SNL’s ‘Cheeseburger Cheeseburger’ Sketch

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John Belushi as Pete at The Olympia. “Cheeburger!”

It was Season Three of Saturday Night Live and the original cast – save for Chevy Chase who bolted for a movie career following the show’s first year – was still intact. The sketch comedy series was cooking as the writers and actors began hitting their stride, and it became a coveted water cooler show among its growing audience of young adults and college students recalling that weekend’s gut-busting (and envelope-pushing) favorite new characters.

On January 28, 1978, comedian Robert Klein was the show’s guest host for Episode 10. More on that below*. (The musical guest was Bonnie Raitt, then just 28-years-old.)

A sketch begins and the camera shows Dan Aykroyd as the cook making burgers at a neighborhood restaurant, The Olympia. A cigarette dangles from his lips. The camera pans, Garrett Morris walks in and sits at the counter. Jane Curtin looks up from her menu and orders a tuna salad sandwich and an order of french fries.

The counter man, Pete, is of course, John Belushi. “Nope… no tuna. Cheeburger?” When Curtin’s character looks back at the menu, “Pete” is annoyed. “C’mon, c’mon… we ain’t got all day,” he says brusquely.

He moves on to Morris’ character. “I think I’ll have grilled cheese and a Coke.” “Grilled cheese!” Belushi shouts to Aykroyd. “No grilled cheese,” is the immediate response.

“Cheeseburger and a Coke,” says Morris. “Ah… no Coke… ah Pepsi,” replies Belushi. (And that’s the first time the catch phrase is uttered.) “Okay, Pepsi and french fries.”

“No fries… chips.” “Okay, chips.”

Belushi barks out the order to Aykroyd: “One cheeburger, one Pepsi… chips.”

“Cheeseburger,” confirms Aykroyd. The grill is sizzling with burgers. “Pepsi. Chips,” repeats Pete’s third cousin, played by Bill Murray (who replaced Chase after SNL‘s first season).

Season 3’s Not Ready For Prime Time Players

Soon, Olympia waitress Laraine Newman arrives at the counter. “Cheeseburger. Cheeseburger. Cheeseburger. Four Pepsi. Two chips.” Aykroyd and Murray confirm the orders.

In walks a regular, played by Gilda Radner. “Hiya Pete! I’ll have the usual.”

“Cheeburger,” shouts Pete to Aykroyd.

Just after the two-minute mark, Pete fields a takeout order. “What to drink? Pepsi? No Coke. No orange. No grape. Pepsi.” He nods. “Four Pepsi.”

At 2:40 Belushi’s character steps away for a moment. Klein, at the counter, buttonholes Murray. “I’ll have a couple eggs.” Murray dutifully nods. “Sausage. Is that link sausage or patty? Link?” Murray continues nodding. “A large orange juice and coffee.” Murray’s character, it turns out, doesn’t speak English. You know what’s coming.

Watch the SNL classic “Cheeseburger Cheeseburger” sketch

Notice anything unusual about the sketch? Watch it again. All seven members of the Not Ready For Prime Time Players are in it.

One more fun fact: The word “cheeseburger” is said 80 times in the sketch. Who amongst us didn’t have a craving for a cheeseburger after watching that?

And yet another: Sept. 18 is National Cheeseburger Day.

* Amazingly, on this very same episode, Murray performed his lounge singer shtick in a sketch as Nick Winters, singing the “Star Wars Theme.”

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6 Comments so far

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  1. Billy K.
    #1 Billy K. 2 February, 2019, 07:22

    More deep folklore connected to this skit…

    The character that Belushi plays, is based on the real-life Bill Sianis, who founded the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago…..who indeed had similar mannerisms.

    And the same guy who also supposedly put the curse on the Chicago Cubs’ world championship. As the story has been said, Sianis tried to bring his goat to the Cubs game, but was not allowed in with it.

    And an odd personal angle to this. My grandfather was from a town not all that far away from where Sianis was from in Greece. Geographically, and culturally, it’s radically different than the Greece that you see on the postcards.

    Most tourists don’t go in that direction. It’s a mountainous area, and it does snow there during the winter. Mostly a farming and lumber area, too…..relatively speaking, it is a bit more “redneck” then the “cosmopolitan” people of Athens, or the “laid back” islanders.

    Some of Belushi’s family came from a few hundred miles west, in Albania….which also has some similar cultural attributes. Between eating at the original Billy Goat in Chicago, as well as his own family, he was able to pull this off, with flying colors!

    I don’t think any other comedian would have been able to do this.

    Reply this comment
    • Anatman
      Anatman 28 November, 2020, 20:39

      The Billy Goat was an institution. Haven’t been to Chicago in years but I hope it’s still there. Great cheeseburgers.

      Reply this comment
      • Stein
        Stein 31 January, 2022, 21:55

        Great skit. Funny how they don’t have cheese for grilled cheese, but they have plenty of cheese for cheeseburgers

        Reply this comment
  2. Mickeyd53
    #2 Mickeyd53 4 July, 2021, 09:22

    The one sketch I’ve remembered all this years because it was undoubtedly the best. Now my wife, kids and grandkids will finally know why I always order “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger!”……✌️

    Reply this comment
  3. BGum
    #3 BGum 21 September, 2021, 12:25

    Several years ago I read that the reason they would say “cheeseburger” so many times during the sketch was that the cast and crew would then have cheeseburgers after the show was done. An easy way to get fed, right?

    Reply this comment
  4. Enevan1968
    #4 Enevan1968 18 September, 2022, 16:17

    Nice to see this one. The cheeseburger sketch I remember seeing was with Ron wood and Charlie Watts…

    Reply this comment

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