Welcome to this Special Edition of SNL “Retro Reviews”. For this edition, I will TRY to keep the self-deprecation to a minimum, but hopefully you’ll understand if I don’t.
With that being said, when It comes to Politics, I try to stay pretty neutral—though there has been a time or two when I tend to lean towards the Liberal side of things. Not that I don’t support some conservative causes, but suffice to say it’s pretty hard to support anything conservative these days considering most of the GOP’s Credibility is about as sturdy as a 2-legged table holding a Sunday dinner. Thankfully, there are still people in the world of politics you can look upon as pillars of strength and stability, and among them is the subject of today’s review; Arizona Senator John McCain. Say what you will about how he’s been on various issues in recent years; but perhaps because of his recent health scare, maybe it explains more than should be explained. Yes, there’s a lot of things he did that a lot of us out there cannot possibly agree on. But at the same time; he not only fought for his country and his life, but he has spent his career fighting for the lives of his constituents. As I said on the front page of the blog a few days go; I don’t agree 100% with everything he’s ever said, but John McCain remains one of the ONLY Republicans I have ever honestly liked…Here’s to a speedy Recovery…Fuck Cancer. (EDIT: 7/25/2017: Yes, even as he voted For [and then Later against] Healthcare Repeal, It would still be petty to judge one person based on that one thing…even if it means sending the country into health-related uncertainty. If that’s how he feels, so be it, and I won’t think any less of him because of it; besides, only comedy matters here.)
One of the reasons why I tolerate Sen. McCain is because all the way back in 2002, he was willing to make fun of himself a number of times during his one hosting appearance (as well as a few cameos in passing years). Something that, in turn, gave me a whole new respect for the guy—even years later when he made what has been argued as his career defining error…but that’s another story. For now though, let’s go back to a time when the only thing we had to worry about was Dubya invading a country with insufficient information. As is the case with these reviews, Old thoughts are in Block Quotes, new thoughts are in Blue Ink, all of the errors I wrote back then will be un-edited for context, And all the “Simpsons” quotes are a gimmick that I borrowed from a then-recently retired reviewer from the fabled SNL fansite I keep talking about. That said, it’s time to hop aboard the “Straight Talk Express” one more time…
Senator John McCain/The White Stripes (Original Airdate: 10/19/2002)
FROM THE OFFICES OF “THE DOC”…
Sorry I wasn’t here last week, but like I said in my first review I have a job at a costume store, and we’re heading into Halloween when it’s getting nuts! 2ndly, After seeing this past show, it leads me to wonder if this is this going to be another “Crap Year” for SNL? I mean, look at the facts… 2 Key players are outta here, (Will & Ana) 2 featured players join to hopefully even it out.(Fred and–the other–Will) Not to mention some of the poorest written sketches I’ve seen in a long time.
IMHO I think that SNL is overdue for one of these years, I mean even the good lord had to rest on one day. SNL has been, and is going to be around for a long enough time that it won’t have to worry about delibrately sucking up a storm. But I digress, If I had a TV Show and lose some of my best performers, I’d probably have a bad year afterwards too… Only diff between SNL & Me, Is that I’d probably be canceled the following season, but that’s besides the point. The point being, is that SNL has been through many transitions like this before, and like a duck, they will just let it roll off their backs. There you go, end of Story……But Begining of the Review, The last time someone political hosted, Rudy “Combover Jones” Giulianni did the deed. This time around, it’s another Republican that I can Tolerate by the name of Senator John McCain. Oh yeah, “The White Stripes” Rock too!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Oh, Right, Giuliani was still riding high as “America’s Mayor”…BOY, will the tables turn about 6-10 years from then. As for the other stuff, that actually turned out to be largely true—the show would have a bit of a quality control problem the next few years. Not only with Ferrell having left already, but eventually Tracy, Fallon and……Kattan (*THUNDER*) flying the coup too. They wouldn’t have a half-way decent season for about 3 years because of there being a lack of focus or Alpha cast member to tune in for (Save for Fallon, Fey & Poehler). Fortunately, since this episode was early in the season, there was still a bit of a grace period to re-adjust.
The Iraqi Vote Or “…And the results are in. For ‘Sideshow Bob–100%. For Joe Quimby—1%. And we remind you there is a 1% margin of error.”
(TO HIMSELF: Hmmm, Was hoping for a Bush opening, too bad.) I’m confused, isn’t Darrell supposed to be Saddam? I dunno, it just seemed a little off. Anywho, the people of Iraq must be the most one-track minded people in the world if they feel that a guy as bad as Hussein should be re-elected…Especially if no one is running against him. This was good for a few laughs, but it felt a little dry in the sense that it was trying to spoof an overspoofed spoof. (I.e. The Confusing Ballots) But it was still OK.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Not really anything new to add here 15 years later; it was a pretty one-sided spoof of the infamous “Hanging Chad” election of ’00 baked with Iraqi spices; If anything, the predictability of the sketch sort of knocks it down a few points. Also, yes, Hammond did play Hussein a few episodes earlier, yet it’s Hortatio looking more like a Mario Brother on Steroids here—I guess that was sort of distracting. Either way, I think I gave this one a little too much credit when it aired; then again, the debacle of ’00 was still fresh in a lot of people’s minds, so I can see why they went this way.
UPDATED SCORE: C+
Monolouge or “Are you ready to laugh?!…” “Be Quiet, you Awful Man!”
“O dios mio” I knew it! “Ferricito” is becoming a recurring character. And believe me, I’m not “Just Keeding”. If they want to keep him going, they better find a new angle for him. Because knowing the history of recurring characters, only one character and one catchphrase ad nausium could kill a guy’s career (I.e. Jon Lovitz) Though it was kinda cute to hear Sen. McCain say it in his own way. That was the saving grace.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In case you need a reminder, this was Fred Armisen’s first year on the show—and when he arrived, he had a pretty good comedy & musical background (at least according to his Wikipedia page). His “Ferricito” was one of only a few characters that were actual hits out of the gate, and was also the hallmark of the first half of his SNL career—before he became too pretentious. Seeing him team up with McCain isn’t the strangest team-up I’ve ever seen, but it still ranks as unusual enough for it to still be amusing. More importantly, this was the moment when I realized that McCain will look to be a good sport about things—especially a few sketches down the line. Also of note, this marks one of the rare times when you see a set-up for the next sketch as the show is on the air (not counting commercial bumpers). Behind the scenes stuff intrigues me sometimes, so that was a nice bonus.
Hardball or OK, let’s go over the rules. You can’t leave 1st without chugging a beer. Any man scoring has to chug a beer. You have to chug a beer at the top of all odd numbered innings. Oh, and the 4th inning is the beer inning.” “Hey! we know how to play softball.”
Ah, but do they know how to play Hardball?! Great segue, huh? (SILENCE FROM THE AUDIENCE) Yeah! Anyway, This was one of the funnier “Hardball” sketches. Especially Tracy, Even I’m not sure who’s getting offended by the “Uncle Tom” comment. But the Kazam/Shaq Jokes, the fact that McCain is playing someone political who isn’t himself. (Smell the Irony) Too bad they didn’t add that “Insult Punching Bag” Paul Begala. But either way, this was funny, and I now regret saying all that stuff about SNL having a “Crap year”.
EDITOR’S NOTE: If I had to choose which of the Hardball sketches SNL did over the years as the funniest, this would certainly rank in the Top 5, but because Kattan isn’t around to play periodic punching bag Paul Begala, I was probably a little too generous the first time—Nevertheless, this one was memorable partly because of McCain’s subtle teasing of his own party by playing John “Let the Eagle Soar” Ashcroft, but ESPECIALLY because Tracy manages to come out of his shell when playing Harry Belafonte, and saying one ridiculous thing after another. As for my saying that this was a “Crap year” for the show; I was only half right, and there were still 17 episodes to go, so perhaps that was a bit unfair too.
REVISED SCORE: B+
“Lifetime Stalker movie” Or “Homer, I don’t want you stalking people anymore, remember when you were stalking Charles Kuralt because you thought he was digging up your garden.” “Well, somebody did!”
At first, this would become a crap fest. (Whether Real or fictional, I’m no Chick Flick fan.) But this was actually funny. Not ROTFL funny, but good for a chuckle or two. I thought McCain looked ridiculous in that beard, but that’s aside from the point. Also, did anybody with a keen eye notice Chris Parnell wearing and NYPD uniform, even though this story (Supposedly) takes place in Canada? It just struck me as interesting.
EDITOR’S NOTE: On my Starmaker page, I mention how once in a while (depending on the host), there will be a sketch or two where said host will “Play against type”—I.e. Robert Wagner making a mess, Christopher Walken doing (*INSERT WEIRD THING HERE*), and even cue-card reader Robert DeNiro dressing up as Peter Pan. Sen. McCain playing just about every Lifetime TV Movie villain (in addition to about 70% of the parts he plays n this episode) falls into that category as well, but perhaps because of his soft-spoken nature, he plays it just a little sillier than he should’ve. Also, the joke about the story taking place in Canada is a bit of an industry secret—especially when filming “Made-for-Cable” movies that try to maintain a decent budget, it’s cheaper to film in Vancouver or Toronto. If you’ve ever seen a “Lifetime” movie in your…uh…Lifetime…they pretty much capture the nuances of those movies pretty well–although the punchline at the end (which I won’t spoil) sort of causes the whole thing to peter out. It’s still an effective parody thanks to McCain sleezing it up a little.
“Wakefield” or “I’m going to be delivering the hard hitting news to the kids of Springfield…Plus I get to be on TV!”
Of course, the inevitable Road block. But what made this different, was the fact that McCain was a hippie-type person. Other than that, it’s the same stupid joke.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We meet again, Getty! Anyway, Somewhere on a list of Least Favorite Recurring sketches, “Wake Up Wakefield” is one of them—but pretty low on the list because even though Maya Rudolph sometimes has a voice that could re-shape diamonds, and Horatio’s guidance counselor is painful to watch sometimes, at least Dratch’s awkward “Sheldon” is good for a few laughs. To say nothing of the fact that the results of these sketches are incredibly formulaic; Maya & Dratch host the show with an awkward middle school band as their house band, Maya talks about some upcoming event that is somehow connected to her unrequited crush, Randy Goldman (Jimmy Fallon), Dratch mentions something awkward that’s unrelated, then the guest comes on, more awkwardness takes place, Horatio pops in while making a painful dance move, more awkwardness; Randy shows up for whatever reason, causing Maya to go into a verbal tailspin, more awkwardness, fade out, the end. Every. Single. Time! They did try to mix it up on some occasions by moving the action to other locations, but despite capturing the awkwardness of middle school pretty well, the formula remained unchanged—and that ultimately harmed the sketches. On the other hand, McCain gets to live out an alternate version of himself if he never went to war; that was actually kind of amusing to see.
“TV Funhouse/AGD” or “Homer listen carefully, John is a Ho- Mo…” “Right…” “Sexual!” “AAAAAHHHH!!!”
It’s been many moons since the AGD last dropped by, And as usual, it was hysterical. And if that Dancing of theirs doesn’t prove that they’re gay, I don’t know what will. It would have gotten an A+, but that Fat-ass Jack Welch had to ruin it.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Once again; at the age of 17, there’s a good chance I don’t know any better about the world or certain people who can move the world around—Jack Welch, Longtime General Electric CEO, is one of those people who I probably should’ve done research about first before blindly calling him fat (Honestly, I think Smigel’s people went out of their way to draw him rather unflatteringly here thanks to a throwaway joke about him appearing in a cartoon as part of his controversial retirement package—since then, the guy has lost a lot of the weight, but is also in his 80s now, so I think we can let it go). Having read several bios on the guy in passing years; yes, he is deservedly a titan of industry, but I still feel “Neutron Jack” is a bit of a bore—so much so, that his inclusion at the end of this adventure with Ace & Gary still feels out of place with the rest of the action. As for the duo themselves, it’s pretty much every stereotype of “Gay People Know about Decorating” you can think of; a sure sign that ABG was just about ready to run out of gas. Also, we can thank “Five for Fighting” for this sketch not being available in video format–a shame really, because Ace & Gary’s interpretive dance to the song “Superman” might’ve been the best part of the whole thing.
“Meet the Press” or “Oooh, a political discussion at our table, I feel like a Kennedy.”
Next to Hardball, this was one of the Best Sketches of the Night. It’s scary how Darrell Plays Tim Russert “to a T”, (Still trying to figure out what that means.) I mean, the non-stop questioning, the misleads and whatnot. Darrell Hammond, if you’re reading this, I’ve got two words for you: “Lifetime Contract” As for McCain, He played the best Straight man I’ve seen since…Well, anyone in politics.
EDITOR’S NOTE: How the Hell could I have forgotten about this sketch? Still another Honorable mention I left out of an existing list; this is probably one of the better political sketches to come out of the ‘00’s that Doesn’t contain the word “Strategery”. Of course, there is a certain pall of sadness while watching this sketch because—hard as it is to believe—it’s now been almost 10 years since we lost Tim Russert. Meet the Press was probably one on the Only Political/News based programs I watched at the time that didn’t bore me back to bed, and part of the reason why it fascinated me was because Russert was probably one of the best verbal jousters ever to play the game of political punditry & needling next to John McLaughlin (another show I watched at a young age, but for semi-ironic reasons). Russert is very much missed, and I’m certain Hammond misses portraying him—As for that “Lifetime Contract” comment, well…I’m half-way right as Hammond still calls 8H his home, just under a different capacity these days. Anyway, when this piece aired, McCain still had a certain aura of likability that made many wonder if he would challenge Dubya in 2004—but since toying with party lines is often a death sentence, of course he would run again…he would have to wait until After Dubya left office to get a chance to do so—but then he Wasilla’d himself out of it, and the rest is history. McCain largely plays it straight as Hammond does all the heavy work; sometimes fast & loose, but other times to a point where you just want to tell him to shut up. The part where they hypothetically pit a 90 year old McCain against a Jimmy Carter Zombie was bizarrely poignant—especially considering McCain’s got a tough road ahead if he ever wants to see 90. Nevertheless, if/when McCain’s time ever came to pass, this would probably be the Sketch the show would air as a tribute if they don’t put the episode on “Vintage” first.
Update or “…For Channel 6 News, I’m Kenny Brockelstein.”
Finally back on par from the past two weeks, Great jokes, non-stop laughs, even that near mute politician was funny. My personal faves? (In no particular order) Iraqi Idol, The “Pumpkin” thing, Tina’s Rant, (What man doesn’t love that?) The “Jimmy in Drag” joke, and the “Jet Train” joke. But hands down, the political guy was icing on the cake. Update is back alright, no doubt about it.
EDITOR’S NOTE: OK, let’s rephrase that in a way that makes some semblance of sense…
Favorite Jokes: Jet Train, Tearless Onions, RDJ/Jimmy in Drag (which, BTW, might’ve been the genesis of one of his “Tonight Show” bits), Pumpkin Sex.
Commentaries: Not only is Tina’s opening comment on Iraq & North Korea something that Jost & Che would be proud of, but it’s surprisingly & scarily still relevant to this day—give or take a few details. North Korea remains the “Older child with a Bomb”, while Iraq……well, you know. As for that “Near Mute Politician”; that would be honorable mention among my favorite characters, Tim Calhoun making his debut. I’ve always wanted to know what the origins were behind the character aside from the fact that he emulates most soft-spoken political figures (or, according to some, a young Ted Cruz), but after an extensive google search, it looks like one of those stories Forte wants to keep to himself. Nevertheless, this was the character that helped put Forte on the map in terms of just how weird/quirky some of his later characters would be; and the more he repeated these performances, the more outlandish they would become.
UPDATED SCORE: A- (some jokes became a little outdated)
“McCain Sings Streisand” or “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Democracy simply doesn’t work.”
…Especially when you have a guy who’s as distinguished as Senator McCain, and have him sing the songs of Streisand…And in a incredibly off-key manner. But ladies and gentlemen, that’s exactly why this was as funny as it was. That and the god awful sight of seeing McCain in Shorts. (Though those shorts will never be as short as Will Ferrell’s) It was definately unusual to see/hear, but it’s the good kind of unusual. If they ever do something like this again, just make sure they find someone who can sing on key.
EDITOR’S NOTE: And speaking of “Plays against type”, THIS was the moment where I realized that McCain is not only a hero, but as far as I’m concerned, he can do whatever the Hell he wants (within reason) on the Senate Floor. Even if you watch the above video, just TRY to picture someone as soft-spoken as McCain trying to belt out sappy love songs in what I can only describe as the “Key of R”—but at least we know the bad singing is entirely on purpose, because the main joke is that McCain should sing Streisand in as much as Streisand should be in Politics—and as a Liberal leaning Independent, I actually side with McCain on that one (Though to be fair, at least Streisand was willing to offer an Olive Branch a few times, including just a few days ago). Watching this again, I actually had to turn off after 30 seconds—not because it was bad or has aged horribly, but because sometimes there’s such a thing as “Too Silly”. Hearing McCain bellow “Love…Soft as an Easy Chair” was a little too much to take…still a funny visual, though.
“Big Thick Book” or “Marge, I’m Bored!” “Why don’t you read a book?” “Cause I’m trying to reduce my boredom!”
Ugh, I thought they would stop doing these! Does Jack Handey have a Lifetime contract dealie or something? If so, this would explain much. He should just go back to doing “Deep thoughts” like he should. And because of this, this get’s the honor of being named…”Oy Vey! of the Day”!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Once again, this was a “Filler” Piece—and since it is, it would probably be unfair to grade something that’s only a few seconds long. The strange thing about these is that I have often enjoyed Jack Handey’s work (Handey-work?) in the past; “Deep Thoughts”? Classic. “Fuzzy Memories”? A Solid follow-up. Yet it was these bits that I somehow found to be incredibly boring for some reason. Maybe Jack got too Dry, maybe the illustrations by Robert Fontanelli were a little droll, or maybe I was still an immature teenager who thought that Tom Green was a Genius at the time (even though he has Nothing to do with this). Either way, I’ve grown up a little, and it turns out that these bits would probably be better if you watched them all in succession—but that’s just me.
REVISED SCORE: N/A
“Top O’ the Morning” or “Marge, I’m going to Moe’s! Send the kids to the neighbors, I’m comin’ back loaded!”
For an end of the night sketch, this was pretty good. If they manage to do another one of these, they just have to make sure that they don’t repeat to many elements. (I.e. “Punching Wall”, “Human 8-Ball”, “Not Here, Not Here”!) The only problem with this one was the fact that McCain couldn’t play a drunk Irishman to save his life. As for the rest of his performances, they were suprisingly well acted. Something that’s hard to see a politician do. Getting back to this sketch, like I said, just don’t overkill the elements next time.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I already mentioned this sketch once before in my Salma Hayek retro review; but the fact remains that for the most part, it was not only a competent series of sketches chock-full of Irish stereotypes, but also a series of sketches with a high burnout rate. Starting strong in season 28, then suddenly one or two of them by the time Fallon left in ’04. On the plus and/or minus side, at least the first one was the best one.
Grand Diagnosis: B+
Prescription: I’ve got nothing to criticize here, that was a great show. That’s how the show should be. Though it seemed as though there were very few sketches. (About 10 at my count.)
UPDATED SCORE: A Solid B.
UPDATED THOUGHTS: With the exception of various Iraq related jokes, this show not only still holds up, but it also affirms my belief that even the most straight-laced, overly sensitive and/or uptight people can take a joke (which is something I wish I could say about anybody in the current administration). The real surprise of the show was just how professional McCain turned out to be, as well as some of the lengths he was willing to go to maintain that professionalism. Watching all of this again not only makes me hope he recovers, but that he’s got enough left in him to pull off at least one more Maverick trick of some kind. Say what you will about McCain, but the guy has had a life well spent—his SNL appearance is just one of many highlights that’ll last a lifetime.
Hopefully the next time our Regular page resumes Updates will be a few weeks from now, when we present a week-long salute to “Weekend Update” in light of the upcoming prime-time run. In the meantime, the “Summer of Starmaker” rolls on, and will continue to do so through the rest of the summer. We’ll see you in a few weeks for “Update Week”.