Classic SNL Review: December 5, 1981: Tim Curry / Meat Loaf & The Neverland Express (S07E07)

***** – Classic
****   – Great
***     – Good / Average
**        – Meh
*          – Bad

-The evil oil company warns: “We got Karen Silkwood, we’ll get the creep at Saturday Night Live who writes these things”.
-Easily my favorite of the quick open jokes.
-This is one of two episodes this season where NBC News announcer Bill Hanrahan fills in for Mel Brandt; Hanrahan’s voice is a lot sterner than Brandt’s was and it doesn’t really fit the spirit of the opening credits sequence.  If you want to hear Hanrahan’s voice it’s at the start of this news clip.

-Eddie Murphy, speaking like someone out of Amos ‘n Andy, sweeps up during the monologue because “an ol’ black buck” has some barriers to appearing in more sketches.  Tim explains that he avoided being typecast by not appearing in drag and suggests that Eddie take steps to not appear black in public.
-The second “monologue” of the season (after Susan Saint James) and the first to really stand as its own segment.   Both Tim and Eddie were both pretty funny in this; I’d give Eddie the slight edge with his performance, but Tim had some good lines, especially “You can call me ‘Massa Tim'”.
-The reasons Eddie gave for not being in sketches (no black politicians, no man/woman sketches, obviously not related) are worth noting because of the fact that Eddie was already a breakout star anyway without having to do that kind of material, and they actually did have Eddie play the adopted son of James Coburn and Christine Ebersole’s characters in “Those Crazy Taboosters” a few episodes later.  I wonder what they would have thought if someone told them then that the United States would have a black president thirty years later.
-Eddie’s transformation via shoe polish into “Richard B. Winthrop” strikes me as a precursor to the “White Like Me” film from three years later.

Repeat of segment from the Lauren Hutton episode.

-The Rolling Stones’ frontman has his first network TV variety special, with special guests The Mandrell Sisters (Robin Duke, Christine Ebersole, Mary Gross), Frank Nelson (“YEEEEESS?”), Shari Lewis (Duke again), Buckwheat (Eddie Murphy), Rip Taylor (Tony Rosato) and The Chairman Of The Board himself, Francis Albert Sinatra (Joe Piscopo).
-This sketch was a replacement for a lengthy sketch about the final days of Fred Silverman’s tenure at NBC written by Michael O’Donoghue and starring John Belushi as Silverman.  The sketch would have been planned and rehearsed for a few shows until NBC standards killed the sketch (the Hitler’s bunker parallel was too much for them).  This left a big gap in this week’s show that would be partially filled by this 14-minute sketch, a gap not helped by another issue with an O’Donoghue sketch: “At Home With The Psychos” (which aired next week) was originally supposed to air this week judging by the goodnights, but was also axed from this week due to standards issues with the “blow-hole” prop.
-Unlike the material that replaced the cut sketches in the Pleasence show, they had a host that could rise to the challenge and a bit more momentum from having a few more shows under their belts.  Despite the length, this was continually enjoyable and fun, with  good performances from everyone involved, particularly from Curry himself.
-I have to give special mention to Robin Duke as well who had a quick change from Louise Mandrell to Shari Lewis a few minutes later.  The part where Jagger starts aggressively tongue-kissing  the Lamb Chop puppet was hilarious.
-The material that got the biggest response was Murphy’s Buckwheat, which was the character’s second appearance (not counting the brief backstage impression Eddie did for Hutton) and Piscopo’s Sinatra.  It already feels like the show had fully found its footing by this point.
-I had to laugh at Jagger referring to Rip Taylor as an influence on the same level as Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy.
-The credits listing the characters from the Dick Van Dyke show were  a nice touch as well as the reference to “Bernie Sugarman” (a reference to Burt Sugarman, whose late night music show The Midnight Special was cancelled that year as part of the deal for Dick Ebersol to run SNL).

-A tearful Eddie Murphy describes how his father left for some milk, never came back, and became Governor of California and later President.
-Another very funny segment, especially Eddie’s tearful delivery throughout; my favorite part of the joke was the doctored family photo with Reagan, a “mammy” type as the mother and adult Eddie’s head pasted on the child’s body.

-A camera pan down reveals what frog Fred’s problem is.
-This segment was cut from the rerun and moved to the Bernadette Peters show repeats; I’m reviewing the segment in the original episode it aired in.
-This was basically one joke but it was brief.

A very good, energetic performance.
-I particularly liked the false ending and the a capella portion.
-An observation: the blonde guitar player in the Neverland Express is Davey Johnstone, who would appear on the show four months later with Elton John as part of his re-formed “classic period” band.

In the live versions of this season’s shows, they would occasionally have a cast member stand on the home base stage and announce who would be appearing on the next broadcast.  Christine Ebersole did it this week; unfortunately this segment is always removed from repeats for obvious reasons and I do not have a recording of the live broadcast.

-They’re still doing the “falling letters” gag.
I enjoyed the preamble to this week’s segment where Gross and Doyle-Murray are both mocking each others style, with Gross referring to Doyle-Murray’s delivery screwups and Doyle-Murray retorting that he at least sounds like a newsman as oppose to a schoolteacher.  I think everyone was aware that Newsbreak wasn’t the show’s strongest segment as well as the weaknesses of the anchors (in fact, after Ebersol changed the name of the segment to Saturday Night News, there were two episodes in 1984-85 that were completely devoid of news segments).  What made this even funnier is after Gross congratulates Doyle-Murray for getting through his impassioned speech without making any mistakes, he screws up his first actual joke and he and Gross ad-lib in reaction.
-The Prince Charles and Princess Di segment was pretty funny, although there was a line where Prince Charles says “What, me worry?” (in a way to highlight that the big-eared prince’s resemblance to fellow jug-ear Alfred E. Neuman) that didn’t the get response from the audience that it was intended to.
-Piscopo’s Saturday Night Sports with Bryant Gumbel discussing his move to the Today Show was a decent outing but my favorite part was Joe’s “DAMN!” when Bryant said that Joe couldn’t take his old job.
-The Raheem Abdul Mohammed commentary got the best reaction from the audience, especially his threats to Jerry Falwell.
-Aside from the commentaries, there weren’t too many actual jokes from the anchors.

-Frank (Tim Kazurinsky) visits his Italian parents’ house after a fight with his wife.  Papa (Tony Rosato) tries to impart wisdom using a story about a man who visits a witch and makes love to his wife 50 times a week, but Frank is less than receptive.
-This was a sequel to the “Papa’s Advice” sketch from the first Ebersol show in April 1981 (before the season-ending writers’ strike). It was another lengthy sketch (10 minutes), and it is likely this was also done as a way to fill the gap in content left by the axing of the Silverman and Psychos sketches.
-I wasn’t too crazy about the sketch when I first started rewatching it but it grew on me as it went along, particularly due to the excellent performances by Tim Kazurinsky and Tony Rosato, particularly when Frank’s making comments as Papa tells his story.  I also did laugh at the end of Papa’s tale (“And then she spit on him!”).
-Despite the parts with Frank and Papa yelling at each other in Italian, this was actually a low-key, quieter piece.  I don’t know for sure if it was Marilyn Suzanne Miller’s sketch or just similar to her style, but it had a realism to it I liked.
-The actual Italian argument scene actually was pretty well executed, especially as the mother (Robin Duke) comes in from upstairs and joins in without missing a beat.
-Speaking of Robin Duke’s character, she would play a few more “Italian mama” characters over the course of her tenure, complete with a fake fat suit (Duke is pretty small of body).
-Is this the same basement set they used for Wild Country Gun Cards from the April 1981 show?

-Tim sings an innuendo-filled music hall number about a man and his prize-winning big, round, fat zucchini.
-Probably the most memorable segment in the entire show, with a great performance by Curry and some nice audience participation.  A classic.

-Never go to a midnight screening unprepared with the official items for sale at Tim Curry and Meat Loaf’s store.
-Another good segment.  Meat Loaf in particular was very funny (Curry seemed to stumble a few times) and actually stole the sketch.
-I especially liked the part where Meat Loaf says they didn’t see a dime from the film’s profits and Curry smirks “Speak for yourself”, to which Meat Loaf keeps asking “Hey man, you got paid?” as Curry gives his next lines.  There was also an amusing part where Curry continually squirts at Meat Loaf with the water pistol and Meat Loaf says “Stop squirting at me , sucker!”
-I also got a big laugh at Tim Kazurinsky in the Frank-N-Furter outfit.

Added to the repeat version of this episode, this will be reviewed with the rest of the January 23, 1982 Robert Conrad / The Allman Brothers Band show.

-Another good performance, although I’d put it a little below the first number.  I also found it interesting that Meat Loaf didn’t play anything from the album he was currently promoting.

-In an alternate reality, Dan Rather (Joe Piscopo) and other pundits discuss how Ronald Reagan would have handled the presidency differently than Bush.
-I’m not a fan of  Piscopo’s Rather impression…it just sounds way too much like Joe Piscopo as a robot without being successful at either being Rather or robot.
-This was a very smart sketch that was some of the show’s most pointed criticism of Reagan, by way of attributing his handling of certain events (like missing Sadat’s funeral, selling AWACs to the Saudis, the air traffic controllers’ strike, etc.) to George Bush.  It didn’t really develop far enough for it to completely work, though.
-The ending with Rather saying “I’m sorry, we’re out of time” was completely abrupt; were they looking to make sure Meat Loaf got his full performance in?  (In the live show, “Bat Out Of Hell” was the final segment).

-Tim Curry asks Frank Nelson if he has a good time.  Frank responds with his trademark “YEEEEESSSS!”.
-During the pullout you can see Eddie Murphy wearing sticks of dynamite and standing completely stonefaced; he is actually dressed as his character in “At Home With The Psychos”.
-I’ve also noticed around this time, Robin Duke’s hair was really starting to get a little wild, frizzy and out of control.  It wouldn’t tame down until about March or April, once they were past the weakest portion of the season.  Kind of an odd coincidence to mention but there you go.

One of the season’s best shows, hands down, with a few classic segments and what wasn’t classic was generally pretty strong as well.  This also seems to be the point where they realized that perhaps they didn’t really need Michael O’Donoghue, because I can’t really see too much of his influence in this episode.  It also helps that they had a great host like Curry this week to carry a lot of the load, though.

-“The Zucchini Song”
Tim and Meat’s One Stop Rocky Horror Shop
Reagan’s Illegitimate Son

-The Trouble With Fred

Tim Curry

Robin Duke: 3 appearances [2 roles in Mick!, Papa’s Advice]
Christine Ebersole: 4 appearances [Mick!, Next Week’s Guests, SNL Newsbreak, Tim and Meat’s One Stop Rocky Horror Shop]
Mary Gross: 4 appearances [Mick!, SNL Newsbreak, Tim and Meat’s One Stop Rocky Horror Shop, A CBS Special Report]
Tim Kazurinsky: 4 appearances [Papa’s Advice, The Zucchini Song (voiceover only), Tim and Meat’s One Stop Rocky Horror Shop, A CBS Special Report]
Eddie Murphy: 4 appearances [Monologue, Mick!, Reagan’s Illegitimate Son, SNL Newsbreak]
Joe Piscopo: 4 appearances [Mick!, SNL Newsbreak, Tim and Meat’s One Stop Rocky Horror Show (voiceover only), A CBS Special Report]
Tony Rosato: 3 appearances [Mick!, Papa’s Advice, A CBS Special Report]

featured players:
Brian Doyle Murray: 1 appearance [SNL Newsbreak]

Tim Curry: 5 appearances [Monologue, Mick!, SNL Newsbreak, “The Zucchini Song”, Tim and Meat’s One Stop Rocky Horror Shop]
Meat Loaf: 3 appearances [“Promised Land”, Tim and Meat’s One Stop Rocky Horror Shop, “Bat Out Of Hell”]
Frank Nelson: 1 appearance [Mick!]
Bryant Gumbel: 1 appearance [SNL Newsbreak]

March 6, 1982
September 4, 1982
Known alterations: The Trouble With Fred and Christine Ebersole announcing next week’s guests is removed, In The News is added from S07E09.

5 thoughts on “Classic SNL Review: December 5, 1981: Tim Curry / Meat Loaf & The Neverland Express (S07E07)

  1. sidenote: Frank Nelson, whose “character” was popular back in the 50’s-60’s with Lucille Ball and Jack Benny, appeared on this ep fresh off a very popular McDonald’s commercial campaign as a conductor for a passport contest giveaway:

    Also, Phil Hartman would later play the Frank Nelson “persona” a straightman in later SNL sketches (Garry Returns A Sweater, Master “Santa” Thespian, Portrait of Picasso).

  2. I don’t get the Reagan sketch. He did survive the assassination attempt. Was it what would have happened had he died and Budh was president? Thanks.

  3. This is probably one of my all time favorite SNL Episodes. Curry did as great job and is quite underrated at comedy. It’s a shame has not hosted since, because I would have loved to seen him host again. The only real downsides to the show was the Trouble with Fred home movie and the papa’s advice sketch, it was boring.

  4. aaah, the good old days when SNL was still funny, ctuuting edge & hip. Now it’s Saturday Night Dead.

  5. Pingback: Existentialist Weightlifting | Classic SNL Review: October 23, 1982: Howard Hesseman / Men At Work (S08E04)

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