Classic SNL Review: October 30, 1982: Michael Keaton / The New Joe Jackson Band (S08E05)

RATINGS SYSTEM:
***** - Classic
****  - Great
***   - Good / Average
**    - Meh
*     - Terrible

OPENING: MAKEUP ROOM

  • Michael Keaton panics upon learning from stage manager Joe Dicso that Al Siegal is sick with pellagra and there will be no cue cards tonight; as well, the elevators used to take everyone between the 3rd and 8th floors are out of service.
  • Keaton freaking out ("WE'VE GOT NO CUE CARDS!") was somewhat funny, but Eddie Murphy, Michael Palin and Gary Kroeger got more laughs, particularly Eddie's response to Keaton's panic ("You da host, you're the one who's gonna look bad, not me!") and Palin's dismissive "Yeah, keep working on it" toward Keaton's attempt at improvisation.
  • Kroeger is wearing the same costume as he wore in last week's opening; this is also the official beginning of the running gag where the sketches he's supposed to be in are all cut from the show (this week's supposed casualties: "Wiener Water", "Bess Truman in Hell", and "I Was A G-Spot For The FBI").
  • According to Margaret Oberman in Live From New York, Dick Ebersol brought Palin in midweek because he did not have very much faith in Keaton.
  • I'm trying to identify the dark-haired female staffer Keaton talks to at the very beginning.
  • Addendum [08/23/14]: Gary Kroeger recalls that week: "My memory of Keaton is that he really wanted to do the work and he stayed later than any other host.  He rolled up his sleeves and got involved, but the comedy wasn’t working out well for his talents and he was very insecure.  It was considered one of our worst shows."

** 1/2

MONOLOGUE

  • Michael Keaton does stand-up about Halloween candy and trick-or-treating.
  • Wow, Keaton is awkward.  His "Wait, have I hosted the show?" line could have been a joke, but the way he delivered it felt like a legitimate mistake on his part.  The audience was accommodating towards his stand-up, which did have a few highlights, but the segues were pretty uncomfortable.

* 1/2

SKETCH: THE INTERESTING FOUR

  • On Halloween night, the limited superheroes are searching for the villanous Espresso (Mary Gross), but are slow to catch on that the woman who gives coffee to trick-or-treaters is right in front of them.
  • This installment worked better than the one in the Gossett show.  There was still a bit of padding (they did not need to replay that whole origin story pre-tape, and the whole sketch lasted almost 10 minutes), but putting these four against the type of villian they'd fight (and not particularly effectively at that) made this a bit more enjoyable.  The individual gags related to the superpowers were also stronger this time around: my particular favorites were Mr. Wonderful not breaking his smarm when responding to Human Stapler's pat on the shoulder, and Human Stapler using the bathroom.  While the "reversing time" segment dragged, the actors seemed to have fun with it, playing it slightly looser for each repetition.
  • There were a few line flubs from Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mary Gross; Gross recovers from hers with an ad-lib.
  • The way the lighting goes off during Weather Woman's attempt to make it snow seemed particularly abrupt; I wonder if this was related to technical issues arising from the extra personnel needed to do the show from two studios. 

***

SKETCH: A SENSE OF FEAR

  • W. Barrington D'Arcy, aka Arthur Roscoe (Michael Palin) realizes the scary story he's reading is actually happening to him.
  • This type of sketch felt like it was done a million times before, with the only memorable diversion being the storyteller's panic when the lights go down, culminating with him doing a commercial for a Michael Palin vehicle right before he dies.  
  • The sponsor plug (Regal Life-Support Systems) added nothing.

**

COMMERCIAL: THANK YOU, RON REAGAN.

  • In a parody of Paine Webber's commercials, different classes illustrate that in the new supply-side economy, "how you do depends on who you know".
  • A very succinct and biting commentary on the Reagan administration's economic policies.
  • The wealthy man in the limo with the phone reminds me of character actor Ben Piazza.

****

SKETCH: SNOOKIE

  • David (Tim Kazurinsky) finds that his date Marcia (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) runs hot and cold, and tends to express her true desires through her teddy bear.
  • A forgotten oddball gem.  Louis-Dreyfus does well here: even before baby talking when the bear comes out, she really sells the flightiness of her character, and gives Kazurinsky a lot to play off.  The writing is strong too, and for a sketch that's mostly two people talking at the foot of a sofa bed, this piece moves along nicely.
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus is wearing the same striped dress that would eventually be part of Ana Gasteyer's look for her Bobbi Mohan-Culp character.  Funny how in 15 years, the same dress worn by a young, attractive character would be used to convey squareness in a middle-aged woman.

****

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "STEPPIN' OUT"

  • Joe Jackson's moans during the chorus and erratic body movements were a little distracting, but this performance was a tad more propulsive than the studio recording, largely thanks to Graham Maby's bass.  The audience responds well.
  • The temporary musical guest stage in 8G seems especially cramped here, with Larry Tolfree's drum kit backed into a corner.
  • Several members of The New Joe Jackson Band appeared with other SNL musical guests later on: percussionist Sue Hadjopoulos appeared with Simple Minds in 1985, keyboard player Joy Askew backed Peter Gabriel in 1993, and Maby played in Natalie Merchant's band in 1998.

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS WITH BRAD HALL: MARY GROSS COMMENTARY ON BUDGET CUTS, RAHEEM ABDUL MOHAMMED (EDDIE MURPHY) COMMENTARY ON LIBERACE / SCOTT THORSON PALIMONY SUIT

  • Brad Hall shakes things up this week with an extended segment about the upcoming midterm elections, using celebrity endorsements to evaluate the candidates.  It's a little too long, but the payoff at the end is potent: Hall gives two Wisconsin Senate candidates his full endorsement for a noticeable lack of staff or celebrities.  The rest of the jokes are more of the same of what's been on the show this season.
  • Mary Gross is back with another "spittin' mad" commentary, where she suggests some more acceptable budget cuts.  This was even better than the first, with one particularly brutal line about the Secret Service ("who have only allowed 2 of the last presidents to be shot").  Gross flubs a few lines but comes up with a good save ("I'm so mad I can't speak!  There's anger in my tongue!")
  • Raheem Abdul Mohammed makes another quick return to the show to comment on the Liberace / Scott Thorson palimony suit, stating his disbelief that Liberace ("the baddest keyboard player in existence") could be gay.  This has a few funny lines, especially combined with the photos ("Does this man dress like a homosexual?") and the audience clearly enjoys their dose of Eddie Murphy. 

***

SKETCH: BILL SMITH CARES

  • On election night, a senate candidate (Joe Piscopo), his wife (Mary Gross), intern (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and speechwriter (Tim Kazurinsky) wait for the election results.
  • Another particularly lengthy sketch (9 and a half minutes); it's stylistically different and more ambitious (two different sets) than a lot of Ebersol-era SNL, but the whole thing doesn't really gel.  The "he always says the right thing" line with the speechwriter felt a little too telegraphed, and the segments with Eddie Murphy and Clint Smith as "The Love Brothers" are a little too cartoonish compared to the tone of the rest of the sketch.
  • I'd like to learn whether both sets were in the same studio, or if one was in 8G and the other was in 3A.  The part where The Love Brothers do an extended squealing coda for "Movin' On Up" felt like a stall to allow Keaton and Piscopo to get from one set to the other.
  • A lot of familiar extras in the election headquarters set: I definitely see Karen Roston in there, as well as "mustache man" (from Opie's Back).  I think Andy Murphy and Andrew Kurtzman are in the crowd as well.

**

SKETCH: TOPOL THE IDIOT

  • Babushka (Mary Gross) introduces her doltish husband (Michael Palin) in this installment of "Tales Originally Written In A Foreign Language".
  • This feels like a last-minute addition to the show: it was performed on the temporary home base set in 8G, and the sketch peters out, which makes it seem a little rushed.  I do love mistranslation humor, though (e.g. "Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook" from Monty Python or SNL's later "Broken English" with David Hyde Pierce).   Palin's facial expression is funny in itself, and there are quite a few funny bits here (saying the pig he just received from his neighbor "came to him in a dream").
  • Keaton seems to be making more of an effort to play a character here than he has all night.
  • The end with Topol demonstrating with a handkerchief how he keeps his teeth so white despite smoking is a reference to commercials for Topol ("the smoker's tooth polish").

***

SKETCH: NUTTY PRESIDENT

  • Ronald Reagan transforms into Jerry Lewis' "Nutty Professor" character as he addresses the nation on the economy.
  • The slow transformation was amusing, and the audience applauded once Piscopo donned the glasses, but Eddie Murphy seemed to have a better handle on wacky Jerry Lewis (Piscopo usually did "bitter Jerry"), and there wasn't a whole lot to the sketch besides the opportunity for Piscopo to combine two of his impressions.

**

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "ANOTHER WORLD"

  • An energetic and intense performance of the lead-off track from the Night and Day album; Jackson seems to have a little better motor control here, though he's still quite animated (at one point tossing his percussion instrument behind him).

FILM: "PUMPKIN" - ELBERT BUDIN [RERUN FROM 10/31/81]

GOODNIGHTS

  • Keaton says "Bubbles, I love you" and apologizes that they had to cut Andy Kaufman for time.  Joe Jackson briefly runs to the front of the stage to wave.  Some of the cast stand Gary Kroeger on his head.
  • Robin Duke is not on stage; she wasn't in the show at all this week.  Does anyone know why she was absent?
  • This is the first 1982-83 show to have a voice-over from Don Pardo to announce the next live broadcast, which also acknowledges his absence and return to the show: "It's good to be back!  I don't care what they say, I'm as sharp as I ever was!  Tune in next week for more on Jeopardy!".  As with any repeat of a show that has a Pardo voice-over during the credits, the repeat uses the canned version of the closing theme.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

An "off" week: Keaton was a little rough and barely used as a host.  The vibe I got from this show was that splitting between the two studios affected the format and structure of the sketches, with two very long segments (The Interesting Four, Bill Smith Cares) and a few solo bits (A Sense of Fear, Nutty President).  I wonder if the focus on longer pieces meant that there wasn't enough time to develop the shorter sketches.  Another question to explore: what effect, if any, did Andy Kaufman being cut have on the content of the final air show?  The New Joe Jackson Band's performances were memorable, though; Duke's absence gave Mary Gross and Julia Louis-Dreyfus more airtime, and Ebersol was correct in that Michael Palin's presence helped somewhat.  Despite these highlights, though, the show as a whole still felt quite low-energy.

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Thank You, Ron Reagan
  • Snookie

SHOW LOWLIGHTS:

  • Michael Keaton's monologue
  • A Sense Of Fear
  • Nutty President
  • Bill Smith Cares

MVP:

  • Mary Gross

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:

cast

  • Robin Duke: absent
  • Mary Gross: 4 appearances [The Interesting Four, Saturday Night News, Bill Smith Cares, Topol The Idiot]
  • Brad Hall: 2 appearances [The Interesting Four, Saturday Night News]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 3 appearances [The Interesting Four, Snookie, Bill Smith Cares]
  • Gary Kroeger: 2 appearances [Makeup Room, Bill Smith Cares]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 4 appearances [The Interesting Four, Snookie, Bill Smith Cares, Topol The Idiot]
  • Eddie Murphy: 3 appearances [Makeup Room, Saturday Night News, Bill Smith Cares]
  • Joe Piscopo: 3 appearances [The Interesting Four, Bill Smith Cares, Nutty President], 1 voice-over [A Sense Of Fear]

crew and extras

  • Joe Dicso: 1 appearance [Makeup Room]
  • Andrew Kurtzman: 1 appearance [Bill Smith Cares]
  • Andy Murphy: 1 appearance [Bill Smith Cares]
  • Karen Roston: 1 appearance [Bill Smith Cares]
  • Clint Smith: 1 appearance [Bill Smith Cares]

guests

  • Michael Keaton: 4 appearances [Makeup Room, Monologue, Bill Smith Cares, Topol The Idiot]
  • The New Joe Jackson Band: 2 appearance ["Steppin' Out", "Another World"]
  • Michael Palin: 3 appearances [Makeup Room, A Sense Of Fear, Topol The Idiot]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • August 20, 1983

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.