SNL Retro: Steve Martin/The Dirt Band, Randy Newman (1/21/78)

Posted: April 17, 2011 by Brendan Wahl in SNL Retro Reviews
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by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 9)

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, eh? With this week’s edition, we’re gonna see a whole new style of reviewing these episodes as I’ve been getting tired of using the letter grade system. My comments are getting somewhat repetitive as well, so I’ve decided to do my review in summary-and-point-form, much like my fellow reviewer over at Existentialist Weightlifting (check out his site on the Blogroll; his reviews of season seven are fantastic! I basically stole his reviewing style…). Also, I am going to rate musical guests as positive or negative with comments underneath but I am not going to nail it down with a rating this time (however, I will still figure out the best/worst musical guests of the season at the end!). Anyway, here is my new rating system (hardly original).

***** = Classic sketch
**** = Great; a really strong sketch
*** = Average piece
** = Not so good, but not absolutely terrible
* = A real stinker (aka the Melanie Hutsell Award)

This week’s episode features frequent host Steve Martin and two musical guests in the form of the (Nitty Gritty) Dirt Band and Randy Newman.

These pre-ambles are gonna be kept to a minimum or excised altogether as well.

The Show:

Prelude: “Bruce Jenner Wins The Javelin Catch” will not be seen tonight…

1. State of the Union 1978 (3:26)

President Carter (Aykroyd) discusses the State of the Union while Mondale (Murray) and Tip O’Neill (Belushi) get bored and keep themselves occupied behind him.

– This is the first of a series of “State of the Union” parodies that SNL would tackle and I always liked how they incorporated the real footage with the set where President Carter stood along with Vice-Prez Mondale and Speaker Tip O’Neil.
– I liked the little captions like the Secretary of Energy “wearing a new shirt” and the one concerning the amount of snow outside; it looks like it was there to comment on the dull nature of Carter’s speech.
– John and Bill made it amusing, but there otherwise wasn’t too much to this average opener.
– It should be noted that during the live show, the camera lingers on Danny for quite a while after he delivers the LFNY line.

2. Monologue (4:49)

Steve’s usual brand of stand-up comedy dominates the opening monologue.

– Steve’s joke about Randy Newman being small is probably my favourite bit, but Steve’s battle plan on how one can become a millionaire is a close second.
– The bit about Belushi stealing money from Steve wasn’t far off from the real going-ons behind the scenes. John was known as a bit of a rabble-rouser and things would go missing when he was around from time-to-time. It was also weird to see Belushi with a plaid shirt and overalls, but it would make sense for the next sketch.
– Stand-up monologues are the best and it was nice to let Steve do his thing for his hosting stints in the 70s.
– Even the cheap bits were done with aplomb like getting electrocuted by the microphone.

3. Swill (1:18)

– Repeat from Madeline Kahn/Taj Mahal (10/8/77).

4. The Mystery of Bigfoot (5:03)

A couple (Belushi & Radner) welcome a hunter (Martin) who is on the lookout for Bigfoot, yet he can’t seem to realize that the answer to the situation is right under his nose.

– This is a good example of a very simple premise being executed well by the solid acting and the fact that all three actors played it completely straight.
– I liked Steve’s constant name-dropping of the most ridiculous-sounding city names like Otter Valley and Moose Creek.
– Gilda received a wood stove in her stocking? Brilliant.
– I also liked how Steve was telling them how big the monster’s foot is right over Gilda’s huge shoe
– Steve also takes forever to break the window glass. That had to be intentional and the awkwardness of that moment is quite funny.
*** 1/2

5. Festrunk Brothers: Croatian Dates (7:27)

After their first appearance in the season premiere, the Festrunks (Martin & Aykroyd) are back and this time, they await the arrival of two foxes, but not before their friend Cliff comes over.

– I can’t emphasize how much I love these characters despite their obvious one-note nature. These two just have a fantastic amount of chemistry together and they also got a nice round of applause when the sketch began.
– Man, can Garrett ever get through a sketch without flubbing a line or two? Sometimes it seems like he’s not even trying, but he wasn’t too bad here and he actually had a few funny lines as well. He was on the verge of breaking character a couple of times too.
– This time, the Festrunks have a couple of Croatian girls come over, who basically act like the female versions of Martin and Aykroyd’s characters. Both Jane and Laraine do a good job of it too, as does Belushi who plays their wacky uncle.
– So Croatian chicks are really into black dudes? Alright, then.
– “Goodbye, Cliff. Enjoy your sex!”
**** 1/2

6. MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “On the Loose with the Blues” (4:30)

The Dirt Band performs their first tune.

– Steve announces that he’s known the band since they were “small,” an amusing reference to his stand-up material.
– This song had a kind of country blues-y type feel to it and for once, I mean that in the most positive way possible. Having never heard this song before, I can say that it was a fairly strong number.

7. The Body Floss (1:33)

A spokesperson (Martin) hypes the new rage in a long line of hygiene products, a body floss which “reaches spaces and places your washcloth just can’t go!”

– Good commercial parody of the hygiene obsession that is still relevant today.
– I usually like whenever the show does ads for these ridiculous products because you know that it’s not that far off from the truth.
– I sure hope Garrett had something on underneath that towel for poor Jane Curtin’s sake. That thing was falling off any second.
– Steve plays a great pitchman and he would do several pieces like that during his hosting stints.
*** 1/2

8. UPDATE TEASER w/Dan Aykroyd

– Economy bus service to Miami. Eh.

9. WEEKEND UPDATE w/Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin (7:42)
Guests: Gilda Radner

Best Bits: Silverman taking over NBC; Big Snow; Oral Roberts/Hustler; President Carter’s presidency outlined

– Aykroyd and Curtin have an unmistakeable chemistry together that is sometimes ignored by people who undermine Dan’s work ethic behind the desk. True, he was not always the sharpest anchor, but he did an admirable job most of the time once he got over his initial stage fright.
– The jokes are pretty good this week with the highlight being Jane’s outlining of President Carter’s presidential career up to that point.
– The first (and only) guest commentary comes from Roseanne Rosannadanna, who responds to a “Mr. Richard Feder.” It would always be the same name, except for one occassion I believe, as these letters were just there to set up an off-topic rant for Roseanne. This time, Feder asks what to do when one has no more heat in their apartment. Roseanne turns it into a story about enjoying some soup but finding a long hair in the bowl, which then segues into a story involving a hamburger and a toenail. This was the start of a winning streak for Gilda as this character was much more well-rounded than Emily Litella and her rants often changed enough to refrain from being stale.
– I liked how Dan interjected himself at the end of the rant and caused Gilda to crack up a bit.

10. MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “Short People,” “Rider In The Rain” (7:11)

Randy Newman starts off by playing his somewhat-controversial song, “Short People,” following it up with “Rider In The Rain,” all the while with the Dirt Band providing backing vocals. Newman also addresses the criticism he’s received towards “Short People” with a big, fat raspberry.

– Newman is a tour-de-force and its great to watch him at his musical prime here.
– Was it just me or did a couple members of the Dirt Band look a bit miffed at having to be Randy’s backup? I don’t know why they would, seeing as how they got two songs of their own to perform.
– For the second tune, one of the Dirt Band singers leaves and another grabs a guitar. It’s a completely different style of song, but it’s another classic tune.

11. Family Feud (7:47)

The long-running gameshow institution features the latest appearance of the Coneheads, who go head-to-head with the struggling Mel family, all while Richard Dawson (Murray) plays emcee.

– This has always been a favourite of mine in the realm of gameshow sketches from Murray’s entertaining Richard Dawson impression to the Mel family (it’s funnier that the Coneheads’ opponents are also funny), and the Coneheads of course.
– I also loved Dawson’s constant abuse of Joe Mel, Jr. (Belushi), due to his inanity at answering questions.
– This sketch also did a good job of mocking Dawson’s borderline-lecherous behaviour as the host on the show.
– The Coneheads were at their absolute best here as they each answered according to their individual personalities; I especially liked Connie (Newman) answering “the big one” to what people like to bite. Their constant mimicking of the buzzer sounds was also hilarious.
– “Old people are our greatest natural resource. So check in on one today and push ’em around the block.”

12. What If? (5:37)

A panel of experts (Morris & Murray) discuss the question of what would have happened if Napoleon Bonaparte had a B-52 bomber during the Battle of Waterloo with the program’s host, Joan Cage (Curtin). During the dramatic representation, Napoleon (Belushi) is given the tour on his bomber by the pilot (Aykroyd).

– This is the start of a short run for this recurring sketch. The best one would be coming up in Season 4 where Superman is working for the Nazis.
– Martin plays a pretty small role in this sketch, playing a scared general who reports to Napoleon (Belushi). This just shows that Steve was willing to just gel with the cast and not always have to be the center of attention.
– Aykroyd also does a great job outlining the console and equipment on the Bomber and you can tell that he was really into this stuff throughout his career as Danny seemed to do a lot of sketches that had to do with the military or with engineering in general.
– I like how the whole panel is based on one seven-year-old boy’s question.
**** 1/2

13. GARY WEIS FILM: Hollywood Homes (2:43)

Steve cruises around L.A. to visit the homes of “close, personal friends” of his in the industry. Of course, no one will come out and see him though.

– This was pretty much the same joke over and over; Steve goes in front of different celebrity homes and of course, no one comes out at all despite Steve telling the camera that he knows them all well. Despite this, Steve still makes it work.
– I think it would’ve worked better if one celebrity had eventually come out of their house, but I liked the Rin-Tin-Tin ending anyway…

14. MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: “White Russia” (2:32)

Steve and the Dirt Band perform an entirely instrumental piece with the aid of banjos, guitars, and a saxophone.

– It’d be unusual to see the host perform with the musical guest today, but it happened a couple of times this season with Mary Kay Place and now Steve Martin.
– It’s not as good as the previous tunes, but the Dirt Band do a very good job and of course, our host is quite adept at playing the banjo.


Steve thanks Newman, the Dirt Band, and the Not-Ready-For-Primetime Players before the credits quickly roll.

– Dan and John look awfully close already here and I think anyone would be able to tell they have tremndous chemistry together and would work closely in the future.
– Why did most of the cast walk off the stage halfway through the goodnights?

OVERALL: What a great, great show. This may be the strongest show of the third season thus far and that’s saying a lot in regards to the awesome season we’ve had so far. With not a single bad episode as of yet, SNL was on one of the strongest runs it would ever have in its entire 36-year span. Steve Martin carried his end of things as well as he usually did at that point in his career as a host and you also had two strong musical guests in Randy Newman and the Dirt Band (especially Newman!) bringing down the house with their performances. By the time this season began, you could really see the cast coming together as a unit, particularly because you could pretty much picture any castmember being in a sketch with any 0ther member of the cast and see it working well.


HOST: STEVE MARTIN – 8 appearances (Monologue; The Mystery of Bigfoot; Festrunk Bros; The Body Floss; Family Feud; What If?; Hollywood Homes; “White Russia”)

MUSICAL GUESTS: THE DIRT BAND – 3 appearances (“On the Loose with the Blues,” “Short People” & “Rider In The Rain,” & “White Russia”)
RANDY NEWMAN – 1 (“Short People” & “Rider In The Rain”)


DAN AYKROYD – 5 appearances (State of the Union 1978; Festrunk Bros; Weekend Update; Family Feud; What If?)
JOHN BELUSHI – 6 appearances (State of the Union 1978; Monologue; The Mystery of Bigfoot; Festrunk Bros; Family Feud; What If?)
JANE CURTIN – 5 appearances (Festrunk Bros; The Body Floss; Weekend Update; Family Feud; What If?)
GARRETT MORRIS – 3 appearances (Festrunk Bros; The Body Floss; What If?)
BILL MURRAY – 5 appearances (State of the Union 1978; Swill; The Body Floss; Family Feud; What If?)
LARAINE NEWMAN – 4 appearances (Swill; The Body Floss; Family Feud; What If?)
GILDA RADNER – 4 appearances (The Mystery of Bigfoot; The Body Floss; Weekend Update; Family Feud)


TOM DAVIS – 1 appearance (State of the Union 1978 (voice-only))

  1. W.B. says:

    The Roseanne Roseannadanna name was a play on that of Rose Ann Scamardella, a reporter and anchor at New York’s WABC-TV (Channel 7) from 1974 through 1983. Ms. Scamardella, incidentally, was one of Ms. Radner’s biggest fans, and credited her at one point with a pay raise she got during contract negotiations. The worst Ms. Scamardella ever did on air was mispronounce a word or two, unlike all what was done by the fictitious character Ms. Radner played.

  2. […] Steve Martin/The Dirt Band, Randy Newman […]

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