Classic SNL Review: January 24, 1981: Robert Hays / Joe "King" Carrasco & The Crown, 14 Karat Soul (S06E08)

RATINGS SYSTEM

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

OPENING: AMERICA NOT HELD HOSTAGE ANYMORE

  • Following the release of the hostages, Ted Koppel (Joe Piscopo) keeps Nightline on the air by counting down the days the hostages are out of captivity.
  • Nothing outstanding, but a decent satire of the news media's tendency to milk a story, which would be done better for Buckwheat Buys The Farm two years later.  Actually, so would Piscopo's Koppel (still not a fan of the impression, though).
  • I did like Koppel positioning the freeing of the hostages as the tragedy, and there was a little bit of scattered applause for the line about harassing the victims' families.  Ann Risley's part seemed pretty unnecessary, though.

**1/2

MONOLOGUE

  • Robert Hays draws attention to an instant Nielsen rating that appears on the screen, which goes down once he starts bad-mouthing Nielsen families.
  • Not a bad concept, and they ended it when it needed to, but this was way too similar to Buck Henry's May 1979 monologue (thanks to TheLazenby for calling that) and not as well-executed.

**

COMMERCIAL: DAZOLA

  • Indian (Denny Dillon) speaks highly of the spread that's low on cholesterol and high on psylocibin.  Very highly.
  • A spoof on the "You call it corn, we call it maize" Mazola commercials, right down to the tagline ("You call them mushrooms.  We call them magic"), but is essentially one big drug joke on par with Dopenhagen from the David Carradine show.
  • What amused me more than anything was the goofy facial expressions on vegetable costumed Yvonne Hudson, Matthew Laurance and Gilbert Gottfried.  I wonder who got stuck in the pea outfits.
  • Incidentally, the actual Mazola commercial being parodied is in my recording of last week's show.

**

SHOW: LOVE AMERICAN STYLE

  • In "Love and the Celebrity" by Sid "Slappy" White, Robert Hays gets companionship on a lonely promotional tour from an inflatable prostitute (voice of Gail Matthius).
  • Another merely OK bit, largely carried by the timing of the string pulls and the reactions from Robert.  The predictable ending was made up for by the strong sight gag of an inflatable pimp.

**1/2

SHOW: SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE SPORTS CENTRAL

  • Matthew Laurance interviews Asteroids champ Eddie Atari (Eddie Murphy) from inside his ship, and witnesses him lay waste to flying saucers and the Goodyear blimp.
  • Piscopo's sports anchor persona anchors this sketch, and gets some amusing material with his over-poetic descriptions of Eddie Atari's Asteroids technique, but once again Murphy walks away with the whole sketch, doing more with relatively few and more succinct lines than either Piscopo or Laurance.
  • Piscopo's "Oh, the humanity!"  got some laughs and applause.  I'm wondering when Herbert Morrison's quote from the Hindenberg became a common pop-culture trope: I know it was used in WKRP's "Turkeys Away" show (probably the best-ever example of it in pop-culture, IMO), but right now it's so common it's cliché.

***

COMMERCIAL: REAGANCO

  • Celebrate the new Reagan administration with decorative and cosmetic products by Reaganco.
  • Written by Ferris Butler with assistance from Jeremy Stevens.
  • Not bad, although the amount of ridiculous products that have been legitimately marketed to capitalize on the Obama inauguration make this one seem quaint in comparison.
  • The audience really liked the line about the rouge that made even a corpse come alive.  Cheap, but sometimes cheap works.

***

SHOW: SAVE-A-NETWORK TELETHON

  • Joe Piscopo emcees a telethon where viewers are invited to pledge a premise to the struggling network.
  • Alright idea, but I found this more interesting for the on-screen appearances of cue card man Al Siegal (playing deli worker Sidney Sharkman), cameraman Al Camoin, and announcer Don Pardo (only his second on the show, and first where he's introduced as himself).  The audience goes wild for Pardo, and he seems to be enjoying himself, especially while singing.
  • One cringeworthy line in the part about Pink Lady & Jeff and Shogun.
  • I can't tell who most of the phone bank volunteers are (the recurring extra with the combover and glasses is one of them), but it looks like Neil Levy on the right side of Gilbert Gottfried's table.
  • I noticed Ann Risley adlibs a "right" after an audience member says "yay" to the NBC peacock sheets she holds up.

***

SHOW: PRE-SUPERBOWL PRE-GAME PREVIEW

  • A panel (Robert Hays, Ann Risley and Charles Rocket) overinflates the importance of tomorrow's big game.
  • Weak.  The main jokes (the hype-up of the game and the football/ballet metaphor) were stretched way past their breaking points, and the final payoff (the anchors don't even know who are playing tomorrow) underwhelmed.

*1/2

FILM: "THE FOREIGN FILM" - WILLIAM DEAR

  • A short segment from "Elephant Parts" features a man (Michael Nesmith) and a woman spouting subtitled gibberish.
  • The audience liked this a bit more than the last sketch, but it still suffered from the joke being stretched past the breaking point.  Gibberish is funnier than hyperbole and weak metaphors, though.

**

SKETCH: FUNERAL

  • Inappropriate music selections from substitute organist Harry Osborne fit a sports game more than a dignified funeral.
  • This was a little predictable once he started playing his first number, but it was silly enough to be worthwhile, largely because of the mourners' reactions to the music.
  • My favorite part was the organ swipe when the widow (Denny Dillon) closed the casket because she didn't want her husband to hear the inappropriate music.
  • I'm still not sure if Harry Osborne is a real person or just some outside actor or production staff member; the leading SNL sites list him as a real person so unless I get other information I'm going to treat him like a cameo.

***

WEEKEND UPDATE WITH CHARLES ROCKET & GAIL MATTHIUS

  • Best Jokes: Reagan letter (for the graphic), Margaret Trudeau
  • Most of the jokes were pretty bad this week (worst: the Mondale and Eldridge Cleaver jokes).  They're at least curbing the forced chemistry between the anchors (only one attempt this week) and Gail seems to be getting better, although I don't think anyone could have made the Eldridge Cleaver joke work.  That probably would have been something Brian Doyle-Murray would have read the next season.
  • Charles Rocket gets a short bit getting an "apology" from the same dummy of Ayatollah Khomeini they used in SNL's 100th show last season.   Meh.
  • Tiffany Fleur (Ann Risley) shows some of her fashions for the engineering student.  A few easy nerd "slide rule" and "pocket protector" jokes, but the sight of the pocket protector glued to the one model's chest woke up the audience.  That's writer David Hurwitz playing Paul (the bearded guy), while Robert is one of the administrative staff (no name, unfortunately, but it's the same guy as in Taped Confession).
  • Joe Piscopo gets another prop-based Saturday Night Sports, this time predicting the outcome of Super Bowl XV with an electric football game.  The audience liked his dismissal of the Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles as mediocre teams.
  • Eddie Murphy gets the strongest segment, discussing how he was out money for both reefer and heating oil thanks to frozen Iranian assets.  Murphy actually tells a few audience members that applaud at the beginning of his commentary to "hold it".  Good payoff.

**

COMMERCIAL: DISCO MELTDOWN

  • Dena Disco (Denny Dillon) invites dancers to watch her change colors from "disco radiation" at her nightclub inside a nuclear reactor.
  • Not good.  My main problem with this was that it had a thin premise to begin with, with nothing building on top of it, or any sort of payoff.  It was also a little too dependent on the greenscreen.  Disco was already on the decline by that point so it dated pretty horribly.  Dillon tried, though.
  • The song was written by Dillon, with Kenny Vance and Philip Namanworth.
  • Vance is actually one of the dancers, as are Wendie Malick and Liz Welch.  In the promotional photos for this sketch, you can see Neil Levy in the crowd.

*

FILM: THE ROCKET REPORT - REAGAN

  • From Washington, DC, Charles Rocket tries to show a day in the life of the President.
  • Not one of Rocket's stronger reports: Rocket is at his best when he's interacting with other people and this was sorely missed.  It had a few funny moments (Rocket saying the cop in riot gear was Reagan atop his horse "Darky"...though, what's with the racial jokes tonight?)

**1/2

COMMERCIAL: THE PACESETTER

  • Liven up plays killed by slow pacing through administering electric shocks to the actors.
  • Once again this was an idea milked a little too long.  I found the button noise a bit irritating as well.  Compared to some of the other material tonight, it was merely OK.

**

COMMERCIAL: RAVI SINGS

  • Master sitar player Ravi Shankar (Patrick Weathers) has a new album of romantic American ballads.
  • I guess the joke is from the juxtaposition of Indian sitar music with American love songs but it really just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, with the brownface makeup and bug-eyes.  The audience seemed to be laughing more at the cartoonish impression than the concept.  It might have played a little better as a photo montage.
  • Weathers is lipsyncing to a recorded track here (like Gilda Radner in Stretch Marks).

*

SKETCH: CUT 'N CURL

  • Roweena (Gail Matthius) and Nadine (Denny Dillon) don't see eye-to-eye on the Reagan inauguration.
  • They probably could have used The Pacesetter for this, as it felt pretty leaden.  This ended up being weaker than the other Cut 'N Curl sketch; the asides to the audience just seemed to derail the bit.  Both Matthius and Dillon seem to be having trouble with a few of their lines.
  • One thing I didn't pick up on until someone pointed it out was that Dillon's wearing the exact same outfit (well, a cheap copy of it) that Nancy Reagan wore to her inauguration a few days before, right down to the hat (which was the subject of a photo joke on tonight's Weekend Update).

*

MISCELLANEOUS: PROMOTION

  • Eddie Murphy announces that he has been promoted to the full cast of "Saturday Night Live."
  • Not a rateable segment, but the audience seemed to think Murphy deserved his promotion.  Funny visual gag with the rings, sunglasses and mirror too.

COMMERCIAL: DREAM DATE

  • A chance at a $40,000 dream date with your ideal partner and location has just one particular step...
  • The only joke is the $40,000 in cash that Rocket goes on about being a part of the dream date is supplied by the contestants themselves.

*

COMMERCIAL: ORDINARY ELEPHANT PEOPLE

  • The new movie with a family as disfigured internally as they are on the outside.
  • This actually wasn't bad; it was short, with a few bits of funny physical comedy from Ann Risley and Charles Rocket's attempts to eat and drink with bags over their heads.  Even the predictable "I am not an animal reference" didn't detract too much from the sketch.
  • My recording is missing this sketch (damn Comedy Network didn't run short station break segments); this is available online, though.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "I WISH THAT WE WERE MARRIED", "THIS TIME IT'S FOR REAL" - 14 KARAT SOUL

  • After the last few segments, this was more than welcome.  An excellent a capella performance; the audience response was so huge that it actually delayed the start of the second number (you can see Glenny T. Wright start to snap his fingers for a few beats before stopping).  The second song had the audience clapping along.
  • I wonder why they had both musical guests scheduled so late in the show (after the 12:30 station break)

SKETCH: NATIONAL ENQUIRER

  • Editors of the tabloid work on compiling stories for the latest issue.
  • Another mostly laugh-free sketch that dragged on for a little too long, with an overreliance on shock and bad taste humor (cartoon of a man throwing his wife into a treeshredder, "cripples are big now", romantically linking Desi Arnaz Sr. with Jr.).
  • The character voice Rocket used took me out of the sketch.

*

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "DONT BUG ME BABY" - JOE "KING" CARRASCO & THE CROWN

  • For the longest time, I thought this was terrible, but I actually found this enjoyable when watching this time, mainly because of how entertaining the performance is: Carrasco goes wild here, jumping off amps and diving into the audience.  Music-wise, it was pretty raw: I thought the guitar was the weak link, but the main things driving the song were Kris Cummings' organ and Brad Kizer's drumming.  This brought the energy up in a show that really needed it.

GOODNIGHTS

  • Robert Hays almost accidentally exposes Gail Matthius' left breast.
  • Don Pardo does not announce an upcoming host but continues to show off his singing ability.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

When rewatching this show, I actually was taken aback at how weak it actually was.  After last week's strong episode, this one started off as somewhat of a step down to "business as usual" before crashing after Weekend Update.  I wonder whether the cast and crew were simply exhausted from pulling off three live shows in a row, or if there was another factor affecting the show's quality.  What's unmistakable is how much dreck comes in the second half of the show, and how the musical performances seem like a relief in comparison.   Hays really didn't distinguish himself either way, and even the usually reliable "Rocket Report" was sub-par.  I think the biggest disappointment about this episode is that the cast and writers already proved themselves as capable as last week: it felt almost like this is the point where the bad press is starting to seep in.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Eddie Murphy's segments in his sketches.  I know it's a lazy way to list highlights, but this week it really felt like he was the only thing in the show that stood out positively (aside from the music performances), and he managed to do more to make the audience laugh in three short appearances than everyone else who had more airtime tonight.

EPISODE LOWLIGHTS:

  • Ravi Sings
  • Disco Meltdown
  • Dream Date
  • National Enquirer
  • Cut 'N Curl
  • Pre-Super Bowl Pre-Game Preview
  • The Pacesetter
  • Dazola
  • Monologue
  • The Foreign Film

MVP:

  • (tie) Eddie Murphy/14 Karat Soul

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN

cast

  • Denny Dillon: 4 appearances [Dazola, Funeral, Disco Meltdown, Cut 'N Curl]
  • Gilbert Gottfried: 5 appearances [Dazola, Save-A-Network Telethon,  Funeral, Ordinary Elephant People, National Enquirer]
  • Gail Matthius: 4 appearances [Monologue, Save-A-Network Telethon, Weekend Update, Cut 'N Curl], 1 voiceover [Love American Style]
  • Joe Piscopo: 6 appearances [America Not Held Hostage Anymore, Saturday Night Live Sports Central, Save-A-Network Telethon, Weekend Update, The Pacesetter, National Enquirer], 2 voice-overs [Ravi Sings, Ordinary Elephant People]
  • Ann Risley: 6 appearances [America Not Held Hostage Anymore, Save-A-Network Telethon, Pre-Superbowl Pre-Game Preview, Weekend Update, The Pacesetter, Ordinary Elephant People]
  • Charles Rocket: 8 appearances [Reaganco, Pre-Superbowl Pre-Game Preview, Funeral, Weekend Update, Rocket Report, The Pacesetter, Dream Date, Ordinary Elephant People, National Enquirer], 2 voiceovers [America Not Held Hostage Anymore, Save-A-Network Telethon]

featured players

  • Yvonne Hudson (uncredited): 1 appearances [Dazola]
  • Matthew Laurance: 4 appearances [Dazola, Saturday Night Live Sports Central, Funeral, National Enquirer]
  • Eddie Murphy: 3 appearances [Saturday Night Live Sports Central, Weekend Update, Promotion]
  • Patrick Weathers: 2 appearances [Ravi Sings, National Enquirer]

crew and extras 

  • Al Camoin: 1 appearance [Save-A-Network Telethon]
  • David Hurwitz: 1 appearance [Weekend Update]
  • Neil Levy: 2 appearances [Save-A-Network Telethon, Disco Meltdown]
  • Wendie Malick: 1 appearance [Disco Meltown]
  • Andy Murphy: 1 appearance [Funeral]
  • Don Pardo: 1 appearance [Save-A-Network Telethon]
  • Kenny Vance: 1 appearance [Disco Meltdown]
  • Liz Welch: 1 appearance [Disco Meltdown]

guests

  • Robert Hays: 5 appearances [Monologue, Love American Style, Pre-Superbowl Pre-Game Preview, The Pacesetter, National Enquirer]
  • 14 Karat Soul: 1 appearance ["I Wish That We Were Married/This Time It's For Real"]
  • Joe "King" Carrasco & The Crown: 1 appearance ["Don't Bug Me Baby"]
  • Michael Nesmith: 1 appearance [The Foreign Film]
  • Harry Osborne: 1 appearance [Funeral]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • Not rebroadcast on NBC.

Additional screen captures of this episode can be found here.