Classic SNL Review: April 13, 1985: Howard Cosell / Greg Kihn (S10E17)

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


  • Studio 8H boom mic operators Willie (Billy Crystal) and Frankie (Christopher Guest) relate more tales of self-injury.

  • As formulaic as these sketches can be (and the incident with the car dipstick felt too similar to the meat thermometer story in the Carlin show), this was still fun, and the setting was appropriate for what would be Crystal and Guest’s final show. Even the dipstick story had a funny topical reference to the Living Unicorn scandal (which got a big laugh from the audience). I also have to give credit for the way they did the LFNY line (following it up with “I hate whan that happens!” “Me too!”)

*** 1/2


  • Howard Cosell recalls his short-lived ABC variety show “Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell”, which premiered the same year as SNL.

  • Cosell is pretty much as pompous and verbose as you’d expect him to be, but also very dryly funny, especially him taking credit for paving the way for NBC’s Saturday Night with his show (which was more an Ed Sullivan-style variety show) and bitterly commenting that it was “reviewed by licensed idiots”.

  • Cosell briefly mentions “discovering” some of the people on the show tonight; indeed, Christopher Guest was one of the regulars (along with former SNL regulars Bill and Brian (Doyle) Murray), and Billy Crystal was a frequent guest, appearing on the premiere three weeks before getting bumped from the debut of NBC’s Saturday Night.



  • Rooming with a mob boss (Jim Belushi) while getting his tonsils out leads to mistaken identity and a near-death experience for Ed Grimley (Martin Short).

  • A good final outing for Grimley this season; Short again feeds off the live energy of the audience and does some solid physical work, but the funniest moments come from others: the hitman’s (Christopher Guest) cartoonish dancing after he gets stabbed with the syringe, and the visual of Cosell as Ed’s Uncle Basil (complete with Grimley-style toupee), the latter getting a huge reaction. Cosell’s line readings in his usual cadence makes it even funnier.

  • According to Short’s memoir I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, the plan was to have Cosell imitate the trademark Grimley bared-teeth expression, but he declined; instead, he just mugs for the camera for a second.

  • At the very end, a man in the audience is captioned “Knows Ed Grimley Personally”.

*** 1/2


  • Bonnie Caruso (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) spit-takes when her guests surprise her.

  • This is pretty much one joke, but it’s executed well because once you know the hook, the humor comes from the tension leading up to the inevitable. Of course, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is great here (particularly the final climax where she just lets loose, flinging her coffee, spitting, and dumping the pitcher of water on herself), but there’s also some good turns from Mary Gross (“Please go on” “Uh, no…”) and Pamela Stephenson (who scotches away when it’s her turn to speak).

  • Written by Andy Breckman, according to Kevin Kelton.



  • Howard Cosell reports from the event where wimps (Martin Short, Jim Belushi and Gary Kroeger) are judged on their feeble athleticism.

  • A taped bit written and directed by Andy Breckman. It’s a lowbrow premise, but Cosell is used well here; Short, Belushi and Kroeger all do well as the athletes competing on weak throws, whining and grovelling. There’s also a funny appearance from Rich Hall as the event’s sleazy proprietor, and a strong ending with two feminists dropping a bomb from plane.

  • Larry David and Mike Hodge (the black loan officer in “White Like Me”) appear as two of the judges, while Jim Downey plays the referee.

*** 1/2


  • Morris (Howard Cosell) and Rose Cosell (Billy Crystal) react to young Howard’s (Frederick Koehler) intention to forsake law for sportscasting.

  • This runs a little long, but it has Cosell’s best performance of the night, a great performance from Crystal in drag (the scene where both of them are arguing in the typical Cosell cadence was well done), a good use of frequent SNL child actor Koehler, and an underlying sweetness to the whole thing. There’s also a funny ad-lib from Crystal when Cosell kisses his neck (“that’s more tongue than on some of the plates!”)

  • Written by Nate Herman and Eliot Wald, possibly with Andrew Kurtzman, according to Kevin Kelton (who, along with Larry David, appears as an extra in this sketch).

*** 1/2


  • Having stopped covering boxing, Howard Cosell had to comment on the sport’s new low: 70-year-old Tony Minetti (Billy Crystal) training for a potential comeback.

  • This is mostly a pre-tape (directed by Christopher Guest) with live intro and outro by Cosell; there are some decent bits (Minetti talking with his mouth guard still in), and Crystal’s characterization is good, but I thought this was fairly unremarkable.

  • SportsBeat was a real show Cosell hosted on ABC at the time (it would be cancelled by the network later in the year)

** 1/2


  • Not a lot of jokes tonight, just one about Reagan’s Bitburg controversy, one about the distance to the moon being measured by lasers, and two that were interrupted for bits. There is an extended crawl segment about a survey indicating French men wanting more sex; the crawl has a lot of puns and Gallicized versions of famous people’s names (including one for “Jacqui Rogers Jr.”), but the punchline to the survey joke (“5% seduced the interviewer”) is easy to miss when you’re paying attention to the crawl.

  • Nathan Thurm (Martin Short) is back to defend his client Living Unicorn Inc. in another reference to the Ringling Bros. controversy involving a surgically altered goat; I thought this appearance was the strongest of the character’s Saturday Night News appearances, with him comparing the “unicorn” to a spayed cat, saying the ASPCA should condemn Guest “for being so uninteresting facially”, and Guest getting defensive and letting out a Thurm-style “I know that!”

  • Dwight McNamara (Gary Kroeger) is back to explain why a dirty slide of Ed Koch looks the way it does; it’s pretty much the same bit as before, despite Kroeger’s impressive “projector” voice. I did laugh at him doing the film flapping sounds at the end, though.

  • Robert Latta (Rich Hall) returns for the first time since the writer’s strike to applause from the audience when he wanders in; after using a dustbuster to clean crumbs from his crackers, he tells Guest he was down in Florida to watch the baseball exhibition games, and shows the season’s first cards (all doctored to show Latta wandering into frame). Pretty much the same bit as always, but it was harmless enough.

** 1/2


  • A catchy pop-rocker, with a much more prominent role for Steve Douglas’s saxophone than on the Citizen Kihn album; this translates well to the live setting.

  • Despite being billed solo, the rest of the Greg Kihn Band backs him up; besides Douglas, the rest of the lineup is Greg Douglass (guitar), Steve Wright (bass), Pat Mosca (keyboards) and Tyler Eng (drums).


  • Fernando (Billy Crystal) caps off a “marvelous” year with Howard Cosell’s career reminiscences.

  • As much as the show was overusing Fernando by the end of the season, this was actually entertaining as both a comedy piece and as a real interview; Cosell is relaxed and enjoying himself, and he and Crystal have a good rapport.

  • The “puking on Don Meredith’s shoes” incident happened on November 23, 1970 when Cosell, already ill, had a little too much to drink at a party before the Giants-Eagles game that night.



  • Soviet rappers A Couple of Red Guys (Jim Belushi and Gary Kroeger) decided to defect to the west.

  • An interesting variation on the White Guys Rap (I like the SNL Band’s Russianized version of the backing music); this seemed a little rushed, as it runs a little over two minutes and Kroeger and Belushi seem to be trying to beat the clock, which throws off their rhythm a bit. It’s not bad (the Cossack dancing gets some applause) but one gets the sense it could have been better.

  • Written by Rob Riley and Jim Belushi; according to Gary Kroeger, Rich Hall was originally slated to be the other rapper but backed out on show day. Kroeger does well, especially considering he was a late addition to this sketch.

** 1/2


  • Dr. Ruth (Mary Gross) and Dr. Seuss (Rich Hall) have different advice for Howard Cosell on dealing with lustful thoughts.

  • SNL’s last sketch of the Dick Ebersol era ends up being one of the silliest, featuring Mary Gross making her first appearance as the sexologist since November and Hall playing Dr. Seuss as a human version of The Cat in The Hat. The latter’s presence gives this sketch its best moments, from his offer of food and drink at the beginning (complete with silly props, including “a rodent hanging from a noose”), to his suggestion that Cosell’s horniness comes from a Yink bird bite and recommendation to have “a hat that’s white, a hat that’s blue” with a built in “thwack” device. And of course, the ending, with a puppet Yink bird biting Cosell, who ends up getting turned on by Dr. Ruth had some good lines.



  • Kihn and band play the lead single from Citizen Kihn, featuring solos from Douglass and Douglas; the latter’s sax solo fades into the closing bumper, and the show goes to commercial for the last time.


  • With Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest joining him front and centre on home base, Cosell wraps up the season (and the entire Ebersol era) with “These are great kids; see you next fall”. Gary Kroeger carries Frederick Koehler on his shoulders, Rich Hall is toweling himself off, and Martin Short hugs Dick Ebersol and Bob Tischler.

  • Andrew Smith is credited with additional sketches tonight.

Final Thoughts:

Another strong show, and a good finale to the season. Despite being a slight step down from last week’s show overall, Cosell was a more involved host than Christopher Reeve, even though he pretty much played himself (or a variation thereof) all night. This was also a suitable end for Billy Crystal’s tenure on the show, as he shares some memorable moments with Cosell, particularly in Bar Mitzvah and Fernando’s Hideaway. Despite tonight being Crystal’s show, the rest of the cast all had good moments for their final SNL.


  • Inside Out

  • Good Sex with Dr. Ruth Westheimer

  • Fernando’s Hideaway

  • Bar Mitzvah

  • Run, Throw & Catch Like A Girl Olympics

  • Hospital

  • Do You Know What I Hate (VI)




Billy Crystal



  • Jim Belushi: 3 appearances [Hospital, Run, Throw & Catch Like A Girl Olympics, Red Guys Rap]

  • Billy Crystal: 4 appearances [Do You Know What I Hate (VI), Bar Mitzvah, Sports Beat, Fernando’s Hideaway]

  • Mary Gross: 3 appearances [Inside Out, Run, Throw & Catch Like A Girl Olympics, Good Sex with Dr. Ruth Westheimer]

  • Christopher Guest: 5 appearances [Do You Know What I Hate (VI), Hospital, Bar Mitzvah, Sports Beat, Saturday Night News]

  • Rich Hall: 3 appearances [Run, Throw & Catch Like A Girl Olympics, Saturday Night News, Good Sex with Dr. Ruth Westheimer]

  • Gary Kroeger: 4 [Hospital, Run, Throw & Catch Like A Girl Olympics, Saturday Night News, Red Guys Rap]

  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 2 appearances [Inside Out, Run, Throw & Catch Like A Girl Olympics]

  • Martin Short: 3 appearances [Hospital, Run, Throw & Catch Like A Girl Olympics, Saturday Night News]

  • Pamela Stephenson: 2 appearances [Inside Out, Run, Throw & Catch Like A Girl Olympics]

crew and extras

  • Larry David: 2 appearances [Run, Throw & Catch Like A Girl Olympics, Bar Mitzvah]

  • Jim Downey: 1 appearance [Run, Throw & Catch Like A Girl Olympics]

  • Mike Hodge: 1 appearance [Run, Throw & Catch Like A Girl Olympics]

  • Kevin Kelton: 1 appearance [Bar Mitzvah]

  • Frederick Koehler: 1 appearance [Bar Mitzvah]


  • Howard Cosell: 7 appearances [Monologue, Hospital, Run, Throw & Catch Like A Girl Olympics, Bar Mitzvah, Sports Beat, Fernando’s Hideaway, Good Sex with Dr. Ruth Westheimer]

  • Greg Kihn: 2 appearances [“Boys Won’t”, “Lucky”]


  • September 7, 1985

Additional screen captures from this episode can be seen here.