Home 9 Arts & Entertainment 9 Movies & Television 9 No More Java for Joe: Tom Schiller’s 1979 Short Film ‘Java Junkie’

No More Java for Joe: Tom Schiller’s 1979 Short Film ‘Java Junkie’

by | March 21, 2024 | Movies & Television

Java Junkie, 1979. Written and directed by Tom Schiller and produced by Neal Marshad. Starring Peter Ackroyd and Teri Garr. [4m]

Do you worry that you drink too much coffee or consume too much caffeine? Although coffee has been shown to have many health benefits, moderation, as in most things, is best. You wouldn’t want to end up in “coffee rehab” like the hero of Java Junkie, would you?

Tom Schiller’s short film Java Junkie is a comic cautionary tale about a coffee-swilling “java junkie.” It premiered on Saturday Night Live in December 1979 and became a cult classic. The film stars Peter Aykroyd as Joe, a regular guy who’s down on his luck and tries to drown his sorrows in coffee.

Joe (Peter Ackroyd) has too much coffee

Joe (Peter Ackroyd) feels the effects of too much coffee. Screenshot from Java Jive. (Saturday Night Live, NBCUniversal)

Joe’s girlfriend Betty has told him that she wants to call it quits, and he’s been fired from his job. When he comes into his favorite coffee shop in the morning, he’s lost his appetite. He just wants a cup of coffee—”pure, black coffee.”

The waitress, played by Teri Garr, is surprised that he’s passing up breakfast, but she serves him a cup of coffee. Then Joe orders another cup. And another. And another. His hands are shaking, and the other customers look at him in alarm.

Joe begs for more coffee, but the waitress finally tells him “there ain’t no more” and says he has to leave.

Joe (Peter Ackroyd) and the waitress (Teri Garr)

The waitress (Teri Garr) tells Joe (Peter Ackroyd) there ain't no more coffee. Screenshot from Java Junkie (Saturday Night Live / NBCUniversal)

Out on the street, Joe wanders from coffee shop to coffee shop in a nightmarish search for more coffee. He’s a java junkie and he needs his fix. Sweating by now, he sees an attractive woman (Patti Oja) in an alleyway with a cup of coffee. She’s laughing crazily and urging him to have another cup, but she disappears before he can reach her. Joe becomes so desperate for more coffee that when he finds some, he drinks it right from the pot, as everything spins out of control.

The story has a happy ending, though. Joe is committed to a rehab center for caffeine addiction—”Maxwell House,” of course! He is cured, and he puts his life back together. When he visits his old coffee shop, he’s a changed man.

The Java Junkie short film first aired on Season 5, Episode 8 of Saturday Night Live, with Ted Knight as host. It was written and directed by Tom Schiller, whose “Schiller’s Reel” films were regularly featured on the show. Neal Marshad, a film producer and cinematographer at Saturday Night Live for more than 20 years, produced and photographed Java Junkie. Margot Francis did the editing.

The short has an atmospheric film noir look, with super black and white photography and terrific shot composition and editing. Peter Ackroyd’s performance has viewers viscerally feeling Joe’s jangly over-caffeinated nerves themselves. When Joe leaves the coffee shop in search of another coffee fix, his hallucinatory vision is funny and scary at the same time.

If you’re old enough to have seen Java Junkie on Saturday Night Live back in 1979, you most likely remember this short bit of classic comedy. Younger generations are not so lucky. Producer Marshad had made the film available on YouTube for a while, but NBCUniversal blocked it on copyright grounds. Let’s hope it will soon be available again. It’s a real treat!

Copyright © Brian Lokker 2013, 2024. An earlier version of this review was published on CoffeeCrossroads.com. Screenshots copyright © NBCUniversal.

Home 9 Arts & Entertainment 9 Movies & Television 9 No More Java for Joe: Tom Schiller’s 1979 Short Film ‘Java Junkie’