Classic SNL Review: October 9, 1982: Ron Howard / The Clash (S08E03)

RATING SYSTEM:

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

COLD OPENING: FEDERAL BUREAU OF WEIGHTS & MEASURES

  • Viewers of tonight's show are advised to put their television sets on their laps and await further instruction.
  • A very short slide and voiceover reminiscent of the "sponsor message" openings used in the early part of the 1981-82 season; unlike those openings, the joke was inscrutable to the point where it made me wonder why they bothered in the first place. Evidently, whoever was in charge of editing the rerun thought so as well, and the rerun goes straight into the montage.

*

MONOLOGUE

  • Ron Howard is glad to be up late and free to do the things he can't get away with in prime time: using language like "doo-doo" and "intercourse", and drinking real beer on television.
  • Not the strongest: the whole "dirty words" segment could have lost one of the examples.  It's short, though, and the audience goes wild when Howard drinks the beer.

**1/2

SKETCH: OPIE'S BACK

  • Following Sheriff Andy Taylor's death in a fishing accident, Mayberry becomes a den of iniquity. It's up to a now-grown Opie (Ron Howard) to enforce the law and clean up his hometown.
  • I liked the concept, but it didn't really live up to its promise.  There are a few things that mar the sketch: the awkwardly-timed videotaped cameo by Andy Griffith, weak acting on Howard's part, and the ending with the cast whistling "The Fishin' Hole" came off a little too cheesy for my tastes.  Casting Eddie Murphy as Floyd was an interesting idea but I couldn't help but find his impression fell short compared to Eugene Levy's from SCTV.  The sketch isn't a complete wash, though: there are some good performances from the rest of the cast, particularly Brad Hall as out-of-the-closet Gomer Pyle, and there's a well-known blooper late in the sketch when Howard calls Murphy "Otis" by mistake (Howard recovers nicely with an ad-lib: "I told you I couldn't recognize you!").
  • Who is the mustached customer buying the party doll at the beginning of the sketch?  He actually has one line ("Hi Otis!").

**1/2

COMMERCIAL: VELVET JONES ROMANCE NOVELS

  • Velvet Jones (Eddie Murphy) has branched out into writing his own line of low-rent Harlequin Romance novels, including "Kicked In The Butt By Love."
  • Velvet's first appearance since he "died from overexposure" in the Robert Conrad episode the January before; the audience was happy to see Eddie Murphy revive the character, but while this was a shorter piece, it didn't really seem like the idea was fleshed out enough.
  • Was that Mel Brandt doing the voiceover at the end, as well as during the cold opening?

**

SKETCH: THE WHINERS III

  • Doug (Joe Piscopo) and Wendy (Robin Duke) are having trouble conceiving; their irritated doctor (Ron Howard) suggests alternatives such as adoption and artificial insemination.
  • The weakest Whiner sketch as of yet, largely because Ron Howard isn't as good a straight man to Piscopo and Duke's whining as Tony Rosato or Danny DeVito were in the other two segments.  The audience wasn't feeling it tonight, either.
  • I found Piscopo and Duke reciting their lines in unison in that drawn-out whine was the most irritating thing about these sketches; it just seems too broad and cartoonish.  Sometimes broad works (like later tonight), but not with characters that are deliberately irritating to begin with.

*1/2

GUEST PERFORMANCE: HARRY ANDERSON

  • The comedy magician smokes a "dynamite" joint, then does a geek trick: shoving a hatpin through his arm.


  • The usual good stuff from Anderson.  This was probably the most technically impressive trick out of all the ones he performed on the show, to the point that a few in the audience were screaming and gasping as he moved the needle back and forth through his arm (and the fake blood oozed out).  His patter was especially good tonight ("Not the whole forearm, just the foreskin part").

*****

SHOW: IN QUEST OF...

  • Leonard Nimoy (Joe Piscopo) examines the mystery behind Francis The Talking Mule, and his possible links to the Green Knight and Jack the Ripper.
  • Commercial director Murray Bruce directed this filmed parody of Nimoy's 1977-82 syndicated show "In Search Of..."; I thought it was pretty well executed, particularly the gag with Nimoy's increasingly-pointier ears.  I also liked the strange theories Nimoy espoused at the end when he teased the mystery of Howard Johnson, particularly the one about why the TV was bolted down.
  • The end credits of the show mention location services by Tavern On The Green; I assume that's where the Rex Reed segment was shot.
  • Any idea who was playing Donald O'Connor and the re-enactment Mary and Joseph?  I assume Bruce hired a few outside actors.

***

SHOW: FOCUS ON FILM

  • Raheem Abdul Mohammed (Eddie Murphy) doesn't want to interview Ron Howard, director of Night Shift; he wants "Opie Cunningham".
  • Eddie Murphy carries this piece; Ron Howard once again serves as a foil to a recurring character but Raheem Abdul Mohammed has always been a stronger character than the Whiners, and Murphy had quite a few funny lines (not knowing whether to thank or punch Howard for not having black people in a film about pimps; the lines about "Opie Cunningham: Sex Machine"). Getting the audience to chant with him as he tried to get Howard to shave his mustache brought the energy up a bit.
  • Howard mentions his "beautiful baby daughter" Bryce Dallas Howard here, although not by name.

***1/2

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS WITH BRAD HALL: COMMENTARY BY MARY GROSS, ANDY ROONEY (JOE PISCOPO) COMMENTARY ON THE MIDDLE EAST

  • Best joke: Amerasian children, Spiro Agnew
  • Not that many actual jokes in this edition of the news; which still has a mixture of groaners (the John Hinkley punchline) and slams at Reagan and his administration (Ronald Reagan and Paul Voeker being executed for the unemployment rate, the "apology" for calling James Watt a slime).
  • The Reagan/Voeker joke ties into the first of Mary Gross's "spittin' mad" commentaries, where she categorically rattles off a list of people or things that piss her off: here, she's suggesting that the wrong 11.5 million people are out of work, and suggests people who deserve to be unemployed.  Gross kills with the audience, and gets some good slams at kids who play Annie and the replacement Dukes Of Hazzard.
  • An item on the current Miss America 's cosmetic surgery leads to a photo bit showing "before surgery" pictures of various celebrities.  This was helped by some good choices for the "before" shots (Barbara Streisand's before: David Brenner; David Letterman's before: Alfred E. Neuman).  I especially liked Jimmy Carter's "before" being Louise Lasser as Mary Hartman.
  • Andy Rooney's commentary on the Middle East was the usual Piscopo impression that was on the show the previous season, although I thought this one aged especially poorly, with some lines that come across as particularly insulting and borderline racist (calling them sloppy dressers, saying the houses look like they were built by Fred Flintstone).  The line about Yasser Arafat wearing a tablecloth from Pizza Hut was a variation on an old joke but I did like the line "He should either buy a better headpiece, or eat at better restaurants", which seemed to be the closest approximation of Rooney's "voice" in Piscopo's impression.

**1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "STRAIGHT TO HELL"

  • A sparer-sounding reading of The Clash's current single, with a more cavernous sound than the album version.  Having heard the SNL version before the studio track on "Combat Rock", I actually think the spare sound suits the song better.
  • Original drummer Terry Chimes was back with the band at this point.
  • The home base stage is covered in camouflage netting for the music performances; most musical performances just used that same stage without significant alteration.
  • Joe Strummer has a Travis Bickle-style mohawk and at one point imitates the finger-gun gesture the character makes in Taxi Driver.
  • Someone joins the band on stage at the end; I'm not sure who it is, though.

SKETCH: HAIL TO THE CHIEF

  • Jimmy Carter (Joe Piscopo) recalls a visit with a distracted and uninterested Ronald Reagan (voice of Piscopo) during the presidential transition.
  • This was surprisingly weak; the novelty of Piscopo's two presidential impressions "interacting" with each other wasn't enough to sustain a whole sketch.  Part of why the previous "Hail To The Chief" first-person perspective Reagan sketches worked was due to Tony Rosato's Ed Meese serving as a foil to Reagan, and his presence is missed here.  I also suspect one of the reasons this sketch suffered was the necessity of having Piscopo pre-tape his Reagan lines.  
  • Reagan doing "eensy weensy spider" was a particularly weak ending for the sketch.
  • There were a few moments that I liked (Julia Louis-Dreyfus's face when Reagan "fires" her; Reagan's idea of sounding presidential is saying "Shut up!").  I couldn't help but notice a bit of commentary in the part where Reagan tunes out as Carter talks about opposing dictators and the government's responsibility to the poor.

*1/2

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

SKETCH: SYLVESTER SCHOOL

  • IRS agent Steve Sissler (Tim Kazurinsky) suspects the sibilant Sylvester School speech therapists are scamming their students.
  • This may have come across as a dumb idea on paper, but it works due to the cast's commitment to the idea.  It's broad and silly, yes, but everyone seems to be having fun with the premise, even if the ending was a little too predictable for my tastes.
  • Brad Hall really seems to embrace the chance to go over-the top with his performance.  Kazurinsky also works well as the straight man getting covered in everyone's spittle.  The constant spitting causes Eddie Murphy to break character, which provides an extra quick laugh.

***

SKETCH: WHY

  • A first-time john (Ron Howard) asks a prostitute (Robin Duke) why she sells her body; her explanations are too cliché, so her fellow hooker (Mary Gross), pimp (Tim Kazurinsky), and motel owner (Joe Piscopo) each offer their own self-reflection on what they do for a living.
  • Not particularly funny; the use of "my father molested me when I was a little girl" as the hookers' default explanation just doesn't play well, and the "how much do you charge" punchline was just weak.  Piscopo's sleazy motel owner was the highlight.
  • Tim Kazurinsky seems to be playing a prototype for his Wayne Huevos character that appeared on Saturday Night News the next season.
  • One of the examples of how tough it was for the female SNL performers in the early 80s was that they always seemed to be cast as prostitutes; here, the entire female cast appears, as well as two unidentified extras.  If anyone can confirm who the extras are (I assume they were either writers or SNL staffers), please let me know.

*1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO"

  • Mick Jones takes the lead on the flip of the "Straight To Hell" double-A side; a more upbeat and energetic song.
  • It sounds a little like the audio mix was off for this performance.

SKETCH: NUKES IN DUNKERTON

  • A local ordinance mandates that residents of a small town (Gary Kroeger, Brad Hall, Julia Louis-Dreyfus) carry nuclear warheads at all times, but destructive weaponry doesn't deter an armed robber (Joe Piscopo) holding up the general store.
  • The audience was silent for this, but I thought it worked better than a lot of the other sketches in the second half of the show.  Maybe it was the lampshade-hanging on the "moral" of the sketch toward the end that sold me. ("That's mighty convincing anti-nuclear rhetoric. I'd like to re-create this scene for my friends so that they might know the evils of nuclear proliferation!")
  • This was a sketch from the Practical Theatre Co.'s stage show: all three PTC cast hires appear, with Piscopo in a supporting role that would have likely been played by Barrosse on the stage.  I'm still looking for confirmation whether this is the case.  Kroeger may have had a hand in the writing because Dunkerton is a city in his native Iowa.  Addendum [08/23/14]: Gary Kroeger confirmed he wrote this one, with Brad Hall contributing the "sketches with a message" ending.
  • I particularly liked Gary Kroeger's out-of-nowhere "all the nights I dreamt about sucking your face" at the beginning of the sketch.

***

GOODNIGHTS

  • Ron Howard holds two handfuls of helium balloons that some of the others pop before he lets go; Gary Kroeger mentions that it's John Lennon's birthday.  Robin Duke and Joe Piscopo hug.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

It felt like the cast and writers were quite exhausted this week, because this show had a lot of weaker-than-usual material.  Only the guest appearance by Harry Anderson really came across as truly outstanding, although Mary Gross' commentary and Focus On Film raised the energy in studio 8H for a bit, and In Quest Of was the usual quality work from the show's film unit.  Ron Howard wasn't a particularly strong host; better than Gossett, but not someone who would have elevated the weaker material.  While Piscopo was dominant, it was a rare off week for Eddie Murphy.  This meant Gross, Kroeger and Hall all had a greater opportunity to shine tonight.

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Harry Anderson
  • Mary Gross's commentary on Saturday Night News
  • Focus On Film

SHOW LOWLIGHTS:

  • Bureau of Weights and Measures
  • The Whiners
  • Why
  • Andy Rooney commentary on Saturday Night News
  • Hail To The Chief
  • Velvet Jones Romance Novels

MVP:

  • (tie) Brad Hall / Mary Gross / Gary Kroeger

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:

cast:

  • Robin Duke: 3 appearances [Opie's Back, The Whiners III, Why]
  • Mary Gross: 3 appearances [Saturday Night News, Sylvester School, Why]
  • Brad Hall: 5 apperances [Opie's Back, Saturday Night News, Sylvester School, Why, Nukes In Dunkerton]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 2 appearances [Sylvester School, Why]
  • Gary Kroeger: 5 appearances [Opie's Back, Hail To The Chief, Sylvester School, Why, Nukes In Dunkerton]
  • Julia Louis-Drefyus: 3 appearances [Hail To The Chief, Why, Nukes In Dunkerton]
  • Eddie Murphy: 5 appearances [Opie's Back, Velvet Jones Romance Novels, Focus On Film, Sylvester School, Why]
  • Joe Piscopo: 7 appearances [Opie's Back, The Whiners III, In Quest Of..., Saturday Night News, Hail To The Chief, Why, Nukes In Dunkerton]; 2 voice-overs [Opie's Back, Hail To The Chief]

guests:

  • Ron Howard: 6 appearances [Monologue, Opie's Back, The Whiners III, Focus On Film, Sylvester School, Why]
  • The Clash: 2 appearances ["Straight To Hell", "Should I Stay Or Should I Go"]
  • Harry Anderson: 1 appearance [Guest Performance]
  • Andy Griffith: 1 appearance [Opie's Back]
  • Rex Reed: 1 appearance [In Quest Of...]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • January 8, 1983
  • June 11, 1983 

Known alterations:

  • Federal Bureau Of Weights & Measures was removed.

 

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.