Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer

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Keyrock, known as "The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer," was a recurring character created by Jack Handey[1] and played by Phil Hartman on Saturday Night Live from 1991 through 1996. He was a caveman with the beetling brows of a neanderthal who had fallen into a glacial crevasse, or "Big Giant Hole in Ice", during the Ice Age, thus preserving his body well enough for scientists to thaw him out in 1988. He subsequently attended law school.

Keyrock became a defense and personal injury lawyer and, in a later sketch, a politician running for President on the platform of eliminating the capital gains tax. He was portrayed as a selfish, well-dressed attorney who repeatedly claimed to be a simple-minded caveman, and would employ simple folk wisdom to win his cases. He also enjoyed significant wealth, driving luxury cars like BMWs and Range Rovers, as well as owning a home on Martha's Vineyard.


Opening scene

One hundred thousand years ago, a caveman was out hunting in the plains, when he slipped and fell into a crevasse, where he was frozen solid. In 1988, he was discovered by scientists and was thawed out. He then attended law school and became...The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer!

The scene would then be accompanied by a song, beginning "He used to be a caveman...," showing Keyrock in animal skins beating a club against his hand, "...but now he's a lawyer!" and showing Keyrock's clothes changing from animal skins to a suit, and his club replaced by hands gesturing to emphasize a point: "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer!"

Recurring humor

The running gag was that Keyrock would speak in a highly articulate and smoothly self-assured manner to a jury or an audience about how things in the modern world supposedly "frighten and confuse" him. He would then list several things that confounded him about modern life or the natural world, such as: "When I see a solar eclipse, like the one I went to last year in Hawaii, I think 'Oh no! Is the moon eating the sun?' I don't know. Because I'm a caveman -- that's the way I think." This pronouncement would seem ironic, coming from someone who had, for example, just ended a brisk cell phone conversation, or indeed attended law school. Keyrock would always finish a disquisition, however, by asserting in a burst of righteousness that nevertheless, "There is one thing I DO know...." That one thing would be that his client was either innocent or was entitled to several million dollars or more in both compensatory and punitive damages for an injury. The jury or counsel is invariably swayed by Keyrock's argument, except every time the Judge announces the verdict in his favor, Keyrock is distracted by some other event like watching a Knicks game on his portable TV ("I'm sorry, Your Honor, I was distracted by the tiny people in this magic box"), or by a cell phone call, and the verdict has to be repeated.

The scenes would usually end with a small "outro" scene of "a sneak peek at the next episode" showing Keyrock making arguments. One such scene diverted from the usual "caveman argument" when a tipsy Keyrock was aboard a plane, being told by a stewardess that the chief steward has declared no more Dewar's and water would be served to Keyrock. The stewardess in that episode was not persuaded by Keyrock's whining that "I'm just a caveman" and that he is "frightened by the flying machine," and continued her duties. An enraged Keyrock then roared "Listen up, I will sue you and your whole crummy airline!" What happened afterward remained to be seen, but it was one of the few cases Keyrock did not have his way.

Like many Saturday Night Live sketches at that time, "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer" was presented as a parody of a television show. During the opening and closing of the "show," the announcer would list some of the "show's" highly unusual sponsors such as "Big Fat Bean" ("Why eat a lot of little beans when you can eat one big bean?"); "Gas Plus" ("Actually gives you gas!"); "Dog Assassin" ("When you can't bear to put him to sleep, maybe it's time to call Dog Assassin"); "Cubic Yard of Earthworms" ("What you do with it is your business"); "Wilson Ear Drill" ("We don't recommend that you use an ear drill, but if you insist, why not get the best!") and the popular Happy Fun Ball ("still legal in 16 states — it's happy, it's fun, it's Happy Fun Ball!").

The sketch may also have been a parody of the then-popular series Matlock, starring Andy Griffith. The conceit of its title character, Benjamin Layton Matlock, was that he played an older, "country-boy" type Southern lawyer who nonetheless bamboozled "big city" or "sophisticated" lawyers in court and solved mysteries. Matlock's charm was to play to the jury, saying things like "I'm just an old country boy..." despite being paid well over $100,000 per case and traveling the world. The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer's schtick may have been a parody of that, and other similar "simple country boy beats city slicker" shows of the 70s and 80s.

The full list of Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer "sponsors" include:

See also