- Saturday Night Live TV show sketches of the 1980s
Since the beginning of Saturday Night Live, the show has been something of an anti-television show, turning the medium on its head with endless fake commercials and parodies of TV shows themselves. The most common style of their recurring sketches has been the talk show format. However, anything from cop shows to children's shows has been fair game for the ever-changing cast.
Sketches with TV show themes are listed here chronologically. TV Sketches that involve a specific type of character are listed under "Character Categories" (see below).
The Mr. Bill Show
Mr. Bill got its start when Walter Williams sent SNL a Super-8 reel featuring the character in response to the show's request for home movies during the first season. Mr. Bill's first appearance occurred on the February 28, 1976 episode. Williams became a full-time writer for the show in 1978, writing more than 20 skits based on Mr. Bill.
Each Mr. Bill episode would start innocently enough but would quickly turn dangerous for Mr. Bill. Along with his dog, Spot, he would suffer various indignities inflicted by "Mr. Hands," a man seen only as a pair of hands (played by Vance DeGeneres).
Sometimes the abuse would ostensibly come from the mean Mr. Sluggo, another clay character. (However, Mr. Hands did most of the violence himself, because Sluggo would tell him to, i.e. "Mr. Sluggo says to...") The violence would inevitably escalate, generally ending with Mr. Bill being crushed or dismembered while squealing in a high pitched voice, "Ohhhh noooooooooooooo..."
Characters: Mr. Bill, Mr. Hands, Spot, Sluggo, Miss Sally, Mr. Bill's Mom & Sluggo Clones.
The character's popularity spawned the 1986 live-action movie Mr. Bill's Real Life Adventures.
- In the 1980s, Mr. Bill was featured in advertising spots for Pringles Butter and Herb flavored Potato Chips, where he gets run over by a can of Pringles and says "oh no". In 1988, Mr. Bill also appeared in a series of anti-drug announcements which showed him engaging in various activities such as basketball until Sluggo would bury him under a bunch of pills, in which the tagline would be "Say OH NO! to drugs".
- In the 1990s, Williams created a series of Mr. Bill-like advertising spots for Pizza Hut, featuring "Pizza Head" in the usual Mr. Bill role and a pizza cutter named "Steve" in the Sluggo role.
- In 1998, Mr. Bill was given his first television series in nearly 20 years, which was titled Ohh Nooo! Mr. Bill Presents and aired on the Fox Family Channel. As well as featuring typical Mr. Bill-type skits, other sketches, most notably ones from British personality Mr. Bean, were present in the one-hour variety show. It lasted forty episodes.
- In 2004, Mr. Bill was part of a campaign aimed at teaching people, especially children, about the loss of Louisiana's coastal marshes and swamps. According to CNN, one segment predicted the effects of a hurricane on New Orleans about a year and a half before Katrina.
- In early December 2008, Mr. Bill became one of Subway's spokesmen, along with Mr. Hands. In the commercial, Mr. Bill learns how to make bread with Mr. Hands, but suddenly Chef Sluggo comes in to roll the dough. But Sluggo never gets a chance to hurt Mr. Bill, as a boulder comes and crushes the whole Subway restaurant with both characters inside. When Mr. Hands finds Mr. Bill flattened with the dough on the side of the boulder, he says, "Great idea, Mr. Bill! Flatbread!"
- MasterCard has enlisted Mr. Bill for one of its "Priceless" ads, which officially began airing on June 9, 2008. It is interesting to note that the commercial was noticeably nicer to Mr. Bill. Although he was thrown around as he usually is, he isn't crushed as in the SNL sketches. The commercial starts with Mr. Bill being served coffee by Mr. Hands (coffee: $2). Mr. Hands fills the cup too much causing the coffee to spill all over the floor and Mr. Bill, but Mr. Bill takes it with good nature, saying, "I always wanted brown shoes. Yay!" Next, Mr. Hands tells Mr. Bill at a gym, "Your fitness instructor says to take it up a notch. [gym membership: $59]" He turns the treadmill all the way up and drops Mr. Bill on it, causing him to fly across the gym. Luckily, Mr. Bill lands safely on a stationary bike, where he says, "Hey! There's a bike open!" Next, Mr. Bill is seen in his luxurious office, where Mr. Hands helps him unpack his suitcase (suitcase: $18). When the suitcase opens, it knocks into Mr. Bill, sending him flying out the window. He lands on the windshield of a bus, where he remarks, "Hey, the bus is right on schedule!" He is then knocked off the bus by its windshield wipers as the commercial ends (Getting through the day: Priceless).
The Franken and Davis Show
SNL writing partners Al Franken and Tom Davis host their own fictitious variety program, on which they would appear onstage as a double act similar to Rowan and Martin, with Davis generally as the straight man and Franken as his self-obsessed, dimwitted sidekick. They would also perform skits within the context of their "show". The sketch was often a late-addition to the show as a time filler if the broadcast was running short. Their best-known skit consisted of Davis appearing in normal dress, while Franken appeared in a flowing garment, with a shaved head and a pony tail and announced he was becoming a Hindu. Davis responded by cutting off the ponytail, angering Franken who said, "Now people will think I'm a Buddhist!"
Aside from "The Franken and Davis Show", the two have made several appearances—either separately or as team—in many SNL sketches throughout the years. They also appear together in the film Trading Places as a pair of drunken baggage handlers. Al Franken later hosted his own talk show on which Tom Davis has made numerous appearances. Franken is probably best known for his character Stuart Smalley, and for his on-air proposal at the end of the 1970s that the 1980s be known as "The Al Franken Decade."
The Bel-Airabs was a sketch from the 1979—1980 season. It was a spoof of The Beverly Hillbillies, instead featuring paranoid Arabs. Only two sketches appeared, on December 8, 1979 (host: Howard Hesseman) and February 9, 1980 (host: Chevy Chase). As all of the cast members left the show at the end of that season, it was not continued.
It appears to have been an offshoot of Gilda Radner's "Granny" character, which had appeared in a sketch called "The Shah's Final Days" during the previous season.
- Abdul Asad - Don Novello
- Fatima Asad - Laraine Newman
- Mudhad Asad - Bill Murray
- Granny - Gilda Radner
- Miss Hathaway - Jane Curtin
What's It All About
Mister Robinson's Neighborhood
Mister Robinson's Neighborhood was a parody of the children's show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, a PBS staple where new information about the world was presented by Fred Rogers in a quiet, methodical, loving, and highly elocuted manner. In the sketch, Eddie Murphy's character "Mister Robinson" speaks in a similarly stilted manner, but lives in a considerably grittier venue, with slumlords hunting him down for rent and police after him for stealing groceries and defrauding children of toy money.
Rogers took no offense to the parody, finding it amusing and affectionate; he even took the opportunity of a promotional appearance on NBC to seek out Murphy in his SNL dressing room and tell him such.
Incidentally, the first installment of "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood" where Mr. Robinson gets a package from a drug dealer named "Mr. Speedy" (played by Gilbert Gottfried in a parody of Mr. McFeely), was overshadowed by the "Who Shot Charles Rocket" recurring gag that ran through the episode and the controversy over Rocket saying, "I'd like to know who the fuck did it" during the goodnights. The book, "Saturday Night Live: The First 20 Years" has a still shot from the episode of Eddie Murphy as Mr. Robinson pointing to a sign that reads, "Bitch."
Billy Crystal playing Fernando Lamas who would interview various celebrities, often confusing them with someone else (e.g. confusing actor Johnny Yune for football player Johnny Unitas). During each interview he would say, "You look mahvelous." and frequently the sketch would end with, "It's better to look good than to feel good."
The Limits of the Imagination
The Limits of the Imagination was a short-lived sketch featured on the 1985–1986 season. It featured Randy Quaid as "The Floating Head", a Rod Serling-like character who would introduce a creepy, Twilight Zone-esque story with a weak ending (or no ending at all).
Episodes featuring Limits of the Imagination
- Madonna/Simple Minds: In a loose parody of When a Stranger Calls, Madonna plays a female motorist who is being followed by a crazy man (played by Jon Lovitz) living in the trunk of her car.
- John Lithgow/Mister Mister: Joan Cusack, Robert Downey Jr., Nora Dunn, and Terry Sweeney play restaurant patrons who are trapped at an "all-you-can-eat" fish restaurant where patrons are forced to eat everything on the menu.
- Dudley Moore/Al Green: Dudley Moore plays a bad comedian who sells his soul to the devil (played by Jon Lovitz) in order to be popular.
- Ron Reagan Jr./The Nelsons: Ron Reagan Jr. plays a man who is treated like a stranger by his wife (Joan Cusack), son (Robert Downey Jr.), and friends (John Lovitz, Damon Wayans, and Dan Vitale).
- Jerry Hall/Stevie Ray Vaughan: Jerry Hall plays "Maggie the Cat" from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, who traps and seduces a gay man (played by Terry Sweeney) in her hotel room.
- Catherine Oxenberg and Paul Simon/Ladysmith Black Mambazo: Young Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel (played by Robert Downey, Jr. and Anthony Michael Hall) sell their souls to the Devil (Jon Lovitz) for success. Later, an elderly Paul Simon (who appears as himself) lives out his personal hell of listening to Muzak versions of his greatest hits while stuck in an elevator.
The Pat Stevens Show
Nora Dunn played the host, a somewhat dim, shallow, ex-model who thought Vogue was literature.
The Further Adventures of Biff and Salena
Actors on Film
Church Chat was a Christian-based, distinctly local-TV celebrity interview program during the 1980s, 1990s (and once in the 2000s), hosted by "The Church Lady" (named "Enid Strict"), a character created and performed by Dana Carvey as a spoof of on-air, holier-than-thou Christian televangelist. The SNL character was immediately recognizable and popular, spawning some catch phrases such as "Well, isn't that special?", and "Could it be...SATAN?!"
On the set of "Church Chat", with its rectory desk and bogus cellophane stained-glass, other cast members of SNL would appear as celebrities of the day, and sometimes, so would actual celebrities of the day. Church Lady would seemingly praise or soothe her guests during their time of crisis, only to blindside them with judgmental admonishments and damnation. She would always wear a high-collared purple dress, a sweater, and old fashioned glasses. Most skits would end with her telling the church organist to "Hit it, Pearl!" as she'd stand over her "sinner" guests performing her "superiority dance."
Unlike most other popular characters from SNL, though, she was never incorporated into a feature length film.
Instant Coffee with Bill Smith
Miss Connie's Fable Nook
Pumping Up with Hans & Franz
Hans & Franz were two muscle-bound jocks played by Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey mimicking Arnold Schwarzenegger with padding for fake muscles, gray sweatsuits, weight belts, and Austrian accents. They were the hosts of "Pumping Up with Hans & Franz", where they proceed to denigrate others for not being strong, and then strike bodybuilder poses. They always introduced themselves saying, (Carvey) "I am Hans." (Nealon) "...And I am Franz" (together) "...And we are here to pump [handclap] you up." In one episode, Schwarzenegger actually appears and admonishes them for being girly men.
Hanz and Franz appear in the EPCOT Center presentation Cranium Command as they make the heart beat.
Learning to Feel
Wayne's World was one of the most popular recurring sketches on Saturday Night Live, centering around a Public-access television cable TV show hosted by Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and his sidekick, Garth Algar (Dana Carvey). The "show" featured their various exploits, including their obsession with hard rock bands and "babes", as well as juvenile antics, such as the "Extreme Close-Up". The sketch was eventually adapted to a film, Wayne's World which was followed by a sequel, Wayne's World 2.
Cooking with the Anal Retentive Chef
This series of sketches featured Phil Hartman as Eugene, a fastidious chef who could not bear to be in the presence of anything cluttered or dirty. After peeling some vegetables he advised throwing the peels away by wrapping them in paper toweling, then aluminum foil, then putting them in a paper bag that was then to be sealed with scotch tape. Gene never completed any of his recipes; he always became too distracted by the effects of his psychological complex, and ran out of time. The majority of these sketches featured the Eugene character as a chef, however, he also played an anal retentive sportsman and home improvement expert. The sketch was presented as a PBS program sponsored by the Chubb Group.
Episodes featuring the Anal Retentive Chef
- April 1, 1989 host: Mel Gibson
- May 13, 1989 in "Fishing with the Anal Retentive Sportsman" host: Wayne Gretzky
- September 30, 1989 in a sketch called "Home Improvement" host: Bruce Willis
- December 2, 1989 host: John Goodman
- May 12, 1990 host: Andrew Dice Clay
Tales of Ribaldry
Tales of Ribaldry was a series of sketches starring Jon Lovitz as Regency era dandy Evelyn Quince, presenting supposedly "racy, randy, ribald!" tales, presented initially as "bodice rippers" which, to the host's clear and vocal dismay, develop into rather straightforward, "not very ribald at all!" sexual encounters between consenting adults.
Saturday Night Live later featured a one-time sketch called "Tales of Irony" which used a similar premise. Jason Alexander played the host who would become clearly agitated when the scenes developed into quite bland pieces with very little irony at all.
Episodes featuring Tales of Ribaldry
- Saturday Night Live TV show sketches of the 1970s
- Saturday Night Live TV show sketches of the 1990s
- Saturday Night Live TV show sketches of the 2000s
- Recurring Saturday Night Live characters and sketches
- Listed chronologically
- Listed by cast member
- Short-lived recurring characters on Saturday Night Live
- Saturday Night Live characters appearing on Weekend Update
- Saturday Night Live musical sketches
- Saturday Night Live animal sketches
- Saturday Night Live commercials
- ^ ""Oh Noooooo! It's Mr. Bill's 20th Anniversary (1995)"". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0892883/. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
- ^ Lee, Wendy A. (June 3, 2008). "Mr. Bill Returns (in One Piece) to Pitch a Debit Card". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/03/business/media/03adco.html?_r=1&oref=slogin. Retrieved 2008-06-04.
- ^ http://snl.jt.org/detail.php?i=198102215
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