Classic SNL (sorta-)review: March 24, 1984: The Best of Saturday Night Live

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

Author's note: Because this is a clip show, this review will also be a "clip show" of sorts, featuring my original reviews of the sketches from their respective episodes. Some minor alterations have been made for clarity. As well, there will be no final thoughts segment in this review, though I invite my readers to discuss whether there are any sketches that should have been added or removed.


  • Mr. T, Robin Williams, Stevie Wonder, Howard Hesseman and Edwin Newman are billed as "special guests".


  • The audience is happy to see this character again.  I did find the setup with Robinson saying the neighbor wouldn't be able to get in with the new lock a little predictable, but this had a lot of funny variations on the Robinson formula, such as the "glitter shoes", the "Soul Train Scramble Board" with SCUMI on it, and the Mr. T. cameo ("Hello, boys and girls. Our new word for today is PAIN!").  This one didn't drag at all: it was very tight, had good momentum, and a strong ending.


SKETCH: NEWS BAR (02/25/84)


  • A fun My Fair Lady spoof, with Newman playing Henry Higgins to recently-demoted SNL news anchor Hall's Eliza Doolittle, and a memorable "Rain in Spain" variant ("Iranian's pains come mainly from Khomeini"). Piscopo's musical "ha ha ha ha-ha-ha" at the end always bugged me, though.
  • The Al Hirschfeld drawings on the set were a nice touch.

*** 1/2


  • The audience loves this; it's essentially little more than a Calvin Klein Jeans spot with Buckwheat inserted, but it's short and to the point. This is more a set-up to another segment that comes shortly afterward...



  • This is a classic; a simple, largely visual and well-executed sketch that has the audience going wild.
  • Written by Andy Breckman, who will quickly become a major writer on the remaining two seasons of the Dick Ebersol era, as well as one of the few Ebersol writers to work on the show after Lorne Michaels returned in 1985, contributing sketches well into the late 90s.



  • A true classic, and a deadly parody of media overkill that has only become more relevant in the age of the 24-hour news cycle. Written by Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield and featuring a pretape directed by Claude Kerven, this has so many great pieces: "Hey Mr. Wheat!", the "titles" of the news report, the sponsor message narrated by Jackson Beck ("Life goes on, and Texxon is there", quickly adding "because Buckwheat would have wanted it that way" after his death), Mary Gross as Alfalfa ("Ohhhh, I'm huuurrrt and confuuuused and I don't know what to say!").  This is also a case where repetition (the constant replaying of the assassination footage) makes something funnier: the ending retrospective montage of Buckwheat concludes perfectly with the slow-motion clip of his assassination.
  • Favorite detail: when the word comes that Buckwheat has succumbed to his injuries, the news report theme song suddenly has gunshot sounds added.
  • The surgeon in the hospital appears to be the same actor who played the doctor in Video Victims.



  • Joe Piscopo's performance makes this; his tendency to go big has had mixed results over the years, but it's used well to portray Lincoln as a loud, bad joke making ("Send the bill to my GETTYSBURG ADDRESS!"), leering jerk.
  • Written by Nate Herman, Andrew Kurtzman and Eliot Wald.



  • Duke does the heavy lifting in this (Mr. T mostly sits, glowers, and interjects a few words) and finally gets a chance to shine; this was excellent, and easily one of her most memorable performances on the show.  I've always liked how she delivers "Dat's MEAN!" after drinking down the the finished product.
  • Duke wrote this one; there's a video on Youtube where she talks about how this sketch came about.



  • An early example of the now-cliched SNL trope of "cast member who impersonates host plays along the impersonated party playing a different person"; fortunately, this is also one of the very best examples. Stevie Wonder's nerdy voice as Alan is hilarious, especially during his rendition of Superstition. 
  • A huge reason this works so well is that everyone seems to be having fun here: watch Eddie Murphy in particular, especially when Stevie gets him to break with "What's the matter with it?" and his visible enjoyment of Wonder finally breaking into a good "My Cherie Amour".
  • My only complaint is that Piscopo's nasal character voice comes off too broad for my tastes.

**** 1/2

SHOW: FIRING LINE (02/11/84)

  • Somewhat topical (this came shortly after Michael Jackson's Pepsi commercial accident, which is referenced here), this was absurd enough to be funny, with Murphy playing it straight and Williams getting a few good lines as Buckley. Strong ending too (smoke billowing out of Murphy's suit, proving his point).



  • A front-and-center role for Jim Belushi, this time dressed (crudely) as Jennifer Beals and throwing himself into some physical bits. I have to commend his efforts, even if the piece is merely OK. 



  • Dr. Jack Badofsky's report on different types of orgasms is one of his better ones, with a good setup ("Nobody doesn't like...orgasms") and several very funny jokes, the highlight being "Jawgasms" (which are what Steven Spielberg and Linda Lovelace have).  Incidentally, there's a very visible edit in the rerun: in the original live show, the joke gets a mild groan to which Tim Kazurinsky ad-libs "That's a mouthful", and the audience laughs/applauds.  The repeat cuts from the Jawgasms line to the laughter and applause, and Badofsky's hands have already shifted lower on the cards.

*** 1/2 (rating for full Saturday Night News segment)


  • 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


  • This has a slower start than the first part of the Buckwheat assassination saga (recapping Buckwheat's death again, the sponsor messages from Mutual Life: "Because you could die tomorrow"), and doesn't really take off until John David Stutts is introduced. I'm actually willing to say the material that comes afterwards ends up besting the original, though. A large part of this comes from the Stutts character: the stereotypical quiet loner who goes off, only this time everyone he knew grew up saw it coming ("Most likely to kill Buckwheat"). Once it gets into the parody of Jack Ruby gunning down Lee Harvey Oswald, it transcends its sequel status.
  • Eddie Murphy's characterization of Stutts is in itself hilarious, particularly the blissed-out voice he gives him ("Hi! I killed Buckwheat!" "I had to kill him, my dog told me he was the Antichrist." "The reporters are back!"). My favorite part is Stutts' reaction after being gunned down, a long "Ooooooouch! I'm shot!"
  • The same actor who played the surgeon in "Buckwheat Buys The Farm" appears as Dr. Irwin Fletcher, a psychologist who fingerpoints at the media for turning people like Stutts into celebrities and inspiring them to seek publicity by killing people. Koppel, of course, misses the point.
  • Like "Buckwheat Buys The Farm", this was written by Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield, with pre-tapes directed by Claude Kerven.

**** 1/2 


  • Three weeks after their last appearance in the Sex Therapy sketch, Marvin and mousy wife Celeste (Mary Gross) get a bit of recognition applause.  Most of the highlights of this sketch come from Gross' reactions and line delivery, but despite being a little slow-paced and thin on actual laughs, I still found the piece entertaining with good commitment from all of the performers.
  • The use of a different studio feels quite apparent here for some reason.
  • This sketch features many non-cast extras, including one speaking role (the waiter).  If anyone can ID the actor playing the waiter, please leave a comment.



  • A brief bit; it works. Like last season's "Guy Talk", it's an interesting window to the time where Michael Jackson's nose job and effeminate demeanor was the most visibly unusual thing about him.
  • Recorded September 21, 1983 at the preview show.



  • Silly and repetitive, but this manages to work.  The "duuhhhhhhh" and "Good morning!" play as kind of a jazz variation; it's all in the rhythm.   Piscopo gets a good response from the audience, but Kroeger is the revelation; he doesn't have a lot to do, but he integrates so well here, it already seems like he's been part of the cast for years.  The Bullwinkle clip ends the sketch with a strong punchline.


SHOW: THE FORUM (11/19/83)

  • 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


  • This always came across as more "cute" than "funny", although Tim Kazurinsky singing Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" while looking for an empty stall bumped it up a bit for me.

** 1/2


  • One of Eddie Murphy's best-remembered SNL bits; this always struck me as a rewrite (and improvement) of the last time Murphy did James Brown (the Annie commercial from the Robert Culp show). Murphy nails it here.
  • Recorded September 21, 1983 at the preview show.
  • Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield received a separate credit in that week's show for writing this sketch.



  • Buckwheat Buys The Farm
  • James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party
  • Larry's Corner
  • Buckwheat Dead
  • Stevie Experience
  • Firing Line
  • Mister Robinson's Neighborhood
  • Mr. & Mrs. T Bloody Mary Mix
  • The Forum
  • News Bar
  • What's New
  • Dr. Jack Badofsky
  • Good Morning America





  • Jim Belushi: 2 appearances [Swan Break, The Forum]
  • Robin Duke: 2 appearances [Mr. & Mrs. T Bloody Mary Mix, The Forum]
  • Mary Gross: 3 appearances [Buckwheat Buys The Farm, History: The Real Story, Caribbean Vacation]; 1 voice-over [Buckwheat Jeans]
  • Brad Hall: 4 appearances [News Bar, Larry's Corner, Saturday Night News, Singing In The Stall]
  • Tim Kazurinsky: 9 appearances [News Bar, Larry's Corner, History: The Real Story, Swan Break, Saturday Night News, Caribbean Vacation, Michael's Message, The Forum, Singing In The Stall]
  • Gary Kroeger: 5 appearances [News Bar, Larry's Corner, History: The Real Story, Good Morning America, Singing In The Stall]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 4 appearances [News Bar, History: The Real Story, What's New, Caribbean Vacation]
  • Eddie Murphy: 10 appearances [Mister Robinson's Neighborhood, Buckwheat Jeans, Buckwheat Buys The Farm, Stevie Experience, Firing Line, Buckwheat Dead, Caribbean Vacation, Michael's Message, Singing In The Stall, James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party]
  • Joe Piscopo: 8 appearances [News Bar, Buckwheat Buys The Farm, History: The Real Story, Stevie Experience, Buckwheat Dead, Good Morning America, The Forum, Singing In The Stall]

crew and extras

  • Tom Barney: 1 appearance [James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party]
  • Jackson Beck: 2 voice-overs [Buckwheat Buys The Farm, Buckwheat Dead]
  • Michael Brecker: 1 appearance [James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party]
  • Andy Breckman: 1 appearance [Larry's Corner]
  • Hiram Bullock: 1 appearance [James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party]
  • Bob Christianson: 1 appearance [News Bar]
  • Tom Malone: 1 appearance [James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party]
  • Clint Smith: 1 voice-over [James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party]


  • Howard Hesseman: 1 appearance [Caribbean Vacation]
  • Mr. T: 2 appearances [Mister Robinson's Neighborhood, Mr. & Mrs. T's Bloody Mary Mix]
  • Edwin Newman: 1 appearance [News Bar]
  • Robin Williams: 1 appearance [Firing Line]
  • Stevie Wonder: 1 appearance [Stevie Experience]


  • September 29, 1984
  • August 3, 1985
  • July 19, 1986