Saturday Night Live/Robert Klein/ABBA, Loudon Wainwright III
From The TV IV
Robert Klein/ABBA, Loudon Wainwright III is the fifth episode of the first season of Saturday Night Live, and the fifth episode overall. It is the first appearance of both its host or either of its musical guests.
- Beauty Pageant: Because the night's beauty pageant ran long, the winner, Sherry Pan-Norwak (Newman) was unable to make her acceptance speech, so the emcee (Chase) lets her give her speech. Sherry claims the pageant is sexist and superficial, so she refuses to accept the prize. She takes off her crown, scepter, cape and evening gown, drapes them over the emcee and leaves. The embarrassed emcee tries to walk down the catwalk as the music plays, but he trips and falls off the stage.
- Robert Klein's Monologue: Comedian Klein discusses live television, the difference between cartoon and real animals, nudity in film and singing ominous music from film scores.
- S.O.S.: ABBA song. Klein introduces the song as the captain of the Titanic at dinner with O'Donoghue as one of his dinner guests. As the meal and the song continue, water starts to leak in from the wall, and Klein tries to cover it with a dinner plate.
- Pong - The History Midterm: The two players discuss their recent history midterm, and the player on the right is confident he aced it. However, he realizes he messed up when he learns 1901 is the 20th century, not the 19th century. He also learns the final essay was on Alexander Hamilton, not Aaron Burr as he had thought, and he got all of the true/false questions wrong. The player on the right loses the game, but when the player on the left challenges him to another round, the player on the right bows out so he can study for a geology exam.
- Minute Mystery: On a whodunit show, photographer Mike Mendoza (Aykroyd) helps Officer Lopez (Belushi) of the Mexico City Police investigate the murder of an heiress (Newman). Lopez interrogates Buster (Chase), who insists he murdered the heiress, but Lopez lets him go. After Buster leaves, Mike gives the studio audience 15 seconds to solve the mystery. As he is about to announce the solution, he notices his camera is missing, and Lopez gives the audience 10 seconds to figure out who stole Mike's camera. After the time is up, Lopez asks announcer Don Pardo to announce the solution, but Pardo is silent. Lopez wonders where Pardo is, and Mike gives the audience a year to solve the puzzle.
- The Bees - Bee Centennial Minute: A bee (Morris) tells the story of a bee named Harry 200 years ago, who got lost and flew into General George Washington's tent and got crushed by a soldier.
- Bicentennial: Loudon Wainwright III song.
- Greg Allman's Love Life: Greg Allman (Chase) is playing the piano, when an interviewer asks him about his love life. At first, Allman says his life is great, but he refuses to refer to his love life. The interviewer asks again, and again Allman dodges the question. As the interviewer keeps repeating the question, Allman gets increasingly defensive, until at last he admits his love life is "toilet" and slams his head on the piano.
- Sam Peckinpah: An assistant (Newman) introduces the two stars of a new romantic comedy, but female lead Debbie (Radner) expresses apprehension to her costar Rex (Klein) about Sam Peckinpah directing a romantic comedy, but Rex reassures her. Peckinpah (Belushi) enters and starts rolling, but after Debbie's first line, Peckinpah cuts and politely says she's not doing it right, although he slaps her in the face. She tries three more times, and each time, Peckinpah is verbally polite but physically abusive. On the fifth take, Debbie delivers her line without being cut, but after Rex's line, Peckinpah again cuts. As he comes to Rex to give him direction, Rex punches him in the gut and knees him in the face.
- Weekend Update.
- Frank Telinka (Aykroyd) issues an editorial reply to an earlier WU editorial about energy consumption, but Chase makes faces behind his back the whole time.
- Chase wishes his girlfriend Jackie a happy 17th birthday.
- Chase also says it is producer and schizophrenic Lorne Michaels' birthday and says NBC's Saturday Night will be replaced by a show, Hilarious Test Patterns of the 1960s.
- Morris repeats the top story at the top of his lungs as a service to hard of hearing viewers.
- Jamitol Straight: On a commercial which airs during WU, a husband (Coe) describes all the errands his wife (Curtin) has run that day, including fixing the storm doors and the car. When his wife starts to talk, she is clearly exhausted, and as he attributes her energy to Jamitol, she passes out next to him. He tags the commercial by saying, "My wife, I think I'll stuff her."
- The Exterminators: An older, tough exterminator named Bugs (Belushi) and his young partner (Klein) come to a basement to exterminate the cockroaches, but the kid feels bad about having to kill the roaches and tries to warn them. Bugs says he has sworn vengeance on cockroaches ever since his brother tried to squash a cockroach but stepped on a live wire instead and died. He convinces the kid to kill the roaches while he flushes them out, but the kid chokes. The kid tells Bugs what he learned in a book called The Eternal Crawl, about how cockroaches have survived 300 million years, through the age of the dinosaurs, the Ice Age, the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, the founding of America and two world wars. The speech seems to convince Bugs, who vows never to kill another cockroach, but as he leaves, he squashes two.
- Fireman: A fireman (Radner) says she has the best job in the world. She talks about how firemen need short names and gives tips on fire prevention. She ends with a poem she has written about being a fireman.
- Ploobis's Migraine: King Ploobis has a migraine headache, and everyone tries to help him cure it. Queen Peuta sings him a song, but her high-pitched singing makes it worse, so he shoves his ice pack into her mouth. Vazh tries doing a sexy dance, but that doesn't help, either. Scred suggests acupuncture, but driving the needles into his face is agonizing for Ploobis. Ploobis and Scred go to the Mighty Favog for help, but Favog says he has a headache, and they see he has giant needles sticking out of him.
- Robert Klein Standup: Klein does a routine on college, abnormal psychology and scientific research.
- K-Put Stamp Gun: A commercial for a new pricing gun with which shoppers can save lots of money by putting new, extremely low prices on their shopping items.
- Unrequited to the Nth Degree: Loudon Wainwright III song.
- Looks at Books - The Tiny Kingdom: Curtin's guest is the author of the children's book The Tiny Kingdom, an old lady named Emily Litella. Her story is a fairy tale about a "little, tiny, teeny, itty, bitty, weenie" prince and a similar princess who go to live in a similar castle in a tiny kingdom. When Curtin says they lived happily ever after, Litella denies this, because the princess learned the prince had a "little, teeny, tiny, itty, bitty, weenie... mother." Curtin cuts Litella off before she can talk anymore.
- Ambassador Training Institute: A working-class man (Aykroyd) complains about eating sandwiches again, and his wife (Newman) says she can't afford more because of his job. The announcer says viewers should apply for a better job as an international ambassador, which pays better. To apply, they should send take an easy test at home and send $300,000 as an "illegal campaign contribution" to Mexico City.
- I Can't Stop My Leg: Robert Klein song.
- Waterloo: ABBA song. A title card admits ABBA are lip-synching. ABBA again perform on the "Titanic," where water continues to pour in. This time, the stage starts to rock back and forth as the captain (Klein) tries to stop it, until at last the water rushes in, and everyone drowns. O'Donoghue again plays a dinner guest.
"Live from New York, It's Saturday Night!"
- Chevy Chase as a beauty pageant emcee who has fallen off the end of the stage.
- S.O.S., performed by ABBA: The third single from the band's third, self-titled 1975 album. Prior to the release of the single, ABBA was considered to be a one-hit wonder, but the success of S.O.S. solidified their position as one of the biggest musical groups of the Disco Era of the mid-1970s. It also expanded their international success and made the Swedish group successes from Australia to Zimbabwe.
- Bicentennial, performed by Loudon Wainwright III: At the time he performed it on SNL, Dylan-esque humorist and folk musician Wainwright had not yet released this song, which would be the lead-off track on his (appropriately enough) 1976 album T Shirt. The song pokes fun at the upcoming bicentennial celebrations which characterized much of 1976 in America.
- Unrequited to the Nth Degree, performed by Loudon Wainwright III: A track from Wainwright's 1975 album Unrequited. The song is a tongue-in-cheek rebuke to a crush, lover or secretly admired who doesn't care as much for the narrator as the narrator cares for him or her. It talks about how guilty the unrequited will feel when the narrator dies, and how glad the narrator will be.
- I Can't Stop My Leg, performed by Robert Klein: This goofy, silly novelty song has been a trademark of Klein's standup since he first wrote and performed it in the early 1970s. Over the years, Klein has performed the song in a variety of musical styles (beginning with the blues style heard here), but the basic format is always the same: A long musical intro, during which Klein taps his leg rhythmically to the music, before he sings the first lyrics: "I can't stop my leg." Generally, Klein continues to tap his leg rhythmically, all the while singing about how his leg won't stop no matter how hard he tries, and how much he wishes it would stop. At last, Klein stops tapping his leg, and then he sings about how grateful he is that his leg has stopped. In most performances, after a few bars of this, Klein taps his leg again and closes with a big finish about how he can't stop his leg again.
- Waterloo, performed by ABBA: The first single and lead-off track from ABBA's 1974 album of the same title. The success of this single launched their careers when it won the Eurovision Song Contest. It charted in the Top 20 in 19 countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the group's native Sweden, but it would be more rock-heavy than their later, signature disco hits.
- Crazy Credits: As this is the first episode to air without an Albert Brooks Film, the opening credits list as a feature of the episode, "No film by Albert Brooks."
- Uncredited Appearance: Cast members George Coe and Michael O'Donoghue are not credited this episode, although both make appearances. O'Donoghue's appearance is non-speaking, however, as one of the guests on the Titanic in ABBA's musical numbers.
- Running Theme: The sketch "Jamitol Straight," a parody of the then-current commercials for the vitamin supplement Geritol with the tagline, "My wife, I think I'll keep her," is called "Jamitol Straight" to distinguish it from the first Jamitol commercial, in which the "wife" of spokesman Chase was played by male cast member O'Donoghue. The earlier sketch, also called "Jamitol Gay," aired on the first episode.
- First Appearance: This episode is the first appearance of the Looks at Books recurring sketch, which also features the first appearance of the character Emily Litella.
Behind the Scenes
- Producer in Absentia: For most of the week prior to this episode's airing, producer Lorne Michaels was not present at the set. He had quit the show in a dispute with NBC over the lights and sound crew, but the network gave in, and Michaels returned hours prior to the broadcast.
- Unwanted Guests: Producer Michaels and writer/cast member O'Donoghue were annoyed at having to have ABBA on the show, as they considered the group kitschy and lame. The group appeared, however, because they were the top recording artists of the time, and executive producer Dick Ebersol insisted they be booked, although he issued no other directives for the musical guests for the remainder of the season. This is why O'Donoghue conceived of having the group perform on the Titanic, so he could drown them. It is unclear who made the decision to put up title cards on the screen indicating the group was lip-synching, but whether or not Michaels himself made that decision, he certainly considered lip-synching by a musical act to be anathema to his vision for the show.
Allusions and References
- Musical guests ABBA are exposed for lip-synching and drowned on the Titanic.
- Title Card: Right now ABBA is lip synching. It's not their fault. The tracks didn't arrive from Sweden.