Classic SNL Review: April 19, 1986: Tony Danza / Laurie Anderson (S11E15)

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


  • Randy Quaid tells a story about a Vietnam soldier to dissuade naively gung-ho Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey Jr. from going to Libya.

  • As much of the cast’s inability to gel was a problem this season, the age gap between the cast’s oldest and youngest members was actually put to good use here. There were a few good laughs from Hall and Downey’s knowledge of Vietnam coming mainly from movies, Quaid exaggeratedly throwing them over the bench, and the twist of his story just being a screenplay.

  • Rerun alterations: Moderate audience sweetening



  • Rerun alterations: The audience noises are very noticeably sweetened here; in the live show, the applause is pretty much at a consistent volume throughout, but the rerun has additional cheers and applause inserted after Don Pardo announces every cast member.


  • Tony Danza tap-dances as the SNL Band plays “42nd Street”, and tells jokes about his big family, his upcoming marriage, and his boxing career.

  • This is a little unfocused and Danza’s jokes are pretty corny (and he tends to say “know what I mean” a lot), but it does have a relaxed and easygoing charm to the whole thing..

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening



  • Cliff Robertson (Randy Quaid) demonstrates how AT&T’s phone replacement program comes in handy after he destroys his over losing a part to Robert Stack.

  • Some funny moments including Robertson begging his agent to get him work “besides these phone commercials”, and the violent freak-out was well done, but I thought the denouement felt a little too drawn-out.

  • This sketch is cut from the repeat version. I’m not sure whether AT&T or Robertson objected to this sketch (AT&T was a regular SNL advertiser at this time), but this was likely just cut due to the show running over time in the live broadcast.



  • Nancy Reagan (Terry Sweeney) shows her secret new personal trainer (Tony Danza) how she keeps in shape.

  • A fun sketch with some good physical comedy from Terry Sweeney, from Nancy’s walk as she tries to decide where to put a vase (before throwing it), to the fast-paced “warmup”, and the visual of the First Lady carrying Tony Danza on her shoulder.

  • This ends up being the final aired appearance of Sweeney’s Nancy Reagan impression; a dress rehearsal sketch cut from the Catherine Oxenberg and Paul Simon show (“Deaver”) appeared on the now-defunct Yahoo! Screen several years ago but can no longer be found.

  • Rerun alterations: The beginning of the sketch up to Danza’s entrance is from dress rehearsal: the dialogue has some minor differences, Joan Cusack’s hair is down as opposed to up in the live show, and her line delivery is a little better. Heavy audience sweetening.



  • Laurie Anderson and her band dance onto the stage to perform a song Anderson wouldn’t release until three years later on Strange Angels (Anderson’s soundtrack to her Home of the Brave film would be released the month after this appearance). This has an interesting mix of horns and synthesizers, as well as some animated sheep appearing on the backdrop via Chromakey.

  • Rerun alterations: Some remixing.


  • Lyndon LaRouche (Randy Quaid) presents a dramatization of his conspiracy theory about Henry Kissinger (Al Franken) and his gay lover (Tony Danza) conspiring with Queen Elizabeth (Joan Cusack) to smuggle heroin into the United States.

  • One of the funnier sketches of the season, with Quaid’s LaRouche mixing pejorative and pettiness in his introduction (“The villainous and also unattractive Queen Elizabeth”), as well as the gleeful silliness of the dramatization itself, featuring the return of Al Franken’s Kissinger impression. Cusack and Danza are also pretty good here; the latter really seems to be having fun.

  • Jon Lovitz’s Prince Charles, this time portrayed as a cheerful and childlike idiot, made me laugh, particularly how he believes his mother when she tells him that the suitcase of heroin actually contains a tarantula.

  • Written by Al Franken and Tom Davis.

  • Rerun alterations: Moderate audience sweetening.



  • Best jokes: Country Music Awards, tap water

  • This week’s WU feels a little shorter and lighter on jokes than normal. or at least they don’t stand out as much as the ones in the last few editions. There are a few references to that week’s bombing of Libya.

  • The Weekend Update Dancers are back to demonstrate what the IRS does to the country at tax time, with one dancer dressed as Uncle Sam taking the shirts off the others’ backs to reveal “1040”-embossed leotards.

  • Babette (Nora Dunn) also returns to discuss France refusing to allow the United State to use their airspace in the bombing and demonstrates a hypothetical sexually-charged conversation between the two countries. This was a much more memorable piece than Babette’s first appearance, and Dunn does a great job with it.

  • A few more silly visual jokes this week too, with Rock-em Sock-em Robots appearing in unscrambled footage of the “mechanical” Spinks-Holmes fight, and Dennis Miller showing his unique talent of holding a 45 rpm single with his lips.

  • Rerun alterations: Heavy audience sweetening. Crowd noises and TV static sound effects added to “Spinks-Holmes fight”.



  • Vinnie Barber (Jon Lovitz) reports as the New Jersey Boxing Commission’s new 30-second count rule prolongs a lopsided match.

  • A strong premise, which seems tailor-made for Danza, and there are some funny moments from the abuse Hall takes (as well as his dazed reaction throughout the sketch) and Lovitz’s attempts to fill time as the count goes on. Something about this sketch reminds me of something the show would have done in the early years.

  • There’s some very nice hand-held camera work in this sketch; as well, interesting casting with Terry Sweeney as the referee. I wonder if he could have pulled off some more gruff roles on the show.

  • Is that one of the Weekend Update Dancers playing the other fan with Danitra Vance?

  • Rerun alterations: Moderate audience sweetening.



  • Penn & Teller perform their version of “sawing a woman in half” with their assistant Kimberly, a snake.

  • A really quick routine and a slight improvement over the last Penn & Teller appearance, thanks to some pre-trick patter about their total lack of respect for humanity and the tricks other magicians inflict on beautiful women, as well as the memorable visual of the actual trick itself (as well as the sound of the audience’s horrified reaction).

  • Rerun alterations: Mild to moderate audience sweetening.

*** 1/2


  • Golfers trash-talk their opponents, professional wrestling style.

  • There are funny moments, but this was a little repetitive, and like the AT&T commercial, could have used a bit trimming (Hall and Downey’s performances fit the sketch but felt superflouous).

  • Who’s doing the voice-over at the beginning and end? It doesn’t sound like anyone I recognize.

  • Rerun alterations: Moderate audience sweetening.

** 1/2


  • In bed, Kathy (Joan Cusack) asks questions to check whether her husband (Tony Danza) truly loves her unconditionally.

  • A nice, simple, well-acted and well-written sketch; in a year where the writers seemed to be going for more conceptual pieces, this feels like a throwback to something the show would have done in the early seasons. Good performances from Danza and especially Cusack.

  • Written by Robert Smigel and Bruce McCulloch.

  • Rerun alterations: Moderate audience sweetening.

*** 1/2


  • Master Thespian (Jon Lovitz) recalls the time he performed Hamlet for the Queen and acted his way out of a battle with her guards.

  • A short one-man piece; it feels a little like it’s missing something without Lovitz having a scene partner to do battle with, but there are some very funny details in his story, including his miming somehow killing several soldiers.

  • The line about Schwarzenegger being one of the greats that Master Thespian taught was already used in the Wendt/Coppola show, though at least this one improves on the joke by saying his muscles were all “acting!”

  • Written by Jon Lovitz and A. Whitney Brown

  • Rerun alterations: Moderate audience sweetening.



  • Another future Strange Angels track, this has Anderson speak-singing with an electronically-distorted voice on the verses, and going into the audience to hand out presents during the coda.

  • Rerun alterations: Some remixing.


  • At Dad’s Bar’s open mic night, Salena (Joan Cusack) and a bartender (Tony Danza) encourage Biff (Jon Lovitz) to overcome his nerves and perform his song about “Butt Dancing”.

  • An improvement over the previous Biff and Salena sketch in the Leno show. Part of it’s due to the other things going on in the sketch (including Danitra Vance’s hastily-written “You Get On My Nerves” singalong), and the “Butt Dancing” song is fun (especially when Danza is doing the dance on the top of the bar), but the tone of this sketch also works better for these characters.

  • Robert Downey Jr.’s dancing in the background as Lovitz and Cusack are at the bar makes me laugh.

  • Are those the Weekend Update Dancers as some of the extras?

  • Rerun alterations: Heavy audience sweetening. A few seconds of dead air edited out during the establishing shot of the bar. The dialogue is clearer as the band plays in the background.



  • Tony Danza thanks everyone and says goodnight to his son before adding a Liar-style “Yeah, yeah, that’s it.”

  • Rerun alterations: Laughter added after Tony Danza’s “Yeah, yeah, that’s it.”

Final thoughts: A consistently solid if unremarkable show. Tony Danza isn’t the world’s most versatile actor, but he fit right into many of tonight’s sketches and worked well with the cast; and that gave the show a fun and relaxed vibe. A lot of the show was also surprisingly good, with the weak points mainly coming from sketches that could have used a little trimming. I also enjoyed the Laurie Anderson performances, which brought a performance art element not usually seen in SNL musical guests.


  • Lyndon LaRouche Theatre

  • Love Scene

  • Guest Performance


  • none


  • (tie) Randy Quaid / Jon Lovitz



  • Joan Cusack: 4 appearances [Nancy’s Workout, Lyndon LaRouche Theatre, Love Scene, The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena]

  • Robert Downey Jr.: 4 appearances [Vietnam Story, Nancy’s Workout, Big Time Professional Golf, The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena]

  • Nora Dunn: 3 appearances [AT&T, Weekend Update, 30 Second Count]

  • Anthony Michael Hall: 3 appearances [Vietnam Story, 30 Second Count, Big Time Professional Golf]

  • Jon Lovitz: 5 appearances [Lyndon LaRouche Theatre, 30 Second Count, Big Time Professional Golf, The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena]

  • Dennis Miller: 2 appearances [Nancy’s Workout, Weekend Update]

  • Randy Quaid: 5 appearances [Vietnam Story, AT&T, Lyndon LaRouche Theatre, 30 Second Count, Big Time Professional Golf]

  • Terry Sweeney: 2 appearances [Nancy’s Workout, 30 Second Count]

  • Danitra Vance: 2 appearance [30 Second Count, The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena]

unbilled crew, extras and bit players

  • Tom Davis: 1 voice-over [Big Time Professional Golf]

  • Al Franken: 1 appearance [Lyndon LaRouche Theatre]

  • Cheryl Hardwick: 1 appearance [The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena]

  • Lanier Laney: 1 appearance [The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena]

  • Andy Murphy: 1 appearance [30 Second Count]

  • Nils Nichols: 2 appearances [30 Second Count, The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena]

  • Don Pardo: 3 voice-overs [AT&T, Master Thespian, The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena]

  • Chris Parker: 1 appearance [The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena]

  • Lenny Pickett: 1 appearance [The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena]

  • G.E. Smith: 1 appearance [The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena]

  • T-Bone Wolk: 1 appearance [The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena]


  • Tony Danza: 7 appearances [Monologue, Nancy’s Workout, Lyndon LaRouche Theatre, 30 Second Count, Big Time Professional Golf, Love Scene, The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena]

  • Laurie Anderson: 2 appearances [“Baby Doll”, “Day The Devil”]

  • Penn & Teller: 1 appearance [Guest Performance]


  • June 14, 1986

Known alterations:

  • AT&T removed

  • Wacky Glue (from 11/16/85) added

  • Audience sweetening:

    • None to mild: Monologue

    • Moderate: Vietnam Story, Lyndon LaRouche Theatre, 30 Second Count, Guest Performance, Big Time Professional Golf, Love Scene, Master Thespian

    • Heavy: Nancy’s Workout, Weekend Update, The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena

  • Edits: The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena

  • Dress substitutions: Nancy’s Workout (first segment)

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.