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The Coneheads is a recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live (SNL) about a family of aliens with bald conical heads. It 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. It was later made into a film.
The Coneheads are an alien family, natives of the planet Remulak, who find themselves stranded on Earth. The Coneheads' most distinguishing feature is that, as their name implies, the tops of their heads are shaped like large cones. It is unclear if "Conehead" is the name of their race or just their surname, but in their interactions with humans, it is used in the latter sense.
When questioned by Earth neighbors as to their strange behavior, they invariably reply that they are from France, Remulak being the purported name of their home village. With the exception of Agent Seedling and his assistant in the 1993 feature-length version, they are never suspected of being extraterrestrial aliens by anyone who encounters them, even when accidentally referring to their neighbors as "Earthlings". Much of the humor is derived from this.
Coneheads have 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 film 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, "Meps!"
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 fable The Point!. Dan Aykroyd also mentioned in an interview that he drew inspiration from the film 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.
The concept was turned into a Rankin/Bass animated special, The Coneheads, in 1983, and a live-action film, 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.
- 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 USA, they gained world fame for beating the USSR and winning the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
As of late May 2015, State Farm Insurance created a Coneheads version of its commercial "State of Unrest," in which Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin reprise their Coneheads roles and put a Coneheads spin on the original commercial that features a husband calling the State Farm 24-hour policy line, while his wife is sure he's talking to his mistress despite his protests that he is talking to State Farm. A second Conehead State Farm commercial is set on their spaceship. When the microwave breaks, the Coneheads (Aykroyd, Curtin and Newman) invoke their State Farm representative by singing the company's jingle. The agent assures them they saved money on their policy, but then notices they are in space and not in France, where the Coneheads are supposedly from, so the Coneheads sing the jingle again, but add "in France!" and they all end up sitting at a table outside a French bistro, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
- 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.
- "State Farm Commercial 2015 Coneheads Jake From Planet State Farm". Retrieved 13 June 2015.
- Sternberg, Brian. "The Coneheads Are Latest ‘SNL’ Characters to Turn Up in Commercials" Variety (May 11, 2015)