Classic SNL Review: January 22, 1983: Lily Tomlin / "Purvis Hawkins" (S08E10)

RATINGS SYSTEM

***** - Classic
****  - Great
***   - Good / Average
**    - Meh
*     - Terrible

OPENING: LILY AND EDDIE

  • In Eddie Murphy's dressing room, Lily Tomlin expresses her concern over his star trip in the wake of 48 Hours' success and his SNL hosting gig.  Mary Gross, Tim Kazurinsky and Gary Kroeger resort to doing Murphy's characters in order to make it big like their co-star.
  • A little slow moving; while there are a few good jokes (Murphy basking in the attention of two beautiful women as his "Walkman" sings "Duke of Earl" to him) and acknowledgement of the last show, it doesn't really gain momentum until Mary Gross' entrance.
  • Seeing Gross as Gumby, Kazurinsky as Velvet Jones (despite not knowing what a "ho" was) and Kroeger as Buckwheat was fun; the crude blackface for the latter is a little bit of a sore point, but its intentional half-assed quality works in context (Kroeger's delivery on his "Otay" after Tomlin admonishes him to wash his face and comb his hair was well done). 
  • Tomlin telling Gross that she was "funny in her own special way" came off as a little patronizing; I may be getting that feeling because of Margaret Oberman's comments in Live From New York about how Tomlin was condescending to the writers.  Andrew Kurtzman's comments in the same book indicated she was one of the better hosts, and whatever arguments there were were strictly about the material as opposed to personality.
  • All of Tomlin's comments about how SNL was an ensemble show made me think "tell that to Dick Ebersol", especially considering how the previous show confirmed Eddie Murphy was the show's star.
  • Funny moment at the end: when Tomlin delivers her LFNY variant ("Live From New York, It's the Lily Tomlin Show"), Eddie Murphy's hand is seen grabbing her from outside the door.
  • I noticed this by accident when checking my copy of the rerun for any cuts in Saturday Night News: the live show joins the montage in progress a few seconds in, while the rerun plays the montage in full.

***

MONOLOGUE

  • Lily Tomlin does some one-liners about her worries and leads the audience in a cheer.
  • Lily gets the crowd going; this is pretty breezy and enjoyable.
  • Best worries: quality control because it will get out of hand, Bank Americard message is "kill her at once".

*** 1/2

FILM: JUDITH GOES SHOPPING

  • Housewife Judith Beasley (Lily Tomlin) shows how to keep well-fed without spending a cent at the grocery store.
  • This was entertaining, with the funniest part being Beasley's admonition not to pluck off more than a wing, because "that would be stealing, which I am morally against".
  • Directed by Claude Kerven; this was shot on location at a grocery store in Bethpage, Long Island according to an AP photo that accompanied press about the episode.  Kerven recalls this was written by Tomlin, with possible contributions from Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield.

***

SKETCH: ERNESTINE'S HOUSE CALL

  • While on a visit to retrieve a company-owned phone, Bell Systems employee Ernestine (Lily Tomlin) uses different tactics to win back her former customers (Tim Kazurinsky and Mary Gross).
  • Another showcase for a Tomlin character, with Tim Kazurinsky and Mary Gross taking the straight roles.  I found Mary Gross' delivery a little dodgy in this one, but this was Tomlin's sketch to carry.  It has a lot of funny moments throughout, though, and ends strongly (Ernestine on Monopoly: "The only way to win this game is to control all the utilities").
  • The little girl that Gumby exiles from "Merry Christmas, Dammit!" plays Kazurinsky and Gross' daughter here.

*** 1/2

SHOW: SPEAKING AS A WOMAN

  • Michael Nash (Tim Kazurinsky) interviews Tootsie star Dustin Hoffman (Gary Kroeger) and comedian Joan Rivers (Joe Piscopo).
  • The basis of this sketch is Kroeger and Piscopo in drag, and particularly Piscopo's doing Rivers-style jokes.  There really isn't much more to it than the novelty of two men in drag, although the audience responded well.
  • I thought Piscopo was basically doing a louder version of his own voice with Rivers accent, and even then his voice slips during one of the jokes.

**

MISCELLANEOUS: NATURAL RESOURCES

  • Judith Beasley (Lily Tomlin) warns that plastics may soon become scarcer than natural resources.
  • Shot at the same time as "Judith Goes Shopping".  This had a lot of wordplay (genuine synthetic crisis) and a few good jokes ("two-thirds of game show gift items" are plastic).

***

SKETCH: EDITH ANN & FRIENDS

  • In the rocking chair, Edith Ann (Lily Tomlin) and Darlene (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) use their stories to do battle.
  • Another audience-favorite Tomlin character, but this one really has a lot working for it besides that, most notably Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who holds her own against Tomlin here.  Seriously, she nails the little kid voice here.
  • Tomlin's "If you want to see a penis, all you have to do is ask" line gets a big reaction.
  • Was Julia Louis-Dreyfus' character supposed to be black, or is her complexion just considerably darker than Tomlin's?

****

SKETCH: PUDGE & SOLOMON

  • Solomon's (Eddie Murphy) "happy birthday" suit was splashed in mud; the wealthy driver of the car (Lily Tomlin) buys him and Pudge (Joe Piscopo) drinks as restitution.
  • A step down from the previous Pudge & Solomon sketch, but mainly because Tomlin's character took the focus off Murphy and Piscopo's chemistry.  Not that this sketch was bad: Tomlin performs well as usual, and gets some good lines (her tiptoeing around Solomon's race when describing him: "he's not a Caucasian man"), but it felt more like the characters were in service of a Lily Tomlin sketch.

***

MISCELLANEOUS: NEXT WEEK

  • Bob (Rick Moranis) and Doug McKenzie (Dave Thomas) announce they will be on next week's show.
  • Not rateable, but this was fun.  I'm guessing Moranis and Thomas improvised this.

SKETCH: TESS IN THE BALCONY

  • Bag lady Tess DiSenzo (Lily Tomlin) sits in the SNL audience and talks about aliens.
  • There's a little bit of a topical/social commentary angle to this, as Tess mentions she "just got out" and due to the budget cuts, she's "not crazy no more": this is in reference to the deinstitutionalization of many mentally ill people in the wake of Reagan's budget cuts.  Other than that, this is just a really loose piece, and is more entertaining for the audience interaction than for the material itself; it also just ends abruptly with Tess being escorted out by the page (Robin Duke, in one of her most thankless roles).

**

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS

  • Best jokes: Friends of Joan Crawford, Korean War GIs
  • A better night for Brad Hall; while again a lot of them were photo-based ones, the best joke (Crawford) had a surprising edginess (the picture was of a pro-choice protest with a banner featuring a crossed out coat hanger with the words "NEVER AGAIN"),
  • Andy Kaufman makes his final SNL appearance with a pre-taped "thank you" message thanking the 169,000 or so who supported him on November 20th; Hall calls the earnest message "pretty sad" and announces that Kaufman now owes the network money for the airtime.  Not really much more to the segment than that, but it worked.
  • Joe Piscopo returns with Saturday Night Sports to comment on Billy Martin, recently rehired by the Yankees, by holding a contest that offers World Series tickets to the first person that correctly guesses when he will next be fired.  He gets a jab in at NBC ("No transportation, no lodging, no meals! Big spenders, huh?") and there's a graphic of Martin in a guillotine, which cuts his head off at the end.  There's nothing online confirming whether this was a real contest; I'm guessing it was a joke or it just petered out (for the record, Martin was next canned by Steinbrenner on December 16, 1983).
  • Havnagootiim Vishnuuerheer (Tim Kazurinsky) returns with questions he would ask God.  As usual, it's light but entertaining, and an audio glitch during one of the questions ("Is being the Almighty all that it's cracked up to be?") prompts an ad-lib from Kazurinsky ("I guess we got our answer").

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "WE CARE" - PURVIS HAWKINS

  • Written by Jane Wagner and Louis St. Louis
  • I still don't know what to make of this; "Purvis Hawkins" is actually Lily Tomlin in drag as a beatific black soul singer (the character first appeared in her May 1982 special Lily For President?).  I have to give Tomlin credit for doing such a transgressive character (female-to-male drag), even if the whole co-opting race is problematic (Tomlin doesn't seem to be wearing blackface; it's more the hair/beard).  The song gets the audience clapping, and Tomlin commits like hell, but ultimately it doesn't really go anywhere; like "Speaking As A Woman", it's a little too reliant on the novelty of the performer in drag.

SHOW: FANTASY

  • Peter Marshall (Joe Piscopo) and Leslie Uggams (Mary Gross) host the wish-fulfillment daytime show where Bobbi Jeanine (Lily Tomlin) achieves her dream of playing "Flight Of The Bumblebee" on national TV.
  • A parody of a now-forgotten NBC game show; this was all over the place, with the end essentially serving as service for another Tomlin character.  Eddie Murphy's segment (as the clinic director who gets inappropriate and unneeded prizes, like a vacation), is probably the strongest part of this.
  • This isn't the last time they would have the lily-white Mary Gross playing a black woman this season.
  • Some parts of this feel like they were done on SNL other times, such as Kazurinsky's one-armed character trying to grab all the money he can from the "Fantasy Fountain" (total haul: $2).
  • Barry Mitchell appears as Woody Allen, after playing a Woody impersonator in last season's Daniel J. Travanti show.

** 1/2

SKETCH: THE IRISH RADIO HOUR

  • Siobhan Cahill (Mary Gross) emcees a broadcast featuring music from the Isle Rovers (Brad Hall and Gary Kroeger), a visit from Father Timothy Owens (Tim Kazurinsky), and Mary Fitzgerald's (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) essay on why she is not ashamed to be Irish,  
  • This felt rushed and was a little heavy on the stereotypes, but it had enough randomness in there to redeem the sketch (the song that ended with "we shot the unicorn" had a "message to boot", "every time a bunion is cut off, a wee leprechaun is born!", the essay).
  • Father Owens being defrocked due to giving a "bubble baptismal to naked preteens" seems uncomfortably close to the scandals that have been rocking the Catholic Church in recent years.
  • Cahill is Gross' mother's maiden name.
  • I'm curious who was in the control booth.

** 1/2

COMMERCIAL: COFFEES OF THE WORLD

  • Robin Duke serves her friends General House's line of questionably appealing international-inspired coffee beverages. 
  • Duke tries her best to give this life with an almost inappropriately manic excitement over the coffee flavors, but there really isn't much more to this than the main joke (the "flavors" feature things that do not go with coffee, such as herring bits, sour cream, and Parmesan cheese), though Duke has a line indicating that the mixes aren't actually considered coffee.
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus is wearing the Bobbi Mohan-Culp dress again.

**

COMMERCIAL: THE WEB (repeat of 09/25/82)

GOODNIGHTS

  • Lily Tomlin thanks the cast for treating her like a wholesome person, and shouts out to Lillian Gish.  Joe Piscopo plugs the Bye Bye Billy contest again before asking "Who's Lillian Gish?" in jest.  Eddie Murphy wears black leather.
  • Tomlin's partner Jane Wagner is credited with the staff writers.  Louis St. Louis is credited as a musical consultant.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Tomlin definitely gave the show a boost, but with her trunk of established characters, the end result felt more like a Lily Tomlin special done from Studio 8H than a regular episode of SNL; it was definitely "The Lily Tomlin Show" more than the last live show was "The Eddie Murphy Show".  Gary Kroeger confirmed by e-mail that this was often the case when a big comedian hosted: "There was a tendency in those days to bring the show to the host, rather than have the host become part of the show."  Aside from Saturday Night News, the non-Tomlin bits were forgettable, but nothing was truly bad, and even those were lifted by the other sketches' energy.  Despite Tomlin carrying most of the show, there was a nice surprise in one of Julia Louis-Dreyfus' performances, and Brad Hall has comparatively strong news segment.

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS

  • Edith Ann and Friends
  • Monologue
  • Ernestine's House Call

SHOW LOWLIGHTS

  • Coffees Of The World
  • Speaking As A Woman
  • Tess In The Balcony

MVP

  • Lily Tomlin

CAST AND GUEST BREAKDOWN

cast

  • Robin Duke: 3 appearances [Tess In The Balcony, Fantasy, Coffees Of The World]
  • Mary Gross: 5 appearances [Lily and Eddie, Ernestine's House Call, Fantasy, The Irish Radio Hour, Coffees Of The World]
  • Brad Hall: 3 appearances [Saturday Night News, Fantasy, The Irish Radio Hour]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 6 appearances [Lily and Eddie, Ernestine's House Call, Speaking As A Woman, Saturday Night News, Fantasy, The Irish Radio Hour]
  • Gary Kroeger: 4 appearances [Lily and Eddie, Speaking As A Woman, Fantasy, The Irish Radio Hour]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 3 appearances [Edith Ann and Friends, The Irish Radio Hour, Coffees Of The World]; 1 voice-over [Ernestine's House Call]
  • Eddie Murphy: 3 appearances [Lily and Eddie, Pudge & Solomon, Fantasy]
  • Joe Piscopo: 4 appearances [Speaking As A Woman, Pudge & Solomon, Saturday Night News, Fantasy]; 1 voice-over [Coffees Of The World]

crew and extras

  • Don Pardo: 1 voice-over [Saturday Night News]
  • Clint Smith: 1 appearance [Lily and Eddie]

guests

  • Lily Tomlin: 10 appearances [Lily and Eddie, Monologue, Judith Goes Shopping, Ernestine's House Call, Natural Resources, Edith Ann and Friends, Pudge & Solomon, Tess In The Balcony, "We Care", Fantasy]
  • Andy Kaufman: 1 appearance [Saturday Night News]
  • Barry Mitchell: 1 appearance [Fantasy]
  • Rick Moranis: 1 appearance [Next Week]
  • Dave Thomas: 1 appearance [Next Week]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • April 30, 1983
  • September 17, 1983
  • June 23, 1984

Known alterations: 

  • Next Week and The Web removed
  • Jogger Motel added.

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.