by Brendan Wahl
In December of 1953, the very first issue of Playboy Magazine was put on shelves and in mere moments, it was off the shelves. No, not because of some screwy censorship board that had it removed or some lobby group. The publication sold like hot cakes and people read the articles! The man behind this phenomenon was a fresh-faced 27-year old Chi-town resident named Hugh Hefner. He probably didn’t know it when he first got into the business but by this episode in 1977, Hefner was almost a household name just for being associated with the ever-popular Playboy brand. The mansion itself became the source of many wild stories and rumours and the only one who truly knows how many or if ANY are true is our host for this episode, Mr. Hugh Hefner.
The first non-actor host of the season is joined by musical guest Libby Titus. While only 28 at the time, Libby still never really found a whole lot of success in her career. She floundered around with a couple of decent hits but had nothing to set the world on fire and was never in talks for a Grammy or anything. She was still fresh at the time of this episode making for another fairly unknown musical talent that Saturday Night Live was willing to showcase and award some exposure to.
There’s nothing much more to say except that maybe this will be the sexiest episode ever?
1. Playboy’s Party Jokes (:54)
A relatively simple cold open starts this episode off with one Playboy bunny (Newman) attempting to make jokes in front of a crowd, but she is so dense that she can only remember the punchlines to a joke without the setup. It’s a role Newman was able to do well: air-head Valley girl-types, so this is kept rather brief and inoffensive. B-
2. Monologue (2:57)
Hef sports the bathrobe and pipe of course and seemingly takes a rather straight-forward approach to his monologue while cracking a couple of jokes here and there. However, he quickly segueways into a somewhat-creepy rendition of “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” while some text scrolls by on the screen describing Hefner’s fascination with girls in general. Not bad. C+
3. Angora Bouquet (1:15)
Another classic commercial parody. In this one, a housewife who is not too far removed from a Stepford Wife as she talks about how she is kept submissive and beautiful by the new soap product. Containing miniature tranquilizers, it “washes your brain as well as your face.” This is also a true showcase for Curtin, who really shines in this piece. A
4. Planet of the Men vs. Planet of the Women (4:14)
-Hefner, Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin, Morris, Newman, Radner
Well, this kind of sketch was expected. In the distant future, Captain Macho (Hefner), Corporal Hardin (Aykroyd), Lieutenant Testosterone (Belushi), and another corporal (Morris) take aim when they plan to collide with the ship containg the planet of the women and Captain Estrogena (Curtin), Lieutenant Areola (Newman), and Corporal Fellopia (Radner) . The shape of the ships takes an obvious shape but the sex jokes are still funny despite them being pretty cheap for the most part. I guess this is just a guilty pleasure sketch. B+
5. Libby Titus sings “Fool That I Am” (2:59)
As Hef proclaims Libby to be a future superstar, she does her best to prove her worth. Her performance is good. It’s definitely not a standout or anything, but it’s “good enough for government work.” B
6. Anyone Can Host (1:34)
Garrett gets his turn at hyping up the Anyone Can Host contest and goes over the rules and regualtions as well. Much like last week, this isn’t really a comedy segment so I can’t lend a rating to it.
7. X-Police (3:03)
-Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin, Murray
After a tough study session, two lovers (Belushi & Curtin) decide to cut loose and smoke a joint but before they can get going, two men burst through their door claiming to be former police officers! The X-Police (Aykroyd & Murray) go way overboard in dishing out the punishment to these lawbreakers in humourous fashion. By the conclusion though, the sketch gets really dark and it results in a classic recurring bit. A
8. Circular Bed Sex Research (4:00)
-Hefner, Aykroyd, Curtin
Taking a break from his hectic work life, Hefner helps one of his Playboy bunnies (Curtin) with her research but the distractions keep piling up. Of course, this “research” involves two people having sex at various quadrants to see if they can achieve pi. The sketch gets even more fun as President Carter (Aykroyd) himself shows up to get some advice on headphones and ask if the Secret Service can use the Jaccuzzi. B+
9. Listening To Great Music (3:06)
John Belushi sits down in a classy office and prepares to discuss Ride of the Valkyries, a tune well-known for its impact in the film, Apocalypse Now. It’s a fairly simple premise as Belushi discusses the images that should appear in one’s mind while the song plays but he quickly gets off topic and delves into one of his Weekend Update rants and begins to trash the room. It was an interesting idea to try to make the Belushi rants into a sketch and because of John’s wonderful performance, it works very well. A-
10. Weekend Update with Dan Aykroyd & Jane Curtin (7:32)
-Also: Gilda Radner
A great exchange between Aykroyd and Don Pardo starts off this edition of Update and the laughs remain consistent because immediately after, Jane tells a great story involving a homosexual man throwing a pie in bigot Anita Bryant’s face. They even show the footage in a rare occurrence on Update for the time, but one that would be picked up by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler some-27 years later. During the broadcast, a tour is brought through the set in an oddball throwaway bit with writer Tom Schiller leading the way. No commentaries this week, but we do get “footage” of Nadia Comaneci (Radner) doing some of her trademark cartwheels and flips while looking oppressively adorable. Her little speech was pretty amusing too. The Dancing N also stops by to drop off a note that “cocaine and heroin don’t mix.” B
11. Sex In Cinema (3:00)
-Hefner, Murray, Newman
Hugh (playing himself yet again) presents a clip from an old Cary Grant (Murray) picture to show how censorship has changed over the years. The “one-foot-on-the-floor” rule is broken, making this very harmless movie clip a supposedly controversial one. The close-ups of their feet while the sounds of love-making can be heard is one of the more hilarious aspects of the entire piece. B+
12. 3 R’s (3:10)
-Belushi, Curtin, Radner
Jane hosts a talk show that highlights various aspects of the educational system in the US. Belushi plays a Greek father planning to sue the educational board because despite his daughter, Colleen (Radner), passing high school she is not allowed to attend college. The twist at the end of this sketch salvages it because the rest of it is fairly pointless. C
13. The Story Of H (3:05)
Our host narrates his life story through a quick succession of pictures and clips from his child and adulthood. The tone of it is playful and it seems like Hefner is being a bit sarcastic with his “woe is me” type comments. It’s a well-made piece and the style of which that is never seen on the show. B+
14. The Playboy Philosophy (3:09)
-Hefner, Belushi, Morris
Hef is thrust into a scene from over a thousand years ago as several philosophers ask him of his theories on life. This sketch drags more than the 3 R’s sketch despite its short runtime. It’s just a series of questions that set up some very obvious jokes. D
15. Funeral Magician (6:30)
-Hefner, Aykroyd, Murray, Radner
During a somber scene, a magician named Hartley Raymond (Murray) tries to liven things up with a cheerful magic show involving the deceased’s widow (Radner) and his friend, Gary (Hefner). Much like his lounge singer sketches, Bill Murray shines throughout this whole piece and really carries it on his back. Incredibly he makes this character extremely likeable despite the odd setting and the upbeat nature of his attitude in a completely inappropriate setting. Best sketch of the night. A+
16. Andy Kaufman (6:59)
One of the best special guests the show’s ever had, Kaufman brings his inventive brand of comedy to SNL for the sixth time. This time, he sings “Oklahoma” and a sing-along song with the audience before transforming into the king himself, Elvis Presley. It’s a spot-on impression and Andy absolutely delights the audience with it. This segment should be noted that it really doesn’t contain any jokes or punchlines. It’s just Andy being goofy and entertaining and it makes the whole segment work. A-
17. The Farbers at the Playboy Club (4:47)
-Hefner, Aykroyd, Belushi, Newman, Radner
America’s favourite conservative couple, Bobbi (Radner) and Larry Farber (Belushi) meet with a keyholder (Aykroyd) at the Playboy Club in the hopes to meet the founder of Playboy itself. Despite how uncomfortable Bobbi gets, Larry is only too anxious to pile on the questions for their inside guy, who offers incredulous answers. Of course, Hugh eventually shows up and in an ironic twist, he ends up courting Bobbi and walking her out of the club. It’s another amusing piece from the Farbers. B+
Hugh thanks everyone for such a wonderful time, blows everyone a kiss, and then exchanges hugs with Libby and the cast.
In theory, last week’s episode should have been better than this one. To go from an Oscar-nominated actress to a philanthropist of filth is a pretty big change in direction for the show and it proved that the quality of the host didn’t always dictate the quality of an episode. While Hefner wasn’t awful, he was a very limited host who was clearly happy to just play himself in every sketch or a very quiet man at a funeral. It was probably cool to hang out with the Playboy mogul for the week leading up to the show but he was no Steve Martin, that’s for sure.
Libby Titus only had one chance to shine much like Taj Mahal last week. She did a pretty decent job though and proved to be another pretty good musical guest. I don’t really have too much to say about Libby.
The standout of the cast this week is tough to mention because there were quite a few standouts by everyone this week (outside of poor Garrett Morris) and it all added up to a pretty good episode.
For a second, I thought Laraine was actually naked in the cold open…
Wow, they went all out for Hef this week, even designing the main stage with a big Playboy logo.
“Hi, I’m beautiful and stupid.”
I love how they made the two X-Police victims sound like the nicest, most caring people in the world before the former coppers bursted in. “Another marijuana-related death!”
How come almost every single sketch was three minutes tonight?! That was odd.
It was strange to see Hef in that funeral sketch if only for the fact that he barely had any lines.
Host Rating: C
Musical Guest Rating: B
Show Rating: B+