There are few things that are less funny than Saturday Night Live in the 80s. When you watch most skits from this era, you have to wonder how the show stayed on the air. The answer?
Pretty much any skit they’ll show from this era is an Eddie Murphy skit. It certainly is never a Robert Downey Jr/Anthony Michael Hall bit shown during the anniversary shows.
Shortly after Eddie Murphy left the show and dedicated himself full time to his incredibly successful film career, Damon Wayans was hired and being told he would be the next Eddie Murphy. Instead, he played the straight man in skits where perhaps one of the least funny comedians to ever have a career in comedy, Jon Lovitz got all the funny lines…..or the lines meant to be humorous.
…seriously how has Jon Lovitz made a living in comedy? The man has no business performing anywhere outside of a comedy club in Wisconsin.
So after getting most script ideas rejected and endless straight man roles, Damon Wayans did a very punk rock, “fuck you” thing. Instead of playing the straight cop role he was instructed to do, on live television he played a rather effeminate cop. At the beginning of the skit he’s talking in a feminine voice and shoving his crotch in the suspect’s face in the interrogation room.
The skit, Mr. Monopoly is perhaps the most cringeworthy SNL skit I’ve seen it, and none of this is due to Damon Wayans. There is a man being interrogated by two cops and his lawyer, Mr. Monopoly gets his client free with a Get Out Of Jail Free card…….
Yep you’re reading that correctly, the counter-culture show that premiered in 1975 found themselves a decade later making bland jokes about a board game first released in 1903.
Multiple jokes are made referencing the board game. At one point, Mr. Monopoly says something to a cop about how he better pay a luxury tax for the watch he’s wearing. The crowd is laughing hard which makes me wonder if Lorne Michaels found some high quality canned laugher or paid a group of professional laughers to keep the show looking good during a tragic time.
Though Damon is the least noticeable problem in the skit, he was fired for not playing the straight man role. Personally I view this as a jailbreak escape from the soul sucking experience that was Saturday Night Live in the 80s.
After his experience on SNL, Damon Wayans would successfully return to televised sketch comedy with In Living Color featuring memorable characters like Homie The Clown, Blaine Edwards and my personal favorite Handi-Man.
He also went on to star in successful films like The Last Boy Scout and Major Payne as well as cult classics like Blankman and Bamboozled.
The one thing to take from this moment is that Damon Wayans did something rebellious on a show that had a rebellious attitude when it began, but during his time on the show it was about as rebellious as The Ed Sullivan Show. Damon Wayans got fired for doing something that was true to the show’s original spirit.