Classic SNL Review: September 25, 1982: Chevy Chase / Queen (S08E01)

RATINGS SYSTEM

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

A note about live and repeat versions: My copy is a repeat version, but going forward I'm presenting my reviews in the original live running order, with notes if there's a segment missing from my copy.  A good number of my copies of shows have segments which may be in a different show than when they aired originally, but where possible, I will include a review of the segment in the correct broadcast.

Most online episode summaries for SNL broadcasts are listed in the live show order; this episode is one of the few listed in rerun order in the Frank Serpas guide because at the time it was compiled, the earliest broadcast with which to confirm a running order was the 11/27/1982 rerun.  I found the correct live running order for this show very recently.

OPENING: LIVE FROM BURBANK

  • Chevy Chase says he's honored to be chosen to host SNL's season premiere, but was surprised that, one, the show was still done live from New York, and two, the airport is a little more stingy with time than he expected.  The camera slowly pulls out to reveal Chase is actually on a monitor sitting on the SNL home base set: he's not in New York, but, through the miracle of technology, is SNL's first bi-coastal video host.  He manages to do a fall with the help of a video monitor and a stagehand, before shouting "Live, from Burbank and New York, it's Saturday Night!"
  • Chase does his familiar schtick here (the dirty phone call's very similar to one of his old Weekend Update calls), but the audience responds well; they appreciate his "my town and my people" comment about New York.  The reveal that Chase was on a screen was well done, although it's a little more obvious that he's a little blurry (the top of the screen is also visible early on), and the fall was a good way to reintroduce the familiar "LFNY", done for the first time since April 1981 (coincidentally, Chase was the person to open that show with the line).
  • I'd like to find out the impetus for this particular arrangement for Chase's hosting arrangement, because the whole video host thing seems a little too well put together to be a last-minute thing (right down to the bumpers of Chase's face).  Did Ebersol want to blend a" hostless show" like last season's premiere with Chase's star power/SNL cred?  Was Ebersol interested in doing the bi-coastal thing with anyone they could get?  Was Chase really supposed to be in New York that week?
  • Addendum [08/23/14]: Gary Kroeger has provided background on the week: "Chevy was asked to be present initially, but it was soon clear that he couldn’t make it.  So the show was written with the Chevy in LA angle."

***

MONTAGE

  • Some changes for this year:
    • The shot of the woman lighting her cigarette is replaced with a construction worker lighting his cigarette with an acetylene torch.
    • The show's logo is now a little smaller, and a brighter shade of red. The cast shots are all redone, with a chalk city skyline background.
    • New players Brad Hall, Gary Kroeger, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus have a slightly different typeface for their credits.
    • Don Pardo returns to the show, replacing Mel Brandt as announcer.
    • The audience now erupts into comparatively louder cheers when Eddie Murphy's name is announced.

MISCELLANEOUS: CHEVY BROKEN MONITOR

  • Chevy (and monitor) is still on the ground; he says he'll be back as soon as he gets himself together.


  • Not a rateable segment; basically just an extension of the opening in lieu of a real monologue.

SKETCH: ART OPENING

  • Gallery owner Felice Sloan-Duchamps (Robin Duke) and members of the New York art world fawn over their latest darling, thug Tyrone Green (Eddie Murphy); he shows collages inspired by (and made from) armed robberies.
  • Eddie Murphy's performance (and command of the audience) is the main thing that carries the sketch: the audience explodes for his entrance, and, when they try to egg him onto another reprise of "Cill My Landlord" with the characters, his "NO! SHUT UP!" plays off it perfectly.  That said, it's not one of his tightest performances: he flubs a few lines (at one point, he says "Tyrone Green" instead of "Rodney Johnston" when describing a painting), and Mary Gross briefly makes him lose his composure during one of her lines.
  • The new poem, "I Hate Wite [sic] People" seemed to be a way of doing "Cill My Landlord" without rehashing it for a third sketch.
  • Brad Hall and Gary Kroeger make their live debuts as a gay couple interested in buying one of Green's works.  Mary Gross has her only appearance of the night here, while Robin Duke has her only speaking role tonight.

***

MISCELLANEOUS: JOE TAKES A BRIDE

  • Joe Piscopo announces that he fell in love over the summer.  To beat the tabloids, he reveals who it is: Rose Kennedy.
  • Nothing particularly funny or memorable, although I did chuckle at Piscopo handing the Kennedy double a football with the intention of her throwing it to him, only for her to weakly drop it instead.

**

COMMERCIAL: HINCKLEY

  • Ronald Reagan's would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr. (Brad Hall) says his institutionalization reaffirmed his faith in the concept of "justice for all"; since only a complete wacko like him gets to see that the system works, he announces his candidacy for President.
  • Brad Hall's first lead in a sketch turns out to be one of the edgier pieces tonight.  This would have only been about eighteen months since the assassination attempt , and lines like "I winged Reagan in the streets, I'll knock him dead in the polls" get good responses from the audience.  My favorite line, though, was "My record speaks for itself."

***1/2

COMMERCIAL: THE WEB

  • Sentronix's new home security device stops criminals from breaking into your house by not letting them out of theirs.
  • A well-produced parody with a clever enough punchline, although it doesn't really do much for me. Maybe it's because I've seen it so many times already.
  • The actor playing the burglar looks familiar.  Anyone know who he is?
  • This segment doesn't appear in either repeat version of the show, but has been in multiple SNL live shows and reruns since.

**1/2

SKETCH: MYSTERY THEATRE

  • Zacherley (John Zacherle) introduces a scene where a young woman (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is terrorized by the Video Land Shark (Chevy Chase).
  • John Zacherle was a long-running horror host/DJ in the New York area, and the audience gives him a round of recognition applause.  The Land Shark bit is the same stuff Chase has been doing since '75, but the audience loves it, and Chase's facial expression when he opens the shark mouth on the screen is funny.
  • This is Julia Louis-Dreyfus' first sketch appearance, although she has pretty much nothing to do.

**1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "CRAZY LITTLE THING CALLED LOVE"

  • Chevy Chase goes off on a tangent about his own musical endeavors, including his 1980 album for Arista Records, and backing up Carly Simon on the show.  Danny DeVito enters the set, wearing a Taxi jacket to promote the sitcom's NBC premiere the next Thursday (incidentally, a repeat of his SNL episode aired the week before).  He turns off Chase's monitor and introduces Queen himself.  
  • Queen do an energetic performance of their 1979 hit with Fred Mandel on keyboards.  Compared to the controlled and cool studio recording, this is energetic and passionate, with a solid Freddie Mercury vocal and some extended instrumental interplay between Mandel's keys and Brian May's guitar near the end.

FILM: "VIDEO VICTIMS"  (A.K.A.: "ALAN: A VIDEO JUNKIE") - CLAUDE KERVEN

  • A documentary reveals that video game junkies like Alan are the victims of a multi-billion dollar industry that feeds their addictions.
  • This is very well done, with great cinematography, music, narration and acting, and some very funny details ("Doin' the Donk", the way the final joke with the group that produced the documentary is set up).  Part of the reason this piece works so well is because Kerven stuck with outside actors for this piece; it wouldn't have had as strong an impact with one of the regulars in the Dr. Spiegel role.
  • I can't believe they went there with the joke about the girl earning money for Dig Dug "the hard way - a quarter at a time."  They would never get away with that line now.
  • I can't really identify most of the players, but the actor playing Dr. Spiegel has been used on the show a few times in the early 80s, and they actually gave him an in-character audience caption for the SNL Film Festival in '85.  If anyone knows who he is (or any other actor, for that matter), let me know.
  • I'm pretty sure Lieb Lensky is the wizened old man with the thick Eastern European accent playing Timmy ("Have you played Tron? It's totally awesome!" "Timmy is 11 years old.").  I spotted him in a small role in The Silence Of The Lambs.
  • Addendum: director Claude Kerven confirmed Lensky was Timmy, and also identified Lily Nell Warren as Cindy (the Miss Pac-Man addict).

*****

COMMERCIAL: POPEIL

  • Spokesman (Eddie Murphy) promotes the new indestructible contraceptive devices: The Galactic Prophylactic and the Dura-phragm diapraghm.
  • Murphy acquits himself well, and the cutaways to the illustrations (a father passing the prophylactic to his son as a family heirloom, two wrestlers stretching the "prophylactic", Robin Duke gleefully bouncing on an "enlarged version of the diapraghm) kept the piece fast and silly.
  • Blooper: when Murphy's firing the gun at the outstretched condom, one of the two musclemen from the cutaway gag runs across the stage in front of the camera.

***

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS WITH BRAD HALL: SATURDAY NIGHT SPORTS WITH JOE PISCOPO, BOOK REVIEW WITH FATHER ANDREW B. TITUS (TIM KAZURINSKY), REPORT FROM BEIRUT WITH CHEVY CHASE

  • Best joke: Raymond Donovan, George Bush reminisces.
  • The show's venerable news parody gets another revamp this season: a new name; a new, smaller set, and a new anchor in Brad Hall.  Hall's delivery is a bit punchier than Brian Doyle-Murray's was, but the jokes are still in the same territory that the news segment mined over the last few seasons (mainly photo gag and puns). For some reason, though, the joke about George Bush reminiscing about the first time he touched a woman's breast reminded me of a prime Chevy Chase-era gag.  It may have been Hall's delivery.
  • There's a bit of a running gag about Brad Hall coming in on #4 on a survey of the most trusted journalists. It plays itself out, though, and by the time it's mentioned for the last time in tonight's SNN, it gets no response from the audience.
  • Piscopo's Sports Guy is back to talk about the NFL strike, suggesting that the solution is to give each side what they really want, and appeals to players' drug habits by taking out a baggie  of white powder and pouring its contents on the desk ("This looks like 55% to me!").  This was one of Piscopo's better bits (right to the point) and the audience certainly enjoyed seeing the return of Saturday Night Sports.
  • Brad Hall then takes the opportunity to talk about something he feels strongly about, Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt and his cavalier attitude towards the environment. Using his new position as a network news anchor, he gives Watt (voice of Gary Kroeger) a call. When Watt gives his talking points about "intelligent development" of resources, Hall loses it and calls him a few names, to audience applause.  This was a bit more direct and political for an Ebersol-era piece, and I wonder if Hall was told to tone it down soon after.  Funny observation: An audience member can be heard hissing as soon as Hall took out the Time magazine with Watt on the cover.
  • Father Andrew B. Titus (Tim Kazurunsky) reviews the Reader's Digest Condensed Bible (an autographed copy), and fumes about the unnecessary abbreviation of God's word, wondering what other cutbacks are next.  While Kazurinsky's playing a character here, it's in the same sarcastic tone as his other desk bits, especially when he suggests the other magazines' versions of the Bible.  Some funny one-liners in this one, but the reveal that Titus was so outraged he didn't actually read the Condensed Bible didn't land.
  • Chevy Chase gives a remote report, supposedly from Beirut, Lebanon, that reveals itself to be shot on the Tonight Show set at NBC's Burbank studio. This seemed to exist more as a way to involve Chase in the show than anything else.

**

SHOW: LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN

  • David Letterman (Joe Piscopo) chats with Paul Shaffer (Gary Kroeger), shows a film by Bob The Dog, and interviews Gumby (Eddie Murphy) about his latest tell-all, "I Am Show Business, Dammit!"
  • This was a slightly better outing for Gumby than his first appearance, with better anecdotes (favorite: Sonny the Cocoa Puffs bird is a mentally disabled patient at an institution) and points for being a direct parody of a show (including spoofs of Late Night staples like Larry "Bud" Melman).  Piscopo does a strong Letterman, and there's a funny dig at his acclaimed but little-watched 1980 morning show.
  • The first shot with the crew visible is interesting because you can see Bob Van Ry (stage manager) and Al Siegal (cue cards).

***1/2

SHOW: PTC CLUB

  • Televangelists Pastor Doug (Brad Hall) and April May June (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) solicit financial donations and talk about fighting the Devil.  Visiting faith healer Pastor Harvey S. Peters (Gary Kroeger) looks for a volunteer in the audience.
  • A good introduction to the new castmembers as a group; Julia Louis-Dreyfus in particular stands out, particularly the part where she gets worked up while she describes physically fighting Satan ("I just ROOOOLLLL on over the Devil!").  Kroeger's audience participation bit has some funny moments as well, particularly the reluctance of the different audience members to let him heal them; he plays off this nicely.
  • I have the feeling the audience segment ended up pushing the sketch a fair bit longer than it was supposed to be, as the show ended up running late, forcing a few planned segments to be cut ("Chevy - The Golden Years", and "Don's Back", which I will discuss a little later in the review).
  • This was one of the sketches Hall, Kroeger, Louis-Dreyfus and sketch co-writer Paul Barrosse did at the Practical Theatre Co. in Chicage before joining SNL (original name "People Twisting Christ"). Barrosse was supposed to have a bigger part in the sketch as Jesus, but his part was cut; he still appears on stage with the other three, sitting at the organ with his back to the camera.  He's actually visible as Jesus in the still of the sketch when Siskel and Ebert review it in the next segment.
  • Addendum [08/23/14]: Gary Kroeger on the background of PTC Club: "The PTC Club was a bit that Brad, Julia and I did in our stage act in Chicago.  It was never scripted, but had touch points that we’d improvise from.  We did it that way on the show, as well.  I never knew when I went into the audience who would respond, or how; it was all improvised.  I thought that it was a good realization of what a live comedy show should do, but we never did anything unscripted or like it again.  As I recall (and I could be wrong) that it was the last piece in the show.  I vaguely recall getting a signal to stretch it out rather than wrap it up."

***1/2

MISCELLANEOUS: SISKEL & EBERT

  • The critics evaluate a handful of tonight's sketches and select host Chevy Chase as their "dog of the week".
  • I won't give this segment a rating as it's not really presented as a sketch, but this was an interesting idea to have Siskel and Ebert review the show in progress.  For the most part, I agree with their evaluations, and Siskel in particular gets two choice lines (a dig at the lack of black cast on the show and making a reference to a movie scene involving Chase's hand as "one of the great acting hand jobs of all time"), even though he does start to read Ebert's cue card by mistake.
  • The Chase segment was another excuse for him to do one of his old bits (making faces as someone talks).
  • Eliot Wald, one of SNL''s writers at the time, was actually the one who came up with the idea of teaming the two Chicago critics while he was a producer at WTTW (the PBS member station for Chicago).  I wonder if he was the one who suggested bringing Siskel and Ebert onto SNL.

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "UNDER PRESSURE"

  • Freddie Mercury's a little hoarse here, and he doesn't bother attempting his falsetto verse (opting to speak the lyrics instead), but his judicious conservation of his vocal power pays off.  Reportedly, he blew his voice out when arguing with his boyfriend before the show, and he was just barely able to get it into performing condition in time for the band's performances.  Drummer Roger Taylor handles the other vocal part.

MISCELLANEOUS: JOE ANNOUNCEMENT

  • Joe Piscopo announces that the show ran late, so the segment they had planned will air next week.
  • This is not in my copy of the show; thank you to John Hedegor for providing a description of the segment.  The air rundown for the show, which comes from a Queen book, confirms that "Don's Back" (which would air the next week) was supposed to be in this spot.  If I ever get a copy of the live show, I will add a capture; this doesn't sound like a rateable segment though.
  • Addendum [03/07/15] I have just received a copy of the live show; this segment is literally 10 seconds long so it doesn't merit a rating, but for completeness' sake segments like this will be included in the summary.

GOODNIGHTS 

  • Chevy's monitor is flanked by the cast and Queen as he says goodnight to his new wife Jayni (who was pregnant with their first child at the time), his parents, and Ed.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Gary Kroeger are visibly thrilled to be there.
  • I'm assuming the goodnights were cut short in the live broadcast because there's no canned version of the closing theme to cover a Don Pardo voiceover.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

A bit of an oddball episode, with Chevy Chase basically doing an extended cameo where he reprises some of his greatest hits (the fall, Land Shark, making faces); the strongest segment is a pre-tape without any of the show's cast, and a lot of tonight's material seems to be safe audience favorites.  The new additions to the cast have a good night and provide some of the fresher moments, but if anything, tonight's show demonstrates that Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo are the undisputed kings of the show at this point.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Video Victims
  • Hinckley
  • PTC Club

EPISODE LOWLIGHTS:

  • most of Saturday Night News
  • Joe Takes A Bride

MVP:

  • (tie) Eddie Murphy/Gary Kroeger/Brad Hall

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:

cast

  • Robin Duke: 2 appearances [Art Opening, Popeil]; 1 voiceover [Saturday Night News]
  • Mary Gross: 1 appearance [Art Opening]
  • Brad Hall: 4 appearances [Art Opening, Hinckley, Saturday Night News, PTC Club]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 3 appearances [Popeil, Saturday Night News, Late Night with David Letterman]
  • Gary Kroeger: 4 appearances [Art Opening, Popeil, Late Night with David Letterman, PTC Club]; 1 voiceover [Saturday Night News]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 2 appearances [Mystery Theatre, PTC Club]
  • Eddie Murphy: 3 appearances [Art Opening, Popeil, Late Night with David Letterman]
  • Joe Piscopo: 5 appearances [Joe Takes A Wife, Saturday Night News, Late Night with David Letterman, Joe Announcement]

crew and extras

  • Paul Barrosse: 1 appearance [PTC Club]
  • Lieb Lensky: 1 appearance [Video Victims]
  • Al Siegal: 1 appearance [Late Night with David Letterman]
  • Bob Van Ry: 1 appearance [Late Night with David Letterman]
  • Lily Nell Warren: 1 appearance [Video Victims]

guests

  • Chevy Chase: 5 appearances [Live From Burbank, Chevy Broken Monitor, Mystery Theatre, Saturday Night News, Siskel & Ebert]
  • Queen: 2 appearances ["Crazy Little Thing Called Love", "Under Pressure"]
  • Danny DeVito: 1 appearance [intro for "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"]
  • Roger Ebert: 1 appearance [Siskel & Ebert]
  • Gene Siskel: 1 appearance [Siskel & Ebert]
  • John Zacherle: 1 appearance [Mystery Theatre]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • November 27, 1982
  • June 25, 1983

Known alterations:

  • The Web and Joe Announcement are removed.

Additional screen captures from this episode can be found here.