Classic SNL Review: Oct 3, 1981: (no host) / Rod Stewart (S07E01)

RATINGS SYSTEM

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

COLD OPENING:  NBC ID

  • A brief station ID spoof: "NBC: Our Age Is Showing"
opening.jpg
  • Brief and funny.  I did like the graphic of the then-current NBC logo (known informally as the Proud N) with a faded, molting peacock.

***

OPENING MONTAGE

  • Just an observation, but I always thought Mel Brandt's voice-over suited the griminess of this montage better than Don Pardo in the following seasons.

SHOW: THE LITTLE RICHARD SIMMONS SHOW

  • Effeminate exercise guru Little Richard Simmons (Eddie Murphy) leads four women and the studio audience in a workout to reworked versions of classic Little Richard songs.
  • Right away, Eddie shows he's in control of the new Saturday Night Live.  This was a very good way to get the energy level up for the show and it was a great execution of a simple premise.
  • My particular favorite parts were his advice to the heavyset blonde woman ("Never wear battleship gray.  2000 sailors will try to board you.") and him going up to the very overweight crew members ("You girls have let yourselves go!").  For some reason I also find Yvonne Hudson's expressions and movements funny too.
  • The saxophone player wearing a leotard and shorts was a nice touch.
  • Eddie looked like he was breaking character a few times here.

****

COMMERCIAL: THE CLAMS

  • Brian DePalma's latest film bears more than a passing resemblance to Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds"
  • Very well done, especially the scenes with the silly looking stop motion clams intercut with the panicked crowds of children.
  • Great line: "Once a year, Brian De Palma picks the bones of a dead director and gives his wife a job!"

***1/2

SKETCH: NAUGHTY NUNS ON THE BEACH

  • On vacation, Robin Duke finds that her fellow nun (Mary Gross) got into the order by way of a multiple choice exam at Bob's Ecumenical College.
  • The audience was fairly dead for this one, and this had a slight premise which felt more like something that would have been done in an improv stage show than a lead-off sketch on a TV program.  The ending was weak too.
  • That said, there were a few funny lines from Gross' character ("Well, she could be a slut!").
  • Was that Del Close as the voice of "God"?  It sounds a lot like him.

** 

SHOW: A FEW MINUTES WITH ANDY ROONEY: SHOES

  • The 60 Minutes coot (Joe Piscopo) opines for a few minutes about different types of footwear, his voice, Morley Safer's name, Mike Wallace, the sun...
  • I thought Piscopo's Rooney was a bit too broad and cartoonish (Norm MacDonald had the best Rooney impression, in my opinion), but it did accurately capture how pointless his 60 Minutes segments are.
  • There were a few good lines: thes one about there not being any Nazis named "Steve", Mike Wallace being a jackass and how irritating Rooney's own voice is.

***

FILM: PROSE AND CONS - LAURIE FRANK

  • Magazine editor Terry McDonnell and literary agent Irving "Swifty" Lazar agree: prisons have become the latest hotbed of budding literary talent.  Maximum Security inmate Tyrone Green (Eddie Murphy) reads his award-winning poem.
  • Written by Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield.
  • A very well done short film; definitely the first classic of the entire season.
  • I've always loved the one prisoner telling his agent that "People who watch Merv Griffin don't read books!  Any agent in the business knows that!"
  • Eddie Murphy walks away with the whole thing when he reads the poem "Kill My Landlord".  The audience response when he gets to the part "C-I-L-L My land-lord!" is so big, the laughter and applause practically drowns out the last word in the poem ("Death!").
  • The Norman Mailer / Jack Henry Abbott credits at the end refer to a then-current news story where Mailer and other critics had championed prisoner Abbott's literary talent and got him released from prison, only for Abbott to fatally stab someone six weeks after his release.  The film still holds up despite its topical basis, but until I got the background the end credits just seemed like a silly throwaway gag.

*****

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "SHE WON'T DANCE WITH ME", "HOT LEGS"

  • As a rule, I won't rate the actual musical performance but I will give some thoughts if I feel the performance warrants it.
  • The guitar seems to be mixed significantly louder than the other instruments and Rod's vocals, which made these performances harder to enjoy.
  • Did anyone else pick up Rod singing the lyric "Why the fuck is she ignoring me?"
  • I've always found the thing with two people singing into the same mic (in this case, two of Rod's backup musicians) to be incredibly cheesy.
  • Stewart's second song was better mainly because of the surprise guest appearance by Tina Turner.

SNL NEWSBREAK: BRIAN DOYLE-MURRAY AND MARY GROSS, COMMENTARY BY RAHEEM ABDUL MOHAMMED (EDDIE MURPHY)

  • Best joke: C. Everett Koop.
  • Was there supposed to be a voiceover during the intro?  It seemed like there might have been a technical error during the live show.
  • The gag with the letters in "NEWSBREAK" breaking off and falling on Brian Doyle-Murray was amusing at first but it was not something they needed to bring back every week.  See the reviews of the later shows in the season for more thoughts on this.
  • The jokes themselves weren't very good.  The introduction where Gross and Doyle-Murray explained that they were co-anchorpersons who haven't decided what sex they were fell flat, as did a lot of the jokes.  The big exception was the joke making fun of Koop's pro-life beliefs (he started work immediately because he believed his term begins at nomination), which got a healthy response from the audience.
  • Doyle-Murray's delivery never really bothered me, but Gross was a poor match for the newsdesk, particularly because her delivery is so slow and hesitant in these early episodes, as if she was intimidated by the TV camera.
  • The best part of the news segment was the fake clip from a retooled Tomorrow show, with Tom Snyder (Joe Piscopo) wearing a mustache and talking rapid-fire spanish.  Snyder was definitely one of Piscopo's better impressions, and the clip reminded me a lot of Bill Hader as Vinny Vedecci.
  • The Raheem Abdul Mohammed commentary wasn't one of the character's better appearances and starts off quite slow, but picks up as it went on.  Eddie Murphy also breaks character a few times, specifically when he mentioned how Isaac Hayes proved he could act in Truck Turner, and right after he ended his commentary.
  • The audience found the way Murphy said "Thank you, Mary Gross" in his Raheem voice quite funny.

** 

COMMERCIAL: THE KHADDAFFI LOOK

  • In a spoof of a then-current ad campaign for Jordache, the Libyan leader's clothing line is the preferred fashion choice for revolutionaries and terrorists everywhere.
  • Written by Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield; directed by Jerry Ansel.
  • For some reason, this commercial has a different look than the film segments that were done for the show before this point; this one seems to be much cleaner and modern looking.
  • Well done visually but it wasn't especially funny.

**1/2

SKETCH: STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT

  • In the middle of the night, Ruth (Robin Duke) gets a phone call with bad news about her father.  Adding to her troubles is Rod (Tim Kazurinsky), an oblivious and self-absorbed creep who she just had a one night stand with; he doesn't seem to get the message that she is not interested in him in the least and wants him to leave her apartment.
  • This is obviously a Marilyn Suzanne Miller piece; Miller wrote a lot of quieter character pieces for the show from 1975-78, and they weren't necessarily laugh out loud sketches but they were usually excellent at true-to-life characterization and chances for the actors to stretch.   Kazurinsky's Rod kind of reminds me a little of the character Dan Aykroyd played in Luncheonette Reunion about five years before, a grown-up nerd who is not particularly clued in to the fact that his chance reunion with a high school cheerleader is more thrilling for him than it is for her.
  • Excellent performances from both Kazurinsky and Duke in this sketch.  Kazurinsky makes Rod irritating and clueless while staying enjoyable to watch, while Duke has several great reactions to Kazurinsky, especially the part where Rod crawls over to the side of the bed where Ruth's sobbing, and she turns around, glares at him, and fumes "WHO ARE YOU?".  Duke did a very good job with a particulatly difficult role.
  • I also liked the little details in the sketch, like Rod's particularly tacky smiley face t-shirt and him blowing smoke rings in the background as Ruth gets the phone call about her father.

****1/2

SKETCH: STRANGERS IN THE FUNERAL PARLOR

  • A continuation of the previous sketch.  Ruth is at her father's wake dealing with hyper-critical Aunt Edie (Mary Gross) and obnoxious Uncle Ed (Tony Rosato).  Things go from bad to worse when Rod shows up.
  • Kazurinsky and Duke were playing the same characters the same way; I can't really comment a whole lot more on their performances, but I did think Duke had some good lines in there ("Rod, you're such a tool.")
  • I did think that awful blue leisure suit Rod was wearing was a nice touch; the wardrobe seems to convey a lot about his character.
  • Gross' performance was still fairly weak and her character got no laughs from the audience; in contrast, they respond to Rosato a lot more. Rosato's delivery on one particular line was the funniest part of the whole sketch (when Rod mentions the hotel he's staying at, Uncle Ed cuts in with "You'll like that hotel, I've been there myself.")
  • A little weaker than the first part, but still well done.

***1/2.

FILM: ANDY WARHOL'S TV: WARHOL ON SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE

  • Warhol discusses being approached for SNL, gives his thoughts about comedy and tells a joke.
  • The audience's big laugh at Warhol saying that he hates the show was funny, and the joke he told ("Where did Prince Charles spend his honeymoon? Indiana") made me laugh, but this was an oddity more than anything else.

*1/2.

GUEST PERFORMANCE: MICHAEL DAVIS

  • Davis demonstrates his juggling ability with a machete, an ax and a cleaver.
  • Easily the highlight of the whole show; Davis has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand with his excellent dry delivery and timing.  He also does a good job at building suspense and tension leading up to the actual juggling act, and has some excellent lines as well ("People don't take you seriously with just one ball").

*****

HOME MOVIES: FEATURING "SEASON OF GLASS", A FILM BY YOKO ONO

  • Christine Ebersole stands on home base and asks audience members to submit their home movies for a chance to have them aired on national TV.  This segues into this week's "Home Movie" from Yoko Ono: "Goodbye Sadness" plays over home movies of her and John Lennon as well as footage of the memorial vigil on December 14, 1980; Yoko recites a poem during the instrumental break.
  • Was this done to plug an album?  The image of Lennon's bloody glasses next to the half-full glass of water against the NYC skyline is the album cover for Yoko's "Season Of Glass" album
  • There's a shot of John and Yoko with the World Trade Center in the background (it looks like it was still being completed at the time the home movie was filmed).  Kind of chilling in retrospect.
  • The impact of the short may have been a lot bigger when it originally aired (less than a year after Lennon's murder), but I've always felt the footage of the vigil being timed to the "Winter comes" line in the poem still is pretty moving.

**1/2. 

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "YOUNG TURKS"

GOODNIGHTS

  • The cast and Michael Davis stand at home base.  Over the closing theme, Mel Brandt announces that next week's guests are Susan Saint James and Rickie Lee Jones (Jones backed out and was replaced by The Kinks before the show went to air).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

A strong, if uneven, start to the new season.  The strongest material in this episode is considerably better than the previous season's best work, and one sketch in particular ("Prose and Cons") is now widely recognized as a classic Eddie Murphy piece.  The experimental format-breaking stuff was hit or miss: I did like the Strangers In The Night/Funeral Parlor 2-part sketch, but Warhol's TV didn't do much for me at all, and the Yoko film felt a little out-of-place.  SNL Newsbreak was also a weak spot in the show; unfortunately, the Ebersol years were not known for particularly strong news segments.  Despite a few weak spots, this is clearly a more competent, confident show than any from the season before.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Guest Performance: Michael Davis
  • Prose and Cons
  • Strangers In The Night
  • The Little Richard Simmons Show
  • Strangers In The Funeral Parlor

EPISODE LOWLIGHTS

  • Andy Warhol's TV
  • most of SNL Newsbreak
  • Naughty Nuns on the Beach

MVP

  • (tie) Eddie Murphy / Michael Davis

CAST / GUEST APPEARANCE BREAKDOWN

cast

  • Robin Duke: 3 appearances  [Naughty Nuns on the Beach, Strangers In The Night, Strangers In The Funeral Parlor]
  • Christine Ebersole: 2 appearances [Strangers In The Funeral Parlor, Home Movies intro]
  • Mary Gross: 3 appearances [Naughty Nuns on the Beach,  SNL Newsbreak, Strangers in the Funeral Parlor]
  • Tim Kazurinsky:  2 appearances [Strangers In The Night, Strangers In The Funeral Parlor]
  • Eddie Murphy: 3 appearances [The Little Richard Simmons Show, Prose and Cons, SNL Newsbreak]
  • Joe Piscopo: 3 appearances [A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney, SNL Newsbreak, Strangers In The Funeral Parlor]
  • Tony Rosato:  1 appearance [Strangers In The Funeral Parlor]

featured players

  • Brian Doyle-Murray: 1 appearance [SNL Newsbreak]

crew and extras

  • Yvonne Hudson: 1 appearance [The Little Richard Simmons Show]
  • Andy Murphy: 1 appearance [Strangers In The Funeral Parlor]

guests 

  • Rod Stewart: 2 appearances {"She Won't Dance With Me/Hot Legs", "Young Turks"]
  • Tina Turner: 1 appearance {"Hot Legs"]
  • Michael Davis: 1 appearance {Guest Performance]
  • Andy Warhol: 1 appearance [Andy Warhol's TV]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • December 26, 1981
  • July 10, 1982

Known alterations:

  • Nuns on Vacation and The Clams removed
  • Sugar Breakfast (from 10/31/81) added

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.