Classic SNL Review: May 15, 1982: Danny DeVito / Sparks (S07E19)

RATINGS SYSTEM:

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

OPENING: ANDY KAUFMAN WRESTLING TEASER

  • A short clip of Andy Kaufman's April 5 wrestling match against Jerry Lawler, with a voiceover from Piscopo teasing Kaufman's first time wrestling a man.
  • I'm not going to review this, as it is too short to really comment on and it's strictly a teaser for a segment later on in the show.  

MONOLOGUE

  • Danny DeVito announces that Taxi has been cancelled by ABC, to the audience's dismay.  He reads a letter from his mother Julia that bad-mouths the network.  Because the season finale was taped two months earlier and the cast did not know the network was cancelling the show, DeVito introduces castmates Andy Kaufman, Christopher Lloyd, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza and Judd Hirsch for a belated final bow.
  • DeVito comes off as an engaging and enjoyable host right away, and it's no surprise that he would end up hosting the show five more times.
  • Even though this wasn't a strict comedy monologue, this gets the show off to a good start.  The audience response was really strong going by the applause DeVito gets at the beginning, their boos at ABC for cancelling Taxi, and the standing ovation they give the cast as they all assemble on stage.
  • You can see Marilu Henner through the window on the set...she's obscured by  the cloudiness of the glass but going by the outfit, it's her.
  • Of course, NBC picked up Taxi for the next fall.

****

FILM: TAXI

  • Louie DePalma (Danny DeVito) gets his revenge on ABC.
  • A good companion piece to the monologue.
  • Post 9/11, Louie bombing the ABC headquarters via remote control would never be allowed on the air.

****

SKETCH: WHINERS

  • Aboard an airplane, Doug (Joe Piscopo) and Wendy Whiner (Robin Duke) complain loudly to a stewardess (Mary Gross) and the man in the seat next to them (Danny DeVito).
  • The audience gives Piscopo and Duke recognition applause, but this sketch felt too similar to the last one.  I also find Duke and Piscopo's voices really grating in these sketches, even though that was probably the effect they were going for. Duke's Wendy Whiner moan reminds me a little of Julia Sweeney as Pat.
  • The main thing this sketch had going for it was DeVito, who was an excellent foil for the Whiners, and a great ending: after being nagged repeatedly by Doug and Wendy to be careful with a package of china, DeVito aggressively kicks and shakes the box while the couple is distracted by "What I Did For Love" on their headset, all the while mimicking their repeated admonitions in a nasal, mocking voice ("Be careful of the chy-nyah!")

**

SKETCH: STRESS OUT

  • Bill's (Danny DeVito) excitement over his promotion is short-lived as a perfect storm of personal crises converge.
  • Written by Nelson Lyon and Mark O'Donnell.
  • DeVito stumbled a little at the beginning, but once again he served as a good straight man for all the antics in the sketch.
  • I really enjoyed the comments from Joe Piscopo's smug snake co-worker character as the drug dealer (Eddie Murphy) gives DeVito some cocaine and threatens him with a knife for not paying, but the others had some good moments, particularly Christine Ebersole screaming "YOU ANIMAL!" at DeVito for giving her herpes and Mary Gross' orgasmic moans over the speakerphone.
  • The twist with it all being a test the CEO orchestrated to see how Bill handles pressure was pretty funny, especially the denouement with DeVito muttering and growling while holding a knife.

***1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "MICKEY MOUSE"

  • Ron Mael, toothbrush-mustached keyboard player and songwriter for Sparks, prefaces the number with a lecture about the mouse.
  • Crunchy, guitar and synth heavy power-pop, but the real fun is the contrast between energetic lead singer Russell Mael and his brother with the Hitler mustache.  Ron's facial expressions and upstaging activities make the performance, especially the part where they cut to the different band members singing and Ron just smiles creepily.  Plus, Ron gets his own dance solo during the instrumental break.

MISCELLANEOUS: NEXT WEEK

  • Tim Kazurinsky has Danny DeVito guess who next week's special guest is.
  • Good break from the usual format, which also felt like this was a way for them to get rid of a little extra time.

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

  • Best joke: Death penalty in NJ/Rely tampon
  • An improvement over the past several SNL Newsbreaks, partially because of a shorter running time (only 12 minutes) and also because they don't use the photo montage like they had been the last few weeks, even if they still use their other crutch, the crawl with names.  Still not great, but it doesn't weigh down the show as much as it did the last few weeks.
  • Dr. Jack Badofsky gets a big round of applause, but this was one of the weaker outings this season, with more groan-worthy puns.
  • Mary Gross gets an amusing "ditzy correspondent" segment, thanks largely to the dog that's supposed to be playing "Sandy" spooking (you can hear him growl) and she makes a few adlibs as she tries to get him back on the bench.  She also gets in a good dig at another one of Brian Doyle-Murray's marblemouth moments.
  • Falkland Island Rorschach Crawl was alright, again preferable to the photo montage bits they did the last few shows, with some unintentional humor coming from Doyle-Murray and Ebersole having time to kill before the crawl finishes.
  • Tony Rosato returns as Lou Grant, fresh off his just-cancelled CBS drama and reduced to doing the weather: he promptly changes the subject and appeals for aid in El Salvador before Doyle-Murray tells him that Grant Tinker has cancelled the weather report.  For some reason I like Rosato's Asner/Lou Grant a little more this time in spite of the makeup job (they didn't do a great job on John Belushi when he played Lou Grant either).  The whole thing where Lou Grant claims he fixed Tinker up with Mary was a little too cute for my liking.

***

SKETCH: OLD FRIENDS

  • Solomon (Eddie Murphy) and Pudge (Joe Piscopo) discuss the Falkland Islands.  Wino buddy Willie (Danny DeVito) reunites with his friends in time to watch Solomon dance.
  • This sketch was again carried by the chemistry between Piscopo and Murphy, although the mood was distinctly lighter than the last time Solomon and Pudge appeared.  DeVito's character was a good addition and fit the mood of the sketch.
  • Best lines: Solomon talking about the "Puerto Ricans in the Falklands!" and Thatcher being "out of her Falkland mind".
  • Eddie Murphy doesn't really appear in this episode much; this is his only starring role, he only appeared in one other sketch before and none after.

***1/2

MISCELLANEOUS: KAUFMAN VS. LAWLER

  • Brian Doyle-Murray interviews Andy Kaufman about his April 5 match against Jerry Lawler and shows some highlights.  Kaufman announces he will never wrestle again and apologizes for his past matches against women.
  • When I first saw this episode, I thought this segment was boring, particularly because it was a wrestling match framed by what looked like a straight interview between Doyle-Murray and Kaufman, even if Kaufman had a good line about wrestling women bigger than Jerry Lawler.  Since it's now known that the "feud" between Kaufman and Lawler was actually as staged as any other professional wrestling storyline and the two were actually close friends, I have to admire their commitment to the hoax.
  • As well, the wrestling match also plays pretty well as a slapstick/silent movie type deal with Kaufman mocking Lawler, running away and putting him in a headlock only to get slammed with a pile driver.
  • Funniest moment: when Lawler taunts Kaufman "Are you here to wrestle or act like an ass", the commentator (Lance Russell) repeats the comment but pauses and says "so and so" instead of "ass".

****

COMMERCIAL: ENZO

  • Ozzy Osbourne (Tim Kazurinsky) touts the enzymatic mouthwash's ability to remove various animal parts from his teeth.
  • Slightly fillerish.  The funniest part was Robin Duke as the groupie slurring "Wowts rull min-tee" and swigging from the bottle in the last shot.

**

COMMERCIAL: COME ON OUT AMERICA [REPEAT FROM 03/27/82]

SHOW: TABLE TALK

  • Tony Rosato demonstrates how to intimidate the wine steward (Nate Herman).
  • Rosato is in fine form here.  I've finally figured out that he reminds me a lot of Jason Sudeikis, because they both can play both the straight and support roles as well as somewhat boorish, obnoxious types.  He was the perfect choice to do this segment and he carries it well.
  • The part where Rosato does a quick devilish laugh after demonstrating his displeasure to the wine steward reminds me of Vic Salukin after his crank call.
  • Nate Herman reportedly was a last-second fill-in for a regular cast member.  For all the screen time the original writers of SNL got, Ebersol and Doumanian didn't really give their writers many bit parts (except for Andy Breckman) so for a writer to have a big role as this is rare.

***1/2

SHOW: LOOKS AT BOOKS

  • Karen Block (Mary Gross) interviews "A Hard Day's Reich" author Dr. Simon Radlauer (Tim Kazurinsky), who asserts the Beatles stole their ideas from the Nazis.
  • While the doctored Beatles covers were funny, the joke really runs out of steam and it doesn't really feel like they worked too hard on fleshing out the idea.
  • This is notable for being the only time the show would use the title "Looks At Books" after the original cast left.  Most of the time Ebersol book review show sketches would use the title "Book Beat"
  • Gross' exaggerated delivery at the beginning was a little irritating.  Also, if the Nazi music records were supposed to be LPs, that would be an anachronism: the 33 1/3rd RPM LP wasn't developed until after the war.

**

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "I PREDICT"

  • Danny DeVito can be seen dancing on the side stage as the band starts playing.
  • Another catchy number.  Ron seemed to be cracking up a little at Russell at one point.
  • One of the song's jokes (pointed out elsewhere): the prediction that the song will fade out, but it actually ends cold.

GOODNIGHTS

  • Danny's mother Julia DeVito (who's even shorter than he is) curses out ABC in Italian to cheers from the cast and audience.
  • A few audience members can be seen standing up in the balcony, evidently trying to start another standing ovation.  It doesn't take.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Easily one of the highlights of the season and definitely a highlight of the later part of the year.  Danny DeVito was the strongest host the show had in a while, perhaps since Bill Murray; while the show still had a few stumbles, the cast and writers both had a good night, and they seemed to know it.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Monologue/Taxi Film
  • Kaufman vs. Lawler
  • Table Talk
  • Stress Out
  • Old Friends

EPISODE LOWLIGHTS:

  • Looks At Books
  • The Whiners
  • Enzo

MVP:

  • Danny DeVito

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:

cast

  • Robin Duke: 2 appearances [Whiners, Enzo]
  • Christine Ebersole: 3 appearances [Stress Test, SNL Newsbreak, Enzo]
  • Mary Gross: 3 appearances [Whiners, SNL Newsbreak, Looks At Books], 1 voiceover [Stress Out]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 4 appearances [Next Week, SNL Newsbreak, Enzo, Looks At Books]
  • Eddie Murphy:  2 appearances [Stress Out, Old Friends]
  • Joe Piscopo: 3 appearances [Whiners, Stress Out, Old Friends], 1 voiceover [Wrestling Teaser]
  • Tony Rosato: 3 appearances [SNL Newsbreak,  Enzo, Table Talk], 1 voiceover [Stress Out]

featured players

  • Brian Doyle-Murray: 3 appearances [Stress Out, SNL Newsbreak, Kaufman vs. Lawler]

crew and extras 

  • Nate Herman: 1 appearance [Table Talk]
  • Yvonne Hudson: 1 appearance [Whiners]
  • Neil Levy: 1 appearance [Whiners]
  • Liz Welch: 1 appearance [Whiners]

guests

  • Danny DeVito: 6 appearances [Monologue, Taxi, Whiners, Stress Out, Next Week, Old Friends]
  • Sparks: 2 appearances ["Mickey Mouse", "I Predict"]
  • Andy Kaufman: 2 appearances [Monologue, Kaufman vs. Lawler]
  • Tony Danza: 1 appearance [Monologue]
  • Marilu Henner: 1 appearance [Monologue]
  • Judd Hirsch: 1 appearance [Monologue]
  • Christopher Lloyd: 1 appearance [Monologue]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • September 18, 1982

Known alterations:

  • Next Week is removed
  • The Khaddaffi Look (from 10/03/81) is added.

Additional screen captures are available here.