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Toonces, the Driving Cat is a fictional sketch character from the NBC Television series Saturday Night Live. Toonces was created by SNL writer Jack Handey.
Toonces was the family pet of Lyle (Steve Martin in the first sketch, thereafter by Dana Carvey) and Brenda Clark (Victoria Jackson), an enthusiastic couple who would allow their cat to drive the family car. At first, they were delighted that their cat had such an ability, but were always horrified to discover (too late) that Toonces was actually not a skilled driver at all. Inevitably, Toonces would drive the car over a cliff whenever he got behind the wheel. This sequence was characterized by someone in the car yelling "Toonces, look out!" with the Toonces puppet appearing to scream also, followed by the car falling off a Cliff, and sometimes exploding (as shown in a series of Stock footage scenes—sometimes the same one used multiple times within a sketch).
Toonces was portrayed by a live cat (for the title sequence and certain close-up driving scenes) and a Puppet. The puppet was made up of three parts. The first part was a head and torso piece, which was a simplistic rendering of a grey and white striped Domestic shorthaired cat. The other two parts consisted of two separate paws, which were manipulated so as to simulate Toonces actually steering the car.
This sketch first appeared on the show that Steve Martin hosted when he broke Buck Henry's record for most hosting stints. It was one of Martin's latest contributions to the pantheon of popular Saturday Night Live characters he would influence.
In 1992, NBC aired a half-hour Toonces special.
- May 20, 1989 host: Steve Martin — "Toonces, The Cat Who Could Drive A Car." Lyle and Brenda discover that Toonces can drive, just not very well. "I saw him up there fooling around at the steering wheel. I guess I just assumed he could drive." Later, they worry about Toonces' upcoming driver's test. "That written part is pretty hard." Kevin Nealon is the driving instructor, and off they go, but predictably, they end up going over a cliff.
- December 2, 1989 host: John Goodman — "Toonces & Martians." Brenda and Lyle are out with Toonces when they are approached by Martians. Toonces escapes and drives into a nearby forest rangers building. He types out a message that his family is being held captive and persuades the rangers to get in the car with him. Over the cliff they go. After reaching the Martians, they all go for a ride in the Martians spaceship, with Toonces piloting. They crash into the Washington Monument.
- March 24, 1990 host: Debra Winger — "Urban Toonces." Toonces appears wearing a Cowboy hat at the bar of Sis (Winger) and Bud (Carvey) and orders a drink. When asked for ID, he produces a suspended Driver's license that indicates that he's only four years old. They reluctantly agree to serve him, figuring that Toonces would be 28 in human years, but only after checking to see that he has real money, fearing Toonces might attempt to pay with dead birds. Toonces later rides the bar's mechanical bull, garnering much acclaim. Bud and Sis ride home with Toonces, with Sis worried about letting Toonces drive after drinking. Bud is not worried at all, but as usual, they go over a cliff.
- February 10, 1990 host: Quincy Jones — Miss Daisy (Jan Hooks) complains to her Chauffeur (Jones) about his driving. He quits on the spot, jumping out of the moving car and causing it to crash. As Daisy recuperates, her son (Phil Hartman) tells her that he got a new chauffeur, one that "wouldn't talk back". It's Toonces, and the usual resolution follows.
- May 19, 1990 host: Candice Bergen — "Toonces vs. Spunky." Bergen and her cat, Spunky, are visiting the Clark household, watching home movies of Toonces crashing in various vacation spots (Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon), and even a clip of Toonces as a kitten, crashing a toy car over a small rock wall. Bergen informs everyone that Spunky has just finished Driver's education, and wants to give everyone a ride. Toonces takes Spunky's place by Chloroforming Spunky and impersonating him.
- November 17, 1990 host: Dennis Hopper — "Toonces' Dream." Toonces is dreaming that he's in charge of the Baby Chick Division. He nods when told he needs to transport some baby Chicks unsupervised, and is praised by his family. He also talks in both English and French. The dream ends with the car suspended in mid-air, having just driven over a cliff.
- November 16, 1991 host: Linda Hamilton — "The Tooncinator." Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her son John (Edward Furlong) are trying to escape from the Terminator (character) (Phil Hartman), but the Terminator has come to inform them about the Tooncinator. Sarah is astounded that they would send a robot cat from the future that could drive. ("But not very well," Terminator amends.) The Tooncinator arrives and is impervious to both car crashes and gun fire. Eventually Sarah stops the car, over the terrified Terminator's objections, because she thinks that Tooncinator just wants to be their kitty. They all then go over the cliff.
- April 11, 1992 host: Sharon Stone — "Flippy, The Flipping Chihuahua." ("It's Flippy, the flippingest Chihuahua (dog) you'll ever meet!") However, Flippy flips into the street and is run over by Toonces.
- February 13, 1993 host: Alec Baldwin — Jane Pauley (Julia Sweeney) and Stone Phillips (Mike Myers (actor)) apologize for recent NBC mishaps, such as the Olympics Triplecast, letting David Letterman go to CBS, and a recent skit in which Mike Myers and Dana Carvey made fun of Chelsea Clinton. Stripped of their limousine privileges, they leave in a Car service sedan, with Toonces behind the wheel. After crashing the car, Toonces meows the famous opening line (courtesy of Subtitle (captioning)s) "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night," making Toonces quite possibly the only puppet ever to say the phrase.
- Unknown date/host: Toonces and Spunky (an orange tabby) are engaged in a spirited ping-pong match, as an amazed Lyle and Brenda look on.
- Unknown date/host: "Toonces the Cat's World of Nature." A parody of nature shows, ostensibly narrated by Toonces himself, in which the lizard is a "bad animal" because when you hit it with your paw, the tail breaks off and the lizard escapes.
- Unknown date/host: "Toonces Without a Cause." A parody of "Rebel Without a Cause." Lyle & Brenda are portrayed as "Leave it to Beaver"-esque parents who are worried about Toonces rebellious streak as of late, which includes playing bongo drums, stealing hubcaps, and being overly concerned about his hair. (which is styled into a Pompadour (hairstyle).) Lyle is reluctant to talk to Toonces until he steals the family car ,(Lyle exclaims "He took the Dodge", though the car is really a 1950's Plymouth), to joyride with his human friends. As usual, the car crashes, and Toonces is arrested. After Toonces is bailed out and his pompadour cut off, Lyle is convinced that Toonces has learned his lesson and lets him take the family out for a drive, unfortunately, another crash is inevitable.