SNL Retro: Robert Klein/Bonnie Raitt (1/28/78)

Posted: May 30, 2011 by Brendan Wahl in SNL Retro Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 10)

I know I haven’t done one of these in over a month now, so here we go!

The Show:

Prelude: “Charlie’s Angels Catch The Syph” will not be seen tonight…

1. Rock Concert (4:38)

Don Kirshner (Paul Shaffer) presents a spoken-word concert performance by Mr. Mike with the accompaniment of Tina Turner (Morris) doing the vocals to “Proud Mary.”

– What a strange, wild idea for an opening sketch. While this had the usual weird, dark tone of an O’Donoghue piece, the addition of Garrett Morris in drag playing Tina Turner was a hoot and made for a very odd meshing of styles.
– This is the first appearance of Paul Shaffer’s impression of Kirshner and it is a funny one, as Paul matches Kirshner’s weird way of speaking in short, staccato breaths.
– Morris does a fine job as Tina Turner and actually pulls off being a woman fairly well. I’m not saying one could mistake him for a woman at all, but he has a really good singing voice and pulls it off. It was interesting to have Jane, Laraine, and Gilda as the backup singers too.
– Mr. Mike’s story about the bunny who gets its ears caught in a machine is decidedly dark and disgusting as per normal and then coupled with the energetic performance of “Proud Mary” makes this one of the major highlights of the third season.

2. Monologue (5:49)

Robert does some stand-up about college life and then recalls performing Shakespeare at a young age.

– Much like the first time he hosted, Klein shows right away that he has a very likeable persona and doesn’t lower himself to a more mainstream level, but he doesn’t act like a Dick Cavett type either with jokes that go above the audience’s heads.
– Klein repeats a little bit of his first monologue with his bit about college (“I may be pregnant!”), but other than that his material is 100% fresh and, most importantly, hilarious
– My favourite part was the bit about anti-semitism and the part at the end of the monologue where he gives the audience a look into playing the Shylock in the Shakespeare play, “The Merchant of Venice” (palsy shake).

3. The Olympia Cafe (4:24)

The popular Greek diner that only serves cheeseburgers, chips, and Pepsi is run and operated to perfection by Pete (Belushi), Niko (Murray), George (Aykroyd), and Mike (Don Novello).

– Word is that Don Novello wrote this recurring sketch based on a real Chicago tavern named The Billy Goat. Apparently, the staff there was ecstatic with the sketch and proudly scribe lines from this sketch on the front of their restaurant.
– This is a great example of a sketch that essentially takes one line (“Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger!”) and still manages to make it entertaining and not seem one-note.
– My favourite part was Klein as a customer trying to explain to Murray’s dumb cook character what he wants and Murray just nodding with him, not understanding a thing.
– Belushi is the anchor of this sketch too and he holds this whole thing together with his great delivery and comedic timing, but Aykroyd and Murray certainly don’t hurt either.
**** 1/2

4. X-Police (3:26)

This time, the X-Police (Aykroyd & Murray) break into a co-habitating couple’s (Klein & Newman) home and proceed to use extremely violent tactics to push the law on them.

– This edition was almost a carbon copy of the original X-Police sketch, right down to the opening where both victims reveal how many humanitarian qualities they have to the X-Police accidentally killing one of them and framing the other for murder.
– I liked Murray dismissing Newman (“Yeah sure, slut”) and Aykroyd slamming her up against the wall and nonsensically ranting.
– Klein’s jump out the window was funny only because he landed very awkwardly and it was obvious that he knelt down as he was jumping.
– Despite nothing completely new, this was still a very funny sketch largely due to the performances of Dan and Billy.

5. Bonnie Raitt sings “Runaway” (3:53)

– Interesting idea to cover this Del Shannon classic for Bonnie’s first song.
– Even though no one will ever top the original, Bonnie does a very fine job and I personally really enjoyed this bluesy version of the number.

6. UPDATE TEASER with Jane Curtin (:07)

– Seattle Slew.

7. WEEKEND UPDATE w/ Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin (7:53)
Guest: Roseanne Roseannadanna (Radner)

Best Jokes: Bert Lance/Larry Flynt; Giant Lobsters; Tom Snyder; Illinois Nazis

– Pretty short edition of Update this week. There was only about 4 minutes of jokes.
– Of note here is a joke about giant lobsters in Nova Scotia. This would become important later…
– There’s a pretty funny technical error here, as the camera cuts to Jane during Danny’s joke and she just smiles until the correction is made. Also, there’s another one directly following that as Gilda is a bit late showing up for her commentary so Jane seemingly skips a joke and goes to Gilda’s bit right away.
– Roseanne Roseannadanna’s second Update commentary is about an aneurysm and how embarrassing it is. She compares it to that of having a pimple or wart on the same night of a date and of course, veers off-track and starts talking about a personal incident. It’s another funny commentary from Roseanne and it’s different enought week-to-week to not be repetitive like Emily Litella was.
*** 1/2

8. Nick Winters (7:01)

Nick the Lounge Singer (Murray) performs badly (but is loved by the people watching, regardless) for a number of skiiers at the Powder Room in Meatloaf Mountain while interviewing several of them as well.

– Endearing. That’s the best word I can use to describe Murray’s performance as Nick in these recurring sketches. It’s a very similar format every time this character shows up but his interactions with the audience and the inspired songs make it work every time.
– I especially liked Klein as the disgruntled Swedish skiier and his mistress, Mrs. Lyman (Newman), but there is another funny appearance here by Dan Aykroyd as Jimmy Joe Red Sky, and of course Murray’s interpretation of the Star Wars theme song is one of the highlights of the season, if not the entire show.
– Shaffer scaring Murray with the ski goggles and Bill’s subsequent reaction was a hoot as well.
**** 1/2

9. Frogs Look At Film (6:15)

Jerry Lewis (Klein) is profiled as the host (Newman) of the program takes a look back at “The Nutty Air Traffic Controller.”

– The audience was fairly dead during this, but I think this was one of the funniest sketches of the night.
– This was the best example of Klein’s hosting talent all night. His Jerry Lewis impression was fantastic and he nailed it down to a tee with all the “subtleties” and cadences.
– The addition of Dan Aykroyd as the overbearing boss (a staple of these kinds of movies) and Jane as the somewhat-dimwitted girlfriend makes this a very accurate and hilarious satire. They also pointed out how ridiculous the plots are in this type of movie like how some moron would just be placed in a ridiculously demanding job like this.
– I also liked how the other three air traffic controllers are given last names consisting of words that Lewis would regularly shout out in his movies in fits of nonsense.

10. Nerd Rock (3:58)

A radio DJ (Aykroyd) interviews three nerds (Klein, Murray, & Radner) about the new lame album that they’ve released. Much to the DJ’s chagrin, they proceed to annoy him.

– Another debut for some likeable characters. Unlike the Olympia Cafe though, these characters did not start out as great, but would actually get better in future sketches.
– Aykroyd had a funny flub here when he started the interview without his headphones on for the first minute or so. Also, was this the same character he played in Idle/Price, Innes?
– Murray and Radner are funny here and have a few funny lines, but they would get so much more endearing.
– Klein was a nice addition to this sketch as Spazz, especially with him randomly talking in a Mexican accent and his “hobby shop” joke.
– Mrs. Loopner (Curtin) also appears for the first time and unlike future sketches, it sounds like Mr. Loopner is still very much alive and well.

11. Lobster Update (:58)

Before Klein can introduce Bonnie Raitt, he is interrupted by Jane Curtin, who tells him that the giant lobsters (remember that Update joke?) have made their way down the Eastern seaboard and are en route to New York City. Klein adds that Orthodox Jews are safe because lobsters don’t eat them either.

– I can’t really rate this, but it would be the set-up for something much bigger later in the show.

12. Bonnie Raitt sings “Give It All Up Or Let Me Go” (4:08)

– Bonnie also gets assistance from Robert Klein here, who plays the harmonica.
– Another good song from Raitt with a fairly small backing band.
– Interesting here is that a newsfeed runs during a portion of the song, warning that the lobsters are now approaching the city and that the death toll is now in the millions. Pretty cool of Raitt to let that go while she was singing because it was a definite distraction, but funny nonetheless.

13. Rhonda & Barbara on Dope (4:40)

Rhonda Weiss (Radner) and her friend Barbara (Curtin) decide to try and smoke weed, which leads to them seeing and hearing things. Soon enough though, the sounds of lobsters can be heard and Jane and Gilda break character, questioning the stage manager and Belushi (in a bee costume) about what is going on.

– Even before the great ending, this was a funny sketch and I liked the juxtaposition of the New Yawk accents combined with the strange things that Rhonda was thinking about while stoned (“It keeps coming out in vinyl!”).
– I particularly liked Jane screaming out, “Did you just hear a black man come in here and steal all your jewelry?!”
– This sketch reminded me of the one they did with these two characters on Tarkenton/Sayer but this one had a bit more laughs in it.
*** 1/2

14. Attack of the Atomic Lobsters (6:48)

Robert Klein acts as a sort of play-by-play announcer while the carnage occurs around him as castmembers, the band, and audience members alike are slaughtered by the giant lobsters. After a commercial break, the attacks continue and the camera cuts out to static, while Mr. Mike and Tom Davis decide how to deal with the creatures.

– This has to be one of the most bizarre endings to a broadcast of SNL in its entire history.
– There are a couple of technical mishaps, most notably when the lobsters break into the studio and you can’t hear the audience yelling for the first few seconds and also when Klein is attacked and makes gurgling noises, but the camera doesn’t cut out fast enough so you still see him standing there. Apparently, Mr. Mike had quite the fit about this after the show ended, throwing chairs around and screaming.
– Klein saying Belushi “had at least two or three more years in him” was a little eerie.
– The band playing on was absolutely wonderful as was Aykroyd as the noble hero saving Laraine Newman, not to mention Garrett Morris channeling a blind negro, thus doing a fantastic job of mocking the disaster epic.
– The voiceovers at the end were hilarious as well, thus bringing this classic segment to an end.

OVERALL: Much like the previous episode, this is another one for the highlight reel. While Robert is not as good a host as Steve Martin, Klein was still very, very capable and definitely held up his end of the duties, particularly in the second half of the show. Utilizing his terrific Jerry Lewis impression was a great move by the writers as was making him a spazzy nerd. The cast was fantastic as usual with everyone pulling their weight once again; even Garrett Morris got his time to shine in the cold opening. There seemed to be an awful lot of darker material tonight too, so maybe Mr. Mike got a whole lot of input in this episode. The comedy almost overshadows the music portion of this episode, but Raitt was still a good musical guest and performed her two songs quite well. Another contender for best episode of the season.


HOST: ROBERT KLEIN – 9 segments (Monologue; The Olympia Cafe; X-Police; Nick Winters; Frogs Look At Film; Nerd Rock; Lobster Update; performed with Bonnie Raitt on second song; Attack of the Atomic Lobsters)


DAN AYKROYD – 7 segments (The Olympia Cafe; X-Police; Weekend Update; Nick Winters; Frogs Look At Film; Nerd Rock; Attack of the Atomic Lobsters)
JOHN BELUSHI – 3 segments (The Olympia Cafe; Nick Winters; Rhonda & Barbara on Dope)
JANE CURTIN – 8 segments (Rock Concert; The Olympia Cafe; Weekend Update; Frogs Look At Film; Nerd Rock; Lobster Update; Rhonda & Barbara on Dope; Attack of the Atomic Lobsters)
GARRETT MORRIS – 4 segments (Rock Concert; The Olympia Cafe; Frogs Look At Film; Attack of the Atomic Lobsters)
BILL MURRAY – 6 segments (The Olympia Cafe; X-Police; Nick Winters; Frogs Look At Film; Nerd Rock; Attack of the Atomic Lobsters)
LARAINE NEWMAN – 6 segments (Rock Concert; The Olympia Cafe; X-Police; Nick Winters; Frogs Look At Film; Attack of the Atomic Lobsters)
GILDA RADNER – 7 segments (Rock Concert; The Olympia Cafe; Weekend Update; Nick Winters; Nerd Rock; Rhonda & Barbara on Dope; Attack of the Atomic Lobsters)


TOM DAVIS – none

EPISODE MVP: Dan Aykroyd

  1. Ben says:

    Interesting trivia about the rerun version: they take out all of the part of Weekend Update where they had the technical error, leading it to be much shorter than normal. This is the version they used on the old Starmaker Best of 1978 tape and the Comedy Network rerun. They added in “The Acid Generation” to fill time (complete with the same audience shot).

  2. […] Robert Klein/Bonnie Raitt […]

  3. Mike Fletcher says:

    Spectacular work on all of these reviews! Your comprehensive efforts are much appreciated.

    On the episode at hand, maybe I don’t “get” Robert Klein or something, because I found him to be *completely* unfunny. His monologue and Jerry Lewis sketch were, to me, ponderous and painful to watch.

    This is the season’s tenth episode, and its worst, imo. Klein is cool and collected: a real pro. But just not even remotely funny. In earlier season 3 episodes, hosts like Steve Martin, Charles Grodin, Ray Charles, and Mary Kay Place were really great and were vital components in some of the finest episodes in the history of the show.

    I recently acquired this complete season, and I’m looking forward to the next episode, featuring two of my all-time favorites, Chevy Chase and Billy Joel.

    Thank you again for this great site!

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