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!