Five Good Sketches from the Worst Season of ‘SNL’
When we ranked every single Saturday Night Live season back in January there was a pretty easy choice for the worst year of all time — the infamous Season Six, the year after Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Lorne Michaels and the rest of the original crew left the show. New producer Jean Doumanian assembled a weird cast that never found its footing, although it included future stars like Gilbert Gottfried and, in a limited role, Eddie Murphy.
But even a river full of rocks can yield a few golden nuggets if you know where to look. Here are five good sketches from SNL’s worst season ever…
Black People Fighting
Murphy used a pay phone to hound SNL producers for an audition, and when he finally got his chance, he wowed with an impression of three guys scrapping in Harlem. It not only got him a job, but it was good enough to land Murphy a solo slot in Season Six. Doumanian famously kept Murphy as a limited-use feature player for the early part of the year — consider this Murphy’s audition for more screen time. He earns it.
Not the world’s funniest sketch, although Gottfried gets huge laughs with a few of his punchlines. But it’s worth a watch to hear “Gilly” (as he was often referred to this season) speak in a boring, normal voice. We’d rarely hear him speak in anything other than a screech going forward. SNL turned out to be a less-than-ideal vehicle for Gottfried’s talents, but he knew it was going to be tough sledding for anyone cast in Season Six: “It would be like saying, in the middle of Beatle-mania, that, ‘Oh, we’re getting four other guys to be The Beatles.’”
Bill Murray Monologue
Okay, we’re cheating as this doesn’t exactly qualify as a sketch. But it did serve to remind viewers what Saturday Night Live could be with a quality comic steering the ship. As it turns out, charisma helps! It’s also a dream team-up of comedy superheroes Eddie Murphy and Bill Murray, who have never done a film together. (Although Ivan Reitman wanted to cast the two as Batman and Robin in a never-produced superhero spoof.)
Saturday Night Sports Interviews Raheem Abdul Muhammed
Most of this season’s cast would only get one year before getting kicked to the comedy streets, but Joe Piscopo found a way to break through. The Murphy/Piscopo partnership would only get better from here — the Frank Sinatra/Steve Wonder version of “Ebony and Ivory” comes to mind. Either way, Piscopo's motor-mouthed characters scored, earning him a few more years of SNL.
Rocket Report: First Subway Ride
With Murphy’s screen time limited in the early part of Season Six, it was actually the magnetic Charles Rocket who was that year’s initial breakout star. In addition to doing a credible job of anchoring Weekend Update, Rocket got to show off his improvisational skills with his Rocket Reports. He would wander the gritty streets of New York (here with the game Charlene Tilton) and find surprisingly funny comedy in unexpected places.
Unfortunately, Rocket torpedoed his SNL career when he dropped an F-bomb later in this very episode.