Saturday Night Live

Season 13 Episode 9

Robin Williams/James Taylor

Aired Saturday 11:30 PM Jan 23, 1988 on NBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

Robin Williams/James Taylor
Live from New York, it's... Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon! Sketches include "Pumping Up with Hans and Franz," "Compulsion," "Birthing Video," "Cable ACE Awards," "Hard to Say I Love You," "Discover," and "Robin's 60th Birthday." James Taylor performed "Never Die Young," "Sweet Potato Pie," and "Lonesome Road."moreless

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  • A Well-Taylored Suit

    A Review by the Former "Heystu," Amateur Critic and Love Child of Max Headroom

    The thirteenth season of SNL not only had its lucky aspects but its cruel twists of fate as well, as it one of the stronger seasons of the show's run, but also one of it's shortest (both this season and 1980-81) lasted exactly thirteen episodes). The cast that saved the show a year earlier had fully formed into a very strong ensamble, made even stronger by Kevin Nealon's promotion from featured player at the beginning of the season. But a writer's strike prevented the world from seeing any first-run episodes after February sweeps, not only cutting a short a great winning streak but also, according to legend, a proposed season finale hosted by alumnus Gilda Radner with musical guest U2. Gilda never hosted, as she was a victim of cancer almost a year later, and U2 wouldn't pop up on the show until Season 26.

    This particular episode was hosted by comedian/actor Robin Williams, making his fourth and (strangely) most recent appearance on the NBC mainstay. The musical guest is James Taylor, also no spring chicken to the program. But before I get to the sketch-by-sketch synopsis, I do have a fun fact: this was the "demo" episode for future SNL writer and talk show demi-legend Conan O'Brien, who submitted a bunch of sketch ideas and managed to get one of his scripts on-air. I'll tell you which one later on.

    COLD OPENING: It's time for "Pumping Up with Hans and Franz," with the two bodybuilders (Nealon, Carvey) taking time away from fitness tips to comment on the controversial remarks made recently by Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder. At least they had some versatility.

    OPENING CREDITS: Who or what is everybody running from? Are they late for the show? Either way, there's no real reason to panic.

    MONOLOGUE: Robin walks out, dances to the beat of the band, then does a lengthy stand-up bit about politics and how VD may or may not have originated from sheep. The censors were probably a little irked, but otherwise a fun eight minutes.

    "Compulsion": I'm not going to argue here- this was one of the all-time classic ad spoofs on SNL. Paying homage to the semi-omnipresent ads for Calvin Klein's "Obsession," we watch a radiant young woman (Hooks) try to maintain a social life while cleaning, washing and vacuuming almost constantly. This was also one of the show's most-repeated ads, appearing on the live broadcast a record-tying four times.

    "Birth on Tape": A couple (Robin, Jackson) show their expecting friends (Carvey, Hooks) the homemade tape of their son's birth, with the mom-to-be reluctantly holding the camcorder while Papa gets carried away with the miracle of life. The video itself is priceless, but the live portion of the sketch relies too heavily on William's partially ad-libbed banter.

    "Learning To Feel": In this short-lived recurring sketch, Dr. Denise Venetti (Dunn) tells people with personal issues to "look at yourself" and wait for results. Her guests include an unhappy couple (Hartman, Hooks), a shy woman (Jackson), and the hyperneurotic Neil Simmons (Lovitz). A dry talk show spoof with squandered potential.

    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Promoting his new album, Sweet Baby James performs the title track (and future Top 40 hit) "Never Die Young."

    WEEKEND UPDATE: If it was fun to watch Dennis Miller right at his peak, then it should be just as fun watching him when he's almost on the plateau. Commenting heavily on the 1988 Presidental Election, Miller also gets a little help from human satellite mobile uplink Al Franken, whose latest revelation in the ongoing Gary Hart scandal is marred by interference.

    "The 8th Annual Cable ACE Awards": Give up? This is the sketch with little Conan's fingerprints all over it. Spoofing the lack of serious programming that Cable TV had in the mid-to-late 1980's, Gallagher (Carvey) and "The University Network" host Dr. Gene Scott (Robin) introduces the nominees and winners, including an annoyed Robert Vaughn (Hartman) and a bored Shelly Duvall (Dunn). It's a great satire that in a sad kind of way remains rather current.

    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: JT comes back to play his concert fave "Sweet Potato Pie." Amusing, but a little starchy.

    "Discovery": Peter Graves (Hartman) serves as an interpretor to a man (Robin) who can channel the spirits of the deceased. True, it's just an excuse to see Robin do some of his wacky voices, but it's almost sublime in its absurbity.

    "I Love You": A man (Robin) has trouble telling his main squeeze (Hooks) those three magic words, but when he finally musters the strength to say it, he can't stop. An above-average bad date sketch brought down only by flashing moments of sappiness.

    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Sweet Baby James drops by one more time to perform the Gene Austin/Nat Shilkret standard "Lonesome Road." It may not be as big a crowd-pleaser as "Country Road" or "Your Smilin' Face," but I guess this will suffice.

    "Robin's 60th Birthday": If I did the math right, then that should be in the post-apocalyptic nightmare world of the year 2012. But enough stats for now- the seemingly washed-up comic watches TV in his small, dingy apartment when he's visited by his son (Carvey), who mimics and idolizes him. There are lots of great lines in this sketch, especially the one about Dennis Miller being a US Senator, but the one that Williams utters at the very end of the sketch is the real keeper.

    Two years after its latest brush with death, SNL proved that even when the host hogs the spotlight you can still have a great show. While it would be safe to say that James Taylor was brought onstage maybe one time too many, the writing was consistent and the efforts of Carvey, Hartman, et al. were not in vain. However, in retrospect, 1987-88 will be best remembered for coming to an abrupt end just when it was gaining momentum.

    Questions? Comments? Hate Mail? Send it all to sma17kc@netscape.netmoreless

Featured Episode Clip

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Robin Williams: We also had an amazing fight last night -- Mike Tyson! Yes, indeed! (cheers and applause) Michael! Mike Tyson is a combination of Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Michael Jackson. ... Yes. (as Mike Tyson) "I'm just gonna hurt him. His face was in the way, I was able to hit him." Yes, he was there. But the funny thing about the fight is, if you notice, in the corner, all the attendants are wearing rubber gloves! Why is that? (hands on hips, as a boxer) "It's for safe boxing!" ... People going, like, (as a boxer) "Wait a minute, I'm not here to make love with the man, I'm just gonna fight with him!" Scary thing -- you think, "Wait a minute, what's goin' on?" Is something going on in the clinch that I don't know about? Are they gettin' together in the clinch goin' (as a boxer in a clinch, to his opponent) "Why haven't you called me?" (as the referee) "Break!" (breaks the imaginary clinch, backs away)

    • Robin Williams: [cheers and applause as Robin runs in and dances energetically] Thank you! Thank you! It's a privilege to be here in New York City where its mayor-- Doesn't Mayor Koch sound a lot like Elmer Fudd or am I crazy? ... [Elmer Fudd voice] Uhhh, I'm tewwing you, hahahahahaha, there is no cowwuption! Hahahaha! ... [normal voice] It's amazing, it's been an amazing year. Gary Hart has thrown his hat back into the political ring. Actually, more than that -- he's thrown everything into the ring. ... People look at Gary and say, "Gary, you're a sinner!" No, he wasn't a sinner. He was on a boat, the boat was rockin', [rocking his hips back and forth] he went, "Hey, what the hell?" ... [applause] Yes!

  • NOTES (1)