SNL: S04E17... HOST: MILTON BERLE... DATE: APRIL 14. 1979

or...

Uncle Miltie For The Save!!!

To be honest, I had very low expectations for this episode because I'm not the biggest fan of Milton Berle. As with most of the host that were already old during their original airing, I mainly knew him as a guest on shows like Johnny Carson.

Then, in my teenage years, I discovered Howard Stern. He used to have Uncle Miltie on all the time but by that time he was a crotchety old man who just complained about the state of comedy while Howard would do nothing but try to get him to talk about the rumors of his humungous penis. Though this could be funny at times, it didn't do much to win me over as an Uncle Miltie fan.

Then, even later still, about three years ago to be precise, one of my resolutions was to watch every episode of the Muppet's Show and Milton Berle was a host of one of those episodes as well. At the time of this episode of the Muppet's aired Miltie was older than he was here on SNL but younger than his Howard Stern appearance. 

During his performance of the Muppet's Show, he seemed like nothing more than a creepy old man. You know the Richard Dawson type that would come up with any excuse to sneak in a kiss from any woman in front him while also being the type that would use the Bob Barker technique of having women dig through his pockets to get a "treat" when he would just hand it off to a man.

I used to feel that way about most old men from that time because my grandpa was the type that would do this. Lucky, I was a boy, and though I don't think he ever did anything more than play, I'm glad I never had to deal with any of that nonsense because it was always embarrassing to watch it.  

Fortunately, this episode aired before Uncle Miltie hit that creep-age because this was by far my favorite episode of the season. First off, his stand up was actually really funny. Up until I saw this episode I had only seen his old man Borscht Belt style routine. It was interesting because his material was pretty offensive while still being funny which I may be wrong but I always thought he hated blue material.

Then again, his jokes were more racial than blue but it was way edgier than I was expecting. I'm also willing to bet that they went back to the "keep it simple stupid" rule when writing for an old school legend. Whereas the rest of this season the sketches seem to try to be too complex as if the writers were putting together a pilot for a sitcom, instead of the setup/punchline/repeat approach that seems to work better with sketch comedy.

Even though some of these sketches still ran long and got a little boring this episode may just be enough to save the entire season. Either that or Stockholm Syndrome has set in and I've fallen back in love with the show that's going to keep me hostage for the next three years which I feel is bound to happen.

Now that I've shared my thoughts on this episode, it's time to move on to share what I saw as I give you...

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. The opening sketch takes place at the Texaco Star Theater and is a parody of a black and white TV days live commercial for a gas station with all of the guys from the cast singing and old-timey tune about a Texaco Station. Though the opening title card says starring Milton Berle, he never makes in into the sketch before the singing stops with the line "Live from New York..."
  2. Milton Berle then opens the show with one of his stand-up routines. As I stated above in the intro, I was surprised by how much I liked it.
  3. The Wide-End family make their return to the show as the parents wake extra early to start their Easter routine. Uncle Miltie plays the Wide-End uncle and is running late for his Easter Bunny duties of hiding the eggs. He finally arrives and it's a laugh riot as he and daddy Wide-End rush to hide the eggs barely finishing before the kids awake to search for the hidden eggs. Once again, I love this family because they have such a positive attitude which makes me feel like I'm laughing with them and want to be a part of this world.
  4. Don Kirshner and his daughter then introduce their latest find. This time it's a group of young gay men called The Village Persons who sing Bend Over Chuck Berry, which I think is about disco taking over the reins from rock 'n roll. 
  5. Once again, Jane and Bill give us the news. This week, Bill returns to Florida to continue to cover the comeback of Chico Esquela, Larraine plays a punk girl named Z Jones who breaks down who's hot and who's not in music, and Bill sings a goodbye song to the bust of King Tut because his traveling exhibit is leaving New York to make its way to the west coast.
  6. Uncle Miltie then plays a comedy scout, auditioning local comedians. Several members of the cast try out each imitating a different style of open mic level stand-up comedians. He gives everyone encouraging words only to talk trash behind their backs. He calls them all back to informs them that they are all pretty good but could benefit from his $100 workshop that he just happens to have the same amount of spots open as the number of comedians who tried out.
  7. On The Spot is an interview show and once again, Dan Aykroyd plays his sleazy salesman person who constantly tries to sell dangerous things to children. This week, he's selling dangerous theme park rides that sound so dangerous it drives Jane to the point where she attacks him for being such a scummy salesman.
  8. Uncle Miltie then plays the crotchety old man that I remember him as when he plays an old man in a retirement home. This is mainly a sketch about how out of it old people get as he struggles to follow the conversation of his two daughters.
  9. Uncle Miltie then addresses the audience about claims that he's been known to steal jokes. In order to squelch these rumors, he brings out his writing staff which turns out to be a group of old Chinese men that can't even speak English. He then goes on to introduce the band.
  10. Ornette Coleman then hits the stage to perform Time Square.
  11. Uncle Miltie then hits the stage to sing one of his old man tunes. He then goes on to wing his way through a sentimental monolog about his life, career, and appreciation.
  12. Finally, Milton Berle returns to the stage to close the show by thanking the audience and saying his goodnights.

 As I said above, this was by far the best episode of the season and these are my favorite moments. First, I loved the Wide-End family on Easter Sunday because I literally laughed out loud for more than half of the routine. Next, I liked the comedy scout sketch because I used to do crappy open mic nights and this sketch reminded me how fun that was despite the fact that we were all such horrible rookies. Finally, I was a fan of the opening song about Texaco, I don't know why but I just really liked it. 

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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.