Episode 1.22 – 5/29/76: Elliott Gould
Buck Henry. Candice Bergen. You can tell when a host has a really good rapport with SNL‘s cast and crew. There’s a spring in everyone’s step. There’s electricity in the air. It feels on. Of course, the most obvious sign that a host has gotten along swimmingly with the regulars is when they get invited back time and time again. That’s why celebs like Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, known for they’re good personalities both on and off camera, have hosted numerous episodes of SNL over the years and someone like next week’s host Louise Lasser has not been extended an invitation to return.
But I’m sure Chris will have plenty to say about Ms. Lasser next week. We’re here to talk about Elliot Gould, who returned for his second hosting gig this season on May 29, 1976.
The last time Elliot Gould stopped by to host SNL (way back on the 9th show of this first season) my colleague Chris was a little indifferent toward the episode. He didn’t blame the host. It was mostly due to the fact that the episode he had watched prior happened to be hosted by Richard Pryor — an episode many consider to be one of the first season’s finest. I admit my opinion of this episode might be affected by the fact that the prior two episodes I’ve watched hosted by Raquel Welch and Dyan Cannon were pretty mediocre, but I’m just going to say it: this episode’s pretty fucking good.
Let’s start with the sketches, in particular, a sketch entitled The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise, a Star Trek parody which — according to Wikipedians — “became an instant cult classic hit among Star Trek fans as well as science fiction fans.” Without giving you the blow-by-blow (you can read Wikipedia for that or, better yet, watch it yourself), I’ll give you a brief synopsis. It begins as a pretty straight-forward parody, with Chevy Chase as Dr. Spock and John Belushi as Captain Kirk. Belushi’s Shatner imitation is pretty damn funny, even if imitating The Shat is somewhat passe in these enlightened days. However, the real genius comes when the sketch takes a unexpected turn and breaks the fourth wall — this change occurs when an unexpected craft is picked up on the Enterprise’s radar. The craft turns out to be a 1968 Chrysler Imperial driven by an NBC Executive (played by Gould) and his assistant (Garrett Morris), who board the Enterprise only to deliver the bad news that Star Trek has been cancelled. Hilarity ensues.
The rest of the sketches hold up on their own. There’s Laraine Newman as Shirley Temple helping bring peace between waring factions in South Africa (points for newsworthiness!). There’s Belushi, Dan Ackroyd and Gilda Radner in a Honeymooners parody.
Then, there’s the opening sketch, in which Chevy Chase and Elliot Gould playing two foreign dignitaries scamming a wealthy Louisiana businessman (Ackroyd) in a game of poker. The highlight of this sketch for me was Morris, playing Ackroyd’s butler, and his reactions to Ackroyd’s gullibility. Morris, the only black member of the SNL cast at the time, continued to be the most underused member of the SNL cast — that, and his constantly being cast as servants and butlers and assistants, would lead to his eventual departure from show.
But I’m getting off-track.
This is a brilliant episode. Aside from the comedy, Leon Redbone’s performance is a delight.
Next: 1.23 – 7/24/1976: Louise Lasser/Preservation Hall Jazz Band