Episode Number: 1.24 Original Air Date: July 31st, 1976 Host(s): Kris Kristofferson Musical Guest(s): Rita Coolidge
Well, we’ve almost made it to the end of the first season of Saturday Night. It’s been a fun trip, but now it’s time to wrap things up with this final episode and a truly superstar host: Kris Kristofferson?
Cue record scratch.
All joking aside, Kris Kristofferson was kind of a big deal in the mid-1970s. But who is he really? I’ll tell you. 1. A musician (country/folk/”outlaw country”) and 2. An actor (in numerous films by Sam Peckinpah, whose filmography was covered in detail elsewhere on this site, including Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.)
Having already conquered the music world, Kristofferson was now focused on showcasing his skills as an actor. He’d already shown an ability for serious dramatic work – what better place was there to show he could “do funny” than by accepting a hosting a gig on the hottest new late-night variety show around?
Well, call me a convert. After watching this episode, I’m convinced that not only is Kristofferson a decent dramatic actor and musician who can rock a beard like only few men can, but that he’s also a funny dude with considerable skill playing the straight man. Whether it be opposite John Belushi’s Samurai character or Chevy Chase’s Gerald Ford, the fact that Kristofferson can keep a straight face alongside either one of those goofs is nothing to sneeze at. Not only that, but Kristofferson also has no problem handling a humorous monologue, as he does in this episode in a bit where he shills for a series of instructional tapes on “Talking Country.” (First rule of “Talking Country”: It’s never “Talking” Country. Only “Talkin’” Country.)
There’s some weak material here. It’s hard to get overenthusiastic about another samurai skit. As much as I love Belushi, there’s really not a whole lot of variety in these series of sketches, where something like the Jaws, or “land shark”, sketches at least took another step into absurdity each time a new one was replayed which allowed it to continue to feel fresh.
I feel the same way about Chevy’s Ford impersonation and his trademark, show-opening stumble. It’s kind of the same thing week after week, the same complaint that people continue to have about SNL today — that it’s a show that beats jokes into the ground, helps them to their feet, then beats them down again. I can think of more than a dozen of reoccurring characters that out-stayed their welcome throughout the years — the Church Lady, Hanz and Franz, Pat, to name a few.
All complaints aside, the one-off sketches later in this episode were great. The closing sketch, a parody of Waiting for Godot — “Waiting for Pardo” — in which Kris Kristofferson and Chevy Chase, playing Vladimir and Estragon, share a park bench waiting for SNLannouncer Don Pardo to show up, was brilliantly absurd.
Musical guests were nothing special, despite both Kristofferson and Coolidge being Grammy winners. I kept waiting for Joe Cocker to show up. There’s a funny bit at the end of Coolidge’s performance of a song “Hula Hoop,” where Coolidge, Gilda Radner, and Laraine Newman all “hula hoop.” Radner and Coolidge can’t seem to get the hang of it, with Radner especially having a hard time getting the hip movement down. Newman, on the other hand, is a pro.