SNL Retro: Chevy Chase/Billy Joel (2/18/78)

Posted: June 5, 2011 by Brendan Wahl in SNL Retro Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 11)

The only thing I really have to add before I type up this episode is the little debacle which took place about two minutes before the show began.

Tensions had been building up all week when Chevy returned to host and it was especially showing between Mr. Chase and his replacement, castmember Bill Murray. Eventually, it all came to a boiling point. As insults like “Medium talent!” and “Why don’t you fuck your wife every now and then?” were thrown out, the two finally came to blows and had to be pulled apart by cast, crew, and writers alike.

Thirty seconds later, Chevy had to be thrust out onstage for the show…

The Show:

“The Little House on the Prairie Burns to the Ground” will not be seen tonight..
1. A Former President Speaks To The Nation (3:53)

Former president Gerald Ford (Chase) addresses the advantages surrounding the Suez Canal and criticizes President Reagan’s points. He is consoled by wife Betty (Curtin) and also uses the assistance of a map to illustrate why the canal is important.

– Chevy looks a bit shaken from the aforementioned fight with Billy.
– As good as these Ford sketches could be when Chevy was on the show, they have lost a bit of their edge as time gone by, these have lost a little bit of their bite.
– A couple of technical issues here as Chevy looks in the wrong camera for almost a minute.
– I did like Chevy referring to his wife Betty (Curtin) as Ron Nessen, his outlining of why the canal is important with the assistance of a map, and some of his typical stumblebum hijinx. And of course, he takes the fall.
***

MONTAGE

– Just wanted to point out that they used the same opening montage from late-season 1 and season 2 from when Chevy was a castmember.

2. Monologue (4:25)

Chevy is elated to be back on the SNL stage and talks about the thing he misses most of all: the cheap applause one can get from a live audience.

– Chevy seems a bit more at ease here, but still seems a little more off than usual.
– I did like the idea of the monologue though with Chevy getting a cheap pop by referring to different sections of New York, pointing out how much he likes the show, and his attempts to get the band to stop playing.
– “You know what I really love about your applause.. is its spontaneity.”
– Again, another average segment but it had potential to be much better.
***

3. Moth Masher (1:37)

A spokesman (Aykroyd) demonstrates his new product and how it can be used to crush moths into an easier, more manageable size.

– Another one of Aykroyd’s crazy commercial pitchman ideas; this is one that had to be written (or at least co-written) by him.
****

4. Post-Coital Discussion (5:51)

After having a one-night stand, a man (Chase) and woman (Radner) discuss what went right and wrong. Through their discussion, it is revealed that the two had other things on their minds and the guy may not have been completely honest about who he is.

– This is a very well-written Miller piece with Chevy and Gilda both giving very subtle, relaxed performances.
– I especially liked when Chevy asked her if she had an orgasm and Gilda said that she stores them up and feels them all at once, “usually on the first day of Purim.”
– The discussion regarding the names they each screamed out during sex was also very funny, especially when Chevy is questioned for saying his own name and reasons that it’s because he’s used to spending so many nights by himself.
**** 1/2

5. Billy Joel sings “Only the Good Die Young” (3:32)

– Chevy mentions before the song that Billy missed his high school reunion to be the musical guest; this is true.
– This is an absolutely fantastic performance of a classic Billy Joel tune. It almost sounds like the album version; it’s crystal-clear and the instrumentals never overpower the vocals.

6. King (4:01)

John F. Kennedy (Aykroyd) and Bobby (Murray) attempt to bug Martin Luther King Jr. (Morris), so they can track everything he says.

– Odd placement of this sketch, but it’s understandable as Lorne had to rearrange the show a bit to avoid another Chevy/Murray scuffle.
– The performances were good here, but the sketch never really came together as a whole though.
– I liked the opening disclaimer where it said “some half-truths and lies have been invented to make it entertaining.”
– The reference to Billy Joel’s previous performance was amusing and clever.
** 1/2

7. UPDATE TEASER w/Jane Curtin (:08)

– Leon Spinx wins the Heavyweight Title.

8. WEEKEND UPDATE w/ Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, & Jane Curtin (14:31)
Guests: Laraine Newman, Ray Floyd (Al Franken), John Belushi, Emily Litella (Radner), & Garrett Morris

Best Jokes: Pussywhip; Rhythm & Blues contraception; Billy Carter; Bert Lance

– Chevy joins in as an anchor a few minutes in by calling Aykroyd during the segment and convincing him that his mother is ill. Before he sits down, Jane gets a great look on her face like she’s taking over before our host makes his appearance.
– Laraine interviews a coal miner named Ray Floyd (Franken), who tries to comment on the situation but can’t stop hacking and coughing after working the mines for nearly 20 years. Filler.
– Chevy attempts to lure Jane away from the desk as well, but she catches Chevy on the other phone and calls him Sparky in an amusing moment.
– John Belushi stops by to give his thoughts on the Ali/Spinx championship fight and of course, it develops into an off-topic rant. This time, John talks about a time he got into a fight after his roommate was beaten up. He then attempts to see if Jane can defend herself and after beating her down with boxing gloves, he tells Chevy “it’s all yours.” Funny segment.
– The last guest to show up is Emily Litella (Radner), who complains about how she hasn’t been invited back onto Update very much now that “Ms. Clayton” is the anchorperson. Jane starts to walk away and freaks out at Emily and Chevy (specifically, she chastises Mr. Chase for mugging) and they both respond in kind.
– And to end Update, we get a real callback to the first season with Garrett Morris repeating the top story for the Hard of Hearing. His line flub was amusing too.
– Overall, while it wasn’t full of great jokes, the commentaries were mostly funny and the whole dynamic with Chevy trying to take over his old show again was great.
*** 1/2

9. Baggage Inspection (5:25)

A dimwitted baggage inspector (Chase) is grilled by his superior (Aykroyd), but fails to see the obvious drug smuggling being committed by a couple (Belushi & Newman).

– This is a classic; one of my absolute favourites, in fact.
– Even though it was only a quick scene from Garrett, he was hilarious slipping off to the bathroom and casually putting a joint in his mouth, saying that he had to go to the bathroom.
– Chevy being so oblivious to the cocaine in the couple’s suitcase was very funny as were John and Laraine’s reactions.
– Great visual gag with Laraine’s boob “leaking” as the cocaine just pours out and Belushi tries to stop it without being too obvious.
– Bill Murray pops by for a hilarious appearance at the end of the sketch but has barely any interaction with the host.
*****

10. GARY WEIS FILM: Bad Day Soundtrack (2:32)

A woman (Newman) has one of the worst days of her life, but spends most of it trying to find out where the singer (Valri Bromfield) is that is song-narrating it all.

– This seems like something that would be in a digital short today and the idea reminded me of “Harpoon Man.”
– Newman was good enough as the frustrated lead, but the singing got annoying towards the end. And why was it stand-up comedienne Valri Bromfield instead of a castmember or something?
* 1/2

11. Sermonette (3:27)

Reverend Archbishop Maharishi O’Mulliganstein D.D.S. (Chase) of the Church of Confusion sermonizes some scripture that makes absolutely no sense.

– This sounds like it would be stupid, but it actually was kind of amusing for Chevy’s performance as the nonsensical preacher even if it did go on a little long for a one-note segment like this.
***

12. World War II GI Quiz (4:04)

A pair of obvious German spies (Aykroyd & Murray) attempt to make their way past enemy lines, but are stopped and quizzed by an American sergeant (Belushi) to find out if they are truly part of the American military or the German side. Soon after, he begins questioning his own men (Chase & Morris) before doubting his own allegiances.

– Dan and Billy were very funny as the obvious spies with Billy counting to himself in German and Aykroyd declaring, “you can’t be too careful mit dose krauts!”
– Chevy didn’t do a whole lot in this sketch, but his impression was funny.
– This sketch shared a very similar structure to the Baggage Inspection bit, but it was still pretty funny just for the performances alone.
*** 1/2

13. Billy Joel sings “Just The Way You Are” (4:11)

– Another fantastic Billy Joel tune; the audience response upon hearing this song just tells you how good it is.

14. No Funny Ending (5:01)

A Victorian scene between Jane, Laraine, and Gilda is interrupted by Chevy, as he declares that they’ve run out of time for his final segment and that there’s no ending that is fit for the sketch. Several endings are then attempted (Twilight Zone-style) which get increasingly more ridiculous from Truman Capote (Belushi) without pants on to the Land Shark (Chase) devouring another victim.

– Another classic and one of my favourite sketches of the early years.
– The beginning with the three girls was funny in an “it’s obvious that this won’t be the focus of the sketch” kind of way.
– There’s lots of things to love here from Aykroyd’s Rod Serling to Belushi as Truman Capote getting interrupted by a smarmy director (Murray) right to the end where everyone suffers heart attacks but get up in time to answer the door for the Land Shark (Chase).
– Garrett’s appearance at the end was hilarious too as he comes in with his Archbishop outfit and then shuffles on outta there when he realizes that the scene has ended and he has missed his cue.
**** 1/2

15. Goodnights

– Bill Murray noticeably walks in a bit late and Belushi jokingly spars with him as the credits start to roll in a little nod to the fight that took place before the show.

OVERALL: Some people maintain that this is one of the few low points of Season 3 and while I agree to the extent that it’s not in the cream of the crop of the season, it’s certainly not a bad episode. Despite a number of average sketches throughout and a couple of misfires (the Weis film, King), this was still a really solid show with a very capable host, who was clearly shaky at the top of the show and settled down just in time for the first real sketch of the night. The cast also did a wonderful job as usual (it’s getting kind of redundant to say that) and even though Bill Murray was kept away from Chase for most of the night, he still turned in a few funny performances and showed his professionalism. All in all, a good episode with two bonafide excellent sketches and a number of average pieces.

BREAKDOWN:

HOST: CHEVY CHASE – 8 segments (A Former President Speaks To The Nation; Monologue; Post-Coital Discussion; Weekend Update; Baggage Inspection; Sermonette; World War II GI Quiz; No Funny Ending)

CAST:

DAN AYKROYD – 6 segments (Moth Masher; King; Weekend Update; Baggage Inspection; World War II GI Quiz; No Funny Ending)
JOHN BELUSHI – 4 segments (Weekend Update; Baggage Inspection; World War II GI Quiz; No Funny Ending)
JANE CURTIN – 3 segments (A Former President Speaks To The Nation; Weekend Update; No Funny Ending)
GARRETT MORRIS – 5 segments (King; Weekend Update; Baggage Inspection; World War II GI Quiz; No Funny Ending)
BILL MURRAY – 4 segments (King; Baggage Inspection; World War II GI Quiz; No Funny Ending)
LARAINE NEWMAN – 5 segments (Moth Masher; Weekend Update; Baggage Inspection; Bad Day Soundtrack; No Funny Ending)
GILDA RADNER – 3 segments (Post-Coital Discussion; Weekend Update; No Funny Ending)

FEATURED PLAYERS:

TOM DAVIS – none
AL FRANKEN – 1 segment (Weekend Update)

EPISODE MVP: John Belushi

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Comments
  1. […] Chevy Chase/Billy Joel […]

  2. Kevin Mocker says:

    MVP for me would be Billy Joel. For many future Joel fans especially those outside of New York city and Long Island this was a Beatles on Ed Sullivan moment. He came out and did 2 NEW songs, both would become huge hits. in the history of SNL has there ever been another musical guest that did 2 songs as big as those? Only the good die young top was 40 at the time and still on the radio today. Just the way you are, a top 3 hit, went on to win song of the year and record of the year at the grammys. The typical SNL musical guest does a hit and a new song that never becomes a hit. Billy killed it that night,TWICE. Your choice of Belushi as MVP makes sense cause its a comedy show, but I would argue, this was the night Billy Joel became a worldwide superstar.

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