Saturday Night Live TV show sketches of the 1970s

Saturday Night Live TV show sketches of the 1970s

1970s 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 is the clay figurine star of a series of short subjects shown from 1976 to 1980 on Saturday Night Live (SNL). The "Mr. Bill Show" was a parody of children's shows.

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 sketches 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).[1]

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.

Beyond SNL

  • 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".
  • Mr. Bill also made a brief cameo appearance during the 1981 "Get High On Yourself" NBC-TV anti-drug campaign. Mr. Hands suggests to Mr. Bill that he try getting high on himself. Mr. Bill agrees, and the camera pulls back to reveal that Mr. Bill is lashed to the exterior of a NASA Space Shuttle. As it lifts off, he cries "Oh noooooo..."
  • Mr. Bill was the answer to a puzzle on Password Plus in 1981. Host Tom Kennedy, panelist Dick Martin, and a member of the NBC studio audience took part in a Mr. Bill skit.
  • 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 sketches, 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.[citation needed]
  • 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: $120). 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).[2]
  • The March 29, 2010 episode of Jeopardy! featured a category called "Mr. Bill Does the Bard". The category featured the character portraying various Shakespearian characters in CGI vignettes, who, like the sketches, all met their untimely demise.
  • On September 23, 2010, official Mr. Bill iPhone game was launched on Apple's AppStore by Capcom.
  • The October 22, 2010 episode of the CBS drama Medium, featured Mr. Bill being abused by the show's principal character Allison Dubois during the opening sequence.

Consumer Probe

Toy maker Irwin Mainway (Dan Aykroyd) would appear on this talk show and hopelessly defend his company's extremely dangerous products such as "Bag O' Glass", "Bag O' Vipers", "Bag O' Sulfuric Acid", "Mr. Skin Grafter", "Pretty Peggy's Ear Piercing Kit", "Doggy Dentist", "Chancellor Tron's Secret Police Confession Kit", "Johnny Switchblade Adventure Punk", and "Teddy Chainsaw Bear". A sketch frequently aired by SNL on their Halloween retrospective special had Mainway defending Halloween costumes such as a military outfit that included an actual working rifle ("very popular in Detroit!"), an entirely black and non-reflective uniform called "Invisible Pedestrian" (which had a warning on the package that read "NOT FOR BLIND KIDS"), an airtight plastic bag that was to be affixed over the head with a rubber band called "Johnny Space Commander Mask", and an oil-soaked costume called "Johnny Human Torch", which came complete with an oversized lighter. Each sketch would end with the host (Jane Curtin) condemning Mainway's products, while Mainway would make pathetic attempts to show how more commonplace toys/clothing were equally harmful.


The sketch was named the 8th best sketch by The 50 Best Sketches of All Time by the third highest ranking sketch on Saturday Night Live after Coneheads at Home and Samurai Hotel.[3]

E. Buzz Miller and Christie Christina

Sleazy public-access television cable TV host E. Buzz Miller (Dan Aykroyd) made crude and lascivious remarks about otherwise commonplace subjects (such as fine art or exercise) to which his ditzy co-host Miss Christie Christina (Laraine Newman) would giggle and make obtuse responses.

Leonard Pinth-Garnell

Leonard Pinth-Garnell was a recurring character played by Dan Aykroyd. Pinth-Garnell, always clad in a tuxedo and black tie, would lugubriously introduce a short performance of "Bad Conceptual Theater", "Bad Playhouse", "Bad Cinema", "Bad Opera", "Bad Ballet", "Bad Red Chinese Ballet", or "Bad Cabaret for Children", and then exult in its sheer awfulness. Aykroyd played the character nine times from 1977 through 1979, and returned for a single appearance on November 3, 2001, introducing "Bad Conceptual Theater." (The show was hosted at least one time by Laraine Newman as Lady Pinth-Garnell.)

Pinth-Garnell was loosely based on the longtime PBS Masterpiece Theatre host Alistair Cooke.

Memorable quotes

  • "Stunningly bad!"
  • "Monumentally ill-advised!"
  • "Perfectly awful!"
  • "Couldn't be worse!"
  • "Exquisitely awful!"
  • "Astonishingly ill-chosen!"
  • "Really bit the big one!"
  • "Unrelentingly bad!"
  • "Rally socks!"
  • "There... That wasn't so good now, was it?"

Episodes featuring Leonard Pinth-Garnell

The Ex-Police

Joe and his ex-partner Bob (Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray) are two cops that were kicked off the force (apparently for being intrusive bigots) that harass the people that live in their apartment building for not living up to their arch-conservative standards (a man and a woman living together without being married, an allegedly lesbian couple, etc.) with disastrous results.

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 Hare Krishna. 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, who in 2009 became a U.S. Senator from Minnesota, is probably best known as a performer 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."

Woman to Woman

A talk show sendup where feminist Connie Carson (Gilda Radner) speaks with professional women about their careers.


Telepsychic was a recurring sketch featuring Dan Aykroyd as Ray, a pseudopsychic with his own TV show. For the character, Aykroyd wore a blonde wig and tinted sunglasses, and sat behind a desk with five telephones on it. By calling 555-1231, 555-1232, 555-1233, 555-1234, or 555-1235, callers (voices of other members of the cast) asked for advice about personal issues. His flippant delivery and outrageous suggestions while answering phones are indicative that he was nothing but a fraud. In response to a series of questions that involved time spans, his answer for each was, "Ohhhh...about a month."

There were two Telepsychic sketches, which opened the show both times.

Episodes featuring Telepsychic

The Bel-Airabs

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.


See also


External links

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