Classic SNL (sorta-)Review: May 4, 1985: 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.


  • “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


  • Lou Grant (Ed Asner) spearheads a rescue mission to free Mary Richards (Mary Gross) from her seven-year captivity in syndicated reruns.

  • A very strong sketch with a great premise, and the audience really enjoyed the reveal as well as the individual cast members’ impressions of the familiar Mary Tyler Moore Show characters. This is a much better showcase for Mary Gross’s impression of Mary Richards than the Lou Grant spoof of two and a half years earlier (Billy Crystal’s Ted is much better than Joe Piscopo’s), and there are some clever references to Nancy Walker’s Bounty ads and the oversaturation of the reruns in some markets.

  • I also got laughs from Rich Hall as the dumb mercenary.

  • When this sketch was included in the Best of Saturday Night Live compilation the following May, the ending was cut to remove the "Live From New York", and ends right after Lou Grant orders his men out of the apartment following his hug with Mary.



  • Shabazz K. Morton (Eddie Murphy) tells the story of how white people stole credit for peanut butter from George Washington Carver.

  • This was funny enough on its own (particularly the reveal of the names of the two white people), but what really made this was Murphy’s trouble with the cue cards, and his ad-libs in character to the audience (“So I messed up, shut up! Stop clapping before y’all make me smile!”)



  • Rajeev Vindaloo (Christopher Guest) and Mindy Williamson (Mary Gross) compete for big prizes with the help of Sammy Davis Jr. (Billy Crystal) and Bob Keeshan (Jim Belushi).

  • One of the highlights of the season; of course, the well-remembered part is the classic run between Crystal and Guest (particularly “Chocolate babies”), but Jim Belushi’s slow burning frustration as a desperate Keeshan opposite Gross’s increasingly panicked contestant (“I DON’T KNOW!”) is just as great.

  • Captain Kangaroo had ended in December 1984, which explains why Keeshan is so impatient and insistent on getting paid in cash. There’s also another topical Oscars reference with Jackie Rogers Jr. (Martin Short) quoting Sally Field’s “You like me!” acceptance speech.

  • According to Martin Short’s memoir I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, he wrote this sketch with SCTV writers Dick Blasucci and Paul Flaherty, Guest and Crystal; the latter two came up with their section by improvising during writing. Interestingly, Short also says Jackie Rogers Jr.’s mannerisms were inspired by Sammy Davis Jr., so to have both the character and the impression in the same sketch lets the viewer see for themselves.


SHOW: 60 MINUTES (11/17/84)

  • Mike Wallace (Harry Shearer) probes the rash of defective foreign novelty items affecting the reputations of American businessmen like Herb (Christopher Guest) and Al Minkman (Billy Crystal).

  • Mostly pretaped (aside from Wallace’s introduction) and directed by Christopher Guest, this piece’s humor comes from the very serious treatment of the subject of plastic schnozzes and dribble glasses. I always thought this was more a case of style-over-substance; accurately recreating the 60 Minutes style even if the main subject of the piece wasn’t my favorite.

  • This also features the debut of Martin Short’s sweaty, defensive and chain-smoking lawyer character Nathan Thurm (“I knew that!”); I give the sketch a whole extra half-star just for his segments alone.

*** 1/2


  • Eddie Murphy discusses the trends in Christmas toys, specifically shrinking GI Joes, Ken’s effeminate demeanor (probably the part of this that’s aged the worst), and all the celebrity lookalike dolls including the “anatomically-correct” Michael Jackson doll. This kills with the audience, and Murphy has many good lines all throughout (especially how the gremlin resembles the offspring of Miles Davis and Sammy Davis).

*** (rating for full Saturday Night News segment)


  • Suicidal Mr. Quigley (Christopher Guest) interviews excitable Pat Sajak superfan Ed Grimley (Martin Short) for a contestant spot on Wheel of Fortune.

  • The SNL debut of one of Martin Short’s most recognizable characters; compared to the SCTV version of the character, Ed Grimley on SNL is much more manic and hyperactive. The audience doesn’t go quite as wild for the character as it would later in the season, but Short connects pretty quickly and is able to feed off their energy.

  • This is Short’s piece all the way, but the contrast between Grimley and the dour Quigley was well done (as well as the initial reveal of what Quigley’s occupation); Julia Louis-Dreyfus also makes the most of a bit part with her facial expression after Grimley’s line about the “nice chat” they’ve been having.

  • The exterior scene with Quigley landing on Grimley was taped outside the Toy Center.



  • In 1977, Christopher Reeve bumbles his way through stunts during his audition for Superman director Richard Donner (Jim Belushi).

  • This was a very strong sketch, with a great swerve once Donner has Reeve and the other actors audition by performing superhuman acts like catching a bullet with their teeth or squeezing a lump of coal into a diamond. Once again Gary Kroeger steals the scene, this time as the cocky brownnosing actor (who quickly gets shot dead during the bullet stunt), but Reeve gets laughs from his ineptitude, Hall is good as the auditionee with weaker acting skills but better superpower proficiency, while even Julia Louis-Dreyfus gets a bit more to do with her character (her thick NY accented line readings were great).



  • Barry Manilow cancelled last-minute, so Fernando (Billy Crystal) has cameraman Bobby Fraraccio take his place in the Hideaway.

  • This is one of the most famous moments of the whole season, and rightfully so; giving Crystal’s Fernando a loose segment where he can just vamp with whoever else was in the booth was the perfect way to use the character. Fraraccio, who was one of the extra cameramen necessitated by the two-studio arrangement, is a good sport here and does very well playing along.

  • Kevin Kelton confirms Manilow’s booking was a fabrication; this was just an excuse to get Billy to involve a non-performer in the fun.



  • Rev. Jesse Jackson declares that his game show’s questions are ultimately irrelevant because of the political issues facing America today.

  • According to Kevin Kelton, one of Rev. Jackson’s conditions for agreeing to host the show was to be allowed to have at least one sketch that espoused his political views; this particular sketch was successful in both meeting this requirement and being quite funny. Jesse stumbles on a few lines, but again gets to be the funniest part of the sketch, from the slight hostility towards the contestants (“Eleanora-“ “Not important”) to his declaration of “I get the car!” after the game runs out of time.

  • There’s a reference to an anti-nuclear protest regarding the Battleship Iowa in Brooklyn Harbour; according to Dennis Perrin, that really was happening as the show was being broadcast live.

  • Martin Short mentions that he co-wrote this sketch with Andy Breckman in his memoir I Must Say: My Life As A Humble Comedy Legend; if so, this is surprising considering that Short doesn't appear in it nor does it really seem like his style.



  • 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 Founddocumentary, 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.



  • 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 Kurtzman and Eliot Wald; according to Kelton, he was inspired by watching a scene in Brubaker.

*** 1/2


  • Harry Shearer is not listed as a writer, but there are additional sketches credits for Dick Blasucci, Paul Flaherty, Marilyn Suzanne Miller, David Misch and Alan Zweibel.

  • There are additional credits for Don Wahlberg (post production audio) and Frank Kennedy (videotape editor).


  • Jackie Rogers Jr.’s $100,000 Jackpot Wad

  • Fernando’s Hideaway

  • The Question is Moot!

  • Black History Minute

  • Superman Auditions

  • Rescue Mission

  • Wheel of Fortune Interview

  • Saturday Night News: Eddie Murphy on Dolls

  • Do You Know What I Hate? (II)

  • 60 Minutes

  • I Am Also The World

  • Houses of Shame





  • Jim Belushi: 5 appearances [I Am Also The World, Rescue Mission, Jackie Rogers Jr.’s $100,000 Jackpot Wad, Superman Auditions, Houses of Shame]

  • Billy Crystal: 6 appearances [I Am Also The World, Rescue Mission, Jackie Rogers Jr.’s $100,000 Jackpot Wad, 60 Minutes, Fernando’s Hideaway, Do You Know What I Hate? (II)]

  • Mary Gross: 4 appearances [I Am Also The World, Rescue Mission, Jackie Rogers Jr.’s $100,000 Jackpot Wad, The Question is Moot!]

  • Christopher Guest: 7 appearances [Rescue Mission, Jackie Rogers Jr.’s $100,000 Jackpot Wad, Saturday Night News, Wheel of Fortune Interview, Do You Know What I Hate? (II), Houses of Shame]

  • Rich Hall: 3 appearances [I Am Also The World, Rescue Mission, Superman Auditions]

  • Gary Kroeger: 5 appearances [I Am Also The World, Rescue Mission, Superman Auditions, The Question is Moot!, Houses of Shame]

  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 5 appearances [I Am Also The World, Rescue Mission, Wheel of Fortune Interview, Superman Auditions, The Question is Moot!]

  • Harry Shearer: 1 appearance [60 Minutes]

  • Martin Short: 5 appearances [I Am Also The World, Jackie Rogers Jr.’s $100,000 Jackpot Wad, 60 Minutes, Wheel of Fortune Interview, Houses of Shame]

  • Pamela Stephenson: 4 appearances [I Am Also The World, Rescue Mission, Jackie Rogers Jr.’s $100,000 Wad, Houses of Shame]

crew and extras

  • Bobby Fraraccio: 1 appearance [Fernando’s Hideaway]


  • Ed Asner: 1 appearance [Rescue Mission]

  • Hulk Hogan: 1 appearance [I Am Also The World]

  • Rev. Jesse Jackson: 1 appearance [The Question is Moot!]

  • Eddie Murphy: 2 appearances [Black History Minute, Saturday Night News]

  • Christopher Reeve: 1 appearance [Superman Auditions]

  • Mr. T: 1 appearance [I Am Also The World]


  • October 19, 1985

  • August 9, 1986