Arnold Schwarzenegger Thinks Saturday Night Live's Hans And Franz Helped Open Hollywood's Doors

In 1988, "Saturday Night Live" debuted a sketch about two gym rats who wanted to help you get swole. It was called "Pumping Up with Hans & Franz," a fake TV show featuring two "cousins" of Arnold Schwarzenegger called Hans (Dana Carvey) and Franz (Kevin Nealon). These guys featured gap-toothed grins, spiky hair, and grey sweat suits full of dollar-store-looking muscle padding. Hans and Franz had Austrian accents like Schwarzenegger and told people how they were "girlie men" and, in one Halloween episode, gave out vitamin C instead of candy. You know, for fitness.

Behind them was almost always a poster or standee of cousin Ah-nahld from his bodybuilding days. Schwarzenegger himself even showed up in one episode. The idea was inspired by Arnold himself, according to a 2013 DMJuice interview with Nealon, who said that while Nealon and Carvey were on tour after their first year at "SNL," they watched Schwarzenegger do an interview on Showtime in 1987. "For the rest of the tour we were talking like Arnold," he said, "We said we had to come up with a character for next season, and we came up with Hans & Franz" for the following season (season 13).

In a strange twist of fate, according to a 2012 interview while promoting his book "Total Recall," Schwarzenegger actually credited the Hans and Franz skit for opening up doors for him in Hollywood beyond what he was getting at the time. 

'We're here to pump you up!'

Schwarzenegger told NPR

"I thought [the skit] was fantastic because, you know, in the beginning ... agents and producers and directors and Hollywood executives, they always said, 'Arnold, I know your big wish is to get into movies, and you want to be leading man on top of that. It's impossible. I mean, you have such an accent. You know, it's so thick that you can't cut through it with sword, with a Conan sword.'"

You have to love how self-deprecating he is. (Also, 1982's "Conan the Barbarian" is a blast, and you should go watch it right now.) Schwarzenegger continued to say that the studio felt that muscle men weren't "in" anymore, with the "sex symbols today" being people like Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, and Woody Allen. They joked about not being able to pronounce his name. Though he said he felt successful in getting in the Hollywood door, the accent got in the way and became sort of a joke. That is, until the Hans & Franz sketch came on the scene. 

Schwarzenegger said that once the skit came out, he felt like the accent and "the whole idea of speaking different" had become "part of America. And America really has embraced my accent, and it became, actually, such a valuable tool and an asset ... a liability turned into an asset."

'I felt delighted that Hans and Franz came on [the] scene'

Schwarzenegger told NPR that both his body at the time and his accent were equally important: the body in a film like "Conan the Barbarian," and the voice in James Cameron's original "The Terminator." He said:

"[Writer/director] John Milius, after I did "Conan the Barbarian," even said that if we wouldn't have had Arnold, we would have had to build one. You know, that's how important the body was. And then with the accent also, you know, Jim Cameron after 'Terminator' said, look, this movie only worked because Arnold talks like a machine. When you listen to him, it's like a machine. That's why it worked that he played the Terminator, and that's how we could sell the character. Otherwise, it would have never worked ... I felt delighted that Hans and Franz came on [the] scene."

The original sketch may be dated, but anything that inadvertently led to "Kindergarten Cop" is okay in my book.