Host: Robert Klein
Musical Guests: ABBA and Loudon Wainwright III
Cast: Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner – i.e. the “Not Ready For Primetime Players”
Robert Klein hosted this episode. He is one of those character actors that have appeared in many film and TV projects over the years, so you know his face but can’t place how you know him. I think I know him the best from his appearances on SNL, but I have in my mind that I’ve seen him as grumpy men more often than not.
The “Tough Director” sketch. In this sketch, Klein plays opposite Gilda Radner as a new actress in a Sam Peckinpah movie. John Belushi plays the storied director, who is known for being, well, tough. As poor Gilda’s woebegone actress attempts to deliver her lines, the director frequently cuts her off and delivers his brand of negative reinforcement to elicit a better performance by slapping her, kicking her, dragging her around by her hair, and so on. Gilda’s gift for physical comedy really shines in this sketch.
Chevy Chase’s Weekend Update followed the same pattern as the previous episode, with Dan Aykroyd providing a guest editorial reply, and Chevy mocking him from behind. Sadly, it is less funny the second time.
ABBA, the famous Swedish disco pop act, sang “S.O.S.” and “Waterloo” in this episode, though they were staged aboard the Titanic, with Klein as its captain. The boat sank during Waterloo. I’m with the boat.
Loudon Wainwright III, a folk singer who might better be known to Generations X, Y, and the Millennials as Rufus Wainwright’s dad, sang his brand of manically comedic folk rock in the form of “Bicentennial Uncertainty” and “Unrequited to the Nth Degree.”
The “Exterminators” sketch. In this sketch, John Belushi and Klein play cockroach exterminators, but their demeanor is something more out of Apocalypse Now (which had not yet been released, mind you) than standard bug zapper types, to the extent that such a thing exists. Klein wants to save the cockroaches, while John’s character aims to destroy all cockroaches in the name of his brother, who missed stepping on one and landed his foot in a live electrical wire, electrocuting himself to death. The premise could have potentially failed, but these two guys nailed it.
The “Fireman” sketch. While not uproariously funny, this involved Gilda Radner talking about being one of the guys. So, imagine the comedy.
Jim Henson’s Muppets in “The Land of Gorch” sketch. This episode’s topic explored acupuncture in Muppets. The punchline was the funniest part.
The “Looks at Books” sketch. In this sketch, interviewer Jane Curtin talks with Gilda Radner as “authoress” Emily, who has written a series of children’s books about “Tiny” things. The funniest part of this sketch is that Gilda’s character frequently drifts off, as she lists synonyms for “tiny,” ad nauseum. It’s also funny that her tiny characters (spoilers) do not live happily ever after.
Robert Klein performed a funny blues riff/homage called “I Can’t Stop My Leg.” It’s better to see than for me to describe it.
There is “No Film by Albert Brooks.” Sorry, Albert Brooks, but I was quite relieved at that announcement.
Less Successful Moments
The “Pong” bit. While the mysterious offstage voices, presumably college students with time and brain cells to burn, played Pong better in this episode, the discussion about failing a history exam was not funny. Ever.
Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players
(1st) Gilda Radner, for her roles in the “Tough Director” sketch, the “Fireman” sketch, and the “Looks at Books” sketch. She was definitely the funniest of the episode.
(2nd) John Belushi, for his roles in the “Tough Director” sketch and the “Exterminators” sketch.
(3rd) Laraine Newman, for her hilarious voices used in the “Beauty Pageant” cold open, where she plays a not-bright-sounding model who has just won a beauty pageant but refuses to accept the crown because “no one wears these kinds of things anymore,” and in the “Tough Director” sketch, where she plays the director’s assistant but puts on quite an air for a giggle-worthy twenty seconds.