Classic SNL Review: March 30, 1985: Mr. T & Hulk Hogan / The Commodores (S10E15)

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

OPENING: I AM ALSO THE WORLD

  • “We Are The World” non-participant Prince (Billy Crystal) releases his own all-star benefit single.
  • A good use of Mr. T and Hulk Hogan, who get some laughs as the bodyguards beating up Prince’s collaborators like Bruce Springsteen (Gary Kroeger), Willie Nelson (Jim Belushi) and Paul Simon (Martin Short). Billy Crystal doesn’t even bother trying to sound a thing like Prince, but most of his impression is the facial expressions and attitude, and Kroeger more than makes up for it with his Springsteen, though, which steals the whole sketch.
  • The women in the cast tended to get short shrift this season, but all three appear in this sketch: Pamela Stephenson reprises her Cyndi Lauper impression, while Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mary Gross get another chance to show off their singing voices as Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman from The Revolution.
  • Prince, Melvoin and Coleman’s outfits appear to be modeled on what they wore when they accepted the Best Song Score award at the Oscars the previous Monday.
  • According to sketch writer Kevin Kelton, Gary Kroeger and Jim Belushi competed for the Springsteen role; Belushi really wanted the part, but Kelton and Bob Tischler felt Kroeger’s impression was superior; however, Tischler had Kelton write another role for Belushi in the sketch.

*** 1/2

MONOLOGUE

  • Mr. T. and Hulk Hogan promote tomorrow’s Wrestlemania match and deal with a heckler by using the sleeper hold.
  • It’s a little difficult to judge this, as this isn’t so much a comedy monologue as a wrestling promo. As comedy, this was weak, but as a performance (as professional wrestling is), this was entertaining.
  • Hulk Hogan begging “not another lawsuit!” refers to an incident that happened three days earlier on Richard Belzer’s Lifetime cable show Hot Properties, where Hogan put Belzer in a front chin-lock, which caused him to pass out and hit his head when he was released from the hold.

***

COMMERCIAL: TOXIC WASTE

  • Fisherman Bob (Jim Belushi) promotes ChemCo’s product as the easier way to catch fish.
  • Fairly obvious in its humor, but Belushi tries his best to sell it.
  • According to the pictures on GettyImages, Jim Belushi wore his normal hair and a plaid shirt in dress; in the live show, he’s wearing his wig and outfit for the next sketch under his fishing hat and vest.

**

SKETCH: CAMP CRYSTAL LAKE

  • Andy (Gary Kroeger) recognizes the summer camp that salesman Mr. Lubar (Christopher Guest) is trying to pitch as the setting for Friday the 13th.
  • The premise was decent, and having Guest play the salesman in his typical understated way helped; I thought the ending with the Friday the 13th music and the family’s wigs flipping as they scream in terror was a little too broad for the show, though.

***

COMMERCIAL: RONALD REAGAN JEANS (repeat from 02/09/85)

SHOW: FERNANDO'S HIDEAWAY

  • Fernando (Billy Crystal) has Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the booth.
  • Probably the most famous moment of tonight’s show; if you know what’s coming at the end (Mr. T & Hulk Hogan being reduced to giggles by Billy Crystal’s ad-lib about Mr. T’s suggestively-placed exercise equipment), the rest of the sketch feels like a lead-up to that; in fact, it makes Mr. T and Hulk Hogan’s glowers even funnier (though, for a brief second, the camera catches Mr. T with a relaxed smile during a close-up).

****

SHOW: HOUSES OF SHAME

  • The Bull (Chrisopher Guest) courts the new prisoner Percival (Martin Short) in an example of a more genteel age of prison sex.
  • Another strong premise, with most of the humor coming from the juxtaposition of The Bull’s proper gentleman date with the darker subtext, but Guest has some good lines (his “just helping to bury” fifteen boys butchered with a machete), and I appreciated the randomness of the prison having a conveniently-located porch swing. I also liked the ending with Short’s character’s previously-intimidating cellmate (Jim Belushi) waiting up for him to come home from the date so they can gab about it like teenagers.
  • For some reason, Jim Belushi’s face looks inherently funny with his character’s mutton chops.
  • I’m surprised the censors let the word “bitch” be used in this context; a few seasons later, a line introducing Ivan Boesky as another prisoner’s bitch was bleeped in repeats. Maybe that was more due to it involving a real person.
  • Written by Kevin Kelton, Andrew Kutzman and Eliot Wald; according to Kelton, he was inspired by watching a scene in Brubaker.

*** 1/2

FILM: SUBSTITUTE TEACHER - CLAUDE KERVEN

  • During the Writer’s Guild strike, Billy Crystal substitute teaches a tough group of 3rd graders and gets through to them with comedy.
  • A well-made film (as usual with Kerven), though I thought the idea was more cute than funny (particularly the ending with the kid telling Crystal “You look mahvelous”).
  • Nice little detail in the background: during the scene where Crystal is trying to break through to the kid, you can see “Cill My Teach” written on the chalkboard, a reference to the “Prose and Cons” short film that aired on the show.
  • That line about Bill Cosby (“How can you not like someone who loves pudding that much?”) hasn’t aged well; more amusing is the group of kids criticizing Eddie Murphy’s profanity (“He’s young! He’ll get it out of his system!”)

***

COMMERCIAL: OHIO SAVINGS & LOAN

  • Spokesman (Rich Hall) explains why an Ohio Savings & Loan will always let you know where your money is: you can’t deplete your savings if you can’t access them.
  • A topical reference to the Home State Savings Bank collapse of March 1985; it’s short enough you can get the gist of the humor if you’re not aware of the background, but the joke may be lost on viewers who aren’t familiar with the savings and loan crisis of the late 80s and early 90s.

** 1/2

GUEST PERFORMANCE

  • Steve Landesberg does stand-up about Jewish underrepresentation in professions, English politician scandals, and redneck sheriffs.
  • I thought this was alright but a little dry (guess that’s part and parcel of Landesberg’s delivery) and bit unfocused, particularly when he randomly brings up this being the 10th year of SNL and working in for a plug for shows that he and David Brenner were doing to celebrate the 29th anniversary of Pips Comedy Club in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
  • Mr. T & Hulk Hogan introduce Landesberg by saying he was supposed to host that night but got sick, “so we’re glad he’s better” (according to an LA Times review of the show, Landesberg’s mother was reportedly ill); Landesberg also mentions that he was supposed to host the (strike-cancelled) March 16th show.
  • I’m not sure, but there seems to be a small edit at the very end of the routine in the rerun; I don’t have access to an original airing, so I can’t compare.

***

SHOW: THE JOE FRANKLIN SHOW

  • Liberace joins Irving Cohen (Martin Short) and Senor Cosa (Christopher Guest) on the panel this week, sponsored by Raymond Burr’s Nipple Rouge.
  • Probably the weakest of the four Joe Franklin sketches; this has its moments, particularly with Cohen walking off and returning to the show while going on a rant, and the Senor Cosa & Ricardo lipsyncing bit (with a pan to Joe looking at a can of Martin Paints and Liberace staring at the dummy and shaking during the extended vibrato note); however Liberace seemed to be an awkward fit, and his line about Patrick Ewing being “awesome” during Joe’s abrupt shift to a discussion of college basketball seemed especially stilted.
  • Liberace was actually another Wrestlemania-related guest; he was the special guest timekeeper at the event. He was also about to embark on a run of shows at Radio City Music Hall beginning on April 4th.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "NIGHTSHIFT"

  • Hulk Hogan introduces this performance as “The Commodores and Mr. T”, Mr T appears with the band with a tambourine for a few seconds before they send him on his way.
  • This was a decent performance of the title track off the band’s 1985 album; the guitar sounds a little funkier and the drums a little more energetic, but the main thing that distinguishes this from the album version is the spoken word interlude by lead singers Walter “Clyde” Orange and J.D. Nicholas and interpolations of “Sexual Healing” and “Higher & Higher”. I felt the triumphant-sounding ending was a little too cheesy, though.

MISCELLANEOUS: TRASH TALK

  • In advance of tomorrow’s Wrestlemania match, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Bob Orton have some videotaped words for Mr. T and Hulk Hogan.
  • This was essentially another commercial for Wrestlemania; it was short but didn’t really seem like something that belonged in the show. I wonder if this was mainly used as a time-filler in the event that the show’s timing was thrown off by the character break in the Fernando sketch.

**

SKETCH: AFFAIR

  • Weaselly lawyer Nathan Thurm (Martin Short) gets defensive when his paramour’s (Mary Gross) husband (Jim Belushi) confronts him about their affair.
  • The first appearance for Nathan Thurm outside of a Saturday Night News segment since November’s 60 Minutes sketch; the character works better in the context of a sketch than in the news, where his appearances are all a little too samey, and Short gets some funny moments here (his crossed eyes when he removes his glasses and rude treatment of his secretary), even though you know where this sketch is going fairly early on.

***

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "ANIMAL INSTINCT"

  • This is pure 80s cheese with a lot of tinny synth and vocoder effects on the chorus, but Walter “Clyde” Orange performs the hell out of this song here.
  • This song was written by Martin Page; that same year, Page collaborated with “Nightshift” co-writer and producer Dennis Lambert, Bernie Taupin and Peter F. Wolf on Starship’s infamous “We Build This City”, and co-wrote Heart’s “These Dreams” with Taupin.

GOODNIGHTS

  • Hulk Hogan wishes the audience a goodnight “from all the heavyweights”; he later pretends to beat up Jim Belushi.
  • Marty Nadler is credited as a guest writer this week; Lou Marini and Mark Egan also fill in for Michael Brecker and Tom Barney in the SNL Band tonight.

Final Thoughts:

Another very odd show, with no Saturday Night News segment and at times feeling like half an episode, half a commercial for Wrestlemania. It’s not terrible, and the show is consistently watchable, but Mr. T and Hulk Hogan feel more like they’re making cameos the whole night than actively integrating into the show. Back then, what was then the World Wrestling Federation took more effort to maintain kayfabe, so that likely put a limitation on how tonight’s hosts were used; in this atmosphere, a moment like Fernando causing them to break would definitely stand out. Other than that, most of the sketches were good to great, and the weakest segments were short, but the whole thing felt like everyone was easing back into the return to work.

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Fernando’s Hideaway
  • I Am Also The World
  • Houses of Shame

SHOW LOWLIGHTS:

  • Trash Talk
  • Toxic Waste

MVP:

Billy Crystal

CAST & GUEST BREAKDOWN:

cast

  • Jim Belushi: 5 appearances [I Am Also The World, Toxic Waste, Camp Crystal Lake, Houses of Shame, Affair]
  • Billy Crystal: 4 appearances [I Am Also The World, Fernando’s Hideaway, Substitute Teacher, The Joe Franklin Show]
  • Mary Gross: 3 appearances [I Am Also The World, Ohio Savings & Loan, Affair]
  • Christopher Guest: 3 appearances [Camp Crystal Lake, Houses of Shame, The Joe Franklin Show]
  • Rich Hall: 3 appearances [I Am Also The World, Ohio Savings & Loan, Substitute Teacher]
  • Gary Kroeger: 4 appearances [I Am Also The World. Camp Crystal Lake, Houses of Shame, Ohio Savings & Loan]
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 2 appearances [I Am Also The World, Affair]
  • Martin Short: 4 appearances [I Am Also The World, Houses of Shame, The Joe Franklin Show, Affair]
  • Pamela Stephenson: 4 appearances [I Am Also The World, Camp Crystal Lake, Houses of Shame, Ohio Savings & Loan]

guests

  • Mr. T: 5 appearances [I Am Also The World, Monologue, Fernando's Hideaway, "Nightshift", Trash Talk]
  • Hulk Hogan: 5 appearances [I Am Also The World, Monologue, Camp Crystal Lake, Fernando's Hideaway, Trash Talk]
  • The Commodores: 2 appearances ["Nightshift", "Animal Instinct"]
  • Steve Landesberg: 1 appearance [Guest Performance]
  • Liberace: 1 appearance [The Joe Franklin Show]
  • Bob Orton: 1 appearance [Trash Talk]
  • Rowdy Roddy Piper: 1 appearance [Trash Talk]

REBROADCAST HISTORY:

  • September 21, 1985

Known alterations:

  • Ronald Reagan Jeans removed

Additional screen captures from this episode can be seen here.