40 Years of Saturday Night Live! – Season One, Episode Eleven (Dudley Moore & Peter Cook)

Hosts: Dudley Moore and Peter Cook

Musical Guest: Neil Sedaka

Cast: Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner – i.e. the “Not Ready For Primetime Players”

Highlights:

This marks the first episode to be hosted by two personalities, specifically Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, then known, at least across the pond, as the popular hosts of British sketch show Not Only…But Also. Yet, generations following the Baby Boomers may know Peter Cook, particularly, as the Impressive Clergyman in The Princess Bride (“Mawwage.  Mawwage is bwings us togevva today…”).  Dudley Moore was also a film star in his own right, best known for Arthur, among others.

Pop rock singer Neil Sedaka, who has been in and out of the limelight for nearly fifty years, sang his hits “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” and “Lonely Night” on the show during one of his popular periods.

The “Bomb Squad” cold open.  While this mainly involved a bomb specialist, as played by Chevy Chase, falling all over a box allegedly containing said bomb for his “fall of the week,” the end of the sketch found him opening the box only to meet a pie thrust in his face by, who is revealed later to be, John Belushi.  The reason why this sketch is funny is that the pie mostly misses, but for a dab of harmless whipped cream on Chevy’s face, and he very nearly loses it, in a moment of almost breaking, before his weekly announcement of “Live from New York…”

This is the first episode in which announcer Don Pardo actually vocally lists all of the Not Ready for Primetime Players, i.e. the cast of Saturday Night.

The opening monologue, which shows why Dudley Moore and Peter Cook are funny, how British humor is different and yet the same as American humor (only cleverer), and why making fun of an amputee is comedy gold.

The “Utah Prison” sketch.  In the best part of the episode, Peter Cook, a former director of the Royal Academy of such and so forth, is guest directing the annual Utah prison musical production.  This year, the musical is “Gigi.”  The sketch features Gilda Radner as the director’s assistant, looking appropriately slutty and acting appropriately dim, and the four male cast members playing prisoners who are auditioning for the musical.  Dan Aykroyd’s prisoner murdered his family and auditions by dancing with, and then flattening, cockroaches he found in the prison.  Chevy Chase, though I forget his crime, plays a somewhat schizophrenic prisoner who makes a pun-laced joke of his fake name, plays “Moon River” on the harmonica, and sings a song from the original production of “Gigi,” complete with French accent, before jumping all over Gilda Radner in an effort to do bad things to her.  Garrett Morris announces that his prisoner has been in solitary confinement for years, the time of which he has spent composing original songs, one of which he sings for the audition and which includes a refrain of how he is going to shoot “all the whiteys.” Finally, John Belushi, his prisoner having murdered 43 people (“I was cleaning my gun! Honest!”), comes in and sings something bluesy decently before violently attacking Peter Cook’s director, to which the director quips, “I think we’ve found our Gigi.”

The “Don Pardo’s Holiday In An Elevator” commercial, which was performed live, featured Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner as a married couple who board a magical elevator, narrated by Don Pardo, which stops at floors on which the doors open to reveal glimpses of far off countries.  The open doors also reveal Dudley Moore in various states of dress as well as some animal head, ready to be fed or stroked by Gilda Radner’s outstretched hand. While the sketch itself is not actually that funny, the married couple finish the sketch by listing all the reasons why seeing the world from this elevator is cool and less hassle compared to real traveling, and Gilda’s character lists one of the benefits as being the fact that one doesn’t actually have to pack any clothes in their luggage for this elevator journey.  But if that’s the case, WHY DO THEY EVEN NEED TO BRING ANY LUGGAGE AT ALL?  This question inspiration turned out to be a highlight because of its sheer absurdity.  Subversively well done.

Chevy Chase’s Weekend Update was on fire in this episode, featuring a broader Generalissimo Francisco Franco joke; an inspired editorial by Emily Littela (Gilda Radner) concerning Soviet jewelry, instead of Soviet Jewry (“never mind!”); a live remote from Laraine Newman of “Today’s Woman,” in which she asks passerby Garrett Morris if he has had or ever will have an abortion (“nah”); and two very sly references to “beads,” one during Chevy’s sexy talk with his unidentified female caller at the top of each Update, and one when he mis-dials “Angela” during his weekly call to a wrong number instead of war torn Angola.  He speaks to Jane Curtin, who answers the telephone and reminds him that Angela is not there because she is stringing the beads. Whoa.

Moore and Cook were allowed to perfrom other sketches without the aid of the NRFPTP, including “Table Talk,” which ran on for too long and was far too clever for its own good; “Sonny and Cher,” in which Cook and Moore played Scottish versions of Cher and Sonny, respectively, which was weird; and “Gospel Truth,” which was actually quite irreverent and clever without being too clever, and which found Moore playing Apostle Matthew, attempting to get the true story of the birth of Jesus Christ for the “Bethlehem Star” out of Cook’s shepherd about town as he “abides in the fields.” The audience seemed not to get the jokes in this latter sketch, or perhaps they were offended by them, as the laughter was sparse, but I really enjoyed this take. All the while, I kept thinking that this episode predated Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Was Python inspired by this sketch, I wonder?  Then I kept wondering if this duo and Python ever got together.  Because British comics are funnier.  Mostly.  Especially when in a group.

Scred from the “Land of Gorch” Muppet series visited with Gilda Radner dressed as one of the bees, noting that he was promised the role of “Aunt Bee” in a parody of the Andy Griffith Show. The funniest part of this bit, other than the fact that Gilda Radner couldn’t stop laughing at the cheeky Muppet, was that Scred claimed he could do Weekend Update just as well as Chevy Chase and proceeded to mock him, including Chevy’s “toy boat” interjections when he stumbles over his lines and by saying, “Good evening.  I’m Scred…and you’re not.”  Scred also asked Gilda if he could play with her mooblies. WHY ARE THESE MUPPETS DIRTY?

The “Bomb Squad Redux” end-of-show bit, in which Moore and Cook insist on reenacting the cold open, and Moore takes the pie from John Belushi’s hand to ensure that Chevy Chase is properly hit in the face with it.  I love the recurring sketches.

Less Successful Moments

The “Backstage Banter” sketch.  In this sketch, hard hitting interviewer Jane Curtin talks with John Belushi, who she announces is a “male impersonator,” i.e. a woman dressed up, very convincingly, as a man.  So, this sketch featured Belushi talking about female problems like “cramps” and suggesting that he used masking tape to keep his womanly naughty bits from juggling and his pregnant belly from showing.  This has all the makings of comedy gold, but somehow, the thing just fell flat and was never funny.  I think Belushi’s delivery was off here, and it was kind of disappointing, because the sketch idea was really good; however, the execution of it left me bored rather than in stitches.

Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players

(1st) Chevy Chase, for taking the pie properly, for his Utah prisoner’s beauteous harmonica skills and outrageous French accent, and for an energetic and inspired Weekend Update.

(2nd) Gilda Radner, for her put upon director’s assistant in the Utah prison (she was attacked twice by Chevy’s prisoner), for the always amazing and passionate editorial replies of Emily Litella, and for her love of Muppets, because who wouldn’t?

(3rd) Garrett Morris, for having the best original song and most entertaining audition of the “Utah Prison” sketch, for the gamely mostly dead/barely alive patient in the “Operating Room” sketch, and for being calm without being too offended when he was asked if he has ever had or will have an abortion during Weekend Update by somewhat vacant live remote reporter Laraine Newman.

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One comment

  1. kyliekeelee · March 3, 2015

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