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Saturday Night Live

Season 4 Episode 3

Frank Zappa

Aired Saturday 11:30 PM Oct 21, 1978 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
12 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Live from New York, it's... John Belushi! Sketches include "Fred Silverman's Surveys," "The Coneheads at Home," "Domestic Prison," "Night on Freak Mountain," "Woman to Woman," "The Al Franken and Tom Davis Show," and "Mr. Bill's New House" (film). Frank Zappa performed "Dancing Fool," "Meek," and "Rollo" (featuring Samurai Futaba).moreless

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  • "Those Jesus freaks, they're friendly but the stuff they believe has got their minds all shut!"

    Frank Zappa, after his wonderful musical performances in a Year 2 show with Candy Bergen was sure to be invited back to play again for the masses as the fans, and more importantly the cast, were huge fans of his and clearly enjoyed his presence. Thus, not only was he to be the musical guest in this episode but also the host much like the Rolling Stones were only two episodes previous to this. This is also something of an infamous stint as apparently, Zappa was a chore to work with and did not mesh at all with the rowdy antics of the Not Ready For Primetime Players. Example: They did drugs and drank alcohol. Zappa did not. Also, their styles of humour didn't really mesh and it affected his performance in the show, which I'll comment on when we get to it. So despite all this, does the quality of the show still hold up?

    Host & Musical Guest: Frank Zappa

    Cold Open: NBC's New Look (Belushi) (2:11)

    -- Fred Silverman (Belushi) makes his first appearance on SNL, telling the people that they want something different and unique based on surveys and Nielsen ratings. That different thing is Frank Zappa, who has signed a contract with NBC. The visual gag of his signature is pretty funny as is Belushi's take on the NBC president, making him have some really dated ideas.

    Monologue (Zappa) (4:07)

    -- Frank makes it very obvious that he's reading from cue cards, even stopping to point it out, before launching into a really great ditty called "Dancing Fool". Despite the pandering at the beginning, the song saved the monologue.

    The Coneheads At Home (Zappa, Aykroyd, Curtin, Newman) (5:01)

    -- Connie Conehead (Newman) prepares for another date despite her parents' (Aykroyd, Curtin) reluctance. This time, her date is musician Frank Zappa, who can almost match their strange awkwardness. Zappa does a fair bit of camera mugging here, but the sketch is still quite funny.

    Baxter Prison (Belushi, Curtin, Morris, Murray, Newman, Radner)

    -- A couple (Murray, Radner) are paid by the state to look after a number of prisoners in their own house (Morris in the closet, Belushi in a cell under the stairs, and Aykroyd as an arsonist in a linen closet), despite the many annoyances they provide. This lengthy, dry sketch provides a few funny moments, but it falls somewhat flat.

    Weekend Update with Jane Curtin and Bill Murray (also: Dan Aykroyd, Laraine Newman, and Don Novello) (11:25)

    -- After a story regarding the infamous Firestone tire recall, Jane announces that an entire graduating class will be recalled as well. This week also sees the return of Bill Murray's Celebrity Corner where we get an interview with Sid Vicious (writer Brian Doyle-Murray) and mother Beverly (Newman) regarding the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy. Father Guido Sarducci (Novello) makes his second appearance to speak about the cardinal campaigning, showing different pins commemorating each candidate. Finally, station manager Dan Aykroyd shows up for a hilarious Point/Counterpoint with Jane on test tube babies. Good, solid edition of Update.

    Frank Zappa sings "Meek" (3:23)

    -- Another fantastic tune from Zappa, who criticizes religion and everything it stands for. So you get a song that's very enjoyable to listen to and also having some fantastic, deep lyrics.

    Night on Freak Mountain (Zappa, Aykroyd, Belushi, Morris, Murray, Newman) (9:44)

    -- Jerry Eldini (Murray) and Don Kirshner (Shaffer) offer Zappa a ride, but he ends up driving himself and winds up in Freak Mountain, where Jason (Aykroyd) and Sunset (Newman), two hippies, greet him and continuously offer him drugs, which of course he refuses. Belushi is pretty funny as a fellow hippie and Shaffer is hilarious in his impression of Don Kirshner. Another lengthy sketch, but this time it's funny for the most part despite its one-joke premise.

    Woman to Woman (Curtin, Radner) (5:09)

    -- Connie Carson (Radner), an insecure single woman, interviews a married lady (Curtin) and keeps trying to look for faults in her marriage unsuccessfully that she can use to make herself feel better. Cute little character piece for Gilda and there's good chemistry here.

    The Franken and Davis Show (Davis, Franken) (6:51)

    -- The comedic duo come out to call for the overthrowing of the American government and then proceed to show a series of fake infomercials for political leaders. They get increasingly ridiculous and funny as they get more and more cutthroat towards each other. Great stuff from this duo as per usual.

    Frank Zappa performs "Rollo" (with: John Belushi) (

    -- Zappa does one of his fantastic instrumental numbers and is soon joined by the Samurai (Belushi), who assists him on the guitar and some nonsensical vocals. The imitation of his vocals by the instruments is quite fantastic as is the entire number.

    Film: Mr. Bill Moves In (2:11)

    -- This time, Mr. Bill experiences the usual horror inflicted upon him by Sluggo and Mr. Hands while moving into his new place. Blah, I was never a big fan of this. It was whatever.

    The cast noticeably stands far from Zappa, as he calls them "Friends of Chevy Chase" and waves goodnight.

    Best segment: The Franken and Davis Show

    Worst segment: Mr. Bill Moves In

    Host & Musical Guest; Frank Zappa - 6.5/10

    So why the low rating for Zappa? As a host, he was rather atrocious. As a musical guest, outstanding and an easy 10 if he wasn't pulling double duty. Zappa mugged for the camera, seemingly plugged a concert in the middle of a sketch (?), and just generally was somewhat of a distraction. Thankfully, he only appeared in two sketches all night and got to perform three memorable music pieces, while the cast tried their best to hold the show up around him. I think they did a tremendous job this week even in the sketches that Zappa attempted to bog down with his strange behaviour. I'm actually going to go the other way on this and rather than what most people say, this is the most solid episode so far.

    Rating: 8/10moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Fred Silverman: Good evening, I'm Fred Silverman. Last June, when I became president of NBC, I vowed that this network would undergo significant changes to reflect what you, the American TV viewer, wanted to see. In the four months since I've been its president, NBC has undertaken the most extensive research campaign in the history of television. The results indicated that you, the American TV viewer, want something different, a new look -- a new look with new faces. [holds up reams of computer paper] And, surprisingly, in all our data -- the Trendex, Arbitron, and Nielsen surveys -- all arrows pointed to one person. Over and over again, one man's name came up. And that man's name ... is Frank Zappa. [Cheers and applause.] Quite frankly - quite frankly, no one was more surprised, you know, as I was. I thought it'd be Tony Orlando. Personally, I stopped following Zappa after his Mothers Live at the Fillmore album. Although, that burrito thing still makes me laugh. [laughs, quickly recovers] But the American people spoke and NBC listened. And I am proud to announce that we have signed Frank Zappa to a long-term, exclusive contract ... [holds up a contract with a gigantic "FRANK ZAPPA" signature scribbled across the bottom - cheers and applause] ... with the National Broadcasting Company. And you'll be NBCeeing a lot of Frank. Hey, and I'm not CBSing you, either.

    • (Primat holds up a copy of "Studio Tan")
      Primat: Connie has many of these discs which are gifts from this human.
      Beldar: You... Produce these?
      Frank Zappa: Yes, this is an unauthorized collection of my latest sound patterns.
      Beldar: I, Beldar, approve. Au revoir.
      (Frank and Connie walk toward the front door)
      Primat: Return at the pre-designated time coordinates!
      Connie: Yeah, yeah.
      Frank Zappa: Nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Conehead.
      (Frank and Connie leave. Beldar removes the record from its jacket)
      Beldar: Mmmmm. What fine compressed petroleum binding polymers.
      (Primat and Beldar each take a large bite out of the album and begin eating it)

  • NOTES (1)

    • Zappa's ego made him slightly unpopular with the cast and crew (partly due to their drug and drinking habits conflicting with his rigid anti-drug stance). Worse is his on-air performances, he made a habit of mugging to the camera and called attention to cue-card reading. During the goodnights, the cast members stood noticeably far from him (with the exception of John Belushi). After the show was over, Zappa was banned from being on the show ever again.