40 Years of Saturday Night Live! – Season One, Episode Twenty-Four (Kris Kristofferson)

Host: Kris Kristofferson

Musical Guest: Rita Coolidge

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

Highlights:

Kris Kristofferson, country singer and actor, hosted this episode and also served as partial musical guest alongside his then wife Rita Coolidge (from the second of his three marriages).  Many of his most famous acting gigs occurred in the seventies; I remember him best from the Martin Scorsese film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.  He cold opened the show by singing “Help Me Make It Through the Night” solo. Rita, also a country singer, sang “Hula Hoop” solo for the second musical performance. They sang a duet called “Eddie the Eunuch” in the back half of the episode, and then Kristofferson closed the show with a performance of “I’ve Got a Life of My Own.”  He also performed in sketches; unfortunately, he’s not a comedian, and it showed, quite painfully.  When the writers successfully integrated him into the sketch as the straight man, the sketch in question tended to go better than when they actually required him to do comedy.  As a result, this episode, the first season finale, proved to be a very uneven finale for TV’s then edgiest show.

The “I Was Not a Sucker for Saturday Night” commercial.  Performed live, Laraine Newman poses as a secretary named Sherry, essentially hired for her looks.  In fact, she’s wearing a skimpy outfit that barely covers her “bitchin’ bod” while talking in that Valley girl voice that Laraine made cool before Valley girls themselves were cool.  She explains that when she was hired, she was required to perform all sorts of “weird” job tasks that were basically tantamount to sexual harassment by the show’s writers, including Chevy Chase.  As a result, she composed a book, a testimonial, about her experience, which is the name of the sketch.  The punchline involved her bringing a vacuum to Chevy Chase’s office, implying some sort of “weird,” kinky sexual thing might happen.  Mostly, I just enjoyed her commitment to this smarter-than-the-average-bimbo character.  There was a lot of nuance, even if the character wasn’t playing with a full toy chest.

The “Samurai General Practitioner” sketch.  In this sketch, the best sketch of the episode, John Belushi returns as the beloved samurai who, this time, is a (yikes) doctor. Kris Kristofferson plays his patient, who is complaining of some vague pains and ailments.  Of course, the samurai conducts some interesting examinations.  In one funny bit, it looks like he is lubing his latex covered finger for a rectal exam only to apply it to the scale with the height ruler that won’t retract until he spreads the lube on it. Also, while the patient is supposed to be producing a urine sample, the Samurai is examining X-rays and making unintelligible fake Japanese commentary, though one of the X-rays is of a naked lady.  He also makes his requisite skeleton talk in fake Japanese.  In fact, when the patient can’t initially go enough to produce said sample, the samurai, who takes everything so much to heart, kneels with the intent of impaling himself with his sword, until the patient promises to return with a sample.  Dr. Samurai also prescribes an apple-and only an apple-to aid the patient’s woes, which he proceeds to halve in mid-air, again with a “hiya” and his sword.  It was a chuckle-worthy chapter in the samurai’s legacy.

The “Ford Delegate” sketch.  In this sketch, Chevy Chase once again plays bumbling then-President Ford, deep in the throes of his reelection campaign.  Kris Kristofferson plays a Mississippi delegate seeking federal money to rebuild infrastructure in his county, but, of course, the Not-So-Good Ford confuses everything his delegate says, clumsily disturbs things on his desk, hangs up his phone receivers in the wrong cradles, and otherwise bungles his ability to receive campaign support from this delegate until First Lady Betty, played by Jane Curtin, enters with so-called “horse deveries,” or hors d’oeuvres, and puts everything to rights.  Of course, when she informs the delegate that it is “time to go,” the President takes it as his cue to leave and smash things elsewhere in the White House. I don’t think Chevy Chase helped Ford’s reelection campaign at all…

Weekend Update returned to form, with the standard “I’m Chevy Chase, and so are you” introduction but for one glorious exception.  When Don Pardo introduced the segment, he said, “And now, Weekend Update with Don Pardo!” which segued into a passive aggressive sass-off between Chevy and Don.  The only other highlight of this Update was that roving correspondent Laraine Newman, tasked with offering a live report from NASA headquarters, misheard her assignment and took a trip to Nassau; she proceeds to report on how good of a tan she’s receiving and how much she is enjoying the tropical air. When Chevy points out that she was supposed to be live from NASA and not Nassau, she sheepishly capitulates while asking, “This will be paid for, right?” Chevy responds, “Laraine Newman, reporting live from the vacation she paid for” or something to that effect.

The “Carter-Young” sketch.  In this sketch, Garrett Morris plays a Southern Congressman named Andrew Young, who is literally preaching to a church-type crowd, speaking of his days of marching with Dr. King while suggesting that Jimmy Carter, played by Dan Aykroyd in the sketch, is the delegate to represent Southern interests, having experienced all of the racial inequality and struggle in the South.  This Mr. Young is on a bully pulpit, calling for “amens” and “hallelujahs,” until the to-be President joins him at the podium and guarantees the crowd, in his Southern gentlemanly way but in no uncertain terms, that Mr. Young will receive no political kickbacks as a result of his support, which causes Mr. Young to become very displeased indeed.

Less Successful Moments

The “Police State” sketch.  In this sketch, Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd play cops who get called to crime scenes and literally shoot first and ask questions later.  This sketch involved a spinning camera; literally, some cameraman either spun in circles holding the camera or put a camera on a tripod that could swivel 360 degrees, causing me to feel sick to my stomach just watching the blurry, spinning footage.  Also, there was a not so subtle implication that police officers are power-hungry, trigger-happy, and somewhat murderous, and while I can see what the sketch writer was going for, it wasn’t funny…ever.  At any time.  So, between feeling bored, being somewhat put off by the subject matter, and feeling nauseous with relation to how the sketch was shot, I thought this one completely crashed and burned.  Totally DOA, or at least festering as a stinky pile of sick on the floor after all was said and done.

The “Blind Date” sketch.  In this sketch, Jane Curtin plays Judy, who we find out has been set up on a blind date with what turns out to be her gynecologist, played by Kris Kristofferson.  While the sketch concept was potentially brilliant, the execution was plain boring.  The conversation was so serious, lacking any comedic timing particularly on the part of the host, it played out like a drama!  I can’t even remember the audience ever laughing.  I concluded that Mr. Kristofferson has zero comedic chops, and while Jane can be funny in her own right, the show’s writers and producers never let her be anything other than a straight woman, at least for most of the first season.  The combination in this sketch was catastrophically unsuccessful.

The “Waiting for Pardo” sketch.  In this sketch, Chevy Chase and Kris Kristofferson play Bob and Bill, parallel characters to the main characters in the play Waiting for Godot.  In a setting similar to that described in the play, they wait for the unseen “Pardo.” This might be funny, except that Don Pardo subsequently interjects, often, with descriptions of products related to what they were discussing, satirizing his previous and concurrent stints as a game show announcer.  The tone of this sketch was disjointed, lurching from the deadpan duet riffing on Godot to the hammy, over-the-top voice of announcer-behind-the-scenes Don Pardo.  It might have been a funny idea if the writers had discovered a different use or way to incorporate Don Pardo and/or if the concept itself had not been so esoteric.  I mean, how many people know that play?  I only know that play a little, and that’s because I’m theatrical.

Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players

(1st) John Belushi, for his reliably entertaining samurai.

(2nd) Laraine Newman, for her reliably entertaining Valley girl turned secretary and for mistaking her Update assignment so spectacularly, she at least got some sun and sand out of it.

(3rd) Garrett Morris, for his electrifying, sometimes singing, preacher turned Congressman and for another sketch called “Great White Athletes,” where Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens, played by Garrett, extols the virtues of that frequently unrecognized group, White athletes.  It wasn’t uproariously funny, and he sort of stumbled over his line delivery, but I enjoyed the concept and the fact that only he could play Jesse Owens here.

Advertisements

40 Years of Saturday Night Live! – Season One, Episode Twenty-Three (Louise Lasser)

Host: Louise Lasser

Musical Guests: The Preservation Hall Jazz Band

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

Highlights:

Louise Lasser served as host for this episode.  As a Gen Xer (or Gen Yer, depending on how one breaks it down), I had never heard of her.  Her claim to fame at that time was as the star of a short-lived sitcom called Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.  She was also married to Woody Allen, prior to his being married to Mia Farrow.  She has shown up in some projects over the years, most recently in HBO’s Girls (which I don’t watch). She was not a very successful host.  On review of this episode, I can safely say that her sketch appearances predominantly brought the show down.  She was tonally different, clearly uncomfortable (for various reasons, which she has described in interviews), and tended to meditate on very similar jokes.  She also failed to have chemistry with the cast.  As a result, there are few highlights from this episode.  Apparently, this was her only appearance on the show.  Hey, sometimes, live television is difficult for people.

The “Back from Vacation” cold open.  In this cold open, the entire cast appears onstage to announce their triumphant return from hiatus, though John Belushi is notably absent. It is implied by one of the girls that John feels a bit threatened by Chevy Chase; it seems they have something of a rivalry going, and John feels that Chevy’s getting all the attention.  This is obviously fake, but when John finally does appear, in a baller’s white suit and shades, Chevy takes steps to make up.  They hug it out, then commence to do this interchange of five-givings that culminates in a rough end, when Chevy’s over exuberance causes John to punch him in the face and send him flying off the stage. Again rocking the meta wave…

Louise Lasser’s monologue was unremarkable but for the end, in which she seems to have a meltdown indicative of her television character and leaves the stage in tears, locking herself in her dressing room.  First, Gilda Radner tries to reason her out, then Dan Aykroyd poses as some law enforcement official to scare her out, and finally, Chevy Chase resurrects the land shark (Jaws…on land!) to coax her out, which works. Unfortunately, the end of it really landed with a thud.

The “Human Hair Potholders” commercial.  This could rank as one of the most disturbing sketches of all time.  In this commercial, performed live, Laraine Newman dons famous Charles Manson follower Squeaky Fromme again to chilling effect, while Jane Curtin plays another Manson follower named Sandra Good.  They are in jail, in religious/cult garb with tattoos on their foreheads, weaving potholders from their own hair, which they are advertising for sales.  Sandra explains that they must do this or punish themselves, which causes Squeaky to start hurting herself.  At the end of the commercial, Squeaky Laraine stares into the camera in a way that is really not funny and kind of turns one’s blood cold and says, “You better buy them, you little piggies, I’m not kidding!”  Also, we learn that neither of them have any hair left; they’re bald as cue balls.

The “Cathode Ray” musical sketch.  In this sketch, Dan Aykroyd plays some dude with TV shaped glasses who wants to introduce a segment celebrating the wonders of television hardware.  This segues into a doo-wop ode to TV’s, with Laraine Newman singing soulfully about diodes and gamma rays and Jane Curtin and Gilda Radner serving as her backup singers.  There’s also an overlay explaining that eight people in the whole world understand all the terms being sung in the song.  Mostly, I was impressed again with Laraine’s fastidious performance; she’s got a great voice.

Chevy Chase began Weekend Update by saying, “I’m Chevy Chase, and boy, are you glad to see me!” There were some decent jokes lobbed at then presidential party nominees Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, but the best part of Update featured a roving report by correspondent John Belushi at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, back when there were two Olympics, the summer and the winter version, per every four years.  He interviews a Russian gymnast played by Gilda Radner who lost some of her notoriety given the tour de force performances and finishes of legendary Russian gymnast Nadia Comenici.  Belushi speaks in a Russian accent and translates the gymnast’s Russian into English, though she unmistakably utters in English that she would like to impale Nadia with a balance beam (or something to that effect), which Belushi then translates to be a much nicer statement of well wishes and congratulations, despite the fact that the audience heard her true feelings.

The “John Belushi Wardrobe” commercial.  In this commercial, Belushi is trying to hock the clothes off his back for a reasonable price – John Belushi originals, his signature look.  He really needs the cash, he says.  After all, he’s an underpaid late night television actor.  He tries to sell some of his vinyl records too.  He had some great selections!  Though he only played Grand Funk Railroad once.

The “Jimmy Carter” sketch.  In this sketch, Dan Aykroyd debuts his Jimmy Carter impression, which, as he explains in the sketch, involves him surveying a room back and forth while he’s talking and then, when pausing, making unwavering eye contact with the camera. He ended the sketch with his trademark toothy grin that seems somewhat non-human in nature.  He didn’t say anything particularly funny, but it’s a decent impression, and one must track the Presidential impressions; they’re really the backbone of Saturday Night Live, if you think about it.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans, Louisiana, served as musical guest. They played a ragtime number called “Panama” and were a hoot.  Since more than half of them appeared to be quite old at the time, I surmised that most of them are probably not alive today, but I wonder if the Jazz Band perseveres.  Also, I really want to get to New Orleans someday.

Less Successful Moments

The “Louise & Dog” sketch.  This involved Louis Lasser having a very grown up conversation with a golden retriever named Maggie, like she was breaking up with the dog, over a “fetch” incident.  I was bored out of my skull, and I felt really sorry for the dog, who was panting heavily, no doubt overstimulated by having to perform for a live studio audience.  To me, this one crashed and burned.  Totally DOA.

The “Diner Sketch” film.  Billed as “A Film by Louise Lasser,” this featured Louise talking to various other actors, again about serious grown up things, and repeatedly forgetting her lines.  She even implores the present Lorne Michaels to excise her from the proceedings.  If this was supposed to be funny, I totally missed the joke.

The “Mary Mary” monologue. In this end monologue, Louise Lasser, as her famous television character Mary Hartman, talks about her real Louise Lasser life and her infamous public arrest for drug possession, which occurred as a result of a public disturbance that she created when trying to buy a dollhouse or something.  Frankly, it dragged the pace of the show down considerably, and may have been cathartic for her and awkwardly funny for an audience of that time but induced me to doze.  I can’t see it as having been all that meaningful even to a 1976 audience, much less a 2015 one.

Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players

(1st) Laraine Newman, for her bone-chilling Squeaky Fromme and for her more than competent musical ode to television innards.

(2nd) John Belushi, for his too-cool-for-school delayed entrance in the cold open, for his role as a Russian translating correspondent in Weekend Update, and for trying to sell the clothes off his own back.

(3rd) Dan Aykroyd, for taking on Jimmy Carter.

Honorable mention:

Jane Curtin, for being the more sane Manson follower, for being somewhat slutty in the “Girl Talk” sketch (where she talks about seeing a boy’s penis with her best friend played by Gilda Radner), and for being a totally decent backup singer to Laraine Newman.

40 Years of Saturday Night Live! – Season One, Episode Twenty-Two (Elliott Gould)

Host: Elliott Gould

Musical Guests: Leon Redbone; Harlan Collins & Joyce Everson

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

Highlights:

Elliott Gould returns as host, tying him for two hosting appearances with Candice Bergen and Buck Henry (so far).  His affability and willingness to go all in on the sketches also render him a delightful host.  He even performs a song and dance in his monologue, accompanied by Paul Shaffer, which is quite nice. His name was Saul in the Ocean’s movies, wasn’t it?  Gosh, it seems like such a long time since those movies were made, yet this episode was made decades before them!  Weird.

The “Wax Museum” cold open.  In this cold open, Laraine Newman (Joan of Arc), Jane Curtin (Marie Antoinette), Neil Levy (King Louis some such or other, probably), and Gilda Radner (I’m not sure…maybe Mae West?) pose as seemingly famous wax figures in a museum.  Chevy Chase plays a visitor to the museum with somewhat puerile intentions.  For example, in his long trench coat, he flashes one of the figures.  He interacts with each of them in different ways, but when he finally reaches Gilda’s Hollywood bombshell type figure, he acts as if he is going to perform less than innocent acts with her, until she comes to life, slaps him in the face, and causes him to fall of the stage.  Naughty, Chevy!

Leon Redbone returns as musical guest.  He sings “Shine on Harvest Moon” and “Walking Stick,” the latter accompanied by just a tuba player.

A singer/songwriter coupling, Harlan Collins and Joyce Everson, sang “Maybe That’s the Way It Goes” near the end of the episode.  I can find no information about these two, unless Mr. Collins is also a composer who has composed music and songs for various television and film projects.  Their duet was very seventies, I think.

“The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise” sketch.  In this now legendary sketch, and the best sketch of the episode, John Belushi channels his inner William Shatner playing Captain Kirk; Chevy Chase plays Leonard Nimoy (RIP)/Mr. Spock, and Dan Aykroyd serves double duty as Mr. Scott (over the ship’s intercom) and Dr. Bones McCoy/DeForest Kelley, though this impression is the least impressive of all.  In the sketch, the Enterprise encounters a hostile ship, which turns out to be an old sixties convertible, bearing network executives, played by Elliott Gould and Garrett Morris, who have come to cancel Star Trek. Belushi’s Shatner does not take it well, failing to break character and insisting that they’ve only explored three years of their storied five year mission.  Chevy’s Spock stays loyal until he gets very emotional, losing all Vulcan logic, as set crews deconstruct the Enterprise set around them.  It is both absurd, has timeless nerd appeal, and features a great performance by John Belushi.  He’s not a bad Kirk.  Or a bad Shatner.

Chevy Chase began Weekend Update by saying, “I’m Chevy Chase, and so are you.” There were some great one-liners, photographic misinterpretations, and editorial replies in this Update.  He begins Update by reporting that Fidel Castro has pulled out of Angola, and that a frustrated Angola could not be reached for comment (ba dum ching). In another story, a naked woman showing one whole breast appears on the view screen, and Chevy stands up to cover her exposed breast with his hand.   A photograph of some couple, possibly an erstwhile political candidate and his wife, prompts Chevy to report, “Well, nobody really cares anymore.”  A report about former Vice President Spiro Agnew discusses him dressing for a Halloween party, but the photograph behind Chevy is one of a Ku Klux Klan member.  “The Vice President is shown here before he’d decided on his costume,” quips Chevy.  Jane Curtin appears as Audrey Peart Dickman, a squeaky voiced editorial reply provider who attempts to justify the over-commercialization of the American bicentennial.  Chevy Chase returns to his bit of making funny faces and rude gestures behind her back.  Finally, the “News for Fans of Emily Litella fans” is provided by none other than Gilda Radner as Emily Litella, who proceeds to mishear everything Chevy is saying, calling him “Cheddar” in the process. When he says “Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow,” she says, “Hello, and how are you today?”  I’m a big Emily Litella fan myself.

The “Vibramatic” commercial.  In this commercial, performed live, Elliott Gould and Laraine Newman play a married couple.  Laraine’s wife complains of not being able to relax, while Elliott’s husband suggests that she go make him a salad.  Who should appear but Dan Aykroyd as another of his shyster salesmen, advertising the Vibramatic, a kitchen utility and personal massage assistant.  It slices vegetables and potatoes but seems to be somewhat phallic shaped, like, say, a vibrator or dildo, causing Laraine’s wife to lick her lips in quivering anticipation.  “For women AND vegetables,” says Elliott’s husband, while Aykroyd offers complete satisfaction or money back with that trademark toothy grin.

The “Shirley Temple” sketch.  In this sketch, Elliott Gould and Garrett Morris play, what I presume, are leaders of opposing factions in war-torn Angola.  Or maybe some other conflict in Africa.  At any rate, Laraine Newman plays a cross between Shirley Temple, the child actress, and Shirley Temple Black, the adult ambassador.  She sings, talks, and dances like precocious young Shirley with remarkable precision, complete with ringlets in her hair, while encouraging everyone to “be friends.”  This sketch is topped off by an excellent tap dance performed by Laraine, Garrett, and Elliott, hearkening back to all of Shirley’s Depression-era films, yet referring to her in what was no doubt her then-current role of ambassador.  It was great!

“The Honeymooners” sketch.  Presented by “The Bees,” John Belushi is Ralph Kramden, Gilda Radner plays a pregnant Alice, and Dan Aykroyd plays Ed Norton, with Jane Curtin playing neighbor Trixie to start the sketch.  Of course, they’re all bees here. The scenario was only moderately funny, but the sketch proves a highlight thanks to its punchline (the bee baby is not Ralph’s) and due to Belushi’s spot on Jackie Gleason impression. Aykroyd’s Art Carney is nothing to sneeze at either.

The show ended with the whole cast and host Elliott Gould included wearing cowgirl outfits (skirts and legs, people) and inciting a sing-along of “Till We Meet Again” with the audience, since the show was going to experience a hiatus of sorts – production schedules were apparently not the same as they are now.  It was heartwarming, in its way.

Less Successful Moments

Again, there were less funny sketches, but in order to be deemed “less successful,” it has to be completely not funny, ridiculous, and/or an all around train wreck. Fortunately, no such moment existed in this episode.  All of the sketches were solid, though two early season commercials, including the “Academy of Better Careers” commercial, were replayed, and neither were very amusing, even if the point was made in both.

Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players

(1st) John Belushi, for his expert and hilarious impressions of William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden.  He kind of made this episode.

(2nd) Chevy Chase, for being on fire in Weekend Update, for being a truly pervy wax museum patron, and for his pathetically emotional Mr. Spock.

(3rd) Laraine Newman, for her spot-on Shirley Temple and tap dancing skills and for being a bit too aroused by the Vibramatic.

Honorable mentions:

Gilda Radner for Emily Litella (always) and for hitting home in the “Honeymooners” sketch.

Garrett Morris, for his awesome tap dancing skills while playing an African dictator, defying gravity and stereotypes in one fell swoop!

40 Years of Saturday Night Live! – Season One, Episode Twenty-One (Buck Henry)

Host: Buck Henry

Musical Guests: Gordon Lightfoot

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

Highlights:

Buck Henry returns as host, and it’s a triumphant return at that, resulting in an overall marvelous episode.  He and Candice Bergen tie for two hosting appearances each as of this episode, i.e. the most hosting spots so far.  This tally will be bested shortly in later seasons.

The “Crutches” cold open. In this cold open, Chevy Chase appears on stage in a cast and using crutches.  As a result, he says, Laraine Newman has graciously agreed to perform the week’s fall for him.  He then waxes on about he broke his leg while winning/accepting the Emmy for the show (did this happen?  The big win?  I need to cross reference) and how it’s good to give the little people a chance, essentially, and allow them to follow in his footsteps. Laraine then regally steps onstage, presumably prepared to fall over a table and chairs set up to Chevy’s right.  Instead, she rips one of the crutches from Chevy’s right hand, causing him to fall over the table and chairs.  It was a most satisfying fall of the week.

The monologue was an epic meta sketch and much better than that offered with Buck Henry’s first appearance on the show.  First, there is panic.  Don Pardo calls for Buck; he’s not there.  Director Dave Wilson comes on to the stage in a frenzy and convinces John Belushi, in a plaid flannel robe (stylin…70s like), to host in his place.  John is not sold on this idea until Lorne Michaels comes to the stage and encourages John to do the hosting, which causes John to rant about working on the show, while Lorne goes to look for Buck. The cameras then follow him backstage, with the rest of the cast on his heels and also panicked.  Lorne subsequently finds Buck at the security desk, where the security guard is hassling him because he doesn’t know who he is.  Of course, the guard also doesn’t really know who Lorne is.  After Lorne “forcefully” insists that Buck needs to be upstairs hosting the broadcast, which is currently, like, happening, Buck finally makes it to the stage.  Lorne asks Howard Shore to repeat the opening music, and Mr. Shore is very put out by the request.  Buck starts his monologue, and then Dave Wilson calls from the booth to tell him that the monologue has run long and to cut to the segue.  It’s better to watch it than to read it, but I love this stuff.  They should do more of it – now.

The “Samurai Tailor” sketch.  John Belushi returns as the popular and hilarious Samurai engaged in the everyday and the ordinary.  In this episode, he plays a tailor, and Buck Henry is a customer picking up his pre-ordered tuxedo for his wedding.  Highlights include our friendly samurai hacking up a vest fresh and from scratch, implementing a jacket vent in an otherwise non-vented tux jacket, nearly impaling himself from shame when Buck pointed out that there were too many buttons on the sleeves, and agreeing to add a zipper hole, which wasn’t previously added, with his blade – while Buck is wearing the pants.  Of course, the sketch ended before the real mayhem began.  But I wanted to know if he could do it without castrating the man!!

The “Dell Stator’s 99 Cent Toad Ranch” commercial.  Performed live, this featured Dan Aykroyd as a cowboy version of his shyster salesman, who operates a “toad ranch” and sells 99 cent toads, fried or fresh, for eating to customers, including Buck Henry and Jane Curtin, who give Southern fried testimonials.  The best part of the commercial is a singing spot, featuring Gilda Radner and Laraine Newman as cowgirls singing the jingle while Aykroyd cooks the toads with a blow torch.

Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot was the musical guest on this episode.  He sang “Summertime Dream” and “Spanish Moss.”  He was going to sing “Sundown” near the end of the show, but Buck Henry insisted he was only allowed to sing two songs.  When Gordon tried to protest, Samurai John Belushi appeared and sword-sliced his guitar strings. That’s dirty pool, that is!

Chevy Chase began Weekend Update by saying, “I’m Chevy Chase, and I love to squeeze things.”  Oh do you, Chevy?  The jokes were actually quite funny all around, taking many potshots against the presidential candidates of the year and relying heavily on misinterpreting photographs to above average hilarity.  In fact, it was some Emmy caliber writing.  Seriously, I gotta check if that really happened.

The “Crowd” sketch.  In this sketch, Buck Henry plays a film director, and Chevy Chase plays his casting director.  We learn that the film director is fastidiously casting every role, right down to even the smallest ensemble parts.  In fact, they are about to audition for the “crowd scenes.”  What this means, however, is that an entire crowd auditions together, which includes most if not all of the cast and production team.  The director asks them to be angry and anticipatory and Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz before finally giving them the part.  The most cringe-worthy moment, though, is when he asks, at the end of the sketch, whether the crowd does “lynchings,” at which point Garrett Morris is hoisted toward a noose.  Wow.  Again, another example of how the politically incorrect, even if satirical, was the order of the day.  Forty years ago, man.

The “Beatle Offer” sketch.  In one of the longest running gags of the season, Lorne Michaels returns to the front of the camera to “sweeten the pot” for the then-alive four Beatle members to reunite on Saturday Night.  He indicates that now that the show has won some Emmys and is fairly popular, the network, NBC, has authorized Lorne to offer more money – in the amount of $3,200 (“that’s fifty dollars more per Beatle,” he says, though he also suggests that Ringo could be paid less if needed) – and free hotel accommodations at a motor lodge that provides things like clean glasses and an ice service.  Seriously, what if they had actually taken him up on this?!

The “Not For Ladies Only” sketch.  In this sketch, Gilda Radner as “Babwa Wawa” returns to interview an Italian or a German director named Lina Wertmuller played by Laraine Newman.  While Lina boasts a thick accent, she’s far more understandable than her interviewer.  In fact, Lina has a hard time understanding her too and frequently deflects the question or changes the subject when Baba’s speech impediment gets in the way.

The “Toilet Seats” film by Gary Weis.  His films are always elevated by Buck Henry, it seems, who appears in this one.  In this chapter, Buck interviews customers, mainly senior citizens, who are shopping for toilet seats.  He asks them why they are making the purchase of a new toilet seat and what is under consideration for such a purchase. The result is modestly hilarious and quite charming.

The “An Die Musik” performance.  Did you know that Garrett Morris is a classically trained vocalist with a Julliard education?!  Well, he is, and apparently, according to title cards that scroll over his performance of Franz Schubert’s “An Die Musik,” he approached producers about singing on the show.  Not only is his performance flawless, shattering all expectations, the title cards included a pointed commentary about such shattered expectations, as follows:

“Guess we owe you an explanation.  Garrett came up to the office several weeks ago and said, ‘I’d like to sing on the show.  I want to do an old favorite of mine.’  So we figured, great, he’ll do ‘Sunny,’ he’ll do ‘My Girl,’ he’ll do ‘Devil with the Blue Dress On,’ he’ll do ‘Boogaloo Down Broadway.’ But, no, he comes in with Schuberts’ ‘An Die Musik’.  What could we say?  What would you do in our position?  Tell him, ‘Garrett, it’s too middle class?’  No.  You’d do what we did.  You’d be polite.  You’d realize there’s nothing wrong with doing this kind of thing. I mean, frankly, we’re tired of being thought of as just a comedy show when we know we can be so much more.  And besides, who was going to tell him?  He carries a knife………That’s the story.  And you know, actually, he does sing it really well. Of course, this probably won’t start a major Schubert craze.  But it’s pleasant enough, in a lilting, lyrical sort of way.  However, just to make sure you wouldn’t confuse us with PBS, we wrote all this stuff, figuring you’d at least stay tuned to read it…. See, that didn’t hurt.  Two and a half minutes of quality. Sung by a very talented performer…Maybe next show he’ll do ‘Funky Weekend.'”

He also finishes on a classic falsetto with a pop slide.  It was a hilariously high brow, satirical, edgy, and wonderful idea.

Less Successful Moments

The “Peter Lemon Moodring” commercial.  In this commercial, Chevy Chase plays what is clearly the precursor to Bill Murray’s Nick Ocean, the Lounge Lizard.  He sings cabaret favorites while the camera turns him colors in what was clearly state-of-the-art special effects of the day.  I’m sure it was far out and super groovy in 1976, but it was simply boring in 2015.

The “Polaroid” commercial.  Garrett Morris was in charge of this one, and he got to take a picture of Gilda Radner operating a camera.  I don’t know what was happening here. Was this all just an early form of product placement?  A live commercial for a then-hip and happening product?  Well, Garrett lacked the panache of John Belushi, who previously served as spokesperson for this product, for real or for fake.  It seemed very off.

The Michael O’Donaghue impression of Tony Orlando and Dawn.  Buck Henry thought this guy, a writer on the show at that time, was funny.  I think these impressions are flat out stupid.  Maybe I just don’t get the joke.  Give me Andy Kaufman any day! But this guy strikes me as a screaming geek, and I prefer my geeks with less screaming.

Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players

(1st) Laraine Newman, for rightfully (and with such gusto) ripping the crutch out of Chevy Chase’s smug hand; for being an excellent singing cowgirl; for being one of the “Crowd” so well; and for taking Baba Wawa’s interviewing prowess in such classy stride.

(2nd) John Belushi, for (begrudgingly and temporarily) hosting the show; for his always funny if not fluent Samurai; and for adding great things to the “Crowd” mentality.

(3rd) Garrett Morris, for his stunning “An Die Musik” performance and for offering himself up as the token Black man in the “Crowd” sketch.

Honorable mentions:

Gilda Radner for Baba Wawa and for her singing cowgirl.

Lorne Michaels, for his steadfastness and determination in his attempts to reunite the Beatles.  I applaud you, sir.  Forty years later.

40 Years of Saturday Night Live! – Season One, Episode Twenty (Dyan Cannon)

Host: Dyan Cannon

Musical Guests: Leon & Mary Russell

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 episode was hosted by Dyan Cannon, a television and film actress who has been active now for several decades and who has received high profile award nominations. Most famously, she was one of Cary Grant’s five wives, even though their marriage lasted only three years; she had his only child.  I can’t name anything that she appeared in that would be famous to people of generations younger than the ones allowed to stay up past midnight in 1976; she’s made some TV appearances and such.  In this episode, she played along willingly enough but broke character quite a bit, frequently laughing at the antics of the show’s cast.  As a result, this episode was particularly hit and miss, and there are fewer highlights.

The “Chevy’s Repeat Fall” cold open.  The episode starts with a confusing moment, in which Chevy is already down on the ground and saying “Live from New York,” but director Dave Wilson cuts in on the studio loudspeaker and informs Chevy that he fell too early, that it wasn’t caught on camera, and that he’ll have to do it again.  Chevy protests, arguing that the studio audience saw it, and that he doesn’t want to fall again, since he fell off a ladder. Ultimately, Chevy complies, though with Dave first suggesting to pad for time and then hurrying Chevy along because time is running out.  Chevy then haphazardly plummets off the ladder in another painful-looking fall.  He manages to smile every time, though, when he’s announcing “live from New York.”

The “Sugar Free Zing” commercial.  In this commercial, performed live, Laraine Newman is a blindfolded taste tester of “Sugar Free Zing,” a new diet soda (was the Pepsi challenge a thing yet?  This show was so ahead of its time).  Chevy Chase is the announcer instructing Laraine to taste the beverages before her.  Despite Laraine’s “yuck yuck” persona being instantly winning, she is also taste testing the apparently orange “zing” against a cup of phlegm. Which is purple in this sketch. Gross.  She was, understandably, definitely a fan of the Zing, exclaiming, “I’ll never have to drink phlegm again!”

The “Hearing Test” sketch.  In this sketch, Dyan Cannon is administering a hearing test to Garrett Morris, Gilda Radner, and Jane Curtin.  The earphones where they hear those tones (remember those tones?!) are supposed to be sound proof, and then those receiving the test are to raise their hands corresponding to the side on which side they hear the tone.  The trouble is, a couple of robbers played by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd invade the place (why? ABSURDITY, of course), and their gunfire both 1) confuses the students into raising their hands every which way; and 2) proves fatal to the teacher and all of the students. Gilda’s the last one standing, but she dies a most painful death. This one’s all about the absurd, though I wasn’t laughing uproariously or anything.

Dyan Cannon began the show with a monologue in which she sang a song about having a dream in which a man on a white horse emerges from the sea and comes to take her away.  So, a recurring sketch throughout the show centered on members of the cast interrupting Dyan, as she was introducing segments and sketches, attempting to make her dream come true.  Dan Aykroyd tried with some pun or homonym to horse, Garrett Morris attempted to bring Dyan “whores” played by Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner (not a horse), and John Belushi rode “Horace” piggy back onto the stage.  This last go-round was the funniest, because John and Horace weren’t quite stable, and John definitely broke, causing everyone else to do so too.  That’s two for him.

Leon & Mary Russell, who I have never heard of really and seemed to fuse country and R&B (it was an interesting combination), sang “Satisfy You” and “Daylight.” Also, were they married?  I think so.  John Belushi also emerged during the second performance with his Joe Cocker impression, accompanying the Russells on “Daylight,” complete with wild beer drinking and collapsing face down onstage.

The “Next Week” introduction, in which Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner introduce next week’s host, the return of Buck Henry, who happens to be standing right behind them, which is only hilarious because Laraine channels her teenager from the Madeline Kahn episode and keeps saying that Buck Henry is “sooo grooossss” complete with gagging.  Poor Buck Henry.

Chevy Chase began Weekend Update by saying, “I’m Chevy Chase.  Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.  And you’re not.”  Other than the intro, the jokes fizzled quite a bit in this Update but for two bits (oh and but for the fact that he suggested that Francisco Franco of Spain prefers “underground” movies now…so much black comedy in this episode).  The first came when Laraine Newman, roving reporter, introduced Garrett Morris playing Maynard Spees, a gas station attendant from the middle of nowhere who proclaimed to have found eccentric film director Howard Hughes’ last will and testament, a document that was apparently missing for quite some time.  The will decreed that Howard L. Hughes should bequeath his missing millions to Maynard, until Laraine pointed out that Mr. Hughes was Howard R. Hughes, and not H. L. Hunt, some pharmaceutical manufacturer to which Maynard tried to refer.  “Hey, look, I’m just trying to make a little money, alright?” Maynard proclaimed.  Garrett Morris also returned for an end of segment hard of hearing interpretation.  Garrett was definitely the MVP of Update in this episode.

The “Funeral” sketch.  In the funniest sketch of the episode, Chevy Chase plays a preacher giving a eulogy during a funeral for a lost loved one of Dan Aykroyd, Dyan Cannon, and Gilda Radner in a veil. Unfortunately, Chevy’s preacher has the hiccups and can’t stop hiccuping as he recites the somber eulogy.  The sketch then becomes a succession of attempts by the nonplussed grieving to get him to stop: they try to scare him, tickle him, kiss him (Dyan’s doing), dump water on his head, and all sorts of tactics, until finally, fed up, Gilda, after unveiling her face and making funny faces to, I guess, disturb the hiccuping reverend into quitting, punches him in the face.  It didn’t work, but it was highly satisfying.

The “Bathwater of the Stars” commercial. In this commercial, performed live, Dyan Cannon plays “Cindy Cleavage,” who is soaking in a bubble saturated tub.  Dan Aykroyd’s shyster salesman, in this bit called Roy Waddamaker, peddles bathwater of the stars; you can purchase and then bathe in, rinse in, or drink bathwater used – yes, used – by the big time celebrities of the day.  At one point, Aykroyd pulls out a rat or something, and I don’t remember why, but he loses hold of it, and it falls in the bathtub.  It was clearly an unscripted moment, and Dyan starts laughing uproariously.  Yet, as a stellar example to his cast mates Chevy Chase and John Belushi, he never broke character.  Also, the sketch was gross, but that part was funny.

At the end of the show, Dyan Cannon’s dream comes true, when a shirtless Chevy Chase, apparently wet from the sea, comes into the studio riding a white horse.  At one time, he was kind of sexy.  Maybe.

Less Successful Moments

The “Orange Juice” commercial.  Performed live, this featured Jane Curtin as a Floridian hocking orange juice deep within war-torn Beirut, Lebanon.  Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi play Arab terrorists speaking horrible fake Arabic, and they end up executing Jane Curtin, complete with a black bag over her head and tied to a wood post.  It seems SNL has repeatedly come back to this subject, lampooning terrorists and executions, since they stirred controversy recently by lampooning ISIS.  Maybe it was funnier in the seventies, but the lens of 2015 prevents me from laughing here.  Sorry, everyone.

The film by Gary Weis, featuring this really odd couple who are vacationing at Niagara Falls.  I didn’t even understand what was happening.  I don’t think they were very nice people, and they wanted to keep their marriage alive or something.  I checked out but remembered the film enough as a low point of the episode to include it here.

The “Cresk” commercial.  Performed live, this featured Gilda Radner as Claire, who is visiting her local drugstore, proprietor Mr. Goodman, played by John Belushi. What we find out is that Claire’s little boy was run over by a bus and killed, but Mr. Goodman convinces her to buy “Cresk” toothpaste for her son, since it now features formaldehyde.  It was a very odd commercial, and I kept thinking to myself, “What if this kid is buried or cremated?  How could she even use this toothpaste? Why would she even fall for this?”  Plus, it was about a dead kid.  I just didn’t have it in me to laugh at this one, especially when my brain tried to apply logic where logic need not apply.

Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players

(1st) Chevy Chase, for being so game to fall off a ladder twice (allegedly); for convincing Laraine Newman to drink phlegm; for making it through the funeral sketch without breaking (and taking a lot of abuse); and for being Dyan Cannon’s sea-based prince on a white horse and not looking bad shirtless (in 1976) in the process.

(2nd) Laraine Newman, for drinking phlegm…or purple milk (shudder either way); for being a whore with the best of them; for persisting in her “soo grooss” judgments; and for her crack investigative reporting in Weekend Update.

(3rd) Gilda Radner, for her survival skills during a hearing test; for being a whore with the best of them; for punching Chevy Chase’s preacher in the face; and for not punching John Belushi’s drugstore clerk in his.

Honorable mentions:

John Belushi, for breaking character (even though it was really just him, but he caused a giggle party) while riding “Horace.”  The breaking score now is Chevy Chase 5, Belushi 2, and the rest of the cast zero.

Garrett Morris, for being the MVP of Weekend Update.

40 Years of Saturday Night Live! – Season One, Episode Nineteen (Madeline Kahn)

Host: Madeline Kahn

Musical Guest: Carly Simon

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

Highlights:

The sublime and ethereal Madeline Kahn served as host for this episode.  She was a staple in Mel Brooks movies, such as Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Generations X & Y no doubt fondly remember her as Mrs. White in Clue the Movie.  She was a very funny lady, and, as a result, a very willing participant in the sketch comedy of Saturday Night.  RIP, Ms. Kahn.

The “Not For Ladies Only” sketch.  In this sketch, Gilda Radner further hones her “Baba Wawa,” and she interviews Madeline Kahn playing “Marlena Deutschland,” who has a similar speech impediment as Ms. Wawa (again, riffing on Barbara Walters).  The result is an interview of barely understood proportions, where neither woman is able to say “r’s” and “l’s” correctly, and where words are overrated anyway.

The “Slumber Party” sketch.  In his sketch, the ladies of Saturday Night–Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, and Gilda Radner–play younger versions of themselves, and they’re all having a slumber party at Gilda’s mom’s house.  Madeline Kahn is there too, and she plays the worldly friend, apparently teaching the other three either about sex or about blow jobs or something they only want to do with their husbands, provided they even want husbands.  Laraine’s teenager type keeps saying it’s “so gross” and gagging before later admitting that she would be open to whatever it is.  I think the funniest part of this sketch is all of their little girl voices and Laraine’s “groosss” exclamations.

In the “Muppet Beatle Offer” sketch, Scred the Muppet emerges from the trunk where the poor Muppets were relegated in the previous episode.  He encounters Chevy Chase, who informs Scred that they’ve been canceled off the show.  Scred has a plan, though.  He tells Chevy that the “Mighty Vivog,” the Frank Oz voiced statue from which the Muppets seek wisdom, knows the Beatles and can put in a good word to get them on the show, provided that producer Lorne Michaels agrees to bring the Muppets back. The Mighty Vivog makes his acquaintance with the Fab Four sound convincing, including by handily quoting Beatles lyrics, which also leads Scred to sing a refrain or two.  Chevy, in the end, promises to talk to Lorne.

Singer/songwriter and 70s icon Carly Simon is the musical guest for this episode, but due to her notorious bouts of stage fright, she prerecords her performances of “Half a Chance” and “You’re So Vain.”  The idea of the live show apparently freaked her out, but she still performed in front of the studio audience.

The “Bride of Frankenstein” sketch.  In this sketch, Madeline Kahn plays the titular monster bride, who is being risen from her inanimate state by Howard Shore and his “All Monster Band.” Her awakening segues into a performance of “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story, complete with Saturday Night cast members storming the stage in the end as angry villagers.  It was both absurd and endearing.

Chevy Chase began Weekend Update by saying, “I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re touching yourself.”  Rude.  Am not.  While most of his jokes weren’t that funny in this Update, two things happened that were pretty funny.  First, as he attempted to deliver a Francisco Franco joke by suggesting that the late Generalissimo was attempting to break the world record for not breathing, this punchline struck some audience member particularly funny, eliciting a guffaw, which also caused Chevy to break his normal deadpan.  This brings Chevy’s break total up to 5! Second, Gilda Radner’s Emily Litella returned, this time to oppose those who protest “violins on TV,” suggesting that music is very nice, and that if all musical programs are held off until late, the little babies won’t get to learn about violins and trumpets and other sorts of beautiful sounding instruments.  Of course, Chevy corrected her by noting that her editorial reply was directed to a story about violence on TV, which is, of course, very different.  (“Never mind!”)

The “Super Absorbent Dry Hose” commercial.  In this commercial, Madeline Kahn apparently suffers from sweaty pantyhose problems, and Jane Curtin plays some sort of vendor named Rosie with a Southern accent who clues Madeline’s customer into “super absorbent dry hose,” which acts like particularly absorbent paper towel for leg sweat. After demonstrating how this pantyhose (super) absorbs awkward moisture, Rosie accidentally spills the milk she was using to demonstrate how absorbent the hose was on the counter.  Madeline proceeds to lift up her skirt, sit on the counter, and wipe her butt along its surface, absorbing the spilled milk with the rear end of her pantyhose.  It was absurd enough to get my goat.

The “Final Days” sketch.  In this sketch, Madeline Kahn plays Pat Nixon, former First Lady, who is writing a diary entry about her husband’s peculiar behavior in advance of his inevitable resignation from being President.  Dan Aykroyd plays the erstwhile President, who is “not a crook,” and Gilda Radner and Chevy Chase play the Nixon children, including the son “who really does look like Howdy Doody” and was apparently something of an awkward geeky type, played hilariously by Chevy.  The money of this sketch is, first, John Belushi plays former Vice President Henry Kissinger to scary and humorous effect, which allows the sketch to satirize Nixon as being prejudiced against various groups, calling his VP a “Jew boy” in the process.  Second, Garrett Morris provides an excellent imitation of Sammy Davis, Jr., who was also Jewish and a well known Republican supporter and who appears right on time, though the sketch had veered into absurdity at that point, aside from the fact that this Nixon apparently had “meetings” with the paintings of former presidents hanging in the White House.  Really, it was the Kissinger and Sammy Davis Jr. that did it for me in this sketch.

Madeline Kahn sang a lovely song solo called “Lost in the Stars” near the end of the show.  It was truly lovely. And sad.

Announcer Don Pardo frequently talked over the end credits with his own quips to close the show.  For this episode, he appealed to Lorne Michaels to let him appear onstage and do an impression of the Beatles, because “frankly, he needed the money.”  He then proceeded to sing “She Loves You” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” badly before musing that Lorne, who didn’t seem to want to interject into the credits with a resounding agreement to this proposal, “must not be listening.”

Less Successful Moments

The only real low light to this episode was the film by Gary Weis, which was called “No Reason to Leave New York,” which I think was the title of the Ray Charles song playing over it.  It was a love letter to NYC but included footage of New York sports fans yelling at things.  It didn’t work for me, and not just because I’m not a New Yorker – I think it was a commentary on NYC’s special brand of directness that comes with this big city living or something, and I liked the song, but I was bored watching the segment. Though, overall, he’s been more successful than Albert Brooks.

There were other less funny sketches, but none that struck me as ones that didn’t “work” or were not successful in their execution.  I think anytime the host is really good, the whole show is just elevated up a notch, and Ms. Kahn was really good.

Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players

(1st) Gilda Radner, for being on fire in this show with her Babwa Wawa; her pig-tailed, sex averse slumber party host; for her consistently on-point if slightly deaf Emily Litella; and for her parakeet impression.  Madeline Kahn and Gilda Radner teamed up to do impressions, and Gilda’s was of a parakeet learning to talk.  Just watch it.

(2nd) Jane Curtin, for her slumber party attendee and for Rosie the hose seller.

(3rd) Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, and Garrett Morris (tie), for their impressions of Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and Sammy Davis Jr. respectively.  They were all equally silly and good.

Honorable mentions:

Chevy Chase, for his Nixon Jr. and for leading the “break” race with 5.  The score as of this episode is Chevy 5, Belushi 1, the rest of the cast zero.

Laraine Newman, for her “so groooss” slumber party attendee.

Don Pardo, for a good try, no matter how you slice it.

The Muppets, for the same.

Again, a really good episode with a good host.  Everyone had something great to contribute!

40 Years of Saturday Night Live! – Season One, Episode Eighteen (Raquel Welch)

Host: Raquel Welch

Musical Guests: Phoebe Snow; John Sebastian

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

Highlights:

“National sex symbol” and pin-up icon (and occasional actress) Raquel Welch hosted this episode.  She sang twice too.  As a host, she didn’t do it for me – though Chevy Chase tried more than once, unsuccessfully, to get her to take her shirt off.  She also doesn’t have a great singing voice.  What does this teach us, ladies and gentlemen?  In fact, this episode was lackluster overall but for a few shining moments…

The “Presidential Candidates” cold open.  In this cold open, Chevy Chase is reading off, Oscar-style, the nominations for various awards for each of the 1976 presidential primary candidates.  Nominations included Ronald Reagan – for never acting in a movie again.  This part of the sketch wasn’t the funny part; when asking for the award envelope, Chevy receives an envelope that says, “This is running long, just get to the fall, Chevy.”  Chevy then has a “moment,” spouting off about how he wrote the sketch, and that he’s not just a physical comic who performs falls, and that he wants to have the real envelope, which has the punchline to the sketch on it.  He is handed a second envelope that says something to the effect of, “Seriously, just get to the fall.”  He makes a protracted attempt to leave before finally making good on his promise and attempting to exit stage right, only to spectacularly trip over some chairs.  So meta.

Raquel Welch’s monologue was one of her singing spots, which would normally be uninteresting but for the fact that she sang a duet with John Belushi again sporting his Joe Cocker impression, which seems to involve him rolling around on the floor a lot (or acting like he has rigor mortis).  Did Joe Cocker actually do that?!?!  Raquel sang another song toward the end of the show too.  It was not a highlight.

The Muppets are back!  This time, confused as they are by not being invited on the show, they discover Raquel Welch and start to get a little sexy with her, until she informs them that they are puppets, without “bottom halves,” making them “all talk.” This piece of news leads the Chief to have a major identity crisis…

Phoebe Snow is the first to repeat as musical guest; she previously appeared in the Paul Simon episode to sing a duet with him.  In this episode, she’s flying solo, and sings “All Over” and “Two-Fisted Love.”

John Sebastian is the second musical guest for this episode.  He rose to fame as founder and singer for The Lovin’ Spoonful, though he nurtured a solo career from the seventies onward. He sang “Welcome Back,” best known as the theme song to Welcome Back Kotter.  Funnily enough, he had two false starts on the broadcast and got a little flustered at the band, some of which included the studio band.  Also, John Belushi as Joe Cocker helped him out with a harmonica.

The “Polaroid” commercial, which was surprisingly unfunny but for a twist: John Belushi, advertising the product, introduced himself as Jane Curtin while talking to Jane Curtin, who introduced herself as John Belushi.  I think they were confused.

Weekend Update was kind of a mixed bag of good and bad in this episode.  When Chevy Chase introduced himself as “I’m Chevy Chase, and you can’t,” it was clear that he couldn’t either.  In fact, at one point, he had trouble finding the camera, which clearly wasn’t deliberate, because he broke!  For a mini moment, but this brings his grand total of breakages up to four!  While his jokes largely crashed and burned, two guest reports made up for it.  Making the first appearance in this episode was Gilda Radner’s famous impression of Barbara Walters, i.e. “Bawbwa Wawa.”  Roving reporter Garrett Morris introduces Bawbwa and interviews her about leaving NBC for ABC for a five million dollar deal (this must be why they saw fit to subtly parody her).  She was only guaranteed the money if she learned how to say a name I can’t quite remember now, but it really chuffed her speech impediment.  Additionally, returning to the desk was John Belushi, the Saturday Night meteorologist, who ranted about the deleterious effects of songs about weather.  He was particularly focused on the song “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” reasoning that rain on a parade was a lot better than, say, vomit on a parade or kitty litter on a parade.  Chevy, of course, tried to interrupt him and to get him back on track, but John had to make his point (“back off, man!”), culminating in another explosion resulting from seeming cardiac arrest and toppling off his chair.  Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow, indeed.

The “Beatle Offer” sketch.  In the best and most legendary part of this episode, producer Lorne Michaels came out from behind the scenes to address rumors that the Beatles (all of whom were alive at that point) might be reuniting.  He implored them to reunite on the show, if possible given their infighting and legal battles, and offered them a whopping sum of $3,000 to sing three songs.  “If you want to pay Ringo less, that’s up to you,” he quipped.  As a Beatlesologist, it is well known that Paul actually called John at his New York apartment and asked if they oughtn’t to go on, even as a duo, for a laugh. In the end, they decided against it, but wouldn’t it have been something?  And frankly, it was ballsy of Lorne to try.  Remember when he was ballsy?

The “Muppet Trunk” sketch.  At the end of the show, The Chief and Scred consult the Frank Oz voiced Vivog, the statue for which they sacrifice for advice.  The Chief implored the statue to help them, since the Gorch scenery was burned down, since the show has stopped booking them for sketches, and since they are apparently just puppets with no bottom halves.  “That’s easy; don’t look down,” Vivog says.  He also suggests that the Muppets resign themselves to being puppets and climb in “the trunk,” where other Gorch characters have been resting “since November.”  Is this the last of the Muppets on Saturday Night?!  Say it isn’t so!  Yet, The Muppet Show was taking off by then, so it was only a matter of time.

Less Successful Moments

The “Claudine Longet Invitational” sketch.  Chevy Chase and Jane Curtin play commentators for a ski invitational where film footage of skiers wiping out is shown.  According to the commentary, they have allegedly been “accidentally shot” by Claudine Longet, an actress of yore who was accused of shooting her skier boyfriend at the time, which she claimed was an accident, saying the gun went off while he was showing it to her.

The “Great Moments in Herstory” sketch.  In this sketch, Raquel Welch played actress Jane Russell, on the set of Howard Hughes’ film The Outlaw.  Dan Aykroyd played the famously eccentric director. This sketch suffered from lousy execution by Welch and an absurd concept that had something to do with putting a bra made out of propellers on Jane’s bazongas, as constructed by a “Mormon scientist” played by Garrett Morris.  It just really wasn’t funny and was clearly aiming for absurdity while falling short due to dead weight by Welch.

The “Bisexual Minute” sketch.  In this sketch, Raquel Welch, dressed in a bikini top and not much else, introduced herself as Gore Vidal and talked about the famous author’s alleged family history.  You weren’t supposed to be paying attention to what she was saying.  I’m sure there were a lot of presidential erections as a result, but this bit did absolutely nothing for me.

The “One Flew Over the Hornet’s Nest” sketch.  Otherwise known as the Bees do One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, complete with an insane asylum, an “Indian” chief played by Chevy Chase, and a Nurse Ratched played by Raquel Welch, with John Belushi playing the Jack Nicholson/McMurphy bee.  Three things: a) the only funny part was Gilda Radner playing “Broccoli,” a so-called vegetable; b) the sketch ran waaaay too long; and c) it was mocking Cuckoo’s Nest for its many Oscar nominations, but by golly, that shit deserved it.  It’s an excellent movie.  Also, Raquel Welch stunk up the joint in this one, playing a Nurse Ratched, or maybe a Louise Fletcher, it’s hard to tell, who was positively pining for her eventual Oscar.  I’m sure heterosexual men and homosexual women the world over loved her as host, but, in my opinion, she is not much more than her looks.  At least she wasn’t back then and on this show.

And then Gary Weis’ film was nothing but a dancing Raquel Welch.  With slow motion.  And with her wearing a jumpsuit of sequins that she no doubt had to tape to her mooblies. He probably had a presidential erection too.

Most Valuable Not Ready For Primetime Players

(1st) John Belushi, for his triumphant return as Joe Cocker, for his easily agitated meteorologist, for selling a camera under a nom de plume, and for sort of channeling Jack Nicholson in the “Hornet’s Nest” sketch.  Sort of.

(2nd) Chevy Chase, for his attempt at integrity during the cold open, for his opportunistic and horny attempts to defrock Raquel Welch, and for his mini-break after losing the camera focus, making his breakage score 4 to Belushi’s 1, with the rest of the cast at 0.

(3rd) Gilda Radner, for Babwa Wawa and for being a totally far out Broccoli Bee.