After hearing a great and even poignant interview with Martin Short from 2014 on The Howard Stern Show this morning, I found myself poking around the YouTubes tonight at old SCTV sketches. And man, I'm glad I did because they are indeed exceptionally funny and hold up remarkably well.
Many years before the Internet was around and that Internet was filled with videos of cats getting up to all kinds of antics, we get a Monster Chiller Horror Theatre sketch, featuring clips from a deliriously bizarro made up movie called The House of Cats (or, alternatively, Dr. Tongue's House of Cats as Monster Chiller Horror Theatre host Joe Flaherty calls it at on point), that's a great starting point if you're an SCTV novice.
Flaherty's goofy Vincent Price-like/ fake Dracula-ish host soon leads to the main attraction. Catherine O'Hara plays a naive young woman who for some unknown reason is in Dr. Tongue's (played by a John Candy who's so good and funny that it pains you that he's not around these days) house, which is replete with pictures and statues of cats.
"Would you like to see my Dinkie?" Dr. Tongue asks. And of course, he means his cat, Dinkie. After Dr. Tongue transforms his young guest into a cat (by serving her some kind of hot rum and soda concoction that she willingly accepts), it's time for the drama to escalate.
"I'm holding a big party tonight, and I've invited all the noblemen," Dr. Tongue tells us. If you're anything like me, I'm already grinning at the sheer stupidity of all this. What makes it funny is the delightfully twisted way that Candy plays the role, but underlying is a great warmth that let's you easily laugh with the vibe of the bit.
Dr. Tongue's weirdo evil henchman is played by Eugene Levy, and both Levy and Candy delight in doing the classic bit of gliding back and forth toward the camera, playing off the fact that this is a Monster Chiller Horror Theatre 3D production (so don't forget to order your 3D glasses now!).
Eventually, the cats turn tables (tails?) on Bruno and Dr. Tongue, culminating in a real live cat vanquishing Dr. Tongue by "viciously" fake-clawing at his neck.
Looking back now, you can see how influential SCTV was on so much of the great comedy that came after it. During that final House of Cats scene, for example, I was reminded of the series of Saturday Night Live Laser Cats sketches, which never fail to crack me up.