Classic SNL Review: December 14, 1985: Tom Hanks / Sade (S11E05)

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


  • Mary Hart (Nora Dunn) and Robb Weller (Tom Hanks) present showbiz news headlines and interviews with a variety of celebrities.

  • A little long, but a good way to use pretty much the entire cast (except for Dennis Miller and Damon Wayans) and even work in the still-absent Anthony Michael Hall, who appears in a videotaped insert. Hanks has a few stumbles, but pretty much establishes himself as a strong host right away by singing “boop-boop-boop” along to the Entertainment Tonight theme song (and a sad “booop” after announcing the death of an actor at “The Old Washed Up Actors Home”).

  • There’s a callback to a joke on last week’s Weekend Update when Hanks mentions Brooke Shields’ (Joan Cusack) “Spying Isn’t Cool” campaign.

  • This is Danitra Vance’s only appearance all night, a sign that the show seemed to have trouble working her into sketches.

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening. Echo feedback during Hall’s “now they grounded me”; “so…” right afterwards removed. Accidental switch to Oscars graphic during John & Yoko story fixed.

*** 1/2


  • A brand new live-action opening montage directed by Dan Perri debuts tonight, simulating the host’s limo ride from the airport to Rockefeller Centre. The show’s bumpers also change from the collages to more straightforward photographs with the new SNL logo.

    • The individual cast members are seen on the streets of NYC. There are a few tweaks to the on-screen text and still pictures over the next few shows.

    • The host’s credit is now shown after the cast is announced, with their picture showing them getting out of the limo. The musical guest and special guest credits are next, followed by the featured players’ credits (Damon Wayans is seen getting out of a cab).

  • Tony Garnier fills in for T-Bone Wolk again tonight.

  • Rerun alterations: Cast stills replaced with the ones from version 3 of the Perri montage.


  • Tom Hanks is disappointed by the experience of hosting SNL because he wants to be able to watch himself do it.

  • Pretty good for a straightforward monologue, with Hanks establishing himself as both likable and funny, and quite a few good lines throughout.

  • Rerun alterations: None

*** 1/2


  • A meditation on the importance of freedom turns out to be sponsored by condom manufacturer Trojans.

  • This is the more frequently repeated Trojans commercial parody this year; I’m not sure if this is spoofing a specific ad like the other Trojans spoof was. This one works a little better than the other commercial, which was a little too tied to the source material.

  • Rerun alterations: None

** 1/2


  • Tommy Flanagan (Jon Lovitz) and similarly-untruthful brother Earl (Tom Hanks) visit their trusting mom (Nora Dunn) for the holidays.

  • I liked this one a little better than the previous Liar sketch: you get the one-upmanship between Lovitz and Hanks (who work pretty well together), as well as Dunn serving as a good foil for the two with her taking their obvious fibs at face-value (I especially liked her believing Lovitz was a part-time pagan god).

  • The mention of Pathological Liars Anonymous got a small bit of recognition applause, but it’s early enough in the character’s run that it’s not quite recognized as a major character.

  • I love Hanks’ delivery of “YOU STINKIN’ LIE!” when he and Lovitz don’t believe the neighbor kid (Robert Downey Jr.) started working at the gas station.

  • Addendum (01/20/19): Written by Jon Lovitz and A. Whitney Brown.

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.

*** 1/2


  • Pat (Nora Dunn) gives advice on how to hail a cab; Louis Farrakhan (Damon Wayans) breaks down in tears over accusations of anti-semitism.

  • Another strong outing for Pat Stevens, but this installment is Damon Wayans’ sketch; his impression of Minister Farrakhan is the first guest to really run away with the sketch, and gives a stronger contrast to Dunn’s cluelessness.

  • Like the Liar, Pat Stevens makes her third appearance in five shows. This sketch feels more like the Stevens sketches to follow; there’s a revised opening narration from Mark McKinney (which no longer introduces her as a “beauty culturalist”), and this is the first one to have Pat interview a public figure.

  • Rerun alterations: Moderate audience sweetening.

*** 1/2


  • Sade Adu sings a restrainedly intense version of the lead-off track from her band’s Promise album; this torch song lasts for about six minutes, includes solos from Andrew Hale on keyboards and Stewart Matthewman on saxophone, and a false-start ending. A candidate for one of the top performances of the season.


  • Best jokes: Sardi’s, Nostradamus, Clue

  • No guest commentaries this week, though Dennis Miller has a prop bit where he attempts to explain GE’s purchase of RCA with a toy fridge, a toy dog and the NBC peacock logo (he comments “I’m lost in the world of high finance” after he can’t get both the dog and peacock in the fridge). He also has another Dennis Miller’s Sports Fantasy, this time with an older man’s dream of being a boxing referee meeting an unfortunate end; it’s pretty much the same joke as the last one, but I liked Miller’s outro on this one a little better (offering to go “halfers” on a CAT scan and remarking the guy who had a fantasy is still “a complete pine cone”).

  • Getty Images shows a desk piece with Don Novello as Pope Maurice that was cut after dress rehearsal; I’m guessing this was integrated into Teri Garr’s monologue next week.

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.



  • On their anniversary, Steve (Tom Hanks) admits to wife Molly (Joan Cusack) that he has a particularly detailed fantasy about what life would be like after she dies.

  • This was great, and the best live sketch of the season so far; a large part of the credit goes to Hanks, who can somehow play an awful character like this and still be quite funny. Cusack also does well here, with her character’s growing horror at how involved her husband is in this fantasy of his.

  • For some reason I also really liked Terry Sweeney’s broad reaction to accidentally stabbing Cusack (“I’m sorry, it’s my first night!”); I thought it helped keep the ending from being too dark.

  • Written by Carol Leifer and Al Franken; in Live From New York, Leifer recalls this piece being cut after read-through with every other male host until Hanks came along.

  • Rerun alterations: None

**** 1/2


  • Backstage, stand-up comics Paul (Tom Hanks), Bob (Jon Lovitz) and Keith (Damon Wayans) make observational jokes.

  • Funny sketch overall, with a good job by Hanks, Lovitz and Wayans at keeping the Jerry Seinfeld-style observational joke delivery all through the sketch, but I have to wonder how this would have played back then when the Seinfeld delivery wasn’t quite as universally recognizable as it is today.

  • Some of the fun in this sketch comes from looking at all the well-known headliners on the posters (which appear to be very thinly disguised Caroline’s posters).

  • Written by Robert Smigel

  • Rerun alterations: None



  • Steven Wright does more surrealistic one-liners and sings about his girlfriend Rachel.

  • Best jokes: Go to sleep, candle shop, mini golf pencils, poison ivy on the brain

  • Pretty much the same dependable Steven Wright stand-up; not his best, but he does switch it up here with the guitar and bits about his girlfriend.

  • Rerun alterations: None



  • On a break from Christmas shopping, mothers (Nora Dunn and Joan Cusack) commiserate about their kids and the crowds.

  • Not really heavy on laughs, but this feels like another one of those slice-of-life pieces the show used to do in the early years of the show. Dunn’s characterization is particularly good.

  • Writer Carol Leifer has a small speaking role as the waitress at the end of the sketch.

  • Addendum (01/20/19): Written by A. Whitney Brown.

  • Rerun alterations: Excluded from the repeat version of the show.



  • Sade play Promise’s first single, which would be a major hit for the band; Stewart Matthewman’s guitar riff is more prominent here than it is on the album.

  • Sade Adu can be seen wiping her teeth playfully during one of the instrumental breaks; it looks like she had lipstick or something else on her teeth during the closeups during “Is It a Crime”.

  • Rerun alterations: Some possible remixing; the bass and drums are less prominent in the rerun version (my original airing doesn’t have the best audio so it’s hard to tell).


  • Poor fishermen Tomaso (Tom Hanks) and Mateo (Randy Quaid) curse their lives as “husbands to the sea” until they catch a treasure chest full of jewels.

  • A comparatively weaker sketch, though there are some funny moments (Hanks thinking the guitar he pulls in is the sea mocking his lack of musical inclination), and the gaffe with Quaid’s fake mustache coming loose after he and Hanks get splashed with water repeatedly provides some unintentional laughs (which Quaid plays off nicely).

  • Written by Mark McKinney.

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.



  • Hanks and Quaid are still toweling off fro the last sketch. The goodnights cut off at the Eaves-Brooks money credit in the live show, but as the band plays, Dennis Miller can be seen playing air guitar and Hanks chats with Terry Sweeney.

  • Rerun alterations: Hanks' first “Goodnight!” before the camera turns on is removed.

Final Thoughts: Another fairly solid show; Tom Hanks wasn’t quite at the level he would be once he became the show’s go-to repeat host in the second golden age, but it already seems apparent that he fits right in with the show and delivers on anything he’s given. The first half of the show is particularly strong; it’s a still little reliant on recurring characters and things peter out a little towards the very end of the night, but it’s becoming clear that Nora Dunn and Jon Lovitz are sneaking up on the more recognizable names as the show’s go-to performers.


  • Fantasy

  • The Pat Stevens Show

  • Liars at Home

  • Monologue

  • Entertainment Tonight


  • Fishermen


  • Tom Hanks



  • Joan Cusack: 3 appearances [Entertainment Tonight, Fantasy, Holiday Moms]

  • Robert Downey Jr.: 2 appearances [Entertainment Tonight, Liars at Home]

  • Nora Dunn: 5 appearances [Entertainment Tonight, Liars at Home, The Pat Stevens Show, Fantasy, Holiday Moms]

  • Anthony Michael Hall: 1 appearance [Entertainment Tonight]

  • Jon Lovitz: 3 appearances [Entertainment Tonight, Liars at Home, The Stand-Ups]

  • Dennis Miller: 1 appearance [Weekend Update]

  • Randy Quaid: 2 appearances [Entertainment Tonight, Fishermen]

  • Terry Sweeney: 2 appearances [Entertainment Tonight (2 roles), Fantasy]

  • Danitra Vance: 1 appearance [Entertainment Tonight]

featured players

  • Damon Wayans: 2 appearances [The Pat Stevens Show, The Stand-Ups]

unbilled crew, extras, and bit players

  • A. Whitney Brown: 1 appearance [Fantasy]

  • Lanier Laney: 1 appearance [Fantasy]

  • Carol Leifer: 1 appearance [Holiday Moms]

  • Mark McKinney: 1 voice-over [The Pat Stevens Show]

  • Evie Murray: 2 appearances [Monologue, Fantasy]

  • Nils Nichols: 1 appearance [Fantasy]

  • Susy Schneider: 1 appearance [Fantasy]


  • Tom Hanks: 6 appearances [Entertainment Tonight, Monologue, Liars at Home, Fantasy, The Stand-Ups, Fishermen]

  • Sade: 2 appearances [“Is It A Crime”, “The Sweetest Taboo”]

  • Steven Wright: 1 appearance [Guest Performance]


  • March 29, 1986

Known alterations:

  • Holiday Moms removed

  • Critic (from 11/09/85) added

  • Audience sweetening:

    • Minimal to mild: Entertainment Tonight, Liars at Home, Weekend Update, Fishermen

    • Moderate: The Pat Stevens Show

  • Edits: Entertainment Tonight, Goodnights

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.