Classic SNL Review: November 19, 1983: Jerry Lewis / Loverboy (S09E06)

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

OPENING: SURGERY

  • As he undergoes double bypass surgery, Jerry Lewis dreams that Dean Martin (Joe Piscopo) is his doctor and Sammy Davis, Jr. (Eddie Murphy) is the anesthesiologist.
  • Inspired by Lewis's December 1982 heart attack, this is fairly long for a cold opening, clocking in at six and a half minutes in the live show; it also suffers a bit from a few dry spells. Fortunately, Piscopo's martini-swilling Dean Martin keeps a lot of this together, even if the audience doesn't really wake up until Eddie Murphy's entrance as Sammy. Jerry Lewis spends most of the sketch doing his wacky 9-year-old voice, stretching syllables for every laugh he can get.
  • The repeat version cuts a little more than a minute from this, cutting from the part where Lewis admonishes Martin ("Maybe you shouldn't be drinking at a tiiiiiiiime like thiiiis!") to Martin's introduction of Sammy Davis Jr. This also takes out one of the sketch's funnier bits, with Lewis lapping up the martini with his tongue.
  • Mary Gross appearing in the first segment in her "sexy nurse" outfit from the dream sequence and quickly walking out of frame makes me think she wasn't supposed to be in the "real world" scene.

***

MONTAGE

  • Mark Egan fills in for bass player Tom Barney in the SNL Band tonight; I can easily tell Egan from Barney as his basslines are a little slower and mellower than Barney's more percussive technique.
  • An obnoxious audience member can be heard a few times, most notably after Piscopo's credit.

MONOLOGUE

  • After Jerry Lewis demonstrates how a pratfall can be a quick save, Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy present him with a throne and crown him The King of Comedy.
  • Lewis enters to loud applause, and manages to turn his entrance into a physical bit by pretending to close the door on his hand. The two parts of the monologue come off as a little disjointed, though: the first section is relaxed to the point where it seems a little slow, but Lewis's pratfalls were executed perfectly...the man knows timing. Murphy and Piscopo's section starts with fanfare (literally), but is weighed down by the latter's gushy speechifying, which comes across as the kind of stuff that SCTV made fun of in the Sammy Maudlin sketches.
  • I got the impression that Piscopo was a bit put out by Lewis and Murphy's rapport during the second half of the monologue; his "when these two ad-lib, forget it!" line seemed to come through gritted teeth. 
  • The audience participation was a nice touch, but you can really hear the obnoxious audience member here (WHUH-WHUH-WHOA!).

** 1/2

MISCELLANEOUS: MAN ON THE STREET

  • People on the streets answer "What famous person do you look like?"
  • Again, I never rate these; this was a little long for what it was, but there were some interesting answers, including the real Florence Henderson, a black man who claims he looks like Howdy Doody and Ernie from Sesame Street, a string of black men who say "Eddie Murphy", and a Mary Gross lookalike who had no idea who she was.
  • The first Robin Williams doppelganger appears to be a young Nick Bakay (The Dennis Miller Show, Sabrina the Teenage Witch).

SHOW: THE FORUM

  • Three random Americans discuss where they were when they heard John F. Kennedy was shot, even if they were slow to get the news.
  • I've always enjoyed this one; it's a little predictable, but it escalates nicely and doesn't outstay its welcome. Jim Belushi carries the sketch as the guy who didn't know Kennedy was shot until he was in college 9 years later, but I always liked Robin Duke's sheepish admission to just being told backstage, and Kazurinsky weeping upon learning the news.
  • Piscopo played his host character a little too big for my tasts; the character was supposed to be annoyed and incredulous, but it would have worked better if the performance was reined back a little bit.

*** 1/2

SKETCH: AMERICAN IN PARIS

  • Jerry Lewis watches his French dub voice actor (Tim Kazurinsky) treat his dramatic turn in The King of Comedy as another one of his slapstick comedies.
  • This has a great premise, but Lewis didn't seem fully immersed and invested in the scene: he kept referring to Gross as Mary. I thought this hurt the sketch overall. Gross and especially Kazurinsky manage to power through; Kazurinsky has some great physical bits here.
  • The audience member can be heard again at the very end.

** 1/2

COMMERCIAL: CORNET

  • Rosemary Clooney (Jim Belushi) sings the praises of the paper products' ability to clean up her messes.
  • At the time, Rosemary Clooney was the real spokesperson for Georgia-Pacific's Coronet line of paper products, but there doesn't seem to be much more to this than a few fat jokes (she's their "spokesblimp" because she's "one big, fat, sloppy singer") and the sight of Jim Belushi in drag.

**

SHOW: ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT

  • Mary Hart (Mary Gross) and Ron Hendren (Joe Piscopo) present stories about The Day After, Jerry Lewis, Dr. Thomas Noguchi (Jim Belushi) and more.
  • This was a live sketch with taped remotes directed by Claude Kerven. Overall, this could have been a bit more pointed, but there were some good bits in there: a radiation-scarred JoBeth Williams (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) telling a funny story about Jason Robards and some children on fire, and Noguchi discussing his club act where he dissects real dead celebrity doubles ("The dinner show's a little slow').

***

SKETCH: PARACHUTE

  • While skydiving, Mr. Rosenblatt (Jerry Lewis) and his instructor (Eddie Murphy) discover there's only one parachute between the both of them.
  • This is centered around an interesting green-screen effect (achieved by Lewis and Murphy lying on their backs on platforms), but also happens to be one of the funnier sketches that night. Eddie Murphy gets most of the good lines here, playing straight against Lewis's bigger performance (though he does crack up briefly when Lewis mentions he hasn't "seen" the new Juice Newton LP either).
  • The ending, where Murphy plugs the Kennedy miniseries that was airing the next night on NBC, seemed really shoehorned in; I wonder if the network made them do that.

*** 1/2

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS

  • Best jokes: James Watt's going away party, Lebanese Roulette
  • Brad Hall doesn't get too many jokes in this week, and does the "Thank you, Brad" routine for the third week in a row, but has a pair of particularly dark ones that boost the average. Instead, he leads off this week's SNN with a version of The Day After appropriate for preschool-aged children, complete with childlike drawings. This was merely alright, but I like the ending being whitewashed to everyone taking a long walk in the country.
  • More successful is Hall's debate with Jim Belushi over the TV movie, where the latter is more interested in watching football. While it starts off similarly to Hall and Belushi's Point-Counterpoint from two weeks before (right down to Belushi interrupting Hall's resolution with a "come on!") this really picks up when Belushi accuses ABC of airing the movie as a pilot for a series where they nuke different American cities each week, and ties  nicely into Belushi's earlier remarks about the Green Bay Packers.
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus appears to comment about her lack of airtime, only getting time to mention that her speech was four and a half minutes long in dress rehearsal. Quick joke, it worked.
  • The "traditional" Mary Gross returns to deliver a "spittin' mad" commentary on the upcoming holiday season's new traditions, ranting about fruitcake, assortment baskets, holiday parties (which includes a very impressive run on pre and post holiday parties), egg nog, and doctors going skiing (they go to Mount Sinai...the real one). An improvement over her last few "spittin' mads".
  • Joe Piscopo returns with Saturday Night Sports, where Jim Brown (Eddie Murphy) explains why he wants to return to the NFL at age 47: he wants to protect his rushing record, and protests that they don't count his 1000 yards from his scene in The Dirty Dozen (which is shown as "game" footage). This was merely alright, more notable for the film clip than anything.
  • Brad Hall signs off as Elvis Presley.
  • Cut from dress: a commentary where Gary Kroeger holds signs saying "Die! Die! Die!" and "She beat me every night", and a commentary from Robin Duke.

***

SHOW: FASCINATING PEOPLE AND THEIR FRIENDS

  • Mike Nash (Tim Kazurinsky) interviews Ram Fellstein (Jerry Lewis) of the American Jewish Football League.
  • The premise is a little thin and based on stereotypes, but the performances make this one. Again, Lewis goes pretty big, speaking in an exaggerated Yiddish accent and occasionally breaking character; Kazurinsky manages to hold his own here, and has a nice ad lib to Lewis's first break. I thought the ending was a little abrupt (Nash realizes "Jews don't play football" and the whole thing was a ruse by Fellstein to get on the show)

** 1/2

SHOW: LARRY'S CORNER

  • Dale Butterworth's (Gary Kroeger) reign as the world's luckiest man comes to a quick end.
  • Predictable, yes, but executing it as a quick blackout helped this a lot.
  • Written by Andy Breckman; second use of the character name Dale Butterworth, which debuted two weeks earlier as Jim Belushi's character in "You Win A Dollar".

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "WORKING FOR THE WEEKEND"

  • Lewis manages to use his introduction as another opportunity to cut loose, running off to the side and yelling "Baby, baby" in an exaggerated voice; a light gets into frame and burns a pink smudge into the camera.
  • Loverboy always struck me as the 80s version of Nickelback; this performance definitely has an increased cheese factor compared to so many of the other musical guests SNL booked at this time (leather pants) but it was adequate, if not a little underwhelming. Mike Reno's mugging and attempt at rock-star swagger oddly feels kind of half-assed.
  • I always found it odd that Loverboy performed a two-year-old song (from 1981's Get Lucky album) as their lead (well, only) performance on the show.

SKETCH: THANKSGIVING DINNER

  • Tensions escalate between newly rebellious college freshman Kate (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her father (Jim Belushi) when she comes home for Thanksgiving.
  • One of the few "real" sketches tonight, as opposed to being an opportunity for Jerry Lewis (who does not appear here) to cut loose. I always liked this one because it's such a common and relatable premise, with Louis-Dreyfus nailing the naive self-righteousness of her character. Belushi does well here as the stern father, but Mary Gross manages to steal the sketch with her doormat mother character, conceding that her mother's name was stupid and that she was really a bigot at the slightest suggestion from her daughter.

*** 1/2

SKETCH: GUSTY

  • At the No Exit Cafe, folk singer Gusty (Jim Belushi) performs a song for the whales.
  • Another very short sketch;  this feels like something that would have been an interlude between longer sketches on a stage show. The audience really enjoyed Belushi's whale noises, though.
  • Written by Michael Clayton McCarthy; the No Exit Cafe was actually a real place in Chicago that McCarthy frequented.
  • It seems that the liberties Lewis took earlier tonight caused some other sketches to be cut, including Duke and Kroeger's segments in Saturday Night News, and an earlier attempt at the Garage Band sketch (which would air in the next show). 

***

MISCELLANEOUS: JERRY SCHTICK

  • Jerry Lewis interrupts Joe Piscopo's promo for upcoming broadcasts and gives him and Eddie Murphy advice on how to impersonate him.
  • Again, this felt like they had to cut a longer sketch and filled time with a promo featuring Piscopo, Lewis and Murphy on the home base set (still with the backdrop down from Gusty). As cliche as "real person confronts their impressionist" has become on SNL, this was a pretty fun way to kill time at the end of the show, and all three seem to enjoying themselves here.

***

GOODNIGHTS

  • Jerry Lewis mentions that Loverboy's second song ("Hot Girls In Love") had to be cut and thanks the "lovely" audience and "beautiful group of people" he worked with; the feed cuts off before the credits.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Not a bad show, not a great show either; it feels like it was expected to be a better show than what ended up being broadcast, but there aren't any grave missteps. I have to admit that Jerry Lewis's stuff isn't really my thing, and I didn't feel like he meshed with the SNL format seamlessly enough, but he seemed to be having a good enough time. Eddie Murphy's return to Studio 8H after a two-show absence helps with the energy level, and Jim Belushi continues to have a strong presence. 

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The Forum
  • Thanksgiving Dinner
  • Parachute

SHOW LOWLIGHTS:

  • Piscopo's speechifying in Monologue
  • Cornet

MVP:

  • (tie) Jerry Lewis / Eddie Murphy / Jim Belushi

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:

cast

  • Jim Belushi: 6 appearances [The Forum, Cornet, Entertainment Tonight, Saturday Night News, Thanksgiving Dinner, Gusty]
  • Robin Duke: 3 appearances [The Forum, Entertainment Tonight, Gusty]
  • Mary Gross: 5 appearances [Surgery, American In Paris, Entertainment Tonight, Saturday Night News, Thanksgiving Dinner]
  • Brad Hall: 2 appearances [Saturday Night News, Larry's Corner]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 4 appearances [Surgery, The Forum, American In Paris, Fascinating People and Their Friends]; 3 voice-overs [Man On The Street, Entertainment Tonight, Larry's Corner]
  • Gary Kroeger: 3 appearances [Surgery, Entertainment Tonight, Larry's Corner]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 4 appearances [Surgery, Entertainment Tonight, Saturday Night News, Thanksgiving Dinner]
  • Eddie Murphy: 5 appearances [Surgery, Monologue, Parachute, Saturday Night News, Jerry Schitck]
  • Joe Piscopo: 6 appearances [Surgery, Monologue, The Forum, Entertainment Tonight, Saturday Night News, Jerry Schtick]

writers, crew and extras

  • Barry Nichols: 1 appearance [Entertainment Tonight]

guests

  • Jerry Lewis: 7 appearances [Surgery, Monologue, American In Paris, Entertainment Tonight, Parachute, Fascinating People and Their Friends, Jerry Schtick]
  • Loverboy: 1 appearance ["Working For The Weekend"]
  • Florence Henderson: 1 appearance [Man On The Street]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • March 10, 1984
  • July 28, 1984

Known alterations:

  • Surgery edited

Sketches included in the 03/24/84 Best Of special:

  • The Forum

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.