Son of The Gross Yields: SNL 1.10 – 1/17/76: Buck Henry

Episode 1.10 – 1/17/76: Buck Henry

Episode Number: 1.10
Original Air Date: January 17, 1976
Host: Buck Henry
Musical Guest(s): Bill Withers/Toni Basil

I’m guessing a lot of people under the age of 40 don’t know who Buck Henry is. At least I hope that’s the case, because I didn’t know who Buck Henry was until watching this episode .

Read my lips: Everyone – including myself – should know who Buck Henry is. And just to do my part to spread The Gospel According To Buck Henry to a new generation. I present for you this brief bio:

Henry is an actor, writer, film and television director. After portraying the fictional G. Clifford Prout of the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals as part of an elaborate media hoax in the late 1950s, he was a cast member on the television comedy shows The New Steve Allen Show and That Was The Week That Was. Throughout his career, Henry has appeared in more than 40 movies, although his biggest contributions to film were his screenplays, which included The Graduate, Catch-22 and Candy. He directed Warren Beatty in 1978’s Heaven Can Wait. If you’re a Saturday Night Live, you know that, until 1989, Henry held the record for hosting the most episodes of SNL before he was bested by Steve Martin. All of Henry’s appearances occurred between 1976 and 1980. He still makes television appearances, having guest starred as recently as 2010 playing the father of Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) on 30 Rock.

Now that we have that clear, let me say this is a pretty good episode of Saturday Night (Live but not Live). Henry is a really funny guy, with the uncanny ability to make the most ridiculous statements with a completely straight face. Watch as he plays a customer ordering a sandwich at Belushi’s Samurai Delicatessan. Henry doesn’t even crack a smile as Belushi breaks a roll of bread over his forehead and uses his samurai sword to cut slices of pastrami, apply mayo and – most impressively – cleave a tomato in two after tossing it into the air. (Side note: Not a huge fan of the “Samurai” sketches, but it’s a classic SNL bit, so I’ll give it its props.)

Other sketches worth nothing:

* A funny Gerald Ford sketch with Henry playing press secretary Ron Nessan. The gag is that Nessan has instructed Ford’s secret service agents to imitate the president’s bumbling in an attempt to make it seem “normal.” The sight of Dan Akroyd and Garret Morris mimicking Chevy Chase’s pratfalls and other foibles is very funny.

* An ambitious sketch entitled “Citizen Kane II,” where Charles Foster Kane’s nurse, played by Laraine Newman, reveals that Kane actually had multiple last words aside from “Rosebud,” including “Henri” and “mustard.” I won’t ruin the punchline, but it’s a good one.

* The debut of The Blues Brothers! Belushi and Akroyd are dressed as the Bees, but this is The Blues Brothers, no doubt about it. Jake and Elwood perform “King Bee.” Good stuff. Howard Shore is dressed as a bee keeper and Belushi ends the sketch by diving off a stool, making me wonder if he and Chevy have a bet going backstage as to who can come the closet to injuring themselves during the show. (Chevy would have won, as he injures his groin in a fall during Season Two.)

There’s also a special performance by Mr. Mike (Mike O’Donoghue), doing an impression of entertainer Mike Douglas “with needles in his eyes” that I found  absolutely hysterical.

Of course, you’ve got your Muppets, your Weekend Update and your commercials (some of which are reruns and most of which aren’t really that funny.) I’m finding that commercial parodies, for the most part, don’t age well. You’ve got a few that are classics and I’ll be sure to point them out, but mostly the commercial parodies seem to me the most dated segments of these old episodes. Is anyone with me on this?

Musical guests are pretty meh as well – Bill Withers (“Ain’t No Sunshine”) and Toni Basil, pre-”Mickey”, doing a weird song-and-dance (“Wham Re-Bop Boom Bam”). But as a whole, a good episode which actually makes me look forward the next time Buck Henry stops by.

Next: 1.11 – 1/24/76: Peter Cook / Dudley Moore


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