Do you worry that you drink too much coffee or consume too much caffeine? Coffee actually has lots of health benefits, but like anything else, moderation is best. You wouldn’t want to end up in “coffee rehab” like the hero of “Java Junkie,” would you?
This great short comedy, a cautionary tale about a coffee-swilling “java junkie,” premiered on Saturday Night Live in December 1979 and became a cult classic. The film stars Peter Aykroyd as Joe, a regular guy who’s down on his luck and tries to drown his sorrows in coffee.
Joe’s girlfriend Betty has told him that she wants to call it quits, and he’s been fired from his job. When he comes into his favorite coffee shop in the morning, he’s lost his appetite. He just wants a cup of coffee—”pure, black coffee.”
The waitress, played by Teri Garr, is surprised that he’s passing up breakfast, but she serves him a cup of coffee. Then Joe orders another cup. And another. And another. His hands are shaking, and the other customers look at him in alarm.
Joe begs for more coffee, but the waitress finally tells him “there ain’t no more” and says he has to leave.
Out on the street, Joe wanders from coffee shop to coffee shop in a nightmarish search for more coffee. Sweating by now, he sees an attractive woman (Patti Oja) in an alleyway with a cup of coffee. She’s laughing crazily and urging him to have another cup, but she disappears before he can get to her. Joe becomes so desperate for more coffee that he drinks it right from the pot, as everything spins out of control.
The story has a happy ending, though. Joe is committed to a rehab center for caffeine addiction—”Maxwell House,” of course! He is cured, and he puts his life back together. When he visits his old coffee shop, he’s a changed man.
The “Java Junkie” short film first aired on Season 5, Episode 8 of Saturday Night Live, with Ted Knight as host. It was written and directed by Tom Schiller, whose “Schiller’s Reel” films were regularly featured on the show. Neal Marshad, a film producer and cinematographer at Saturday Night Live for more than 20 years, produced and photographed “Java Junkie.” The short has an atmospheric film noir look, with super black and white photography and terrific shot composition and editing.
Marshad had made the film available on YouTube, but as the comments below indicate, NBC Universal has blocked the film on copyright grounds. Let’s hope it will soon be available again. It’s great!
Jim Baker says
Regarding “Java Junkie”…One of my all time SNL Shorts favorites!..I noticed the video is blocked by (NBC Universal) from viewing on u-tube, and another site, based on copyright “grounds”…Get it?… Grounds!..LOL!, and tears at same time! It closely mimics “Lost Weekend”, and they did a great job!..Being a coffee hound from way back, it really has stuck with me all these years…Most friends my age can’t remember it..when I mention it they go Hmmmm??..Too bad I can’t point them to a link with it.
Brian Lokker says
Great comparison to “Lost Weekend.” It certainly is a shame that the video has been blocked (aside from the fact that it gives us the opportunity to make the copyright grounds pun). It had always been one of my favorites from SNL, and I was really happy to find it online.
The video is still blocked on YouTube, which makes sense because if giant media companies didn’t stop people from watching 40-year-old material, artists would have no incentive to create! Good catch, NBC!
Brian Lokker says
It makes even more sense (cue irony) because the person who had uploaded it was the producer and photographer, Neal Marshad. I had been hoping the NBC Universal would see the light on this, so I left the link in the article, but I’ve finally bowed to reality and removed the link.
I was excited to see the link to this wonderful short that I so clearly recall after all these years, only to be deeply disappointed in it’s being blocked. It stays with me after all these years and always seems to snag my sense of humor when the topic of love of caffeine is brought to mind… yet those I describe it to have no idea what I am talking about. I really hope they reconsider and allow viewing of this comic gem.