Classic SNL Review: November 10, 1984: George Carlin / Frankie Goes To Hollywood (S10E05)

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

COLD OPENING: MONDALE IMPRESSION

  • Gary Kroeger breaks character during a “Walter Mondale as Norelco spokesman” sketch to express regret investing time and energy into his impression.
  • This was short, but a good way to address the election results, and spending the whole summer working on an impression of “Mr. 13 electoral votes” fits Kroeger’s slightly hapless on-air persona perfectly.
  • This is the second of two times Kroeger (who also wrote this sketch) gets to say “Live from New York…” during his SNL tenure, adding “a state I thought I’d carry”.
  • Kroeger says that he only did the impression once (in the “Mondale Headquarters” sketch from the previous week’s show), but he actually appeared as Mondale in the season premiere to introduce Thompson Twins’ performance “Hold Me Now” with Mary Gross (as Geraldine Ferraro).

****

MONOLOGUE

  • After a clip of his entrance from the first-ever SNL episode, George Carlin talks about the complaints he got about his God monologue and does more stand-up on politics and religion.
  • Some good sharp stuff in there, particularly about the separation of church and state (“My feeling is that either one of these institutions screws you up bad enough on its own. You put them together and you got certain death.”). Again, this is something that is relevant in 2018 thanks to the current administration
  • I really liked the use of the clip from Carlin’s original 1975 show, though I wonder if it would have been more effective if they weren’t still taping in the alternate studio for this week’s broadcast.
  • Carlin’s line “they told me if I do a real good job, they have me back” seems to be the go-to joke every time someone hosts the show many years after their first appearance. Whenever a host uses a variation of this line, some SNL fans refer to it as the “Carlin line”.

****

SKETCH: DO YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE? (II)

  • Willie (Billy Crystal) and Frankie (Christopher Guest) pass the time on night watch duty by discussing more ways they hurt themselves.
  • This is probably the most well-known installment of this sketch, largely due to its inclusion in the Best Of special at the end of the season, and because Billy Crystal begins to break character towards the end; in the Lost and Found documentary, he says that Guest saying “strip down to the nude” was made him lose it. The formula is in place, but there’s at least a bit of continuity with Willie and Frankie mentioning their old jobs and the secretary from Sheidelman Suits.

****

SHOW: PROFILES IN SPORTS

  • Controversial coach Donald Ramp (Jim Belushi) brings Bobby Knight-like intensity to the world of high school chess.

 

  • A great use of Jim Belushi’s pent-up energy; I can’t see anyone else playing the chair-kicking brawl-inciting coach in this film. There are quite a few details in this that I really liked, including the scene where he’s about to draw plays on the chalkboard but begins by drawing a chess board (right down to filling in the dark squares).
  • Written by Kevin Kelton; directed by Claude Kerven.
  • There’s an audience caption at the end of this piece, with a young woman who “Sees Carlin host every nine years”; Rob Reiner and Kate & Allie regular Ari Meyers can be seen in the foreground during the zoom-in. (Thanks, Raj Kaup)

****

SHOW: THE JOE FRANKLIN SHOW

  • Albino lounge singer Jackie Rogers Jr. (Martin Short), fireman Dan Halloran (George Carlin) and ventriloquist Senor Cosa (Christopher Guest) are Joe’s (Billy Crystal) guests on his long-running talk show.
  • The first appearance of another 1984-85 staple; Crystal’s Franklin is a little broader than the real thing but he nails Franklin’s syntax and low-key statements of excitement.
  • George Carlin mainly plays straightman to Short (making his first SNL appearance as his SCTV character Rogers), Crystal and Guest; the latter walks away with this sketch as usual, which is no small feat with the other performers in the sketch, but Senor Cosa’s dummy Ricardo piping up with the Castilian pronunciation (“Cotha!”) is a memorable hook, and the bit where Cosa drinks a glass of water as the dummy does nothing gets a laugh.

*** 1/2

MISCELLANEOUS: RICH HALL'S ELECTION REPORT

  • Rich Hall uses Terrytoons’ “The Talking Magpies” to summarize the role of rhetoric and quips in this year’s election.
  • Not quite on the level of the first entry, but still a good final outing for this series, and the audience liked it.
  • “The Talking Magpies” is the first appearance of what would become Heckle and Jeckle, and Hall casts proto-Heckle as Reagan, proto-Dimwit as Mondale, and Farmer Al Falfa as the voter.

***

COMMERCIAL: STRATEGIC AIRBORNE CONTRACEPTIVE

  • NORAD brings Distant Early Warning technology to women’s contraception devices.
  • This has a strong concept (mixing the Strategic Defense Initiative and reproductive health) and some good visual jokes (the device being “activated”, the radar showing the sperm being destroyed by the microscopic surface-to-air missles).
  • Written by Kevin Kelton, Andrew Kurtzman, Nate Herman and Eliot Wald; directed by Claude Kerven.

*** 1/2

SKETCH: YE OLDE COMEDY SHOPPE

  • Jackie Jefferson (George Carlin) brings his stand-up routine before a Revolutionary War audience.
  • This was a little long for the concept and it doesn’t sound like there was much audience response, but there are some funny observational jokes and it was a nice excuse to get Carlin doing stand-up later in the show.
  • Written by Kevin Kelton, Andrew Kurtzman and Eliot Wald.

***

SHOW: THE GHOSTBUSTER SHOW

  • Fanboy Chad Webb (Jim Belushi) discusses “the best movie ever made” with guests Chi Chi (Mary Gross) and Consuela (Julia Louis-Dreyfus).
  • This felt a little underdeveloped and the focus too scattered, as much as Gross and Louis-Dreyfus deserve credit for bringing life to their characters.
  • I had to laugh at the part where Belushi’s character was aghast at a caller’s rumor that the original actors were going to be replaced by Tim Matheson and Prince; I wonder how he would have reacted to the reboot.

**

SATURDAY NIGHT NEWS

  • George Carlin is tonight’s anchor; he only has one joke (the crew of the shuttle Discovery learning the results of the election, Nicaraugua) and an extended bit where he discusses potential contenders for the 1988 election before suggesting Charlton Heston would be a good successor to Reagan on the Republican ticket. He’s better at an anchor than some of the other guest hosts, but it feels a little like a waste of his talents.
  • Aware of the American male’s fascination with breasts, Pamela Stephenson introduces her own pair (including the “customary bumpy things”) to the audience, which promptly start taking on a life of their own and eventually fling her over the desk. This was silly, but there were a few funny lines besides the visual joke (their utility in balancing tubs of Haagen-Daaz, her observations about the size of men’s dogs).
  • Kevin Kelton confirms he was the one under the desk moving the sticks controlling Stephenson’s breasts; a wardrobe person did it in rehearsal but couldn’t nail the timing, so she asked Kelton, a writer who also happened to be small enough to fit under the desk, to do it. As well, David Misch (guest writer for Uecker and Jackson’s shows) wrote an unproduced version of this bit.
  • An uncomfortable-looking Gary Kroeger, introduced as science editor, discusses the lack of tax dollars for research of a medical condition known as “spot bleeding”. He removes his jacket to reveal a dress shirt with tiny blood spots all over it, only for Carlin to remind him that he didn’t remove the straight pins from his new dress shirt. Carlin’s response: “You’re a moron, Kroeger!” This was the highlight of tonight’s SNL News segment, and again makes great use of Kroeger’s on-air persona. Kroeger confirmed that he co-wrote this with Andy Breckman, and Carlin’s line at the end was an ad-lib.
  • Lew Goldman (Billy Crystal) returns to give the sports report for members of his family. Again, Crystal milks the broadness and phlegm-clearing for all it’s worth, but it works with the audience.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "TWO TRIBES"

  • The dramatic Trevor Horn production of the studio version from Welcome To The Pleasuredome doesn’t translate well to live performance; despite Holly Johnson’s vocals and Paul Rutherford’s animated dancing (which would probably become a meme if this aired today), this sounds particularly lifeless and thin.

COMMERCIAL: TED'S BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS

  • Ted (George Carlin) spent 15 years compiling his own achievements.
  • Another good bit, with a lot of humor coming from the photo editing and the meagreness of Ted’s achievements. I found the book of lists even funnier, with some nice touches (the list of people he’d have at a dinner party he puts himself third)
  • Written by Kevin Kelton, Andrew Kurtzman and Eliot Wald.

*** 1/2

SHOW: ALAN THICKE'S IN THICKENESS AND IN HEALTH

  • Banished to niche cable after the failure of his talk show, Alan Thicke (Harry Shearer) interviews octogenarian songwriter Irving Cohen (Martin Short).
  • Shearer’s only on-camera appearance tonight brings his devastating impression of Alan Thicke to the show, but this was more notable for the SNL debut of another Martin Short SCTV character. There’s also some great physical humor with Short running on the treadmill, ranting with a cigar in his mouth, and some pointed jabs at the failure of Thicke of the Night (the next show’s guests are Richard Belzer and Thicke’s then-wife Gloria Loring).
  • This was not included in the repeat version of the show.

*** 1/2

COMMERCIAL: INTERNATIONAL STAR HEALTH

  • Get the latest gossip in the only tabloid devoted to celebrities’ diet, exercise, and minor illnesses.
  • Similar to the Enquirer ad parody in the Joan Rivers show; this was well-produced but merely OK humor-wise. Mainly filler to allow for the gag of Cohen being on the floor when In Thickeness returns from the commercial.

** 1/2

SKETCH: NOT A COP

  • Bobby (Billy Crystal) tells pop (Geroge Carlin) that he doesn’t think he’s cut out for the family tradition of being a police officer.
  • A low-key but breezily silly final sketch, full of fun wordplay and absurdist turns of logic from Carlin’s character.
  • Written by Nate Herman.

*** 1/2

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "BORN TO RUN"

  • A surprisingly effective cover of Bruce Springsteen’s signature song; it’s not going to make anyone forget the original, but the earnestness and drama of the song is a good fit for the band, and it works better as a live performance than “Two Tribes” did.
  • Drummer Peter “Ped” Gill wears a luchador mask, while Holly Johnson waves his scarf throughout the song, and closes with “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom!”.
  • This performance was not included in the repeat version of the show.

GOODNIGHTS

  • George Carlin mentions that the network still hasn’t received a call from the Archbishop, and jokes “see you in another nine years!” Gary Kroeger holds up a sign that says “Hi Annie!”, Paul Rutherford and another member of Frankie Goes To Hollywood hoist their keyboard player up, and Holly Johnson leans into frame and waves his scarf.
  • Margaret Oberman has an "additional sketches" credit tonight.

Final thoughts: Another very good outing, though a step down from the consistently strong McKean show. While George Carlin was a good host, it felt like it could have been a better show with him around. Other than that, this had some very nice work from Gary Kroeger tonight, who delivers two of his best pieces (“Mondale Impression” and “Spot Bleeding”) and actually appears in the most sketches this evening thanks to his participation in some of the pre-tapes. The more well-known writer/performers deliver a lot of their greatest hits tonight, but Kroeger manages to stand out, and this was a night where the team of Kevin Kelton, Andrew Kurtzman and Eliot Wald demonstrated they were the backbone of the show’s writing staff.

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Mondale Impression
  • Profiles in Sports
  • Monologue
  • Do You Know What I Hate? (II)
  • Ted’s Book of World Records
  • Not A Cop
  • Alan Thicke’s In Thickeness and In Health
  • Strategic Airborne Contraceptive

SHOW LOWLIGHTS:

  • The Ghostbuster Show

MVP:

(tie) George Carlin/Gary Kroeger

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN

cast

  • Jim Belushi: 2 appearances [Profiles in Sports, The Ghostbusters Show]
  • Billy Crystal: 4 appearances [Do You Know What I Hate (II), The Joe Franklin Show, Saturday Night News, Not A Cop]
  • Mary Gross: 2 appearances [Profiles in Sports, The Ghostbusters Show]
  • Christopher Guest: 3 appearances [Do You Know What I Hate (II), The Joe Franklin Show, Ye Olde Comedy Shoppe]
  • Rich Hall: 1 appearance [Rich Hall’s Election Report]
  • Gary Kroeger: 5 appearances [Mondale Impression, Strategic Airborne Contraceptive, Ye Olde Comedy Shoppe, Saturday Night News, International Star Health]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 3 appearances [Strategic Airborne Contraceptive, The Ghostbusters Show, International Star Health]
  • Harry Shearer: 2 appearances [Ye Olde Comedy Shoppe, In Thickeness and in Health]; 2 voice-overs [The Ghostbusters Show, Ted’s Book of World Records]
  • Martin Short: 2 appearances [The Joe Franklin Show, In Thickeness and In Health]
  • Pamela Stephenson: 2 appearances [Ye Olde Comedy Shoppe, Saturday Night News]; 2 voice-overs [In Thickeness and In Health, International Star Health]

crew & extras:

  • Jackson Beck: 1 voice-over [Strategic Airborne Contraceptive]
  • Bob Christianson: 2 appearances [Ye Olde Comedy Shoppe, In Thickeness and In Health]
  • Nate Herman: 1 appearance [Ye Olde Comedy Shoppe]
  • Rob Riley: 1 appearance [Ye Olde Comedy Shoppe]
  • Bob Van Ry: 1 appearance [In Thickeness and In Health]

guests:

  • George Carlin: 6 appearances [Monologue, The Joe Franklin Show, Ye Olde Comedy Shoppe, Saturday Night News, Ted’s Book of World Records, Not a Cop]
  • Frankie Goes To Hollywood: 2 appearances [“Two Tribes”, “Born to Run”]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • March 16, 1985
  • August 17, 1985

Known alterations:

  • In Thickeness and In Health, International Star Health and “Born to Run” removed
  • Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood (11/12/83) and 60 Minutes (11/17/84) added

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.