29) Steve Martin & Blues Brothers (Saturday Night Live)

Steve Martin
Pictured: A Comedy Genius

Okay, so, you probably know what SNL is, and it’s already been on this list. Never quite bad enough to get cancelled, it’s been hit and miss throughout its history, usually depending on the quality of the cast. Here was the cast for this episode: Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, Laraine Newman, and Garrett Morris. If you don’t recognize any of these names, quit whatever you’re doing now, walk to a window, look out upon the horizon and question every decision that has led you to this point, for you have made mistakes. The point is, this was an amazing cast of people. What could make it better? Having the then number one stand-up comic in the world host the show: Steve “I’ve already been on this list because I’m amazing” Martin.

This wasn’t the first time Martin had hosted. In fact, this was his fifth time hosting in only three seasons, so the cast knew they could just use him as another Not Ready for Prime-Time player. Additionally, instead of having a musician as the musical guest, they had the Blues Brothers, in their first official appearance. If you don’t know the Blues Brothers, see the window thing above, then go buy a movie called The Blues Brothers, watch it, love it, and, for all that is holy, don’t watch the sequel.

BluesBros2.jpg
Pictured: A huge mistake

SUMMARY

The episode opens with Paul Shaffer doing a fake introduction of the Blues Brothers, who perform “Hey Bartender.” Then, Steve Martin delivers one of the best monologues in the history of the show, ending with him beating the hell out of an audience member. The sketches throughout the episode include: “Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber,” a sketch of Steve Martin as a medieval barber obsessed with using bloodletting as a cure for basically anything; “The Festrunk Brothers,” famous for being two “wild and crazy guys!” (ask your parents what that means); a really well-done dance sketch between Martin and Gilda Radner that ranges from beautiful to hilariously absurd; a short film about ballet and breakdancing by Gary Weis, who did the videos for Walk Like an Egyptian and You Can Call Me Al; and Nerds at the Science Fair. Each of these is funny, most of them so funny that they became recurring sketches (except the Festrunk Brothers, who had appeared before). But, somehow, they weren’t the main reasons why this episode was amazing. It’s the other three sketches.

Wild_and_crazy_guys.jpg
“And then I said ‘Of course we need a third Bad News Bears!'”

First, Steve Martin performs the song “King Tut.” This song is weird, it’s random, and it’s catchy as hell. Martin not only performs lines like “Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia” with a straight face, but makes you believe that he sincerely thinks he’s performing a hit. And, to be fair, he was right. He released the song as a single and it made the top 20 on the Billboard charts. For just over 2 minutes of fake lines about a pharaoh, that’s mind-blowing.

SNLKingTutGif.gif
He is a comedy God-King

Second, while it wasn’t the best during their run, this was definitely one of the better Weekend Updates with Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtain, this one had some solid gags. Dan getting upset that he was short-changed on his pot order, conducting the drug sale on air under the guise of making sure that it wasn’t “tainted.” A Nasal contraceptive is developed in India, but, despite the Kama Sutra’s encouragement, nobody has figured out how to have nasal intercourse. But, mostly, it’s the point/counterpoint on abortion. Their banter on those is usually great, but on this one, it’s particularly hilarious because it’s actually a controversial issue (I mean in 1978, but now would still work), and they actually do present the usual sides of the debate, albeit exaggerated (including the line “Haven’t they heard of abstinence? I myself haven’t had sex in two years, and I’m rich.”). Plus, it includes a great use of the classic line “Jane, you ignorant slut.”

Jane.png
And yet, this is not an inaccurate picture of the news media

Last, though, is a little mind boggling. The Blues Brothers came on to perform the song “I Don’t Know,” and they bring the funk. They bring all of it. In fact, they brought so much of it that, as if they need to top Steve Martin, they used it to promote their forthcoming album “Briefcase Full of Blues,” which proceeded to go double platinum, produce 2 top forty singles, and led to an amazing movie that definitely has no sequel.

SnlBluesBrosEND SUMMARY

This episode was like a double rainbow: Beautiful, rare, and probably made better by drugs.

PREVIOUS – 30: Frasier

NEXT – 28: Taxi

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Here’s Steve Martin’s King Tut:

http://player.theplatform.com/p/NnzsPC/widget/select/media/guid/2410887629/3505914

Link to the NBC site (http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/season-3/episode/18-steve-martin-with-the-blues-brothers-65761)

Link to it on Hulu (https://www.hulu.com/watch/159687)

79) Richard Pryor (Saturday Night Live)

Saturday Night Live is a sketch show that has run for forty years on television. It’s been great, it’s been terrible, it’s been everything in between. One thing is pretty universally agreed upon, though: When it first started it was freaking amazing. This is season one.

SNLCastOriginal.jpg
Pictured: Genius

Saturday Night Live did not run, and usually does not run, with a delay. Some bits are pre-recorded, but everything else is broadcast live, for better or for worse. Now, the first host of SNL was George Carlin, so that’s taking a risk right off the bat, but the producers didn’t truly worry until the seventh episode, when they asked Richard Pryor to host. If you don’t know who Richard Pryor is, he’s usually considered one of the best comedians of all time, but was also one of the most foul-mouthed people on television in the 70s. Also, he was a constant drug user with a history of strange statements during live shows. Pryor had given his word that he’d be under control during taping, but still, the show had a 7 second delay so that they could censor any slips. Hearing this, the cast and production team promptly looked at each other, laughed, and said “f*ck that sh*t.”

SNLRichardPryor
Something Richard Pryor likely said 7 times a day

SUMMARY

Richard Pryor started off by insisting that Garrett Morris, the only black cast member on SNL at the time, be allowed to do the opening pratfall instead of Chevy Chase. Chase, reportedly, wasn’t happy with this, but agreed because he got to openly show how much better he was than Morris at physical comedy during the opening. It’s as true now as it was then: Playing to vanity is always a valid tactic.

SNLGarretMorris2.jpg
First Black SNL Member, First Ant-Man, and, sadly, often forgotten.

At the time, Richard Pryor’s writing partner was Paul Mooney, who many people know now from Chappelle’s Show, but was previously known for having fewer limits than Pryor. As a demonstration, Mooney wrote a skit for Pryor that will forever be a moment in television that can’t be duplicated (and almost certainly never should be): Racist Word Association.

SNLPaulMooney.jpgPryor is at a job interview with Chevy Chase, who begins a “word association exercise” as part of the job interview. Chase starts with normal words (Dog, Fast, Rain, Bean) and then progressively starts throwing out racial slurs of increasing offensiveness (Tar-baby, Negro, Spearchucker, etc.) with Pryor throwing out a counter for each one (Cracker, White Trash, Peckerwood, etc.) until the final exchange occurs (Jungle bunny – Honky, Spade – Honkey Honky, N***** – DEAD HONKY).

SNLRacistWordAssn
Guess what word was just said?

Chase immediately begins offering Pryor huge job perks and salary bonuses in order to keep Pryor from killing him, making him the highest paid janitor in the world. Note: Even with the delay, none of this got censored. Pryor and Mooney had assured the network that Pryor’s mere presence in the scene made it somehow not racist. I don’t know if that’s true, but it made it one of the most intense minutes of TV.

SNLSamuraiHotelThere are 3 other notable things about this episode. The first is that it contained Albert Brooks’s short film “Sick” which is one of the big kick-offs to mockumentary in modern film. The second is that it contained the first, and maybe best, of John Belushi’s Samurai Futaba sketches, “Samurai Hotel,” which included samurai Richard Pryor cutting a desk in half. The third is that it contained the first use of “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead,” which was a huge running gag when the show started.

END SUMMARY

The point of the racist interview sketch is a little more subtle than Mooney’s or Pryor’s usual comedy, to the extent that it’s somehow overlooked sometimes. See, this was the 1970s, and, unlike today, when racism is clearly no longer an issue (hello, dear readers of 2944), people sometimes were kind of racist. Especially employers who were complaining about having to “not discriminate based on race.” So, one of the first practices put into play was that the employers would try to discourage black people from applying to jobs, or to harass them into giving good cause not to hire them. This interview is both of those in the course of a few minutes. It’s a white guy pissing off a black guy and calling it “part of the process.” It’s an exaggerated version, of course, but the point is still there, and watching Chase pause as if he’s coming up with all of the slurs as he goes really sells the fact that his character is just trying to offend Pryor’s.

If you want to introduce someone to old-school SNL, this is one of the best episodes.

PREVIOUS – 80: Ellen

NEXT – 78: The Bob Newhart Show

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Do not watch this video at work.