SNL Retro: O.J. Simpson/Ashford & Simpson (2/25/78)

Posted: June 12, 2011 by Brendan Wahl in SNL Retro Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Brendan Wahl

(Season 3, Episode 12)

Well, this will be an interesting one to review. O.J. obviously had a much different reputation in 1978 than he does now. Back then, Simpson was a respected Heisman Trophy-winning football player instead of today where he is… well, I won’t bother going into it. It’s pretty obvious.


The Show:

“James At 16 Marries Roman Polanski” will not be seen tonight…

1. Audience Questions (2:30)

Because of the fact that the writers couldn’t think of a cold open this week, Gilda Radner stands center-stage and reads some questions that the audience wrote for her.

– This was a pretty cute and clever idea with all of the questions being obvious filler and clearly scribed by the writers of the show.
– The piece works really well due to Gilda’s cuteness and innocence along with her hilariously deadpan way of answering the questions.
– I liked how all the questions were from people named Kevin. The best part of that, though, was when “Kevin” asked Gilda to settle a bet with his wife “Kevin” that SNL always started with the words, “Give me all your hot monkey love.”
*** 1/2

2. Monologue (5:39)

O.J. comes out with Conehead gear on and explains how he got to achieve his specific goals in life like getting into pro football, winning the Heisman trophy, and eventually hosting SNL. And how he’ll murder his ex-wife in about 17 years. Okay, that last part didn’t happen.

– This was really long-winded and there was no real jokes here, but O.J. seemed really at ease. Almost like he’d just murdered someone and got away with it.
– Okay, that’s all for the O.J. jokes. I promise.
– The band accompanying O.J. with the music was mildly amusing at first, but this monologue was kind of a chore to sit through. I mean, the message was good and all but it wasn’t really a monologue fitting for an episode of SNL.
* 1/2

3. Samurai Night Fever (8:21)

In an elaborate parody of the 1977 disco mega-hit, Futaba (Belushi) deals with his family issues with his domineering father (Murray) while teaching his fallen priest brother (Simpson) how to go the disco and get down with his bad self.

– This was a great use of the Samurai character. Belushi was the anchor of this whole sketch and pulled it off with aplomb, mixing his much-loved character with some of Travolta’s quirks and nuances.
– Acting was a real strong suit for this sketch because besides Belushi, there was some great stuff from Murray as the hard-to-please father, O.J. as the willing pupil, and Jane as his proud mother just to name a few highlights.
– I’m already surprised by Simpson’s talents as a host. It doesn’t look like he glanced at the cue cards during the whole sketch and he was really comfortable the whole time. I especially liked him stopping Futaba from stabbing himself (so he could do it himself?) much like Buck did in most of the sketches with the character.
– The absolute highlight of this sketch was Belushi doing his big spotlight dance in the middle of the disco scene.
– This sketch was even popular enough for them to reference in the Gary Busey/Eubie Blake, Gregory Hines episode a year later, so this clearly stuck with a lot of people.

4. Great Moments In Sports (6:40)

O.J. narrates a story in which Babe Ruth (Belushi) visited a young black kid (Morris) in the hospital and promises to hit a home run for him. Due to Babe’s eating and drinking problems, though, it proves to be a tougher task than expected.

– Pretty thin premise for a sketch here and it never really felt like an idea fully realized. The ending also felt really tacked-on.
– Belushi was his usual great self here, but Garrett was utterly unconvincing as a child. I did like his reaction to the sports announcer mentioning that the kid was dying, though.
– I liked O.J.’s little moments as the narrator spliced into the actual story when he would be caught eating crackerjacks or picking his teeth, for instance. His comic timing was impeccable.

5. Ashford & Simpson sing “So, So Satisfied” (3:47)

– Not a bad little performance.
– Remember that awful sketch with Halle Berry where she keeps attacking Ashford (Kenan Thompson) & Simpson (Maya Rudolph) while they’re performing for her? Ugh.
– Kinda funny that someone with the last name Simpson is the host and one of the musical guests, eh?

6. Mohawk Master (1:07)

The new product uses two razors on a device that allows one to achieve the mohawk look in one smooth motion.

– Not up to par with some of Danny’s classic spokesperson bits, but this was still pretty funny.
– The sheep with the ‘hawk was a pretty funny visual and it came out of nowhere.
*** 1/2

7. The Raid on Nicosia (2:15)

Only one week after the unwanted raid by Egyptian forces on some hijackers in Nicosia, NBC has jumped on the bandwagon and already filmed the TV movie with a cadre of stars like Ed Asner (Belushi), Robert Stack (Aykroyd), and more.

– This was seemingly going to be a multi-impression sketch, but it turned out to be something different. It was still pretty amusing.
– Murray as Tony Orlando rushing his men into battle was hilarious as was Aykroyd’s terrific Robert Stack impression.
– I also really liked Valerie Harper (Radner) playing the wife of Anwar Sadat and not changing her accent whatsoever.
*** 1/2

8. Weekend Update w/ Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin (10:36)

Guests: O.J. Simpson, Bill Murray, Laraine Newman, & Roseanne Roseannadanna (Radner)

Best Jokes: Elizabeth Ray endorsement; Nasal frostbite

– Wow, a golden shower joke in 1978? I wonder how many people got that.
– Bill Murray gives a commentary on Woody Allen being the darling of the Oscars this year, but dismisses the comparisons to Orson Welles because he doesn’t see the petite Jewish man gaining 400 pounds and becoming a strange recluse. Billy’s piece is quick, but very funny as was his interaction with Jane at the end.
– Laraine interviews O.J. Simpson as the first woman reporter to be in an all-male locker room of a football team. O.J. makes a funny flub here where he calls Laraine by Jane’s name and plays smug in a really convincing (hmm?) way. Funny segment overall, though.
– Roseanne Roseannadanna does the final commentary, her “consumer report,” and responds to a question from “Mr. Bob Van Ry” (but still responds to him with “Mr. Feder” — oops!) regarding proper teeth care and then starts talking about finding gross stuff in one’s teeth and the different methods of getting it out. Her description of materials being used to clean out her teeth getting stuck as well was amusingly disgusting and Jane’s angry reaction to the whole commentary was hilarious like usual.
– Not very many jokes tonight, which is why there are only two highlights.

9. Football Voodoo (3:44)

O.J. and some of his buddies watch the game in suspense as Walter Payton attempts to break Simpson’s record. O.J. seems unbothered by this fact, but secretively sticks a voodoo doll with several pins, water, and other items to hinder his playing ability.

– This was good and seeing O.J.’s reactions as he quickly pricked the doll with needles and then threw it away effortlessly was pretty funny.
– Did Danny, John, and Garrett actually crack up and start laughing when O.J. started celebrating off-screen or was that part of the sketch? Seemed pretty realistic to me.

10. The Franken and Davis Show (4:50)

Tom Davis announces that Al has a malignant brain tumor, but he wants to do one more program before he passes away. Al is in a very debilitated state and only remembers the most rudimentary jokes, needing constant doses of water to remain conscious.

– This is a very funny but very, very dark piece that they probably couldn’t get away with today.
– I especially liked Davis’ exaggerated expressions while standing behind Al and his attempts to get the crowd riled up and laughing at the lame jokes.
– I’ve always really liked the ending of these where they both innocently wave at the camera and yell goodnight.

11. Mandingo II (1:45)

In a sequel to the controversial slave-drama, both slaves and masters are drawn to each other in an attempt to irk the censors as much as possible.

– Classic sketch where O.J., Garrett Morris, Bill Murray, and Laraine Newman get to discover the inside of each other’s mouths quite a bit.
– I loved the premise where they took the original of a black slave kissing a white girl and upped the ante by having him kiss other black slaves, the white slave master, and the white girl.
– Everyone really committed to this too and Danny’s announcer voice certainly didn’t hurt matters.
**** 1/2

12. E. Buzz Miller’s Animal Kingdom (2:40)

Buzz (Aykroyd) and Christy Christina (Newman) take a look at footage of different animals in the wild, but it boils down to showing these animals only during their mating process.

– E. Buzz Miller is a sleazeball character; one that Dan excels in. He is somewhat like Irwin Mainway, but Buzz is supposed to be more likeable.
– Christy is a funny side character and her high-pitched giggling had me rolling from laughter.
– I think my favourite part was when Christy remarked that an earthworm had herpes based on the little dots on its body.
– This was also kept pretty short, which certainly helped the one-note nature of the piece.
*** 1/2

13. Hertz (:37)

O.J. uses Hertz to get somewhere on time, but the receptionist (Newman) tells him that the keys have been given to Walter Payton, who “had a better season.”

– This was one quick joke (and pretty much the same one from the football voodoo bit), but it was okay.
– Clever use of Emily Litella here and thankfully she would only make one more appearance. I love me some Gilda Radner, but Emily wore out her welcome very quickly.
** 1/2

14. Ashford & Simpson sing “Don’t Cost You Nothing” (3:38)

– This song had a lot more energy and was more enjoyable than the first song.
– I particularly liked their goofy 70s dancing, but their voices are really good

15. Celebrity Battle of the Sexes & Races (3:28)

Phyllis George (Curtin) hosts an event in which black men O.J. Simpson and Leon Spinx (Morris) go toe-to-toe with Sandy Duncan (Newman) and Marie Osmond (Radner) in a series of challenges.

– This was a funny way to parody those ridiculous Battle of the Sexes shows that were airing on NBC around this time.
– Garrett was hilarious as Spinx with his toothless smile and his funny facial expressions.
The recap of all the events won and lost by Brent Musburger (Murray) was very stereotypical, but very hilarious as they were mocking NBC’s willingness to do something like this, which was already pretty offensive to begin with.
*** 1/2

16. Goodnights

– O.J. seems to have gotten along with the cast awfully well

OVERALL: While it wasn’t the strongest show this season or anywhere close to it, this was still a pretty good episode and it just shows how strong of a run the show was on at this point if this is one of its weaker episodes. O.J. was a surprise; he was a pretty good host and, despite playing himself in many sketches and not really stretching much, provided many funny moments throughout the night; definitely the best murderer-host (sorry, Robert Blake and Snoop Dogg). The cast was very well-represented throughout the night for the most part as there were a number of sketches featuring the host and every castmember in them. There were a couple of clunkers, but there were also a good number of enjoyable pieces, making this an above-average broadcast.


HOST: O.J. SIMPSON – 9 segments (Monologue; Samurai Night Fever; Great Moments In Sports; The Raid on Nicosia; Weekend Update; Football Voodoo; Mandingo II; Hertz; Celebrity Battle of the Sexes & Races)


DAN AYKROYD – 7 segments (Samurai Night Fever; Great Moments In Sports; Mohawk Master; The Raid on Nicosia; Weekend Update; Football Voodoo; E. Buzz Miller’s Animal Kingdom)
JOHN BELUSHI – 4 segments (Samurai Night Fever; Great Moments In Sports; The Raid on Nicosia; Football Voodoo)
JANE CURTIN – 5 segments (Samurai Night Fever; Great Moments In Sports; The Raid on Nicosia; Weekend Update; Celebrity Battle of the Sexes & Races)
GARRETT MORRIS – 4 segments (Great Moments In Sports; The Raid on Nicosia; Football Voodoo; Celebrity Battle of the Sexes & Races)
BILL MURRAY – 6 segments (Samurai Night Fever; Mohawk Master; The Raid on Nicosia; Weekend Update; Mandingo II; Celebrity Battle of the Sexes & Races)
LARAINE NEWMAN – 8 segments (Samurai Night Fever; Mohawk Master; The Raid on Nicosia; Weekend Update; Mandingo II; E. Buzz Miller’s Animal Kingdom; Hertz; Celebrity Battle of the Sexes & Races)
GILDA RADNER – 6 segments (Audience Questions; Samurai Night Fever; The Raid on Nicosia; Weekend Update; Hertz; Celebrity Battle of the Sexes & Races)


TOM DAVIS – 1 segment (The Franken and Davis Show)
AL FRANKEN – 1 segment (The Franken and Davis Show)

EPISODE MVPs: Bill Murray/Laraine Newman

  1. kmnnz says:

    These are always so much fun to read 🙂

  2. […] O.J. Simpson/Ashford & Simpson […]

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