Classic SNL Review: May 24, 1986: Anjelica Huston & Billy Martin / George Clinton & The Parliament Funkadelic (S11E18)

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


  • In West Texas, the homelessness fundraiser blocks one-legged runner Kevin Brennan’s (Randy Quaid) northward run for his own campaign.

  • Some small laughs here and there, including Nora Dunn warning of the pickpockets working the line and the repeated “Those bums?” when someone is told what the fundraiser is for, but this felt a little too dashed-off, and the main punchline just segues awkwardly into the “Live From New York…”

  • Rerun alterations: A few seconds are cut with Quaid hopping offscreen.



  • Al Franken is credited as a featured player for the only time this season, while Don Novello is credited in character as Father Guido Sarducci.

  • Rerun alterations: Audience applause (and clapping to the beat of the theme) replaced with the hoot-and-holler track.


  • As Anjelica Huston does her monologue, Billy Martin tries to convince Anthony Michael Hall and Mephistopheles (Jon Lovitz) he’s no longer the hot-tempered, hard-drinking man he used to be.

  • This mainly serves to set up tonight’s runner with Billy Martin; Huston wasn’t bad on the stage, but to be honest, it could have been anyone else up there in her place (cheesy self-deprecating Oscar curse joke aside). It picks up once they start making fun of Martin’s reputation and Lovitz makes his entrance.

  • Anthony Michael Hall’s appearance was particularly rough; what could have been an amusing bit with Reggie Jackson’s ball was undermined by his screwing up his line (“My business manor”) and constant coughing/throat-clearing.

  • The ending felt a little awkward, as if someone missed a line on the cue card.

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.



  • Ed McMahon (Randy Quaid) hosts the award show that fetes the slightly less popular.

  • Pretty much a one-joke bit (and mostly just a crawl of names), but a few of the guests made me laugh; the sponsors were a little funnier (particularly “big boned girls who don’t speak much at first”).

  • Written by Robert Smigel and Bruce McCulloch.

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening



  • Family members get lost in thought about their lives around the breakfast table.

  • A somewhat funny premise with decent performances and a good structure (introspective thought followed by mundane detail like ironed shirts or car keys), but it doesn’t really develop enough to take off.

  • Who’s doing the dog’s “voice” at the end?

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.

** 1/2


  • Lorne Michaels presents a sketch pulled from last week’s show for excessively glamorizing drinking. A spokesman (Randy Quaid) from the National Council of Liquor and Spirits has a rebuttal.

  • Billy Martin’s not the strongest actor in the world, but I thought he worked well in the context of the sketch, and I got a lot of enjoyment out of deliberately bad and on-point dialogue (“You sure drink and drink like a glamorous role model”). Quaid’s “equal time” scene gave this a boost.

  • Anjelica Huston starts to read one of Martin’s lines off the cue cards by mistake at one point.

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.



  • Jimmy Chance (Robert Downey Jr.) and Ashley Ashley (Nora Dunn) lavish praise on Top Gun.

  • As much as I wish they found a better way to use the characters, this was a step up from the slightly underwhelming installment in the Oprah Winfrey show. Both Dunn and Downey had some good lines, but once again Downey steals the sketch with yet another deluded story of his so-called acting career.

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.



  • Maerose Prizzi (Anjelica Huston) reads examples from Hallmark’s new Organized Crime line of cards.

  • The jokes felt a little obvious, but there were some funny lines in the cards (“Heard you were moving - - Smart.”). Huston’s performance is a little rough here, though, and at one point she grabs and reads the wrong card (She starts to read “Sorry I put the zotz on your husband” a second time before realizing her mistake).

  • Addendum [08/19/19]: Written by Carol Leifer

  • Rerun alterations: Replaced with the dress rehearsal version where Huston doesn’t grab the wrong card; there is a joke about a “bodyguard” selection that’s not in the live show.

** 1/2 for live, *** for dress


  • George Clinton and band do a medley of three songs from their 1970s funk heyday, with a guest appearance by Thomas Dolby; according to this post, Clinton calling Dolby from the audience was a way to get around a union rule that wouldn’t let him appear officially. Unfortunately, the huge number of performers in the P-Funk sound doesn’t really mix well with SNL’s notoriously dodgy sound mix, at least in the live show.

  • I’m not sure who the full P-Funk lineup is here; I know Garry “Diaper Man” Shider (guitar), Rodney “Skeet” Curtis (bass) and Dennis Chambers (drums) are in the group, and I think Eddie Hazel is one of the other guitar players.

  • Rerun alterations: Audio noticeably remixed; the band sounds much less cacophonous in the repeat version.


  • Best jokes: Larry Mondello/Roger Ebert

  • Al Franken makes his first appearance at the WU desk since the 1980-81 finale to give an update on The Al Franken Decade, plug his upcoming movie One More Saturday Night, and urge Sacramento-area viewers to attend the test screening. Franken’s return, complete with the running gag with his name appearing on screen every time he says his name, was welcome, and the bit with the censored pictures of his kids Thomasin and Joe was pretty funny.

  • A. Whitney Brown’s Big Picture commentary focuses on the poorly educated yet patriotic Class of ‘86, with some great digs at USA Today and Denny’s, some predictions about how many future lawyers and white collar felons are in the group, and a cutting comparison of teachers to prison guards.

  • The Weekend Update Dancers make their final appearance with a preview of the Statue of Liberty centenary celebrations, featuring Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) reading from Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus”. This whole thing has a much sillier vibe than the other Update Dancers routines, and is considerably more fun.

  • Dennis Miller’s jokes weren’t quite as good this week, but he does end the season with a fun audience participation knock-knock joke.

  • Rerun alterations: Moderate audience sweetening.



  • A lesbian (Nora Dunn) walks off with a woman (Joan Cusack) waiting for her fiance (Robert Downey Jr.) at a bar.

  • Nora Dunn, who’s essentially doing an early version of her Dr. Norma Hoeffering character from next season, is very good here, and her rapid-fire responses to Cusack’s assertions of heterosexuality are hilarious (“I like men.” “Why?”|.

  • The ending with the bartender (Anjelica Huston) agreeing to marry Downey despite her own lesbianism was random enough to work, but it also felt a little like they had trouble writing their way out of the sketch.

  • The bar set is reused from Glamorous Drinking earlier in the show.

  • Rerun alterations: Moderate audience sweetening. A few seconds cut after Downey says “We were supposed to get married”.



  • Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) has a new video demonstrating his many techniques for the simple sport.

  • There are a few funny details (the absurdly long list of “techniques”) and this was nicely produced, but it’s very fillerish.

  • Written by Don Novello

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.



  • Mephistopheles (Jon Lovitz) sows doubt in Billy Martin and tempts him with alcohol.

  • The runner for tonight’s show continues, with some funny digs at Martin’s numerous firings over the years, as well as the first instance of Lovitz switching up his characters when he slips into a Tommy Flanagan voice as Mephistopheles lies about who planted the pint of bourbon in Martin’s locker (complete with a nice callback to Glamorous Drinking).

  • It felt like something went wrong with the ending, with either Martin or Anthony Michael Hall missing a cue or line.

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.

*** 1/2


  • Damon Wayans does stand-up about racism and how his club foot helped him win during games of The Dozens.

  • It’s ironic that Damon Wayans’ best showcase on SNL came after Lorne Michaels fired him; he has quite a number of good jokes here and gets a workout with a the different character voices he does throughout.

  • Rerun alterations: Moderate audience sweetening. N-word muted out of “Heimlich N***er Maneuver” joke in West Coast and rerun airings. “He must be in a gang or something” line and the whole “handicapped bullies” segment removed from repeats.



  • Aquanetta Feinstein (Danitra Vance) reads from her new book of nursery rhymes adapted for the inner city.

  • Vance imports another one of her stage characters for this short but strong piece with more realistic endings to familiar nursery rhymes (“Jack fell down and broke his crown, and we laaaaaaughed! Ha HA!”)

  • Written by Carol Leifer and Robert Smigel.

  • Rerun alterations: Replaced with the dress rehearsal version; minor differences in the voice-overs, set, and Vance’s delivery (including Vance ad-libbing that the girl on the cover of the book “should look like me”).

*** 1/2 (both versions)


  • Patti LaBelle (Terry Sweeney) and her aunt (Danitra Vance) annoy other moviegoers.

  • This was just embarrassing; even without the whole blackface angle, this was just an irritating sketch based on the cliche of black people talking loud at the theater, but the makeup job on Sweeney alone brings this to a whole level of offensiveness, and as much as Sweeney’s drag performances brought laughs to otherwise weak sketches, this was just a bad idea to begin with. It’s also such a shame to see Danitra Vance lowered to the indignity of appearing in this sketch.

  • Rerun alterations: Moderate audience sweetening.



  • Tracey (Joan Cusack) tells her friend Dana (Danitra Vance) about the wisdom of her friend, who turns out to be Colonel Sanders (Billy Martin). Lorne Michaels fires Billy when his drunkenness derails the sketch.

  • This wasn’t bad for a sketch whose main purpose was to be derailed to continue the runner, though I found Cusack was overdoing her dreamy delivery when she was talking reverently about her unseen “friend” she talks to every day.

  • Lovitz’s cough during the maniacal laughter at the end felt forced and wasn’t necessary, especially since they already had him using an inhaler in the Backstage scene.

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.



  • Clinton and the Parliament-Funkadelic return to play a medley of his current single (from R&B Skeletons in the Closet) and the title track from Funkadelic’s 1974 album Standing on the Verge of Getting It On. Clinton’s voice is shot and he has to speak-sing the first voice, though he does seem to rally for the end when he goes off the front of the stage and screams before the “Get live, get Saturday Night Live” ending.

  • Anjelica Huston is wearing a Ralph Sampson jersey during her introduction; Sampson’s buzzer-beater shot that won the Houston Rockets the NBA Western Conference championship happened three days before this show aired.

  • Rerun alterations: The whole performance, including Huston’s intro is replaced with the dress rehearsal version; Clinton’s voice is better, but instead of stepping off stage he tells the audience to “put your hands on your television sets”


  • After being fired, Billy Martin decides to take the cast with him by setting their locker room party on fire.

  • The best part of the night, and a good way to end both the runner and this troubled season, with Michaels realizing that if Martin takes the cast down, “they won’t be able to do the show” before only rescuing Lovitz and sending the preppy writer extras from Wendt/Coppola into the room.

  • Written by Robert Smigel and Bruce McCulloch

  • Rerun alterations: Replaced with the dress rehearsal version, as the live show has a few technical issues (the smoke machine starts up before Martin actually “pours gasoline”; there is a folding chair visible in the crudely green-screened flames). Michaels’ delivery of “They won’t be able to do the show” is also much funnier in dress.

**** 1/2 live, ***** dress


  • A soot-covered Billy Martin joins Anjelica Huston, George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic on home base as the locker room fills with smoke. The show goes out with a cliffhanger, with question marks beside every name in the credits.

  • Don Pardo announces this has been the last show of the season, and expresses that he hopes he’s here when the show returns on October 11th.

  • Rerun alterations: The home base segment replaced with dress rehearsal because the still-mic’ed Billy Martin’s footsteps interrupt Huston as she tries to close the show, leading her to jokingly mime a “cut” gesture; as well, there are some edits to the locker room scene to remove Hall hamming it up before the credits scroll.

Final thoughts:

Another fairly uneven show. On the upside, the runner was consistently entertaining and led up to one of the defining moments of this season, and Damon Wayans finally gets his moment to shine. On the other hand, the show started off slowly, and one of the most painfully bad sketches of the entire year turns up in the back half of the show. I’m also mixed on the hosts: neither Anjelica Huston nor Billy Martin were particularly great, though at least Martin’s runner let him poke fun at himself and gave him something to do; it felt like the writers had more trouble coming up with stuff for Huston to do. George Clinton’s performances did give tonight more of a party atmosphere, though, even if they were marred somewhat by dodgy mixing and Clinton not being in the best shape vocally by the time of the air show.


  • Fire

  • Guest Performance

  • Book Minute

  • Backstage


  • Movie Theatre

  • The People’s Second Choice Awards

  • Hands Across America

  • Bocce Ball My Way


  • (tie) Jon Lovitz/Nora Dunn



  • Joan Cusack: 6 appearances [Hands Across America, Moments of Doubt, Glamorous Drinking, Lesbian Pick-Ups, My Friend, Fire]

  • Robert Downey Jr.: 5 appearances [Hands Across America, Actors on Film, Lesbian Pick-Ups, Movie Theatre, Fire]

  • Nora Dunn: 4 appearances [Hands Across America, Actors on Film, Lesbian Pick-Ups, Fire]

  • Anthony Michael Hall: 3 appearances [Monologue, Backstage, Fire]

  • Jon Lovitz: 5 appearances [Monologue, Glamorous Drinking, Backstage, My Friend, Fire]

  • Dennis Miller: 2 appearances [Weekend Update, Fire]

  • Randy Quaid: 6 appearances [Hands Across America, The People’s Second Choice Awards, Moments of Doubt, Glamorous Drinking, Movie Theatre, Fire]

  • Terry Sweeney: 3 appearances [Hands Across America, Movie Theatre, Fire]

  • Danitra Vance: 6 appearances [Hands Across America, Glamorous Drinking, Book Minute, Movie Theatre, My Friend, Fire]

featured players

  • A. Whitney Brown: 2 appearances [Weekend Update, Movie Theatre, Fire]

  • Al Franken: 2 appearances [Weekend Update, Fire]

  • Don Novello (credited as “Father Guido Sarducci”): 1 appearance [Bocce Ball My Way], 1 voice-over [Weekend Update]

  • Damon Wayans: 2 appearances [Guest Performance, Fire]

unbilled crew, extras and bit players

  • Carol Leifer: 1 appearance [Lesbian Pick-Ups]

  • Mark McKinney: 1 voice-over [Book Minute]

  • Evie Murray: 2 appearances [Lesbian Pick-Ups, Movie Theatre]

  • Don Pardo: 4 voice-overs [The People’s Second Choice Awards, Glamorous Drinking, Actors on Film, Bocce Ball My Way]


  • Anjelica Huston: 7 appearances [Monologue, Moments of Doubt, Glamorous Drinking, Mafia Greeting Cards, Lesbian Pick-Ups, Movie Theatre, Fire]

  • Billy Martin: 6 appearances [Hands Across America, Monologue, Glamorous Drinking, Backstage, My Friend, Fire]

  • George Clinton & The Parliament Funkadelic 3 appearances [“Let’s Take It To The Stage/Up For The Downstroke/I Call My Baby Pussycat”, “Do Fries Go With That Shake/Standing On The Verge of Getting It On”, Fire]

  • Thomas Dolby: 1 appearance [“Let’s Take It To The Stage”]


  • September 20, 1986

Known alterations:

  • Audience sweetening:

    • None to mild: Hands Across America, Monologue, The Peoples’ Second Choice Awards, Glamorous Drinking, Actors on Film, Bocce Ball My Way, Backstage, My Friend

    • Moderate: Weekend Update, Lesbian Pick-Ups, Guest Performance, Movie Theatre

  • Edits: Hands Across America, Lesbian Pick-Ups, Guest Performance, Goodnights

  • Dress Substitutions: Mafia Greeting Cards, Book Minute, “Do Fries Go With That Shake/Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On”, Fire, Goodnights (home base sequence)

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.