Hart of the Holidays

Since he’s hosting this year’s Christmas show, Let’s talk about Kevin Hart. As a comedian, he certainly has the energy, but he might be just a Little too overhyped (not in a sense that he’s overrated–far from it, I actually like him–but more like “Way too amped on caffeine”); truth be told, his punchlines/delivery might be a little too frantic for my tastes. His episode in 2013 unfortunately showcased very little of his brand of humor in an effective way, but that was really more of the faults of whoever was writing at the time—Not that it was Entirely bad, “Z-Shirts” and its funeral follow-up was one of the highlights of that year. Otherwise, it was a pretty forgettable episode. Fast forward 2 years later, and considering the track record we had with stand-ups in Season 40 up to this point (Paging: Rock & Silverman), Hart’s got his work cut out for him…of course, now that the cast has become a little more Diversified by this point, maybe he might be able to slip in to a more palatable comfort zone. Hopefully, this Hart doesn’t need a Cardiologist (Ba-dum-bump)…c’mon, lame jokes…that’s what I do.

 

Kevin Hart and Sia Bumper Photos

Kevin Hart/Sia (Original Airdate: 1/17/2015)

 

 

 

HART_MLK

MLK: First thing’s first, you DON’T need to applaud at the start of the show. They didn’t do it for about 80% of the show’s run, why spoil a good thing? Anyway, As much as I want to give this extra points for it NOT being a typical, run of the mill opening, it’s pretty hard to do so considering it’s Still Kenan telegraphing the hell out of his performance (though looking directly into camera while reading the cards doesn’t help much either, Pete!). But for what it’s worth, an original-ish idea is still an original-ish idea. I especially liked the “Selma” slam (Seriously, screw the Oscars for snubbing it—Best Picture, notwithstanding), but I also liked jokes about the holiday itself, Obama and Mackelmore. Pete loses his LFNY Virginity in a rather awkward way (With Kenan, no less), but then again most first times are awkward when you think about it, aren’t they?

 

SCORE: 6 out of 10 times I ask “Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin?”

 

 

HART_MONO

MONOLOGUE: Once again, considering it was a straight-up stand-up monologue, there was actually very little to complain about here…except maybe the part at the end about leaving a person just because they’re horribly injured—and even THAT was funny, sort of that odd combination between funny & wrong (Frong? ). Oh well, Despite Hart being incredibly fast with his delivery in order to keep up with it the first time (yes, I had to see this at least twice), it was still pretty solid nevertheless.

 

SCORE: 8 out of 10 Mountain Lions in Coldwater Canyon that are stalking Hart’s house (assuming that’s where he lives…I don’t know the suburbs of LA at all).

 

 

HART_BIEB

CALVIN KLEIN: You know the rules when there’s more than one ad, they all get judged together. Having said that, I still don’t buy Kate’s performance as the Bieb—though the benefit of it being filmed vs. live kinda helps a little (saying very little throughout is also a Big help). That being said, it’s just Kate acting like a rambunctious, bratty little child with very little regard for the consequences of his actions…I guess her impression of Bieber is better than I thought (Ba-dum-bump…OK, last time I’ll use that rimshot tonight, I promise). Cecily is the secret weapon of these pieces as the bored, slightly creeped out model; she shares our reaction with the rest of us who can’t stand Bieber anymore (or ever to begin with). The only big problem I saw with this is that it’s pretty much the same joke in each one; Kate acts like a baby, Cecily is less than thrilled about it, Bieber somehow has Junk in the front. Don’t get me wrong, it was still funny, but a little variety would’ve been nice…like, say, Cecily punching out Kate’s Bieber in the 3rd one…or something.

 

SCORE: 7 out of 10 pairs of Hanes…underwear us Regular people can afford.

 

 

HART_POST

WHY’D YOU POST THAT?: And now, another in a long line of Internet content related talk show sketches (I.e. “I didn’t ask for this”, “You can do Anything”, etc.). It is here that we’ll see the beginnings of a major theme for the night in that Hart does a majority of the funny stuff while the rest of the cast members sit back, relax and enjoy the show they SHOULD be performing in. Hart’s simply being himself when he’s trashing Vanessa, Aidy and Kyle’s pictures. Further, as much as I liked the “Going through the wall” effect (and made me feel nostalgic for “Remote Control”), it might’ve been more effective if (1) the couch actually went in straight, and (2) if a stagehand’s hand didn’t show up on the first one.

 

SCORE: 6 out of 10 times I need to Photoshop a picture before posting it (Not the best picture taker, to be honest)

 

 

HART_BUSHWICK

BUSHWICK, BROOKLYN (AKA “CORNER BOYS”): Gotta score this one with a little bias here, largely because my job takes me all over NYC—especially Brooklyn. For the most part, they nail all the gentrification/hipsterizing happening in the area to a T. My favorite part was the bit about “Bitches”/Dogs, yeah it’s a lame joke, but it still made me laugh (Even more so on the second one where Hart shoots up a guy while walking them). Kenan and (especially) Jay prove once again how the show should just give up all pretentions of being Live, because Clearly they are better performers when they are well rehearsed. Not much else to say on this one, other than it’s the usual well-crafted short film with a lot of funny visuals that makes me secretly angry that the rest of the show can’t be the same way.

 

SCORE: 8 out of 10 Tapas bars in Williamsburg Alone.

 

 

HART_BROWN

JAMES BROWN: I’ll grant that Hart can at least put his bountiful energy to good use when playing someone like James Brown…but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the impression itself is a Good one (Truth be told it sounds more like a cross between Brown & Louis Armstrong). As for the sketch itself, the short length makes up for the spotty content–which is fine by me, because nobody ever wants a sketch to overstay its welcome, and 2 minutes of length is perfectly fine for something of this caliber. I Did like the parts about ordering a Cake (followed by Sasheer’s protest), Cecily changing her First name after getting married, and the very end where Hart is still going after the band stops. Nothing too special, otherwise…Chadwick Boseman played a better James Brown, anyway.

 

SCORE: 5 out of 10 “Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World(s)”

 

 

HART_SOAP

NANCY (AKA “SOAP OPERA REUNION”): In variation #294 of the “Odd one out” sketch formula (Y’know, a sketch where one person in a group is inexplicably a negative target for no viable reason—Think: Jack Black and the pointing news anchors), Vanessa tries her best to roll with the punches while the rest of the cast remains oblivious. Hart, once again, saves the sketch from being a complete waste…though I have to wonder if whoever wrote this sketch got “Inspiration” for Hart’s character from This joke. Despite that, this is about as one-note as it can get; And as always, there is NEVER a reason given for why the odd one out is being treated this way. Did she fart a lot on the set? Did she have a high fiber diet? We’ll never know because heaven forbid they take an extra minute to flesh out a backstory.

 

SCORE: 3 out of 10 boxes of “Gas Plus” (Actually GIVES you Gas for those times when you feel like being the Joker……*SIGH* Still miss ‘ya, Phil…).

 

 

JOST_CHE

UPDATE: (Part 1 on the North Pole, Part 2 on the South Pole)

Colin’s Best: “Run, Mitt, Run”, Marijuana Spray

Michael’s Best: Pope Francis Vs. Charlie Hebdo

Commentaries: Che’s complaints about the Oscars are very well warranted, but it could’ve uses a little more bite. The Only other commentary from Kate means well; but aside from the fact that it’s another “Kate with an accent” character, the dealbreaker is her talking about “Animal Skeletons”.

UPDATE SCORE: 6 out of 10 WJAR’s (NBC in Providence, RI)

 

 

HART_JOURNEY

THE JOURNEY: I know, I know, people are Very quick to call this a Re-hash of…well…This. In a way, it is, but since it’s been 20+ years since that sketch first aired (Christ, I’m getting old), let’s just pretend—for argument’s sake—that this is something completely different so it can be judged fairly. Having said that; Hart is the one doing most of the lifting here (once again), I applaud the effort made in making that Dragon Eye, the rest of the cast try their hardest to carry a tune, and Ms. Jones saves the day once again (Especially rhyming Ass with Ass…genius lyrics, BTW). By itself, the sketch was just “OK”; but in comparison to its accidental predecessor, it might as well be drinking water out of a Pepsi can.

 

SCORE: 5 out of 10 soundtracks to “Camelot”

 

 

HART_SON

KEVIN’S SON: It’s good to see Jay making up for some lost time, and his version of Hart is somewhat good—though I think he might’ve thrown in some “Rubber faced Shannon Sharpe” just to make sure it wasn’t Too similar to the real deal. As for said real deal, Hart gives one of his more straight parts of the night just by being himself. Ms. Jones does the heavy lifting this time around (literally, especially while lifting the real Hart). In a way, I’m glad this didn’t devolve into a spoof of “Maury” or anything, but unfortunately yet another abrupt ending falls into place…not that there was much to add after Jay & Hart reconciled, but it’s still annoying to see.

 

SCORE: 6 out of 10 times I hear “You ARE the Father” in a single episode of “Maury”.

 

 

 HART_PARTY

RAP LISTENING PARTY: Once again, Hart and his energy is what carries this (especially when he’s trying to BYO-SFX), the secrets he tells are increasingly ridiculous, and just about every one of them is a good one (My favorites include Pete eating gummy bears & Beck with Mouth sores). The ending—though still abrupt looking—didn’t feel tacked on in any way. And I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but Kenan probably gives the best performance he ever gave in the 12 years he’s been on the show (Ba-dum-bump…OK, so I lied.). My only Two complaints about this one was that this was Bobby’s ONLY Major appearance of the night (and that he was unable to steal the scene like he always does), and that Cecily just sat there and did nothing. Otherwise, solid finish.

 

SCORE: 7 out of 10 caps I gotta bust in various asses…don’t ask why.

 

 

 

FINAL SCORE: 67 out of 110 (60.9% WATCHABLE)

 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS: Though far from a Masterpiece, it’s FAR better than that year’s Christmas show (Then again, that’s like saying Getting poked in the eye is better than passing a Kidney Stone). Hart’s energy carried about 75% of the show, and while his performance here was a vast improvement over 2 years earlier, it might have been even better if the rest of the cast didn’t look like they were stuck in a post-holiday auto-pilot. Of course, it goes without saying that January shows (despite their best efforts) are often met with a certain lack of energy to begin with…Maybe that’s why they chose Hart to host, because his energy is enough to get anybody moving after being dormant for so long, whether the material is funny or not.

 

 

TOMORROW: We take another trip back to those post-adolescent days of 2002 to see if (What I thought was) the greatest SNL Christmas show of all time still holds up…SPOILER ALERT: “Thought” infers Past Tense, so we may have to lower our standards a little.

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Cast Chronology: Bobby Moynihan

And now, we’re going to take a look at Bobby Moynihan’s path through 8H, as well as why he (with all due respect to Vanessa) was the REAL Secret Weapon of the show.

 

REMEMBER:
*This is NOT a “Best of” list.
*Lead/Supporting Roles, no bit parts.
*One Sketch Per Year.
*As they say on the USA network, “Characters Welcome”.

 

So, let’s begin…

 

2008:

BOBBY_FIRST SKETCH

PIZZARIA UNO (9/13/2008) – First impressions are fickle; One could be lucky enough to hit the ground running, others land with a thud. The general consensus made about Bobby’s first sketch could be best described with the letters W, T & F; as well as almost immediately writing him off before he had a chance to do anything else. It almost seemed as though he was trying to make a big splash the same way another certain heavyset cast member tried to do the same when he debuted—only instead of a splash, it was more of a belly flop. Thing is, the difference between Bobby & Farley was that Farley escalated his performance over a period of time before becoming the performer we knew and loved. Bobby’s mistake was playing his hand too early, and it shows in this sketch. Loud doesn’t automatically equal “Funny”, that has to be earned over time. Also, trying to use the scent of pepper to force a catchphrase doesn’t help—thankfully, this was the very definition of a “Rookie Mistake”, and Bobby could only go up from there…

 

 

 

2009:

BOBBY_BEAST

BEAUTY & THE BEAST (10/17/2009) – Bobby quickly learned that in order to make an impact on the show, sometimes it was best to start small instead of trying to grab the brass ring on the first attempt (again, with some exceptions). So with that, he appeared in his fair share of small but ensemble parts. In this particular sketch, he plays the long suffering Cogsworth, and does relatively OK in doing so. However, It’s also in this sketch where we see the genesis for what Bobby truly does best; steal the sketch with a line that’s either so memorable or “so stupid, it’s memorable” that he becomes an  automatic highlight in an otherwise “meh” piece. In this case, after the Beast (host, Gerard Butler) thinks that it’s the Beauty (Wiig) who is in fact the beastly one, all the inanimate objects gather to say Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…to which Bobby/Cogsworth chimes in saying he not only likes a Big Ass, but that he prefers something called a “3:45 Ass”. It’s a little hard to describe without showing the clip, so watch the clip, and have a good laugh.

 

 

2010:

BOBBY_CRISPINO

ANTHONY CRISPINO (2010-2017) – Right around this time, Bobby learned one of the great unwritten rules of the show; if you want a fast way to appear on the show without worrying if your sketch gets cut or not, do something for Update (and he already had a head start on that by playing the likes of Guy Fieri & Snooki). While it’s unfortunate that Bobby was largely overshadowed by some Partygoer Bill Hader played, Bobby held his own with a number of characters at the desk—many of which are also the co-creations of Colin Jost, and one of which is “Second hand Newsman” Anthony Crispino; who uses the classic comedy tool of “Mis-speak” to get his point across—not unlike another recent departure did with her Pornstar character. While the bit was amusing, however, it did suffer a little as the character’s octaves reached tea kettle levels at one point. Nevertheless, the bits were just good, not great–Greatness was yet to come…

 

 

2011:

DRUNK UNCLE (2011-2017) – Let me slip into my James Lipton voice…(*AHEM*)…we have now reached…hallowed ground…(*SLIPS OUT*)…Here he is, Bobby’s signature character; the embodiment of the one relative we all have that can better relate the troubles of the world by knocking back a couple of drinks. Strangely enough, I didn’t exactly care for these commentaries when they first happened—partly because of some long-standing issues I have against drunk people that I swear I will get into eventually. But then I realized that this was just a character, so I decided to go with the flow and it eventually grew on me. Not unlike Crispino, this too benefits from the use of Mis-speak; but when you couple that with getting hammered, the extra variable makes the pieces all the more funny. As if that wasn’t enough, this piece proved to be popular enough to warrant a few guest stars to play opposite Bobby—my personal favorite being this appearance with Peter “Drunklage”. But perhaps the strangest thing about this character is the idea that—if some had their way—Drunk Uncle would’ve been part of an extended character universe of sorts. In a number of interviews in the past, Bobby would tell of a theory that Drunk Uncle was in fact the Husband to Kristen Wiig’s “Aunt Linda”, especially since—in some editions—he would angrily call out someone named Linda while rambling on. Little tidbits like that have always made me wonder if every character SNL has ever had was connected to each other somehow; Like when The Coneheads teamed up with the Farbers, or when the Festrunk Brothers stole the Butabi’s date (and then did the same with the “Dick in a Box” guys years later). I’m sure it’s all a coincidence, but hopefully they realize that they are one screenwriter away from coming up with SNL’s version of the MCU. How about that, Drunk Uncle is making me think philosophically.

 

 

2012:

BOBBY_CHRISTIE

HURRICANE SANDY PRESS CONFERENCE (11/3/2012) – Remember a time when soon-to-be Former NJ Governor Chris Christie actually had respect, credibility and likability going for himself? I know, that only SOUNDS like pure fantasy now; but once upon a time, that Really happened—especially after Hurricane Sandy hit, and people were actually praising him for leading the way in rescue and restoration efforts……..I KNOW!! Crazy, Right? So in the aftermath of the storm, it was only natural for SNL to respond. The first half of the sketch with Fred Armisen as NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg I can take or leave, and Cecily & Nasim are nice bonuses; but it was Bobby who took the ball and ran with it with an interpretation of Gov. Christie that I can only describe as “Lou Costello with a Government Job”. Not to sound too disparaging, but who the hell else would play him? Sudeikis in a Fatsuit? Nope, this role was tailor-made for Bobby to play, and he took the high road while doing so.

 

 

2013:

BOBBY_KITTY

ARMAGEDDON (10/12/2013) – Let’s Face it, Not everybody is gonna be perfect on the show. For every Drunk Uncle & Crispino, there’s bound to be something like this Kitty guy—which, incidentally was the Second time this sketch was done…3 times too many. And yet, despite the fact that Bobby’s squeeing over his widdle kitty cat in the face of imminent doom (and how that is incredibly grating to hear), it’s still oddly intriguing to watch. Like, I want to punch the guy so badly, yet somehow this is slightly endearing…Why?! Could it be Bobby cranking the child-like innocence to 11? Could it be the fact that his demeanor clearly clashes with Bruce Willis & his crew? Or could it be the fact that the writers have a constant habit of throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks? We may never Truly know the answer, but for better or worse, this is a sketch (and performance) I love to hate.

 

 

2014:

DIANE (2/1/2014) – I know this is cheating a little talking about something I talked about previously, but I wanted to revisit this one because (once again) Bobby didn’t necessarily have to be “Silly” or “Wacky” in order to carry a sketch; sometimes playing it straight helps a little—especially when the person you’re playing opposite is the one that’s being strange. Bobby’s dead-seriousness does help enhance McCarthy’s slovenly behavior in an otherwise nowhere sketch, and the sketch saves itself from oblivion because of it.

 

 

2015:

BOBBY_RIBLET

RIBLET (2015-2016) – Show of hands, how many of you out there remember a show called “Chozen”? (*CRICKETS CHIRP*) Nobody? It was from the creators of “Archer”, only instead of spies it was about a white rapper? (*STILL CHIRPING*) Still Nobody? Well, watch the clip, and then watch Bobby play Riblet; because to this day, I feel Bobby (who was the voice of Chozen) was trying to get all of that out of his system when they canceled the show. IMO, this was Bobby’s WORST character—NOT because it was bad or anything, but I honestly wouldn’t’ve minded the brashness of the character if it only appeared just once. Instead, it’s about as one-noted as the one Kenny G played that one time for 45 minutes, and they saw fit to repeat it twice.

 

 

2016:

AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR (5/14/2016) – Up to this point; the characters Bobby played either range from Loud & Brash, to goofy & wacky, to Simple & subtle, but if he was Truly going to make his mark in comedy, he had to do something remotely “Physical” to make his well-roundedness complete. As much as I respect Bobby for trying to do some physical humor here, this was one of those “Fat Guy Screws Up” kind of sketches where you could see the joke coming from miles away. Nevertheless, this looks like something Farley would’ve done if he were alive today, and I’m certain he would’ve been proud of Bobby for continuing the tradition of “Fatty Falls Down, Ratings go up”. One thing about this that sort of bothered me more than anything here was that if you listen carefully, some of the audience was giggling during Bobby’s story of the Tornado—not the “Training” part (that was actually kinda funny to see), but the part where they show footage of the destruction…It’s nice to know that Schadenfreude isn’t dead yet.

 

 

2017:

SENIOR CLASS VIDEO (5/20/2017) – I was kinda torn on whether to talk about this sketch or the “Spocko” sketch that aired in spite of both of them airing weeks apart. Quite honestly, “Star Trek” is the stronger sketch, but “Senior Video” has more of finality to it (it being the last sketch to air that year also helps). But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe Bobby wanted to get the Big laugh out of the way before taking his rather quiet bow in this sketch (In addition to the bigger bow he took with one more Drunk Uncle earlier that night)…which, now that I think about it has to be laced with a bit of irony; it’s a sketch about high school kids putting on a sketch AS this is airing on a Sketch Comedy show—and the rattle snake should’ve eaten its own tail. Nevertheless, Bobby’s performance as one of 4 awkward-as-hell high schoolers seems like the perfect “happy medium” for Bobby to play; an equal parts subtle and hammy without being too overbearing. Not to invoke old clichés (like that’s ever stopped me before); but considering Bobby’s first sketch has him coming in like a lion, it makes all the sense in the world for him to go out like a lamb.

 

 

 

FINAL VERDICT: So, why was Bobby Moynihan the show’s REAL secret weapon? To borrow a metaphor from Phil Hartman’s biography, Bobby was one of the “Show Ponies” that take on the quick jokes (I.e. Scene Stealing) while certain other performers make their bones as Clydesdales—but that doesn’t mean Show Ponies can’t do a little heavy lifting once in a while. For 9 years, Bobby’s best trick was managing to walk away with a scene in just one line/moment—sometimes saving sketches from total oblivion. And yet, he’s not yet a “Star” like some of his colleagues, nor is he a wallflower who does nothing. I kinda feel bad for not putting in any of the bit parts in this collection, because Bobby managed to come up with a winning line now and then in those particular roles. Despite having few characters–aside from those at the Update Desk–I hope Bobby realizes just how indispensable he was to the show. Think of it this way; If certain cast members can have the nickname of “Glue”, consider Bobby’s nickname “Chute”—as in the Emergency back-up parachute that you might need in case the main one fails. It’s unfortunate that Bobby has the “Honor” of starring in the TV season’s first canceled series; but when one ventures into the real world after being in a cocoon for so long, they have to realize that there will always be dangers waiting for them out there. By no means, was he perfect; but Considering the range of work Bobby did for his 9 years, I wouldn’t worry too much about whatever the next gig will be.

 

 

NEXT WEEK: First, a look at Holiday Host Kevin Hart and the last time he stopped by. Then, We look at–Quite honestly–my personal, all-time favorite SNL Christmas episode…at least, when I saw it 15 years ago—but does it hold up?

Cast Chronology: Vanessa Bayer

On SNL, Cast members come and go—it’s just the way things work. Sometimes a cast member’s tenure doesn’t last that long, other times they last long enough to pin them as “memorable”; while other times still, they stick around far longer than they should, Kenan! This past season, we formally said goodbye to two of them (Three if you count Sasheer Zamata, but that’s to a lesser extent…and yes, I’ll get to her eventually). Bobby Moynihan & Vanessa Bayer might not be all-time greats as of yet, but during their respective 9 and 7 years on the show, they were able to save the day more than a number of times. This week, we’re going to take a look at some of (IMO) their best highlights during their runs; First, Vanessa, then Bobby Tomorrow.

 

Welcome to a new S.O.S.N.L. feature called “Cast Chronology”; Not to be confused with our “Hidden Gems” feature, this is going to be done a little differently from that. For starters, This is NOT—I repeat, NOT—a “Best Of” or “Favorites” list by any means. Like I just said, This is really more to show how certain cast members who Recently left the show have evolved over a period of time, and what ultimately brought them to where they are now. Since neither Bobby nor Vanessa has a “Best Of” DVD, just about any sketch in their time frames are fair play. The only other rules are that (1) the sketches they appear in are either Lead or Supporting roles; no bit parts. (2) In an effort to streamline things, we will focus on one sketch per year (not season) that they were on the show. At times, this could also mean talking about sketches that nobody likes; so just a heads-up there. Finally, (3) This is one of the Rare times where I lift the “Non-recurring” rule, partly because a cast member’s run would’ve been incomplete/impossible without mentioning At Least a few of them…in Vanessa’s case, she did do more than a few.

 

 

With that being said, Ladies first…

 

 

2010:

VANESSA_MILEY

THE MILEY CYRUS SHOW (2010-2013) – One of the hallmarks of any debut cast member is getting to perform a sketch version of something that person did during their audition; Vanessa’s reliable Miley Cyrus being one of them. Of course, keep in mind that This portrayal of Miley was back in the days when she was young, sweet and innocent, and not the “Recent” Miley that messed up her hair and nearly threw her career away by going through a “Wild” phase (I’m glad she’s mellowed out now, BTW). It’s a pretty solid impression that she used to her advantage a number of years; and it was also the kind of “Hit the ground running” piece that any rookie cast member would want to have. This also marks the ONLY time that father Billy Ray is portrayed by Bryan Cranston—the other times, of course, being portrayed by Sudeikis.

 

 

2011:

VANESSA_JPOP.jpg

J-POP AMERICA FUN TIME NOW (2011-2014) – When you’re spare hobby consists of trying to keep track of every SNL related occurrence; it’s pretty easy to forget about certain characters for whatever reason; These sketches where Vanessa plays half of a duo that’s just a little too enthusiastic over Japanese culture literally just returned to my brain as I was researching clips; and I had forgotten how funny (though culturally questionable) they were as she & Taran Killam violate just about every Asian stereotype in the book, but they do it in good fun in spite of their Sensei (a thankless job from Jason Sudeikis) calling them out on it. It’s in these sketches that you see what made Vanessa likable in her beginning years; a combination of her smile and her effervescence. But as time marched on, Vanessa eventually realized that she had to be more than a bright smile in order to win over the audience…

 

 

2012:

VANESSA_PORNSTARS

HALF OF THE EX-PORNSTARS (2012-2015) – Up to this point, the characters Vanessa played were generally Everywomen/kind sweethearts of sorts; These characters are clearly on the opposite end of the pendulum; so at the very least, we see that Vanessa (and Cecily to an extent) are willing to take bigger risks—as is the case in each of these sketches, where it’s less about the fact that she’s playing an Ex-Porn star, but more about the fact that she’s taking a dictionary and running it through a paper shredder with each of her mis-pronunciations coupled with the vapidness her character displays—it’s a winning combination.

 

 

2013:

VANESSA_THANKSGIVING

THANKSGIVING DINNER (11/23/2013) – Somewhere in the world, Paul Simon WISHES his Turkey Costume was as streamlined as Vanessa’s…but (guess what), I digress. I know the whole “mis-matched couple” sketch has been done since the dawn of time, but to be honest, I’m surprised it’s taken them This Long to come up with a version this bizarre. The humor was awkwardly funny, and it looked like your typical 10 to 1 bit…right up until the very last shot with that freaky Time Lapse of a (Now Real) Turkey running out the door…I’m sure their efforts were good on that shot, but something about it just rubbed me the wrong way. Also—and I’m sure this is a total coincidence but I gotta ask—the bumper they cut to in this particular episode features (host) Josh Hutcherson at a Bar with a Turkey…possibly drinking “Wild Turkey”; as well as Another bumper that clearly shows he & the Turkey taking their adventures elsewhere. Wouldn’t it be weird if this was a depiction of His Character meeting Vanessa’s Character before the events of the sketch occurred? The answer to that question is: “Dude, take your meds, it’s just a TV show.” As far as Vanessa goes, this was continuing to prove that she was willing to do more than conventional roles in sketches; even if it means having to give up a piece of your dignity just to make the audience laugh For you, not at you (because, let’s face it, laughing “With” you is a total myth).

 

 

 

2014:

VANESSA_PARSONS

LAURA PARSONS/SPOTLIGHTZ ACTING CAMP (2011-2017) – Another go-to character Vanessa had was the overly precocious Child Actor Laura Parsons (not to be confused with Jim Parsons who actually appears in this 2014 edition…and yes, I know, that’s Clearly LiLo in the bed, but I didn’t want to use Parson’s still-shot…I’m digressing again.); basically, if you’ve ever seen a child actor go over the top in your lifetime, you know what to expect with this one—exaggerated movement, constant smiling, and the ever-present “Stage” voice…oh, you KNOW what I’m talking about, the kind of voice that wobbles a little bit whether they talk or sing, but should not be confused for a “Nervous” wobble…It’s a little hard to describe, so I’m going to let 13 year old Sarah Silverman give us a better example. Now, having said that, out of all the characters Vanessa does, this one has got to be THE Most annoying–Not “Terrible”, certainly amusing, but definitely Annoying. To her credit, Vanessa DOES master the Wobble in her voice that most child actors that try too hard often possess…unfortunately, this means that the rest of the SNL cast forced into attempting to put their own spin on it in this particular case; Though I gotta admit the “Dallas Buyers Club” & “Her” scenes were awkwardly funny. The rest of them I can take or leave. The character would eventually migrate over to the Update Desk; same wobble, but now she’s using her child-like innocence to talk about news stories that’s rather hard to take—which is actually an improvement.

 

 

 

2015:

THE TOTINO’S TRILOGY (2015-2017) – These sketches alone are probably the best example of how Vanessa evolved over time in a more concentrated form. At this point in the show, the characters Vanessa has played had sort of a “Doormat” quality to them; she would more often than not get the short end of the stick in a number of sketches, and yet somehow she never batted an eye about it—I guess that counts as professional. The first Totino’s spot with JK Simmons is a perfect example of that, but then we see something change by the time we get to the next one with Larry David (above). Yeah, she’s still largely playing it straight, but the fact that they added a non-sequitur X-Files tie in to the thing changes Vanessa’s attitude from Sad Sack to that of Concern. But since comedy has the “Rule of 3”, we then have a 3rd one that aired just last year that is the Polar Opposite of the first two; as Vanessa and (host) Kristen Stewart engage in an affair straight out of the “Blue is the Warmest Color” playbook. From being straight and generic to doing something far more daring than anybody would expect one to do, Vanessa’s range (and a little of her butt) was on full display.

 

 

 

2016:

GOD IS A BOOB MAN (4/12/2016) – I mentioned this previously on our Movie Parody List, but I wanted to mention this again here because now that Vanessa had 6 seasons under her belt by this point, you could tell that she wanted to 1-up herself a little bit more each week (especially after playing sad sacks for so long). So when the time came to take down the recent rash of Religious-yet-Mainstream movies inhabiting the multiplexes, Vanessa stepped up and took it like a champ.

 

 

 

2017:

UPDATE – DAWN LAZARUS (5/20/2017) – This brings us to what I feel should’ve been Vanessa’s last hurrah were it not for the fact that her official last sketch featured both her and Bobby at the end of the episode, but I’m going to talk more about that one tomorrow since that’s a Bobby-heavy sketch anyway. For now, I’d like to consider this Vanessa’s final, as well as probably one of the quickest times a character came back not counting Velvet Jones or Mango. Here, she’s playing practically Every Female Meteorologist in America—and before you think I’m being sexist here, I want you to look very carefully both at this, and your local weather team (or even some of the people on The Weather Channel), and tell me I’m wrong. Same bubbly personalities, same urge to communicate as quickly as possible, same probability that they’re talking so fast that you wonder if the language they’re speaking is really English; if anything, Vanessa’s doing Them a favor here by showing off how HAP-hazard their delivery can be at times. I particularly wanted to show this version because knowing this was going to be her last show, she slips in a going away present for the Censors.

 

 

FINAL VERDICT: When it comes to how a cast member evolves over time, there are ups, downs, and staying neutral throughout. In Vanessa’s case; she started out with a lot of ambition, then lulled a little bit in the middle, only to finish up relatively on top. Her rise wasn’t particularly meteoric (a la Kate), but it was consistent enough so that she was one of the show’s more likable figures—having a smile that could light up Broadway certainly helps. The risks she took were few and far between, but at least we know she’s willing to step outside the box once in a while—something I hope she continues to do with whatever she does next (I was told she was supposed to have a sitcom on NBC in January, but her IMDB says otherwise). And also, if you’re wondering why I never mentioned her Other signature character of Jacob the Bar Mitzvah boy; it’s partly because I never cared for it; but officially, it was because I was always disappointed in the fact that it was the EXACT. SAME. ROUTINE. EVERY. TIME…not even use of Billy Crystal one time could help. Be that as it may, Vanessa will always be one of the show’s great utility performers—certainly not a Jan Hooks type; But I do see maybe some of Nora Dunn’s straight-laced mannerisms, Molly Shannon’s ability to play crazy once in a while, and Laraine Newman’s chameleon-like versatility. Simply put, Vanessa IS versatile (and hopefully she continues to be in whatever she does next), but she wasn’t afraid to go the extra mile neither.

 

 

TOMORROW: It’s Bobby’s Turn.

Adamant Amy

So, once again, I find myself working on my week off…OK, technically this isn’t “Work”, nor do I get paid for it, but who am I to argue what the almighty TV listings say. Tonight’s “SNL Vintage” takes us back to the 40th Anniversary season 3 years ago, and with it (*SPOILER ALERT*) possibly the most disappointing Christmas Show they had since the dreaded George Foreman/Hole episode in Season 20. And that’s unfortunate because Amy Adams seems like one of those actresses who knows her way around a quality role—most of the time, anyway. Not that she, or even most of the show itself was “Bad” or anything, it’s just that when you’re a part of certain aspects of the SNL community of Fans, there’s going to be some things we can agree on, and things we can disagree on, and it’s OK to share those differences. The REAL reason why I found this episode disappointing can be best explained as soon as we get to the Monologue…but I’m getting a little ahead of myself. So with that, let’s put this lump of Coal to good use—and burn it.

 

ADAMS_COVER2

Amy Adams/One Direction (Original Airdate: 12/20/2014)

 

 

DR EVIL: Just when I was about to praise Taran for his Sam Smith…HO-LY-SHIT…Mike Myers not only surprises us all, but he has also gained a considerable amount of weight since we saw him last (But I digress/instantly apologize)! Moonfaced Myers aside, Mike hasn’t missed a beat. From all the various North Korea/Sony jokes to his making fun of “The Love Guru”, this was a very unexpected way to address the 2nd biggest news story of the week (Truth be told, I think the Cuba story is more significant, but again, I digress). This is very much the front runner for Best Cold Open of the year right now. Unfortunately, I’m sorry to say is probably the sole highlight of the evening. Not just because it’s a Very welcome nostalgic throwback/chance to catch up with an old friend; but more importantly, once you start hot, the only place to go from here is down the chimney…

Sidebar: I know it was just a joke, but Sony Did have Several hits after the Walkman; Playstations 1 thru 4, anybody?
SCORE: 9 out of 10 rewrites to the inevitable “Austin Powers 4”.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Not changing the opinion here or anything, but I can’t be the only one who feels like we’re stuck in a time loop—here we are 3 years later, James Franco is about to put out Another Movie and things are STILL tense between us and North Korea. I think we’re just about due for a Time paradox.

 

 

ADAMS_MONO

MONOLOGUE: (No Clip due to Music rights) (**DEEP BREATH**) GO! THE! FUCK! AWAY! KRISTEN! WIIG!!!!!!!! Having said that, I don’t know what the exact science is that makes this happen; We universally hate Song and Dance-o-logues the whole rest of the year, yet somehow during the Christmas show, it’s OK. Maybe because so many people would be watching tonight, they didn’t want to run the risk of half-assing it like they usually do…………Oh, who the hell am I kidding, any attempt to make this enjoyable is pretty much thrown out the window the moment she showed up. What makes this particularly painful is the fact that “We Need a Little Christmas” is one of the Very Few Christmas songs that I actually don’t mind hearing over & over…Thank YOU Kristen Wiig for making me hate it now. Oh, well, for what it’s worth, at least Ms. Adams has a good singing voice (if not a little too soft & lacking in upper registers), and everybody else looked like they were having a good time (especially Sasheer who makes her ONLY appearance of the night)…too bad I’m not everybody else.

 

SCORE: 3 out of 10 “Theater Hook” sized Candy Canes that I want to use get Wiig off the Stage.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: (*SIGH*) I was hoping to wait a little while longer before I can talk about it, but this episode has forced the subject. Like I said at the top, there are things we can agree and disagree on, and you’re more than welcome to think so—but in my God’s Honest opinion; when she was a cast member (and ONLY when she was a Cast member), I and a group of other SNL fans had just about has much tolerance for Kristen Wiig as Republicans have about as much tolerance for doing something noble and honorable. In short, she got on a LOT of our nerves. The ironic part is that I don’t really “Hate” Wiig; quite the contrary—I think she’s enormously talented, and certainly deserves the fame she’s earned. Yet, for some reason, whenever she would do certain kinds of characters (including one you’ll see a little later on), we seem to have a Pavlovian urge to change the channel and watch Law & Order reruns for a few minutes until the coast was clear. Then again, I’ve always been a big believer in Balance in the Universe; We had to sit through 7 years of Wiig, but in exchange, we get 7 years of Andy Samberg and his Digital Shorts; so it all evens out. If you’re a fan of her, good for you—I just thought (on the show, anyway) she hammed it up worse than a Smithfield slaughterhouse.

 

 

ADAMS_ASIAN

ASIAN AMERICAN DOLL: Remember a while ago when I said that SNL needed to hire some Asian Cast Members next? Well, if this was to act as a way to recruit any of them, they probably should’ve thought this through first. Not that this was entirely offensive or anything, but they still should’ve thought twice before invoking tired stereotypes in an awkward way (Though to be fair, I actually Did laugh uncomfortably at the Girl asking if the Doll will cook her Dog). Vanessa makes her first, and unfortunately best and ONLY appearance of the night playing a confused mother trying to douse a few un-PC fires. They DID realize that a Lot of people watch the Christmas Show, right? Clearly they’re trying to avoid another “Ching Change”, but no matter how subtle the “Jokes” are, it’s still a thin line to cross.

 

SCORE: (And I’m being Generous here) 4 out of 10 visits from the Asian Anti-Defamation League.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: 3 years later, we’re still waiting; Yes, you’ve got Black cast members, a Latina and (at one point a few years ago) an Iranian, but progress is only as big as the leaps you’re willing to take.
 

 

ADAMS_TENDERFIELDS

TENDERFIELD CHRISTMAS: I’m guessing Youtube style videos as a sketch concept is officially a thing now. Very liberal use of covering Will Smith’s “Miami” prevents me from seeing this again online; but from what I can recall from watching it Live, the big highlights for me include Mooney acting like a Dog, Adams going on about her affair, and Kate being creepily seductive. I’ll even give Kenan credit for pulling a “Bobby” at the end with a legitimate scene steal. Delightfully bizarre, but still a little weak for a lead-off.

 

SCORE: 6 out of 10 Ugly Sweaters.

 

 

CHRISTMAS SERIAL: I mentioned this sketch a little while back in the “12 Days of SNL Christmas sketches”; but I wanted to mention once again how confused the audience was when they first saw it—I know I was. Based on the audience reaction, they had no idea if what was being spoofed was based on a real thing or not. Sure enough, this was poking fun at—as of this writing—is probably one of the most popular podcasts of all time; maybe because we were seeing a “Visual” version of said podcast, that’s probably where even more confusion set in. At either rate, this still holds up, Cecily still plays Sarah Koenig for all she’s worth, and the details they put into it are almost worth listening to the actual show for just to see how much they got right. This (and Dr. Evil) truly was the bright spot of the episode.

 

SCORE: 8 out of 10 broadcasts of “This American Life”.

 

 

ADAMS_GIRLFRIEND

GIRLFRIENDS TALK SHOW: Nope, sorry, if a 4-month gap isn’t enough to make things fresh, then the sketch has run its course. I don’t care if Aidy remains the sole highlight of these, the “joke” is still Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Having Ear Infection…ahem, One Direction in their annual attempt to act doesn’t help matters either. Not even the sight of Ms. Adams in a Cheerleader outfit did anything for me…and that’s all I really need to say about it.

 

SCORE: 3 out of 10…all thanks to Aidy, otherwise it WOULD be a Zero.

 

 

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY: In the Grand Tradition of “Lazy Sunday” & “Dick in a Box” as potential Christmas Viral videos, we now have…a valiant effort, as well as an attempt for Jay & Pete to become viral stars in the same way Samberg & Parnell did 9 years ago…but again, it was just a good try—nothing really groundbreaking about it despite some decent visuals & Aidy stealing the show (as is her right). It’s also a pretty sad state of affairs when not only is it Ms. Adams’ performance here is only her 2nd best of the night, but also Ms. Jones’ ONLY appearance when we need her in other parts of the show. Like I said, this Tries to be “Lonely island-esque”, but I think they might’ve tried a little too hard here.

 

SCORE: 6 out of 10 cups of 180 proof Egg Nog.

 

 

ADAMS_UPDATE

UPDATE: (Part 1 in This Stocking, Part 2 in That Stocking)

Colin’s Best: His “Interview” Joke, Bill Cosby/Kathie Lee

Michael’s Best: His “Interview” Joke, Workplace Robots (for the Low Blow Only)

Commentaries: The Semi-Meta, Semi-Commentary from Bobby was short, sweet, and a good way to handle the story. Kenan trots out Generic voiced character #931 with “Hi-Larious” results, And then…FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FFFFFUUUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I mean, MY GOD, FUCK FRED, FUCK WIIG, FUCK GARTH & KAT!!! (*HEAVY GASP, LIGHTS CIGARETTE*) Sorry folks, I haven’t been this Angry since May with that damn Vogelcheck sketch…(*TAKES SEVERAL PUFFS*)…I normally don’t act this way, I needed to be cathartic for a moment, and I’m sorry for blowing up there…(*PUTS OUT CIGARETTE*)…I’m OK Now…(*BREATHES DEEPLY & CALMS DOWN*)…But seriously, FUCK GARTH & KAT IN THE…(*TRANSMISSION INTERRUPTED FOR ABOUT 12 MINUTES*)…WITH A FROZEN BOOT! Hallelujah, Holy Shit, Where’s the Tylenol (and for that matter, Where the hell is Jebidiah Atkinson when we need him)?!

SCORE: 5 out of 10 WTHR’s (NBC in Indianapolis…200 miles North of Santa Claus, Indiana)

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: All that stuff I said about Wiig in the Monologue? Well, copy and paste the same feelings towards Fred Armisen as well—I like him whenever he’s far away from studio 8H, but whenever he appears on the show (with or without Wiig), that same urge to change the channel takes place…possibly at a higher capacity. It’s made even worse when he & Wiig do what has been called one of the most divisive characters SNL has ever had in the form of “Garth & Kat”; the “Singing” duo who claims to have rehearsed their routines even though they always run late, and clearly haven’t rehearsed a thing…Much to my shock, this bit was done several times in both Wiig & Armisen’s waning years on the show; how many exactly, I don’t know—nor do I want to because once was enough. Apparently, the pieces were based on an old routine Wiig either performed or saw being performed when she was with The Groundlings—which always struck me a little curious considering the show always had some unwritten rules about not performing anything Improv related unless it was scripted…but I could be wrong. Again, if you loved the characters, more power to ‘ya—but this piece damn nearly cost me a new TV by hurling a brick through it.

 

 

ADAMS_CUBAN

A VERY CUBAN CHRISTMAS: Kate was the saving grace in this otherwise laughless impression showcase/stereotype-o-rama…or at least I thought it was laughless when I saw it live (Thanks, Unisom!). On closer inspection, it wasn’t “Terrible” per se, just severely disjointed—even more so by having Fred grace us with his presence once again as Raoul Castro. Cecily’s Estefan was (thankfully) light on the accent, Taran does a reasonably OK Pitbull though I’m not a fan of Pitbull’s in order to truly appreciate it. Despite Mooney & Adams doing their best with “Scarface”, I have a feeling it was a cheap cash-in on an NBC Universal property (Thanks, Synergy!). Kenan is bafflingly playing Cuba Gooding Jr. When clearly Jay fits the description more accurately…too bad he was busy playing Obama to do anything about it (Seriously Jay, start thinking of an exit strategy NOW). Thankfully Kenan was Brief, though not half as brief as Bobby & Beck as Puppet Fidel. Despite the effort, You can tell by the lack of the crowd that after viewing Garth & Kat, they just wanted to go home for the holidays.

 

SCORE: 5 out of 10 cups of “Black Dynamite” (Cuba born Jon Secada’s brand of Coffee…not the [adult swim] show of the same name).

 

 

A MAGICAL CHRISTMAS: I can see that this was trying to be charming/weird (Tim Robinson’s work?), but right up until the twist ending there was certainly an aura of WTF. In fact, this is actually one of those sketches that needs to be seen a second time in order to fully appreciate it, because once the twist is revealed, everything else falls into place, thus making all the nonsense in 90% of it actually make sense. I’ll give credit for lampooning the 40s (one of my favorite eras to parody), and I’ll also give the girls credit for a nice harmony between them. But please do yourself a favor and watch this twice, it’s the only way it can be judged fairly.

 

SCORE: 6 out of 10 Bridger Raccoon Traps.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Surprisingly (though later on I’d figure this wasn’t a surprise considering how much Cecily teams up with them), this sketch was written by SNL stalwarts James Anderson & Kent Sublette (AKA “Anderlette”); It surprises me because those two are not exactly masters of subtlety, but then again we all have our off-days, don’t we?

 

 

ADAMS_WHISKERS

WHISKERS R WE: Somehow (and THANKFULLY) I had a feeling this would come back. Is this the exact same sketch as last May? Of course it is, but at least it’s still fresh enough for it to be funny (not to mention Kate getting an Early Christmas present…if you Know what I mean…wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Just like the first one, the kitties are cute, the jokes are low key and the female host is having a field day “Accidentally” grabbing Kate. I liked the “Cat Stevens” cat, the “I’m a Man!” cat, and also Bonus biased points for there being an old cat named Samantha—I had a cat named Samantha once (though I called her Sammy), she lived a good 19 years. Otherwise, it’s 100% Identical from May’s.

 

SCORE: 6 out of 10 packets of Tender Vittles.

 

 

 

BONUS POINTS:

+1 For that Last Bumper (See above at the beginning), looks like a cross between an Elf and Carol Burnett’s “Charwoman” character.

 

 

FINAL SCORE: 62 out of 110 (56.3% WATCHABLE)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Deck the Halls with sub-par sketches, Fa-la-la-la-la…la-la-la-LAME!! I was Semi-Kidding when I said that I hoped this episode didn’t reach “Foreman” levels of Bad, Really! But sure enough, it looked like they actually tried their hardest to be bad on purpose. The ONLY things that actually keeps it from being so is Mike Myers at the beginning, decent filmed material (as usual), and Kate batting cleanup by distracting us from the comedy vacuum of Wiig & Armisen. Otherwise…dare I say…the prophecy is being fulfilled with yet another comparison on the Season 20 checklist (which I’ll get to momentarily). Adams—despite being eye candy—was almost entirely forgettable as a host…Maybe if a CERTAIN Attention Grabber (or two) didn’t show up and “Help Out” during the sketches, maybe Adams might’ve done well on her own merits…maybe she & Paul Rudd should get together on a project. All in all, maybe it wasn’t “Foreman” Bad, but it comes pretty damn close despite the silver linings.

 

 

BONUS SKETCH:

ADAMS_ACTUALLY

This isn’t going to effect the final score, but every once in a while, I want to show a sketch that got cut from the episode–This one in particular is a spoof of the movie “Love, Actually” but with then newcomer Pete Davidson in the Colin Firth role. It’s as charming as it is cliche to do these days (seriously, who DOESN’T do a “Love, Actually” parody; cards and all?). It’s cute and harmless if you haven’t seen the movie, but very spot on if you have. Quite honestly, this should’ve been swapped out with “A Very Cuban Christmas”, and the episode would’ve improved a little…but whata’ya gonna do?

 

 

NEXT WEEK: We introduce a New feature to S.O.S.N.L., and we use two recently exited cast members as patient Zero.

Murphy’s Law

Thanksgiving. The time of year where families could get together and recap all that has happened within the past year. Sometimes that’s done with great reverence, other times…ok, most of the time…that’s done with complete and total awkwardness (Especially when it comes to discussing politics). And since Thanksgiving is chock-full of that awkwardness, it’s time for something just as painful to look back on—another Retro Review from that period in my life where I needed to be hit in the head with several copies of Webster’s Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus. But what makes this episode PARTICULARLY awkward is the fact that I’m about to talk about someone whose star was on the rise, only for it to be extinguished far too soon…also, according to my research, this was the ONLY SNL Thanksgiving-ish episode I wrote about back in the 1999-2003 time frame; so it looks like I have no choice in the matter. Hard as it is to believe, but it’s been 15 years since the still missed Brittany Murphy hosted SNL for her first and only time—plugging “8 mile” at the same time; Even harder to believe is the fact that she left this world 7 years ago under not-quite-clear circumstances (Though we’ll talk more about that later). If you were of a certain age—particularly, a millennial teenager—Ms. Murphy had something special going for herself. Granted, she appeared in a LOT of formulaic romantic comedies, but that was supposed to be a stepping stone into something better (I assume…”8 Mile” and the Michael Douglas movie “Don’t Say a Word” were her only high-profile dramas that Didn’t go straight to video). But as promising as her career would’ve been, this episode wasn’t exactly the Best way to introduce yourself to a bigger audience (as our opening sketch will demonstrate).

 

REMINDER: Old thoughts are Black, blocked and un-edited (Except where I find necessary), New thoughts are in Blue, and this was also the season I used Simpsons quotes to describe the sketches after a previous reviewer retired & said it was OK to do the bit; let’s take a look…

 

MURPHY_COVER2

Brittany Murphy/Nelly (Original Airdate: 11/16/2002)

 

 

MURPHY_SANDLER

Chanukah Song #3 or “We’re gonna hit him where it hurts, right in the Judaica!”

OK, this was what everybody around here has been talking about all week, The return of “Stan and Judy’s Kid”. We all know about the legendary 1st Chanukah song, and we were quite aware of the 2nd one. This time around, he’s got it going on! He’s got a choir, an Orchestra and…ROB SCHNIDER?! I always thought he was Lithuanian! All kidding aside, this was hands down the best opening that I have seen in years. And believe me, it takes a lot to impress me…Ooh, a “Ford Focus!”

Diagnosis: A+

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This would probably be a good time to mention Adam Sandler, as well as the fact that (not counting various anniversary appearances) this would be the Last/most Recent appearance he (and Schneider) would make on the show. Which I always thought was unfortunate considering the movies he would churn out over the years since this aired, and how an appearance on the show might’ve helped out a little…but nope, Sandler has made his bed, he’s in with the Netflix crowd, and he seems perfectly OK with making mediocre/passable films—whatever floats your boat. As for this chapter of the Chanukah songs; let’s face it, when you’re a teen, you tend to be immune from over-hyping. When this aired, I thought it was Water Cooler television—but now all I see it as is a cheap promotional cash-in for a movie that didn’t turn out so great; not only that, but “Punch Drunk Love” came out around the same time; and I have a feeling “Eight Crazy Nights” did to that movie what “Norbit” did to Eddie Murphy’s appearance in “Dreamgirls”. The plusses? At least this one had a little more effort than the original; using a child choir and more pizazz to get the point across does work. Otherwise, take all of that away, and the whole thing would’ve been a little too desperate…even more than Schneider’s brief blip.

 

REVISED SCORE: B-

 
MURPHY_MONO

Monolouge or “The name’s Poochie D and I rock the telly, I’m a half Joe Camel and 1/3rd Fonzerelli. I’m the Kung-fu hippie from Gangsta’ City, I’m a rappin surfer, your the fool I pity!”

(SPEAKS IN TRI CORDER) Note to self, find better rapping reference. Here we have the (Rather Small) Ms. Murphy with the daunting task of following up Adam Sandler, good luck there kid! Once again, this isn’t a monolouge! This isn’t even a ‘louge at all, it’s more of a sketch! But I care not, this was actually interesting. Sadly, it’s one of those moments when it starts great, but ends up weak. Mainly because of Ms. “I’ll never tell”. But I love it how people can make fun of their “Achievements”, (Corky Romano, Hah!) in a joking way.

Diagnosis: B-

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: OK, 2002 Me, repeat after…uh…myself…it’s spelled “Monologue” A Mono-louge is an Olympic event. Now that we’ve got that settled, As much as I want to Try and pay respect to the late Ms. Murphy, her raspy, waif-like awkwardness makes it a little hard to do…and she’s barely doing anything in this to begin with aside from refereeing and eventually harnessing her inner-Eminem…or “Innerem”, if you will. The main action is all about the East V. West…as well as a continuing reminder that Chris Kattan…(*THUNDER*)…is a spazzmonic dweeb who couldn’t do anything cool even if you poured liquid nitrogen down his pants; but thankfully he doesn’t do much here. The REAL stars of this one are Chris Parnell—who I completely forgot used to throw down quite a bit on the show—and just how tight his flow is, Tracy throwing some Rappers Delight, and (“SAY MY NAME DON PARDO!”) Amy Poehler giving us a sneak peek of her “Pregnant Palin” rap 6 years in advance. Surprisingly, this holds up after 15 years.

 

REVISED SCORE: B+

 

 

MURPHY_POTTER

Welcome Back, Potter or “Harry Potter, is that gum you’re chewing?” “No ma’am, it’s brimstone!”

Yet another unexpected twist! I don’t know who it was who was playing “Potter”, if anyone knows, fill me in. But this was (In my corniest metaphor ever.) Definately out of left field. I thought I was going to be in for a buzzkill, because I’m not the Harry Potter fan that you think I am…Actually, I’m not even a fan at all. But at either rate…

Diagnosis: A

EDITOR’S NOTE: I guess because Will Forte was a brand new cast member who barely made any appearances as of the show’s broadcast, I honestly didn’t know if he or an unnamed extra was supposed to be playing Harry Kott…uh, I mean Potter. For the most part, this was what I would call an “Easy in, Easy out” sketch; one where there’s a set-up, and exactly one punchline to the sketch, but it thankfully doesn’t belabor point…but maybe it does that a little TOO well, considering the sketch (if you can call it that) was made almost entirely out of still-shots. Doesn’t exactly warrant an A rating, but at least the piece is competent enough to get the laugh and get out.

 

REVISED SCORE: B-

 

 

MURPHY_LEATHER

Leather Man or “Homer, that’s supposed to be leather patches on a Tweed blazer… you ruined a perfectly good jacket!” “Incorrect Marge, TWO perfectly good jackets!”

(SQUEAL, SQUEAL, WHOOSH) Huh, Pig flying, nice! Why did they bring this one back again? Albeit the reason why this sketch was done was so we could see a tight body fit into something tighter…(CAT CALLS, WHISTLES)… Uh, But with that arousing thought aside, the highlight was definately the (Ahem) “Snake on Snake” action. The BJ joke at the end was sickening…Sickeningly funny! If they do this one again, I would like to know how “Choo-Choo” ever made it out alive. (Possibly by vaccum cleaner)

Diagnosis: B+

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, we were all young once. So much so that the sight of a beautiful woman in skin-tight leather would be enough to take down the fighting 4th. But as much as Ms. Murphy’s figure kept me awake in this sketch, it was Fallon and Sanz that garnered the most attention here…and for All the WRONG reasons. It seems kinda quaint now, but for pretty much ALL of Fallon’s tenure, if he was paired in a sketch with Sanz; any/all attempts to do the sketch professionally was thrown out the window thanks to their non-stop giggling…which in this case, takes up about 40% of the sketch. Also not helping; in spite of Murphy being eye candy, she seems to be delivering her lines in a way that would make cue card readers embarrassed. Also, also not helping; the sometimes badly timed sound effects of the leather squeaking around. This would be the 2nd and (thankfully) last time this sketch would be done—which is just as well, because the last minute and a half of the sketch is a textbook derailment.

 

REVISED SCORE: C-

 
MURPHY_DONAHUE

Donahue or “Two Callers…that’s the best we’ve ever had!”

Nice to see that Darrell is doing Doanhue again. All I have to say, is What took so long? Hell, if he did it a few months earlier, Donahue’s show ratings would go through the roof…If you call 0.0000094 “Through the roof”. Was that enough gauze for “Striesand” there? What about “Al Sharpton”, what the hell was that about? The Michael Moore piece was OK, but the best part were those mini-commercials, Especially that “Your ad here” spot. The 2nd one was kinda reminiscant (Sp?) of the “Donheiser” spot from 1989’s “East Berlin Squares”. But all in all, it was one hell of a return for Darrell. What has it been, 5 years? It’s about damn time!

Diagnosis: A

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: When you let a few years pass by, certain sketches become what’s known as “Time Capsules”; ones that show what life was like at the time, and also gives us a chance to compare/contrast how things are now. For instance, remember a time when MSNBC actually used to be a low-rated Middle of the Road news channel instead of the modestly rated liberal powerhouse it is today? Even more so, yes, Phil Donahue tried to mark a comeback by having a nightly program on the then fledgling network, only for his own ratings to be lower than fledgling; Keith Olbermann took over his time slot shortly thereafter, and the rest is history. Anyway, this sketch did mark the first time in about 5 years since Darrell Hammond put his Donahue impression (and his non-stop tangents) to good use; truth be told, it was neck & neck with his Ted Koppel & Dan Rather as one of my favorite impressions he did (Clinton became overrated after a while, IMO). Jeff Richards at least got the Look of Michael Moore down, just wish he had more of a chance to speak. Watching Tracy do Al Sharpton is kind of jarring considering Kenan Thompson has been doing it now for 15 years (and counting); but to be fair to Tracy, at least his was FAR more accurate than Kenan will Ever be. It’s a good thing they blasted the soft focus on Maya’s Streisand, otherwise it wouldn’t’ve been half as convincing. Finally, in that 2nd commercial with the near-empty audience, it was nice of Conan O’Brien’s staff to let them use their set for it…Man, that’s a Lot of Information for an otherwise “OK” sketch.

 

REVISED SCORE: B-

 
MURPHY_JARRET

Jarrett’s Room or “What do you think he’s doing up there?” “Drug Lab.” “Drug Lab!?” “Or playing video games, I don’t know!”

It has been a little while since we’ve seen Jarrett and Gobi get high off their ass. Speaking of getting high, I just thought of a great idea for Christmas…”The Chia Bong!” All you do is just add water…OK, that was the single worst joke in history, and I will be burning in hell shortly. Meanwhile, what the hell happened to “DJ Feinstein”? I liked his British schtuff much better than this! what do you think “Fonzie”?

FONZIE: “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, I think the sketch just “jumped the shark”. Something I know all too well, “Whoa!”

Well put, fonz. Anywho, despite that particular thing from happening, the sketch was great as usual. Britt was too slow to look hyper, How’s that for an Oxymoron?

BAD INSULT BOY: You’re an Oxymoron! You Oxymoron!

Uh yeah, why don’t you just sit in the corner over there. To sum up, Keep on puffin’ boys, but save some for “Phish”.

Diagnosis: A+

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: (*SIGH*) OK folks, we’ve got a LOT To unpack with this one as This sketch brings up an unfortunate elephant in the room; you’ve probably noticed that this is a transcript of the sketch instead of a video. Normally whenever no video of a sketch is available, it’s usually because of music rights; but since I recall the music Seth playing being pretty generic, that couldn’t be why. Then I read the sketch’s transcript, and remembered that Ms. Murphy’s character was essentially playing a college pill-popper; so much so, that at one point in the sketch, her character’s heart speeds up, stops, then starts up again. I bring this up, because it had been long rumored (though never 100% confirmed) that Ms. Murphy passed away due to (among other things) a misuse of prescription drugs—not unlike her character in this sketch, but switch out drugs with “Vitamins” and No-Doz. As such, this would be a pretty good reason why NBC would remove not only this sketch, but also a portrayal of a zonked-out Murphy (played by Abby Elliott) a few weeks before she died in 2009. I know, I hate bringing up someone’s morbid details for what I can only call a theory at this point, but I can’t be the only one who finds that and this sketch just a little too coincidental. So on that note, let’s just try to judge this one on its own merits. Basically, if you’ve ever seen a “Jarret’s Room” sketch before, you know what to expect; Fallon & Sanz laughing their asses off, Dozens of Weed jokes in the space of a few minutes, Seth pretending to be British, Jeff Richards coming on to play a clueless bully, etc. Also, I recall stealing that “Chia Bong” joke from Carrot Top, so I’m technically not wrong in saying it was the “Worst joke in History” (Then again, Ms. Murphy stole “Featheren” from an episode of “Two Guys & a Girl”, so nobody’s perfect).

 

REVISED SCORE: B-

 
MURPHY_BURRELL

C-SPAN or “But Think of the Scandals!” “Yeah, the British tabloids would have a field day!”

…And sure enough, very much like the New York Knicks, the show starts to choke. What the hell was this all about? Why do we care so much about the Brits? Should we really dive head first into their personal lives that much? I’m sorry, but it’s something that it think I needed to vent. Anywho, Seth was ultimately weak in this one, as was alleged “Part English” Dratch. The only thing that kept it afloat were the captions and Jim Downey’s V/Os (Well, I’m told it’s Jim Downey, I don’t know exactly.) But either way, it’s a sign that we’re losing steam.

Diagnosis: C

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hmmm…who was Paul Burrell again? (*LOOKS UP ON “THE WIKIPEDIA OF CONGRESS”*)… Ah, OK, I remember, former Princess Diana butler getting caught up in a Homosexuality scandal of some kind. Watching this again with adult eyes and ears, the hushed VOs from Steve Higgins (NOT Jim Downey),and the graphics that appear on the bottom of the screen was indeed the ACTUAL Comedy; Seth mincing his way through it seems supplementary in comparison. Considering how Dated the sketch is, I’m actually kinda surprised some of the humor holds up a little. Regardless, Thankfully about a few months later, Messers Stewart & Colbert would do a sketch about British Homosexuality right.

 

REVISED SCORE: C+

 

 

MURPHY_TENNIS

Tennis Talk W/ Scott Joplin or “…Or you could sing while I accompany you on the clavicord!”

Wow, someone must have eaten one of Gobi’s “Pot Pies” when this was written. Honestly, this sketch would have volunteered for stem cell research if it weren’t for Tracy and Dean in drag! Someone must have been given an ultimatum to write this…

LORNE: Either You Write This, Or I’m sending you to MAD TV!

WRITER: Gulp, Yes Sir!

To summorize, the saving grace is the two black dudes in drag! Otherwise, it’s a buzzkill!

Diagnosis: C-

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: A long time ago, Sketch comedy came at me at two speeds; either “Funny” or “Not Funny”, Never would I consider “Weird” to be a 3rd option and still find the sketch enjoyable…but times and feelings change. This one in particular has seen a bit of a cult following as one of those weird sketches that (for some reasons) supersedes its weirdness and actually presents itself as a form of “Charming”. It doesn’t matter that a Ragtime Piano Player from the 1920s wants to discuss modern day tennis, just go with the flow and we’ll all feel better about ourselves eventually. I mean……just watch it and ask yourself if you could come up with a more bizarre scenario in a Sharknado sequel; you can’t, can you? And although men dressing as women has sort of devolved in my mind as a comedy crutch, it doesn’t make Tracy & Dean Edwards’ use here any less of a sketch saver. The absurd nature of the Premise alone, let alone Maya’s constant piano intervals, is worth the price of admission. I know I throw around words like “Trainwreck” and “Derailment” a lot, but this is more of the legitimate kind where you just don’t want to look away no matter how strange it is.

 

REVISED SCORE: B+
MURPHY_UPDATE

Update or “I’m Al Unser Jr.!” “I’m Princess Margret!” “I’m Drunk!”

Why is it that the Update features always suck? It’s sort of like how #10,6,5, & 1 on David Letterman’s lists always suck. (Sorry Dave) I share Tina’s digust when she had to introduce “Drunk Girl”…(SPEAKS IN TRI-CORDER.) Note to self, invent “Alcohol Patch”. As for Liza and Mr. Wax Head, I’m glad that they’re canceled! I mean, c’mon! does America really need another “Osbournes” reject? Anna Nicole, I’m looking in your direction…

ANNA NICOLE: Uh, Huh? Wha… why is the room spinning? Can somebody get my ass out of this chair?

OK, walk it off there kid! You and Update walk it off!

Diagnosis: C-

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: To Quote George Carlin; “Well ,That’s a Little VAGUE!”, so let’s try again:

 

Best Jokes (knowing full well that most of them are outdated as hell): Phillips Defibrillator/Dick Cheney 6-pack, Harry Potter, Bennifer, Richard Gere

 

Commentaries: Like I said a while ago, even though Drunk Girl was Jeff Richards’ best character on the show, that doesn’t mean it was any good…especially since drunkenness kinda hits home a little, but I digress. As for Liza Minelli & (the late) David Gest…I never thought I’d say this in a million years, but watching this now, these two roles were PERFECT for Maya and Kattan (*THUNDER*)…hey, c’mon, I’m giving him a compliment for once. It’s perfect for Maya because of how she enjoys going over the top; and it’s perfect for Kattan because all he really has to do is sit still and do very little while still being a spazz; but at least it’s a minimalistic spazz this time around, so he gets a rare pass.

Oh, yes, I forgot. The year 2002 was also the year when the E! Network (which aired Classic SNL reruns at the time) dropped a bomb of biological warfare called “The Anna Nicole show” onto an unsuspecting public—and for whatever reason, that same public ate it up the same way promos for her “show” were eating into said SNL reruns ‘round the clock…I hate wishing ill of the dead, but then again I’m currently reviewing a show where the host is deceased, so what do I care? We will Never forgive you, Anna Nicole Smith; thanks to your success, the Kardashians are partially YOUR fault.

 

REVISED SCORE: C+

 
MURPHY_JONES

Astronaut Jones or “Maybe we should finally tell them the big secret, that all the chimps we sent into space came back super intelegent!”

This sketch has sparked me into doing another one of my famous commentaries…

COMMENTARY: OoooK, How can I say this Without sounding offending? On my birthday, I got that “Live From New York” Book. And in it, they talk about how they never gave Garrett Morris a chance, no matter how hard he tried. After seeing this tonight, with a performance that has him reduced to licking his lips around and confering with Tracy and Nelly, I can not only agree with that statement, but I am offended by the fact that despite his best efforts, Garrett Morris is still getting the short end of the stick! I’m sorry, I know I’m not one to preach, but it just doesn’t seem right for him to be treated this way after all these years… And to top it all off, The put him in the stupidest sketch this side of “The Sensitve Naked Man”. I actually saw him perform Off Broadway once, and he was terrific! Even on “Jamie Foxx” he was better than on SNL! Anyway, that’s my opinion, and just my opinion, everybody has theirs.

Getting back on track, why do they even bother with these sketches? No matter how many monkies get thrown in the wrench, it’s still the same thing! Yet despite this, it’s not the “Oy Vey of the day”.

Diagnosis: D-

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nothing really to add to the statement; Garrett got majorly underserved by the show back then, and the fact that the audience barely realized he was even in the sketch says a lot. Luckily, I’ve become fond of the Astronaut Jones sketches since then, so consider this an early (yet somehow belated) Christmas gift to Garrett and to Tracy…

 

REVISED SCORE: B-

 
MURPHY_SMIGEL

TV Funhouse/Religtables or “Bad Dog, I condemn you to hell!”

Now this one get’s the “Oy Vey!” Mainly for one sole purpose, Cartoons, Religion and Produce does not go together no matter how many times you try. That Cucumber Priest thing was what nailed it shut.

Diagnosis: F

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: There I go being narrow-minded again. The short wasn’t that bad; if anything, I thought it was a capable spoof on just how insipid the “Veggietales” franchise can be—especially if you don’t want religion jammed unnecessarily down one’s throat…………should probably re-phrase that given the subject matter. If I’m not mistaken, this short aired around the time the Catholic Sex Scandals (including a MAJOR One in Boston that inspired the movie “Spotlight”) was reaching critical mass……again, phrasing. So to that respect, I Kinda get what Smigel & Co were going for…Could’ve done without an ear of Corn “Pleasuring” himself, but whatta’ya gonna do? Also, the CGI (though incredibly cheap looking) is actually kind of impressive not just for 2002, but also SNL’s short turnaround times.

 

REVISED SCORE: C+

 
MURPHY_HANDEY

Big Thick Book or “Marge, I’m Bored!” “Why don’t you read a book?” “‘Cause I’m trying to Reduce my boredom”

Actually funny this week! Not “Peepants from Vermont” funny, but still OK.

Diagnosis: B

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: I think “Peepants from Vermont” was a callback to a Bush open a few weeks earlier…have to look it up again. Anyway, this is filler, so…

 

REVISED SCORE: N/A

 
MURPHY_GAYDAR

Girl W/O Gaydar or “Bart, Where did you get that shirt?” “Dunno, it came out of the closet.”

At least they’re doing the smart thing and moving this to the last one of the night.

And now a message to the guy who wrote this… If you throw in a lesbian, you’re still not going to improve it! It’s still the same stupid joke, only W/O Will Ferrell as your ending punchline. I quote radio personality Don Imus: “You know the Cynide pills you carry with you? Take them now, because it’s over! It’s in the yearbook, For-Get About it.”

Diagnosis: F

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: As I mentioned back in Dwayne Johnson’s 2002 episode, FUCK THIS SKETCH! And Thankfully, this was the Last one of these they did. Again, I’ll always be “Not Gay, but Supportive”. I just hated these sketches because Nobody can be THAT Stupid in trying to figure out if someone’s straight or not…4 TIMES. And thankfully, this is the ONLY sketch of the show where I don’t have to change the grade……………seriously, 4 TIMES they thought people would like this.

 

 

Grand Diagnosis: B-

Prescription: Think of how bad it would be if Sandler wasn’t there

Next Time: Take all the “You talkin’ to me” Jokes you can find, and chuck ’em! Cause a guy like DeNiro wouldn’t stand for it. BTW, could anyone out there fill me in as to who “Norah Jones” is? Is she new to the music world, or is she just trying to get noticed?

This Review is dedicated to all the Men and Women in America…Who choose to eat Ham instead of Turkey on Thanksgiving.

 

 

UPDATED SCORE: C-

 

UPDATED THOUGHTS: With all due respect to Ms. Murphy, wherever she is, this episode was not only a little too over hyped in my young eyes (Thanks in part to Sandler), but it also suffered from the most common thing that could happen to an average episode; It bolts out of the gate with the best of intentions and high hopes, only for it to run out of gas at/near/after “Update”—thus turning said high hopes into just another average show. Certainly not disastrous, but certainly not memorable (except for the fact that the host in question is now literally a fond memory). But sure enough, as so-so as this episode was, it paled in comparison to the disappointment that would follow my one Mr. DeNiro–hell, I can remember all the hype and the build-up that was made for that one; what should’ve been a Raging Bull turned out to be a Rocky & Bullwinkle…but I digress. Also, one last reminder—I listened to a lot of Alt. Rock back then, so my ignorance as to who Norah Jones is was perfectly valid.

 

 

 

Here’s what’s on tap for December:

*Al Gore’s Appearance from 2002.

*UPDATE (11/27/17): Since Kevin Hart will be hosting this year’s Christmas Show, and I have at least one of his previous episodes in my archives, we will post that during that week.

*My OTHER Favorite SNL Christmas Episodes (Not to be confused with “The 12 Days of SNL Christmas Sketches” I did last year)

*And in 2 weeks…I Know I promised to do this back in the summer, but that “Summer of Starmaker” thing turned out to be more time consuming than I thought it would be—Back to Back Bobby Moynihan & Vanessa Bayer retrospectives WILL Happen.

 

Here’s to a Vast Waistband this Turkey Weekend!

Channel Surfing: The Top 8 SNL TV Parodies

Well, it’s November, and that can only mean one thing……..aside from Feast related weight gain, Blood-Pressure raising shopping, coping with cold weather and the inevitable car repairs that go along with it…It’s November Sweeps—AKA, the time on TV when the networks want everybody and their mother watching their respective networks via whatever gimmicks necessary. And with that, what better time than now to talk about SNL’s TV Show parodies? After all, you can’t be a sketch comedy show without skewing ALL aspects of Pop Culture, even if it’s by biting the hand that feeds you sometimes.

 

 

The CRITERIA for this list is Virtually the Same as our Movie Parody list; but I’ll summarize anyway…

 

*Parodies have to be based on ACTUAL TV SHOWS

*Parodies must encompass either a majority OR an Entire Sketch, no throwaway jokes.

*Non-Recurring, of course (Sorry, Mr. Robinson & MacGruber).

*For That Matter, NO GAME SHOWS (We Already have a list for that, thank you)

*Also, NO NEWS PROGRAMS…we’d be counting this list down until January if we included any of those (Sorry fans of the “FOX & Friends” sketches).

*As Always, My Opinion. And with only 8 + some honorables to list, you better believe I’m gonna leave a few out; So Please, leave a COMMENT below if I left out any of your favorites.

 

 

  1. BERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2/15/2016) – Might as well begin with an easy target; I had mentioned this sketch previously in my review of Larry David’s first time hosting (and feel free to read that again for my full thoughts on it). So why is it at the bottom of the list? Because unlike the other parodies I’m about to cover, this sketch has a slight flaw in that it uses “Topical” humor that instantly dates itself—even a whole year and a half after it aired. Television, to me anyway, is supposed to be Timeless and Evergreen. I’m not saying episodic television CAN’T be topical, but it certainly diminishes its Rerun value when it does (at least Most of the time, anyway). Now, if Bernie was President on the other hand, this entry would be a Lot higher…but in the words of Sir Mick, you can’t always get what you want. Solid Parody, rapidly outdated, moving on.

 

 

  1. SEINFELD AT OZ (10/2/1999) – Speaking of things that are LD affiliated, Although the use of an actual cast from an actual show is always a plus, this just barely makes the list because when I first saw this at the enlightened age of 15 years old, there was a LOT to question. I mean, I had Vaguely heard of the show “Oz”; I knew it was on HBO, but my GOD I didn’t expect it to be like that—of course, now that I’m a little lot older I can look at this sketch again and think “Oh, it’s HBO, this is actually par for the course”. Thankfully, I was a “Seinfeld” watcher long before I ever had HBO, so at least the Seinfeld call-backs they make in this make the sketch slightly more palatable. The more I think about it, the more I realize this is an “On Steroids” version of what comedians did a lot of in the 80s and early 90s; They’d pose a scenario where two polar opposites combine, and just before the comedian goes into the bit, he/she would always preface things with “And I think it would go a little something……like this……” (Either that, or I’ve been watching too many Simpsons reruns lately). That’s pretty much what this sketch and the others that follow will be like; putting beloved characters in “Wacky” situations—if you can call Prison Rape “Wacky” to begin with.

 

TV_McMILLAN

  1. McDONALD AND WIFE (10/10/1981) – It was Susan St. James who coined the term “Obligatory SNL Host Sketch”, even though there have been several dozen of them up to this point in time, and several hundred more ever since. These are the sketches that (obligatorily) poke fun at said host’s most well-known work for the sake of a few tongue-in-cheek laughs, all while the host remains a good sport about things. The (Then) Future Mrs. Ebersol decided to do things a little differently; by audience applause, they had a choice of either General Douglas MacArthur (Kaz), Shakespeare’s MacBeth (Tony Rosato) or the obvious crowd favorite Ronald MacDonald (Piscopo)…Now that I think about it, that choice would’ve made a Great Super Match question on the “Match Game” (Mac_____). So, it’s MacDonald & Wife—a mini-sketch that reaches its maximum occupancy in sex jokes and not a lot else…which (no offense) knowing what we now know about the great Rock Hudson is a joke in itself. This is also despite the fact that even though St. James said they got along on set, rumors persisted that they couldn’t stand each other in real life; which would probably explain why the last season of the show was simply called “McMillan”…but I digress. Ronald MacDonald gets a Not!BJ, they use the Henry Mancini theme, and that’s all you really need to know.

 

TV_KOTTER

  1. QUENTIN TARANTINO’S WELCOME BACK KOTTER (10/14/1994) – Better late than never for Another Season 20 Silver Lining (Consider this one and MOST of John Travolta’s episode the honorary Number…I’ve lost track). A Good TV parody manages to take a piece of the past and blend it into the present without winking into the camera too much; that being said, it only seems fair for Travolta to pay homage to the show that made him famous by paying equal homage to the Director that gave him his career back. What starts out as a Kotter Parody, quickly evolves into a parody of “Reservoir Dogs”, right down to the use of the song “Little Green Bag” (Which explains why I can’t find a video of the sketch…stupid music rights). For the most part, they hit all targets; Gabe (Mike Myers) opening with a corny joke, Travolta doing the “Stuck in the middle with you” scene with Mr. Woodman (Jay Mohr); and to top off the insanity, Lenny & Squiggy (Michael McKean Reuniting with David L. Lander) AND Steve Buscemi show up at the end for a good old fashioned Mexican Standoff. Yet another bright spot in a dismal season.

 

TV_PARTRIDGE

  1. THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY MEETS THE BRADY BUNCH (2/5/1992) – A sketch that is one of Many that’s hard to find due to the use of actual songs (And don’t think I’ve forgotten about THAT subject), so forgive me for using an inferior copy for this one. Still another “What-if” scenario is played for us; What if the Partridges met the Bradys? What would Happen? Would the World explode? Would World Peace be declared? Well, it turns out nothing really happens aside from Jan (the questionable Melanie Hutsel) calling out the Partridges on the fact that they lip-sync their songs. So, she gathers the Rest of the Bradys to have a sing-off—the joke being that the Partridges DO use backing tracks, while the Bradys are using their own off-key voices…and then Mushmouth from “Fat Albert” (a thankless job by Chris Rock) shows up for some reason at the end. Incidentally, a few years after this aired, a really AWFUL TV Movie about the Partridges appeared featuring this priceless scene where The Partridges and the Brady Kids actually duke it out…an occurrence which, by the way, NEVER HAPPENED IN REAL LIFE!!!!!! Pfft, Hollywood, amiright? Anyway, a sketch like this reminds us that it’s fun to pretend…even if the result isn’t what you expect it to be. It’s specially both fun and easy to pull off considering the size of the cast that year; thus making a serviceable crossover possible to begin with.

 

OPIE

  1. OPIE’S BACK (10/9/1982) – I mentioned this previously in the 1982 section of the Summer of Starmaker, but I’ll mention it again briefly. Any time something “Tried and True” is turned upside down and they STILL manage to pull it off, that means they’re doing something right. Mayberry is transformed into what is essentially 8th Avenue in NYC on any given night (Not Just in 1982), and it’s up to Ron Howard to save the day. Just about everything in this one hit the right notes; nostalgia meeting modern day, beloved characters doing things you NEVER expected them to do, even Andy Griffith himself popping in to make things right. A Welcome oasis among the rest of the grime the Early 80s had going for itself.

 

TV_TWILIGHT

  1. THE TWILIGHT ZONE (2/17/1979) – Yes, they did NUMEROUS “Twilight Zone” parodies over the years; but in this case, This is one of those “Quantity vs. Quality” entries where thankfully the quality of the quantity is on an even plane. Host Rick Nelson comes home and expects to find his parents Ozzie & Harriet; Instead, he stumbles across a who’s who of 50s TV Families—The Cleavers from “Leave it To Beaver”, The Andersons from “Father Knows Best”, The Williams Family from “Make Room For Daddy”, and for the sake of Mr. Nelson having the first name of Rick/Ricky; we OF COURSE have to end things on a Lucy joke from Gilda. But that’s not all; Aykroyd gives us Not just his Rod Serling, but from out of nowhere impressions of George Burns And Alfred Hitchcock. What I really admire about this sketch is that (almost) Everybody involved in it has to do Triple-duty—which is relatively easy thanks to Aykroyd’s segues giving everybody enough time to change outfits & wigs; add Live TV to that kind of pressure, and that kind of transitional ability is all the more admirable. But what I especially admire about this one is the same rationale behind why Gilda played Lucy all those times; the fact that a young audience is being introduced to something old-school, and therefore a nostalgic connection can be made. That’s what you call “Bridging the Gap”.

 

 

  1. TWIN PEAKS (9/29/1990) – Another Previously mentioned sketch, this being Chris Farley’s first sketch/Hidden Gem. But I wanted to mention this one again for a number of reasons; the first being that when this first aired, Twin Peaks was THE show. You couldn’t go anywhere without somebody talking about it or speculating who they thought killed Laura Palmer over that summer. So when it came time for SNL to parody it—ESPECIALLY with one of its stars, Kyle MacLaughlin hosting the episode—they knew they had to get a lot of things right in a short time. Though not 100% perfect, they hit on just about everything that made the Original Peaks unique—Favorite Moments include Farley (of course), as well as Victoria Jackson tying a ribbon with her mouth the same way Sherilyn Fenn tied up a Cherry stem, Hartman’s awkward dancing as Leland Palmer, and of course Mike Myers as “The Man From Another Place” doing his best backwards speak. But what REALLY Brings this to the top of the list is probably the Greatest Meta joke the show had up to that point—if not Ever. The previous summer, Nora Dunn left/got fired from the show because of her ill-conceived protest of Andrew Dice Clay; so when the following season started, only Jackson & Jan Hooks remained. In the sketch, Jan enters as Nadine Hurley trying to convince agent cooper to get some odd invention to a patent office before she runs off. The case is closed, but Cooper still wants to hear from the Log Lady; at which point, This happens….

 

Sheriff Truman (Kevin Nealon): Cooper, I think I’m going to head off, too.

Dale Cooper (MacLaughlin): Oh, not yet, Harry. We still haven’t heard from the Log Lady.

Sheriff Truman: Cooper, you’re not going to hear from the Log Lady.

Dale Cooper: Why not?

Sheriff Truman: Well…because there’s only two women left on “Saturday Night Live”, and we’ve already used them both up.

 

Cue an out of Breath Hooks rushing back in to play the Log Lady, only to rush out again…I can only imagine the turn the sketch would’ve taken if Julia Sweeney started working that week…probably nothing, or the same joke would be made and Sweeney would come on and introduce herself that way…I would guess. Parodies come and go, but when you go Meta, all bets are off.

 

 

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

 

HIGHWAY PATROL (1977) – St. James mentioned this sketch in her monologue, so I had to at least look it up…at best, it’s a decent parody of the 50s classic, but at worst you probably have to brush up on your Kerouac to understand most of it.

 

THE BLACK SHADOW (1979) – Another one Mentioned Previously in the Summer of Starmaker, this was a spoof of a long-forgotten mellowdrama that ran for 3 years on CBS, only the roles are reversed.

 

LOU GRANT RESCUE MISSION (1984) – Scroll down near the bottom of our main S.O.S.N.L. page to read more; for now, let’s just say MTM Reruns + Red Dawn + Letting several years of life pass you by while stuck in reruns = This Sketch.

 

KATE & ALI (1985) The combination of Katherine Hepburn (Martin Short) and “The Greatest” (Billy Crystal) sounds like fodder for one of those Family Guy cutaway jokes. Yet somehow, the combination is so stupid it’s silly in a good way.

 

ALL MY LUGGAGE (1990) – To this Day, I feel this is just an “OK” spoof on the long-running soap…but Tell THAT to the Studio Audience that’s eating it up like Dog Food laced with PCP–Seriously, those reactions reach “Demon Possession” levels at times. Bonus points to Kevin Nealon for slipping into (what I can Only assume was) probably Joe Piscopo’s Trans-Eastern Airlines Jacket.

 

THE TWILIGHT ZONE (1997) – Like I said, they’ve done MANY Twilight Zone sketches over the years, but I had to mention this one not just because it featured Pamela Anderson at her peak, but also because the sketch was the epilogue to one of the Greatest SNL Backstage stories of all time; as former cast member/perennial Goat-Boy Jim Brewer will explain. I just happen to be a bigger fan of Nostalgia vs. objectifying women, which is why this particular sketch sits at the kids table.

 

AL GORE MEETS “THE WEST WING” (2002) – Although technically not a “proper” TV parody, the fact that they got the actual cast to play along with Gore’s Fantasies is good enough for me…I’ll talk more about this at Christmas.

 

THE WALKING DEAD (2016) – Although this sketch was great catharsis for our post-election weariness; it’s Far too recent to include on the main list—maybe in a few years when we get a few more parodies under our belt, we can update it a little. I will say, this & Chappelle’s monologue were the two things that sewed up his Emmy win.

 

 

And as long as I’m bringing up Classic Television, I must whore myself out once again…

TV TRACKS

Do yourself a favor, and Listen to TV TRACKS; We hope to expand our music library by the time we hit January. Click on the Logo above, and give us a try.

 

 

NEXT WEEK: In addition to some noteworthy passings over the past few months that I’ll cover during the week, we also look at one of the Turkeys from the archives…one that also has an extra layer of poignancy attached to it some 15 years after it aired…

The Hidden Gems of Gilda Radner

Welcome back to Hidden Gems, where we take a look at the sketches of certain cast members that didn’t make the cut on various “Best Of” reels; and today, we are looking at another one of the all-time greats–one that (if she were alive today) would reluctantly admit that she was a pioneer for the female comics that came after her…

GILDA_COVER2

Let’s face it; McKinnon, Wiig, Poehler, Rudolph, Fey, Shannon, Gastyer, Hooks, Dunn, Dreyfus, and to an extent, Emma Stone…NONE of them would have been able to make it to 30 Rock if it weren’t for Gilda Radner paving the way first. And although it’s been nearly 30 years since her passing, her energy was such that all of the above did their part to carry the torch to this day. So with that, we present some of the lesser-known moments with the Original Saturday Night Sweetheart.

 

 

REMINDERS:

*Non-Recurring (although in this case, I’m going to allow a few Semi-Recurrences)

*No Sketches that appear on existing “Best Of” Tapes/DVDs (Not counting Rapid-fire montages).

*No Sketches I’ve already previously covered.

*We Go in Chronological Order, but I save my personal favorite gem for last.

 

GILDA_COURTROOM

COURTROOM (10/11/1975) – It almost feels too easy to start literally at the beginning; but sure enough, Gilda steals the scene on her first time at bat. We begin with visibly nervous Jane testifying about a sexual assault she experienced; so nervous in fact that she cannot bring herself to say the details of it out loud. So she writes it out, and then passes the note to the Jury—who reacts appropriately. Finally, juror Belushi passes the note to Gilda, who is seen dozing off. She reads the note, thinking that it’s a come-on/invitation to hook up with him, she flashes a quick “OK” gesture; and boom, Gilda steals her first scene. Incidentally, 2 years later the roles would be reversed as Gilda played the victim opposite Steve Martin’s needling “Mike McMack: Defense Lawyer”—Progress?

 

GILDA_ATE

WHAT GILDA ATE (10/25/1975) – A friendly reminder that in the early years of the show, the cast/writers/Lorne practically threw whatever they could against the wall to see what would stick. This piece where Gilda goes into great detail about what she ate during the day should Not have been considered funny. But it’s because of those great details being described in a painstaking manner that makes the audience wonder if and when the punchline will drop? It never does, but for the 2 minutes Gilda is telling her food story, we’re strangely captivated by it—at least until Meathead tells her to wrap it up. In a strange way, there was actually a spiritual follow-up to this sketch a mere 30 years later when Fred Armisen would go off on “The Tangent”; it’s not 100% identical to this, but the idea that a nonsensical story would go on with seemingly no end was there……actually, now that I think about it, this sketch might’ve also laid the framework for Roseanne Roseannadanna’s ability to stray from a subject minus the grossness; proving once again how Season 1 shows were a good place to workshop something before fully realizing/unleashing it a little later on.

 

GILDA_FARBER

BOBBI McGEE-FARBER (7/31/1976) – Yes, technically this is a recurring character I’ll be talking about here, but tell that to the SNL historians. For whatever reason the Gilda/Belushi duo of “The Farbers” have been largely ignored in the annals of SNL history even though they appeared a fair number of times in a 3 year span (even once doing a crossover with the Coneheads). Yet, They aren’t mentioned in any SNL coffee table books, trivia books, documentaries, souvenir merchandise, or any other medium. Of course, it’s pretty easy to see WHY they would be lost in the shuffle—they weren’t that memorable despite appearing on the show a number of times. Be that as it may, I always found the Farbers to be “Slice-of Life-y”, representing what some would consider to be a typical average American couple living their day to day lives—nothing groundbreaking by any means, but somewhat relatable. In this particular case where we find out Mrs. Farber was the inspiration of the Kris Kristoferson song “Me and Bobby McGee”, it’s pretty much a culture clash from the get-go; Kristofferson the wielding rock star, Gilda the Domestic; but it’s all in good fun.

 

GILDA_PUPPY

PUPPY UPPERS & DOGGIE DOWNERS (11/13/1976) – I’m sure some of you out there know about one of Gilda’s pre-fame roles playing a mother in a commercial for a Canadian electric company (One which, coincidentally, also featured future SNL alum Mike Myers as her son). While I can’t find THAT commercial anywhere, I wanted to bring that up here because you could tell Gilda was a natural as a commercial pitch-woman thanks to that real-world experience. How else can she sell Antidepressants disguised as Dog Biscuits, and Still be taken seriously? Not really much to add because it’s a relatively straight role she’s playing, but it’s worth mentioning anyway.

 

GILDA_PHASE

PHASING OUT GILDA (11/27/1976) – In another one of the “Runner” sketches the show did a lot of in the early years, Gilda spends the episode telling people that this is her last show…which I’m guessing might’ve been in light of Chevy Chase’s recent departure from the show at that point, but that could be a coincidence. This runner begins with Gilda telling everybody that she has been cut from almost all of the show followed by a rare (though rehearsed) LFNY False Start. She then pops in and out of the episode from time to time to remind everybody she’s not in the show this week; which then evolves into more phasing out until Gilda ultimately decides to leave…not necessarily the show, mind you, just leave the building. It ends later in the show as Gilda is seen in an audience shot after she “left”—a scene that I want to make special mention of because that shot was the last thing we saw on Gilda’s highlight/memorial reel on the 15th anniversary show.

 

GILDA_COLEEN

3 R’s (10/15/1977) – (No Transcript) Another underappreciated infrequent character Gilda played was that of Colleen Fernman; a girl that I can only describe as…shall we say, “Simple”. If you want me to describe it another way, think of the character as a prototype of “Kathy Geiss” on “30 Rock”, only more childlike, and less prone to get her head stuck in things. In this particular sketch, Gilda is playing dumb while her belligerent “teacher” (Belushi possibly doing a prototype of his “Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger” character) berates her for not learning as well as she should. The end of this sketch has Gilda breaking out of Colleen’s simple-mindedness for the first and only time by telling Jane that she’s being forced to act dumb so that Belushi could pocket more school funding. Jane is understandably shocked…….that Gilda would turn on her “teacher”, so she joins in on the abuse. The “Colleen” character would appear in a few variants over the years; most notably in 1978’s “Mommie Dearest”, a few months earlier in a parody of “Sybil”, and her last appearance in 1980’s “The Dating Zone”. I’m guessing the character wasn’t seen too often because some people wound up confusing her with someone who has “Special Needs”, so it was probably a little un-PC to mock them…even back then.

 

GILDA_WOMAN

TOTAL WOMAN (12/10/1977) – In what I can only guess was a Marilyn Suzanne Miller piece that borders on proto-Anderlette (That’s James Anderson & Kent Sublette for those who are outsiders), a group of women discuss what they do to please their respective men…sometimes in domineering/submissive ways, topped with a touch of Religiousness (if the Southern Evangelical voices everybody uses in the sketch is any indication).  While this is a pretty solid ensemble sketch with a number of decent lines from those performing, Gilda steals another one by mentioning a story about Gall Bladder surgery resulting in her husband making some moves on her (Trust me, it makes better sense in context). From there, we get a rather risqué scene (for 1977 anyway) where Gilda and Laraine act out a little role-playing—Gilda the Wife in a nightie and a Dog collar, Laraine as a Husband catering to her whims……I’m guessing it made more sense back then.

 

GILDA_RHODA

UPDATE – CELEBRITY CORNER (12/8/1978) – Gilda played Valerie Harper/Rhoda Morgenstern on the show Previously; but this time around she is venting the frustration over the fact that CBS would unceremoniously cancel “Rhoda” even though it was relatively still a hit. The reason; Harper blames it on Anti-Semitism—and with the “New York Accent” being laid down thick, it’s pretty easy to see why she would think that……….Until Bill chimes in to remind Harper that the CHARACTER of Rhoda is Jewish, while Valerie Harper the ACTOR is Not. Once she puts two and two together, her only thought is “So how come I Tawk this way?” Quick, Subtle, Awkward, works for me!

 

GILDA_MOM

MOM’S BIRTHDAY (5/19/1979) – Presuming this is another “Marilyn Piece” (Maybe Rosie Shuster or Anne Beats too), Gilda is trying to take her mother (host Maureen Stapleton) out to a birthday dinner while her mother tries to convince her not to make too big a fuss over it. Like many slice-of-life pieces, we’ve all been there (or if we haven’t reached that point in our lives, we will soon enough);  we do what we can to make our parents feel comfortable, only for them to flip the script on us. Gilda wants to take Mother out, Mother wants to give her a Brisket. Mother says she shouldn’t waste money on her and should instead buy a coat, Gilda says she has plenty of coats. This keeps going back and forth until we reach a part that—for many of us—is painfully familiar. The part where you pretty much tell your parent in a Blunt way “I’M AN ADULT!”—which Gilda does in a blistering monologue…though not so much blistering that she & Stapleton eventually reach an understanding by the end. Yep, We’ve ALL Been There.

 

GILDA_CARSON

WOMAN TO WOMAN (11/17/1979) – By her 5th season, Gilda was looking to do something a little different—especially since Roseannadanna and Lisa Loopner reached their respective critical masses by this point…also, there were only 5 main cast members left, so everybody had to step up a little. So with that, we now have Connie Carson; a self-described “Career Woman who has made a Career out of talking to Women with Careers.” A Character trait that Gilda plays with pseudo-cheer and a LOT of condescension, Especially when she is trying to Match Wits with (Host) Bea Arthur; who is also playing a career woman, but one who is more well-rounded compared to Connie—Not only having a Career, but is also married With Children AND has time to do stuff around the house all without breaking a sweat. For some Reason, Connie seethes over the fact that someone could realistically and effortlessly “Have it All”; even though Connie seems perfectly capable to do the same, except……..Damn Career! I should probably note that Gilda did play the character in the previous season, but this edition always stuck out to me for some reason–maybe it was because Bea Arthur is Life?

 

GILDA_ROSA

THE HOLIDAY INN HORROR (12/8/1979) –  (No Transcript) Enter another semi-recurring character in the form of Rosa Santangelo; who probably helped pave the way for Consuela on Family Guy, only a lot more chipper and eager to do her work with a simple “I Clean Up, OK?” While I get the gist of the sketch in that Housekeeping is ruining everybody’s good time, this whole sketch would’ve been completely pointless if Bill & Jane just put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign. Also, on further inspection, this pseudo-horror sounds like a rejected Movie Trailer from Christopher Lee’s episode—it even has Tom Davis’ Horror-style VO. Rosa would pop up from time to time in Season 5, and would also make history for delivering the show’s First Bilingual LFNY en Espanol.

 

 

 

And my Favorite Hidden Gem of Gilda Radner is………

 

GILDA_DOODY

THE DOODY SISTERS (11/12/1977) – In all the books/publications I read over the years regarding SNL, there was one statement that (to this day) has remained largely unanimous; That Gilda was destined to become “The Next Lucille Ball”. Not just in terms of how charming she was, but also because of her abilities in physical comedy (In fact, after reading this, check out some youtube clips of her 1981 appearance on “The Muppet Show”; which I feel solidifies the point better than any SNL sketch). There have been more than a few times where Gilda displayed her physical prowess to the audience’s delight—Judy Miller, for example—But IMO, there’s something about someone trying to pretend to be an inanimate object that just goes beyond the extra mile. Enter Gilda and Laraine Newman as the widow and sister (respectively) of everybody’s favorite non-Muppet puppet, Howdy Doody. As Debbie Doody (Gilda) is still trying to cope with her husband’s loss, Dotty Doody (Laraine) tries to pep her up—which, quite honestly—sounds like just an ordinary sketch. But because they go the extra mile by having both of them get strung up and move around like marionettes do. Not unlike a certain series of sketches decades later, it helps turn an otherwise ordinary scene into a surreal yet sweethearted one—In essence, that’s how Gilda was at times; Game for just about anything they threw at her, yet at the same time, she kept her performances down to earth. This ultimately made her one of the most likable, relatable and most versatile cast members to this day. Bonus points to showing the propmasters at the end of the sketch—I don’t know who 2 of them are, but I know the one in the middle is the legendary Willie Day.

 

 

And while we’re on the subject of a Physical comedy Icon…

 

SPECIAL HONORABLE MENTION:

GILDA_LUCY

ANY TIME GILDA PLAYED LUCILLE BALL (1976-1980) – First of all, I know “Lucy A-Bomb” was on one of her “Best of” tapes, but that’s just One sketch and One instance on the tape where she played her, so this won’t count. Having said that, it makes all the sense in the world for someone who’s a big fan of a certain personality to pay homage to that personality in a loving way (Ms. Stone, I’m looking in Your Direction…oh, and Get The Logo Right; Clearly that’s Season 6 instead of Season 4-5). At the same time, I’d like to think that Gilda’s portrayal of Lucy over the years might be just one of the reasons why “I Love Lucy” remains popular to this day—partly because she was inadvertently exposing a Young TV audience to Old-School Comedy. Without hyperbole, if it weren’t for Gilda Radner, Lucy reruns would probably be relegated to a 2AM timeslot nationwide instead of it becoming a multi-million dollar nostalgia machine for 65 years and counting…OK, I’m probably overselling that point a little; but at the very least, she helped a little—whether she was playing the Lucy we know from Reruns, or the “Modern” Lucy who enjoyed her Pall Mall’s a little too much. With that, here’s a mini-list of some of the times Gilda put on the Red Wig and went “Waaaaaa”…

 

PRETTY MUCH 80% OF DESI ARNAZ’S EPISODE (2/21/1976)
UPDATE (10/14/1978…incidentally, that was based on a Real Interview Ball did that week…ironically with the Real Baba Wawa)
THE TWILIGHT ZONE (2/17/1979…which I’ll talk more about Next Week)
BAD CLAMS (11/10/1979…Declared by some to be “The Weirdest/Strangest SNL sketch You’ll ever see”; to which the ghost of Bill “Fish Heads” Paxton is asking me to hold his beer)

 

Did I leave any other Gems Hidden (knowing full well there was a limited supply of clips/transcripts to choose from)? Feel Free to Leave your own favorite Gilda Gems in the COMMENT Box below.

 

 

NEXT WEEK (Pending any “Recent” Vintage’s): As long as I’m talking about TV Legends, we might as well go full circle…We look at SNL TV Parodies Next Time.