A Triumphant Return
I started to discover comedy at a perfect time that coincided with the development of cable television. As the world went from having three networks and a couple independent channels responsible for all the content going out on the airwaves, to a world with at about 20 channels pumping content into houses through wires, I was right there at an age where all this advancement was magical.
Since there were so many outlets with time to fill many turned to stand-up as an affordable way to get original content. There was A&Es An Evening at the Improv, Caroline's Comedy Hour and endless stand-up shows on the newly started Comedy Central. This is how I came to know of Robert Klein, but unfortunately, I lost track of his career over time and am happy to have him back after seeing this episode.
Yes, he was the fifth person to ever host the show, but that show was average and not all that memorable. That said, I do specifically remember that his stand-up was the best part of the episode. I don't really feel bad pointing this out because even he points out how much the show has improved since his first appearance.
It turns out he was right in preparing the audience for the improvements to expect with this appearance as this was the best episode so far this season. To start things off, this episode has a couple of my favorite sketches, but more importantly, this is another episode where they introduce a through-line story between the skits which is my favorite thing to see in sketch comedy.
This episode had it all, from solid stand-alone sketches to the through-line story mentioned above to a meta moment which is another favorite technique used in comedy. Now it's time to stop talking about how much I liked the episode and start sharing what I saw as I give you...
The Wicker Breakdown:
Tonight's special episode is "interrupting" Charlie's Angels Catch the Syph.
Paul Schaffer then plays Don Kirshner who introduces Mr. Mike and the Mikettes who team up with Garrett Morris to do a Tina Turner review. This involves a blend of Morris singing Proud Mary that's mashed together with one of Mr. Mike's Least Loved Bedtime Tales. Which ends with Schaffer as Kirshner saying, "Live from New York..."
Robert Klein then opens the show with a hilarious monolog/routine about how he moved from New York City to rural New York back when he attended college.
Next was a return of the X-Police which was the same exact sketch as their first appearance, only this time instead of these X-Police killing and framing college-educated white people over marijuana they did the same exact thing blaming living together out of wedlock.
Bonnie Raitt then hit the stage to sing Runaway.
Once again Jane and Dan host the news. Dan still seems to be struggling to find his news legs because he barrels through all of his stories without switching off stories with Jane. You can tell that this isn't a joke because there's a bit of chaos as to who to focus the camera on and by the time Dan finally stops finally giving Jane her time she's so lost she doesn't know where to go to. She starts to read what was supposed to be her first story but the graphic no longer matches up, so she gives up and throws to Roseanne Roseannadanna who finishes off the segment.
This is followed by another favorite of mine when Bill Murray returns as the shitty lounge singer who tries to interact with an audience that just isn't having it. This is the classic installment of this lounge singer character's career as he winds down the night singing Star Wars.
Frogs Look At Films is a French Film review show that discussed the genius of Jerry Lewis, complete with a transition to a parody sketch called The Nutty Air Traffic Controller where Robert Klein did an impression of Lewis who accidentally thwarts a terrorist plane with his ineptness as an air traffic controller.
Aykroyd then plays a radio DJ who interviews a band that's creating a genre called Nerd Rock. Keep in mind Nerd Rock was not a thing at that time so this was a fake band called The Nerds comprised of Gilda, Murray, and Klein making "jokes" about what this type of band would be in a sketch that lost all of the humor due to the fact that this is now a reality.
Robert Klein then comes out to announce the next performance by Bonnie Raitt, but Jane interrupts with breaking news that Russia has released gigantic nuclear lobsters into the lakes and rivers of America.
Nothing really comes from this lobster announcement as Bonnie Raitt goes on to perform Give It All Up Or Let Me Go.
Jane and Gilda then play to pot smoking housewives. The sketch starts with your traditional pot humor about paranoia and being confused but later, in the middle of the bit, we start to hear a weird sound. At first, it's unclear what this sound is supposed to be until even the actresses break character to investigate. They call in Belushi and then the director, but no one knows what the source of the sound is.
After a while of this sound search, it's finally revealed that the sound is coming from the gigantic nuclear lobsters. This happens as we transition into a filmed segment called Attack of the Atomic Lobsters which consisted of stop-motion lobsters attacking the city and killing anyone that gets in their way. I have to say, the FX are pretty good for the time frame.
Finally, we come back to the studio to a bunch of chaos. Everyone in the audience is playing dead, and the survivors continue to fight the lobsters. There is a very War of the Worlds end to this show, and it's the first one to end without the closure of the host saying their goodnights. Pardo does try to say goodnight, but he too is killed by a lobster.
My favorite thing about this episode was how it was a pretty good show up until Jane broke in with the breaking news about the lobsters. From that moment on this became a great episode that will live on in my memories. Once again this is going to be a hard one to judge because all three of my favorite moments could top the list, each for different reasons.
This wasn't an easy one, but here is what I came up with. First, The Olympia Diner cheeseburger sketch because of the memories it triggered. When I first saw this sketch as a kid, I only laughed because of the repetition and accents. It wasn't until I was in my teens when I saw the sketch again that I really got the full joke. This allowed me to love the sketch twice and for a whole plethora of reasons. Next, I loved Attack of the Atomic Lobsters. This could easily be my favorite of the night, but the cheeseburger sketch won out because there was more humor. Finally, I was a fan of the lounge singing Murray who sings the Star Wars theme to an uninterested crowd because it's a classic that I've always been fond of.