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Cast | Bits | Interviews | Notes | Pictures | My Summary | My Review | Review of Book Store Sketch

Cast

Role Actor
Host/King/Alex/John Lennon/Bookstore owner Malcolm McDowell
Prisoner Gilbert Gottfried
  Charles Rocket
  Denny Dillon
  Joe Piscapo

Bits

The Execution w/Gilbert Gottfried - Gilbert is a prisoner led to the electric chair by a priest. His mother runs over saying she has to see her son and tells him to sit up straight. His last words are "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night."

Malcolm McDowell's Monologue - Thank you, thank you, it's great to be here, great to be here tonight, thank you. You know I almost didn't make it. I'm an Englishman in case you didn't notice. The English need to have a work permit, if they are going to work here. Now to get that permit you have to have a job and prove you are the best person to possibly do that job. It's not enough that I'm married to an American citizen and I'm about to become the proud father of an American child...I'm only half to blame for that. But you need that permit. Now what happened is in the rush of getting married, making babies and doing a play here in New York, I forgot to get my permit renewed. It's an honest mistake. Now this Thursday immigration called that not only could I not do the show, that I had to leave the country as well, unless I got a new one. I was extremely nervous because it usually takes days to get a permit. However, thanks to NBC and their considerable clout I was spared the torture of waiting on lines for hours. Still I had to stop the show in the middle of rehearsal and at the cost of 1000s of dollars, I had to go back to my apartment in a cab, get my passport, come back here again, go to the lawyers office, then go to immigration...anyway now I'm perfectly legal. I'm going to let you in to a little secret - the only reason I did this bloody show was to get a new permit anyway. We'll be right back.

Mutually Omaha's Wild Kingdom - In Search of the Negro Republican  w/Joe Piscapo
Tobacco Growers of America Ad w/Gilbert Gottfried
Serf City w/Malcolm
1/21/81 - The Reagans Adopt Amy Carter w/Charles Rocket, Denny Dillon
American Milk Association Ad w/Malcolm as Alex
Showdown
Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band perform "Hot Head"
Weekend Update with Charles Rocket w/Malcolm as John Lennon
Romance Novel Needs w/Malcolm

The 100 Years War
The Leather Weather Report
Commie Hunting Season
The Rocket Report
Jack The Stripper w/Malcolm
Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band perform "Ashtray Heart"
Someone is Hiding in My Apartment
The Wine Cellar

Interviews

From my exclusive with Malcolm McDowell 8/11/97

Q: What do you think about your Saturday Night Live appearance?

A: I didn't enjoy it very much, unfortunately it was a crossover season when all the great ones had gone and I was left with the dregs. When I worked with Eddie Murphy (on I Spy) he came up and said 'We worked together!' and I went we have? 'On Saturday Night Live', but we didn't do anything together on it. I worked with this guy Charles... 

Q: Rocket

A: Yes! Charlie Rocket.

Q: Sadly he killed himself 2 years ago.

A: No!...why?

Q: It was depression.

A: Nothing happened to him?

Q: He cut himself.

A: Oh god, really I didn't know that, I'm sorry about that. He was a nice guy, a very sweet guy, he didn't have...he was following John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, how are you going to follow that? These great talents, that was amazing...

Q: That was the only time you've ever done Alex again, when you did the milk commercial?

A: It is. That was because I was offered a milk commercial in Japan for half a million bucks, this was in the late 70s. I got call from my agent who goes 'You won't believe this. They want you to do this milk commercial in Japan and they are prepared to pay you half a million bucks.' I went 'Wow! When does the plane leave? What's the idea?' Well, they want you to be in the bowler... and I went no, I can't do it. I will not do that. I'm not going to do the character with the eyelash, I'm not doing that, so away they went with their half a million bucks. Stupid! In fact I wish they'd offer it to me now, I'd do it in a heartbeat, but I was idealistic in those days. (Laughs) I just didn't think it would've been good for me to do.

Q: Then why did you do it on SNL?

A: I did it because it was a parody. So I told them about this and they used it as a parody apparently. 

Q: So you didn't get the money?

A: No, of course you don't get paid for Saturday Night Live, I think it was $700 bucks or something.

Q: Your 'big joke' in the opening was you did it to get a green card.

A: Yeah, that's right. That was all true. The only thing it was memorable for as far as I was concerned was that I played John Lennon. Being the house husband, burning the cakes and all that. It came out on Saturday and on the next Monday night he was shot and I always felt bad. Then I think 10 years later I was driving somewhere in England listening to BBC4 and John Lennon's last interview was on and he said, 'They did us on SNL, me and Yoko we really laughed.' And I went thank god, they loved it!

Q: That was the only funny part of the show. Your best line was 'Yoko is loco for me coco.' Goofy stuff.

A: Oh yeah, was that it? (Laughs)

Q: Denny Dillon who played Yoko just yelled and made bird noises.

A: Yeah, yeah. I don't remember anything about it. It was pretty stupid. I was very disappointed with it because it was appallingly written. I would NEVER do it again. Gary Oldman called me years later and said 'they want me to do SNL' and I went DON'T DO IT! You can't win on that one. You are at the mercy of these writers and if they don't come up with anything you're dead. I don't think he did it.

Notes

Pictures

Malcolm's promo shot #1
Malcolm as Alex

My Summary

    Malcolm was in New York doing the play Look Back in Anger when he did his one and only SNL appearance. He was 37 at the time, newly married and expecting his first child. His hair was getting lighter and he was starting to look older. This was only the 2nd episode of the 1980-81 season and by this time all the original cast members were long gone. This was the year NBC took the show away from Lorne (the creator/producer) and which was why it was so bad. The only names at all were Gilbert Gottfried and Joe Piscapo. Other forgettable cast members like Charles Rocket and Ann Risley were there before Eddie Murphy came in and breathed life into the dying show.
    The show opens with a priest leading a man (Gilbert) to the the electric chair. When they strap him in his mother runs over to him for her last words. She tells him to sit up straight.
    The picture they show of Malcolm in the opening has him wearing a big hat, scarf and coat. It was filmed in late November New York, so it was cold. It reminds me of how he looked in the Making of Caligula featurette.
    Malcolm comes down the back stairs and onto the stage to deliver his intro and is wearing a blue turtleneck. When a guy yells out "Clockwork" from the audience, he ignores it. He explains how the show was almost cancelled. Even though he has an American wife, a child on the way (applause from the audience) and is working on Broadway his work visa expired and the government was threatening to send him back to England in a week. He claims with all that going on and the rehearsal for the SNL appearance it all totally slipped his mind. These things usually take quite some time and he wasn't sure he would be able to meet the deadline. He had to leave the SNL rehearsal, go to his hotel and grab his passport and and thanks to NBC it was taken care of really fast. He ends with, "The only reason I agreed to host the bloody show was for the work permit." Then he does a Southern Accent to say about being right back.
    The first sketch involves a Nature show with  Joe Piscapo searching for the "Republican Negro in the Wild." Totally awful stuff.
    Finally we get to see Malcolm strut his stuff in "Serf City". A play on words sketch set in the Middle Ages. Lord Jack and an unnamed visiting Lord played by Malcolm are in a castle. Jack is telling him of this fun new sport he invented called Serfing. He calls in two serfs (poor peasants) and has them sit on the floor while the Lords stand on the backs, riding them, and wenches tickle them with feathers. The object is of course to stay on. When a serf gets up Jack exclaims "serfs up!" "What does that mean?" Malcolm asks. Time to get a new serf he tells him. "What if you run out?" I always hang 10 just in case he explains.
    Then Malcolm comes out in a white shirt and suspenders which reminds us of Alex and introduces "The first American TV appearance of Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band. He seems to like them.
    He then introduces a short film by Ken Friedman called "Showdown" made in 1972.
    Next up is the Weekend Update - the news portion of the show hosted by Charles Rocket. First up is a lame sketch with Gilbert. Then during the news part Malcolm makes his one other appearance. Charles interviews John Lennon (Malcolm) and Yoko Ono (Ann) - their first interview in nearly 6 years. Malcolm is wearing a dark wig and the trademark round glasses. He asks him what he has been up to. John tells him cooking and cleaning and they are in one of their 3 houses right now, not saying which though. "I make a very good chocolate drink . Yoko is loco for my coco." He also cleans the silverware and gives them to Yoko to weigh because she thinks silver is a good investment. He explains how he was so embarrassed when they had Yoko's parents over for dinner and there were smudges on the silver wear. Then she yells about his cake burning. Charles asks if that is a sound from the new album.  There is smoke in the background and he runs over to the oven and pulls out the blackened cake. He is very unhappy and yells at Charles that it is his fault. He never wanted to do the interview in the first place.
    Malcolm then introduces Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band again, back in his blue shirt. You can see him running back up the stairs while they are playing and sticking his arm through a hole in the back, trying to mess with the drummer.
    The last time we see him is to say goodbye at the end, once again he uses a Southern accent.

Full original version contains two more sketches and a commercial.

    One was about the opening of the hunting season in Maine. (I have no idea what else it was about, because they spoke with a very heavy accent and made much other noise at the same time), There were a lot of guys in black-red checked shirts and thigh-high hunter's boots, Malcolm played their leader and got shot at the end then others went hunting. 
    The other sketch was in a tiny book store. A shop assistant spends a boring working day until a young girl, looking like a pretty librarian, comes in and asks him to find a special romance book for her. She describes her preferences, he tries to find what she needs. Her preferences become more and more narrow, and he gets a little desperate, because she rejects all books he was able to offer her. At the end he has almost no more books to offer and asks her to tell him again what type of the story she looks for. She actually tells him the story itself, about "a blue-eyed, handsome, stuttering pirate captain, who finally finds his true love, a young, beautiful speech therapist". He says "Wait a minute, let me look in the back." She waits, and suddenly he appears, a blue-eyed and handsome pirate captain, the cocked hat, lacy cuffs, and the black eye band and he stutters! They sink slowly down on the floor behind the counter while kissing. 

My Review

    I had been looking forward to this for years - what an incredible disappointment. I have always been a fan of Gilbert Gottfried and even he was pathetic - though really funny looking in an afro haircut. The entire show was painful to watch and they really didn't give Malcolm much to do at all. His opening intro was weak and unfunny, I knew where it was going minutes before it got there.
    His first sketch was incredibly lame and he was given the sidekick role. Since he is British they gave him only British roles to play, what did they think that he couldn't handle another role? Malcolm played the role as a goofy, dopey Lord. The other lord played by Charles Rocket got all the punch lines and Malcolm basically just fed him the lines which were all surfing related. What is the point of having a star on to only give him bit roles? A really, really stupid idea. No idea what they were thinking.
    If you are worried that it was Malcolm that gave a poor performance, don't be. The sketches he weren't in were awful as well. The searching for a Negro sketch wasn't so much tasteless as it was totally boring and idiotic. After this I just fast forwarded to Malcolm's other scene as I couldn't stand another minute of horrible SNL routines.
    When Malcolm introduced the short film he was so obviously reading it off cards. I wondered if he was high at this time? The film was a poor quality piece of garbage and though not made by SNL, it might as well have been as it fit right right in that night as another example of unfunny dreck.
    Malcolm introduced Captain Beefheart with tons of enthusiasm, maybe because he liked them or was just happy to have something to do. I never understood the appeal of their music as it isn't really sung, just talked through and the lyrics are all over the place.
    Malcolm as John Lennon was the only interesting scene of the night. Since he was a Lennon fan the comedy was pretty tame. They didn't really do a scathing satire like they could've and have done at other times. It was more of a cute thing, the big joke was Lennon was sitting home cooking. Who cares!? The interesting thing is the voice he did for Lennon had a real Alex sound to it. An interesting note is this was taped only two weeks before Lennon was killed. Legend has it Malcolm felt really bad about it until he read in Lennon's last interview that he saw the show and thought it was funny.
    The only reason this should be seen is for the Mil ad - that's it.

Rating: 2/10

Review of Book Store Sketch

    The whole sketch was nice and funny, probably because here Malcolm had the leading part. Almost all funny lines were his, the effective re-appearance at the end was too (and he looked so great, why didn't he ever do a pirate movie? <g>, and if you're not the devoted fan of romance books, it was amusing to hear how they scoffed at them. He was so cute, sly, playful and suave, she played the comedy in a dead-pan way, and he was overacting on purpose, and the combination looked very amusing. The best part was that he was free of other distracting elements, elements like in Serf City sketch. In the book store he was more himself - more with his own unique style. He looked tired when they finally appeared from behind the counter and went offstage. He walked like he was tired - maybe the rehearsals and doing Look Back in Anger took all his energy.

This page 2001-08 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net