by Brendan Wahl
(Season 2, Episode 5)
Last week’s episode was tough to rate. With an iffy host and a mostly-good musical guest, the cast handled themselves well. Karen Black wasn’t awful or anything and certainly didn’t carry her weight too heavily in most of the sketches, but she still wasn’t much of an attribute. Still, it was an alright episode. It’s tough sometimes when you have to follow Eric freakin’ Idle.
This week, however, would see the hosting debut of one man who would go on to make a total of fifteen appearances hosting the show along with a slew of cameos and guest appearances throughout the years. At the time, 31-year old Steve Martin was merely an up-and-coming stand-up comic who had made a few appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and a man who Lorne Michaels reluctantly agreed to let host.
Yes, you read that right. Lorne was quite reluctant to have Steve act as the comic ringmaster for the entity that is Saturday Night Live despite his closest associates advising him otherwise.
The musical guest for this episode did not make quite as much of an impact as Steve did. Musician Kinky Friedman was mostly known for his politically-charged tunes and an opportunity he received to tour with Bob Dylan in early 1976. In fact, his political views pushed him enough to eventually attempt to run for office as a Republican and then later a Democrat. For this episode, Friedman was promoting his Lasso From El Passo album.
So with this somewhat odd combination, Saturday Night Live commences with the debut stint of one of the two most frequent hosts in the show’s history!
1. Yankees Loss (:49)
Following a loss in the World Series, the Yankees coach (Aykroyd) stands on a stool and apologizes to his team before one of them (Chase) kicks the stool away and reveals a very dark twist. B
2. Monologue (6:13)
Steve absolutely kills with his opening monologue in which he discusses a few common tropes with stand-up comics and then throws in some off-the-wall and completely random-style humour. Of course, Steve utilizes the banjo as well and that’s where some of the most hilarious stuff comes from. A
3. Speak Out For Milk (1:52)
Chevy films a commercial for milk but because of his continuous mentioning of some of the negative aspects of drinking milk, they keep having to film it again. B+
4. Jeopardy 1999! (7:15)
In the future, everyone has giant wigs and wears Star Trek clothing! Art F114 (Martin) hosts Jeopardy in which three contestants (Aykroyd, Chase, Newman) attempt to answer several questions that reveal the strange aspects of the future. This sketch is filled with highlights much like the two debate sketches of this season. Answers like the first president to kill himself in office, baby-killing becoming legal in 1983, and the name Chevy Chase being obscure to everyone are quite funny. Predicting that Chevy would be obscure in 1999 is pretty eerie too. A+
5. Kinky Friedman sings “Dear Abbie” (3:14)
Sure enough, Kinky sings a politically-charged song that deals with war for the most part. It’s a good one, though. Much like Prine, he is just a man with a guitar and a story, but he has a little more presence than the aforementioned crooner. B+
6. Weekend Update with Chevy Chase (Part I)
Lots of debate coverage this week but it’s turned into a clever nod at the controversial Ali/Norton fight from a few weeks back. The highlight of Update this week though is the story about Chairman Mao being buried in a take-out box. It’s cruel and kinda racist, but at the same time it’s bold.
7. Fido-Flex (1:19)
A spokesperson (Martin) presents a german shepherd that can tell time! Not only that, but you can pull an ear or its tail and it has different features. Another spokesperson (Radner) also presents Lady Fido-Flex just to cap it off. B
8. Weekend Update with Chevy Chase (Part II) (total: 6:34)
Chevy thanks Jane Curtin for filling in for him during the past two weeks and then she gives an update on the latest fluorocarbon controversy while Chase reverts back to his usual self and makes faces behind her back. Writer Al Franken also makes a funny appearance, showing up behind Chevy and attempting to read the story over the newsman’s shoulder. A-
9. The Beatniks (11:46)
An epic. This sketch runs for a long, long time and sports some great individual performances. Danny plays a Wolfman Jack-like announcer who introduces various acts at the bar. Said bar plays host to Juan Kutner (Chase), a man with a guitar and some questionable talent, beat poet Rodney Chernin (Martin), terrible blind guitar player Josh Jackson (Morris), paranoid comedian Shelly Bailess (Belushi), and finally double-jointed dancer Isadora Schwartz (Newman). Most of the performances are great with a couple falling a little short. A-
10. Looks At Books (3:47)
Jane interviews Dr. Lloyd Kaufman (Martin), a man who has studied the connection between sex and sports. The punchline of the piece is pretty funny, but the overall quality of this fairly simple one-note bit is mediocre. C+
11. Film: Autumn in New York (1:55)
Gary Weis takes us around New York while he and several other people mouth the words to some New York-praising song. Pretty boring. C-
12. Dead Mary Richards (7:01)
After a practical joke involving Draino, Mary Richards (Newman) dies in her office and it ends up that Ted (Martin) has committed the act. I’ve heard some people say that this sketch was a sort of lame parody, but I really enjoyed the impressions here. Our host and John Belushi are the highlights of this sketch that is plenty crude and very funny. B+
13. Mysteries In Medicine (5:03)
Dietician Dr. Paul Cone (Martin) treats one of his patients (Curtin) to the Blog treatment. Indeed, Blog (Belushi) makes occassional attempts to invade a cabin where she (Curtin) and another patient (Newman) are staying to steal whatever fish or seaweed they catch. Amusing stuff. B
14. Ramblin’ Steve (5:17)
The host comes back out to deliver a second monologue, poking fun at the deep-pockets mentality of some celebrities, recalling an encounter he had with Jackie Onassis, and commenting on the public’s short memory just to name a few highlights. A
Steve thanks everyone and then the cast faces the wrong way, waving goodnight.
Steve made a very solid debut here in this episode and while this isn’t his best episode, his performances found within are still wonderful and makes it very evident why he has been repeatedly invited back. Whether it was hosting a bizarre game show from the future or reciting beat poetry in Plato’s Cave, Steve made everything work and might as well have been an honourary cast member for the effort he put forth in this episode.
Kinky Friedman was pretty decent with the one song he got to perform but I don’t really have too much to say about him overall.
So all in all, this was a fun episode with highs and lows but the best is yet to come for Mr. Steve Martin.
Host Rating: A+
Musical Guest Rating: B+
Show Rating: B/B+