Classic SNL Review: April 24, 1982: Robert Culp / The Charlie Daniels Band (S07E18)

RATING SYSTEM:

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

OPENING: TENNIS CLUB

  • Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp), reduced to pushing towels at the tennis club, runs into his "I Spy" buddy Alexander Scott (Eddie Murphy), still living the high life and plugging products.
  • A decent opening.  Culp seemed to be overdoing it with his delivery and Eddie had a few stumbles, but this was one of the better segments of the night, and making fun of Cosby's tendency to plug products always makes me laugh.
  • The segments with Piscopo as John McEnroe (throwing a tantrum because Culp said his towel wasn't "in" the hamper) and Kazurinsky as Billie Jean King (telling Culp "Hold my balls" while she used the restroom) were a little obvious, but funny nonetheless.
  • I also liked how the ending tied it into The Greatest American Hero.  Who's playing Ralph in this sketch?
  • You can hear an audience member shout "Eddie!" when Murphy makes his entrance.

***

MONTAGE

  • This is one of the earliest episodes where the audience response for Eddie Murphy is considerably louder than for the other cast members, at least, this is the first one where I really notice it.

MONOLOGUE

  • After being told that they don't do the monologue anymore due to the number of non-comedian hosts, Robert Culp tries to demonstrate his stand-up comedy skills.
  • Culp was very nervous and fidgety throughout this really quick monologue, and even him delivering a joke poorly wasn't funny in itself.  It came across as desperate instead of self-deprecating.

*

COMMERCIAL: MIDDLE AGE OF AQUARIUS

  • Mary Travers (Christine Ebersole) pitches an album of altered 60s hits for flower children that ditched peace and love for materialism and stock options.
  • This was written by Joe Bodolai (likely another collaboration with Shuster, Herman and Wald) and serves as a companion piece to "Jesus In Blue Jeans" from the James Coburn show back in February.  "Jesus" was better overall, but this got a strong response from the audience, and it had some amusing song titles just like the other one (I like "Why Don't We Do It In The Bank?")
  • The audience really loved "If I Had A Valium".
  • I guess this sketch falls under "it's funny because it's true".  As Patti Smith once lamented, "My generation, we had dreams, we had dreams man and we fuckin created George Bush!"

***

SKETCH: PARTY GIRL 

  • Two out-of-towners (Brian Doyle-Murray and Joe Piscopo) take the porter's (Eddie Murphy) suggestion to hire a "party girl" while attending a dental convention, but Mavis (Robin Duke) has a different idea of what kind of party they want.
  • The audience wasn't really into this, but the concept was funny enough, and carried by a good performance by Duke (in her only appearance tonight).  Piscopo was also amusing as the more willing conventioneer, and Eddie Murphy steals his scenes as the porter, who he gives a kind of nasal older-guy voice.
  • The bit where Duke's character has Piscopo and Doyle-Murray chase to "pin the tail" on her and they end up in each others arms reminds me of something in one of the 90s Roxbury Guys sketches.  Piscopo can be seen sticking his tongue out!
  • A boom shadow is seen at the very beginning.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "STILL IN SAIGON"

  • Robert Culp introduces The Charlie Daniels Band holding a frightened baby wearing a "Greatest American Hero" outfit.
  • This song is about a Vietnam veteran with PTSD, one of a few songs that would be released at the time, as the plight of the Vietnam veteran was becoming more well-known.  Stevie Wonder's "Front Line" and Billy Joel's "Goodnight Saigon" came out that same year.  A good performance, which seems a little more rockish for Daniels.

SNL NEWSBREAK WITH MARY GROSS, CHRISTINE EBERSOLE AND BRIAN DOYLE-MURRAY 

  • Best jokes: White House set their clocks to 1932.
  • Another overlong SNL Newsbreak segment (15 minutes) with another long photo-montage, this week about the length of time the Royal Navy took when going from Portsmouth, England to the Falkland Islands.  There were a few funny pictures (the shot of what's obviously a gay pride parade being used for the crowd), but the audience tired of this fast, and it's becoming obvious how much of a crutch these bits are.
  • The Royal Navy bit was four minutes when combined with the portion where Brian Doyle-Murray draws the navy route on the map, spelling "slow" in cursive handwriting.  I could see where this was going fast.
  • The jokes this week were also considerably weak, with a terrible joke about the city of Stanley changing its name to Puerto Argentino that leads to a bad "Laurel & Hardy" joke.  Several other jokes died hard.  Thank goodness for the commentaries.
  • Tim Kazurinsky's commentary about the baby boomers giving their kids "jerky" names was quite good, particularly when he got to the fake "real" names for Ricardo Montalban and Ronald "Ebeneezer Pennypincher" Reagan.
  • Mary Gross' dash from ABC to CBS when she realizes she's reporting from the wrong network was amusing as well, and was a break from overusing Akira Yoshimura.
  • Joe Piscopo has a merely OK Saturday Night Sports about George Steinbrenner trading away the Yankees' best players, but the audience loved it as usual.
  • Related to an item on NASA launching their first black astronaut in space and mentioning a racist joke overheard backstage, Eddie Murphy comments on how the resemblance between black people and monkeys is a myth, giving different examples and even bringing out a hirsute crew member (actually writer Barry W. Blaustein) to compare body hair.  This was quite funny, and the best commentary of the night.

**

SKETCH: EGG & SPERM 

  • After a woman's (Christine Ebersole) bad one-night stand, one of her partner's sperm (Tim Kazurinsky) tries to pick up her egg (Mary Gross) in her uterus.
  • A weaker sketch.  The whole thing played as too cutesy, especially with the wordplay about "Labor Day".  There were still some funny moments, like Gross asking Kazurinsky "Who the hell are you?" when he entered and disgustedly pointing out he was "nothing but...sperm!"
  • The highlight: Kazurinsky realizes another particularly drunk sperm (played by Tony Rosato) iss not from his own group, and yells "You slut!" upward.
  • Robert Culp only makes a brief appearance at the beginning, but he still seemed very nervous.
  • Brian Doyle-Murray appears at the end wearing a very thick wig...I wonder why they didn't use his normal hair this time?  He usually did when he played nondescript small roles like this one.
  • This uses the same bedroom set as Party Girl.

**

COMMERCIAL: JAMES BROWN IS ANNIE

  • The Godfather Of Soul, James Brown (Eddie Murphy) brings his own style to the musical's title role.
  • The best segment of the entire show, with Eddie Murphy doing his classic James Brown impression, combined with the added visual of him in a red wig and dress.
  • This is very similar to James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub, performed a year and a half later; his "Tomorrow" is basically the same music and rhythm as the Hot Tub song.  Hot Tub was a more fully fleshed out idea so I would have to say that was the better sketch, but this was very good, and I especially liked that they worked Brown's cape act into it.

****

SKETCH: SUNKEN SUBMARINE 

  • Business as usual for the crew of the U.S.S. Cunningham, still stuck on the ocean floor with the life support systems intact for 19 years.
  • My God, I hate this sketch.  Hate. Hate. Hate this sketch.  This is definitely the season's low point, and has got to be one of the five worst SNL sketches of all time.  Not only is it incredibly long (over 10 minutes), meandering and pointless, but there are also very long stretches where the audience is dead: the most they even give at times is a light chuckle.
  • What's amazing is how many jokes and gags really fall flat, from the wearing of the ship's dress, to Kazurinsky's character playing with string, to the command being misinterpreted, to Culp telling Rosato to call him skipper instead of captain.  I still have no idea whether Neil Levy pretending to be a dog or Culp eating a bowl of mush without a spoon were supposed to be funny.
  • A few moments were very mildly funny: Culp saying "Damn! Same as yesterday!" when told the coordinates of their sub, and the AWOL ensign actually have being retired in one of the torpedo tubes.  Eddie Murphy also got the best reaction in the sketch when he yelled "Put your leg down!" at Levy's character.  The difference in reaction between that and the rest of the sketch really illustrates what a giant bomb this was.
  • Evidently, the producers could tell this sketch died because its moved to the end of the show for the rerun.  I'd call it a 10-to-1 sketch, but because this was so incredibly long and the goodnights were also extended, this actually began at about 17-to-1.
  • I can't make out who most of the non-cast in this sketch are.  I think Nate Herman's in the back; I'm not sure.

*

FILM: "BABIES IN MAKEUP" [REPEAT FROM 01/23/82]

  • Mary Gross introduces an encore presentation of the film by mentioning the hate mail they got over it the first time it aired in January, adding "Hope you get it this time."

COMMERCIAL: HAPPY'S MAYONNAISE PALACE

  • Happy (Eddie Murphy) advertises all-mayonnaise dessert treats at his Carvel-esque parlor.
  • Another Eddie Murphy solo showcase.  This one was written by Mark O'Donnell according to the music publishing databases.
  • This was more silly and fun than outright funny, but I did like Murphy slowly changing his voice into the high-pitched screechy "Aunt Jollity" voice and the camera switching back to Murphy before he was finished his "uncle's" spiel.  Eddie also breaks character a little bit after the "Aunt Jollity" routine.
  • For some reason, the graphic of "Maynard the Clown" cracks me up.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "THE DEVIL WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA"

  • Another good performance.  I have a feeling most of SNL's target audience wouldn't haved cared about another song off of Daniels' then-new album, so it's appropriate they played their big hit tonight.
  • That has got to be the highest number of giant hats and beards ever on stage for an SNL musical performance.

GOODNIGHTS

  • Robert Culp kills time by trying more stand-up jokes.   Eddie Murphy gives him advice on delivery and demonstrates how Bill Cosby would tell the same jokes as the show closes.
  • According to the credits, Paul Shaffer was sitting in with the SNL Band that week.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

A weaker episode, especially weighed down by the outstandingly shitty sunken submarine sketch, a below-average SNL Newsbreak, and a lack of strong material except for "James Brown is Annie".  This week's show had a generally tired aura, as it included a rewrite of a commercial from February and the rebroadcast of a film from January.  Robert Culp didn't seem to help matters much; all night, he came across as an ill fit fpr the show and often seemed nervous.  Most of the stronger moments were Eddie Murphy's: he had two solo showcases tonight, and it's becoming obvious that he's the fan favorite.   One thing I can't fault the show for this year, though, is the musical guest selection.  It's not quite as cutting edge or filled with big names as the original era, nor as avant-garde as 1980-81, but for the most part they've been solidly entertaining: The Charlie Daniels Band was no exception.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • James Brown Is Annie

EPISODE LOWLIGHTS:

  • Sunken Submarine
  • Monologue
  • SNL Newsbreak except for the commentaries
  • Egg & Sperm

MVP:

  • Eddie Murphy

CAST & GUEST RUNDOWN:

cast

  • Robin Duke: 1 appearance [Party Girl]
  • Christine Ebersole: 3 appearances [Middle Age Of Aquarius, Egg & Sperm, SNL Newsbreak]
  • Mary Gross: 2 appearances [Egg & Sperm, SNL Newsbreak]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 4 appearances [Tennis Club, Egg & Sperm, SNL Newsbreak, Sunken Submarine]
  • Eddie Murphy: 6 appearances [Tennis Club, SNL Newsbreak, Party Girl, James Brown Is Annie, Happy's Mayonnaise Palace, Sunken Submarine]
  • Joe Piscopo: 3 appearances [Tennis Club, SNL Newsbreak, Party Girl]
  • Tony Rosato: 2 appearances [Egg & Sperm, Sunken Submarine]

featured players:

  • Brian Doyle-Murray: 4 apperances [Egg & Sperm, SNL Newsbreak, Party Girl, Sunken Submarine]

crew and extras:

  • Barry W. Blaustein: 1 appearance [SNL Newsbreak]
  • Ronnie Cuber: 1 appearance [James Brown Is Annie]
  • Lawrence Feldman: 1 appearance [James Brown Is Annie]
  • Neil Jason: 1 appearance [James Brown Is Annie]
  • Neil Levy: 2 appearances [Tennis Club, Sunken Submarine]
  • Tom Malone: 1 appearance [James Brown Is Annie]
  • Lou Marini: 1 appearance [James Brown Is Annie]
  • Alan P. Rubin: 1 appearance [James Brown Is Annie]
  • David Spinozza: 1 appearance [James Brown Is Annie] 

guests:

  • Robert Culp: 4 appearances [Tennis Club, Monologue, Egg & Sperm, Sunken Submarine]
  • The Charlie Daniels Band: 2 appearances ["Still In Saigon", "The Devil Went Down To Georgia"]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • August 7, 1982

Additional screen captures not posted above are available here.