This was the “Larry the Lobster” incident. This was from a Season 7 episode hosted by Daniel J. Travanti. During the cold open, Eddie Murphy held a Lobster (which he named “Larry” so that people could have some connection to it) and told the audience at home that they would be able to save it or let it die. They then showed two “900” numbers where Eddie read the “Save Larry” number fast and the “Kill Larry” number slow.
At the end of the episode, Larry was spared by about 12,000 votes. the tally ended at 227, 452 to kill him and 239, 096 to save him. This was monumental because at this point in time, live interactive TV wasn’t used much. Also, AT&T had never seen a spike in calls in just that short amount of time before. AT&T employees were at first confused over the immediate spike in phone calls but eventually learned it was because of SNL. Now, they have a plan put in place so that TV networks can let them know in advance of any kind of event like that in the future.
An incident like this could never happen on live television anymore. This happened in 1982 so of course you could get away with it back then. Nowadays, threatening to cook a lobster would cause some outrage. You’d have the PTC, PETA and other animal protective groups to deal with it. They would just get in a lot of trouble. Also, people did write the show and complain about this sketch but it didn’t get that much attention. That next week’s episode, Eddie Murphy ate a lobster.
In the reruns, they still show those “900” numbers. I’m sure NBC has disconnected those numbers by now, but feel free to dial that number to see where it leads if you want. If sex chat lines are still being used these days, that’s probably where I’m guessing it’s being used for.