SNL: S05E13... HOST: RODNEY DANGERFIELD... DATE: MARCH 8, 1980

or...

A Night Of Ups and Downs

As a huge fan of stand-up comedy, I was very surprised that I didn't remember Rodney ever hosted Saturday Night Live. Considering that there were about two decades when I would watch SNL on almost a daily basis due to fact that Comedy Central would play at least five episodes a day and the fact that this was the station that was my main source of TV entertainment before the internet, I figured they had to have aired this episode since it was hosted by a comedy legend.

So, the fact that this trivia doesn't even ring a bell left me worried that I was about to watch an episode that either didn't live up to expectations or didn't stand the test of time. It didn't take long before I started to lean toward the latter as the first sketch following the monolog was a parody ad for a new piece of currency from South Africa called the "Niggerrand" with a very hard "R".

Though that was a pretty shocking moment watch with modern eyes, the sketch actually was a commentary of Apartheid which was still going on at the time. There were several other sketches in the same type of style that were overly offensive when viewed with today's expectations while at the same time making a point.

I'm guessing Rodney helped with the writing or at least they wrote to his sensibilities because things felt more poignant than the offensive material that I assume was written in the earlier season by Mr. Mike. 

All of this said, offensive or not, the sketches that did age to still be appropriate had me laughing out loud and I loved seeing Rodney perform.

Now it's time to share what I saw as I give you...

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. The show starts in Rodney's dressing room as he reads the script to prepare for the show. It's not long before he in interrupted by Father Guido Sarducci who wants to share dressing rooms because his shared dressing room is overcrowded. Being that Sarducci only has one outfit Rodney agree and goes back to studying the script. Then Jane enters the room with news of a drug deal for Sarducci, only he doesn't have his cut so he ends up borrowing a few bucks from Rodney, who just wants to stick to studying his lines so gives him the cash and tries to go back to reading. Then the phone rings and it's the drug dealer for Jane who takes the call and goes on to discuss the deal. Then there's another knock on the door and it's Sarducci's family from Italy. The growing chaos causes Rodney to worry about starting the show when the TV turns on to reveal the dressing room on the screen where Rodney announces, "Live from New York..."
  2. Rodney then opens the show with one of his classic routines which can be considered crass but actually does stand the test of time.
  3. This is followed by the above mentioned fake ad for the "Niggerrand" the gold currency mind by slaves in South Africa. Again the hard "R" is shocking to hear on TV anymore but this joke is more of a comment against apartheid which was still going on at the time.
  4. Dr. Shockley's House Of Sperm is a sketch about a mall like sperm store where anyone can by the sperm of the famous and apparently there is a high demand for funny babies. This leads everyone that stops by to buy a batch to look for a sample from Rodney.
  5. J. Geils Band then hits the stage to perform Love Stinks.
  6. Once again, Jane and Bill anchor the news. This week, Bill interviews the real Beaver and Wally from Leave It To Beaver who still act like their characters from the show. Guido Sarducci also steps in for a segment about the illegal immigration issue where people are getting their ethnicities surgically changed and interviews an Italian that now looks like he's from China.
  7. Manhasset is the long sketch of the night as well as the most offensive. It's kind of shot like an indy film with Rodney doing voice over to introduce information over B reel footage used during transitions. The sketch is mainly about Rodney dating a 10-year-old girl scout. Unlike the other pedophile sketches that I accredit to Mr. Mike, Larraine actually looks and kind of acts her real age and not like a little baby. This feels more like Rodney's take on dating a woman in her twenties in his advanced age. It's as if they lowered her age to make the point even more dramatic as all of the issues the couple deals with throughout the sketch is still inappropriate but more fitting for a girl in her twenties. Again, she's literally supposed to be ten in this sketch yet none of their issues deal with her parents, but more of a problem of her wanting to party with her friends and the two having nothing to talk about. Hell, for him, at that age, he could have made the same point about how old he feels by placing the girl in her 40s.
  8. Road To Moscow is an interview show discussing the upcoming Summer Olympics. The topic at hand this week is the potential the US will boycott and all of the guests are the type of people who lost in the past but act overly disappointed as they swear this would have been their year if they only had the opportunity to compete.
  9. This is followed by a courtroom scene where Brian Doyle-Murray plays a substitute judge and the entire courtroom treats him like children would treat a substitute teacher.
  10. J. Geils Band returns to the stage to perform Sanctuary.
  11. America On The Job is a quick sketch that looks into the lives of America's Clothing Inspectors.
  12. Finally, Rodney closes the show by thanking the crowd and saying his goodnights.

As I transcribed this breakdown I don't know if I ended up justifying to myself that this wasn't such a bad show because I am such a fan of Rodney and wasn't offended by this stuff until about four or five years ago or if I just thought about it rationally and have rethought my stance because of the intention behind the bit which used to play way more into my judgements.

That said there are a couple angles that are unarguably wrong but none of those sketches are one of these favorite moments. First, I loved the substitute judge sketch because not only is the joke spot on, the entire cast looked like they were having a blast doing it. Next, I liked the opening sketch where Rodney's dressing room is overrun by Sarducci because working in film I've seen this situation all the time where one department would ask for a corner of the room only to end up taking up the entire space without any consideration. Finally, I was a fan of seeing Wally and the Beave as adults because even though Leave It To Beaver was two generation off from being meant for me it was a staple in my childhood television watching. It was also interesting to see how much they aged at that time when this episode aired close to four decades ago.

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.