Saturday Night Live: Kirk Douglas / Sam and Dave
February 10, 2020 12:52 AM - Season 5, Episode 12 - Subscribe

February 23, 1980, the day after the Miracle on Ice, which gets a cheer during Weekend Update.

  • Cold Open - Kirk Douglas Is Short: Kirk Douglas, Gilda Radner, "Aunt Margie," Lorne Michaels
  • Monologue: Kirk Douglas, "Alexandra"
  • Kirk's Greatest Kirks: Kirk Douglas
  • What If? Spartacus Had A Plane: Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Harry Shearer, Bill Murray, Brian Doyle Murray, Tom Davis, Jim Downey
  • Women's Lounge: Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Kirk Douglas
  • Weekend Update: Bill Murray, Jane Curtin
    • Reagan for NH Primary: Harry Shearer
    • Reinstate the Draft: Al Franke
  • Bar Mitzvah for Greg Lieberman: Alan Zweibel?, Gilda Radner, Kirk Douglas, Bill Murray, Paul Shaffer
  • Sam and Dave - Soul Man
posted by rhizome (5 comments total)
Looks like NBC has the whole episode for sale on YouTube for $2.

This was the shortened rerun episode between the early and late airings of the current episode last Saturday. It was a very interesting episode compared to now.

Two things jumped out at me:

There were two long sketches, Spartacus and the Bar Mitzvah. These were each well over 5min and had multiple parts. "What If Spartacus had a Piper Cub?" sets up as a historical show with Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris playing deep attitude, and Harry Shearer laying out the positively absurd premise in terms of some battle. It then cuts to Bill Murray as a modern-day pilot flying a small plane with Spartacus as a passenger. After some chitchat, Spartacus starts throwing stuff out of the plane at the Romans on the ground below, who don't know to look up, and have their own segments debating what signs which god is sending them. It cuts back and forth between the plane and the crowd on the ground growing, with some cleric explaining to everyone what it all means. It was pretty involved...and funny! And definitely written.

The Bar Mitzvah went from an MC doing what I assume is normal Bar Mitzvah crowd work, some back and forth with the kid and parents, and then right when the sketch would be cut off without an ending like they do today, Bill Murray comes out and does his lounge singer guy for a while. I'm sure when I was 12 it just went on and on, but I'd really like to see some of this kind of writing today!

Secondly, the Women's Lounge was just a character and a scenario, Gilda as a world-weary bathroom attendant who collects autographs of famous bathroom users on paper towels. This is basically what current SNL uses as Weekend Update segment characters, say like Cecily Strong's Cathy Ann, expanded into an entire sketch, a character just doing their thing. It was pretty great, and both quieter and smarter than what we see now. It's not "omigosh St. Patricks Day with racist grandparents and a dog that just won't shut up!" for two and a half minutes.

This was a totally minor episode, halfway through the last season before the Doumanian years, the season without Belushi and Aykroyd. The opening montage had Jim Downey, Brian Doyle Murray, and both Franken and Davis as featured players. Apparently Al Franken was trying to take over for Lorne during his hiatus at the end of this season, but he made fun of Fred Silverman a couple episodes later and made Doumanian a shoo-in. All in all this is prime Al Franken Decade material.

I was pretty fascinated the whole time! Oh, and I could go the rest of my life without hearing "Soul Man" again, but this one was probably 8 minutes long and really energetic. Apparently at this time Sam and Dave hadn't talked to each other in years and years, even on stage, and they don't look at each other or interact at all, but the music is tops.
posted by rhizome at 1:41 AM on February 10, 2020

the Doumanian years

Jean Doumanian lasted less than a year.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:18 AM on February 10, 2020

The Ebersole years, mea culpa!
posted by rhizome at 2:07 PM on February 10, 2020

Yeah, those first few years were just a whole different deal than what we see today. The 1970s National Lampoon energy was strong. Even when it wasn't funny, it was always smart and interesting. The format was a lot looser and you never knew what the hell they were gonna do in a given week. I really miss the sketches that had some pathos, or the occasional ones that weren't even trying to be funny but were more like tiny one-act plays. I watched this era when I was a kid and now for me it has this wonderful mix of edgy and cozy. Edgy because the show had a real crackle back then and it still has the power to shock, but cozy because it's this thing from my childhood and all these great performers are so young and fresh, a bunch of clever kids running around putting on a show.

I read Live From New York and I remember the stuff about Franken getting in trouble for goofing on Silverman but I don't remember them saying Franken was angling to replace Lorne. Wow, that's a fascinating what-if. Maybe his coked-up arrogance and tendency to pick fights would have resulted in a trainwreck, but I suspect he would have kept the show fresh and edgy in a way that Doumanian sure didn't. Instead of that 1970s energy stopping dead in its tracks when Michaels and the original cast left, it might have flourished and evolved into something new for the 80s. We probably never would've had Eddie Murphy, or the Martin Short/Billy Crystal/etc. era, and all this butterfly effect stuff would've resulted in a show that would be profoundly different today, assuming it made it to 2020. It's not impossible that Franken never would've left, that he'd still be arguing with the network about what you can say after midnight. Admittedly we would've lost a lot of great stuff over the decades, but I have a hunch that right now the show would be... better? If nothing else, you know he'd be giving Trump a ton of well-deserved shit every week.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:43 PM on February 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

I will go back and watch this one; I was just talking about Kirk Douglas to my mom and her friends. Serendipitously, we were also talking about Mike Eruzione during that dinner; Mike was a friend of my mom's. I'll figure out where to post that.

But I look forward to digging this episode out of the internet crate to see how Kirk Douglas played it. I have no episodes from that season—it was awful. Season 5 was heralded as the death knell of SNL; Lorne had esentially checked out. I was 10 years old, though, and SNL still held some mystique to me cause it was on late.

I am so happy that Kirk survived a stroke and lived to be 103 years, and that SNL survived Seasons 5 & 6 to become Not Just Another TV History Footnote.
posted by not_on_display at 9:11 PM on February 14, 2020

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