Larry the Lobster was a somewhat controversial Saturday Night Live
skit written/performed by Eddie Murphy
. It was broadcast April 10, 1982. On Weekend Update
, Murphy displayed a large, succulent, and very alive lobster
. He gave viewers a choice. Did they want Larry to remain alive or did they want Murphy to boil and eat him right there on SNL. Live. SCTV
veteran Tony Rosato
, who was now working on SNL, resurrected his SCTV Chef Marcello
character as the Italian accented chef ready to execute the lobster if viewers decided such.
Naturally, Murphy wanted to sup on the tasty fellow, and the skit was predicated around him trying to rig the vote in favor of his appetite. He provided the TV audience with two very real 1-900
numbers. One number was an Imperial thumbs up
. One number was an Imperial thumbs down
. Which ever number got the most votes would decided Larry's fate. Oh yeah, a vote would cost the dialer 50 cents.
"The phone company is going to charge you fifty cents, but isn't it worth fifty cents to save Larry's life? Or look at it this way: Isn't it worth half a buck to see us boil Larry on TV?"
When reading the numbers, Murphy read the Save Larry number very quickly, giving viewers little time to write it down. For the Boil Larry number, Murphy read it very slowly with much smacking of lips in anticipation of a fine lobster tail
dipped in herbed and clarified butter
. Oh yeah.
Amazingly, almost half a million viewers called. The tally was 239,096 for life and 227,452 for death. Larry was saved. Almost.
Murphy got a lot of hate mail
. So much so, that on the next Saturday Weekend Update he showed up with a red, boiled, and quite dead but well prepared Larry, saying the hate mail writers sealed Larry's fate in the long run.
Oddly, Murphy claimed if Larry was saved he was going to be "set free" and tossed into the New York harbor
, where it's questionable how long he'd live.
The phone poll was later used for other comedic and controversial effects. On the pure comedy side, Weekend Update in January 1984 had a phone in poll to pick the Democratic candidate (i.e., Mondale, Hart, Jackson, Cranston, Askew, Hollings). Jesse Jackson
was the front runner until Father Guido Sarducci
jumped in and suggested ZZ Top
was just as qualified as Mondale or Jackson to run America so why not add them to the voting? ZZ Top eventually won, with roughly 200,000 phone in votes to Jackson's 90,000 votes.
Somewhat more controversial, Weekend Update asked SNL viewers on November 20, 1982 to vote on Andy Kaufman
's fate, whether or not he should be banned for life from SNL. Viewers voted 195,544 to 169,186 to ban Kaufman.
Years later The Simpsons
made a passing reference to the Larry skit with a character called "Mr. Pinchy