Classic SNL Review: February 14, 1981: Deborah Harry / Funky 4 + 1 (S06E10)

RATINGS SYSTEM:

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

OPENING: SINATRA INTERVIEW

  • Ronald Reagan (Charles Rocket) discusses the most pressing issue in America today: is Frank Sinatra (Joe Piscopo) a hoodlum?
  • A weak opening hampered by a fairly obvious joke (Reagan naming the mobster, which Sinatra doesn't recognize, then giving the nickname, and Sinatra denies knowing them).  At least Piscopo's Sinatra impression is better than Rocket's Reagan.
  • The ending with Sinatra getting Reagan to pose with him and a bunch of mobsters (one played by Dom Irrera) was unnecessary.

*1/2

MONOLOGUE

  • Deborah Harry introduces her blonde-wigged parents, and celebrates Valentine's Day by having Cupid (Eddie Murphy) shoot an obnoxious audience member (Neil Levy).
  • This was fast-moving enough to prevent it from overstaying its welcome, even if there really wasn't that much to it.  It's worth it to see Eddie Murphy in the costume, though.
  • The "parents" are the same older extras I've been seeing all season.

**

COMMERCIAL: DON'T LOOK IN THE REFRIGERATOR

  • The horror that awaits when you return from a month-long vacation and want a snack...
  • This feels like something that would have been on a kid's show, not SNL.  Mercifully short, though.

*

SKETCH: LIVELYS II

  • Phil (Charles Rocket) and Frances (Gail Matthius) keep the game show going with a nursing home representative (Ann Risley).
  • Aside from the choice to have Don Pardo play Dad as an off-screen voice, this was an unnecessary retread of the sketch from the Karen Black show, with many of the basic jokes repeated instead of developed further; it reminds me of all the recurring sketches from the last few years that just use the same beats with very minor variations.
  • While the audience is a bit more tepid, I did laugh a little at "Back to you, Beverly!", and the audience still liked Matthius making the buzzer noise in Risley's face.  I actually though Risley did alright in the straight role.

**1/2

MISCELLANEOUS: NEWSBREAK I

  • Eddie Murphy reports on Jean Harris, the Las Vegas Hotel Fires and a suspicious order to a Soviet "Chicken Delight" restaurant from Poland.


  • This was alright, even if its main purpose was to set up a runner for tonight's episode.  Eddie Murphy seems a little uncomfortable here, but no worse than the Rocket / Matthius Weekend Update Team.

**1/2

SKETCH: WHERE'S COOTER?

  • The ordinary and repetitive existence of Cooter (Gilbert Gottfried) hillbilly family is deemed a one-act play by the Tennessee Williams Authority.
  • The main thing that this has going for it is the twist where Matthew Laurance appears as the Authority representative, because the part before that was very repetitive and tedious.  At least Gottfried does a good bumpkin voice, and things picked up a little when Matthius ran in as Raylene (whose stretches on the "mmmmmmmmmama" line seem to be getting bigger as the sketch goes on).  I thought Rocket was playing too big to the point of distraction.
  • In the audience watching the family as a one-act play: Yvonne Hudson, Wendie Malick, Andy Murphy and the older couple from the monologue.

**

FILM: THE ROCKET REPORT - CENTRAL PARK

  • Charles Rocket looks for danger in the park's trails, tunnels and playgrounds.
  • Again, a weaker Rocket Report; not very much interaction with people (except from a distance).  Probably the weakest one overall.
  • The audience laughed loud at Rocket slipping and falling when he runs away from a jogger, and at least the unexpected slide gave Rocket a chance to play off it.

**

SKETCH: CARD STORE

  • Jersey guy Paulie Herman (Joe Piscopo) meets his female counterpart (Deborah Harry) while browsing for cards.
  • A little predictable, and again still not my favorite character, but Harry gave a good effort (the audience seemed to like her approximation of Piscopo's nasal Jersey whine) and it ended at exactly the right point.
  • Hudson appears as an extra at the very beginning of the sketch, again with no lines.  She has not had a single line in a sketch since the Karen Black show.  I'm not sure who the other two people looking at cards are.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "LOVE TKO" - DEBORAH HARRY

  • Harry covers Teddy Pendergrass' signature song; I always liked her version in this show (with a bit of a reggae tinge to the verses), especially the organ/bass sound during the choruses.
  • Personnel: Chris Stein (guitar), Georg Wadenius (guitar), Lou Marini (sax), Leon Pendarvis (piano), Chris Palmaro (organ), Marcus Miller (bass), Buddy Williams (drums), Errol "Crusher' Bennett (percussion), Janice Pendarvis (backing vocals)

WEEKEND UPDATE: WITH CHARLES ROCKET & GAIL MATTHIUS

  • Best joke: Michael Reagan.
  • The decline in Rocket's delivery is really apparent now, with the most egregious example being the first joke: not only was it a horrible joke to begin with, Rocket's desk slap afterward really comes off as a panicky and desperate move.  Matthius is mostly given crap to read, but her delivery seems to be getting better this week.
  • Who is that in the picture being described as the agent who issued Sinatra his gaming license?
  • Gottfried's commentary as "Reagan philosopher" Atkinson Peabody III about how there aren't any poor people in America wasn't bad.  It might have felt a little exaggerated back then, but now sounds like something you'd now expect to hear for real on Fox News.
  • Rocket was really overdoing it on the reveal of the Polish invasion of the Soviet Union; the interview with the Polish ambassador (Andy Murphy) had a few funny lines but the pacing felt off.
  • After a mistaken throwback to Matthius, Rocket introduces Piscopo who has puppeteer Marc Weiner back.  The audience liked the Weindulah rap (who was doing the voice) but I thought this was a bit weaker than the first Weiner segment; it didn't really have all that much to it besides the puppet "dancing" and rapping.

*1/2

SKETCH: BIG BROTHER

  • The milquetoast dictator (Gilbert Gottfried) gets his courage together and asks prole Michelle (Deborah Harry) out.
  • Best sketch of the night, with a good concept and funny dialogue (especially Melvin/Big Brother saying he'd feel like a schlep if he still had to address Michelle every morning after she turned him down), and helped by a strong ending (after she accepts, Melvin decides Michelle is too easy and has her reprogrammed).
  • Gottfried does well although Harry has a little trouble with her lines.
  • Written by Ferris Butler, with assistance from Gilbert Gottfried.  Music during the wake-up sequence: Petrushka, Scene I (The Shrovetide Fair) by Igor Stavinsky.

***1/2

FILM: "SWEET HEARTS" - LEON ICHASO

  • In a foreign/gangster movie pastiche, robbers Swifty (Kenny Vance), Vinnie (Matthew Laurance) and their female ringleader successfully steal women's undergarments from a laundromat, but turn on each other after a discovery.
  • Aesthetically, this was pretty well done; not really funny but more along the lines of Schiller's pieces for the show.  I liked this a bit more than Ichaso's other piece for the show (Pepe Gonzales).
  • Any idea who's playing the ringleader?  It doesn't look like anyone in the cast or Harry.

***

SKETCH: SOHO

  • Susan (Deborah Harry) subtly tries to come out during a surprise visit from her aunt and uncle, Pinky (Denny Dillon) and Leo Waxman (Gilbert Gottfried).
  • I always liked this one; a very low-key sketch that wouldn't have felt out of place in the earlier seasons, and a nice way to get the Waxmans (who get some recognition applause) into a new context.
  • I noticed a few audience members laughed nervously when Harry tells Matthius that she loves her.  Just found that interesting.
  • Check out the audience at the end; in the row behind the audience member that gets the caption, you can clearly see Glenn Close.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "COME BACK JONEE" - DEBORAH HARRY

  • A Devo cover; same personnel as before except Clem Burke on drums instead of Williams, no Marini or Bennett, and only the female backup singers this time.  Stein is wearing a pink mask.
  • Georg Wadenius and Marcus Miller are really playing the hell out of their instruments.  Chris Palmaro seems quite into it too, visibly rocking on his organ bench.

MISCELLANEOUS: NEWSBREAK

  • Eddie Murphy gives an update on the Polish invasion of the Soviet Union.
  • Murphy actually has a bit of a rougher go here; he starts to really stumble on his lines about halfway through the bit, and doesn't seem as confident here as he normally does in sketches.  Aside from the monologue, the two Newsbreak segments were the only things he appeared in this week's show.
  • The filmed vox pops were the best part, with one passerby commenting about how it's about time someone stood up to Russia.
  • The runner ends with the Polish army turning toward the Arctic circle and all marching into the sea.  I give the show credit for trying a running joke throughout the show but it felt like there should have been more done with this for it to work.

**1/2

SKETCH: BIG APE

  • Faye's (Deborah Harry) comment to her date (Joe Piscopo) leads to a chain of events right out of "King Kong".
  • Not very much to it.  The sketch seems to be written as an excuse for Piscopo to do his King Kong impression, which was somewhat funny.
  • Harry's delivery was off again, although I did like how she delivered "your bullets have killed my date!" in a mildly annoyed tone.  Something about that stuck me as funny.
  • Who's the other cop shooting at Piscopo with Gottfried?  He has a mustache and doesn't look like anyone in the cast.

**1/2

SKETCH: DROPOUT

  • Vickie (Gail Matthius) tries to impress dropout Tina (Deborah Harry).
  • Matthius did her best, and it was good to see her continue to put the character in new situations, but overall this was fairly forgettable.

**

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "THAT'S THE JOINT" - FUNKY 4 + 1 

  • Notable for the historic importance of being the first rap act to appear on national television.
  • This is just the first two minutes of the song with them rapping as a group; the individual raps on the 12" are a better example of their ability.

GOODNIGHTS

  • Some people on the stage are waving Japanese flags (both the state flag and the Rising Sun), and someone is dressed in military garb.  I assume that must have been a sketch cut from the show.
  • Gilbert Gottfried is now starting to dress like Charles Rocket.
  • Don Pardo announces next weeks guests Charlene Tilton and Todd Rundgren and reminds the audience that there is eight days until his birthday, but begs "please, no more toasters!"

FINAL SUMMARY:

Most of the show was forgettable instead of truly wretched, with the possible exception of Weekend Update (slipping even further), the weak cold opening, and the dumb "Refrigerator" commercial.  There were still a few bright spots, especially in the segments right after Weekend Update, and a few twists that helped some otherwise weak sketches.  Deborah Harry may not have been the best at sketch comedy but she seemed to put in some effort, and at least was more engaged than Kellerman.  Her best performances, though, were the two covers she performed with Chris Stein, Clem Burke and the SNL band.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Big Brother

EPISODE LOWLIGHTS:

  • Don't Look In The Refrigerator
  • Weekend Update
  • Sinatra Interview
  • Where's Cooter
  • Dropout
  • The Rocket Report

MVP:

  • (tie) Deborah Harry / Gail Matthius

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:

cast

  • Denny Dillon: 3 appearances [Where's Cooter?, SoHo, Dropout]
  • Gilbert Gottfried: 5 appearances [Where's Cooter?, Weekend Update, Big Brother, SoHo, Big Ape]
  • Gail Matthius: 5 appearances [Livelys II, Where's Cooter?, Weekend Update, SoHo, Dropout], 1 voiceover [Big Brother]
  • Eddie Murphy: 3 appearances [Monologue, Newsbreak I, Newsbreak II]
  • Joe Piscopo: 4 appearances [Sinatra Interview, Card Store, Weekend Update, Big Ape], 1 voiceover [Big Brother]
  • Ann Risley: 2 appearances [Livelys II, Where's Cooter?]
  • Charles Rocket: 5 appearances [Sinatra Interview, Livelys II, Where's Cooter?, The Rocket Report, Weekend Update], 1 voiceover [Don't Look In The Refrigerator]

featured players:

  • Yvonne Hudson: 2 appearances [Where's Cooter?, Card Store]
  • Matthew Laurance: 4 appearances [Sinatra Interview, Where's Cooter, Card Store, Sweet Hearts]
  • Patrick Weathers: 2 appearances [Sinatra Interview, Dropout]

crew and extras:

  • Errol "Crusher" Bennett: 1 appearance ["Love TKO"]
  • Dom Irrera: 1 appearance [Sinatra Interview]
  • Neil Levy: 1 appearance [Monologue]
  • Wendie Malick: 1 appearance [Where's Cooter?]
  • Lou Marini: 1 appearance ["Love TKO"]
  • Marcus Miller: 2 appearances ["Love TKO", "Come Back Jonee"]
  • Andy Murphy: 2 appearances [Where's Cooter?, Weekend Update]
  • Chris Palmaro: 2 appearances ["Love TKO", "Come Back Jonee"]
  • Janice Pendarvis: 2 appearances ["Love TKO", Come Back Jonee"]
  • Leon Pendarvis: 2 appearances ["Love TKO", "Come Back Jonee"]
  • Kenny Vance: 1 appearance [Sweet Hearts]
  • Georg Wadenius: 2 appearances ["Love TKO", "Come Back Jonee"]
  • Buddy Williams: 1 appearance ["Love TKO"]

guests:

  • Deborah Harry: 9 appearances [Monologue, Don't Look In The Refrigerator, Card Store, "Love TKO", Big Brother, SoHo, "Come Back Jonee", Big Ape, Dropout]
  • Funky 4 + 1: 1 appearance ["That's The Joint"]
  • Clem Burke: 1 appearance ["Come Back Jonee"]
  • Chris Stein: 2 appearances ["Love TKO", "Come Back Jonee"]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • Not rebroadcast on NBC.

Additional screen captures from this episode can be seen here.