SNL: S04E14... HOST: GARY BUSEY... DATE: MARCH 10,1979

or...

A Night Of Forgotten References

When I started this challenge, I was really making a conscious effort not to dump on the show, especially during these early seasons when jokes that are now played out or cliche were being performed for the first time or were jokes that didn't stand the test of time or come across as bore being that this is a time before MTV sped up our sense of pacing.

Up until this season, it wasn't hard to keep these justifications in mind when viewing a slightly lower than average episodes. This season, they've all been slightly lower than average, with very little variance between the best episode and the worst. That said, this is the most consistent season as far as quality goes, I just keep struggle to understand why this quality is so consistently low.

During this viewing, I found a few more clues. It seems like whoever the head writer was at the time like to use emotional contrast as a way to deliver comedy. That's why each sketch this season starts out like you are watching a drama and then ends on a punchline. This strategy is brilliant when done right but if the joke falls flat you get nothing but boredom.

This leads to the length of the sketches from this season that I'm constantly going on about. As I've said before, since the sketches are so long it feels like the writers are also writing two sketches in one. Now when you combine that with the overly dramatic tone you get drama, joke, change directions, more drama, finishing joke. Which again is too much of a gamble when you are only counting on two laughs but the laughs that do work are good and is why feel frustrated that I'm not loving this season as much as I should.

Sorry for another exploration into why I'm not a big fan of this season but I can only share what I see, so with that, it's time to share what else I saw as I give you...

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. The show starts with Gary Busey in the SNL locker room griping to Jane about how he's been ignored by Belushi. Jane goes on to explain that it's because Belushi feels that Busey stole his Oscar Nomination for the Buddy Holly Story because of how Hollywood likes to reward artsy films when blockbuster comedies like Animal House are never given respect. She goes on to explain why Belushi blames Busey over the other contenders because of all of the actors up for nomination Busey is the closest in age and experience. Then Gary asks for advice to which Jane suggest he tell Belushi he'd trade all of his success in order to be in a sketch as good as Samurai Night Fever. As you can see by the length of these notes, this conversation goes on forever and at this point, it's not really coming across as a joke. This is that dramatic setup I was talking about in the intro. Also, keep in mind that this is still the opening sketch when we get a scene change which is rarely worth the effort. We then go to Belushi's dressing room where he's bitching about exactly what Jane was talking about to his entourage. Busey enters and says the two need to talk. He does what Jane tells him and says he's jealous of Belushi's career this boost Belushi's ego and then he goes on to give Busey advice which leads to a sloppy setup to the announcement, "Live from New York..."
  2. Gary Busey then hits the stage to open the show by saying he following Belushi's advice to skip whatever what written for him and to just be himself. This leads Busey to do some sort of hand jive and that's all we get.
  3. Next is another long winded sketch where I have almost a page worth of notes. This is not a good sign because I'm only waiting for a sentence or two to summarize the point of the sketch. If I have to write more than a paragraph that means I'm still searching for the setup of the joke. This sketch starts out in the White House with Carter preparing for some trip to Jerusalem, but they wrote this for the people of the time so they don't really go into why. His wife also makes a hemorrhoid reference which has been the go-to joke about the president for the past couple weeks. The wife then leaves and the mom steps in and tells Jimmy that he need to bring his brother Billy along. Then Busey comes out as Billy and his appearance alone gets a laugh but other than that it's just redneck bashing until we cut to Bill Murray as Walter Cronkite who joins in to ramble on about this trip. By this time I was over the sketch so I missed the historical relevance, luckily the sketch then cuts to Jerusalem when we see that it's a Nobel Prize banquet but that doesn't matter because they just keep making, "Billy's a redneck" jokes.
  4. Eubie Blake and Gregory Hines then come out to perform three songs back to back: Low-Down Blues, I'm Just Simply Full Of Jazz, and I'm Just Wild About Harry. This was fun because I'm a big fan of Gregory Hines from History Of The World and I knew he was a dancer but I didn't realize that he sang to the point where he'd be the musical guest on SNL.
  5. Woman's Problems was a sketch with a bunch of guys bitching about women in that cliche old school way. You know barefoot in the kitchen, PMS, blah, blah, blah.
  6. Once again, Jane and Bill host the news. This week there is a segment where Bill interviews the wife of the late actor who played Mr. Ed, only the people on the horse end of the interview have a hard time keeping her under control. I liked this one because there is a quick moment in the opening sketch where they lead said horse to its dressing room while Busey had to use the locker.
  7. Unsung Heroes Of Rock And Roll is a sketch that seems to go nowhere. It takes place in a high school dance with a music group saying good night before packing up their gear. Then we jump around between the students and chaperones as they have conversations over the now piped in music. Larraine and Garrett then sign a song for a bit but I still have no clue who this Unsung Hero is even potentially in reference to. Bill Murray spikes the punch causing Gilda to get drunk so I was hoping this was the birth of Candy Slice, but no, she just dares Busey to play some rock and roll which he does but it still not the Unsung Hero. Then at the very end of the sketch, we learn that Busey and his band were burned badly in a boiler room accident when they were going to retrieve their coats. The fact that they never performed again is what made them Unsung Heroes, a joke that is far from worth the buildup.
  8. This week's short film is called Perchange To Dream, where Bill Murray plays a drunk on the street rambling on about phone fees and who should be charged for a call. He then finds a random bottle of booze on the ground and picks it up to drink it. This transports him backstage where he is now a Shakespearian actor. He does a pretty good performance only to be awoken by the cops back on the street as we are brought back to reality.
  9. The next sketch takes place on a porch in the South with Aykroyd hanging out in the heat with Larraine who is playing his daughter. Garrett approaches with a warning that there is a Muck Jumper in town which makes Aykroyd a little nervous. He and Garrett then leave to deal with some problem that his two sons started out in the field. With no one around when the Muck Jumper arrives they are quick to buy into his scam. Apparently, a Muck Jumper was an original Jackass that would charge $0.30 to jump in the local septic tank. The kids think this is such a great deal to see such a feat so they pay him and he sticks to the offer. Only now that he's covered in muck he charges $40.00 to get him to leave along with the odor he's collected.
  10. Gary Busey then hits the stage to perform Stay All Night.
  11. Finally, Gary Busey closes the show by thanking the crowd and saying his goodnights.

I wish this episode would have given me a Mr. Bill or a Conehead sketch as a gimme because I'm really struggling hard to find my favorite moments but here's what I managed to come up with. First, I liked the Muck Jumper sketch but mainly when I realized they were describing what could be interpreted as the original Jackass. Next, I actually did like the Mrs. Ed interview during the news but mainly because the animal wranglers failed to keep the horse an actor. Finally, I kind of liked the Perchange To Dream short film because it was kind of interesting and close to my style of non-comedic writing. 

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.