Night Gallery | Season One | Episode 4 | January 6, 1971
Segment One | Make Me Laugh
After sixteen years on the club circuit, down-at-heel comic Jackie Slater (Godfrey Cambridge) seems to have finally bombed out. He meets Chatterje (Jackie Vernon), a self-proclaimed “klutz” of a guru [or as Chatterje pronounces it, “guh-ROO”], in a bar after a failed show, and receives an unusual offer. Chatterje has the power to create a miracle, and only needs a willing subject. Unfazed by the guru’s many disclaimers regarding his own inadequacies, and by the potential for unforeseen consequences created by this miraculous act, Slater desperately wishes for the power to make people laugh.
A fairly straightforward “be careful about what you wish for” cautionary tale, Make Me Laugh features an appropriately pathos-rich performance by Cambridge. The backstory of his bullied childhood, and the emptiness ultimately found in realizing his wish, reveals the melancholy counterpart to his comedy, but the tonal effort is undercut by the fatuous treatment of the guru. Wrapped in a turban resembling a curiously knotted pillowcase, Vernon’s miracle worker plays more like a bumbling sidekick of dubious ethnicity.
Playing the material mostly by the numbers, this segment takes the familiar path to an expected final reversal. Aside from a few nicely composed shots, this early directorial effort by Steven Spielberg shows little prescience of his trademark visual style.
Segment Two | Clean Kills and Other Trophies
Big-game hunter Colonel Archie Dittman (Raymond Massey) tries to impart his ”whole world is a bloody hunting jungle” philosophy upon his pacifist son, Archie (Barrie Brown), by adding an unusual codicil to his trust fund. Unless Archie stalks and kills an animal, his potential two million dollar inheritance will be revoked. Unable to stand up to his sadistic father, who dismisses him as a coddled milksop, Archie agrees to the hunt.
When will Archie put down his whiskey glass and push back against his loutish, blowhard father? Never, because the Colonel’s comeuppance actually arrives by way of his servant Tom (Herbert Jefferson, Jr.), whose African heritage provides a convenient resource for a mystical revenge, the nature of which belies Tom’s own belief system.
The musings on the inherent violence in the world are just a set up for the anticipated final reveal, the most dangerous trophy of all.