in itself.
-Also notable is that this is the second appearance of Raheem Abdul Mohammed in two consecutive shows.
-As well, the set has different posters than usual: rather than the blaxploitation film posters in later editions, I see posters for movies like “Topaz”, “Gunfight At The OK Corral” and “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever”.
-Much of the humor is based on Raheem’s homophobic reaction to the movie he saw as well as him catching himself saying sexually ambiguous things about the things he and Clint do together. Like Crazy Mary, Gay Jim from the previous show it probably wouldn’t go over well today, although it does seem to fit with the whole “pause”/”no homo” terms in hip-hop culture. It wasn’t as ridiculously silly as the other sketch but it was an alright bit, and I did laugh at Raheem and Clint demonstrating their Milk Dud throwing technique and Mel Brandt reading the “I’m Sorry Clint, I thought you were a homosexual” address at the end.
SKETCH: THE BIZARRO WORLD
-The Bizarro Broadcasting Company makes bad broadcasting decisions that parallel NBC’s in the real world.
-Another good segment; it did go on a little too long but it had some great lines, such as the executive telling Bizarro McLean Stevenson to “go be boring on Carson” and their description of cocaine: “strange white powder- it make you nervous!”.
-I also liked the brief bit Bizarro Alan Alda: “Hey ladies, me got something for you!” *swivels pelvis suggestively*
-I prefer O’Donoghue’s narration in the last sketch to Dern’s; the latter’s narration is too overdramatic and not quite as Serling-like as O’Donoghue’s was.
-I can’t watch the sequence where they are rewarding Tom Snyder by cancelling his show and putting Letterman on in its place (to see if it does worse than his morning show) without thinking a few things: first, Letterman had only been on a few weeks at that point and it’s funny to see this in light of Letterman’s lengthy run on NBC and CBS. Second, it reminds me all too much of the 2009-2010 Tonight Show battle with Leno being rewarded for his crappy show bringing down the ratings of everyone afterward (yes, I do know it was a matter of Conan being easier to by out than The Chin). It’s funny to think how NBC was in the ditch in 1982, then climbed to the top for the longest time, and now are back at the bottom. Jeff Zucker would be at home in Bizarro World.
MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “NEVER TOO MUCH”
-Dern does a long setup about how Vandross is nominated for 2 Grammy Awards and says that he’s sure to get “Outstanding Newcomer”. He would lose to Sheena Easton.
-A very good performance with a full band sound.
-Former SNL band member Marcus Miller makes his second appearance on SNL this season (his first was with Miles Davis).
SNL NEWSBREAK WITH BRIAN DOYLE-MURRAY AND MARY GROSS: TRAFFIC WITH CHRISTINE EBERSOLE, SATURDAY NIGHT SPORTS WITH JOE PISCOPO
-Best jokes: Princess Di gives birth, Donny Most turns 75.
-The opening bit with the Gross/Doyle-Murray romance arc was pretty dumb, although it is notable for the appearance of Tom Schiller and Neil Levy as gypsy musicians. Levy appeared on the show a lot during 1980-82 but this is the only on-camera appearance Schiller would make between 1980 and 1989 (he does a voiceover in “Art Is Ficial” though). I did laugh at the visual of Gross holding Doyle-Murray’s tie with her teeth, though.
-Christine Ebersole does a traffic report where she’s more concerned with the novelty of seeing the city from up high. Pretty weak.
-Joe Piscopo gives the skinny on what’s going on in sports: nothing. It was a brief and kind of pointless appearance but it did work in getting the audience excited.
-In the 1930s, Hack songwriters Harry Schleimer (Joe Piscopo) and Moe Laub (Tim Kazurinsky) see an opportunity when singer Helen Waterling (Christine Ebersole) stops by.
-I always liked this sketch, it’s got a charm to it as well as good performances from everyone involved. It wasn’t really a hard laugh sketch although it did have some funny parts like “You should hear Paul Robeson do this one” (after the songwriters sing a particularly politically incorrect song for Ebersole’s character), “Milwaukee Honeymoon” (to the tune of “Hooray For Hollywood”) and “The Lindbergh Baby Polka”.
-The main song Ebersole’s character sings, “Montana” was also quite good (especially the way it incorporates the word “antepenultimate” into the lyrics) and there were a lot of nice little touches to the sketch, such as the flag accurately having only 48 stars and Kazurinsky’s marching in the background as Ebersole sings the song.
-According to the music publishing databases, the individual songs were written or co-written by Mark O’Donnell, so it’s safe to say he must have written this sketch. Also worth noting is that they would do this sketch again in a Bruce Dern-hosted show, though Bruce would only appear in the next segment, and O’Donnell would leave by that time so Eliot Wald and Nate Herman wrote that one.
SKETCH: THE MILD ONE
-Zen-inspired bikers (Bruce Dern) and (Tony Rosato) use philosophy to terrorize people in a diner.
-A longer sketch and it has a bit of an odd feel to it, but unlike a lot of the long sketches in the second half of the season I didn’t mind the length too much and the slow pace of it worked in the context and atmosphere of the sketch.
-It was more clever/interesting than funny (some parts of it played more as sad) but I did like Piscopo calling Dern’s character scum after he waxes philosophical about a rose.
HOME MOVIE: “FRACAS” BY TIMOTHY HITTLE
-A small claymation man retaliates against his annoying human roommate.
-A brief film, but pretty amusing.
-In the original broadcast, the film started before they switched off the “Home movie” title card and you can hear the re-cueing the film before it switches off, and the title card isn’t shown. It runs in the Bill Murray encore three weeks later as well as in the Dern rerun (with no “home movie” title).
-It sounds like the song playing on the stereo is the beginning of the coda to Talking Heads’ “Mind” (although a little sped up).
SKETCH: THE FLIGHT
-When pilots Bob (Bruce Dern) and his wife (Robin Duke) bring their friends (Mary Gross and Tony Rosato) on an airplane flight, a drunken Bob threatens to crash the plane over suspicions of infidelity.
-Pretty lame sketch, although it starts off promisingly with Bob drinking and referring to taking acid. Decent performances from all but I would have to single out Robin Duke in the straight role.
-The ending was weak, with Rosato’s character screaming he didn’t have an affair with Bob’s wife, then Bob is satisfied and says he was just testing, and the audience start to applaud and it fades out. I wonder if they had to abort the sketch early.
-This sketch is more notable for the censorship it received on all rebroadcasts. I have a recording of the original West Coast broadcast and they bleep out a word twice (it’s likely “screwing”), while the repeat loops in “interested in” for the first instance and mixes the screaming and dialogue to obscure the second instance.
SKETCH: MELINA’S CAFE
-Mad, passionate Greek immigrant Melina (Robin Duke) works her hot-and-cold relationship with maitre d’ Anthony (Tony Rosato) into her nightclub act.
-It wasn’t a great sketch but it was a decent character piece carried by the performances of Duke and especially Rosato, who was excellent in the straight man role as usual. My favorite part is Duke introducing “a song about love, and of course, myself” then barking out a short atonal rendition of “I Know What Boys Like” before going “Okay, so” without a beat, which was the funniest part in the second half of the show. She seems to be coming into her own again in this episode.
-This sketch has about a minute or so edited out the repeat version: right after she talks about how she has taken many illegal drugs, it takes out the part where Duke continues to publicly bother Rosato’s character about his girlfriend and sings “Proud Mary” in the same staccoto shout as before. The rerun cuts to her breaking a glass with her teeth. It could have been cut because of music licensing issues, but it could have just been for time concerns as the live show ran long and they needed the extra time to run the credits in full.
FINAL THOUGHTS: A middling episode; nothing egregiously bad, nothing that really counts as great. Dern was an OK host, nothing really special, but he did come back about a year later (the famous “Buckwheat Buys The Farm” episode) which means they either liked him enough to bring him back or they were having trouble booking guests. Despite so-so material, they once again had a great musical guest this week with Luther Vandross, whose performances were pretty much the standout. I still see some renewed signs of life in the show, though, and it really feels more like a “breather” week than a true flop episode like the Conrad and Madden shows were.
-The Bizarro World
CAST AND GUEST BREAKDOWN:
Robin Duke: 5 appearances [Backstage, Songwriters, The Mild One, The Flight, Melina's Cafe]
Christine Ebersole: 5 appearances [Backstage, The Bizarro World, SNL Newsbreak (voice only), Songwriters, The Mild One]
Mary Gross: 6 appearances [Backstage, Ski Trip, The Bizarro World, SNL Newsbreak, The Mild One, The Flight]
Tim Kazurinsky: 4 appearances [Backstage, The Bizarro World, Songwriters, The Mild One]
Eddie Murphy: 3 appearances [Backstage, Focus on Film, The Mild One]
Joe Piscopo: 5 appearances [Ski Trip, The Bizarro World, SNL Newsbreak, Songwriters, The Mild One]
Tony Rosato: 5 appearances [Backstage, The Bizarro World, The Mild One, The Flight, Melina's Cafe]
Brian Doyle-Murray: 2 appearances [The Bizarro World, SNL Newsbreak]
Joe Dicso: 1 appearance [Backstage]
Neil Levy: 1 appearance [SNL Newsbreak]
Tom Schiller: 1 appearance [SNL Newsbreak]
Clint Smith: 1 appearance [Focus On Film]
Bruce Dern: 5 appearances [Backstage, Ski Trip, The Bizarro World, The Mild One, The Flight]
Luther Vandross: 2 appearances ["Never Too Much", "A House Is Not A Home"]
May 29, 1982
Known alterations: The Flight and Melina’s Cafe are edited in the repeat.