by Brendan Wahl
Much like Ralph Nader, Julian Bond was a man who fought for the rights of the people but unlike Nader, Bond never ran for president and he was not a consumer advocate. Rather, Bond worked as a civil rights activist and a Democratic member of the Georgia House. After that ended in 1975, Julian became a member of the Georgia Senate and became even more involved in his activist work. Bond has always been a strict Democrat and eventually ended up becoming the chairman for the NAACP up until very recently. So with all of this in mind, Lorne Michaels must have thought that this definitely qualifies JB to be a comedian.
But seriously, it’s hard to figure out sometimes how Lorne and co. can predict that certain hosting choices won’t be absolute wash-outs on the show. Sure, there’s been enough people that had no right hosting the program (Louise Lasser, Robert DeNiro, and Nancy Kerrigan come to mind) but at least they didn’t completely blow up on the program and lose their cool. Julian Bond, being a big-time activist, clearly comes from an ability to engage in public speaking and debating with folks so that may have been a major factor in Michaels deciding that he would make for an apt host.
Joining Bond in this episode are two musical guests. The first is the jazz & funk ensemble known as Brick, who also emanate out of Georgia much like our host. Our other host, while not as fitting for Julian Bond, is the man with the voice that sounds like he just got his throat sanded down, Tom Waits. While I am not too familiar with Brick, I do know Tom Waits as “that gravelly-voiced weird guy from Mystery Men that works on cars.” Just kidding, I’m vaguely familiar with Waits’ body of work…. as an actor.
1. Emily in Love (2:06)
SNL’s resident deaf grandma (Radner) gets quite an unexpected visit from Jane Curtin while swooning about her recent love. After informing the newswoman that she has no story for tonight’s Weekend Update, Emily talks about her new man and jumbles the lyrics to a song dedicated to their everlasting bond. This was essentially an Update piece disguised as a sketch and Emily is increasingly growing tired. C
2. Monologue (1:44)
Julian looks a little stiff and addresses the obvious question on people’s minds as to why in the world he would be chosen to host the show. Bond lists off his credentials and the possible reasons that he was chosen, but then realizes that the cast members and the producer had him come all the way from Atlanta “to be their chocolate easter bunny.” Well, that built to nothing. C
3. H&L Brock (1:52)
Another commercial from the Tax Fraud People as Lowell Brock (Belushi) talks about having the time to help people cheat on their taxes because he is, in fact, doing time. Not as classic as his first trio of appearances, but still an enjoyable sketch. B+
4. Black Perspective (3:28)
In the third appearance of Garrett’s recurring talk show, this week he sits down with our host, Mr. Bond. Appearing on the show to compare black IQ test results to those of white people, Bond lists all the obvious cultural disadvantages that blacks face while taking these tests. Then in the most shocking moment of the entire sketch, Julian tells everyone that the notion of whites being smarter than blacks descends from the fact that light-skinned blacks are smarter than dark-skinned blacks. A
5. An Oval Office (4:47)
After a conversation with his daughter (Newman) that mirrors the actual relationship with the people, President Carter (Aykroyd) welcomes suck-up Andrew Jackson (Morris) and Julian himself, there to speak for the human rights of his people in Georgia. Julian also asks Carter about why he hasn’t appointed more African-Americans or women to the cabinet, while the Prez keeps trying to distract him with various knick-knacks around the office. The beginning featuring Amy playing with stereotypical black dolls was pretty funny when considering what followed in the rest of the piece. B+
6. Tom Waits sings “Eggs & Sausages” (3:51)
The gravelly-voiced crooner sings a song about breakfast I think. It’s hard to understand what it’s about because he’s all over the place and his jazz is very free-form and hard to lock down. Maybe one of the least mainstream mainstream artists, Waits has accompaniment from some great saxophone playing and it all adds up to an enjoyable performance. B+
7. Dr. X, Family Counselor (5:24)
One family meet with the strangest guidance counselor ever, Dr. X (Aykroyd). Then again, the only real reason he is strange is because of his silver mask and the hook he has instead of his right arm. When the family’s son (Belushi) constantly questions Dr. X’s strange attire, the counselor’s stories are interrupted by random outbursts of his own hysteria followed by a quick, “Oh, nothing.” This is one of the odder sketches I have encountered so far in the first two seasons of my reviews. But man oh man, it’s an absurd masterpiece. A+
8. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (Part I) (Total: 3:31)
Starting things off with a cruel (but justified) joke at the expense of Anita Bryant, declaring herself a “citrusexual,” Jane delivers a number of sharp barbs this week including a funny joke involving a young terrorist wanting to be packed in a box and mailed to Tatum O’Neal. The first segment is really short.
9. Right On Afro Lustre (:32)
Spoofing those old Virginia Slim’s commercials, an afro-sportin’ mascot (Bond) shills for some hairspray for afros in particular (“you’ll know it because the bottle is shaped like a fist”). Very short, but silly bit. B
10. Weekend Update (Part II)
The Tamponski looks to be the first disposable rocket for the Russians and High Chairman Mao has taken over Beijing. While trying to deliver a story about the Concorde flight, the plane flies overhead and obscures most of Curtin’s speech. And that’s it. That may have been the shortest Update of the season thus far. Pretty much everything worked though. A-
11. Great Moments In Motown (7:26)
At the Lilac Club in Detroit circa 1968, four jazz crooners practice for the owner (Bond). Unfortunately, their performance falls short of his expectations. The band all agree that they need vests instead of jackets, but the club owner requests various things from them like using their hands more and breathing in the right places. The dialogue between the four performers (Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris, & Murray) is hilarious and Bond seems a bit looser in this sketch. In particular, Billy Murray acting as a sort of lackey for Belushi’s character is the highlight. B+
12. Creeley’s Soup (2:42)
As a little girl (Radner) eats her Creeley’s vegetable soup, an announcer (Murray) asks her if she would trade it in for various things, but gets more and more cruel with his various requests for her to do things with the soup like sticking the pieces in her nose for instance. A classic commercial piece. A
13. Bad Cinema (5:06)
The second appearance of Leonard Pinth-Garnell (Aykroyd) and this time, he welcomes a panel including Truman Capote (a wonderful impression by Belushi), Lina Wertmuller (Newman), and T. Lazlo de Wizzen (Bond), a critic of film noir and a teacher in bad lighting. The film in question is a ridiculously terrible bit called “Ooh La La! Les Legs!” with a badly-filmed dancing sequence. Of course, Garnell addresses its craptitude (“Terrible. That wasn’t so good, was it?”) while Capote addresses it as exquisitely bad, Wertmuller calls it nauseating, and Wizzen says that since his critique exclusively includes bad 3D fear films and thus, the film in question is one of the worst of those kinds of films. A better appearance than the first “Bad…” sketch. B+
14. Brick sings “Dazz” (3:06)
A fairly well-known number by sound rather than name, Brick performs their hearts out here and delivers an enjoyable toe-tapper with some really interesting instrumental accompaniment, particularly on the flute. A
15. Civil Rights Farbers (7:07)
Traveling the country to spread the word of civil rights to various homes, Julian Bond stops by the Farbers’ (Belushi & Radner) home because of the progressive nature of the couple. Not sexually, though. Larry makes a lot of inappropriate comments during Bond’s discussion of young African-Americans looking for employment or financial assistance. Once the Farbers’ guests arrive, the idea of some black neighbours joining their Backgammon club is quickly shot down by the very conservative and closet-racist guests. It’s biting satire at its finest and probably one of the better Farbers sketches. A-
16. Mr. Mike Meets Uncle Remus (3:14)
Straight out of Song of the South, Uncle Remus (Morris) welcomes Mr. Mike over to hear a least-loved bedtime tale involving Br’er Rabbit. Unlike the film, Br’er Rabbit is skinned alive rather than being thrown in the briar patch. To cap it all off, Mr. Mike presents Remus with the corpse of the bluebird of happiness he found on the ground while arriving to the log cabin. This is pure dark O’Donogue and its wonderful. A+
17. Gary Weis Film: Patti Smith (2:51)
Patti Smith, who appeared in the first season as a musical guest, talks about her appearance in April on the show and discusses censorship and how the show didn’t allow her and the group to sing certain lyrics. Patti rambles on and on and it gets kind of boring, but I understand what she’s trying to get across. B-
18. New South (2:14)
The notoriously backwards-thinking governor of Alabama, George Wallace (Belushi) speaks of his views against racism with things like bumper stickers warning people that they “brake for negroes.” Wallace announces that besides buses, African-Americans can now ride in the back of everything from jet planes to monorails. It’s a pretty good critique of a very conservative Democrat who supported segregation throughout much of his political career. B
Julian and the cast (sporting “Bond in ’76″ shirts) wave goodnight to one and all after Mr. Bond thanks the cast, crew, his mother, etc. for helping him get through one of the strangest experiences in his life.
Julian Bond followed the usual protocol of politician-hosts. He came in, mostly played himself in the sketches except for a couple here and there, and the cast was mainly funny around him and covered up any weaknesses he may have. There’s not much to say about Bond. He was a fairly average, but stiff host who did a decent enough job as any politician-host would, I suppose. I still feel the strongest politician-host was John McCain.
The musical guests were fun. Tom Waits was a delight and even though I could barely understand what he was saying at times, I still enjoyed his piano-playin’ tune about the most important meal of the day. Brick performed a fairly well-known number and were also a nice addition to this episode, which felt fairly free of recurring characters and sketches. We had Mr. Mike, the Farbers, and Emily Litella.
The cast did a swell job this week of providing the funny and I gotta commend Garrett Morris in particular for coming out of this episode looking pretty damn good. Now if only he was this consistent. Bill Murray also got more stuff to do this week than the Burns/Santana episode, but he’s not QUITE there yet. As for everyone else, they were featured a lot except for Laraine Newman, who was unfortunately underused this week.
Rock-solid episode this week, yo.
Julian Bond’s monologue was pretty disappointing. For political hosts, they usually come up with something a lot more clever/original due to the lack of acting talent on display.
I can’t believe that Disney won’t release Song of the South just because of the main character being a slave. The film doesn’t promote slavery at all. And at the time it was made, it was a completely different mindset. It’s still a wonderful film with a heart. Mini-rant over.
Wow, there wasn’t a recurring theme through this episode or anything, huh? While some of the ‘themed’ SNL episodes have been a bit grating at times, it doesn’t feel like race relations was one that was really rammed home despite being prevalent in about five different pieces.
This is somewhat of an underappreciated episode, I find.
Laraine Newman showing up late for the Bad Cinema sketch was pretty amusing. I wonder why she was late though. She wasn’t in a sketch right before that…
Host Rating: C+
Musical Guest Rating – Tom Waits: B+
Musical Guest Rating – Brick: A
Show Rating: B+