The Coneheads is a sketch on Saturday Night Live (SNL) which originated on the January 15, 1977, episode, and starred Dan Aykroyd as father Beldar, Jane Curtin as mother Prymaat, and Laraine Newman as daughter Connie.
The Coneheads are an alien family, natives of the planet Remulak, who find themselves stranded on Earth. The Coneheads' most distinguishing feature is that the tops of their heads are shaped like large cones.
When questioned by Earth neighbors as to their strange behavior, they invariably reply that they are from France. With the exception of Agent Seedling and his assistant, they are never suspected of being extraterrestrial aliens by anyone who encounters them, even when accidentally referring to their neighbors as "Earthlings". A lot of the humor is derived from this. Even their unearthly appearance is never strongly questioned, except once during the January 21, 1978, episode by Steve Martin in the family feud skit. The shape of their head is also questioned in the film by Tom Arnold in a brief cameo.
Agent Seedling notices the cones and gives a description to the sketch artist as "higher, like a point". Sinbad's character also makes reference to Beldar's cone by suggesting he get a hat, among other things to help him assimilate.
Coneheads have a much larger appetites than an average human. They eat large amounts of food during meals, announcing "Consume mass quantities!" They drink entire six packs of beer at once, and smoke whole packs of cigarettes at a time. They also consume foods that are inedible to humans, including cleaning fluid, pencil shavings and insulation. On Halloween in 1977 (specifically, the October 29, 1977, SNL episode), a neighbor complains about the Coneheads' choice of trick-or-treat handouts: six-packs and fried eggs.
The Coneheads have a very fast, nasal, monotone speech and humorously strange language patterns, using needlessly technical dialogue. They refer to food as "consumables", and say "I summon you" to ask to speak to another person. The phrase, "Maintain low tones," is used towards Connie by Beldar in the movie and in the original 1977 sketch. The somewhat popular term parental unit also comes from the sketches. When highly upset, some Coneheads emit the term, "Mibs!"
Coneheads rub their cones together as a sign of affection ("honing their cones") at which point a bizarre, theremin-like noise is emitted, presumably from the cones themselves. They also play a game involving tossing "senso-rings" over each other's cones, which is somehow sexual in nature, and is considered taboo for the underaged Connie to play.
Dan Aykroyd said he developed the idea for the Coneheads based on the Moai, the mysterious and ancient stone statues of Easter Island, which have similarly conical heads, and the people of the land of Points from Harry Nilsson's The Point!. Dan Aykroyd also mentioned in an interview that he drew inspiration from the movie "This Island Earth" where the very tall foreheads of the aliens go largely unnoticed by humans.
The conehead costume is highly reminiscent of the "clown blanc" costume used in French circuses for more than a century.
Frank Zappa wrote a song based on the sketches, titled "Conehead". It appeared on his 1981 album You Are What You Is. When he hosted SNL, Zappa also appeared in a Coneheads sketch as a man dating Connie, where he makes note that he prefers French women.
In the video for Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", a conehead shows up in Cyndi's bedroom. Lorne Michaels was involved in the making of the video.
The concept was turned into a Rankin/Bass animated special, The Coneheads, in 1983, and a movie, Coneheads, in 1993, with Aykroyd and Curtin reprising their roles in both. Michelle Burke took over the role of Connie in the film, with Newman appearing as Connie's aunt on Remulak. Marvel Comics produced a comic book limited series, with all original stories set after the events of the film. The feature film was licensed to Playmates Toys and a line of action figures were created, designed by the development team from Pangea Corporation.
In the television special E.T. and Friends, Beldar and Connie made a cameo appearance with host Robin Williams.
- January 15, 1977: The Coneheads at Home
- February 26, 1977: The Coneheads at Home
- March 26, 1977: The Farbers Meet The Coneheads
- April 16, 1977: The Coneheads At Home
- May 21, 1977: Return Of The Coneheads
- October 29, 1977: Return Of The Coneheads
- January 21, 1978: Family Feud
- March 18, 1978: The Coneheads On Earth
- May 13, 1978: Cone Encounters Of The Third Kind
- October 21, 1978: The Coneheads At Home
- February 24, 1979: The Coneheads At The Movies
In popular culture
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the USA Hockey Team featured a line nicknamed after the sketch. The so-called Coneheads Line was formed by John Harrington, Mark Pavelich and Buzz Schneider. This nickname was coined by assistant coach Craig Patrick, in reference to their chemistry on ice, and favoured by the Coach Brooks. Together with Team Russia, they gained world fame for beating the USSR and winning the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
- Zappa, Frank (September 23, 1981). ""Conehead". You Are What You Is". Barking Pumpkin Records. Retrieved 2007-05-12.
- Coneheads at the Internet Movie Database
- SNL Archives
- "The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team". Random House. Retrieved 2013-08-15.