Saturday Night Live

Season 3 Episode 4

Charles Grodin/Paul Simon and The Persuasions

Aired Saturday 11:30 PM Oct 29, 1977 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (4)

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  • A trick and a treat

    A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Hamburger University Dropout

    The third season of SNL found the original cast and writing staff at its creative zenith. The output is glossier, with improved graphics, new backdrops, and a bigger budget, but the humor is just as raw and daring as it ever was. After being relegated to minor parts in his first season on the show, Bill Murray really breaks during Year 3, especially with his smarmy Weekend Update commentaries and wisenheimer recurring characters. Alas, he was one-seventh of the greatest cast SNL would ever have, an ensemble of limitless energy and comedic potential.

    This particular broadcast is one of the most peculiar of the original cast era (if not ever) for reasons that I will explain in the sketch-by-sketch synopsis. As it stands, it's also a broadcast where multiple segments have been fished out for best-of compilations, therefore making it a familiar sight for many casual fans of the show. The host of this particular show is Charles Grodin, whom at the time was best-known for his performances in "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Heartbreak Kid" (the original, not the remake) as well as being one of the most faux-petulant talk show guests ever. The musical guest is legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon, who was already on his third SNL appearance in as many seasons.

    And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:

    COLD OPENING: Charles walks into the locker room with gifts for the cast, but John and Gilda chide him for his no-show in dress rehearsal. The rig is set, and a seemingly aloof Grodin is unleashed upon the television world.

    MONOLOGUE: Charles mumbles and fidgets though his monologue like a deer in the headlights, not knowing until five minutes ago that SNL is very much a live show. He cites his "New England upbringing" (Grodin is actually from Pittsburgh) and hopes that everything goes well.

    "Update Promo": Anchorperson Dan Aykroyd never stops working to get the news in on time, even if that means typing on a typewriter that doesn't have any paper. This fake promo is a well-intentioned jab at "serious" and tireless newsmen, but the one-joke backbone doesn't hold up.

    "Return of the Coneheads": Beldar and Prymaat get some flack from their neighbors (Bill and Gilda) for their unusual trick-or-treat offerings. By this point, our favorite fake French-American family had become a minor pop culture sensation, but the sketch isn't hampered by the audience's hunger for alien tomfoolery. For whatever reasons, I don't think there was a Coneheads sketch that wasn't fun to watch.

    "Charles' Movie": Charles introduces a clip of his new movie (some sort of Italian heist flick), but it gets cut for time. Befuddled, Chuck asks Lorne for mercy but the host doesn't get his way. MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: From his 1977 LP "Greatest Hits, Etc." Rhymin' Simon performs his hit single "Slip Slidin' Away."

    "Consumer Probe": Another classic sketch, this one featuring the sleazy entrepreneur Irwin Mainway (Aykroyd), who deliberately sells unsafe Halloween costumes for a quick buck much to Jane Curtin's disgust, then unconvincingly tries to cover his tracks. "Invisible Pedestrian" is cunning, yet "Johnny Human Torch" cracks me up every time.

    "Anyone Can Host Contest": Mr. Mike tears up postcards for frivolous reasons as Bill Murray reminds the audience to submit their entries within the next couple of weeks. (The contest was eventually won by an octogenarian grandmother from New Orleans.) At worst this is cutesy time filler, with the cynical O'Donoghue going through the motions as Billy tries in vain to be serious and straightforward.

    "Samurai Dry Cleaners": Charles breaks character and essentially ruins a Belushi-Futaba sketch, though Gilda (playing Grodin's wife) tries to keep everything professional. If you're a casual fan watching this broadcast, you really have to wonder whether this is all real or not…

    WEEKEND UPDATE: Where Dan Aykroyd was known for near-surgical precision in his sketch work, at time he could be sloppy and fumbling during his one year at the Update desk. Don't get me wrong, Danny got an "A" for effort, but playing a straight newsman was a little too much for him. His chemistry with veteran co-anchor Jane Curtin was solid, a cool and collected presence bouncing energy off his somewhat jittery delivery. Tonight, they get a visit from arts critic Bill Murray, who critiques the concept of one-man theater as being cheap, boring and portentous.

    "Grodin Mimics Garfunkel": With unwitting assistance from tonight's musical guest, Chuck strokes his ego and butchers "Bridge Over Troubled Water." After Paul storms off in exasperation, Grodin gets a brief dressing-down by Artie himself.

    "The Killer Bees": This is where the other shoe finally drops. Two minutes into a standard-stock, Halloween-themed Bees sketch, Charles breaks character again to complement the bee costumes. Breaking away from playing the Eli Wallach-esque alpha bee, Belushi finally calls out Chuck as the lamest host the show's ever had (apparently making him worse than Louise Lasser) and forces himself to go forward with the botched vignette. After the dust settles, Chuck asks Lorne if he can sing a song about his feelings, but the supreme leader denies his request and tells Grodin to move on.

    "The Judy Miller Show": A rambunctious girl scout (Gilda) turns five minutes in her bedroom into a spastic smorgasbord of voices and characters as she hosts a gonzo variety-type program in her head. It's imaginative without being cutesy, as Radner's one-woman show finds the right balance of childlike whimsy and adult sophistication.

    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "You're Kind" is a dainty 1920s throwback and arguably the least memorable track from "Still Crazy After All These Years," but Paul sure puts a lot of heart into the performance.

    "The Professional School of Football": Garrett Morris explains that any Joe Schmo can play football on a professional level; if you don't believe him, look at the Detroit Lions.

    "Hire the Incompetent": A public service announcement where several idiots and bunglers (including a young Roseanne Rosannadanna) defend themselves. Charles takes offense to being considered incompetent, and then successfully persuades Lorne to let him sing a song about his feelings. The song itself is simple and forgettable, but it brings tonight's elaborate hoax to a satisfying end.

    The vague implication here is that they wanted a nightmare host on the Halloween show, and Grodin was more than game. At times he seemed a little too effective, as his postmodern phone-in bordered on the uncomfortable. In some ways, it was more interesting just to give play-by-play commentary of Grodin's flakiness than actually review his runaway train wreck, which was a clever postmodern prank on the audience and one that would be almost impossible to duplicate. With or without Grodin, this was one of a string of great shows in a season that is generally considered to be most flawless in the SNL's history, carried by appearances from The Coneheads, Irwin Mainway, and the underrated Judy Miller.

    "HelloStuart" resides in Downers Grove, Illinois. Contact him at
  • Charles Grodin hosts a fun filled episode of the third season of SNL.

    Classic SNL. There are no other substitues!! These are funny episodes, I've never given any of the current shows anything higher than six because frankly the newer shows suck.

    Even when the shows are watchable, they also put in a lot of terrible ones. These SNL get a lot of 8 and higher votes from me for many reasons. The cast is better, the sketches are better, and the writing is better.

    Charles Grodin is known for playing jerk roles in Hollywood, so he was an absolutely perfectly choice for SNL. He works the sketches very well, and the cast works with him well. Everyone has done their own play by play, so I'll point the sketches that I enjoyed.

    The Return of the Coneheads was awesome. This is another famous sketch that gets played in all the anniversary shows. The Coneheads were one of the better inventions of the show done brilliantly by Akroyd and Curtin.

    Akroyd also gets a lot of laughs with Consumer Probe sketch playing a slimeball pushing dangerous products for kids.

    Belushi's impersonation of the Samurai dry cleaner was also another highlight here.

    Hiring the Incompetent sketch was also brilliant. It's hilarious because it sounds real.

    Paul Simon is a musical legend, so he gave a great performance.

    Grodin also puts on a fake wig and impersonates Art Garfunkel who makes a surprise appearance.

    Like a lot of the classic SNL show this one is hard to pass up and is a keeper.
  • "You are the lamest host we've ever had!"

    This is a pretty infamous episode involving Charles Grodin as the host and a whole lot of faux-mistakes going on. Basically, Grodin was to act like he didn't know what was going on and that he was actually surprised at the concept of the show, bumbling around from sketch to sketch like a deer in headlights. A very novel idea from the minds behind this great show and couple that with the musical guest being the always-reliable Paul Simon, you've got yourself quite a line-up for an interesting experiment from an acting and musical perspective. Let us examine how this played out.

    Host: Charles Grodin
    Musical Guest: Paul Simon & The Persuasions

    Cold Open: Unprepared Charles (Grodin, Belushi, Morris, Radner) (3:06)

    --Belushi worries about Grodin not really being around all week and then no-showing for dress rehearsal until Charles shows up and gives gifts to John and Gilda, while John continuously explains to Grodin that the show is actually live! Solid open.

    Monologue (Grodin) (1:23)

    --Charles is like a deer in headlights and is perplexed at the show being live and having a studio audience before telling everyone that it'll probably be a "really cute show." Good insight into the night's festivities.

    WU Reporter Dan Aykroyd (Aykroyd, Davis, Franken) (:40)

    --A promo for Aykroyd writing news stories whenever he can including when he's on a typewriter with no paper. Amusing.

    Return of the Coneheads (Aykroyd, Curtin, Newman

    --Another edition of the Coneheads (Aykroyd, Curtin, Newman) in which they are chastised by the neighbours for giving out treats like beer and fried eggs before inviting them to engage in a ritual worship to the vegetable orb. Good stuff like usual from the Coneheads.

    Charles' Movie (Grodin + Lorne Michaels) (2:14)

    --Charles introduces a clip from his new artsy fartsy movie and because of his long introduction, Lorne cuts it off for time reasons. Another humourous bit with Grodin "screwing up" again.

    Paul Simon & the Persuasions sing "Slip Slidin' Away" (4:26)

    --Simon delivers a classic with the help of the talented Persuasions to back him up as well.

    Consumer Probe (Aykroyd, Curtin) (4:40)

    --Joan Face (Curtin) interviews the sleazy Irwin Mainway (Aykroyd), who introduces his line of Halloween costumes which are all incredibly unsafe like "Invisible Pedestrian" and "Johnny Human Torch" (a bag of oily rags and a lighter). This is a classic thanks to the Mainway character and the chemistry between these two as well.

    Anyone Can Host Contest (Murray) (1:41)

    --Bill Murray tells people to keep sending their postcards in to SNL, while Mr. Mike rips up entries that don't qualify.

    Samurai Dry Cleaners (Grodin, Belushi, Radner) (2:38)

    --A couple (Grodin, Radner) visit the Samurai (Belushi) in order to get their shirts back but Chuck ends up breaking the fourth wall and reading John's lines by mistake. They pulled this one off to look pretty authentic.

    Weekend Update with Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin (also: Garrett Morris and Bill Murray) (8:53)

    --After an amusing bit with Don Pardo, Jane talks of a funny bit with a Bigfoot tape followed and also a Mona Lisa picture while talking about Cher. Dan also gets his kicks by reading the report from the Dancing N and seemed to be getting more comfortable at this point. Bill Murray also stops by to talk of how much he dislikes one-man shows, we get a 'news for silent movie buffs' bit with Dan Aykroyd in a funny bit, and then Willard Jackson (Morris) presents a skeleton to Aykroyd that is not Jimmy Hoffa's skull, but his teeth are there as is Amelia Earhart's hipbone. Good stuff.

    Simon & Garfunkel (Grodin, Simon + Art Garfunkel) (5:57)

    --Chuck Grodin comes out with a Garfunkel wig to do a duet with Paul Simon because of his movie bit being cut down before Simon storms off due to Grodin's lack of knowledge of the lyrics of "The Sounds of Silence." Charles stays out there anyway to keep crooning though until the real Art Garfunkel interrupts and gets him out of there for good. I loved this bit.

    The Killer Bees (Grodin, Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris, Murray, Radner + Lorne Michaels) (7:45)

    --Charles screws up another sketch, this time with the Killer Bees (Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris, Murray) invading his house while Gilda tries to bring everything together. After this, the castmembers playing the bees try to discuss what they are really supposed to be in this sketch but Belushi finally loses it and yells at Grodin, telling him that he is the lamest host that's ever been on the show. This, again, is a really realistic bit and if I didn't know any better, I might think that some of this is real. Chuck almost cracks up a bit during this sketch though.

    The Judy Miller Show (Curtin, Radner) (4:47)

    --A Gilda Radner classic, as she plays spoiled brat Judy Miller, who hosts her own imaginary TV show in her room with her teddies as special guests and her off-screen mother (Curtin) continuously yelling at her to keep it down.

    Professional School of Football (Morris) (2:03)

    --Garrett advertises the Pro School of Football with a little mini-quiz for people to complete before applying. This is probably the weakest sketch of the night.

    Paul Simon & the Persuasions sing "You're Kind" (2:39)

    --Simon & the Persuasions deliver another good tune in "You're Kind" with Simon putting his heart and soul into it.

    Hire the Incompetent (Grodin, Murray, Newman, Radner) (4:15)

    --Charles talks of the terrible habits of people firing workers just for being incompetent. The highlight of this is the debut of Roseanne Roseannadanna (Radner), but Murray and Newman make for some very amusing stories as well. Charles then wraps up the end of the sketch by complaining about how no one appreciated his gifts and then sings a little ditty to end it.

    Charles says goodnight to the audience before "reconciling" with Belushi and hugging the cast along with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.

    Best segment: The Judy Miller Show
    Worst segment: Professional School of Football

    Host: Charles Grodin - 7.5/10
    Musical Guest: Paul Simon & the Persuasions - 8.5/10

    Well this experiment certainly was one of the most unique Saturday Night Live episodes in the entire history of the show and provided for some fun bits, especially when Grodin would "mess up" and start questioning his character's motivation or the direction the sketch was going in. Grodin made for a pretty good host in that regard and was convincing in his role, while Paul Simon definitely held his end up in the music department and delivered two really good songs along with a fun bit in the Simon & Garfunkel sketch. As for the cast in this episode, two obvious stand-outs are present in John Belushi (for his constant bickering with Grodin until the final blowout at the end of the show) and Gilda Radner (for debuting two great characters in Judy Miller and Roseanne Roseannadanna). Aykroyd comes close solely with his Irwin Mainway character. Really interesting and hilarious episode.

    Rating: 8/10
  • This episode had a halloween theme. Both 'the coneheads' skit and 'consumer probe' feature gags about halloween. Charles Grodin hosts (poorly), and this adds to this episodes charm.

    This episode is a prototype of what 'Saturday Night Live' used to be: funny, irreverent, and fast-paced. The skits all had pretty good premises, and they didn't 'beat the dead horse' by milking a gag for far longer than they needed to (like the writers of this show so often do today). It is representative of the 'early seasons' of SNL and is watchable for nostalgic value. While I didn't burst out laughing at any of the material, I did guffaw a couple of times at the "Consumer Probe" sketch with Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin. Akroyd plays a smarmy toy company representative trying to market unsafe halloween costumes for kids, like "Johnny the Human Torch" -- a bag with some oily rags and a lighter. Charles Grodin is woefully underprepared as the host, and it shows in all of the skits he is in. While generally undistinguished, this episode is nevertheless a classic.