by Brendan Wahl
One thing that Lorne Michaels tried to accomplish with Saturday Night Live from the beginning was to have an American version of Monty Python. The kind of madcap hilarity that would seamlessly go from segment into segment and then he also wanted to borrow some of that absurdity that came along with it as well. The only problem with that is that it is a lot harder and nearly impossible to seamlessly go from segment to segment with a live show and so Lorne had to go with what he could do. But if he was going for the Monty Python sentiment, what better host to choose than Eric Idle?
Eric was, of course, one of the Pythoners and some might say the best one (not me, I always preferred Cleese). It must have been a wonderful surprise to the cast and crew to be able to land Eric Idle for a hosting gig and have a superb comedic ringleader at the helm. Eric brings along tons of comedic baggage with him and a vast knowledge about how sketch comedy works, which is always good to have around.
Joining Eric is rock star Joe Cocker, who John Belushi famously did a spot-on impression of early in the first season. Joe’s strange on-stage (and off-stage, no doubt) mannerisms should not be brushed away as his true singing talent was vast and he had a real presence. Joining Cocker is a second musical guest in Stuff. You’ve probably never heard of Stuff, but essentially they provided backup for several huge rock & roll stars and with this episode, they get to have a showcase for their own talents.
Here we go!
1. The Real Chevy Chase (2:48)
We continue now with the trend of Chevy Chase being absent. We get the introduction of Weekend Update “with Chevy Chase,” but instead of Mr. Foul Play himself, we get comedian Richard Belzer filling in for him, pretending to be the famous stumblebum. Of course, Chevy calls in angrily and proves to the fake one that he is indeed the real Chevy Chase, but Belzer of course denies it and then we get another creative “fall.” B
2. Monologue (:59)
Eric sits with guitar in hand and prepares to sing a ridiculous shouting version of “Here Comes The Sun”, but is quickly interrupted by Jane Curtin, who convinces him to save it for later in the show. B+
3. Genetic Counselor (2:52)
Immediately following the monologue, Eric walks right into his first sketch (remember that thing about seamlessly going from sketch to sketch) and plays a doctor who is interviewing a couple (Aykroyd & Radner) on how they want their soon-to-be newborn to look and act. It seems simple but questions like “tongue or dipstick?” and “fur or quilted?” This is a terrific start. A
4. KLOG Radio (4:55)
A Radio DJ (Aykroyd) alternates between bright and chipper Kip Casey and dark and gloomy Kenneth Wardell depending on which radio station he is currently running. This is a fantastic performance from Aykroyd, who utilizes every inch of his talent to truly deliver and carry this great, great bit. It should be noted that there is yet another reference to the “Antler Dance” in this season. A+
5. The Killer Bees (4:07)
Making their second appearance after Gould/Murray, the Killer Bees (Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris, & Belzer) are back and this time they are invading a clinic to prevent nurses (Curtin & Radner) from killing their friend, the Swine Flu. Unfortunately, one of the bees (Idle) makes it clear that he is NOT Mexican and it breaks the fourth wall and prematurely ends the sketch. Idle trying to prove his Mexican roots is the highlight of this fantastic piece and the sketch also starts the running joke of someone cheering up another castmember or the host up only to have it end with a supposed future sexual encounter. A+
6. Eric’s Song (:31)
Our host believes it’s time to do his song and starts to play again, but Jane interrupts again and tells him to save it for the end of the show. B+
7. Joe Cocker sings “You Are So Beautiful” (2:54)
For some reason, every time I hear this song all I can think about is The Little Rascals and Alfalfa singing it to Darla. Despite that, Cocker delivers a wonderful performance here with his usual mannerisms and strange facial expressions in full effect. A-
8. Baba Wawa’s Farewell (1:01)
One of my favourite “impressions” on the show. Baba (Radner) bids everyone a farewell as she is leaving NBC for “Hawwy Weiseneh.” How the real woman ever got to be an interviewer with that strange speech impediment, I’ll never know. B+
9. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (Part I)
Once again, Jane takes the helm in place of the injured Chevy Chase and once again kills…much like last week. This time, Jane comments on some very racist comments from Earl Butts and then does a clever callback to the story during a riff on an Ali/Norton fight. In one of the funnier commentaries in recent memory, Garrett Morris interviews a Rabbi (writer Alan Zweibel) for his opinions on the recent circumcision of Michaelangelo’s David.
10. Epifix (1:11)
Dan plays a spokesman for a super-fast headache relief called Epifix which is essentially a high-powered acid combination along with a needle. I love some of these more absurb products. A-
11. Weekend Update with Jane Curtin (Part II) (total: 7:26)
After doing a hilarious piece on comic character Mary Worth becoming pregnant, Jane quickly corrects one of last week’s stories and then continues to kill with joke after joke. We also get some “footage” of Ed Aames (Belushi) throwing an axe on The Tonight Show. Instead of the spontaneous incident that actually occurred though, Ed goes right for the crotch in a moment of frustration and then Jane offers a sarcastic laugh. A+
12. Beatles Offer Backfired (1:30)
Lorne Michaels makes an appearance to mention his $3000 offer to the Beatles and that Eric Idle had formerly agreed to get the Beatles to appear tonight as long as he could get the money ahead of time. Unfortunately for Lorne, Eric was only able to get the Rutles… A-
13. Film: The Rutles (3:18)
This wonderfully-constructed film doesn’t go for easy laughs but rather exists as a scarily accurate depiction of the Beatles and its insane fanbase. Idle, of course, plays one of the Rutles and then an interviewer who just can’t seem to catch up with the cameraman. If I had a rating higher than A+, I would award it to this film. It’s just so unbelievably well-done and funny. A+
14. Nazi Spies (3:26)
Two American spies (Idle & Aykroyd) meet in a Nazi bar and trade lingo between each other and talk in code. Eventually, they quietly discuss their plan to eliminate Hitler and then break into loud, obnoxious German when anyone else comes near their table. The ending makes the sketch but really, the setup is quite hilarious too. A-
15. Eric’s Song (:57)
This time, Eric is dressed in a funny looking hat with stringed marshmellows hanging off the side of it. Before he can get into this different song, this time Garrett interrupts and tells him to save it for later. A-
16. Joe Cocker & John Belushi sing “Feelin’ Alright” (3:39)
Joe comes out for his second number and (along with Stuff) sings a rollicking rock tune. The highlight though is when John Belushi makes his way out shortly after doing his best Cocker impression (which apparently took Joe a while to warm up to) and singing alongside him for the remainder of the song. An absolute highlight and one of the iconic moments of the show. A+
17. Dragnet (4:04)
Officers Friday (Aykroyd) and Saturday Morning (Idle) report for duty in full women’s clothing. There are, again, so many highlights in this sketch. From Garrett Morris telling the two officers he got “a snag in [his] pantyhose” to the strange phone conversation at the beginning, the sound effects, and the final fourth wall-breaking by Belushi. Once again, the sketch ends with a couple of people running off to have sex after one of them is consoled by the other. This time, it’s Eric and Dan. A+
18. Film: Drag Racing Today (1:16)
Eric and Dan essentially play the same characters as the drag racing entails two men wearing dresses and wigs racing each other. After the race ends, they decide drag is still “not working.” A clever sight gag ends this funny piece. A
19. Stuff performs “Foots” (3:16)
The talented backup band perform an instrumental number of their own and as expected, it is quite an enjoyable listen. B+
20. The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau (2:37)
The host (Idle) of a deep-sea information show proceeds to abuse a tank of goldfish by giving them chicken, coffee, and other various things that just do not belong in a fish tank. It was quite funny though PETA would have a ball with this today. B+
21. Boxer Talent Spot (2:02)
Ken Norton (Morris) makes his case for winning the championship fight against Ali and then claims that the judges were voting based on style and voting against his aggressiveness. Norton then performs his talent spot by singing. This was a somewhat clever take on beauty pageants under the guise of a boxing commentary. B-
22. Cufflinks of the Gods? (3:44)
Erica von Donnigan (Newman) plays host to a show in which the ultimate answer is seeked out as to how far back comedians date to. Another clever sketch, but this one was marred by somewhat of a dull execution. C+
23. Pong (2:13)
Franken and Davis bring their “Pong” bit back (for the last time, I think) and talk about their mini-quiz they had earlier, more specifically a question about barometer. B
And the show comes to a close with Eric, Joe Cocker, & the cast singing his loud, obnoxious version of “Here Comes The Sun.”
What a wonderful, amazing, awesome, thrilling show. Eric Idle led an absolutely no-holds-barred fun-filled comedy extravaganza. It seems like everything killed and that’s because the stuff that did kill was pretty near everything on the show. Despite a few sketches at the end that petered off a bit more, the show was loaded with classic after classic and featured Idle doing more than his share as host to keep everything afloat.
Joe Cocker was a wonderful musical guest and his duo with Belushi will forever be remembered as one of television’s iconic moments. Stuff, on the other hand though, were also quite good and their little performance piece wa worthy of a spot on the show to be sure.
Everyone worked really hard this week. From the cast, the host, the director, the writers, it was an extremely well-oiled machine that never faltered once even when it neared the end and began to run out of gas a bit.
Host Rating: A+
Musical Guest Rating: A
Show Rating: A+