Classic SNL Review: May 17, 1986: Jimmy Breslin / Level 42, E.G. Daily (S11E17)

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


  • Dennis Miller reports as Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Anthony Michael Hall weigh in for their upcoming grudge match set up by Hall’s manager Tommy Flanagan (Jon Lovitz).

  • There are some decent things about this. I liked that they had Dennis Miller out from behind the Weekend Update desk here, as well as Hagler’s justification for the fight (all the athletes going into movies, why not let an actor in the ring), and as much as the Liar’s been played out this year, he still gets laughs. Unfortunately, Anthony Michael Hall gives a particularly obnoxious performance here, and seems to blow a cue in the live show (there are a few awkward seconds of dead air after he reveals his bald cap).

  • Hagler stumbles a bit here and there, but for a non-actor he was pretty funny. His mocking gestures as Hall speaks reminded me a bit of Shaquille O’Neal in the Big Bernard sketch 12 years later.

  • Rerun alterations: Hagler’s “Live from New York” is replaced with dress rehearsal, cutting the bit of dead air and Hall’s final line “You know what? You’re not even going to know where you are, champ! Chump!”. The dress footage is also zoomed in slightly to make it look like the cut was a camera switch.

** 1/2


  • I love that instead of getting out of a limo, Jimmy Breslin’s montage photo is of him at a subway turnstile.

  • Because Marvelous Marvin Hagler is credited as tonight’s special guest, Don Pardo announces Sam Kinison as “featuring”.

  • G.E. Smith, T-Bone Wolk and Steve Ferrone are all out this week; John Leventhal, Tony Garnier and Chris Parker sit in.

  • Rerun alterations: Audience cheers are enhances slightly, but not to the same level as in the other reruns from this year.


  • Jimmy Breslin recalls the last time he had to beg for approval and tells how Marvin Throneberry’s incompetence on the baseball diamond led to his writing career.

  • Breslin had won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary the month before; as much as he brings up making enemies and not being liked, he’s actually very engaging and rekatable here, and tells some good stories.

  • Rerun alterations: None.



  • The USS Nautilus has Khadaffi right in its sights, but President Reagan (Randy Quaid) grapples with his conscience over whether to order a strike.

  • A little predictable, but the final appearance of Randy Quaid’s gently befuddled Ronald Reagan impression has some nice touches (the slightly different performances Quaid gives to Reagan, the angel and the devil, as well as the conscience still keeping Reagan’s “Well…” tic); and I liked how both the angel and devil both got confused, leading to Reagan just telling them stories for three hours. The live sketch is marred somewhat by some technical issues with the pretape (at one point Jon Lovitz and Robert Downey stand around for seven or eight seconds before the scene with Reagan’s conscience plays).

  • The gag of Reagan speaking on both phones (third screencap above) was done with Chevy Chase’s Gerald Ford in the first season. Deliberate homage?

  • Rerun alterations: Robert Downey Jr.’s “Yes sir” muted out with music cue before satellite footage. Dead air due to videotape cueing errors removed.



  • Unfazed Lonny (Anthony Michael Hall) and Mr. Stubbs (Randy Quaid) clean up after yet another twister hits the down.

  • This felt very New Show-ish; a decent premise, but not really a whole lot else memorable about it beyond that, unless you count Hall’s awkward looking around (was he looking for the cue cards?). Good performances from Quaid and Nora Dunn, though.

  • Rerun alterations: Moderate audience sweetening.



  • Because he’s running out of opponents, Marvelous Marvin Hagler gives tips on what to do in case you have to fight him.

  • A brief segment that just comes and goes; Hagler stumbles on some of his lines, but this was an OK way to incorporate him into the show. I thought Hagler telling his would-be opponents that twitching would “just scare your friends” was funny.

  • Rerun alterations: None.

** 1/2


  • James Bond’s nemeses Emilio Largo (Randy Quaid), Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Jon Lovitz), and Auric Goldfinger (Jimmy Breslin) discuss their new book.

  • This was fun, and while the deconstruction of the tropes used in the James Bond series feel quaint now, there were still a lot of great details regarding the villains’ constant mistakes dealing with Bond, as well as the importance of an on-site cafeteria and never using your own money. It also helps that they take full advantage of Breslin’s lack of acting skills with the reveal that he was really from Queens but “running away from a lot of things” at the time he was speaking with a German accent.

  • That said, I felt Joan Cusack was miscast; she seemed to be playing a little too big. Again, I can’t help but wonder how it would have played if this were done the next season.

  • Written by George Meyer, possibly with Jack Handey and/or Jim Downey

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.

*** 1/2


  • Level 42 perform an energetic version of the lead single from the World Machine album, the band’s biggest hit in America, augmented by Annie McCaig (vocals) and Krys Mach (saxophone); this performance includes the full intro from the album version.

  • Rerun alterations: Slightly clearer audio mix.


  • Best jokes: Poltergeist II, Jerry Lewis telethon, Cobra, Love Boat cancellation.

  • No guest commentaries this week (though a dress rehearsal picture on GettyImages shows Jimmy Breslin at the desk with Miller), just a few video bits, one with old Western silent films presented as “authentic” Chernobyl footage and the other of Hitler’s photo album (which ends on yet another Kurt Waldheim joke). Miller does have a pretty good hot streak that anticipates the ones in his later seasons behind the desk, though.

    Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.

*** 1/2


  • Renegade cop Dan McCord (Randy Quaid) quits in tears after a chewing-out by the commissioner (Jimmy Breslin).

  • A funny premise, and Quaid carries the sketch well, but the biggest laughs come from Breslin’s inept attempts to console him toward the end, up to and including “playing” guitar and singing “Nowhere Man” (“That’s supposed to make me feel better?” “But that’s the only song I know!”)

  • Who are the two extras playing the other cops besides Downey and Hagler? I think one of them was in the cold opening.

    Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.

*** 1/2


  • Sam Kinison does standup about the Chernobyl meltdown, Libya, and terrorism.

  • I wasn’t too big on this; I give Kinison credit for doing some different material besides his usual “marriage is hell” stuff but a lot of it was jingoistic clapter bait that left a bad taste in my mouth, and he went back to it towards the end. The victory dance to celebrate SNL’s renewal was a nice touch, though.

  • The musical guest stage has already been decorated with the set for the upcoming Assembly sketch.

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.



  • Pat (Nora Dunn) shows exercises you can do while driving; recent Pulitzer Prize winner Jimmy Breslin gets frustrated with her vapidity and walks off the show.

  • A return to form for Pat Stevens in the best sketch featuring her since February; the driving exercises were OK (though I give Dunn credit for pulling the bit off), but the Breslin interview has some very funny moments, particularly Pat thinking Breslin won the Pulitzer Prize for the picture on the cover of his book Table Money, Breslin’s growing annoyance, and Pat’s ignorance (“Poverty is so sad,isn’t it, because there’s nothing we can do about it.”)

  • Written by Nora Dunn

  • Rerun alterations: Breslin’s “for Christ’s sake” muted out.

*** 1/2


  • Cabrini Green Jackson (Danitra Vance) and the Mell-O White Boys promote her new anti-teen pregnancy organization at a high school assembly.

  • Cabrini Green’s final appearance has Vance back in her element, directly addressing the audience instead of being awkwardly shoehorned into a sketch. As usual there are some funny malapropisms (“Did you have an organism?”) and while this wasn’t amazing, it was a good way for the character to go out.

  • The Mell-O White Boys were Vance’s backup singers from her stage show at Casa La Mama; I don’t have identities for any of them. I’m guessing this was a trunk bit from the show.

  • Nora Dunn introduces the sketch still in-character as Pat Stevens; it’s unknown why, but I’m guessing the 90-second turnaround during the station break wasn’t long enough for a quick change.

  • Rerun alterations: Mild audience sweetening.



  • Marvin Hagler’s flight attendant brother Jody (Marvelous Marvin Hagler) wants drunken passengers to stop trying to pick fights with him.

  • I found this a little funnier than the other Hagler message, although I can’t help but wonder if there was supposed to be a third segment that got cut for time.

  • Rerun alterations: None



  • E.G. Daily performs the Madonna-esque lead single from her Wild Child album. Similar to Paul Simon the week before, Daily sings live vocals over a backing track, but instead of a straightforward performance, she does something a lot more fun: acting as a doll in the adult video store window come to life, interacting and dancing with Jon Lovitz’s Biff character, going into the audience and singing to one of the cameraman.

  • Rerun alterations: Slight remixing.


  • E.G. Daily can be heard saying something like “I think I’d be decent for a little one” before Breslin thanks everyone. Kinison and Quaid hold Marvin Hagler’s arms up, and the Mell-O White Boys are on stage with everyone else..

  • Terry Sweeney isn’t on stage, nor was he in tonight’s show.

  • Tim Stack is credited as a guest writer this week.

  • Rerun alterations: A few seconds cut to remove E.G. Daily’s comments at the very beginning.

Final thoughts:

A fun show, if not a great one. Jimmy Breslin was an odd choice for a host, but it seemed like the writers had fun using him in the sketches he appeared in, and the New York audience enjoyed seeing the Daily News columnist there. Marvelous Marvin Hagler wasn’t quite as good, but his appearances were mostly brief, and he did alright in his big sketch appearance (Lone Wolf McCord). Randy Quaid also had a very good night, and his utility work provided a nice counterpoint to Breslin. There were a few weaker bits as usual (some were just weighed down by Hall), but nothing too awful tonight.


  • Midday with Jennifer Hicks

  • The Pat Stevens Show

  • Weekend Update

  • Lone Wolf McCord


  • Tornadoville

  • Guest Performance


  • (tie) Jimmy Breslin/Randy Quaid



  • Joan Cusack: 1 appearance [Midday with Jennifer Hicks]

  • Robert Downey Jr.: 3 appearances [Weigh-In, Reagan’s Command, Lone Wolf McCord]

  • Nora Dunn: 3 appearances [Tornadoville, The Pat Stevens Show, Assembly]

  • Anthony Michael Hall: 2 appearances [Weigh-In, Tornadoville]

  • Jon Lovitz: 5 appearances [Weigh-In, Reagan’s Command, Midday with Jennifer Hicks, Lone Wolf McCord, “Say It, Say It”]

  • Dennis Miller: 2 appearances [Weigh-In, Weekend Update]

  • Randy Quaid: 4 appearances [Reagan’s Command, Tornadoville, Midday with Jennifer Hicks, Lone Wolf McCord]

  • Terry Sweeney: absent

  • Danitra Vance: 1 appearance [Assembly]

unbilled crew, extras and bit players

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

  • Andy Murphy: 1 appearance [Weigh-In]

  • Robert Smigel: 1 appearance [Weigh-In]


  • Jimmy Breslin: 4 appearances [Monologue, Midday with Jennifer Hicks, Lone Wolf McCord, The Pat Stevens Show]

  • Level 42: 1 appearance [“Something About You”]

  • E. G. Daily: 1 appearance [“Say It, Say It”]

  • Marvelous Marvin Hagler: 4 appearances [Weigh-In, A Message from Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Lone Wolf McCord, A Message from Jody Hagler]

  • Sam Kinison: 1 appearance [Guest Performance]

  • The Mell-O White Boys: 1 appearance [Assembly]


  • August 30, 1986

Known alterations:

  • Audience sweetening:

    • None to mild: Weigh-In, Monologue, Reagan’s Command, A Message from Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Midday with Jennifer Hicks, Weekend Update, Lone Wolf McCord, Guest Performance, The Pat Stevens Show, Assembly, A Message from Jody Hagler

    • Moderate: Tornadoville

  • Edits: Weigh-In, Reagan’s Command, The Pat Stevens Show, Goodnights

  • Dress substitutions: Weigh-In (“Live From New York…”)

Additional screen captures from this episode are available here.