Classic SNL Review: January 14, 1984: Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) / Huey Lewis and the News (S09E09)

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


  • Joe Piscopo and Mary Gross announce the National Phone-In Democratic Primary, where viewers can phone to vote for their preferred Democrat candidate.
  • I'm reviewing the phone-in segments this time as there's enough comedy worked into this show's update segments. Piscopo and Gross are very loose here, ad-libbing and playing around: from Mary's exaggerated "It's all up to you!" making Joe laugh, to some riffing on Mary's pronunciation of "nine", this is actually quite entertaining for an info dump about tonight's poll.
  • The repeat version removes a reference to the previous season's Andy Kaufman phone-in vote; the rebroadcast aired about a month after Kaufman died; Piscopo's "that was fun" comment was left intact but stripped of context. Like with the "Killing Time" segment in Susan Saint James / Michael McDonald, the producers attempt to disguise their edit by slightly re-cropping the shot as if it were a camera switch. As well, an "encore presentation- do not call" disclaimer is added to prevent people from calling during rebroadcasts.



  • Mark Egan is back filling in for Tom Barney; the theme sounds a little slower than usual tonight.


  • Father Guido Sarducci gives his thoughts on the election campaign and says that Canada is a bigger threat to the United States than the unrest in Central America.
  • This was merely OK, but not particularly memorable. Novello is comfortable and makes some salient points about the candidates' communication skills ("What Reagan says is baloney, but he says it good"), and he gets a dig at Canada's comparitively low population at the end.



  • When a man (Joe Piscopo) comes clean about his incestuous relationship with their daughter, his wife (Mary Gross) makes some coffee.
  • I can't believe they got this on the air! Shock humor can be hit-or-miss, but this was brief, and Mary Gross' uncomfortable "I'll make some coffee" was executed perfectly.
  • Written by Margaret Oberman & Joe Piscopo.



  • LInda Ronstadt (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) sings a variant of the standard to comment on her switch in musical style.
  • A bit of a mean-spirited dig, painting Ronstadt's then-recent standards album of the same name as an act of desperation by an aging, irrelevant performer (the album actually did quite well and brought the Great American Songbook and the orchestrations of Nelson Riddle to a new audience). Julia Louis-Dreyfus has a fantastic singing voice, though.

*** 1/2


  • When publishers (Tim Kazurinsky and Joe Piscopo) try to strong-arm Alfalfa (Mary Gross) into writing a tell-all, the Little Rascal gets some help from the great beyond.
  • It's something different for a Buckwheat sketch, and there are some good performances throughout (Gary Kroeger practically walks away with the whole thing as the ghost of Buckwheat's interpreter), but I found this one underwhelming, at least writing-wise.
  • Recorded September 21, 1983 at the preview show.

** 1/2


  • Joe Piscopo gives an update on the vote totals; Father Guido Sarducci thinks the contest is boring, so he nominates ZZ Top to make it more exciting like Friday Night Videos. Nina Blackwood (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) announces the winner will get a T-shirt.
  • The longest of the three countdown segments, clocking in at about ten minutes; this also highlights an issue with this particular poll: it takes about two minutes for Piscopo to cycle through all the candidates, phone numbers and vote totals.
  • The introduction of ZZ Top felt like a way for Dick Ebersol to cross-promote his other show (Friday Night Videos premiered about six months earlier); while the addition of the Texas boogie-rock band to the list of candidates leads to a well-edited video featuring the other Democrat contenders cut into "Sharp Dressed Man" (featuring 69-year-old Alan Cranston demonstrating his vitality by jogging and doing a headstand), it seemed a little obvious that they would end up tonight's winners.
  • This is the debut of Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Nina Blackwood impression; it's a little too exaggeratedly hyper (the real Blackwood's much lower-key in the MTV clips I've seen), and her segment feels a little tacked on here.



  • An energetic performance of the lead single from Sports; Lewis tends to mug for the camera, but he and the band inject a little more life and presence into a song than on the polished studio cut. 
  • Lewis' version of the Mike Chapman / Nicky Chinn song is the most well-known, but the song had previously been recorded by Exile in 1981 and onetime SNL musical guest The BusBoys in 1982.


  • The new movie shows how Father Guido Sarducci resists sexual temptation.
  • I give this credit for finding a new way to work in Novello's character, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus gets a nice piece of business with her pulling the cigarettes from the bikini (with the lighter in the bottom), but this was too slow-moving and repetitious to work.
  • The name of the movie is a reference to The Man Who Loved Women, a Blake Edwards film starring Burt Reynolds which had opened about a month before. It didn't do particularly well with critics or at the box office.



  • Brad Hall gives another update on the vote totals; Father Guido Sarducci ask pedestrians on 50th Street about who they'd vote for.
  • There is no Saturday Night News segment in this episode, making it the first time in SNL's history that a show didn't have a "fake news" segment. Perhaps as compensation, Brad Hall anchors this segment, and he displays mock surprise that ZZ Top has pulled into the lead. The man on the street segment has a few funny moments coming from the pedestrians (one doesn't know who "Easy Top" is and suggests Nancy Reagan, another recommends Jesse Jackson could switch parties and run with Reagan to defeat ZZ Top).
  • The repeat has a small edit after the Sarducci segment ends, cutting Brad Hall recapping that ZZ Top is now the favorite to win.

** 1/2


  • Michael Jackson (Eddie Murphy) assures viewers that the lyrics to "Billie Jean" did not actually mean he got a girl pregnant.
  • A brief bit; it works. Like last season's "Guy Talk", it's an interesting window to the time where his nose job and effeminate demeanor was the most visibly unusual thing about him.
  • Recorded September 21, 1983 at the preview show.



  • Steven Wright does standup about different topics, including his irregular phone and dog Stay.
  • I found this to be a bit underwhelming compared to Wright's other routines; there are some good jokes here and there, but it doesn't really stand out.
  • Wright does some of the same jokes in his later appearances: "Life-sized map of the USA" returns in his April 6, 1985 appearance, and some of the material about his girlfriend is reused in his December 14, 1985 appearance.

** 1/2


  • Joe Piscopo appeals to viewers to exercise their democratic right in tonight's poll.
  • Piscopo makes this funnier than the other phone-in poll segments with his profile of the average SNL viewer as "14 years old and sorta drunk" and his silly inaccurate jingoistic speech (how the Cuban government won't let you eat a cookie on the beaches of Iwo Jima, for example). 



  • A little bit sluggish compared to the other song, but Lewis still has strong stage presence, and at one point catches his harmonica thrown from backstage by saxophonist/guitarist John Colla.
  • At the end of the song, Lewis introduces the individual band members, and closes with "My name is Huey Lewis, and you have just heard The News!"


  • When Father Guido Sarducci's plane is delayed, Transeastern employee Bob Armstrong's (Jim Belushi) friendliness is part of his job description.
  • Another slow-moving sketch; unlike "The Man Who Loved Swimmin'", the writing had its moments (particularly the discussion of working for jerks and who Reagan really works for), but this was a little too muted and dry, and doesn't really pay off.



  • Dick Ebersol hands Father Guido Sarducci the final results; with the help of Steven Wright, Huey Lewis and the cast, the final ranking is revealed.
  • No rating; unsurprisingly, ZZ Top is the winner. Dick Ebersol makes a rare appearance to hand in the results.


  • Sarducci congratulates ZZ Top and runner-up Jesse Jackson; Joe Piscopo asks the audience to give a hand for Sarducci, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus wishes her friend Amy a happy birthday. Gary Kroeger pops balloons on the stage.
  • "Shoplifting" a short film by Anthony Lover, is listed in the credits, it will air next week.


Underwhelming, but with some interesting moments. With Eddie Murphy gone again, the show tries something different, but with mixed results. Like in the past two seasons, Ebersol has the show do a phone-in poll, but compared to the Larry the Lobster and Andy Kaufman votes, this particular poll is a bit more obtrusive into the SNL format. There are very few actual sketches, and those tended to be weaker than usual; even the taped Eddie Murphy bits weren't the strongest. Much of the cast hardly figures in tonight's show, with many only appearing one time aside from the vote results segment, and some not even appearing live until that point in the show. However, Joe Piscopo has a very good night, and both Mary Gross and Julia Louis-Dreyfus have a few nice turns here. As for Father Guido Sarducci, it was good to see Novello bring the character back to the show again, but aside from his introduction of the poll's twist and the man in the street, he wasn't so much a host as an extended cameo. 


  • Tasteless Choice
  • What's New


  • The Man Who Loved Swimmin'
  • Airport
  • Countdown 84 II


  • Joe Piscopo



  • Jim Belushi: 2 appearances [Airport, Countdown 84 Results]
  • Robin Duke: 2 appearances [The Man Who Loved Swimmin', Countdown 84 Results]
  • Mary Gross: 5 appearances [Countdown 84 I, Tasteless Choice, Buckwheat's Ghost, The Man Who Loved Swimmin', Countdown 84 Results]
  • Brad Hall: 2 appearances [Countdown 84 III, Countdown 84 Results]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 3 appearances [Buckwheat's Ghost, Michael's Message, Countdown 84 Results]
  • Gary Kroeger: 2 appearances [Buckwheat's Ghost, Countdown 84 Results]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 4 appearances [What's New, Countdown 84 II, The Man Who Loved Swimmin', Countdown 84 Results]
  • Eddie Murphy: 2 appearances [Buckwheat's Ghost, Michael's Message]
  • Joe Piscopo: 6 appearances [Countdown 84 I, Tasteless Choice, Buckwheat's Ghost, Countdown 84 II, Right To Vote, Countdown 84 Results]

crew and extras

  • Dick Ebersol: 1 appearance [Countdown 84 Results]
  • Nate Herman: 1 voice-over [Airport]
  • Barry Nichols: 1 appearance [The Man Who Loved Swimmin']


  • Don Novello: 6 appearances [Monologue, Countdown 84 II, The Man Who Loved Swimmin', Countdown 84 III, Airport, Countdown 84 Results]
  • Huey Lewis & The News: 2 appearances ["Heart and Soul", "I Want A New Drug"]; Lewis solo: 1 appearance [Countdown 84 Results]
  • Steven Wright: 2 appearances [Guest Performance, Countdown 84 Results]


  • July 21, 1984

Known alterations:

  • Countdown 84 I & III edited
  • "Encore Presentation - DO NOT CALL" disclaimer added to Countdown 84 (all segments) and Right To Vote

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

  • What's New (not in VHS version)
  • Michael's Message

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.