Too Britishly Balanced


So far of the British hosts of Saturday Night Live, Eric Idle is the only one that I'm 100% on board as far as his style of humor goes. In past reviews, I've pointed out that even the hosts highlight the divide between American and British humor. One of the things that I also forget is that there is a further division within the British comedy genre. 

First, there's the silly stuff like Benny Hill and a bulk of Monty Python. Next is the style that satires the sophisticated class with humor mixed in amongst people who you'd expect to do nothing that wasn't considered to be proper. I think the disconnect comes from the British sophisticates still holding on to a style that is straight out of classic literature when our ruling elites feel much more modern.

It's this difference in cultural style that used to make me unsure what time period we are supposed to be in. Twice in this episode, we were introduced to Michael Palin in a smoking jacket and tie while hanging out in a fancy study/library. In one case it was supposed to be modern times while the other was a Sherlock Holmes sketch. Of course, knowing of Sherlock Holmes made it easy to date that sketch but I'd have no idea what time period the first sketch was in if it wasn't for the modern references.

Though I was a little let down that Palin didn't tap into the silly side of British humor as much as Idle did, I'd still say it was a pretty average episode. Especially considering it's near the end of the second half slump and may even be the turning point to the end of the season winding down.

Now it's time to let British humor off the hook and move on to share what I saw as I give you...

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. Tonight's special episode is "interrupting" Grandma Walton Tries To Tie Her Shoelaces.

  2. Bill Murray and Laraine then act as Oscar presenters that announce Vanessa Redgrave as the winner of best actress. Jane Curtin then comes out as Vanessa to accept the award and give a fear mongering style political speech before handing the mic to Yasser Arafat. Yasser added to the political statement before passing the mic to Anwar Sadat, who then hands the mic off to Carter who criticizes political talk at the Oscars before announcing, "Live from New York..." without all that much of a setup.

  3. Michael Palin then opens the show, but he's acting as his manager and not himself. This is intentionally boring in an entertaining way as this manager character starts to share his own mundane accomplishments. One of the things that stand out the most is that his suite seems to be ten times bigger than it needs to be. It's not until we get to the end of the bit that we discover the purpose of this oversized attire. The manager says he wants to perform a stunt that involves shoving seafood down his pants and then cramming some cats down after. The cramming of the cats is very awkward, aggressive and definitely wouldn't be able to be performed by a modern-day performer.

  4. This is followed by a repeat of the Little Donuts, The Donuts of Champions ad.

  5. Next, we go to a confession booth where the priest gets interrogated by the IRS for tax evasion. The confession booth has two different sides, and Garrett Morris enters the opposite booth and confesses that he hasn't been paying his taxes as well, which gets the priest questioning whether or not to turn Morris into the IRS or to just deal out the regular Catholic confessional punishments. He looks to his right to see a mentor type priest over his shoulder who tells him to do the right thing. He then looks to his left where the devil character should be only to end up in an H&L Brock tax accountant commercial.

  6. Palin then plays a stuffy British actor who's going to perform a classical play while escaping from a straight jacket while locked in a box. Jane Curtin and Bill Murray then start to perform a period piece with Palin in the box bouncing around as he tries to make his mistake. The play is theatrical which highlights the hilarity of Palin escaping the box, then spastically trying to escape the straitjacket, finally freeing himself just in time to deliver his one and only line.

  7. Eugene Record performs Have You Seen Her.

  8. Once again, Jane and Dan host the news with another average installment of Weekend Update. Belushi has an editorial segment where he starts out with the story of how they are planning to tear down Radio City Music Hall in order to add more workspace. This leads to a rant about other local venues that he suggests should be demolished in Radio City's place and then somehow ends up ranting about Indians. (Clip 2)

  9. Murray and Gilda then play their nerdy kids that obviously have a childhood crush on one another. Gilda tries to get Murray to leave because she has a piano lesson with her open crush, the piano instructor. Murray doesn't leave after being invited for dinner by the mom. Palin shows up as the instructor which heightens Gilda's fears that Murray will embarrass her. Things then change when Palin leans in to make his move and makes out with this girl who is supposed to be a child and Murray steps to stop it becoming Gilda's hero. I know times have changed but I still find it disturbing how casual everyone seemed to be toward swinging, cheating, and pedophilia.

  10. Palin then plays an actor in an opening scene to a movie but he doesn't remember a single word to a single line and has to be corrected all throughout the intro. Based on the way this scene is set up I think we're supposed to figure out who the actor being satirized is but I couldn't figure out the reference.

  11. The Forgotten Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Scarlet Membrane was mainly a sketch about how much cocaine Sherlock did to the point where he doesn't remember his own actions. At one point, he follows the clues and thinks that he's the murder. Only the blood that he finds is from his nose and all other clues point to cocaine-related issues, and it turns out that the actual murder was a simple case to solve without any help from Sherlock.

  12. This is followed by a sketch with Bill Murray and Laraine that just seems like a realistic couple's argument. The two are ready to head out to a party when Laraine randomly decides that she doesn't want to go. She then goes on to bitch and complains about how Murray leaves her alone at these events to go goof off with his friends. Though relatable this is too realistic to be funny.

  13. Eugene Record returns to the stage to perform Trying To Get To You.

  14. Mr. Bill then makes a return to the show where he "washes his dog," "has his taxes done," "gets married," and "honeymoons at Niagara Falls."

  15. Danger Probe Mystery Investigation Discover type program that breaks down a bar fight that happened one night at a very redneck bar after Garrett Morris and Michael Palin enter as two extremely flamboyant Frenchmen. The rednecks are freaked out enough by the fact that Garrett is black but definitely can't deal with their gay antics. Just when the rednecks get ready to pummel the two flamboyant visitors, the investigators from the TV show step in to save the day.

  16. Finally, Michael Palin thanks the crowd and says his goodnights.

As I already said, this is was just an average episode and here are my favorite moments. First, I liked the escape artist act incorporated into classic theater because though British, it was the right type of absurd that I find funny. Next, the Sherlock Holmes sketch was kind of funny, especially when he thinks that he is guilty of a crime that he didn't commit because he was too hopped up on cocaine. Finally, I was a fan of Mr. Bill only this is growing to be a purely nostalgia based joy especially as his appearances become more of something to expect as filler for these extremely average episodes. 


Watch More From Michael Palin:

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Matt Bunker

I started out with a goal of becoming a paid screenwriter. I had no interest in any other aspect of filmmaking. I received and scholarship to The Vancouver Film School's Writing for Film and Television program where I graduated in 2005. I fell in love with being on set during my first non-school produced short, . I loved being around all the creative people, seeing people having fun while working. The whole liking your job was a new world to me, so I decided to give it a shot. I volunteered for any project I could, doing what ever was needed. The set was my Film School this time. While working as a PA on a feature I was informed that the DP wanted the three tallest PAs to help out in the grip and electric department. That is when I found the department that felt like the best fit for me while I continued to write.