SNL Retro: Mary Kay Place/Willie Nelson (12/10/77)

Posted: February 19, 2011 by Brendan Wahl in SNL Retro Reviews
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by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 7)

Following last week’s slam-bang show, we take a little breather with a little bit more of a low-key host. Following in the footsteps of Louise Lasser, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman castmember Mary Kay Place makes her debut on the long-running comedy show. One can only hope she does better than Lasser, who had to have helmed one of the bottom ten worst episodes of all-time. Mary was not known for depression and drug problems much like Lasser was, so that should be a good sign right away. Plus, this is not a summer show. Man, that was a bad idea.

Joining Mary Kay is renowned country/folk/pot-smokin’ singer Willie Nelson, who was pretty popular already at the time and I can only imagine what went down during the week with Willie and the cast. Must’ve been a hell of an after-party too. Also joining this episode is Andy Kaufman as a special guest, making his seventh appearance on the show to do his unique and exciting brand of stand-up and song-and-dance routines.

SHOWWWWWWWWWWWW!

The Show:

1. Pep Rally (4:31)
-Mary Kay, Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin, Morris, Murray, Newman, Radner

Mary Kay tries to energize the lackadaisical cast (with everyone in cheerleader costumes), but her efforts are thwarted when the cast just doesn’t care too much and Belushi doesn’t even show up. The humour comes from the way that the cast take the word “pep” very seriously. Eventually, John shows up with cigarette in hand and complains about the idea of the opening sketch and thinks it’s a stupid idea. Everything is wrapped up in a tight little bow, but it’s still a cute way to start the show and gets it off to a rather energetic start. The marching band playing the opening theme song is a nice touch as well. B+

2. Monologue (3:32)

Mary Kay is still in her cheerleading outfit! No complaints here. I know, I know. Her monologue consists of our host reading from her diary, revealing the lingo she used back in the 60s and how she was a bit of an over-achiever. This segues into the tale of her unrequited love from junior high and Place’s dismissal of her once-crush and the admittance that she has let Dan Aykroyd sort of have his way with her this week. That bastard. B-

3. Hey You! (1:28)
-Radner

It’s the perfume that is perfect for one-night stands. Gilda plays a young woman who successfully uses the product in question in an upscale bar. Of course, let’s not forget about the Walk of Shame she must do the day after. Classic. A+

4. More Insects To Worry About (4:08)
-Belushi, Curtin

Only hoping to increase folks’ paranoia regarding dangerous new insects, one scientist (Belushi) describes different types of insects to Joan Face (Curtin), including the Lens Beetle (a pregnant female can only hatch their eggs when between an eyeball and a contact lens) and Funny Ants (a bunch of jokesters who use practical jokes on humans including the flaming bag of dog feces prank). This was entertaining enough, but I didn’t really see what the joke was here. Still, the chemistry between John and Jane was good enough and that gives it just over a passing rating. B-

5. Total Womanhood Meeting (5:05)
-Mary Kay, Belushi, Curtin, Newman, Radner

A seemingly feminist group of women turns out to be not so as the ringleader (Mary Kay) of the meeting teaches her students how to always appear lovely to their husbands and to always be ready for anything their husband might want to do with them. It would seem that this would be a pretty big deal to get on the air in the 70s when women’s liberation was a pretty big deal. This was a pretty funny satirical look at feminism and all four ladies were more than willing to act their butts off for this one. B+

6. Willie Nelson sings “Whiskey River” & “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” (5:34)

With a pretty nice lavish set composed for the background, Willie performs to the best of his abilities on two of his most popular songs. While I’m not a huge country fan, I can appreciate a good performance and here we got two of them! B+

7. Weekend Update with Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin (8:10)
-Also: Garrett Morris, Bill Murray, and Laraine Newman

This week, we get the debut of an Update teaser where Jane would hype up some big story right before the commercial break, I assume. After a good bit on Anwar Sadat addressing his critics, Jane announces that the JFK mystery is finally cleared up with some ridiculously fake results. Aykroyd adds that Amos ‘n Andy has been re-vamped because of attacks that it was racist. Garrett stops by in a strange quick bit where he calls out for himself and then walks off. Laraine Newman does a commentary as well as she discusses the art of lie detectors and then proves that it is “impossible” to detect a lie. Ehh. Aykroyd goes back to the Chevy Chase well with a Generalissimo Francisco Franco joke, albeit a weak one. Finally, retired CBS reporter Eric Sevareid (Murray) comments on the required retirement age of 65 over at the aforementioned network. Bill’s impression is pretty good although he seems to slip into Cronkite a few times throughout. It’s easily the best commentary this week though right at the peak of a rather weak edition of Update. C

8. Married in a Minute! (6:10)
-Mary Kay, Aykroyd, Belushi, Curtin, Morris, Murray, Newman, Radner

Spoofing those rags-to-riches stories where everyone manages to achieve one convenience after another leading to an ultra super-happy ending where everyone gets married. The sketch’s comic moments come from the great moments like Gilda finding a million dollars behind a plant, Mary Kay getting the lead in a Broadway play because of someone getting a wrong number, and Gilda getting a random love letter from the prince of France, who gives up his throne and the very certain overthrowing of his government. The zany performances from everyone involved help out especially the one from Bill Murray as the overzealous prince. Don’t blink or you’ll miss longtime writer Jim Downey emerging from a closet as a priest. A

9. Andy Kaufman (6:45)

This time, Kaufman jams on the bongos while singing jibberish in character as Foreign Man. Andy then spends the rest of the bit doing stand-up comedy in a made-up foreign language and manages to get huge laughs even though the audience obviously has no idea what he’s talking about. Andy then grabs a volunteer from the audience and does a really bizarre routine where no one but him has any idea what he’s trying to do. Afterwards, he goes back to the bongos and does some sort of sing-a-long with the studio audience. Another example of Kaufman’s absolute brilliance as a performer. A+

10. Bad Musical (5:33)
-Mary Kay, Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris, Murray, Radner

Our musical concerns the story of the microscope and is based on a play that “opened on very, very off-broadway and closed in 2 1/2 minutes.” While Leeuwenhoek (Belushi) attempts to invent the microscope, his wife (Mary Kay) sings about shrinking herself down so that her husband will pay attention to her. Soon enough though, another townsperson (Murray) makes a not-so-subtle musical offer of sex to the bored housewife. These sketches are usually dependent on how bad the source material is and this week, it’s a success because this play looks downright horrible. A-

11. Willie Nelson & Mary Kay Place sing “Something to Brag About” (1:55)

A cute song with our host and musical guest as they sing about their hard lives but the saving grace being each other’s love for one another. It’s a quick little harmless song and it’s a joy to hear. B

12. Farbers Chanukah (8:25)
-Mary Kay, Aykroyd, Belushi (x2), Morris, Murray, Radner

After a visit from their friends, the Nelsons (Mary Kay & Murray), Larry Farber (Belushi) tells their Christian friends the story of Chanukah. The amazing part of this story is that Belushi is also in the flashback so he has to run off and be a part of the second part of the sketch as well and very quickly. There was nothing really special about this sketch and it was rather long for a ten-to-one sketch. This is not the last appearance of Bobbi Farber, but for some reason this is the final time we would see her husband. C

Mary Kay thanks everyone in a very classy manner and waves goodnight to one and all before the cast, Willie Nelson, and eventually Andy Kaufman join her on-stage. It appears as though the cast adores Mary as well as they seem to crowd her and Gilda, especially, is all hugs.

A thoroughly entertaining, if somewhat average show. While this wasn’t a slam dunk like last week’s terrific Buck Henry episode, it was still a fairly good one with a number of funny sketches, an edition of Weekend Update that didn’t really click, and a funny guest performance from Andy Kaufman. Let’s not forget to mention the strength of the host, who disappeared into the different roles she portrayed throughout the show as well as proving that she was a heck of a little singer as well. This episode kind of formulated a 70s crush on Mary Kay Place, I think.

Obviously with a female host, the female castmembers usually get the most chance to shine and that’s just what happened. Jane, Laraine, and Gilda got many fun parts to play with throughout the night although the men were not to be outshined either. It was a pretty good night for everyone, overall. Willie Nelson was a lot of help too as he delivered three musical numbers (albeit one with the host’s help) that dazzled the studio audience and he even seemed to be in the right mindset for the entire broadcast.

Host Rating: A-
Musical Guest Rating: B+
Show Rating: B

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