I first saw the Coneheads in Philadelphia, I believe in 1976. I was a guest at an SF convention there, and many of us were gathered in the con suite to watch this fairly new show, “Saturday Night Live.” On the TV Dan Aykroyd comes through a door wearing a very tall stocking cap. He takes it off … and his head is 18 inches tall! People began to laugh, and kept laughing more and more as the schtick became clear. Aliens living among us! At a science fiction convention! A guy (Bill Murray?) delivers pizza to “Uh … Mr. Con-Ed?” He doesn’t notice the cones. Then bang, bang, bang, one hilarious joke after another. “We’re from France!” “Consume mass quantities.” I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard.
Everybody said this movie was a dud, and though I was still interested, I never got around to seeing it. Making a movie out of an SNL skit is usually a bad idea … though there was Wayne’s World, and The Blues Brothers. (Then there was It’s Pat, which, okay, I haven’t seen, but that was a funny-once skit and was already tiresome on SNL, which was never the case with the Coneheads.)
To my considerable surprise, I liked this movie. Not all of it worked, and they probably could have dispensed with the whole business of returning to the home planet of Remulak, but I kept finding myself smiling. I don’t recall any huge belly laughs, but the situation is just so goddam funny. There are two things that make the Coneheads work. One is their appearance in itself. You just gotta laugh. But the key to what makes it so brilliant is … no one notices! It’s a joke that just doesn’t seem to get stale. Here are people going about their business with these outlandish aliens in their midst, talking pseudo-scientific gibberish—which everyone understands!—and doing impossible things, to which the most amazed reaction is just a subdued whoa!
I think at least half of the people who were ever regulars on SNL are in this movie in small parts. (Laraine Newman is there, somewhere on Remulak, but I couldn’t spot her under the make-up.) The daughter, Connie Conehead, is played by a newcomer, Michelle Burke, who was 23 but can play 18. Connie has a bigger role here than she did on TV. She falls in love with Chris Farley and they engage in a little inter-species sex. I must say, her cone looks very sexy. I’d play Remulak Ring-toss with her, but, being cone-less, we’d have to come up with something else to … hey, I’ve got it! …
All in all, not a comedy classic, but I had a good time.