Host: Lily Tomlin
Musical Guest: None
Cast: Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner – i.e. the “Not Ready For Primetime Players”
Lily Tomlin, the second hostess, proves to be the funniest of the hosts so far. First off, she is game for most of the absurdity and crazy sketch comedy that is developing over this first season. Second, she brings her own spin to the proceedings. Every appearance by her in a sketch was great. The most successful sketches featuring mostly her include “St. James Infirmary,” where she sang with Howard Shore (the SNL band leader at the time) and his “All Nurse Band;” the pre-taped “Edith Ann Skates,” where her trademark character Edith Ann, an adult sized child, learns to ice skate; and the “Hard Hats” sketch, where she teaches female construction workers to objectify men (as it usually goes the other way around), with Dan Aykroyd playing the object.
The “Beethoven” sketches. This is a famous series of recurring sketches in which John Belushi plays the otherwise deaf and work-obsessed composer who fails to eat the food brought to him by his wife, played by Gilda Radner, and his maid, played by Laraine Newman. He is first seen noodling on the piano with some famous strains of Beethoven classics, only to morph into rock ‘n’ roll interpretations, culminating in the third spot with a fairly accurate impression of Ray Charles singing “What’d I Say,” the ladies singing backup.
The “Jaws III” sketch. In this episode’s chapter, the Land Shark, played by Chevy Chase, masterminds quite a lot of murder, even going so far as to take over Don Pardo’s microphone and advising Lily Tomlin and John Belushi (as the Richard Dreyfuss equivalent) to stop the sketch because it’s running long, only for the shark to eat Lily in the end. The shark still looks fake, though.
Chevy Chase’s Weekend Update was funny and featured another hard of hearing interpretation by Garrett Morris, but the best part was Chevy steeling himself against breaking before starting the bit.
Jim Henson’s Muppets in “The Land of Gorch” sketch. This episode’s topic explored one of the Muppets’ crush on Lily Tomlin, which resulted in a singing duet between the two of them, a la the Muppet Show (which hadn’t premiered yet). The puppet in question looks a lot like a Skeksis from The Dark Crystal, which had not been released yet. The point is, lots of possible inspiration started in Studio 8H.
The Bees, namely Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Chevy Chase, and Gilda Radner, finished the show by scatting to wish Lily Tomlin goodnight at the end of the episode. They sure did love the bees, eh?
Less Successful Moments
Apparently, Albert Brooks’ first film, “The Impossible Truth,” which played during the first episode, was popular enough to warrant replaying it in this episode. I skipped it.
The “Bell-Hop” sketch. This featured Chevy Chase as a clumsy bell-hop interrupting Jane Curtin and Garrett Morris making out in a hotel room. All he had was newspapers, which he kept dropping, and it just felt long. He should have carried and dropped more things if the point was to play on being excruciatingly awkward as a joke, but forty years’ hindsight is twenty (plus) twenty.
They recycled many fake commercials from episode to episode while introducing new fake commercials. Unfortunately, all of the fake commercials fell flat in this episode.
Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players
(1st) Chevy Chase, for his frequently used and tweaked not so good impression of then President Ford, such as in the “Oval Office” cold open; for his savvy Land Shark in the “Jaws III” sketch; for his ability to keep a straight face during the hard of hearing interpretation during Weekend Update; and for his surprising ability to scat as a bee, never mind the bumbling Bell-Hop (which was really the not so good impression of President Ford all over again, if you think about it).
(2nd) John Belushi, for his rockin’ Beethoven and for his put-upon Jaws III contribution, as well as for surviving the sketch as the only non-eaten actor.
(3rd) Gilda Radner and Laraine Newman (tie), for being great backup singers, land shark victims, and bee scatters as well as truly appalling female construction workers.