Host: Peter Boyle
Musical Guest: Al Jarreau
Cast: Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner – i.e. the “Not Ready For Primetime Players”
Film and television star and funny man Peter Boyle hosted this episode. He is best known all around for his roles as the Monster in Young Frankenstein and as grumpy patriarch Frank Baron in the television sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. Nerdy cultists will remember his memorable guest appearance as an unwitting psychic on The X-Files.
Jazz and R&B singer Al Jarreau was the musical guest. I had never heard of him prior to watching this episode, and I have become an instant fan. He sang “We Got By” and “Somebody’s Watching You.”
The “St. Valentine’s Day” cold open. In this cold open, Dan Aykroyd and Laraine Newman play a couple attending a jazz club and restaurant during the 1920s. They ask the owner, played with a Middle Eastern accent by John Belushi, to have the valet Jimmy, played by Chevy Chase, park their car because it’s started to snow outside. Once Chevy leaves, the restaurant patrons hear loud noises, which Laraine Newman ascribes to her companion’s car needing a new muffler. Yet, Jimmy reenters the restaurant with bullet holes in his jacket (because, really, it sounded like gunfire) and him falling off a staircase, onto a table, and onto the floor. If he didn’t hurt himself, I would be surprised!
The “Samurai Divorce Court” sketch. In this sketch, the popular samurai played by John Belushi has filed for divorce from his wife, who also appears in the sketch and is played by Jane Curtin, while Peter Boyle presides as judge, though it is set in his chambers. Not only do John and Jane argue with each other in fake Japanese, but their arguments over priceless artifacts they own, regarding who will claim them in the divorce, become hilarious executions of each spouse slicing the artifact in half with their samurai swords, as per the usual expectation of divorce. The sketch stops before they do the same to their (blonde haired?) daughter!
The “Acid Trip” sketch. In this sketch, Dan Aykroyd and Laraine Newman play cohabiting burnouts with excellent stoner voices. Their neighbor, Peter Boyle, brings over a package accidentally delivered to him, which clearly contains drugs of some sort. Yet, the couple proceed to show him a slide show of their “acid trip,” with ridiculously hilarious consequences, and invite him over for future orgies and/or drug uses in subtle ways, until they push him out the door with the wrongly delivered package after he reveals that he works as a parole officer.
“The Corrida” commercial. While the commercial itself is only “meh,” it does feature Dan Aykroyd with an incredibly convincing “Spaniard’s” accent. He was on fire in this episode.
Weekend Update featured another fine editorial by Gilda Radner’s Emily Litella, regarding how unnecessary it is to fund “canker research,” despite the fact that canker sores can be “nasty little buggers” that shouldn’t be touched lest they get infected. Of course, the story was about cancer research, which she agreed is very necessary (“never mind!”). In addition, one of the roving reporter spots featured Garrett Morris, in a delayed entrance mind, allegedly reporting from the 1976 Winter Olympics, even though the games had ended the day before. When Chevy Chase criticizes poor Garrett for his shoddy reporting, Garrett spews a tirade laced with racial epithets, crying, “You know I don’t like cold weather!” There were also some decent jokes about then President Ford.
The “All-Pro Wrestling” sketch. In the best sketch of the night, Dan Aykroyd plays the ring announcer for a wrestling match between the “Bees,” specifically John Belushi and Peter Boyle, and the WASPs, specifically Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner, who are dressed in country club finery. The match referee is Garrett Morris. First, the appearance of the WASPs had me in stitches when I realized just what kind of wasps they were. Second, their fighting tactic is to “be clever” with the bees by inviting them to upper-crust parties and offering to introduce their daughter or their fancy acquaintances to them before finally executing some expert wrestling tactics. What’s more, the match descends into a free-for-all, when the fighters forget to tag each other out and start wrestling everyone else, including the poor referee. It was the perfect blend of cleverness, satire, physical comedy, and absurdity and is probably a timeless sketch. Kudos, guys.
The “Remembrance of Things Past” sketch, which featured Jane Curtin interviewing a man in a mask, clearly Dan Aykroyd, playing an interviewee that did not want to be identified but sounding an awful lot like former President Richard Nixon, who was threatening to leave it all behind and move to “Red China.” The highlight came from the creepy mask that Aykroyd was wearing, which kept contracting every time he inhaled, and his spot-on Nixon.
The “Dueling Brandos” sketch, which featured John Belushi and Peter Boyle, accompanied by dueling banjos, trading one-line impressions from Marlon Brando’s biggest films to date. They were both pretty good, but I think Boyle’s impression was a bit better. He was more focused and committed.
The “Valentine’s Day Card” sketch. In this sketch, Garrett Morris gives Gilda Radner a Valentine’s Day Card. She initially feels bad about not returning the favor, which she explains she did purposefully, stating that Garrett always takes it to mean more than friendship. Garrett, at Gilda’s invitation, then proceeds to read the poem in his card, which starts sweet, gets a bit stalker/sexy, and then suggests he’ll show her things “as a friend.” Watch it. I can’t even reproduce it.
Less Successful Moments
There was really only one moment that failed for me in this episode, in the form of Laraine Newman’s roving reporter spot during Weekend Update at the often covered Blaine Hotel. I think the punchline was that her (frequently dim) character was auditioning for a movie at the same time, which might not have been a real movie but an actual crime involving murder. I think I heard actual crickets, and I blame it on the execution. Laraine Newman provides a fine impression of newscasters and their vocal inflections, but the “what the hell is going on” factor overrode the better elements of the bit, so I’m going to blame it ultimately on the sketch director. Bad sketch director.
Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players
(1st) Dan Aykroyd, for just about everything he did in this episode! From his jazz club attendee, to his acid tripping stoner, to his Spanish car salesman, to his wrestling match announcer, to his disguised Nixon, he really was on fire!
(2nd) John Belushi, for his not quite offensive restaurateur in the cold open, for his always sharp samurai, for his scrappy bee, and for holding his own in the “Dueling Brandos” sketch.
(3rd) Gilda Radner and Garrett Morris (tie). Again, these two tie for third in this episode. For Gilda, it was the fact that her Emily Litella remained consistently funny as well as for her surprisingly strong WASP and for her explanation for her failure to give Garrett Morris a Valentine’s Day card. For Garrett, it was his Weekend Update contribution, his abused wrestling referee, and for portraying so creepily why Gilda was right not to give him a Valentine’s Day Card. And for the fact that they appeared together in all of their sketches in this episode. Literally.