Saturday Night Live: Joe Montana (1987)

January 24, 1987.

The 9th episode of SNL's 12th season opened up with a skit that has been in my head ever since I saw it: We Are The Kickers.

Co-host Walter Payton introduces the song as part of "NFL Video Countdown."


I can't find a link to the original sketch for you, but here's a link to a couple of wiseacres lip-synching along to the original audio in case anyone wants to see that. Anyway, chances are if we've ever watched football together, you've heard me sing this a few dozen times in a bad-Dracula accent. Or whenever any team is playing in Green Bay. ("No Green Bay!")

Both the 49ers and the Bears had been eliminated from the playoffs, so neither Joe Montana nor Walter Payton had anything better to do this weekend in '87. 

Payton appears in a few more skits than Montana does, but Joe gets the monologue.

Montana references his recent concussion and says he's fine. Then launches into the same monologue two more times. i.e. maybe he's not so fine. (Not the most original joke in the drawer, but hey.) This was before the days where the NFL's concussion policy wasn't quite the (stifled) conversation it is today. Later, Montana recalls this joke in another sketch, a NFL Today spoof with Brent Musberger (played by Kevin Nealon), Jimmy the Greek (played by Phil Hartman), and Dana Carvey as Neil Young.

From there we go to the episode's fake commercial: Adobe, the $179 car made out of clay.

This era of SNL's most popular skit comes next in the program:

"Tomorrow is the Super Bowl.
Harmless recreational event or vicious Satanic death ritual

It's an okay one. Jan Hooks plays Shirley Maclaine, who had recently published Out on a Limb and another book about reincarnation and other New Age topics, which made her a popular late-night-monologue target at the time. Perhaps unfairly. She's not the first or last Hollywood type with unconventional ideas that piggyback on her celebrity as an actor. As Coach Pantuso would say, "(shrugs) Showfolk."

The rest of the skit is mainly your basic football homoerotic innuendo jokes.

Next up is Sincere Guy Stu, an inner/outer voice skit, where Phil and Jan (Dan and Lesley) play a couple dancing around their desire to sleep with one another. A lot of "Sure you can stay over; it's cold out there" followed by "God I want to jump her bones" voiceover sort of stuff. Then Dan's roommate Stu (Montana) comes home, and his inner/ outer monologue is aligned. For example, in reply to their concern they'll be disturbing him, he says "Oh you won't disturb me; I'll be in my room masturbating." And then the inner-voiceover narration repeats the same.

Proving again the comedian's axiom: always end on masturbation.

The next skit is a great little spoof on movie/ cop show cliches. Phil Hartman plays an unhinged hood who is holding Kevin Nealon hostage. Phil keeps saying things like "You better wise up, buddy! Or I'll be tying you up with your guts." While Kevin keeps saying he's going to do whatever Phil wants, then reaching for the gun or trying to escape before rolling over and throwing his hands up."Whoah whoah whoah hey okay, you win! That was a stupid move on my part...

Repetitive, but the kind of repetition that lands with me.

This episode's Weekend Update references Blue Velvet at the beginning and a few other times. I watched this episode live - well, taped live, watched Sunday morning, and I do believe this was the first I ever heard of it. If only I knew then how much time I'd be spending in Uncle David's Black Lodge of Discomfort and Wonder in the years to come! ("For God's sake, Jeffries, where the hell have you been?!")

Jokes include: 

"We're breeding a generation of contemptuous young brats." - the White House Anti-Drug Program. Oh wait - that's an actual quote, my bad. (Can't say the White House was wrong on this one, though all that means is I'm now on the other side of 40.)

"Ted Turner Network to produce a black-and-white version of the Walt Disney classic Fantasia." Nice.

Some of the jokes don't land, such as Victoria Jackson's "Does my baby predict the future" skit, and the odd "Now get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich" quip about Corazon Aquino:

Was that a reference to something contemporaraneous? I can't remember. It's really kind of out of left field, and retrograde even for 1986, I think, though perhaps hindsight is blurring that for me who knows.

On a less retrograde level, at one point Miller looks into the camera and says "You know, I met Rob Lowe at a Lakers game, and he was really cool." That's right, kids - 30 years ago, the idea of casually dropping this sort of celebrity banality on a newscast was mockworthy enough simply to state and get a laugh. Picture delivering that line now - the reaction would be "Yeah? So?" Not that a contemporary audience is incapable of getting the joke, only that the context ("blurring the line between celebrities and news is obviously bimbo terrain injurious to our national discourse") was mainstreamed long ago. Then again, so has the line between stuff like "Weekend Update" and actual newscasts. 

Speaking of, A. Whitney Brown lays lays more groundwork for his future career as a Daily Kos staff writer or contributing editor or whatever he does over there when discussing double standards in police and race relations. 

"That's not racism; that's capitalism."

The big news is the Super Bowl, of course. Miller picked the Giants.

The Giants beat the Broncos 39-20 in Super Bowl XXI.

The best skit of the episode is probably the film noir send-up:

Starring Phil Hartman in the title role,
Nora Dunn as the Velda type, (looking a helluva lot like my maternal grandmother in this picture to boot - extra points for costume/era accuracy!)
and Jon Lovitz as the gangster ("I gotta go - I GOTTA GO!")
"Baby, you couldn't sing if you had Billie Holiday stuck in your throat."

Phil and Jon rattle off the film-noir narration perfectly. This was the second skit to feature an allusion to some kind of fish-sex fetish. This put me in mind of the classic Simpsons episode "A Fish Called Selma." ("Follow Me to the Springfield Aquarium!") Is there a writer's-room connection between one and the other?

It could be George Meyer that overlaps; his influence is felt even on Simpsons episodes that don't bear his credit,

The remaining skits include Great Moments in Super Bowl Gambling ("the Cowboys beat the spread!" Spreads made no sense to me until my twenties, so this went way over my head at the time), Jon Lovitz doing his yeah-that's-the-ticket character (Tommy Flanagan), and Michael Jackson's outer space workout camp.

Musicwise, Buster Poindexter does his featured performer schtick at ten-to-one with "Do I Feel High", and the episode's premier music guest is Debbie Harrt, who sings her perhaps-forgotten-classic "French Kissing in the USA" and the less-classic "In Love with Love."

What can you say? Debbie Harry, everyone. A classic.

And that's how it was... thirty years ago, tonight... live.



  1. (1) I've never seen this episode, but there have been some pretty good ones hosted by athletes over the years. Michael Jordan starring in a Summer's Eve commercial is still one of that show's all-time highlights.

    (2) Never was too big a fan of Church Chat, to be honest. It's a funny idea, but if the idea is a car (NOT an Adobe), then it rarely had much gas in the tank from where I was sitting.

    (3) Here's a sentence I never expected to type: there's something kind of charming about the idea of Joe Montana masturbating. Because honestly, how far could Joe Montana have been from top-notch pussy at literally any moment during 1987? But every now and then he figures, nah, I'll just rub one out and call it a night.

    (4) I hear you on the subject of the repetitious nature of skits like the Hartman/Nealon one. I'm sure that isn't a trait exclusive to SNL, but it is something that I'd say is one of their hallmarks. Not so much within a single skit, I guess (although maybe that, too) but more in the sense of bringing back recurring characters who essentially do the same joke and nothing else. My favorite example of that is when Kristen Wiig played Dooneese, the member of the singing-sister troupe who had a huge head and tiny arms. Just the same freakin' joke over and over, but it never failed to land with me. I had to Google it to get her name, and I started laughing just seeing a photo of her. So that led to this: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/the-lawrence-welk-show/n12318?snl=1

    (5) I really do need to get caught up on "Twin Peaks." And probably on Lynch's career in general. I have seen "Blue Velvet," though. Heineken?!?

    (6) We're at the point now where I'd turn to Weekend Update for my news WAY before I'd turn to certain alleged news outlets. Maybe most alleged news outlets.

    (7) I've seen that Chick Hazard skit (or one like it), probably in a Best Of Hartman compilation. Good stuff. Ah, Phil Hartman...

    (8) I'm not sure I'd ever heard "French Kissing in the USA." I dug the video, though.

    1. (1) They get good mileage out of sports hosts, for sure. I remember the Gretzky episode was great. I still sing out "Mona luckahiki means hockey / Mona luckawiki means love" on occasion.

      (2) I thought it was just me! I hear you. Even at the time I remember being like what the hell is everyone so excited about?

      (3) and (4) Absolutely.

      (5) I know you're not the biggest Lynch fan, but if you've never seen it, check out The Straight Story. It's totally different from his more well known stuff and is completely straightforward, but he's so good at provoking real emotion from viewers. Even his murky stuff works on that level; it's a real skill.

      (6) Weekend Update has been more or less a blunt instrument for too many years, but I love its earlier incarnations.

      (7) I gotta go - I GOTTA GO!

      (8) I'd forgotten all about that song, but I do remember it from MTV and American Top 40. Now it strikes me a perfectly nice little piece of 80s pop.

  2. Jon Vitti wrote for The Simpsons too. The hunt for the Fish Sex fiend is on!

    1. I really want to know if it was some running gag for years in the writers rooms. I can see that pretty easily. Then all of them saw "A Fish Called Selma" later and were like "Oh man! That escalated."