SNL Retro: Kris Kristofferson/Rita Coolidge (7/31/76)

Posted: February 5, 2010 by Brendan Wahl in SNL Retro Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

(Season 1, Episode 24 (Season Finale))

As was made very evident by last week’s classic episode of Saturday Night Live, sometimes the quality of the host could have a major impact on how the show turns out as a whole. Because of Louise Lasser being one of the worst and most difficult hosts in history, the writers being a bit burned out and angered about having to return during the summer, and the general malaise of the cast at having to do the same, it turned out to be the worst episode of the show for quite some time.

This week, it would seem to be another possible train-wreck in the form of the host, country singer Kris Kristofferson. I will be the first to admit that I am not a fan of country music in the least. In fact, I think the only “country” I can really enjoy is some of Johnny Cash’s stuff. That being said, I’ve always liked Kris in small roles in a lot of the movies he’s been in but as for being the anchor on a late-night comedy show? Yeesh.

He brings along then-wife Rita Coolidge with him for the ride as the actual scheduled musical guest and yes, also a country singer. So this already has potential to be the darn tootin’est episode of Saturday Night Live at least.

Just for some extra tidbits for fans of the show here: Apparently, some minutes before the episode went on the air, Kris was found to be quite inebriated. With a sense of desperation, Lorne cried out for someone to fetch their host some black coffee and rush him on the air.

The Show:

1. “Help Me Make It Through The Night”

I put it in quotes because this episode essentially starts with a performance of this song by Kris Kristofferson, while wearing a trendy open shirt with a big gold chain dangling in the middle. But it wouldn’t be a first season cold open without Chevy Chase and so during the musical performance, he attempts to have an affair with Rita Coolidge, but can’t manage to get her undressed without fumbling all over himself. This opening felt a lot like the Paul Simon one but with a tad more plot. It was still a fairly underwhelming way to start the show. C+

2. Monologue

Oh boy, this would be where a drunk person shines. Talking about stuff that needs to make sense without playing a character. Thankfully Kris keeps it short by saying that he needs to give equal time, which segues into the next piece. C

3. I Was Not A Sucker For Saturday Night

One of Laraine Newman’s very few recurring characters, Sherry, makes an appearance here to talk about working as an intern for Saturday Night Live and the various disgusting quirks that the writers on the show have. O’Donoghue’s is the best (“He couldn’t finish writing the ‘Star Trek’ sketch until I told him ‘rocket ships are okay, but your missile is tremendous'”). B

4. Samurai General Practitioner

Ahh yes, it’s the fifth installment of John Belushi’s classic Samurai Futaba pieces. In this one, he plays the role of a general practitioner visited by Kris Kristofferson (in a huge acting stretch: playing himself), who comes to see him after some general problems while traveling on the road. The reason that these samurai sketches were always good is the different quirks that Belushi would throw in sometimes. For instance, in this one he does an ages-old comedy routine with a skeleton in his office like something out of a vaudeville act and then puts a picture of a naked chick on his x-ray display. A-

5. Rita Coolidge sings “Hula Hoop”

Mr. Kristofferson’s wife is out to do her part now! I mentioned earlier that I am no fan of country music, but this song is catchy enough I guess. Even Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner come out and join in on the fun. B-

6. Great White Athletes

Garrett Morris is on this show? Huh. This time, good ol’ GM plays the role of Olympian Jesse Owens, who offers a new product to the public in the form of some medallions commemorating the last of a dying breed, great white athletes. This was whatever. C+

7. Mississippi Delegate

More Gerald Ford goodness! For the most part, I always loved when Chevy would “impersonate” Gerald Ford (I put it in quotes because his impression was basically just being really clumsy and looking nothing like the then-president). This time, Ford welcomes an undecided delegate from Mississippi, Frank Wade (Kris), who gets one of the best lines of the whole night: “Mr. President, there’s a flower in my drink.” Ford goes for the usual goofiness including forgetting who he’s talking to or where Wade is from, embarrassing himself in front of Betty (Curtin), and various other hijinx. B+

8. Police State

Head writer Michael O’Donoghue continues to prove himself this season with this cop show parody Police State. In this piece, the entire city has turned into, yes, a police state. Brut (Aykroyd) and McCord (Chase) shoot first and ask questions later while encountering several “criminals” (one of which includes Kristofferson in a very brief role). Best sketch of the night. A

9. Weekend Update with Chevy Chase (Part I)

Chevy is on his A-game with jokes about how Olga Korbut will “mistakenly shoot” Nadia Comaneci as part of her Olympics strategy, Jimmy Hoffa being a “cornerstone in the organization”, and Reagan making the bold statement that “two Republican nominees could hurt the election in November.”

10. Talk Country

Kris plays himself and advertises his own book of catchy country phrases and ways to sound as dumb as a good ol’ boy like dropping the g’s off the end of words and getting into trouble with the law. Yee-haw! Stereotypes…C+

11. Weekend Update with Chevy Chase (Part II)

Correspondent Laraine Newman reports from beautiful Nassau instead of NASA in a cute bit, but that only serves as the appetizer for one of the best bits of the whole segment as Chevy quotes Spiro Agnew as saying “All of these allegations [of anti-semitism] are pure nonsense. Some of my best friends are Christ-killers.” A-

12. The Real Bobbi McGee

After singing a few bars of “Me and Bobbi McGee”, Kris brings out the real Bobbi McGee (Radner), who by now has gotten married to new husband Larry (Belushi) and is a stereotypical middle-class Jewish woman. This is a rather predictable bit as Kris starts singing the song and Larry keeps interrupting, getting more and more suspicious of the activity that occurred between the two in the past. Rita Coolidge joins in on the fun too, but this whole thing went a little too long. C+

13. Gynecologist Blind Date

It’s every woman’s dream! One young woman (Curtin) prepares to go on a blind date…with her gynecologist (Kris)! What one may expect to be a barrage of genitalia-related jokes actually turns out to be a quieter character piece filled with nice, subtle comedy. B+

14. Kris & Rita sing “Eddie the Eunuch”

This time, husband and wife perform together. It’s another country tune but for some reason, that didn’t bug me again and I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. B+

15. Praising Carter

It’s time for another sketch to be weakly written around Aykroyd’s Jimmy Carter impression! This time, Andrew Young (Morris) praises the future president in his church only for his mood to change quite a bit when Carter himself says that Young will not receive any position of power or buy-out for his continued support. The ending was a cop-out as well. C

16. Waiting For Pardo

In this obvious parody to something I just can’t put my finger on, two men (Kris & Chevy) wait for Don Pardo while philosophizing about his great traits. Pardo’s interruptions to shill several products are the only highlights in this rather dry piece. C-

17. Kris Kristofferson sings “I’ve Got A Life Of My Own”

It’s a great choice to close the show, in fact. Kris sings a lesser-known classic while thanking his band in the midst of the song and brings the house down. A

Kris delivers a pretty humble goodnight to one and all, thanks everyone for helping him make it through the week, and the credits roll.

Well, this was much better than last week’s.

It’s not a terrific episode by any stretch, but still a solid one that saw everyone put in quite a bit more effort than last week’s anyway. Kris, despite being tanked, put in a decent amount of effort but of course shined the most whenever he had to sing.

Host Rating: B-

Musical Guest Rating: B

Show Rating: C+

  1. macas539 says:

    Wow, I can’t believe Kris Kristofferson was hosted SNL! I love his music, especially “Sunday Morning Coming Down”, that is a great tune. Good ole’ country singers and their liquor, doesn’t surprise me in the least he was tanked while hosting the show otherwise he wouldnt be a country star!

  2. Robyn says:

    I think you secretly love country music..

  3. brenw23 says:

    Damn, you got me.

  4. Waiting For Pardo is a parody of Waiting For Godot…

  5. Kristofferson is not your ‘typical’ country singer. He skirts the genre, with rock, blues and soul and just plain good songwriting thrown in…great seeing him here, and Rita Coolidge as well. Didn’t know too much about her before. Morris is pretty good in the Carter skit, unsung as usual.

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