Caveman lawyer

Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer

Cirroc ([ki:'rok]), the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, was a recurring character created by Jack Handey and played by Phil Hartman on Saturday Night Live from 1991 through 1996. He had been a caveman who fell into a glacial crevasse during the Ice Age, preserving his body well enough that some scientists who discovered him in 1988 thawed him out. He subsequently attended law school.

Cirroc was a defense and personal injury lawyer, and, in a later skit, a politician running for President on the platform of eliminating the capital gains tax. He is portrayed as a selfish well-dressed professional rhetorician who repeatedly claims to be a simple-minded caveman and noble savage with folk wisdom in order to win his cases. He also enjoys significant wealth, driving luxury cars like BMWs and Range Rovers, as well as owning a home in 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 some hunters and thawed out. He then attended law school and became...Unfrozen Cave Man Lawyer!
The scene would then be accompanied by a song "He used to be a caveman...", showing Cirroc in animal skins beating a club against his hand, "...but now he's a lawyer!" and showing Cirroc's clothes changing from animal skins to a suit, and his club replaced by his hands motioning. "Unfrozen Cave Man Lawyer!"

Recurring humor

The running gag was that Cirroc 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 confound 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. He would always finish a disquisition, however, by asserting in a burst of righteousness that nevertheless "There is one thing I DO know..." which is that his client is either innocent, or that he is entitled to several million dollars or more in both compensatory and punitive damages for an injury. The jury or counsel is invariably swayed by Cirroc's argument, except every time the Judge announces the verdict in his favor, Cirroc is distracted by some other event like watching a Knicks game on his portable TV, or by a cell phone call, and the verdict has to be repeated. The role was a satire of slick lawyers and greasy politicians who disingenuously present themselves as folksy and homespun in order to sway a jury or impress a constituency into identifying with them.

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

Like many Saturday Night Live sketches, "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 legal, it's fun, it's Happy Fun Ball!").

Additionally, the title design of "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer" was likely a nod to NBC's own Law & Order television series, using a similar typeface as the one employed by that show's title graphics.

Popular culture nods

  • Unfrozen cavemen who have normal intelligence but social troubles appear in fiction as early as Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1937 The Resurrection of Jimber-Jaw.
  • A series of GEICO commercials featuring an offended caveman with perfectly normal intelligence but primitive looks, which eventually spawned its own television program, echoed Hartman's character.
  • The end of the theme song mimics the ending of "Park Avenue Beat", the theme song of the old Perry Mason TV series.
  • Hiphop artist El-P interpolates Hartman's Caveman patter for a song on his 2002 solo debut album Fantastic Damage entitled "Deep Space 9mm". About halfway through the song, he prefaces a free-associative cascade of technobabble with the disclaimer: "I'm a caveman / Your modern ways frighten and confuse me / I watch the spirit box with the blinking lights and think / Are those little people trapped in that box? (No, Caveman) / But I do know...".

See also


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