“Hank’s Wedding” (season 2, episode 15, originally aired 9/8/93)
“You can’t hurt me. I’m invincible. I’ve got the shield of love around me.”
So goes the dopey, besotted battle cry of Hank Kingsley, Man In Love. Even if The Larry Sanders Show had a more serialized format, Hank’s relationship status would’ve come as a surprise to his colleagues. They didn’t even know he was seeing anyone.
But they learn it at the start of “Hank’s Wedding,” when the sidekick makes an unannounced proposal, on air, to Margaret, his lady friend of two weeks—who, he’ll have you know, happens to be regional sales manager for Sandwich King! Everyone’s stunned, and Artie’s stunned/irate. “What the fuck do you think that is?! What is this, Love Connection?!” (Oh Love Connection: Compared to today’s dating shows, you look like Edward R. Murrow’s See It Now.) Hank’s kept his newfound love under wraps, because he thinks he’ll be mocked. Maybe—a two-week relationship probably wouldn’t inspire as much mockery (to his face, at least) as a proposal following a two-week relationship, but it doesn’t matter at this point.
When Margaret makes her camera-toting debut at the office—cheerfully announced by an excited Darlene—no one is surprised to see she’s half Hank’s age. And that’s precisely the problem, according to Larry: Hank hardly knows this woman who could practically be his daughter. That Larry’s so concerned speaks to the real affection he has for the buffoon by his side. As he tells Hank, “You’re a very talented [Pause.] successful showbiz personality. Any woman would want to marry that.” (“Me,” Hank replies, making a distinction that Larry purposefully skipped.)
Artie’s less unnerved, noting neither he (four marriages) nor Larry (two failed marriages) is in the position to give relationship advice. Even Francine, whom Larry can normally count on to share his cynicism, dismisses his concerns. “Not everyone wants something from you,” she says, revealingly. For her, it’s not about Hank: It’s about how Larry sees women, Francine included. He thinks they all want something from him, so he “hates all women.”
This being showbiz, a sudden engagement warrants a stunt wedding: When Hank comes to ask Artie and Larry about doing the wedding on the show, Artie knows the request before he even asks. “You should know by now I can see into your soul,” Artie says. Ostensibly, it’s a way for Hank to unite his two great loves, the show and Margaret. Already skeptical of the engagement, Larry immediately says no to the idea, but Artie’s business acumen overrides him: “May I remind you of my old friend, Tiny. Tim.”
Oh, Tiny Tim. Does anyone under the age of 35 or, more generously, 30 have any idea who he was? I’m pushing 36 and couldn’t tell you much about the guy. But he had a novelty hit back in the ’60s, and his wedding to 17-year-old Vicki Budinger on The Tonight Show in December of 1969 drew in 21.4 million households, the show’s largest audience, according to The New York Times.
The wedding segment is as tedious as any non-televised one, but if you sit through the clip, you’ll hear one of the strangest wedding vows ever: Among a string of promises to be kind, patient, etc., is a vow to be “not puffed up.” Huh?
Larry worships at the altar of Johnny Carson, but he dismisses the Tiny Tim wedding as a freak show. Yes, though Artie has a card that cannot be trumped: ratings—maybe they could do it right away in time for February sweeps! Hank blathers about keeping it classy, yada yada, until Artie reminds him of another highly rated, remembered-only-by-old-people televised wedding: Luke and Laura from General Hospital. “Say no more!” says Hank. Even blinkered by his newfound love, Hank Kingsley remains Hank Kingsley, Shameless Self-Promoter.
But Larry can’t silence his increasing concern, even after another person, the always wise Beverly, warns him against it. “Would you have liked to have heard how much we all disliked Jeannie?” she asks. That dampens Larry’s zeal to confront Hank, but only until it comes out at the most awkward time: Hank’s bachelor party. “If you’re going through a midlife crisis, get a Porsche like everyone else!” To which Hank replies, “Let me give you a prenuptial announcement: Go fuck yourself.”
Let us all, for a moment, admire the greatness of Ed McMahon showing up at a strip club for Hank’s bachelor party. Carson would’ve never done that for Larry, but there’s Hank’s hero, hey-o-ing it up and offering vague platitudes for advice. (Larry: “What’s Ed saying?” Hank: “I have no idea.”)
Although he doesn’t approve, and he and Hank are on the outs, Larry still stands up in the ceremony (not for lack of Hank trying to replace him), and in another rare moment of genuine sweetness on The Larry Sanders Show, reads Hank’s vows when the sidekick’s too choked up to do it himself. “Margaret, I thought I knew sunshine, but I knew only shade. I thought I knew singing, but I knew only the tune. And I thought I knew love, but I only knew like.” To quote Reverend Lovejoy reading Homer’s vows, “It just goes on like this.” Larry’s frequent glances off stage right—one of his signature comic moves—relieves some of the awkwardness and allows the crowd to giggle. But the look on Hank’s face says he neither hears them nor cares.
We spoke last week about a particularly weak example of The Larry Sanders Show’s habit ending episodes with obvious jokes, but I think “Hank’s Wedding” does it right. Artie has to walk Margaret down the aisle because her dad hasn’t yet arrived, so when the big reveal comes in the episode’s closing moments—he looks just like Hank and shares his goober “What can I do ya for?” sense of humor—it’s not unexpected per se.
But it is funny, because it’s quick, Larry sets it up nicely with “It’s so clear that she’s marrying you because of the man you are,” and it’s enhanced by Artie’s disgusted “Jesus Christ.” “Hank’s Wedding” ends with a little obviously, but when it’s done well, it doesn’t matter.
- Man, that Adam Sandler song at the beginning lasted an eternity. But somewhere, someone thought, “This kid is gonna be huge!” And that person was correct.
- Sandler’s pal Judd Apatow wrote this episode, along with Molly Newman and Maya Forbes. Forbes also co-wrote Monsters Vs. Aliens and the Rainn Wilson vehicle The Rocker with partner Wally Wolodarsky. He’s pals with Wes Anderson (he voiced the possum in Fantastic Mr. Fox appeared in other Anderson films) and wrote a slew of great Simpsons episodes like “Last Exit To Springfield,” “Bart’s Friend Falls In Love,” “Like Father, Like Clown.” Forbes and Wolodarsky are currently working on the second Diary Of A Wimpy Kid sequel.
- The look of horror on Francine’s face when Larry passively mentions their remarrying doesn’t bode well for that relationship.
- Larry to officiant Alex Trebek: “Tell Vanna I said hi.”
- Again, I keep meaning to combine these write-ups, but I think we need to give the next episode, “Off Camera,” some space. It is, after all, the EPISODE OF DEATH. Three guest stars, three dead people! Gene Siskel, John Ritter, Warren Zevon. Oh wait, no, four guest stars, including Elizabeth Ashley, who is still alive and starring on Treme.