"King Tut" paid homage to Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun and presents a caricature of the sensational Treasures of Tutankhamun traveling exhibit that toured seven United States cities from 1976 to 1979. The exhibit attracted approximately eight million visitors. In the Saturday Night Live performance of "King Tut," loyal subjects appease a joyful King Tut with kitchen appliances. An instrumental solo is delivered by saxophone player Lou Marini, who steps out of a sarcophagus—painted gold—to great laughter.
In the book Saturday Night: A Backstage History ofSaturday Night Live, authors Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad write that the sketch was one of the most expensive productions the show had attempted up to that point. Martin had brought the song to the show and asked if he could perform it, not expecting the production that occurred—producer Lorne Michaels put everything behind it.
The song is the subject of in-depth analysis in Melani McAlister's Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East, 1945–2000.
It is also referenced in a dialogue in the video game The Lost Vikings (1992) at the end of one of the Egyptian themed levels of the game.
Chicago radio superstation WLS-AM, which gave the song much airplay, ranked "King Tut" as the 11th biggest hit of 1978. It spent four weeks at the number-one position on their chart during the time the Tut exhibition was on display at the Field Museum of Natural History in downtown Chicago.