Welcome to S.O.S.N.L, otherwise known as the “Stash of SNL”. Each week, I will be looking at a random sketch from that week’s episode of “SNL Vintage” on this page. There will also be featured sketches if/when there are Holiday episodes, “Weekend Update” Specials, or something late-breaking happens that’s centric to SNL’s World. (Except during Holidays and/or Hiatus’, then I will only focus on the “Breaking” stuff during that time).
REMINDER: Newer entries will appear at the top of the page, older ones will be at the bottom as time marches on.
Before Ryan Gosling takes the stage a 2nd time, let’s see how well he did 2 years ago…
Comes to an End with a simple question…
…With a look at how Update’s current anchors have progressed over the past 3 years…
The 2000s brought along Update’s biggest and most formative change to date—the return of the 2-anchor format in the form of Jimmy Fallon & Tina Fey (and later Amy Poehler & Seth Meyers), and the overall sense that Update would be less stuffy and more freewheeling, while at the same time reminding viewers of what was going on in the world this week. But while the show was regaining its footing as a place where current events could be properly skewed, there was one moment in particular during the decade that acted as a much needed catharsis after one of the greatest tragedies the world has ever known took place…
JESSE JACKSON & THE TALIBAN (Original Airdate: 9/28/2001) – September 11th did more than change the way we lived our lives. It changed mentalities, it changed our trust in people, it changed humanity in general. With emotions were still very raw weeks after the attack, various elected officials urged us to return to some semblance of “Normal” once again, no matter how long it would take or how arduous the recovery would be. In the world of Entertainment (especially comedy), “Normal” would probably take a lot longer to return to, so a catalyst had to be added in order to jumpstart everything. While the opening to this episode was a sobering reminder of what New York & the Nation had just been through, it acted as the ultimate signal that “Everything’s gonna be alright” thanks in part to Lorne asking a then-sane Mayor Giuliani “Can we be Funny?” to which Giuliani quips “Why Start Now?”. That moment lit the fuse for humor to come back; This moment where Darrell Hammond miscommunicates with the Taliban is where the Dynamite explodes. Let’s ignore the fact that Hammond is in Black-ish face makeup for a second, and judge this for what it is; a chance for the audience to laugh again. As only Hammond does, he explains how his calls to the Taliban were nothing more than a series of botched *69 calls (remember that?) and the fact that Jackson thought the Taliban was his friend Gary. This leads to probably the biggest laugh of the show when Jackson responds to one of these calls (thinking it’s this “Gary” person) and saying “Come Mr. Taliban, Taliban Banana!” Was it a lame joke? Certainly. But considering what the world was going through at the moment, a lame joke is better than not making one at all. It would still be a little while to go until “Normal” would fully return to the show; but at least in this case, they weren’t gonna miss a beat.
The 90s brought more of a “Character Driven” dynamic to Update commentaries—whether it be Adam Sandler alternating between “Operaman” or his other variants on similar weird-voiced characters, or Farley putting the “Air Quotes” on “Full Display” as “Bennett Brauer”, or in the later half of the 90s have Tracy Morgan come out of his shell a little with “Dominican Lou” or Colin Quinn practice his own future Update commenting thanks to “Joe Blow” and others; the commentaries were less about news items, and more extensions of that performer’s existing acts…and that’s part of the reason why I want to talk about this one particular commentary series today, because this wasn’t so much an extension of this guy’s work, rather it became the foundation of it…
HOLLYWOOD MINUTE/SPADE IN AMERICA (1991-1996) – [NOTE: I know I’m cheating a little by including Spade’s 1995-96 non-Update commentaries into this, but if you think about it, the segment was a natural extension of the Hollywood Minute, so analysis of both will be included here.] As I mentioned on the “Starmaker” page, David Spade has essentially been playing the same character for almost 30 years now—that of the snarky, smarmy, but still well-meaning “Dennis the Menace” of the show…something that probably would Never have happened if Lorne didn’t spot him making snappy comments in various showbiz magazines and then (presumably) say to Spade point-blank “Maybe you should do that on the show if you want to save your job (I paraphrase, of course).” Do that, he did, and thus “Hollywood Minute” was born. For what seemed like a long time during the Early-90s “Bad Boys” phase of the Silver Age, Spade would come on and pretty much rip everybody to shreds using his own brand of snark. It didn’t matter if you were a respectable figure, or even if you were a child star (@ 1:40), Spade brought you down. At its peak, the Hollywood Minute appeared on Update virtually every other week until roughly 1993 when Spade “learned” the Hard way (@ 1:42) that sometimes making fun of people who are better than you is not always a good idea—even though that was clearly a bit, because the Minute still ticked on after that. Although, over the next 2 years, sometimes it wasn’t even known as the “Hollywood Minute”, but the overall mechanics of the bit was still there…
Which brings us to “Spade in America”, a segment that came out of necessity. The show was trying to lick its wounds from the Previous 20th season—obviously, changes had to be made in order for the show to be saved; but at the same time, if everything changed all at once, there would be a risk of the audience feeling turned off by the changes before they were given a chance to make an impact. With that, Spade was one of the only holdovers from the previous season to stay behind to act as sort of a “Pillar of continuity”, a link to the past if you will. Despite the fact that Spade’s overall role on the show was greatly diminished by this point (and the fact that he didn’t Have to stay), Spade was more than happy to lend a hand to help the place that gave him his career—and so, “Spade in America” was born. For the most part, the segment was a rotation between an editorial on whatever the major news story of the week was, or the rare Field Piece that alumni anchor Brad Hall wishes he could’ve had while he was at the desk, and of course more Hollywood Minutes……………Particularly one such minute that has gone down in show history as one of its most savage attacks, but thankfully for the passage of time the moment was eventually forgiven but not forgotten (as much as Spade Wants to forget it). Spade would continue doing his thing through the rest of the ’95-’96 season, and then he would make a few sporadic appearances in passing years—a little older, slightly wiser, but still slinging the snark like nobody’s business—and Still attacking Murphy (though to be fair, yeah, “Holy Man” was “Holy Crap”…not “Pluto Nash” bad, but up there…or should that be “Down there”?). I still wish Spade would increase his range a little, and in recent years at least he’s trying to do that. But to paraphrase an old saying; once a wiseass, always a wiseass—and for what it’s worth, nobody cracked wise better than Spade in his heyday. But seriously, Spade, It’s called “Biting the Hand that Feeds You”; look into it; and maybe we wouldn’t have to wait until Anniversary Specials just to see certain cast members again.
Moving on to the 80s; a Decade Dominated by Dennis Miller (before he went all whackadoo on us). And while some of D-Mil’s references went over our heads at times, TPTB at the show did one very Smart thing to help counterbalance Miller’s irreverence. Mid-way through Season 11, a new commentator was hired to help bring the focus of the world’s events into a much simpler perspective for the average viewer. That commentator’s name was Alan (or simply A.) Whitney Brown, and the commentaries were known as…
THE BIG PICTURE (1986-1991) – To quote from the semi-reliable Rolling Stone list of Greatest SNL cast members of all time (where Brown Ranks at 79th), “He did proto-Daily Show commentary during the Dennis Miller-era “Update,” and later ended up on the beta Daily Show during the Craig Kilborn years.” Of course, if he did more than just commentaries on the show, he would certainly rank a little higher—the closest he ever got to showing a little range was as a pesky salesman in the “Wilson Trap Doors” commercial parody, and a Christmas appearance outside the Update desk in 1990—and the less said about his Practice stint as a guest comedian during the Ebersol years, the better. Nevertheless, when he was behind the desk, his comments ranged from the silly and absurd to the pointed and prescient; but no matter what was on his mind that week, the comments acted as a cold splash of water to America’s face not unlike the talkers of today. For a suitable sampler of Brown’s comments, may I recommend the following:
*His first one, obviously
*Any of his Season-ending “Graduating Class” comments
*Religion—with probably my favorite Groan-worthy punchline at the end.
*The (first) Iraq War’s aftermath
*Climate Change—back when it was simply known as “Global Warming”
Interestingly enough, his Wikipedia entry says that he Left the show for “Personal Reasons” after 1991; hopefully those reasons were respectable ones; but quite honestly, I would’ve loved to see him do a few more years (most likely up until the purge of ’95). Thankfully for his efforts, not only did he become a charter member of “The Daily Show” afterwards, but he also became a forerunner for using long-form commentary as a comedic tool. I’m not saying he’s directly responsible for the rise of Stewart, Colbert, Noah or Oliver, but somebody had to get the Ball rolling. And while I can only give Brown so much analysis at a time, may I recommend this mini-bio from the reliable Splitsider to help fill in the rest of the gaps, as well as show clips I can’t seem to embed here…and that, my friends, is the big picture.
“Our job is only to hold up the mirror – to tell and show the public what has happened.”
“What we have to do is put this in a coherent form for them at the end of the day, and on the big events, give them the kind of context that they deserve.”
“We have seen the news…and it is us.”
“I really only created ‘Weekend Update’ so that I would be able to work without wearing pants.”
For 40+ years, SNL has always been (or at least has tried to be) on the cutting edge—not just in comedy, but in lampooning current events no matter how big or how small. With the exception of maybe One episode in the entire history of the show, these current events would be dissected, poked, prodded, sometimes eviscerated, but overall be given a sense of humor on “Weekend Update” (or depending on the year, “SNL Newsbreak” or “Saturday Night News”). As the segment is seeing a renaissance at the hands of Colin Jost & Michael Che—who just so happen to be working in Primetime during the summer—This would probably be as good a time as any to take a look back at some of the moments that made “Update” the one place to go to scope out the lighter side of these current events without people like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Trevor Noah or even alumni anchor Seth Meyers trying to 1-up themselves (though at the same time, the aforementioned should be thanking “Update”—for without it, they would probably still be doing stand-up comedy on a regular basis). Welcome to a Special week-ish-long retrospective on the ORIGINAL “Fake News”; from the news capital of the world, This is………
…Throughout the week, we will be looking at favorite Update Moments by Decade; culminating in a look at some of the best jokes ever told by my Personal Favorite Update anchor. For now, what better way to begin this week than by talking about one of my favorite bits from the 70s…
POINT/COUNTERPOINT (1978-1979) – Like many great parodies, “Point/Counterpoint” was actually derived from a real thing. Once upon a time when Commentaries on Television were in vogue, the news magazine “60 Minutes” pioneered what some would call the “Micro-debate” format. Back in the day, a rotating series of commentators would express their pointed views on whatever the major story of the week was, and at times the debate would be heated…………So, of course, SNL had to grab a piece of the action…after ZAZ/Kentucky Fried Movie technically spoofed them first, but that’s beside the point. The clip you see above with Jane (“You Ignorant Slut!”) and Dan debating over the palimony suit of actor Lee Marvin is probably one of the most commonly repeated scenes in SNL history, as well as one of the most commonly repeated examples of the segment. Few people realize that the segment had been done over a dozen times in the years they did it, so if you’ll allow me, I would like to recommend some other “P/CP” commentaries to not only show what life was like back then, but also to show that they gave as good as they got…
*Nuclear accidents/Three Mile Island
*The Neutron Bomb (Cue it to 5:52)
*And of course, this rather Meta one about whether a Point/Counterpoint segment has Any point (8:12).
The segment would make sporadic returns much later in show history, but at most they were mutant versions of the original:
*Mike Myers as Mick Jagger Vs. Mick Jagger as Keith Richards (at 4:55)
*Jerry Seinfeld debating himself (Fallon)
*Red Sox fan Seth Meyers challenging Derek Jeter.
*Even a “Double Full Circle” moment by having Aykroyd come on as Bob Dole debating Hammond’s Clinton on “60 Minutes” itself.
I guess having this segment take on a life of its own is a sign of its durability; but let’s face it; Jane & Dan was what the people wanted—at the same time, as much as neither one of them hold back on each other, the bit ends with a cordial handshake that shows that all they are doing are their jobs.
Like I said when Don Rickles passed away just a few months ago, when somebody reaches a certain age and they pass away; their passing should not be looked upon with too much sadness. Rather, that passing should be looked upon with Great reverence considering just how full the life that person has led. In this case, however, this one is a little more painful…
JERRY’S BYPASS SURGERY (Original Airdate: 11/19/1983) – Despite the fact that Jerry Lewis lived to the age of 91, I’m honestly stunned that his passing has happened; so forgive me if I’m lacking in the appropriate words; and forgive me a second time considering a Heart Attack may have more than likely taken him (though they’ll probably label it as “Natural Causes”). I choose this sketch not because of anything topical, but because it’s funny—or at least “tongue in cheek”–first and foremost. Like many sketches, this one is based on (somewhat) true events; Lewis did suffer a Heart Attack in 1983 and he Did need emergency surgery; so perhaps this sketch was simply a way to cope with everything—sort of like how Richard Pryor talked about burning himself up in his Stand-up Movie, or Letterman doing an Entire show about his own Heart problems. After all, as the old saying goes “Comedy = Tragedy + Time”, and if Jerry didn’t at least poke fun at the trouble, let alone laugh about it, then something would’ve been seriously wrong. As for the sketch itself, it’s not only a nod to Lewis’ heyday of the 40s & 50s, but it’s also a reminder as to why Eddie & Joe were the show’s 1-2-punch back then. Piscopo plays “Doctor” Dean Martin in a voice that I can only call the “Diet” version of his stand-by Frank Sinatra; mellower, smoother, but still Italian to the core. Of course, Eddie is playing Sammy Davis Jr. because nobody else in the cast would, and Billy Crystal was still about a year away—but for the most part, he pulled it off just fine. While they’re doing their thing, Lewis looks like he’s about to burst at the seems laughing at their antics, which is either a sign that Lewis enjoyed “new & hip” comedy, or the fact that he wishes the real Dino & Sammy were in the room with him. This also re-brings up the point that the Ebersol years were especially friendly & accommodating to Old-School comedy talent even though the show was still very much a young person’s game. Lewis (not unlike Rickles) fit in to the show like a hand in glove. He didn’t Have to host the show; but to the young cast & crew, they should be blessed that he did…Especially Eddie who about 13 years later would mark his own comeback by emulating Lewis for a whole new generation (not counting “The Simpsons”, of course). To quote Mary Gross near the end of the sketch, “You came through like a champ…Bless your Heart”.
Bless you, Jerry Lewis.
A special edition “Retro Review” honoring an American Hero…
One additional Piece of The Rock from 2002, as well as a constant reminder of my contempt for Chris Kattan…
We close out the Season (Officially, this time) by Grabbing a piece of The Rock from 2015
And we’re back from our Maintanance break to bring you the first of a 2-parter starring Melissa “Spicey” McCarthy.
As cliché as this may sound; one of the great things about working in New York is that you never really know what’s going to happen, or who you’ll bump into. As luck would have it, the walking distance between my commuter hub and my place of employment happens to include part of Broadway; where during the past week, I came across this familiar face…
That’s right, the one & only Christine Ebersole. I was able to take a few quick snaps of her behind the gates backstage at her new show “War Paint” (which if you’re in the NYC area, you should check out—I’ve heard good things). As I was snapping away with my camera, I built up enough courage to say “You should’ve been on for more than a year on SNL; I Really liked that song you did about the Single Bar”. At which point, she gives me a kind but quizzical look, and (honest to god) she says to me, “You Remember That?” To which I said I saw it online and I thought was a Great performance—at which point she quickly thanked me before moving down the line of people looking for autographs. So on that note, how could I NOT talk about another sketch she did that was less about the humor, and more about showing off those Tony-Award winning pipes of hers…
I’M SO MISERABLE (Original Airdate: 10/31/1981) – Earlier, when talking about “Single Women”, I was honestly surprised that it was written by Michael O’Donoghue—a guy who (if you know your show history) was notorious for writing things that are darker than black itself sometimes. Penning a song that had somewhat sensitive lyrics seems like something he would only do if they offered him enough money to become a majority shareholder of NBC. This song on the other hand looks more to be up his alley (Even though, thanks to a little research, it turns out he actually DIDN’T write it); after all, the scene involves cleaning up a murder scene in a rather “sing-songy” country-western way—also, it helps that the sketch aired on Halloween. What really surprises me is not just how well Ebbie carries such a morbid tune, but also how short the song is—a mere 90 seconds—thus allowing the sketch to get the point across without belaboring it too much. The performance itself also makes me all the more confused not only as to how Ebbie didn’t last more than a year, but also why would she want to do the show in the first place considering her talents are far greater than Late Night TV? Also of note, the guy playing the corpse is Neil Levy; probably one of the show’s MVPs when it comes to bit parts (and I’m not just saying that because he’s also Lorne’s cousin); I’m not going to bore you with the stuff he did during the show’s early years, that’s what we have an IMDB for. Though I will say, He “Discovered” Eddie Murphy, and yet he’s playing a corpse here—The very definition of a “Thankless Job”.
And Speaking of Thankless Jobs, this concludes S.O.S.N.L. for the main TV season. I know, the TV Season usually ends in May, but Stay tuned later this week to find out what our plans for the summer are, as well as the reason why I’m going to remain relatively quiet around here for a few weeks. Otherwise, the next Scheduled time we’ll resume will be June 20th, 2017 (unless something “breaking” happens). Until then, “Pencils Down”…
Bring it on Down to Fallon-Ville, as he & JT give us a Christmas in April.
Just when you thought SNL ran out of relevance in the Early 2000s, along came Andy (and two other guys you seldom see on screen, but they helped out). Best Digital Shorts, Right Here!
With Baseball Season underway, and the Yankees Home Opener later this afternoon, it only seems fitting that this past weekend’s “Vintage” was 2001’s episode with Derek Jeter. And while I DO have a Retro Review of this episode; unfortunately between the SNL Transcript page, NBC’s website, and all of Google, there is (unfortunately) not enough material to help make my 16 year old grammar errors look human. So in lieu of that review, I am instead going to pick the one sketch from that episode that is actually available on NBC’s website—and thankfully, it was one of the stronger sketches of the evening…
YANKEE WIVES (Original Airdate: 12/1/2001) – Since I do have my original 2001 review on hand, the least I can do for you is do a mini-version of what I usually do for Retro Reviews. Only this time, the Old Thoughts will be in Blue ink, and my Updated thoughts will be in Black. That being said, here’s what I first thought of the sketch way back when…”Ah yes, what would a show with a sports star be like without a little humiliation? The really freaky thing about this is that Derek actually looked GOOD! Can you believe that? Uh-oh, (Whispers) think unsexy thoughts, think unsexy thoughts… Sorry about that. The two Davids (WELLS & CONE) Kinda ruined it. That’s what happens if you’re not an official Yankee. Maya looked clueless, Amy was too bitchy (But I still love her), and the others were 100% “Token”. But it was good.” Nothing much to add to this one except that bit about David Cone & Wells “Not Official Yankees”. Probably because at the time this aired, Wells was playing for the Chicago White Sox before making another tour of duty with the Yankees in 2002; and Cone briefly went into Enemy territory with the Boston Red Sox before ultimately retiring with the New York Mets…also, Jeter was right about himself in the sketch; he DOES look like if Dwayne Johnson & a Muppet had a Baby…but I say that with respect. Most athlete hosts seem to do at least one “Humiliating but good Humored” sketch whenever they appear on the show, and this is no exception.
NEXT WEEKEND: A look at some Digital Shorts that are NOT named “Lazy Sunday” or “Dick in a Box”.
Call him what you will, I just call him funny. A Look at Louis CK’s last hosting gig from 2015.
This week, a look at the Hidden Gems of Chris Farley
This may come across as a little crass, but I honestly don’t feel sad when someone of–shall we say–“a certain age” passes away. After all, once they reach that certain age, you could legitimately say that the person lived a “full life” and you can actually look back on that person’s life more with reverence than with sadness. “Mr. Warmth, Himself” Don Rickles–who passed away today at the age of 90–not only deserves reverence without sadness, but I have a feeling he would give us a primo insult if we didn’t treat it any other way.
WITNESS PROTECTION (Original Airdate: 1/28/1984) – Before we talk about this sketch; I can’t really talk about it, or this episode, without mentioning just how “Unique” the host selection was during the years Dick Ebersol ran the show. Sure, there were people on who had something to plug and/or were considered “Flavors of the Moment”, but the Ebersol years were also noteworthy for having people on who you would probably NEVER expect to be on the show in the first place (especially considering how avant-garde the first 5 years were). These are probably some of the greatest comedic talents who ever graced the Earth; Rickles, of course, Joan Rivers, Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, The Smothers Brothers, Flip Wilson, and a whole slew of others you might want to ask your (Grand) parents about–fortunately, my parents were great teachers of comedy, so when the time came to watch some of these sketches on NBC’s website, I felt like I had a bit of a headstart. Having said that, I’m honestly surprised this sketch never showed up in the “That’s when you Break” short on the 40th Anniversary show, because Rickles, Belushi and (Especially) future Governor Piscopo can’t seem to control themselves over otherwise “Screwball” antics. Rickles is playing an FBI informant by the name of “Mr. Booty” (heh), and he feels increasingly paranoid over the fact that the FBI wants to help hide from the mob in somewhat lazy ways. What follows is a series of high-strung quips from Rickles, as well as a few well-timed face slaps between him & Piscopo. This ultimately leads to a series of derailments between the two that would otherwise be frowned upon; but for cryin’ out loud, it’s Don Rickles–I think we can give the master of insults a little immunity. I have a feeling this might not be enough to fully describe just how amazing the guy was in the clutch, so as a BONUS, I’m also going to recommend his Monologue–one that deserves an Honorary spot on a previous list–because That’s the Rickles you wanted to see (though I can take/leave the cameo name dropping). And finally, if you have Netflix, try to find “Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project”; it pretty much telegraphs the fact that he insults because he cares, and also he cared about the kinds of insults he makes–but in the end “He’s a Nice Guy”…
“Whatta’ya Lookin’ at, ‘ya Hockey Puck!”
Normally, I try to avoid reviewing Monologues unless the occasion calls for it…as a resident of the State of New York, that time has now come…
JIMMY BRESLIN’S MONOLOGUE (Original Airdate: 5/17/1986) – I’ve lived in New York State my entire life, and I’ve been working in New York City now for the past 5 years; and in that time, I’ve learned the differences between being a tourist, being a commuter, and being a “Real” New Yorker. Thanks to some people I work with, I was able to get a jumpstart on this education by reading a few vintage articles from the New York Daily News that were written by a certain reporter named Jimmy Breslin. Breslin passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 82, and he left behind a legacy of love, lust, loathing and leering for the City he called his home for most of his life………he also (unfortunately) has the misfortune of appearing not only in a terrible season of SNL as a host, but he also has the even bigger misfortune of appearing in—what some have called—one of the worst episodes of all time…It’s not Jean Doumanian Bad, but it’s pretty close. Just the idea of a person of Breslin’s caliber hosting the show is enough to make you go “Why?!”, while being paired up with Boxer “Marvelous” Marvin Haggler as his co-host is enough to make you go “HUH?!” He wasn’t an actor/singer/performer, he hardly ever appeared on camera unless it was an interview with local TV, what could possibly possess Lorne & Co. to have him on the show; not as a “special guest” (like Dick Ebersol did for William S. Burroughs in 1981…and yes, I’ll talk about THAT some day) but actually Host the show? Nobody may ever know the answer for certain; but the one thing I could say is that Breslin represented New York the same way SNL represents New York—they’re both iconic NYC landmarks in their own right, and whether Breslin was supposed to be entertaining or not, he was still on to represent the city if nothing else—and whether you liked it or not, you can’t fault him for his passion for it; especially when it comes to razzing (then) Mayor Ed Koch and the New York Mets for slacking off a little—something, that I guess “You Had to be there” for in order to get it. This also brings up another point; in recent years SNL has received a little flak for putting on sketches that might’ve been a little too—shall we say—“Regionalized” for a national TV audience. This is especially true when watching sketches like “The Californians”, or even a few years ago when Fred Armisen payed NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg—some jokes you can ONLY get if you happen to be from the area; which would probably explain why a New York Studio Audience would eat up everything Breslin is saying here in the monologue, while 99% of the rest of the country would universally shout “I Don’t Get It!”. Despite the fact that an obvious non-performer appeared in one of the most forgettable episodes in the show’s history, I honestly don’t think he gave two fucks what people thought—and that, in turn makes the monologue all the more endearing to a New York Audience (Which, now that I think about it, might also be the reason why Yankees Manager Billy Martin wound up co-hosting that year’s finale–maybe the show was looking for more New York Icons to get in touch with the roots they may have lost along the way?).
NEXT WEEKEND: The Hidden Gems of Chris Farley AND a little bit of Louie…
Yes, I know, I said No posting on April Fools Day, but as long as NBC put on a “Vintage” this week, I now feel obligated to do so. That being said, This week’s Vintage takes us back to the seemingly distant year of 2009—a new President was sworn into office leaving one side of the nation hopeful, while the other half was left shaking in their boots (Some things never change). Fortunately, we don’t have any footage of Fred Armisen pretending to be Obama, so here’s Bradley Cooper instead…
BAD GUYS, GOOD CONVERSATION (Original Airdate: 2/7/2009) – I’m honestly surprised Bradley Cooper hasn’t hosted more than once since he made his only appearance 8 years ago (not counting stealing a kiss from Betty White on the Anniversary show); he seems like a guy who’s willing to roll with the punches while maintaining his chiseled good looks. At the same time, I’m also a sucker for nostalgia—especially the kind of nostalgia I feel for an over-the-top movie villain from the late 80s/early 90s…Which brings us to this sketch where a number of famous bad guys try to show that they’re not just a one-dimensional character. Cooper plays “Sweep the Leg” Johnny from “Karate Kid”, as he leads a panel of other famous foils like “Die Hard’s” Hans Gruber (Andy Samberg), Fatal Attractionist and Kellyanne Conway Lookalike Alex Forest (“One & Done-er” Michaela Watkins), and “Silence of the Lambs’” resident Lotion Gift Basket wrapper Buffalo Bill (Bill Hader). Add to the mix Sudeikis as Cobra Kai, and we’re off & running…it goes about as well as you think it does, but not without charming awkwardness. Of the Impressions; I’d rank ‘em like this:
*Hader will always rank as #1 no matter what he does.
*Sudeikis, despite going a little too over the top, still gave me a good laugh.
*Michaela plays her Glenn Close slightly more psychotic than in the actual movie.
*Samberg tried as Hans, but his voice wasn’t deep enough to pull it off.
*Cooper was simply there to move the story along.
Not too bad for a talk show sketch, but some of the jokes (Including the “Karate Kid” & “Fatal Attraction” jokes) were beyond obvious; thankfully, Hader saved the day here.
TOMORROW: Before I talk about Farley’s Hidden Gems next week, another name slipped through the cracks a few weeks ago, and I’ll give him his due…
Well, I already mentioned “Stand Up & Win” last week; so with that, let’s take a look at another sketch from one of the classic episodes of the “Silver Age” of the show…
HISTORY CLASS [A.K.A. “Make You Think”] (Original Airdate: 4/18/1992) – As much as Stand-up AND “Elijah the Prophet” were the funnier sketches from the classic Jerry Seinfeld 1992 show; quite honestly, there’s Nothing like a good “Ensemble” sketch (or in this case, a “Slice of Life”) to show just how strong the cast was back in the Early 90s, and this was no exception. Seinfeld plays a put-upon History teacher who ultimately tries to spoon feed his students some common knowledge about World War II (“Common knowledge”, another game I forgot to add to last week’s list; but I’m distracting myself). Seinfeld talks to his students almost to the point where he wants to slap them for constantly making error after error on what should be fundamental information—but the fact that Seinfeld keeps things at an even but still stressed temper is what makes things funnier. Another reason why this sketch works is because of just how Big (and also, how young) the cast became in 1992; so much so, that they could actually pull off the appearance that they are incredibly dumb, but well meaning high school kids. What’s more, this sketch proved what we’ve known for years, that people would much rather watch a Movie depicting historical events rather than reading a book about it…even if that movie happens to be “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.
A Muy Calliente St. Patrick’s Day from 2003…
A: This List of Sketches highlights 40+ years of SNL’s Most Memorable Quiz Show Parodies.
Q: What is “The Top 8 SNL Game Show Sketches?”
One final “Thank You” to Bill Paxton considering his episode was on “Vintage” last night, and this one is far more obvious than “Fish Heads”…
TITANIC: ORIGINAL ENDING (Original Airdate: 1/9/1999) – Before we get to the actual sketch, I need to bore you with this personal rant: I was 12 years old when “Titanic” was first released. I was sort of at that age where puberty didn’t hit me yet, and I was at the tail end of the “Boys Rule, Girls Drool” phase of my life. I didn’t quite “notice” the fairer sex or their interests as of yet, and I CERTAINLY didn’t understand why girls my age were fawning over Leonardo DiCaprio. So, suffice to say, even when Titanic wound up becoming the Pop Cultural juggernaut of 1997-98, all I could think was “Eh”—in short, I didn’t get it. It actually took me a good 3 years or so after it was released to FINALLY see it on TV (considering I lived in a small town with a small multiplex that constantly sold out the movie, as well as a “Blockbuster Video” that constantly sold out rentals of the movie, waiting 3 years to see it isn’t THAT Far-fetched when you live in the middle of nowhere); once I did see it on TV, my immediate reaction was; “Really? This won all those Oscars?” Let’s face it, if “La La Land” won Best Picture for more than 90 seconds, Titanic would become the 2nd most overrated movie of the past 20 years—that’s how little I cared about the Movie, the Phenomenon, the Merchandising, the overall whoring out/exploitation of a disaster, and everything else connected to it. So when this sketch happened—and again, I had yet to see the actual movie at the time—it honestly confused me that Bill Paxton was involved in any way. Seriously, when you think “Titanic”, you think Leo, Kate Winslet, the Old Lady, some good visual effects, that drawing of Kate that jumpstarted a number of puberties, “I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD (And all parodies included therein)!”, and that real people died on the actual ship………Not the guy who says “Gave Over, Man…Game Over!”
Having said ALL of that, and now that I actually have the context of the movie fully in place, this was probably one of many Movie Parodies that I was meaning to add to my Movie list…were it not for the fact that Cheri Oteri is involved. For the record, I know I’ve thrown some shade at Maya Rudolph & Molly Shannon previously, but at least they also do things that make me like them all over again…Cheri Oteri (despite having SOME Silver linings during her 5 years on the show) is probably one of my LEAST favorite cast members of all time. And Trust me; She, Jim Brewer and……Kattan……(*THUNDER RUMBLES*)……will all get their day soon. On the plus side, at least here she’s playing someone who’s old, frail and subtle, and not someone that makes me want to grab for a can of Mosquito Repellant—yes folks, she was That annoying to me (at least on the show, I certainly hope she’s mellowed a bit since then). As for the sketch itself, it’s a pretty faithful adaptation of the last 10 minutes of the movie—except of course for the glaring plot point that someone would toss a multi-million dollar gemstone into the ocean—yes, I know, it was a moment of sentiment, but c’mon, that’s like turning Google stock certificates into confetti for New Years Eve. From there, “Hilarity ensues” as the excavation crew (led by Paxton) hassle Oteri for doing so—sometimes in abusive ways that almost make me feel sorry for her…almost. What I especially liked about this was Darrell Hammond’s part in pointing out all the plotholes—He’s not dressed as any of the other characters, he’s pretty much in the sketch “As Himself”; Black clothes, Cigarette, D.G.A.F. attitude—he sticks out like a sore thumb, yet he’s the funniest part of the whole thing…Funnier than James Cameron who cameos at the end practically giving the audience a giant middle finger of sorts while trying to be a little funny. As for Paxton, although I wish he had a little more to do in this sketch, he still does what he always did best—play his part with utmost professionalism and a workhorse nature without being too overbearing, unlike other actors who chew scenery as though they were victims of a famine, Cheri!
NEXT WEEK: Considering this page is known for SNL and Game Show battle stories, it was only a matter of time until both came together. Top Game Show sketches next time.
A New Sub-feature to S.O.S.N.L. that takes a look at the Hidden Gems of the more popular cast members. This week, the one & only John Belushi
One of the more solemn tasks I have to do around here is pay tribute to those who had an association with SNL, no matter how long or how brief. Today, we look at a contribution from one who fits the “Brief” category. Bill Paxton passed away today at the age of 61; and while he did host SNL once in 1999, His episode wasn’t all too memorable, and he mostly played it straight for most of his episode. Unfortunately, there really isn’t too much on NBC or SNL Transcripts that I could put up that would be a fitting tribute to him; so with that, it’s time to go to Plan B…
FISH HEADS (Original Airdate: 12/6/1980) – Way back on the “Season 6 Silver Lining” list, I mentioned how even back then, the Short Films were one of the few highlights the show had at such a dismal time. Among the list of shorts that were featured that year is the one I am now daring you to push the play button on; a video version of an already odd novelty song called “Fish Heads”. For those who don’t know the history of the song, that’s what we have Wikipedia for—The cliff notes version is that it was recorded by a group called “Barnes & Barnes” (half of which was former child actor Billy Mumy), and it gained a following thanks to Dr. Demento (who makes a cameo in the video). With that said, what in the flying hell does any of this have to do with Bill Paxton? Believe it or not, well before he became a movie star—or anything remotely famous, for that matter–Paxton was the Director of the music video; proving once and for all that sometimes you have to do a lot of “Interesting” things before people start to take you seriously. As the story goes, Paxton’s directorial skills eventually caught the attention of Roger Corman and James Cameron; that latter of whom gave him a bit part in “The Terminator”, and helped get the ball rolling for Paxton’s career…and all because SNL had absolutely no idea what it was doing when dealing with its first regime change—a point that I’m surprised Paxton never mentioned in his 1999 monologue; but then again, repressing Season 6 wasn’t a bad thing back then (Hell, when they showed a blip of this video on 2009’s “Just Shorts” special, I could recall there was a major backlash at the defunct SNL fan site I frequented, that’s how out of place this video seems now). Sure enough, this is probably one of my favorite examples of “One man’s trash becomes another man’s treasure”—“Fish Heads” ranks up there as one of the greatest things you cannot unsee, and it certainly fit in just fine during such a maligned season; but it also proved to be the most unlikely stepping stone for one of the most venerable actors of our time. Let that be a lesson to someone on Youtube trying to make it with viral videos these days.
Before “Hollywood Hand jo…….” uh, I mean “La La Land” attempts to grab every Oscar in sight, let’s take a look at the times when SNL punched a hole through the silver screen.
Aside from Alec Baldwin, nobody is benefitting more (at the moment) from the Turnip administration than 4 & 1/16th timer Melissa McCarthy; whose Sean Spicer impression has helped propel SNL’s ratings to recent highs. Highs that are a stark contrast compared to some of her earlier work…
PIZZA EATING BUSINESS (Original Airdate: 4/6/2013) – McCarthy plays a Barb Kelner (That’s Barb Kelner, here’s a pen) who wants to take out a bank loan so she can start a business where she—and she alone—eats pieces of pizza that are left over from various events. You would think there wouldn’t be too much material to mine from this premise, but damn if McCarthy doesn’t give it her all here; especially once we get to the part where she eats the pizza with extreme passion, and the punchline where it turns out Jason Sudeikis’ loan officer realized he made a mistake. Speaking of which, it’s a miracle He didn’t break down while McCarthy kept carrying on and giving him pens to not sign with. Whenever McCarthy hosts the show, there are a number of constants to be seen. The most constant of constants is that we’re almost guaranteed to see McCarthy play someone who is either frumpy, surly, awkward, has food all over herself, or a combination of these traits. Compared to the time she blasted ranch dressing all over herself, This is probably the least insane of these sketches despite the fact that the premise of the sketch is still strange. Thankfully, since she’s been losing a lot of weight lately, the roles seem less awkward but more angry, and we couldn’t be happier for her that she doesn’t have to eat pizza to be a success.
NEXT WEEK: SNL’s best Movie Parodies (I Promise).
Well, last night we got a Double Dose of “Pete Schweddy” as Alec Baldwin not only headlined the main show, but also a “Vintage” from 1991. And while my Favorite sketch of the show (“The Sinead O’Connor Awards”) is not available in either video or readable form; we move on now to the runner up…
RECONCILIATION CONFESSIONS (Original Airdate: 2/23/1991…no screen shot available, sorry) – Back in his day, Alec Baldwin would (theoretically) stop women in his tracks and melt them down to their basic molecular level thanks to his charm & good looks; and while the intensity of both have dropped significantly since he traded action/drama movies for comedy & “Thomas the Tank Engine”, he could still get the job done when needed (Right, Meryl?). This sketch where Baldwin plays a youthful priest may very well be the peak of his charm powers, as he aides Julia Sweeney (who I forgot how cute she was when she wasn’t playing “Pat”) through a new Vatican-approved method of confession that allows the confessor to talk directly with the priest instead of sitting next to a veiled screen. In other words, Sweeney’s libido is about to become as powerful as an 8-cylinder engine at 5000 RPMs. Was this just a “One-Joke” premise? Sure! But it was the way Sweeney was fawning over Baldwin’s Charm/Looks that actually made this sketch more enjoyable than it deserved to be. Like I said, Baldwin would revisit sketches based on his looks on other occasions (most notably 1998’s “Cassidy”, and to a FAR lesser extent, “Canteen Boy”), but this might’ve been the one time Baldwin’s charisma was used in its most basic form; and sometimes basic works best.
NEXT WEEK: A little rant about how SNL should appreciate some of their music choices sometimes. (NOTE 2/17/2017: “Music Edits” Editorial has been PPD’d TFN. I’ll explain why later this weekend)
Music is our Message this week, as we take a look at some of SNL’s best Original Songs…
A Very Happy Birthday to Original Cast Member Garrett Morris, who this past week turned 80 Years Young…Yes, young; with the exception of a graying beard on his face, he looks exactly the same now as he did on SNL during the first 5 years. I guess it’s true that “Black don’t Crack”. Anyway, in honor of this milestone, I think the time is right to take a look at Garrett’s single biggest contribution to the show (aside from yelling “OUR TOP STORY TONIGHT!”); one that—in essence—I should’ve added to last week’s Sports list:
CHICO ESCUELLA RETURNS TO BASEBALL (April-May 1979): In this 3-part “Update” piece (of which only 2 parts are available here), Garrett’s ex-Baseball player turned sportscaster attempted a comeback to baseball. This, after spending some of his post-playing years saying bad stuff about his former team, the New York Mets, in a tell-all book that’s appropriately called “Bad Stuff ‘Bout the Mets”. While the Mets seem a little hesitant to let Chico back into the fold, they eventually do with open arms. In part 2 (which, BTW was one of the VERY FEW highlights of the dreaded Milton Berle Episode), Chico returns to the field as he & the Mets take on the freshly crowned World Champion New York Yankees in exhibition play; for the most part, it looks like Chico is back in form…That is, until Part 3, where we see a progress report on Chico…as he misses the balls he’s supposed to catch, throws balls erratically, and eventually suffers a career ending shot to the swimsuit zone (aren’t athletes supposed to wear cups?). Eventually, Chico would return to the Update desk as Sports commentator, but at least for a few weeks, he had time to shine. What I particularly liked about these pieces is the fact that Real baseball players (Including Yankee Craig Nettles and the legendary Willie Mays) took this “Story” seriously, even though this was clearly a satire. Time has been “Berra, Berra Good” to Garrett over the years, and even though he was one of the most underrated cast members in the show’s history, pieces like Chico Escuella helps him in being more fondly remembered. As a BONUS, here’s a quick look at Garrett discussing the Origin’s of both Chico & the “News For the Hard of Hearing” characters from 2012…
You know him, you love him, it’s Drake from 2014!
♫ Are you Ready for Some SKETCHES?! ♫
You’re Not? Well, get ready anyway. A look at SNL’s take on the Ever-widening World of Sports.
Before we get to this week’s entry, I just have to say SHAME ON YOU, NBC! I’ll forgive you for waiting a whole 3 weeks after Carrie Fisher’s passing so you could air her episode on “Vintage”—largely because it was the Christmas Hiatus & the TV industry pretty much grinds to a halt around that time anyway. But the fact that you chose NOT to air Mary Tyler Moore’s 1989 episode this week in favor of Christoph Waltz/Alabama Shakes’ episode from 2013 is just plain dumb. Not that his episode was bad or anything (far from it), but c’mon, where is your sense of nostalgia? I know, Saturdays in Prime Time often go unwatched by many; but a little effort would’ve been nice…(*SIGH*)…I’m just talking to myself here, the next time someone who hosted SNL passes away, NBC, Do the right thing…For Christ sake, MTM’s Ex-Husband Revived The Network alongside Brandon Tartikoff in the 80s, you can at least Grant SOME respect to Mr. Tinker (heh, see what I did there)…anyway, let’s move on…
STRANDED CRUISE (Original Airdate: 2/16/2013) – The Cold Opening of almost every SNL serves one purpose; to give the viewer their take on what they think the biggest story of the week is. 90% of the time, these cold opens lampoon something in the political world—and rarely (if ever) do they focus on other topics, even rarer if it’s just a normal, run of the mill scene. So when this opening sketch aired the week a Carnival cruise liner malfunctioned, essentially turning the ship into a floating petri dish, it was both refreshing and jarring that SNL would use this story to start the show…either that, or it must’ve been a slow news week. Nevertheless, the change of pace actually benefits this sketch; as Cecily & Sudeikis try to keep the spirits of the passengers up the best they can. They do this by awkwardly reading equally tragic news headlines, have Jay Pharoah briefly do his Chris Rock impression, have Hader hypnotize unmentioned “One-and-Done’er” Tim Robinson, even eat the animals brought on by Bobby Moynihan’s Zookeeper—even though there was food on board. The sketch was clever in a Schadenfreude way, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that this sketch might’ve been swapped out for another one that was meant to be the opening (Looking at the episode on NBC’s website, I saw they did a “Fox & Friends” sketch, that would’ve fit in just fine). Either way, this sketch was all about turning Lemons into Lemonade—particularly the kind that turns a Karaoke lounge into a makeshift bathroom.
NEXT WEEK (Unless somebody else dies): Before the New England DeFlatriots mow down the Atlanta Lambs-to-the-Slaughter, we take a look at some of SNL’s most memorable Sports Sketches.
♫ It’s a Long way…to tipararry…it’s a long way…to go…♫
AIRPORT CUSTOMS (Original Airdate: 3/25/1989) – She could turn the world on with her smile, she had spunk, she danced effortlessly, looked good laying in a pile of walnuts, gave icy cold judgement to Timothy Hutton, helped bring Elvis Costello back to studio 8H after a 12 year (supposed) Ban, and yes…she made it after all. Mary Tyler Moore passed away today at the age of 80, and just once 25+ years ago, she appeared on SNL. And while there were a number of sketches she appeared in that are probably more memorable than this one, it is this one that we’re taking a look at because neither NBC or the “SNL Transcripts” website has any footage of a sketch I actually WANTED to cover today…but whata’ya gonna do (Hopefully they air her episode in her memory on the next “Vintage” so that I can show it to you)? Nevertheless, this sketch is still a decent representation of what a lot of us thought MTM was; sweet at first, but then she gets to the point–as is the case here, when Mary is playing a customs agent who (in her own sweet way) needles various travelers into admitting that they’re practically breaking the law. This sketch works because of the “matter of fact-ness” that happens with each of Mary’s exchanges. My favorites include Dana as a Not!Scarface-type smuggling drugs, a brief reminder that Ben Stiller was a cast member, and of course the end of the sketch where Lovitz is (shall we say) “Keeping Diamonds Warm”. Again, this wasn’t my favorite sketch of the episode that she did (That honor goes to “The Dan Quayle Show”; also, I already covered another sketch from this same episode–Robot Repair [see: 6/28/2016]), but it’s a suitable enough tribute until NBC wakes up from its nap. As a BONUS, I did find a picture of MTM appearing in a Wayne’s World Sketch…
Don’t forget to turn off the lights…
The conclusion to COUNTDOWN TO THE TRUMPOCALYPSE, as we present one of the big reasons this happened in the first place–(*SIGH*) President Trump’s SNL appearance 2 years ago.
You’ve seen the rest, now it’s time to see what is arguably the best…
VP DEBATE/TRUMP DEFENDS THE P***Y TAPE (Original Airdate: 10/8/2016) – When it was announced at the start of this season that Alec Baldwin would be playing Satan’s Bag of Chee-tos (and would be doing so at the recommendation of Tina Fey to Lorne), there was just as much skepticism for him getting the impression right as there was for Taran Killam—a skepticism that was magnified considering (1) Baldwin is a bigger star than Taran & Darrell Hammond combined, (2) Taran recently left the show by this point, (3) Baldwin never really did an “impression” of this caliber before—Tony Bennett notwithstanding, and (4) his performance might have the potential to sway the election faster than you could say “E-mail”. Well, ultimately, we found out in the first debate sketch that Baldwin not only had a far better impression than his predecessors, but it also proved to be enough to rattle the dragon’s cage (so to speak) when Voldemort with a Spray Tan took to his precious Twitter to comment about just how “Sad” the impression was—in short, it seemed as though Baldwin had Trump running scared; and even though he’s now just hours away from being sworn in (as of this writing), Trump could very much be in the middle of Baldwin pulling off an Ali-esque “Rope a Dope” and not even realize it…and it could very well be because of this next sketch lighting the fuse. While the Debates this season had some quotable moments between Baldwin & Kate McKinnon, I wanted to focus more on Baldwin’s Trump in more of a “Solo/Pre-Election” setting—and BOY was this the lowest of Low-hanging Fruit. But before we do that, let’s get the first part of the sketch out of the way; a “Previously Recorded” airing of the VP Debate with Beck Bennett as Mike Pence, newcomer Mikey Day as Tim Kaine, and other newcomer Melissa Villasenor 4th walling herself. They pretty much set the scene for what the REAL story turned out to be that week; the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape. From there, we pretty much see why Baldwin has been an indispensable part of the show since 1990 by engaging in a wordplay joust with Cecily as a news reporter. I don’t want to say “Apple-o-Gize” is the new “Strategery”, but considering the weight of this election, it just might be (at least for a little while). Of course, if the REAL P***y tape did what it was supposed to do, then Baldwin would simply dust off his hands and say “My work here is done”; Hindsight’s a fickle thing, isn’t it? Baldwin’s Trump does what Hartman, Hammond & Taran’s couldn’t do; it not only steps over the line in terms of satire/parody, it flat-out decimates it by having the impression be more “Scathing” than “Mockable”—something that the show ventures into so very rarely, that seeing it on a now-weekly basis gives people a reason to tune in once again. It’s sort of like that scene in the movie version of “Private Parts”, people keep tuning in to Howard Stern because they “Want to know what he’ll say next” whether they love it or hate it. The only difference here is that Trump is watching too, because heaven forbid he’s got nothing else better to do with his time, right? Since it looks like Baldwin is going to continue to play the Carrot-headed Baby-man for the foreseeable future, it may be a little too soon to determine the severity of his impact in the grand scheme of things; but as long as Trump is in office and Baldwin keeps throwing the haymakers, this isn’t ending anytime soon (impeachment/imparement pending).
Now that we’ve pretty much shown the timeline of Trump crossing over into SNL’s world, the question remains; Just how the Flying Hell did we actually get to this point? For the answer to that question, it’s time to lay down the exclamation point we’ve been avoiding all week…………
TOMORROW: How Trump’s hosting gig last year got him the White House.
After what seemed like an eternity, Darrell Hammond left SNL (as a cast member) in 2009, but would still pop up here & there throughout the years until he would ultimately “Fill-in” for the late Don Pardo in 2014. At that time, the notion of Zapp Brannigan running for President was simply a gleam in the eyes of too many people who would eventually bubble to the surface of a yet-to-be-drained swamp; so for the most part, Hammond stopped playing Trump. But when the election chatter turned into a roar by 2015; and there was a very realistic possibility that somebody would be playing him for at least 4 years, somebody else wound up taking the reins…how did That turn out?
TRUMP & MELANIA (Original Airdate: 10/3/2015) – I was absolutely skeptical about Taran Killam doing the Trump impression when this first aired, and at first glance he does struggle a bit in spite of being 50 lbs. lighter than the actual Trump and sort of channeling Marlon Brando & a Surfer dude at the same time. If TPTB only gave it a few more weeks, he could’ve done to Trump what Dana did for Bush Senior—Though in the interest of fairness, Taran never really got a fair shot to play him thanks to the internet’s never-ending ability to pick apart people’s flaws at the drop of a hat. Taran would play Trump only a few times after that; and instead of improving, he pretty much stayed in neutral up until December of 2015—when TPTB decided Hammond should give it one more go, while Taran would try to play someone more benefiting his talents…unfortunately, his “Ted Cruz” wasn’t anything to write home about either, though most of the blame for that can go to the makeup department for not trying hard enough to make him look remotely like him. As for this particular sketch, Too bad the actual humor content was a little lacking (save for the ending), but at least the impression is OK enough to forgive…at least this one time–I wish I could say the same for Cecily using yet another accent that boarders on the verge of Sofia Vergara, but at least we can ALL be in agreement that her Melania is better than Paris Hilton’s circa 2005…then again, a Medium-sized patch of Algae can do a better impression than Paris Hilton circa 2005. Thankfully, Cecily’s Melania has improved a great deal since this aired, so at least Somebody learned something last year. Otherwise it doesn’t matter who’s delivering the “Message From…”, it’s still “A Message From…” sketch, and it muddles in the middle.
TOMORROW: As much as Hartman, Hammond & Taran did the best they could with the Trump impression over the years, even SNL realized it needed a little extra firepower; and they got it from an unexpected source…
DONALD TRUMP’S HOUSE OF WINGS (Original Airdate: 4/12/2004) – So far this week, we’ve taken a look at the times when the Fermented glass of Tang was spoofed by others; But by the time we got to 2004 & “The Apprentice” was riding high, it was only a matter of time until the Real Deal showed up. Speaking ONLY on his hosting abilities ALONE, the Apple-headed Orange was OK—he was No student you’d find at the “Actor’s Studio”, but he was OK. If you can even fathom a time when he did so, He was even willing to make fun of himself without Tweeting how “Sad” the performance was (although Twitter wasn’t unleashed from Pandora’s Box yet). So comfortable he was in lampooning himself, that even doing the dumbest (yet most memorable) thing didn’t seem to hurt him one bit…Yes ladies & gentlepeople, this was a sketch that actually happened—though if Wannabe Col. Sanders had his way, this sketch would stay buried. Earlier last year, Trump (supposedly) requested that the sketch be pulled from NBC’s Website……for reasons……but thanks to the never-ending ingenuity of the internet and its Many torrent sites, there’s no need to thank me. Certainly not a Bad sketch, or even a Great sketch—so why is this Arguably the “most memorable” sketch from Trump’s 2004 hosting Gig? Well…Look at it! It’s Trump pretty much practicing his “Dad Dancing” for 2015’s “Hotline Bling” parody while a bunch of far more talented people (and Kenan Thompson) flank him wearing Chicken Suits, all to the tune of a Pointer Sisters “Jump for my Love” parody. By all accounts & purposes, this was just Stupid…but the “Fun” kind of stupid that Derek Jeter, Al Sharpton & Tom Brady also agreed to do at some point—and yes, that’s pretty much the “Critique” of this sketch; simply that if you’ve seen those versions, you’ll know what to expect from this…it just happens to weigh more heavily now thanks to the fact that the Human Nickelodeon Logo from Hell is now the 2nd most powerful person in the world (Vladimir has to have some glory, too).
TOMORROW: The Torch & the Bad wig are passed to the next generation…only for it to be (temporarily) passed back.
THE APPRENTICE PROMO SKETCHES (2004-2005) – When Darrell Hammond started playing Mr. Pumpkin-flavored Cancer, the overall “impression” of his was largely the same as Hartman’s; that of the mild-mannered, arrogant “Billionaire” who occasionally made cameos in Movies & TV Shows in an attempt to show some semblance of a “Human” side. But THEN the year 2004 came around; and with it, came the dawn of the thing that arguably got this whole mess started in the first place: “The (Non-Celebrity) Apprentice.” By all accounts & purposes, the show was, and still is “Survivor in a Boardroom”; and considering the glut of reality shows on at the time, the show should’ve blended in with all the others…………or at least that would’ve been the case if NBC wasn’t a 4th place network struggling to find a hit at the time. “The Apprentice” turned out to be their biggest hit (Which, again, as a 4th place network, wasn’t That hard to do), and NBC mowed down every avenue it could think of to exploit it…So, Why ALL of these sketches? Because it doesn’t matter if it’s Trump by itself, Trump dressed as Santa or Dracula, or Trump dressed as a slice of Pizza, they’re ALL the Same sketch………and YET, there’s just something endearing about them. These sketches also invoke a long-held belief by some that if you repeat the joke enough times, it will go from being funny, to being unfunny, and then back again to being funny just because you’re waiting for something else to happen that probably won’t (Andy Kaufman, Seth MacFarlane & Sideshow Bob are Experts at this). If I were forced to choose which of the three was the more “memorable” one, of course it would have to be the Christmas version, only because I’m a fan of stilted wordplay (“Fa-LA, Fa-La, Fa-LA…Cha-nu-ka-ha!”). But NBC Still wasn’t satisfied by this low-level of corporate synergy; they knew that if they wanted to exploit the shit out of “The Apprentice”, they had to go Straight to the source…
TOMORROW: A look at—arguably—the most Memorable sketch from Cinnamon Hitler’s first hosting gig.
Here we are…4 days (and counting) to Inauguration Day. A day that many would consider a changing of the guard, a new era, a chance to change the sheets……especially ones that were (ALLEGEDLY) “used” by Russian supermodels………….(*AWKWARD COUGH*)……So you could imagine how at least 50% of the country feels knowing that the change that’s coming upon us is one that has them hunkering down in their basements & bomb shelters—pardon me, I mean “Safe Spaces” & Bubbles–waiting for the next 4 years to go by while they’re off the grid. Yes folks, the time has come to start saying the words “President” and “Trump” back to back in the same breath—whether we want to or not. So after Denial, Anger, Fear & Bargaining (BTW, good job with that, Electoral College!), we have finally reached “Acceptance”. And in an effort to show just how accepting we are of the fate that awaits us, the only fair thing to do is to showcase the times when The Sun-kissed Tumor was the butt of different kinds of jokes aside from the political ones. This brings us to a Special WEEK of sketches that I would like to call…
Over the course of the week, we are going to take a look at a number of Key times when The Annoying Orange Tribble got the SNL treatment over the Decades. Hard to believe that The Fanta Fungus has been a regular SNL punching bag since the late 80s; and who better to play him first than one of the show’s patron saints; Phil Hartman…
TRUMP DIVORCE NEGOTIATIONS (Original Airdate – 2/17/1990) – Before there was Melania, before there was Marla (who indirectly caused this sketch to happen), There was Ivana—the woman who would give The Lorax’s Butt his first daughter (and unofficial First Lady), Ivanka. There was an earlier sketch from 1988 that depicted the Trumps in happier—albeit plutocratic—times, but I have a Hard enough time pairing the word “Trump” with the word “President”…adding “Happy Times” just sends a chill down my spine—but I digress. Here, we see Q-Bert’s nutsack negotiating the terms of his divorce with Ivana; played rather soap operatically by Jan Hooks. From there, we see Phil pretty much do what Darth Vader did in “Empire Strikes Back”; he alters the deal with more clauses than a platoon of Mall Santas. This ultimately leads to a game of 3-card monte; and from there, the whole thing fizzles to a halt. Of all the people to play Trump over the years………Hartman was the first. Yeah, the impression was just “OK”; he certainly had the voice & the mannerisms right; but knowing what we know now (as well as what we have Yet to know), the impression seems comparatively tame these days—and it would take somebody else to bring it more to life years later…
TOMORROW: Obviously, it’s Darrell Hammond’s turn; but out of All the times he played Heathcliff’s Taint over 20 years, which one stands out the most?
Now that a few weeks have passed, and now that NBC did the honor of airing Carrie Fisher’s episode in her memory this week on “Vinatge”, the only fair thing to do is to take a look at the other “memorable” sketch she took part in—one that wasn’t so damn self-referential…
THE LOUD FAMILY (Original Airdate: 11/18/1978) – Trivia: Once upon a time, there was a PBS documentary called “An American Family”; often billed as the “First Reality Television Program”—when it aired, it was an achievement not just in television, but in what a narrative story could be; the subject of the documentary was a family with the surname “Loud”…….This family has NOTHING to do with them, they just so happen to be a family who has a hard time controlling the volume of their voices. Hilarity Ensues. And really, that’s all there is to say about this one–they’re loud…so how can you Possibly spread a thin premise like that and still be memorable? Well, there are a few good jokes; Fisher’s character is dating Belushi’s Air Traffic Controller, an unseen daughter perishing in an Avalanche,The parents having uncomfortably loud sex, Garrett coming in as an officer registering his own noise complaint, and less we forget “HEY, THIS IS GREAT POT!!!”. The best I could say for this one was that it wasn’t bad—or even awful—quite the contrary, it was just a little too “one note” for it to be a comedy classic. On the other hand (and like I said), at least it was a chance to see Carrie do something Non-Star Wars related for a change; and having seen the rest of her episode on “Vintage”, at least she was able to break out of her cinnamon-bun headed shell for the evening. This sketch was silly at best, and probably would’ve fit better in the “10 to 1 slot”.
And now that we’ve taken not one, but two moments to remember an Icon; it’s time to get serious. Starting MONDAY & continuing through the rest of the week; a special selection of sketches that chronicle the many times SNL decided to rip our soon-to-be President a New one. The “COUNTDOWN TO THE TRUMPOCALYPSE” begins Monday………God Help Us All!
Remembering a Cast Member who (quite honestly) should’ve been remembered a little better. A few words about the late Tony Rosato.
(*ANGERED SIGH*) Really, 2016?? REALLY?!?
BEACH BLANKET BIMBO FROM OUTER SPACE (Original Airdate: 11/18/1978): First thing’s first, I apologize wholeheartedly if this isn’t quite the right sketch to honor her with (especially since she herself was FAR from a “Bimbo”); but to be fair, this sketch was more memorable than “The Loud Family” that appeared later in the episode–and I’m often a fan of “abrasive” humor. Nevertheless, it is my sad duty to announce what millions already know in that Carrie Fisher has passed away today at the age of 60. When she hosted her one & only time in 1978, not only was her Star on the rise, but she also wanted to let people know that there was more to her than being Leia (although her 2010 one-woman show “Wishful Drinking” did a better job of that, but I digress). For the most part, she did, but not without biting the hand that fed her first. Thus, this sketch where (after setting it up in the monologue) we see an odd cross between “Beach Party” movie, “Z-Grade” sci-fi, and random horror cameo (Hi, Vincent Price!) and it plays just about as well as it sounds. Certainly not god-awful or anything, but it’s pretty much the archtypical “What would happen if ________ was a ___________” sketch that would probably resonate a little better if you were a fan of B-Movies from the 50s……..
♫ I’m a teenager from outer space Trying to make it in the human race. Although I come from another world I’m really a very nice girl! ♫
Nice AND Nutty sometimes, but we loved you for being Both…May the Force be With You, Princess (and go easy on Belushi when you get to the gates)…Fuck 2016.
(*SIGH*) Well, I DID say if anything breaking happened in the SNL world over the time off, I’d be here…Too bad it had to happen ON Christmas Day…#Fuck2016…
SINATRA & GEORGE (Original Airdate: 9/29/1990…No Video/Transcript…yet) I’ll be honest, I was Never that big a Fan of George Michael UNTIL I saw Dana Carvey’s impression of him on SNL. For the most part, the Real George Michael seemed like a good guy (inerasable scandals notwithstanding). Carvey’s best appearance as the guy whose butt he wants the world to look at was in this 1989 “Update” appearance, but since we try to avoid “Update” pieces around here, we may as well talk about one of the few times Carvey’s interpretation appeared in an actual sketch—which also happens to be the first time Phil Hartman unleashed his Frank Sinatra impression onto the world. This particular sketch happened in light of an open letter Mr. Sinatra wrote in the LA Times the week the show aired (which, now that I’ve actually read it seems less of an “insult”, and more of a mis-guided but well meaning bit of advice from the elders). Anyway, the SNL crew decided to expand on that a little—and as much as the sketch SHOULD’VE been about George, Hartman’s tendency to “Glue” things together helped him run away with the sketch; and with it, a new recurring character that would reach its zenith with “The Sinatra Group” a few months later. Carvey would reprise George Michael a few more times; one in 1996 when he appeared in a “Goat Boy” sketch (Sketch happily unavailable), and one last time in 1997 when he appeared on a benefit album to “Set our Nanny Free” (long and sad story). As for the real George Michael; like I said, I was never a fan, but he certainly had millions of them, so had to have done something right…and yes, “Faith” does remain untouchable (every music artist has at least One song Everybody likes even if the artist isn’t your cup of tea…Ted Nugent, I’m looking in Your direction.). Otherwise, the fact that he passed away so young—especially when it looked like he still had some oomph in him—is just further proof that 2016 can suck it.
I was Dumb once…and just in time for the Holidays, This review proves it.
As SNL holds its annual Christmas Special tonight, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at a Christmas sketch that has long been forgotten by even us die-hard fans…but that’s probably because of a combination of dated humor and the Original version of the sketch a few years earlier winding up dwarfing it.
IT USED TO BE A WONDERFUL LIFE (Original Airdate: 12/1/1989…sorry, couldn’t find a pic from the Actual sketch) – As I mentioned back in July, the famed “Lost Ending” sketch was not only one of SNL’s all-time greatest sketches (let alone greatest “Holiday” sketches), but it was also marked as one of the cornerstones in the 1986-87 Comeback season; and why wouldn’t it be? Dana Carvey’s Jimmy Stewart impression was about to become the stuff of SNL legend, the actual “Ending” where everybody beats up Mr. Potter was good catharsis, everything just came together. So when you have something as Iconic that sketch, how the hell can you Possibly 1UP it? Well……..This one Tries, but as we all know about sequels (With Some Exceptions), it’s NEVER as good as the Original. Also, I think I know the main reason why this hasn’t re-aired in years—partly because it’s a sketch ending in LFNY (more on that in a sec), but mostly because it’s “Topical”. The setting for this sketch is a Senate hearing on unlawful Banking Practices, as well as a jab on the various “S&L Scandals” that took place at the time, culminating in the accusation of the “Keating Five” (Sorry to open the wound, late John Glenn). Lovitz reprises his Mr. Potter, only this time taking on the form of reprimanded Senator Alan Cranston. Then at the end of the sketch when Carvey’s Bailey contemplates jumping off the bridge, we see guardian angel Clarence (Mike Myers) show up and urges him not to wish he was ever born—for without George Baily, life would look like SNL’s opening montage from 1988-1990. While I give them all the bonus points in the world for “4th Walling” the ending, this was not only a sketch that aged poorly, but it was also one of those “You had to be there” sketches—‘cause when I saw this for the first time on the John Goodman “Starmaker” tape as a kid, I was epically confused as to what was going on…That, and the first parody from ’86 was simply funnier without it being too cerebral. Seriously, Which would you rather see; George Baily & Co. getting their revenge on Mr. Potter, or a Senate Hearing on Banking practices? That’s like choosing between a piece of Chocolate Cake and a plate of Kale. I get it, “Bailey Building & Loan”, I can see WHY they would go this route…but I feel this may have gone over a lot of people’s heads, and that this sketch should never have been born.
THIS WEEKEND: A Look into Christmas Past…All the Way to The Year 2000…
Woody Harrelson: Folksy Bartender, Weed enthusiast, Porn Publisher (at least in one movie), Doomsday prepper (in another movie), Dystopian advice giver (in Still another movie)……Animal Husbandry Enthusiast?
THREE LONESOME COWBOYS (Original Airdate: 11/18/1989) – There’s “Recurring” sketches, and then there are “Sketches that show up from time to time”. For a few times in the late 80s/early 90s, SNL would revisit the trope of “Singing Cowboys” once in a blue moon. I know Harrelson did two of these sketches, Kyle McLaughlin did one (as KD Lang of all people), and so did Jeremy Irons. This sketch was the first time they did things the Cowboy Way, and as you can tell by some of the lyrics, things get a little—shall we say—“Primal” as they sing about how after being out in the open for some time with little companionship, they turn their attention to all creatures great & small (To which I’m sure Jake Gyllenhaal & the late Heath Ledger would probably say, “Dude, Tone it down a little!”). Of course, the lyrics are counter-balanced by the sing-songy way that Woody, Dana & Phil carry the tune, thus giving the content a much needed antithesis. Despite the fact that these “Cowboy” sketches actually happened infrequently, the songs they sung were a lot more memorable than I remember—especially McLaughlin’s song about slaughtering cattle…but that’s a story for Another day.
TOMORROW: A Special Holiday sketch that has seen little to no airplay in recent years (coincidentally, Also from 1989).
It’s “Bonus Review” Time! A look at last year’s Christmas show with the Dynamic Duo, and a few other people.
“A Cartoon (or should we say 8 of them) by Robert Smigel!”
Whatever happened to “Special Guests” on the show, and how come it just isn’t the same these days? Well…isn’t THAT special?
Time once again to Honor the Fallen—something we’ve been doing WAY too much of in 2016…this one in particular hurts a little.
THE LADIES MAN (Original Airdate: 5/20/2000) – Coincidentally, when someone connected to SNL passes away, we somehow wind up looking at the last time a certain instalment of a certain sketch aired as well as take a seldom-seen look at a recurring character. On Thanksgiving, we lost “America’s Mom”—Florence Henderson, at the age of 82 (Though truth be told, I thought she was a LOT younger). She made a quick cameo on the show in the Early 80s is a piece called “What Famous person Do You Look like?”; But By sheer coincidence, she also just happened to appear on the Final instalment of another character I had long forgotten about; Tim Meadows’ “Ladies Man”. Henderson—who at the time was a co-host of the (Then New) 3rd Hour of the “Today” show—not only steals the show, she flat-out Burgled it. As if that wasn’t enough, Sarah Michelle Geller (who should’ve hosted more) and Gina Gershon (who should’ve acted Less) join Leon Phelps to participate in a “Dating Game” style show where Phelps is looking for his “Summer Skank”. What makes Henderson’s appearance all the more special is not just the fact that she’s on as a version of Herself, but that the stuff that comes out of her mouth are pretty much the LAST things you would ever expect to come out of “Mrs. Brady”…but then a few years later, when she took part in a couple of “Tell-All” books/TV shows about “The Brady Bunch”, it turns out some of her raunch might’ve been par for the course in this sketch. Either way, this was a surprising cameo in every sense of the word, and certainly one hell of a high note for Meadows to go out on (until the “Ladies Man” Movie later that fall)…We’ll miss you, Carol Brady.
PROGRAM NOTE: Because of the Holiday, I may be a Little Late with this week’s Editorial. Hopefully I’ll have it on before Monday.
As Turkey Day approaches, and SNL airs their Thanksgiving Special Tonight, I almost guarantee you that there’s gonna be a handful of sketches they will overlook on that show—partly because there’s only so many sketches related to the holiday to air, so the more “Memorable” ones usually do the job—If they need a headstart for prepping their Next Thanksgiving Special, however, may I recommend that they include this sketch…one that by sheer coincidence aired 20 years ago (Christ, I’m getting old) Today!
THANKSGIVING SONG AUDITIONS (Original Airdate: 11/23/1996) – First thing’s first, a couple of sentimentality points for the late Phil Hartman as this was the very Last SNL show he ever appeared on before he died. Even though all he’s doing is pretty much playing it straight here as a Producer auditioning people for a “Thanksgiving Carol” to add to the Library of Congress, any use of Hartman is gonna increase the value of a sketch (Even to this day when his voice graces the random “Church Chat” or “Wayne’s World” sketch in modern times). We then get to the meat of the sketch (pun probably intended) as the parade of singers epically miss the point about what Thanksgiving is all about, and instead focus on the Turkey & nothing else. There are a couple good performances here, from a Boozy Molly giving it a Jazz twist, to Tim Meadows doing his best (INSERT 90s R&B PERFORMER HERE) Impression, to a reminder that Jim Brewer existed, to an early sliver of what Tracy Morgan could be capable of years later (albeit with some Rastafarianism). We also get the debut of a character I long repressed from my memory; Ana Gasteyer’s “Cinder Calhoun”—The Lilith Fair-going Musician/Activist whose protest songs were usually about the most banal of things (Like Pantyhose, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, or her crush on Garth Brooks). I’d like to think that her performance here was a precursor to a duet she did with Sarah McLaughlin a year later, but that could just be a coincidence. We also get another character prototype as Will Ferrell and…Kattan…(*THUNDER RUMBLES*)…give us a taste of what we believe to be the first sighting of The insufferable DeMarco Brothers sans Chris Parnell (who wouldn’t join the cast until 2 years later)—Let’s just say not even Ferrell’s presence helps there. Anyway, this was back in the day when “ensemble” sketches were sort of on the back-burner compared to the more “Character Driven” ones that were popular on the show at the time. But for the rare times they went this route during this era, it was pretty solid.
THIS WEEKEND: It Can’t be a “Get together” kind of holiday without inviting a few Special Guests…
A Turkey from Last Year, just in time for Thanksgiving.
OK, Enough Doom & Gloom, Let’s talk about a genuine human ray of sunshine to help us forget about this past week…
DANIELLE (Original Airdate: 1/19/2013) – I mentioned a time or two in the past that one of my hobbies is that of “VCR Archivist” for a couple of Youtube channels I have that showcases vintage TV commercials. Sometimes, when fast forwarding through the tapes I find at Yard Sales & eBay, you come across something that has “WTF” written all over it; I.e. actual footage of someone changing the channel, a “countdown clock” to a pay-per-view movie, or (if you’re lucky enough to come across vintage premium cable channel footage) the one odd foreign movie that attempts to be “Erotic”, but then fails magnificently at so many levels. This is a parody of the latter, as well as a reminder of the early genius of Matt & Oz—even if some of that Genius was hard for some to understand at first. The “genuine ray of sunshine” in question is Jennifer Lawrence channeling her inner “Emmanuelle” (I.e. the long running French movie series this spoof is based on that I can NO WAY in Hell give you a link to…pervs.); she and the rest of the players (Armisen, Sudeikis, Killam, Cecily, Kenan) all say their lines with the kind of clipped speeds that most badly dubbed foreign films have been known for. Matt & Oz use that, and the intentionally bad editing of sex scenes to their advantage to give us something that’s not only a spot-on parody of something highly niche, but also do so in the most charmingly awkward of ways…….Of course, if a “movie” like this was made in the 21st century, the acting would be worse and the sex would be a harder caliber of core………(*WHISPERS*)….Danielleeeeeeeee…
Just in time for Election Day; Once again, we honor the Fallen…
JANET RENO’S DANCE PARTY (Original Airdate: 1/20/2001) – The former Attorney General died Sunday at the age of 79, and yes, this was the Very first thing that came to mind when I heard the news. For the record, Ferrell’s portrayal of Reno over the years didn’t really feel “Funny” to me—more “Funny Huh?” Yeah, the real deal was hard as nails, but I always thought Ferrell played Reno with more of a pituitary disorder. Nevertheless, these sketches were downright weird sometimes (though bonus points for that one time she gut-punched Giuliani for all of Times Square to see). Just like the “McLaughlin Group” sketch I covered during the summer, I want to focus on the Final time they did one of these sketches—which just happened to air the night of Bush Jr’s inaugural. SNL has a long standing tradition of the real life versions of the people they lampoon come on and pretty much say “It’s OK, I get the joke”, and this one was no different. In fact, when I first reviewed this sketch back in 2001 at a certain place that no longer exists, I had This to say about it:
Janet Reno: (Last one ever)
The Good: The Real Reno
“IT’S RENO TIME!”
The Bad: The last one had to be a good one
The Rating: A+
Once again, Dazzling insight at the age of 16. Not gonna lie, the Real Reno breaking through the wall was not only unexpected, but it actually Was a genuine laugh—then and now. For Whatever Reason, NBC in all their infinite wisdom doesn’t have this episode posted (I’m guessing because of Music rights—NOTE TO SELF: Commentary about Music Rights in the future). A shame, really because if someone of Reno’s stature is willing to laugh at herself, the Network owes the American Public the right to see it. It truly was one of the most genuinely surprising moments SNL ever had in a non-controversial way.
At Ease, General.
The Thrilling Conclusion to “The Top 16 SNL Political Sketches” (Or “probably the LAST Laugh the United States of America will Ever Have”).
A SPECIAL Two-Parter, as we take a look at SNL’s Greatest Political Sketches…or at least, Half of them Today (2nd Half on Monday).
Since today is Halloween, I want to take a moment today to talk about a unique person who actually made an appearance on SNL in 1982. Most of the world might not know who this guy is, but if you grew up in New York (city or state) way back in the day, Halloween wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t listen to the “Cool Ghoul” on the radio…
MYSTERY THEATER (Original Airdate: 9/25/1982) – The guy you see here is John Zacherle. For a few years in the 50s & 60s, he was Synonymous with Horror movies—if you saw them on NYC Television. He was a “Horror Host” in the same vein as people like “Svengoolie”, “Son of Svengoolie”, “Ghoulardi”, and yes, even Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson. During this time, he had a cult hit on the charts in a similar vein to “Monster Mash”; this one called “Dinner with Drac” (It was OK, but nothing earth shattering). Afterwards, he spent several decades as a Radio DJ specializing in Progressive Rock and then afterward popping up annually on various stations on Halloween nights, but never once losing his “Cool Ghoul” status. In short, he creeped people out, and we LOVED him for it. Zacherle passed away on 10/28/2016 at the age of a truly full life—98 years old. Now, while I have no Video or Transcript of Zach’s appearance on SNL in ’82 to show you, I assure you that he did make an appearance—much to the surprise of the New York audience, and possibly to the confusion of everybody else watching. He was on as the “Host” of a sketch where a young Julia Louis-Dreyfus is portrayed as the target of an unseen menace outside her apartment door…a menace which later turned out to be Chevy’s “Land Shark”. “But Wait!” you exclaim, “wasn’t this the episode where Chevy was stuck in Los Angeles and did all his parts through a TV monitor?” Indeed, it was, but fortunately they managed to find a way to make the scene (sort of) work. Instead of the Shark simply showing up and Eating JLD, it turns out that the shark was actually stopped this time thanks to him appearing on JLD’s high-tech home security system—thus utilizing Chevy’s video appearance in LA to New York’s advantage. As much as I don’t like writing about recurring characters, I have to admit that this was a unique twist to what was essentially a one-joke character. Add Zacherlie to the mix, and an otherwise mediocre sketch turns out to be modestly layered. The Cool Ghoul will be missed by many, and I’m sure he would’ve found some sort of Irony in passing away just days before Halloween. Take it easy, Zach…and say hi to Ghoulardi for us.
Our Halloweekend TRIPLE FEATURE continues with a look at my main man Tracy Morgan, and the comeback he made last year.
A Look at some of SNL’s Best Scary (but ot necessarily limited to Halloween) sketches of all time…Any Questions?
Ugh, Enough of these Pre-emptions! There’s only so much Longform material I can write at a time. The movie “Identity Thief” is on in Prime Time tonight on NBC, so once again there’s no “SNL Vintage”. On top of that, I’m not even close to finished on my next list, plus I have ANOTHER one to finish before the Election. So in light of that and also because my job in the real world put me through the wringer this week, I hope you don’t mind my talking about a single sketch this week. And since the one & only Tom Hanks is hosting the main show, I think the time is right to look back at his humble (yet dark) beginnings.
(No Screencaps of sketch available, Sorry)
STEVE’S FANTASY (Original Airdate: 12/14/1985) – Previously in one of my diatribes, I mentioned Hanks’ first appearance in 1985 as one of the few highlights of Season 11. For the most part, the sketches they retained on the “Starmaker” tape felt like watching a prototype of the future appearances Hanks would make in later years……….This sketch, on the other hand, is both the exception to the rule, and sort of the Black Sheep of the episode—partly because it gets really dark, really fast. We have writer Carol Leifer to thank/blame for this one, and while she’s done a lot of good for the world of comedy before & since this sketch, something tells me she may have accidentally opened one of Michael O’Donoghue’s spare Pandora’s Boxes that was sitting backstage in a storage room in order to write this one (and He wasn’t even involved with the show by this point…at least, not unofficially officially.). It starts out innocently enough with Hanks & Joan Cusack as a couple celebrating their anniversary, and the fact that they both feel they are in enough love that they can discuss some deep, dark, personal secrets between each other. Hanks chimes in with the “Fantasy” that Cusack’s character Dies and that he would receive a weird personal satisfaction via the mourning process. The rationale goes on for a few minutes with Hanks being logistical but Cusack getting increasingly hurt by the fantasy; afterwards when enough is enough, Cusack storms out of the restaurant only to get accidentally stabbed by Terry Sweeney, thus awkwardly fulfilling Hanks’ fantasy…….COMEDY! But in all seriousness, maybe because I didn’t understand it when I first saw this as a teen, but this was certainly a crash course in “Dark” humor—especially when it comes to actually trying to find some.
NEXT WEEK: I dress up as the most horrifying thing I can think of, (an internet blogger with a lot of spare time on his hands) as we take a look at some SNL Halloween and/or “Scary” Sketches. And then, I PROMISE the week after will be the Political Sketches.
They Got in, They Got Out, and they Got the Last Laugh. A Look at Cast Members who were only here for a short time–in the Blink of an eye
By total coincidence, Today marks exactly 41 Years since SNL made it’s Debut (and you can read about that Very first sketch they did at the Very BOTTOM of this page…But that’s not why I called you here…A funny thing happened on the way to Last Saturday’s NASCAR race—some sort of atmospheric disturbance named Matthew decided to call the whole thing off, and we got an SNL rerun in prime time anyway. Not just any episode, but probably one of the earliest examples of the kind of show it would become; I speak of course about the one (and Only) time when Richard Pryor hosted it. This was actually the 3rd time they re-aired it, but considering how historic it was not just to television, but to comedy itself, I can’t blame them for doing so. And while a sketch like “Word Association” is certainly worth dissecting somewhere down the line, it IS October…and quite honestly, this next sketch is not only a timely one, but it was also the funnier one of the episode (Yes, I said it).
EXORCIST II (Original Airdate: 12/13/1975) – Like I said previously on “Don’t look back in Anger”, sketches from the first 5 years are almost impossible to review; partly because plenty of other people have done so already…so what’s one more round of fawning gonna hurt? Movie parodies are nothing new…hell, Carol Burnett, Sid Caesar, and plenty of other people from the Golden age of Television had a headstart. Even SNL itself had a headstart with all those “Land Shark”/Jaws sketches pre-dating this one. But what makes this one particularly memorable is not just the parody of the movie they’re spoofing, but just how racially charged the spoof would be thanks to Pryor (and guest performer Thalmus Rasulala; whose career you should look up, because he was in a LOT of forgotten classics)…or at least it WAS racially charged back in’75, looking at the sketch again, it actually looks kinda quaint & antiquated by today’s standards. A lot of the dialogue you can also thank Michael O’Donoghue for writing, because (quite honestly) who else would tell a possessed white girl to mouth off to two Black Priests as if it were a “Yo Mama” contest. And really, that’s what it boils down to—Pazuzu/Regan is pretty much getting in touch with its inner –Harlem, and letting Pryor get the brunt of it at the same time. Speaking of which, I’d like to think “THE BED IS ON MY FOOT!!” is a variation on buddy Gene Wilder’s “PUT THE CANDLE BACK!!” from “Young Frankenstein”. Like I said, it’s Harmless nowadays, but back then, I GUESS I could see what the fuss was about.
A Full Episode “Retro Review” of probably one of the Greatest SNL Episodes of ALL TIME…
Just in time for tonight’s Season Premiere (and possibly the most anticipated Debate sketch yet), a look at some of the times SNL tore the debates a new one. Moderate This, Lester Holt!
We conclude S.O.S.N.L. (as a Summer Feature) with a simple question…if someone were to come up to you at gunpoint and force you to answer the question “Describe SNL in just ONE sketch OR I’LL KILL YOU!!!!!!!!!” what would your response be (aside from flagging down the nearest cop or being ready with the pepper spray)? Before that perpetrator is taken away, I would simply tell him or her “Just watch Will Ferrell”…
GOODNIGHT SAIGON (Original Airdate: 5/16/2009) – SNL can be described as a number of things; A Launchpad for up & coming stars, a Dinosaur well past its prime, a place where you can see Live Music on Television, Kenan Thompson’s place of residence, Or as I mentioned 3 months ago, The TV equivalent of a Bar where you can unwind after a long week. SNL is also a place where anything/everything can happen—sometimes at the drop of a hat, other times with a lot of preparation and due diligence. A piece like “Goodnight Saigon” is one of those rare times when just about everything we know about the show can come together and converge in such a way that it almost feels like a crime against humanity to give it a fair judgement without raving all over the place about it. It seems as though once every decade, there’s always going to be that ONE sketch that people will talk about forever & a day. For the 70s, you could argue that “Dancer in the Dark” is one of those sketches. The 80s, The Death of Buckwheat and the Oswald-esque killing of John David Stutts. The 90s, The entire cast saying goodbye to Phil Hartman a la “The Sound of Music”. The 00’s—even though it’s technically NOT a sketch—Rudy Giuliani’s “Back to Normal” speech with Paul Simon & the FDNY. (And before I go any further, a reminder that those examples are HIGHLY subjective, you may have your own favorites that transcend everything else, and you’re more than welcome to ‘em). A sketch like “Goodnight Saigon” comes along so rarely that even when you take a step back to view it with greater clarity, you’re still blown away by its sheer power and dense layers.
Where to Start? How about the fact that it almost perfectly strattles the line between high-concept performance piece and sketch where people are wondering what the Hell is going on (*AHEM*). Next, you’ve got something almost as rare as the sketch itself; one where the ENTIRE cast winds up joining in—but THAT’S not enough, so they also add surprise guest stars. In no particular order: Paul Rudd, Anne Hathaway, Elisabeth Moss, Norm MacDonald, ALL of Green Day, and perhaps the most shocking of all…ARTIE LANGE—Shocking for a number of reasons actually, at that point (Until Taran Killam came along a year later), NEVER has a cast member from “MadTV” graced SNL’s stage, and even more shocking was the fact that “MadTV” was airing its Final (Original Series) episode as this was airing —which featured an Artie Lange cameo, no less! Seriously, the Universe should’ve just caved in at that point. But Not even THAT was enough; shortly after the sketch ends and the credits are about to roll, we then find out in an incredibly subtle way that this was Darrell Hammond’s final show as a Cast Member after 14 years, so the preceding sketch was essentially a stealth “Send-Off” that took most of us completely by surprise. Since this sketch first aired 7 years ago, few have tried and tried hard to duplicate the magic. Kristen Wiig’s sendoff (of which there’s NO video of) came close, Fred Armisen’s sendoff trails a bit, Bill Hader’s “Stefon” sendoff during “Update” was an A-, but to this day, Ferrell channeling Billy Joel (From the Russia Concert!) remains one of the undisputed favorites—whether you’re a fan of the show or you’re not. So the next time someone comes at you on the street with an AK-47 and threatens your life unless you can think of ONE sketch that can describe SNL on the whole, just tell those psychopaths “Goodnight Saigon”, and more than likely you’ll be free to go.
And speaking of “Free to Go”, this concludes S.O.S.N.L. as a Daily Summer Feature. Stay tuned Tomorrow so that we can discuss the future…Until then, Thanks for coming, Good Night (Saigon), and Roll the Credits!
Before we go Any further, some LATE BREAKING NEWS tonight as Kate McKinnon won an Emmy Award for “Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series”—Which is in itself a gargantuan feat in SNL-land considering the ONLY Three cast members to have won While Cast Members are Dana Carvey, Chevy Chase & Gilda Radner. So enjoy this Victory lap now, Kate, ‘cause I have a feeling they’re gonna put you in overdrive in a few weeks—Otherwise, Mazel Tov!
Now then…Better late than never, here’s a Tribute to the one & only Don Pardo…
DON PARDO: THE FIRST 50 YEARS (Original Airdate: 11/27/1976) – Pardo appeared in a number of sketches over the years, either as himself or as a highly exaggerated version of himself—and while some pieces had Pardo as the Focus of the sketch, this was probably one of the Only sketches he “Appeared” in (more or less) where he was not only the Central Focus, but whoever wrote the sketch made sure of it with dignity, reverence, and a little tongue-in-cheek humor. Despite the fact that Pardo never actually appeared on camera in this sketch, he definitely made his presence known in what is essentially the story of his life. Literally from the moment he was born (at least in the sketch), he had the pipes to sell America anything. We then see a continued progression of his life, ultimately leading to the only running “joke” of the sketch; People are a little wary to consider Pardo for work, yet they always “Have a Hunch” about him. Regardless of whether there are any legitimate jokes in this or not, this was really meant more as a tribute piece—especially since NBC itself had just turned 50 that year (Doing the Math, this would’ve made Pardo 58 years old when this aired, but why split hairs?). I honestly think it’s a crime that SNL didn’t re-air THIS sketch during the season premiere in 2014 the same way they re-aired “Love is a Dream” for Jan Hooks, but whatta’ya gonna do? Time passes, life goes on, and Pardo’s voice is Still very much missed (With all due respect to Hammond; who’s doing a fine job BTW, but I think even HE realizes there’s no match for the master).
TOMORROW: The Final Sketch I’ll look over for the summer and one question to go with it…How would You Describe SNL in just ONE sketch?
As we’re nearing the end of the summer (and this feature), I think now would be a good time to talk about something somewhat personal…
COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN (Original Airdate: 11/1/2008) – I think I’ve mentioned at one point that I’m a fan of one Mr. Keith Olbermann (and by association, Edward R. Murrow—after all, “Good Night & Good luck” was his line first). So much so, that this sketch was not only a big part of why I decided to return to doing episode reviews (at a certain place that no longer exists) in Christmas of 2008, but also one of the many reasons why I now write just about anything the way I’ve Been writing them ever since (Aside from THIS long-winded explanation a few years later). On the surface, this sketch certainly deserves its reputation as one that overstayed its welcome—8 minutes…4 too long, to be exact—but damn if Ben Affleck doesn’t at least try to sell the shit out of it…so much so that the real K.O. still occasionally uses Affleck’s impression as return-fire Cannon fodder on whatever show he’s doing these days (Last I heard, he’s now doing videos for GQ magazine)—largely because Affleck sounds less like K.O. and more like Peter Finch from “Network” when delivering his diatribes here. Quite honestly, if this were just a standard length 4 minute (or so) piece, maybe it might’ve been better received. But then Affleck just HAD to throw in an Olbermann-esque “Special Comment” (dramatic camera turns & all) as fast-melting & messy icing on the cake. Despite being vocally mis-cast, Affleck’s performance remains riveting…in a trainwrecky kind of way……Yet for some reason, even though this sketch wasn’t quite a favorite of mine at first, it always stuck with me. It’s because of this sketch (and by association, Olbermann’s various shows on various networks over the years.) that I realized that there’s more to loving/hating things (let alone SNL sketches) than simply saying “I Loved/Hated It!” for little to no rhyme or reason—as the stuff from 1999-2003 via archive.org clearly shows. It takes a lot of thought, mental digestion, and concerted effort to do it right, and I’m glad to have learned that lesson years ago…And if K.O. somehow manages to find this, I hope he gets back on traditional television more sooner than later…Failing that, there’s always Satellite Radio.
You know ’em, you love ’em (or at best, mildly tolerate them). A Look at my PERSONAL Favorite SNL characters behind the curtain…
OK, OK, So I Lied…THIS is the last “Current” sketch I’ll talk about this summer, but how could I NOT talk about it? It has all the earmarkings of being a “Neoclassic”; one that holds up well, and will continue to do so for years to come—partly because the source material manages to hold up to this day…
THE OFFICE: MIDDLE EARTH (Original Airdate: 12/13/2014) – You don’t even have to be a fan of either LOTR or The Office (UK or US) to appreciate this one. This was so dense with material that I had to re-watch it several times just to spot things I might’ve missed—and will probably keep doing months after the fact. Bobby steals another one as Gandalf/David Brent, but not as much as Taran does with his Gollum. (host) Martin Freeman slipped back into familiar territory x 2 by playing both Bilbo Baggins AND Jim Halpert 1.0 at the same time flawlessly, while Kate was very subtle as Pam/Dawn/Elf (Sorry, haven’t seen “The Hobbit” movies yet to know the character’s name). My ONE and ONLY complaint about this is that this is not only a (slight) rehash of other “Office” parodies the show has done over the years, but it makes me wonder if whoever wrote this saw any episodes beyond the pilot. Not to belabor the point, but that “(ITEM) in Jell-o” joke’s been done to death. Hell, “Japanese Office” did it 6 years earlier. Regardless, “The Office” (not unlike Tolken’s work) stands the test of time and can be spoofed til the cows come home for all I care, a highly solid spoof of both entities.
MAGIC FISH TOWN HALL MEETING (Original Airdate: 2/6/1993) – Let’s face it, with over 40 years of material to write between hundreds of writers, it only feels inevitable that certain things wind up repeating themselves after a while (recurring characters not withstanding). That being said, it still comes as a surprise to me that SNL would do TWO sketches about Magic Fish that grant wishes and the bureaucratic red tape behind them almost 10 years apart. Sketches like this seem to have been common back in the late 80s/early 90s; ones where there is a gathering of sorts, and a seemingly outlandish or off-beat topic is discussed in a rigmarole, matter-of-fact way as though it’s a typical Wednesday—For instance, the “Mr. Belvedere Fan Club”, or (to an extent) “Attack of the Masturbating Zombies” (Which I will NOT link you to, because I want to save discussion of Those sketches for a special occasion). As far as comparing this sketch to the Ebersol sketch, this is about 36% better than that one. It’s certainly more of an ensemble piece, it’s more expansive than arguing legal points on what to wish for, and it’s a little more off-beat in terms of comedic content (Especially Carvey adding a New England accent to his “Grumpy Old Man” and Sandler’s oh-so-subtle dick joke). It didn’t exactly feel Hilarious, but there was still a humorous sense of “How Odd” as we went along.
Another sketch I Promised through the summer, at least one with Eddie Murphy headlining it (aside from “Crisis Game”). But in keeping with my “No Recurring Characters” policy, this is one that probably slipped through the cracks…
Thanks again for the Pic, Ben!
THE MAGIC FISH NEGOTIATIONS (Original Airdate: 4/16/1983) – When you’re a kid and you hear certain stories told to you ad nausium, you enjoy the story no matter how many times it’s told. When you get older however, you either remember being told those stories in a fond way, or if you’re the “Creative” type, think of a new way to tell that story that would be relatable to today’s audience (If you were a child of the 90s, books like “The Stinky Cheese Man” or “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs” are valid case studies). This sketch—despite the story being somewhat original—is a Perfect example of the latter as (host) Susan St. James tells her newborn heir to the Ebersol name what begins as a story of making three wishes thanks to obtaining a Magic Fish…only for the whole thing to derail faster than you can say “Geico Commercial” (Also a valid case study). Eddie plays a villager who catches said magic fish (Mary Gross), but since this is still the crime-laden, easily scam prone early 1980s, he wants to leave no stone unturned in making sure he gets what he wants. If you know your legalese, this might be a little funnier to you. Otherwise, this sketch looks like something Jack Handey would’ve wrote a few years later when he joined the writing staff—part dry, part droll, lots of explanations, not a lot of sense yet it still makes all the sense in the world.
Incidentally; 10 years after this sketch aired, SNL revisited this trope with a sketch called “Magic Fish Town Hall”. Tomorrow, we’ll look at That sketch, and see how it compares to the original even though both sketches are completely unrelated.
OK, Last “Current” sketch I’ll talk about this summer, I Promise—but this one is to cover some Breaking News. Basically, a tip of the hat to SNL Writer Mikey Day, who in just a few weeks will add the words “Featured Player” to his job description (along with 2 others whom I know little to nothing about…aside from This article). We featured one of his more recent works already in “Farewell Mr. Bunting”, but there was one other sketch he wrote last year worth mentioning and this one was probably more of a “Sleeper” hit…
UFO INTERROGATION (Original Airdate: 12/12/2015) – When I first saw this, I honestly didn’t know what to make of it. With the southern accents everybody had, I was actually convinced the sketch was written by someone else. But then we get to the meat of the sketch, and only one thing is abundantly clear: Kate McKinnon is indispensable whether she’s making the rest of her fellow performers break character or not. And quite honestly, the breaks are a legitimate highlight here—partly because it feels like Forever since we’ve seen a Non-Hader crack-up that brings the cast to its knees…albeit more “kept together” than usual here, this wasn’t an Epic Collapse or anything. Further, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a lady’s neither-regions referred to as a “Coo Coo” before…but if anyone can, Kate can. Hard to judge fairly because of the breaks, but the other side of the coin is that everybody seems to be having a good time anyway—including Cecily and the otherwise straight-laced (host) Ryan Gosling; So, I’ll allow it. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Mikey Day’s writing talent, and hopefully that same talent carries over into performing.
A Major tip of the Hat to Tina Fey & Amy Poehler who just won Emmys for their hosting gig on last year’s Christmas show—with a bigger round of applause for Amy who just won her first; not that Tina winning again is a bad thing, but my God she has to have enough of them to make a Chandelier by now. So now, for the sake of bringing this up, let’s take a look at arguably the funniest sketch from their episode…
MEET YOUR SECOND WIFE (Original Airdate: 12/19/2015) – This might’ve been the funniest non-Jeopardy Game Show sketch since 2011’s “Who’s On Top” with Alec Baldwin—at least in terms of how dangerously uncomfortable the humor is. This was one of those rare instances where even though it’s really one joke, the level of the joke escalates with each contestant—which is hard to pull off these days; This is also probably one of the few times where audible groans from the audience actually helps compliment what’s going on. Everybody had one good line as Tina & Amy lead the way—I especially liked the Kayak punchline from Aidy. Though Surprisingly, it’s Kenan (with an assist from Jonsey) who steals this one with a “Pregnant” Cecily and the uttering of “Don’t be White, Don’t be White”. Solid ensemble piece, and it probably would’ve been better minus technical problems at the start of the sketch (which they got rid of for the clip you see here), but any time the show is willing to walk a tightrope like that, it’s always welcome.
Because I want to keep this a Happy Place today, and at the risk of getting on another 9/11 related high-horse, I’ll be brief when I say that SNL did what it had to do when it came back on the air after the attacks. And despite what you think of Rudy Giuliani in this day & age, you have to admit that he was there for us when the attacks happened………That being said, today’s sketch is happily and THANKFULLY lowbrow in comparison…
PATRIOTIC SHORTS (Original Airdate: 10/6/2001) – Where the Hell do I start? First thing’s first, (host) Seann William Scott couldn’t pass for a businessman to save his life; but to be fair, this was (supposedly) a show Ben Stiller was originally supposed to host, but then dropped out of…for reasons…so I can’t exactly blame Scott for being a little out of place here. Now then, on to the meat of the matter (Yes, I feel horrible about that choice of words). After the 9/11 attacks & the show said it was OK to laugh again, you could tell there was still a little skittishness going on based on the previous episode with Reese Witherspoon. Sure enough, not only does Will Ferrell prove to us why he was indispensable, but he does so with the blunt force of a sledgehammer by wearing shorts that are short enough to give the censors a stroke…then again, if Lorne was willing to cover FCC fines for Witherspoon saying a swear word that never occurred, I’m sure he’s willing to pony up just as much for Ferrell’s goodie bag…perhaps double. The ironic part of the whole thing is that the short shorts are not 100% what makes this a classic, but rather the matter-of-fact way Ferrell plays it off as though it was an average Monday, followed by a Pseudo-patriotic rhetoric where the crowd is on his side for just a nanosecond…………Only for Ferrell’s character to piss it away with yet another inappropriate bend. If EVER there was a case of making the most of a Dark situation, Will Ferrell in a Star-Spangled thong should be the wood carved drawing in an Encyclopedia somewhere.
To quote an old Paul Simon song: “They tell me it’s all happening at the Zoo…” SNL Animal Bloopers, HO!
You’ve seen the picture of me with Tracy Morgan, but now I want to show you a new picture…
Yep, that’s (still censored) me—wishing I knew how to take a selfie with the one & only Steve Higgins; longtime SNL writer/producer, current announcer on The Tonight Show, and probably one of the single most important pieces of SNL’s 1995 Renaissance season. It’s pretty easy to take for granted just how big an impact Higgins has made on SNL since arriving in ’95; according to NBC’s website, he has been involved in the making of 342 sketches (as of this writing) either as a writer, announcer, or some other form of lending a hand. So, of the 342 sketches Higgins was involved with (not counting the VO work), which one of them would be the sketch we would want played at his inevitable funeral?
WAKE UP LITTLE SUZIE (Original Airdate: 1/20/2001) – Probably NOT this one…in fact, (Gotta be honest) I don’t remember this one AT ALL…and yet this was one of the earlier shows I reviewed (gotta love the insight at age 16, BTW…Painful, I know). Fortunately, this was a sketch that a reader reminded me of that Higgins wrote, and I’m glad it came back to me. I mentioned a while back how the “Woodrow” sketch was a sign of Tray’s coming out of his shell once Tim Meadows left. This sketch was more of a preview of what was to come from him on “30 Rock”; it’s Tray at more of a goofy level that you almost expect Grizz & Dotcom to be in the background of (only for Dotcom to say something of questionable high intelligence in response). As the sketch states, this was back when movies like “Save the Last Dance” were all the rage, and they actually make fun of the “Forbidden Love” trope pretty well here…but the fact that it’s more about (host) Mena Suvari in a Coma than actual racial themes is not only a smart twist, but it also felt like something Mr. Show tried to do once without it actually “Being” Mr. Show. Combine Tray’s antics with Ferrell’s deadpan seriousness and the reminder that Jerry Minor was a cast member, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a forgotten gem that I wish I paid more attention to back in the day—Hindsight’s a hell of a thing.
THE BASS-OFF (Original Airdate: 1/19/2002) – I’m going to do something now that I’ve neglected to do all summer. From time to time, I’ve alluded to a certain SNL fansite that no longer exists as the place where I hung my hat to do episode reviews for a number of years. The First time I did those reviews were from the years 1999 to 2003, and back then you had to e-mail them to the webmaster in order for them to appear on the page itself instead of something more disposable like a message board. Thanks to the internet’s never-ending effort to save everything, I actually managed to find my old reviews from that era—an era where (at the Enlightening age of 17), I said the Following about this sketch (I did NOT make this up):
Kiss my (B)Ass
I was wrong, this might be the worst sketch of the night. The Gas Leak thing was the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. One plus though, TINA FEY WAS IN THE SKETCH!!! (for about a second) The whole sketch was As big a waste as throwing away a whole turkey after having one bite.
Once again, 17 years old. An age where I THOUGHT I knew what was funny and what wasn’t in just two sentences, as well as thinking I had credible English comprehension skills. Thankfully, 15 years of hindsight works better than a blow to the head, so now I have This to say about the sketch…It’s Still Dumb, and the ending wound up taking on a rather dark, prophetic (albeit coincidental) tone about a year later, but it’s Definitely NOT as terrible as I made it out to be. It’s just Will Ferrell & Jack Black playing around…no more, no less. BTW, that whole excitement about Tina having a 1-second cameo (at the 2:54 mark) was actually kind of a big deal back then considering she limited herself to “Update” only. Her being in ANY sketch back then was about as rare as a Unicorn Sighting—not like Today where if Sarah Palin sticks her speeches in a Cuisinart, Tina will be waiting in the wings…but I digress. I’d also like to think that this sketch might’ve been the prototype for Ferrell becoming (shall we say) “Competitive” in later years—so at least Some additional good came out of this sketch, and I’d probably give it a C+ (B- at best).
If you can believe it, this represented the “Smarter” me back then. When we go back even Earlier Tomorrow, you’ll see that I CLEARLY didn’t give a shit at the time.
I think I may have bitten off more than I could chew with this next sketch…Not because of how insane the premise is (Though granted, that doesn’t help), but because I honestly can’t believe somebody actually posted a video proving that this sketch exists because NBC hasn’t posted it……It’s real……I saw it………and now, so will you (Albeit with mirroring)…
DINOSAUR TOWN (Original Airdate: 11/23/1985) – Pee Wee Herman tries to find a dead mouse in a bottle of Coca-Cola so he can then Sue Coke and use the Lawsuit money to save his Favorite Dinosaur theme park………………In the words of Lewis Black, I’m going to repeat that now because it bears repeating. Pee Wee Herman (The Comedic/Kid Show/Small Crime legend) tries to find a Dead Mouse (something your Cat tries to catch) in a Bottle of Coca-Cola (a Beverage that was already undergoing bad publicity in 1985) so that he can the Sue the company (I.e. Extort a lot of money out of them) For Enough Money to Save his Favorite Dinosaur Theme Park (Which I’m guessing is a mock-up of the one he was chased through in “Big Adventure”)……………I hate to invoke words of solemnity, but I gotta quote David Letterman from his post 9/11 show—“If you live to be 1000 years, will this make ANY Goddamn sense to you?” For the first time ever, I’m just gonna shut up and let this sketch do the talking…judge for yourself how batshit this is……I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.
As Promised, something to wash out yesterday’s Bad Taste from our mouths…
MARAKA (Original Airdate: 3/24/2007) – Back in the “Christmas in July” list, I mentioned how the “Charlie Brown” TV Funhouse short from 2002 was my 2nd favorite Smigeltoon of all time. By sheer coincidence, my favorite “Cartoon by Robert Smigel” happens to be Smigel’s favorite as well (at least according to Andy Samberg). On 2009’s “Just Shorts” special, Samberg casually pointed out that this was Smigel’s personal favorite “TV Funhouse” cartoon, and after watching it again for this review it’s pretty easy to see why—it certainly looked like they had a lot of fun putting it together. Armed with a “Consultant” assist from Louis C.K & Adam McKay, this “Dora the Explorer” parody could’ve been run of the mill. But after a minute or two, it kinda takes a left-turn into something Andy Kaufman-esque as the short points out the Number One flaw with this kind of audience participation—What if you don’t participate? The awkward silences in between bits pretty much says it all. But then Smigel ups the ante by having Not!Dora (Incidentally voiced by Nicktoon veteran Becca Lish) pose a number of “Adult” questions & riddles at us, speaking in a number of foreign tongues, and giving us a hard time if—heaven forbid—we don’t do what she’s telling us to do. If it were any other situation, the audience would probably have been greatly confused by what was going on. But thankfully, the audience seemed hip to it all (they’ve probably babysat at some point in their lives, too). Like anything Kaufman-esque, this one takes its sweet time building itself to the eventual joke; and once we get there, it’s worth it.
(*SIGH*)………OK boys & girls, this one is going to hurt……it’s going to hurt BADLY (and it’s also a little longer an entry than I usually do, so bear with me), For I am about to tell you the tale of what has been known as THE SINGLE WORST SNL SKETCH EVER. But just like a Band-aid, the sooner we rip this one off our short-hairs, the sooner we can move on—albeit in a slightly sharper pain than before…..Ready?……………..OK, here we go…………
COMMIE HUNTING SEASON (Original Airdate: 11/22/1980) – The SOLE good thing I can say about this sketch is that it can bring all kinds of SNL fans & foes together in the sense that no matter which season you think is the best or the worst, no matter which cast members you think are the best or the worst, no matter how highly or how beneath you think of the show in general, just about everybody can be in UNIVERSAL agreement that this atrocity should NEVER have aired. At first when I read about what other people thought of it from a number of sources—AV club, message boards, you name it—I had to wonder if their claims weren’t just a tad over-dramatic—“How bad could it be?” I wondered. But then the SNL app came out a year or so ago, and out of sheer morbid curiosity, I started to watch sketches from Season 6 (How else would I be able to do a list on the subject). I deliberately saved this sketch to be the last Season 6 related thing to see for the first time, partly because I wanted to Steel myself for just how bad it was by watching sketches of supposedly equal/lesser value—and considering this includes sketches like “Where’s Cooter” and “Leather Weather Report”, that’s saying a lot. So, I saw it…………..and I’m honestly amazed my face didn’t melt off like at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. It’s That Bad, People……That Bad. Where the Flying Fuck do I even Start? This sketch was supposedly a response to an incident known as the Greensboro Massacre, and several of the people convicted getting acquitted the week this show aired. The premise of the sketch is essentially “Hey! If the Klan can get off Scott Free, Let’s Have Fun with it!”—or so it would seem. That seems horrific enough, but then you get to some of the dialogue and it’s quite honestly possibly one of the most cringeworthy moments in television history (Not counting getting shot on Live TV). At this point, I’m going to turn things over to my colleague & fellow SNL fanatic Ben Douwsma where he offers his own play-by-play of just how Batshit this sketch is, including an excerpt of said offensive dialogue…I’ll wait…
…In all seriousness, for all the crap Charles Rocket Got for saying “Fuck”, I’m astonished he & whoever wrote the sketch didn’t get shit-canned for using the N-Word in that context…and Believe me there’s a Stark difference between how Charlie said it, and how Chevy said it to Richard Pryor 5 years earlier. But that’s another can of worms for another day. The rest of the sketch almost seems like an out-of-body experience after that, and any attempt to fully comprehend what’s happening In a rational way seems futile. When the time comes to re-load Pandora’s Box of all the evils in the world, they Better leave room for this sketch to go with it. It almost mesmerizes me that NBC would even bother putting up the sketch on their website in the first place; but in some weird way, it sort of makes sense for them to do so. After all, a lot of “Bad” sketches come and go, but this one remains the high watermark of lowbrow—and even THAT is an insult to lowbrow humor. So, I guess it HAS to be up there so that the next time a “Bad” sketch comes along, it gives us the rub to say “It could’ve been a LOT worse…It could’ve been ‘Commie Hunting Season’”.
Now then, we’re going to need something just as strong but also positive to counter-balance what we just talked about. And thankfully, there are Plenty of sketches/films that can do the deed—such as a Cartoon by Robert Smigel.
It’s September! That means We’re coming down the home stretch in this feature; and for the remainder of the summer, we are DONE with our “Theme Weeks” and we will now go back to complete and total randomness. With that said, the time has come to tally up all the sketches I’ve been saying “I’ll get to at some point”, pardon me…(*COUNTS UP MENTIONS*)…OK, looks like we’ve got some work to do. And we begin with probably the Brightest spot of the Darkest Year…
SCRIPT IN DEVELOPMENT (Original Airdate: 3/7/1981) – Bill Murray’s episode in March ’81 has been credited as one of the single most important turning points in the show’s history, and this sketch is one of the many reasons…Partly because it’s about as close as it ever got to venturing into the world of Improv on the show (Gary Kroger not withstanding). I mean it too, this sketch looks like something the folks on “Whose Line” WISHES they came up with first, but instead they have to settle for games like “Sound Effects”, “Hollywood Director” and “Educational Filmstrip (A.K.A. ‘Hey You, Down There!’)”—This sketch is like an amalgam of the three, in that Charlie, Denny, Matt Laurance & Gail/Ann (Yeah, I can’t tell them apart either) are all reacting on the spot to what Bill is typing. Perhaps this was the reason why legendary Second City Teacher Del Close famously came in the week after the F-Word incident to help whip the cast into shape, and just about anything you could learn in an improv class can be seen here, despite the fact that it’s still very much a scripted sketch. As if that wasn’t enough, all the action Murray just described is then recapped at triple the speed. Not to belabor the point; but if Season 6 had MORE sketches like this on the Other episodes of the year, chances are history could’ve changed dramatically. One thing to nitpick about; the sketch was called “Script in Development”, yet it sounded like Murray was writing a Book–especially mentioning Chapters…whatever.
Unfortunately, Season 6 Also had sketches that not only should NEVER have seen the light of day, but should’ve probably caused the show to be canceled the second it aired…………….And Tomorrow’s sketch is “People’s Exhibit A” to the case.
If you Ever wanted to know why I write about SNL as though it’s a Term Paper, it’s all because of the Following Term Paper.
We conclude “Tom Time” with a look at what is argued to be Schiller’s Magnum Opus on the show…No, not an aging Belushi dancing on the graves, not Gilda trapped in a Felini-esque world, not Bill Murray’s “Honker” performing “Richard III”, not even ANY of the previous films I mentioned so far this week. In fact, I’ll bet you 100 imaginary dollars that you’ve probably NEVER seen this one before (either in its entirety or its original context). This is one of the rarest of the rare things that has ever been associated with the SNL brand. Sit back, relax, and let us all go back to the days of old where everything was monochromatic and the Great White Way had the best seats in the house.
BROADWAY STORY (1989) – First thing’s first, the reason why there isn’t a specific airdate on this one is because this was meant to be aired as a 4-part serial during the latter half of Season 14. But according to Grantland’s profile on Schiller, only 3 parts made it to air—which is weird, because I only recall seeing one part…the 3rd part, added into a pre-Mike Myers rerun no less. That said, we are grateful to Vimeo user Howard Silver for putting up the ENTIRE 4-part piece without any studio audience/laugh track. And if EVER there was any documented proof that SNL’s mentality can go from “Jeans & a T-Shirt” one minute to “Suit & Tie” the next, the best proof lies within this serial. One of the rare times when the entire cast—including featured players (Strike that, Al Franken isn’t in this)—has a part to play, and they play it beautifully. Not only that, but the “Story” of Broadway Story is so densely layered—even down to the sound quality–that it honestly surprises me that Schiller didn’t try to re-cut the shorts into one continuous short film and submit it to film festivals. It’s a faithful callback to the days of old-school cinema where Two-Reel, Short Subject Serials were all the rage. To borrow from another SNL great, this serial had EVERYTHING; Drama, Humor, women in flapper & cigarette girl costumes, Dennis Miller actually giving a damn about performing, an Exploding Olive! The story itself about rival Broadway theaters trying to drum up the most business may seem boilerplate on the surface, but it’s the way the cast get into their roles (Especially Lovitz, Dunn, Hooks and—to my surprise—Miller) combined with the combination of 1940’s cinematography and audio sweetening that make this short subject all the more special.
For TOMORROW’s Editorial, we’re going to take a closer look as to how & why I’ve been writing these critiques the way that I’ve Been doing for the past 2 ½ months now. That way, I hope you’ll understand and appreciate why I’m as passionate about the show as I am.
When the time comes when I die either by getting hit by a truck, getting mugged near my home, or the inevitable nuclear bomb that President Trump will “Accidentally” drop on us all as he accidentally thinks we’re Mexico, this is the ONE SNL sketch that I want to have played at my funeral (provided the funeral homes still exist, post explosion).
SCHILLERVISIONS (Original Airdate: 11/16/1991) – Say what you will about Matt Foley or Chippendales (Which—don’t get me wrong–are also deservedly Iconic Farley performances); But to me, The sight of Farley having an epic freak out over the fact that his usual cup of coffee has been switched out with Coffee Crystals remains one of my all-time favorite SNL moments (If not in the top 5). What can be said about this one that hasn’t been said by others? It’s one of Farley’s most Epic performances, and also one of the later successes of films devised by resident Filmmaker Tom Schiller. But in the end, Farley owned these 3+ minutes with a display of out-of-left-field physical energy, and a simple utterance of the word “Aaaaaannnnggggrrrrryyyy…” Semi-related, Am I the ONLY one who thinks there was a hidden “Incredible Hulk” subtext in this sketch…Especially with Farley wearing a Green Jacket? Anyway, I almost feel like I’m wasting valuable typing space in trying to laud this sketch; but in the end, this (as well as most of Farley’s work) belongs somewhere between Harold Lloyd & John Ritter in the “Physical Comedy Hall of Fame” (not to be confused with the ACTUAL comedy hall of fame). Watch it in the link above, and If you’re NOT laughing after even the 50 millionth time you see it, consider yourself dehumanized.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: This was a pretty big piece, and there’s still a day to go in “Tom Time”, what could POSSIBLY beat Farley’s freak out? The answer tomorrow may surprise you…
“Tom Time” continues with a look at one of Schiller’s last hurrahs, which also happened to be the last hurrah for the 1992-93 season.
CRIMINAL ENCOUNTER (Original Airdate – 5/15/1993…Sorry I couldn’t find any screen caps from the sketch in spite of the Transcript): One year before “Sendoff” sketches became the norm on the show (Thanks to “So Long, Farewell”), the last sketch of the year was simply that with little to no fanfare…but damn if this didn’t leave you wanting more. This is one of the Many sketches Chris Farley did that a lot of us are surprised has Never shown up in any “Best Of” reels (And also makes us wonder if he could’ve been capable of Dramatic acting had he lived). Same goes for Rob Schneider, who despite getting under our skin sometimes actually had a few moments on the show where one could think “Y’know, maybe he wasn’t THAT bad”. Both give a very strong performance here, both display the kind of charm, pathos and sentimentality that Tom Schiller’s films were famous for, and both could take a half serious/half absurd premise and actually make it work. A Criminal (Farley) and the man he stabbed (Schneider) who had aspirations to be a dancer meet for the first time in a rather heated setting. The scene could go a number of different ways from there, but instead, we get the two doing a dance together…therein lies your absurdity (Though not as absurd as the tag at the end, which I won’t spoil if you haven’t seen it yet). Though Far from one of the Greatest sketches of all time, the fact that it was the usual well written & well produced Schiller piece capping off a well-written & produced season actually left the audience wanting more…What a shame the 1993-94 season was on its way to smash those dreams into pieces…only for the ’94-’95 season to later beat those pieces into a pulp.
And while we’re on the subject of Schiller & Farley; TOMORROW, perhaps the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.
Whenever James Lipton reaches a pivotal moment in a guest’s career on “Inside the Actor’s Studio”, more often than not, he refers to the work in question as “Hallowed Ground”. Not only is this film Hallowed Ground for Schiller & his fans, but it also (sadly) doubles as a Memorial site these days…
LOVE IS A DREAM (Original Airdate: 12/14/1988) – By itself—whether it’s meant to now memorialize two legends or not—it’s still one of the strongest things Tom Schiller has ever put on film next to either “La Dolce Gilda” or “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. Like something out of old Hollywood, Schiller manages to tell an entire 90 minute movie within only 3 minutes. It’s a beautifully simplistic premise, the cinematography is untouchable after all these years, and of course you have the interaction between Jan Hooks & Phil Hartman guiding it throughout. Even before both Phil & Jan’s passings, this stands alone as one of the true tearjerkers the show has ever put together (Something Schiller did better than anyone else, BTW). I mean it too, any time I hear the “Love is a Dream” refrain in any other context (say, a quick moment in a random movie that happens to have it), my immediate thoughts go to Phil, Jan and the nearest box of tissues…It is THAT Powerful, and will remain so for a very long time—either that, or I’m WAY too much of a sap. What makes this Particularly unique is the fact that (according to the Phil Hartman biography “You Might Remember Me”) Schiller went the extra mile when it came to use of the song itself. Originally, the vocals on the song were JUST Bing Crosby’s, there was NEVER a Female vocal on the Original. Schiller hired a female vocalist to take care of that 2nd verse that Hooks lip-synced, and the amazing part is thanks to careful editing/audio processing, nobody would know the difference—of course, now that I bring it up, so much for the mystery. So popular was this short film, that Schiller & Hartman put together sort of a spiritual sequel to it a couple years later, only this time it involves Melanie Hutsell & a carriage ride through the streets of New York [NO FOOTAGE AVAILABLE, SORRY]. That short was simply “OK”, but it fails to hold a candle to the film that inspired it. Phil & Jan are very much missed to this day, and this film is more than a suitable memorial to them both.
CONTINUES with a cup of coffee…or twenty…
JAVA JUNKIE (Original Airdate: 12/22/1979) – Schiller’s films can be easily classified in one of two categories; Bittersweetly Poignant or Kitschy yet Dark Humored…and on rare occasions both at the same time (“La Dolce Gilda”, for instance). This entry featuring Teri Garr & Dan Aykroyd’s brother Peter (who, let’s face it, is certainly NOT in Danny’s league) certainly fits the mold of Dark Humor…almost as Dark as the coffee he drinks in this Homage to Corman-esque 1950s B-Movies. The things that make this—and other Schiller films—as great as it is, are all the subtleties that Schiller hides in plain view; From the “Rehab” facility known as “Maxwell House” to the fact that our protagonist is named Joe (as in “Cup Of”). Of course, this film does come with a certain level of hindsight…Particularly, the part being played by model/actress Patti Oja. For the longest time, I thought she was playing a manifestation of an alleged Ex-Girlfriend Aykroyd mentions in passing, but nope…turns out she was a caffeinated hooker that she plays seductively well (*CUE “THE MORE YOU KNOW” GRAPHIC*). Also of note, there’s still one more question about it that’s always bothered me…Since Teri Garr was cast in a principal role, Why didn’t they wait to air this until the week she Hosted one month later in January 1980? The timing would’ve been a little more fitting, wouldn’t it? That aside; Solid piece all around, but probably a part of Schiller’s B-Squad.
Does anybody know what Time it is……….
…That’s right, Binford tools is proud to present Tom “The Film Man” Schiller! (*CUE LOUD THEME MUSIC*)
…Yes indeed, this week, we are going to take a look at some of the finest moments ever put together on film for SNL, courtesy of the long running resident filmmaker—Tom Schiller. From the start of the show in 1975 to roughly 1993, Schiller & his “Reel” of the same name helped give SNL that special touch of sentimentality that often made the show more than just a comedy house—not unlike Gary Weis. Sure, there were moments of his that were legitimately funny; but more often than not, Schiller’s films either made you think a little or brought a tear to your eye…That said, let’s begin by getting the Obvious one out of the way…
DON’T LOOK BACK IN ANGER (Original Airdate: 3/11/1978) – There’s a good reason why I’ve been neglecting sketches from the first 5 years ever since I started doing S.O.S.N.L., and it’s pretty much because of the mentality of “What is there left to say that others haven’t?” Seriously, Why waste time talking about something that has not only gone on to be one of SNL’s most Iconic pieces (Film, Sketch or otherwise), but to this day remains a benchmark in both comedy and even film making in general? Well…….there is ONE thing I can say about this film that I don’t think anybody else has mentioned yet, and it has nothing to do with the film itself (John Belushi, Powerhouse performance, yadda, yadda, yadda). Quite simply, have you ever noticed how different the film Feels WITHOUT the Studio Audience laughing? The first time I saw this film, I had—you guessed it— a “Special Edition” Starmaker tape that was nothing but Schiller’s Reels. What made this interesting was that the films they showed had No Laugh Track, No Studio Audience, Nothing that would condition the viewer to automatically think if it was funny or not…and perhaps this was the perfect way to watch these films in hindsight. Yes, there are jokes in most of the films, but if you take away that laugh track, it adds on an extra layer of poignancy—almost as though Schiller WANTED the audience to think about what they’re watching, and the added laughter might’ve proved to be too distracting. Having said that, there Are times when a laugh track might be needed (I.e. the joke about Chevy Chase dying after making “Foul Play” and then quickly moving on). Schiller’s no fool, he knows the films he made are made for a mass audience; but at the same time, he’s still a filmmaker looking to craft something artistic and meaningful. So for this, and the next few films, do the best you can to filter out the audience reaction—The films MIGHT have a stronger impact on the audience that way.
What is said to be the WORST Season of them ALL…and we’re going to attempt to polish this turd.
As I mentioned in the “Season 11” analysis, Damon Wayans became one of SNL’s Prodigal Sons thanks to a certain sketch—Yet, despite going off the rails, his career did anything But tank after that. Wayans (and the rest of his family) became superstars thanks to “In Living Color”, and for a while he was Bulletproof (no pun intended) until he eventually settled into the world of so-so sitcoms, and then eventually passing the torch of comedy to his son Damon Jr. So when SNL was having one of its other darker times, Wayans came home 10 years later to give us a much needed silver lining and he brought a few “ILC” characters with him—2, in fact. But as much as I liked his “Men On _____” guy teaming up with Farley, I always thought this next guy was the better character…
ANTON AT THE OJ TRIAL (Original Airdate: 4/8/1995) – I’ll be honest, I’m the kind of person who thinks being homeless shouldn’t be something to laugh at. But for whatever reason, I always found Damon’s erstwhile bum to be highly imitatable—as did many I went to school with around that time. Maybe it was the whiny voice, maybe it was the Perma-drunk posture, maybe it was the fact that he sang Biz Markie’s “You’ve got what I need” better than The Biz himself, or maybe it was a combination of the 3 that just made this character work. Comedy isn’t an exact science, but for whatever reason, the character worked…………at least on ILC. Here, it kinda feels like a lot of awkward shoehorning, possibly because the sketch is double the length it usually is on ILC—Then again, they had 30 minutes a week to work with instead of SNL’s 90 it keeps trying to pad out. Otherwise, it was your classic Anton; he’s dirty, he pisses in pickle jars, but he really couldn’t care less about what’s going on…and God bless him for it.
And Speaking of Season 20……Guess what we’re doing tomorrow?
Not unlike the Brokaw sketch, Today we’re going to look at crossover in reverse…Brace yourself, I think the time is finally right to talk about Milton…
NO!!! ANYTHING BUT THAT ONE (may he Respectfully rest in peace)!!
I mean a Milton who DIDN’T ruin things for everybody…
THE “OFFICE SPACE” CARTOONS (1993-1994) – Before the Movie, Before Hank Hill, Before Bevis, Before Butt-Head, there was Milton; the put-upon Office Space-cadet created by Mike Judge originally circa 1991, but was seen on SNL over a span of 3 episodes in 2 years. The first one in September 1993 with the original “Office Space” cartoon which (as of 9/8/16) Judge forced Youtube to remove, the 2nd was “Billable Hours” in January 1994, and then the 3rd; “The Continuing Adventures of Milton” from the Hallowed Dana Carvey episode of October ’94 (NO FOOTAGE AVAILABLE). Few knew back then just how important to pop culture these otherwise crude cartoons would be come 1999. Even more so, try to picture these cartoons nowadays with the voices of Stephen Root & Gary Cole…it’s practically impossible NOT to think of them while watching this, because the eventual “Office Space” movie is a far more superior product—Nobody appreciated these cartoons back then (Hell, nobody respected the movie when it first came out–Thank God for the Home Video/DVD market), But you couldn’t have a mighty oak growing without the acorn, and SNL was this seed’s fertilizer. It certainly gave the Movie a little more depth & atmosphere because of its humble origins…and if you disagree, I might just set the building on fire.
Today, we look at a sketch that TECHNICALLY came from another show; but thanks to varying factors, this episode of that Other Show failed to see the light of day…until about 10 years after SNL aired the sketch first…I’ll explain.
TOM BROKAW PRE-TAPES (Original Airdate: 10/26/1996) – In one of the biggest “Who Knew’s?” in comedy history, “The Dana Carvey Show” and it’s 8-week run on ABC in 1996 turned out to be a Petri dish of emerging talent (Colbert & Carell as performers, Charlie Kaufman & Louis CK as writers just to name but a few). But in the end, it was still Dana’s show both to have and to lose. So when this sketch—and a few others—aired on SNL around this time, we had little idea that what we were watching turned out to be re-written scraps from an episode of Dana’s show that had gone unaired once canceled. That same episode eventually found its way onto the series DVD release & on Crackle a few years ago…but I digress. Like I said, there were a few cosmetic dialogue changes between both versions, but they were the same sketch…and even though the premise was a simple one written by Robert Smigel, What a Classic this was! Dana as Tom Brokaw pre-tapes the death announcements of (then Alive) President Gerald Ford, and the circumstances of death are increasingly bizarre/funnier…which reminds me, did anybody else who saw this sketch awkwardly giggle a little once Ford died for real because THIS was the first thing that came to mind? Anyway, between Carvey’s brilliant Brokaw impression, and Smigel’s equally brilliant writing (plus a few quips as the off-screen director), it seems like a mistake that ABC wouldn’t air the episode. Fortunately, ABC’s loss was SNL’s gain, and we thank them for it…which I’m also just realizing I could also say for “The Ambiguously Gay Duo”, but that’s beside the point.
Here’s a look at a character from a show that not only ALMOST wound up replacing SNL in the Early 80s, but it was also another one of those instances where SNL accidentally predicted the future…
GERRY TODD’S PORT-A-DISH (Original Airdate: 1/29/1983…And before you ask, Yes it’s a shot from SCTV, not while he was on SNL) – Long before Martin Short became a cast member, There were actually a number of SCTV related pieces that aired in this episode a few years earlier; The McKenzie Brothers, Bob Hope/Woody Allen & Dick Cavett specifically. But as a guy who works in some form of broadcasting these days, I have a soft spot for Rick Moranis’ proto-VJ character, Gerry Todd. In this case, he’s selling Portable Satellite dishes (read: Dinner Plates w/mini-transmitters attached) and all the various channels they contain. This sketch was far ahead of its time; not just predicting just how mundane TV would become with an abundance of channels nobody would watch, but also just how mundane the channels would be. Some of the channels featured include “The Humidity Channel”—showing how humid it is in various parts of the world (FYI, The Weather Channel actually debuted months earlier from this), “The Rifleman Channel”—All “Rifleman” reruns All the time (Possibly predicting “Binge watching”), and my favorite of the bunch, “The Dyslexic Movie Channel”—simply because it’s one of those “So Stupid, it’s funny” kind of jokes. The more I thought about it, I realized that this sketch MIGHT have been the forerunner to the “Satellite Channels” bit that Conan O’Brien did for Many Years. In fact, before you cry “Rip-Off” on Coco’s side, Conan himself has admitted (In a Special Feature on one of SCTV’s DVD sets) to being an unabashed fan of the show, so perhaps he saw this sketch one night while in his dorm at Harvard and wound up doing the bit as an Homage to Moranis many years later, who knows (I certainly don’t)? Point is, it was a clever sketch back then, and it certainly predicted a lot of things happening now…and it’s NOT the first or the last time SNL would do that.
There are certain fringe benefits to being on the air for a span of 5 decades. One of the lesser known benefits is that the show becomes so iconic that other shows of equal/lesser/greater iconic value manages to cross over into SNL’s world without ripping a Hole in the Time-Space Continuum. This week, we’re going to take a look at some of these “Crossover” sketches and see if their world can mesh with SNL’s. We begin with a show without whose existence there would probably never have been an SNL in the first place…
THE PARROT SKETCH ‘97 (Original Airdate – 1/11/1997…or if you’re a Python fan, 11/25/1969) – Michael Palin & John Cleese turned what would otherwise be a promotion for the NOT “Fish Called Wanda” follow-up “Fierce Creatures” into a chance to relive one of the greatest moments in all of comedy…or at least that would be the case if the studio audience actually had a pulse while watching it. I’m serious, the audience reaction to the sketch neared “Season 6” levels of silence…but why act that way if it’s such an iconic piece? Maybe the audience was too young to understand what was going on? Nah, I was 12 when this aired, and I got it (It helps to have seen “Holy Grail” when you’re 10). Maybe the audience had seen the original version so many times that the original humor had worn itself down to a nub? Nah, all great comedy is funny no matter how much you see it. Whatever the reason the audience didn’t laugh at such a hallowed piece of comedy will probably remain a mystery to us (especially since this sketch in particular appeared in many fans’ favorite SNL episodes of all time, Kevin Spacey/Beck). Otherwise, what can you say about the sketch itself that others haven’t? IT’S THE FRIGGIN’ PARROT SKETCH!! The one thing that bothers me about this version is actually nothing to do with the show or the sketch itself, but rather the description for it on the SNL Transcripts page; “Michael Palin & John Cleese are Forced to recreate the Classic Monty Python Sketch.” They looked a little bored doing it, but it’s not like Kevin Spacey threatened them at gunpoint to do it (though given his monologue, it’s a remote possibility). I could go on and on about how Python influenced SNL’s early years, but they already have books/documentaries for that, so why be redundant?
Today, I’m going to break one of my unwritten rules and actually feature something that recurred a couple of times on the show back in the 90s. Not because I want to…but because if it weren’t for these sketches, I wouldn’t have something to legitimately watch (and slightly giggle at) on Sunday Mornings…
THE McLAUGHLIN GROUP (Original Airdate: 3/21/1992) – The long running political commentator passed away earlier this week at the age of 89…and like many of us SNL Die-Hards, our immediate thoughts went to the first time they did the sketch in December of 1990. But as Iconic as that first sketch was, that’s not the one I want to look at today. Instead, I want to look at the Last time Dana Carvey put on the Prosthetic Jowls and bellowed WRONG!!! It all hinges on Pat Buchannan’s failed 1992 run at the presidency, and Carvey’s McLaughlin pretty much rubbing it in Phil Hartman’s face. All the backhanded insults Carvey slung at Phil were reason enough to enjoy this particular instalment…but what REALLY pushes it over the top is yet another blooper I forgot to add to the list. When the “Issue” of “How do we Start the show” pops up. Mike Myers (as panelist Fred Barnes) casually says LFNY. Just as Carvey lets out another WRONG, the Band Starts up…then immediately stops…then another well-timed WRONG from Carvey, and the crowd goes Nuts. You could only wish for better timing than that.
Take care, John, and BYYYYE-BYYYYYEEEEEEEEE!
I’m guessing Dennis Miller isn’t in this picture because he KNEW how bad this year was gonna be. Fortunately, there ARE things good about Season 11, you just have to look carefully…
It wasn’t ALL bad news the past week on the 17th floor; In a surprising (but still welcome) move, long time writing team Chris Kelly & Sarah Schneider were given the boost to co-Head Writer status. The fact that I’ve already mentioned a few of their pieces here already should be sufficient enough proof that the show will probably be in good hands despite certain personnel still hanging around the writer’s room like a diseased limb. So aside from “The Beygency” and “Bern Your Enthusiasm” (among others), what Other sketch gives us the hope that everything is going to be fine?
(DO IT ON MY) TWIN BED (Original Airdate: 12/21/2013) – First of all, let’s get the sexually objectifying stuff out of the way…The Ladies look Good…DAMN GOOD! Every. Last. One of Them. Now that we got that out of the way; when this first aired, I thought this would not become as viral as previous Holiday efforts (I.e. “Dick in a Box”), but It’s still pretty memorable–The rhythm of the song being infectious certainly helps. Unfortunately, because of the age we live in, “The Law of Diminishing Returns” kinda ruins everything for everybody after it’s not only shown over & over on clip shows, but also gets millions of hits on Youtube—several of which you’re probably going to add while watching this again. Fortunately, When there’s only one major joke to be seen (Sex in a small bed in this case), I can see why they try to buffer it with other little side jokes, such as the 7th grade pictures of everybody, and the fact that they (I think) used their actual relatives to appear in the video. Otherwise, most of the humor relies on the awkwardness of everybody in their respective beds doing their thing…and it’s Still better than “We Did Stop” (though not as good as “Boy Dance Party”). Fortunately, the film was a big enough hit that Chris & Sarah used it as sort of a calling card when it came to the stuff they did later on down the line (including Twin Bed’s Sequel, “Back Home Baller”); and just like fine wine, their work has become better over time. There’s no doubt in my mind that they will succeed as Head Writers, just as long as they don’t butt heads with certain other writers in the process.
TOMORROW: We see what’s worth Salvaging about Season 11.
Jon Rudnitsky was also a cast member on the show…………………………………………………Yeah, I’ve got nothing…………What, he had maybe three memorable moments, and he screwed up his lines the rest of the time? Big Deal…………(*SIGH*)……Let’s just get this over with…
MARK THE PIRATE (Original Airdate: 12/12/2015) – OK, that might’ve been a little mean. Given the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure J.R. is a reasonably funny person elsewhere, but as is the case with most “one & done” cast members, he BARELY had a chance to prove himself both to the audience and (probably) to the higher ups who hired him in the first place. Somewhere down the line (But probably NOT by Summer’s End), I’ll talk more about the other “One & Done’s” the show had, and you’ll see what I mean. In the meantime I’m glad J.R. at least had ONE sketch he could call his own, and I’m even more glad he can use some of his dance moves as backup support (something that would come in handy a little later on), but it doesn’t make this one any less corny than it should be. J.R. certainly has a lot of stored energy, and he’s using every last ounce of it to be the center of attention; but then again, maybe he’s playing it a little TOO goofy—which, in turn might work against him because now that’s what the audience will expect from him every time he performs. The rest of the cast was simply there to act as a Pirate “Greek Chorus” and comment on all that J.R. was doing. It was an OK way for him to break out of his shell, but it might’ve been too silly…What a shame he barely had a chance to do so more frequently. I’m sure he’ll be OK in whatever he does next, anybody who performs regularly at “Caroline’s” can’t be hurting THAT badly.
Unlike Taran Killam’s dismissal, Jay Pharaoh’s probably makes a little more sense—It’s still shocking, but after spending the week processing it, I get it. President Obama leaves office in January, Dr. Ben Carson is no longer relevant, and how long has it been since Denzel Washington did a noteworthy movie? Let’s face it, he really didn’t have much left in the tank after last season—which would probably explain all those one-man impression showcases at the Update desk last year. Maybe Jay just wanted to go for broke/drop the mic while he still had a reasonable chance to do so. On the plus side, at least he ended his tenure with a surprise hit on his hands…
THE ADVENTURES OF YOUNG BEN CARSON (Original Airdate: 11/14/2015) – Who would’ve guessed that in the 6 years he’s been on the show, Jay would have an impression that’s actually better than Barack Obama? I mean it too, because of the Real Carson’s almost pulse-less state of being, Jay actually manages to use that calmness to his advantage here. He can pace himself when performing; plus when he closes his eyes, it looks like he’s Not reading the cue cards for a change; it’s actually a refreshing performance from him—Hell, his Carson voice sounds a little like Will Forte. As for everybody else, (host) Elizabeth Banks practically did nothing tonight aside from moving the scene along. Beck & Sasheer are following suit, and Jonesy actually has a brief & subtle role as Carson’s Mother. Meanwhile, The “Source” credits during the sketch kinda reminds me of all the flashing text in 1986’s “Back to the Future” sketch with Ron Reagan, in that they were both quick jokes & the best jokes to make. The sketch was very much like Carson himself, crazy but eerily calm in certain places. Kenan as “Black Jesus” fits the former; Jay’s impression, the latter.
Far be it from me to talk about something several days after it happens, but I guess that’s one of the pitfalls of doing an elongated theme week. That being said; here are a few words about the suddenly unemployed Taran Killam. For the uninitiated, Taran “Left the show” on 8/9/2016 along with longtime impressionist Jay Pharaoh (a sketch from his tenure tomorrow). I’m honestly on the fence. Yes, he was more than a capable performer. Yes, he had more than his fair share of memorable characters & moments. But at the same time (especially in recent years), he sort of came off as a little bland…especially when trying to Out-Trump Darrell Hammond. Fortunately, the indispensability outweighed the blandness, and it shows in a sketch like this…
MERRYVILLE TROLLEY RIDE (Original Airdate: 1/8/2011) – There are several things a comic personality has to do in order to elicit a laugh from the audience. Either tell a joke, perform something physical (usually a pratfall), steal a scene, or whatever it takes to make it happen. Up until 2011, anything Mime related would need not apply…Taran & Jim Carrey changed all that. A large part of what makes this sketch special is just how fluid the robotic motions Killam & Carrey make—it almost makes the actual “Comedic” content seem like an afterthought. There’s not really too much to say about this, except that they did this sketch a handful of times in 2011, but even though the comedy was weak on the surface, the choreography of the robotics more than made up for it.
(FILM) (TIE) THE BEYGENCY & THE DAY BEYONCE TURNED BLACK (2014, 2016) – I’ll be the first to admit that I am a person whose skin color can give halogen light bulbs a run for their money in whiteness. But to me, these two films are not so much a “Color/Race” thing, but rather a “We take the popularity of Celebrities a Little TOO far” thing. And nowhere is that more evident than in possibly the two funniest things SNL has put together in recent memory. For “Beygency”, This was especially a slap to the faces of those who blindly follow pop stars–Not just Beyonce, mind you–as though it was a religion. This was a very well-crafted action movie spoof with a premise that’s equally absurd…And as if that wasn’t enough, F***ing Jack Bauer & Chloe show up! As for “…Turned Black”, unlike the first short, this was an interesting combination between On Point and Uncomfortable with a dash of “28 Days/weeks/months Later”. As a White guy, I “Get” what they were trying to do here—but at the same time, I’m really not that into modern Pop Music in order to fully “Get” the rest of it. So whatever racial connotations are being presented here doesn’t really affect me as a viewer…Having said that, both of these mock movie trailers were STILL Funny as hell.
(LIVE) WOODEN SPOON WAREHOUSE (2012) – By this point in time, you could see that “Live” commercial parodies have sort of diminished in quality over the years. But every once in a blue moon, there’s always going to be at least One per season (or Era in this case) that really sticks out—Not necessarily in a “Hilarious” way, but still a memorable one. On the surface, it’s simply the Amish interpretation of various letters of the alphabet, but it’s the way host Seth MacFarlane and then newcomer Tim Robinson deliver a lot of material with a seemingly limited amount of time remaining in the episode that ultimately sells it…sort of like an Amish “Beat the Clock”.
I KNOW there’s more worth talking about that I missed. So don’t be afraid to let me know what YOUR favorites are in the Comments section, and who knows? Maybe I might do a “Viewer’s Choice” list sometime in the future. TOMORROW, we address a couple personnel changes made during this feature.
(FILM) ANNUALE (2008) – Another Classic from Tina & the Ladies of 2008, this was at the time when there was an ACTUAL Medication available that allowed women to have their “time of the month” 4 times a year. Realizing just how INSANE that sounds to both physical and medical science (with all due respect), Tina–and I believe Paula Pell, too–penned this piece spoofing that very danger by showing what it would be like if ladies had just One Period for the entire year…Let’s just say, it isn’t pleasant.
(LIVE) “HAMM & BUBLE” (2010) – If “Jon Hamm’s John Ham” was the “Thriller” of Jon’s “Ham Pun” commercials, this one with Michael Buble was the “Smooth Criminal” (Yes, I think Smooth Criminal is BETTER than Thriller, but that’s another argument for another time). What starts out as a series of Ham (and Champagne) Puns, slowly devolves into Michael Buble’s story of being held hostage by a subtlety psychotic Hamm sung to the tune of “I Just haven’t met you yet”–One of those “Crazy enough to work” kind of pieces.
You KNEW this was coming…6 things about Season 6 that Did NOT Suck, over here…
(FILM) MOM JEANS (2004) – Had to include this one…Before this aired, jeans for older women were simply that. Leave it to Tina Fey’s “backhanded compliment” style of writing (the type of which Paul Feig should Thank Tina for allowing to “Borrow” for so many years, BTW) to expose these garments for what they really were; shapeless, unsexy, bland, and yet somehow the people who bought them were just “OK With it”…maybe that’s why we’ve seen an uprising in MILFs/Cougars since this first aired, because they’re catching on to the fact that they don’t want to be seen in such clothing and can still “Strut their stuff” at their ages…And God Bless Tina for indirectly making that (as well as turning the term “Mom Jeans” into an insult) possible!
(LIVE) ALL ABOARD THE FREEDOM TRAIN: THE DUETS OF BIGFOOT & NEIL DIAMOND (2002) – Two Questions; What the Hell were the writers smoking when they came up with this one, and can I have some? I mean, how can you quantify this without having your jaw hit the ground in confusion? It’s Bigfoot (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) & Neil Diamond (Will Ferrell, of course) plugging a compilation of songs from the 60s…all while Ferrell’s Diamond is high as a kite thanks to drugs he scored off of “Black Richard Mulligan”. Thank GOD I enjoy Non-sequitur humor and Ferrell’s Diamond impression, otherwise this would’ve been slightly disastrous.
PROGRAM NOTE: Now then, we need to take a quick break from the commercial break in order to take care of this weekend’s commentary (the link is your not-so-subtle hint). We resume the commercials on Sunday.
(FILM) OLD GLORY ROBOT INSURANCE (1995) – One of the signs we knew that the show was going to be OK after ’94-’95 was an increase in quality across the board, including commercials. This one—featuring a spot-on cameo from Sam Waterston—is probably one of the best examples of that boost in quality, and is one of the early defining moments of writer & future Oscar winner Adam McKay. Just the idea alone of Robots attacking the elderly & “eating their medicine for fuel” is totally absurd, and the fact that they expect us to take it so seriously for the sake of selling insurance makes it even more so. But McKay’s script, Waterston’s delivery and James Signorelli’s direction makes it work better than anybody ever expected it to.
(LIVE) JAVIS HOME SECURITY SYSTEMS (1999) – This is probably one of my All-time Favorite “fake out” moments of the show. Will Ferrell is seen changing a baby’s diaper, we Think it’s a Diaper Commercial. Then Ana Gasteyer enters and Discovers that Ferrell is actually an intruder, BAM, it’s now a commercial for Home Security. Simple, Effective, Less than a minute, Funny as hell, and not much more to add to this…Moving on.
1990-1995……Well…actually, today, both parodies come from the year 1991. But why not? The 1990-91 season was probably one of the best ones they ever had, and it shows in commercial spoofs like these…
(FILM) HAPPY FUN BALL (1991) – Sometimes the best ideas are the most simple ones. For this spoof, it doesn’t get any simpler than 99% of the thing being a Hushed VO by Phil Hartman warning us about the dangers of an otherwise simple kid’s toy. So memorable was this commercial that it was even brought back in a quick cameo as a sponsor tag in an “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer” sketch a few years later. Seriously, Do Not Taunt “Happy Fun Ball”.
(LIVE) METROCARD HELPLINE (1991) – It actually took me a few years to figure out that this was done Live, but I digress. This spoofs a classic series of commercials that aired back in the day for companies like Citibank, AMEX, MasterCard, etc.—In fact, it isn’t the first time SNL did a knock on the formula (Call that one an “Honorable Mention”, BTW). This parody takes that formula and puts it in a Cuisinart thanks to Roseanne Barr/Arnold/Thomas/No-Name/Barr’s “I don’t give a Shit” attitude towards yet another brilliant deadpan performance from Phil. To this day, I can’t hear the phrase “She gave me several options” in a normal conversation without giggling thanks to this sketch.
(FILM) WILSON TRAP DOORS (1988) – To those expecting a Classic like “Colon Blow” or “Compulsion”, my apologies. But The best way to describe why this is funnier to me is a quote I’ve often heard Mel Brooks say; “Tragedy is when a person cuts his finger open and agonizes over the pain, Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.” What can I say, I’m a fan of Schadenfreude; People falling down trap doors is just one of those things that always makes me laugh (Just watch any “Looney Tunes” cartoon that has one, or a scene of Mr. Burns’ office on “The Simpsons” if you doubt the claim). The fact that they make trap door installation look like a proto-Home Depot commercial adds an extra layer of Dryness to it.
(LIVE) GERITECH (1989) – I first saw this piece in the summer of ’95 when they aired a string of “Best Of” shows leading up to the Overhaul that fall, and the only thing I remember about it was going into convulsions, it was THAT funny to me (Keeping in mind I was still 10 years old at the time). The late, great Leslie Nielsen is hawking a line of products for the Geriatric crowd, yet something about the ridiculous names for the products as well as the “matter-of-fact” way he pitches them just made me lose it. In fact, I am relieving myself…(*WAITS A MINUTE*)…Right Now, even years after the fact. I mean, c’mon…how can you hear names like “Blotch Off”, “Dripmaster”, “Solidex” or even “Bung King” without laughing even a little?
(FILM) TRANSEASTERN AIRLINES (1981) – I think it’s safe to say that one of the most neglected aspects of the show’s history was the commercial parodies during the Ebersol Years. In fact, I think the only reason why pieces like “Kannon Camera” with Stevie Wonder, “Buddweiser Light” with Robin Williams or ANYTHING with Eddie Murphy in it ever made it to the various “Goes Commercial” specials was strictly because there were celebrities in them. And that’s why I’m glad I remember this ensemble piece poking fun at a bunch of commercials from back in the day that actually made you feel “Proud” to be flying on any given airline…even though the services on them are lower than scum— some things NEVER change.
(LIVE) CRAZY WEINSTEIN (1983) – For those of you expecting either “Buh-Weet Sings” or any of the “Velvet Jones” ads, you should know by now that I don’t always go with the obvious crowd favorite…Also that there was more to the Ebersol years than just Eddie & Joe. I don’t know what it is about crazy people that draws my attention, but Jim Belushi is playing probably the best Crazy person I have ever seen in a sketch…until Will Ferrell in “Lux 420SL” 13 years later. It didn’t matter that NOTHING was being sold in the ad, and was just 90 seconds of ranting & raving, but for some reason it still works.
We have now reached the halfway point on S.O.S.N.L, and with that let’s take a look at a long time staple of the show—the Commercial Parodies. For the next few days (8 of them, to be exact), we’re actually going to do things a little differently. Because there have been a lot of Great commercial parodies over the years and it would be impossible to choose just one as my personal favorite, I’m going to break things down and discuss my favorites by Era (Every 5 years) instead of simply counting down. For each era/day, I will select One Filmed commercial and One Live commercial (That’s right, it’s a DOUBLE FEATURE week). There are really no disqualifications for this list; as long as the piece is either memorable, had a lot of laughs/one big one in a limited time, or was a pointed piece of satire, I’ll showcase it. It’s all in a piece (whose title I’m Deliberately stealing) I’d like to call…
So with that, these reviews are sponsored in part by…
(FILM) ROYAL DELUXE II (1977) – The 1977-78 season ALONE probably had more of the memorable ad parodies than any other season; “Swill”, “Angora Bouquet”, “Hey You”, “Little Chocolate Donuts”, “Meat Wagon Action Track Set”, and the list goes on. But this spot—spoofing a classic Mercury ad involving a Diamond cutter—has always stuck out with me the most…and NOT just because I’m Jewish…OK, that might be EXACTLY why I find it so funny. It wasn’t until I found out later on in life what a circumcision was that I was able to appreciate this one a little better. Add Aykroyd’s droll pitchman delivery, and you have something that is both plausible yet absurd at the same time. And speaking of Dan……
(LIVE) SUPER BASS-O-MATIC ’76 (1976) – To this day, this not only remains the gold standard of live commercial parodies, but also a testament as to how “In Character” Aykroyd was whenever he played a fast-talking pitchman. Anybody who ever saw late-night TV ads in the 70s (Or even anything the late Billy Mays ever did decades later) knew Exactly what Aykroyd was trying to spoof, and he did it so well that the “Rovco” Pitchman sort of became an unofficial recurring character of his. In fact, so Iconic was this sketch that they re-created it Twice; once as the seldom remembered, Halloween-centric “Bat-o-Matic”, and then for whatever reason, they decided to re-create the original sketch word for word (give or take Aykroyd’s slower tongue and a new Model number) on the 40th Anniversary show. When the time came to review THAT show, I seem to recall saying that the remake was Utterly, utterly Pointless; that Aykroyd has somehow morphed into the “Yeeeeesss” guy from the Simpsons, and that He & Laraine must’ve swallowed a lot of shit (or Bass in this case) to do this again, and this was (Thankfully) one of the few lowlights of the night. I mean, I get it, it’s a classic to the highest regard, but in that particular instance there was really no point in trying to let lightning strike twice, it was embarrassing.
To sum up: Original Bass-o-Matic = Untouchable
New Bass-o-Matic = Unwatchable.
Leave the Classics Alone!
Editorials are back with a look at the work of possibly the single-most underappreciated Cast Member Ever. A selection of Kaz’s greatest hits over yonder.
FAREWELL MR. BUNTING (Original Airdate: 5/21/2016) – Continuing with our Robin Williams Mini-tribute, I guess 2 years is a long enough statute of limitations in honoring him…but should Fred Armisen Really be the best representation to honor him? Well, when Pete Davidson’s head comes flying off Vic Morrow-style via Ceiling fan, the best answer to that would be “Fuck It!” A few weeks ago when reviewing “Bikini Beach Party”, I mentioned how blood—especially that of the “Unexpected” type—is probably one of the Best examples of Shock humor there is; and Thankfully, they learned a very important lesson this time; do it once, and then stop right there. Who would’ve guessed that one of the biggest laughs of the past year would come at the last minute…from a Fred Armisen show, no less? What makes this warped homage to “Dead Poets Society” better is all the buildup and atmosphere that ultimately paid off in something that could’ve been yet another “Everyone’s a Critic” re-hash, but this one surprised the shit out of me…What a shame the shock of the joke will diminish greatly whenever it gets re-run. Robin would’ve been proud of this, I’m sure.
Since next week is going to be another theme week, I wanted to get this one (and another one tomorrow) out of the way. Next week marks 2 years since the passing of Robin Williams; that said, here’s a look at a sentimental favorite that—unfortunately—is seemingly impossible to find…
ROBIN JR. (Original Airdate: 1/23/1988) – This is probably One of my all-time favorite SNL sketches which, criminally enough, is NOT on NBC’s SNL page, Hulu, the SNL Transcripts page or even any given torrent site—nor are there ANY Screengrabs of the sketch available that doesn’t have a “Getty Images” watermark on it, And believe me, I’ve looked. With the exception of hopefully winning a VHS copy of Williams’ “Starmaker” tape so that I could get a halfway decent screengrab of it, today you’re just going to have to take my word for it. But I felt it was important to discuss this one not just because it’s a reminder of Williams’ brilliance, but also because this was one of those rare times when “Machine Gun Humor” and sentimentality dovetailed to give us something almost perfect. Anyway, alongside Dana Carvey, this is a sketch that has–unfortunately–been tinged with a degree of irony & prophecy not seen since Belushi’s “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. Simply put, “Robin Jr.” (AKA “Robin’s 60th Birthday”) was like watching a Pitcher’s duel between Williams & Carvey over who can go over the top the most. And yet, despite how being over the top can be a little jarring at times, it was still enjoyable to watch an already Legendary comedian partner up with an up and coming Legend in Carvey. The bittersweet premise of an aging Robin Sr. questioning whether people will care/remember him in his old age may now be the most awkwardly profound part of this sketch. But Even if his passing didn’t happen, the sketch would still hold itself up on its own merits as a funny, sweet & poignant (yet manic) piece…And of course, bonus points for whenever Carvey would sneak in his Dennis Miller impression (To which Robin Sr. would reply “Can you believe that guy is a U.S. Senator, Now?” Too bad Carvey couldn’t do an Al Franken impression, then we’d have our full circle). As for whether people will remember Robin Sr., I think the answer to that is more than obvious…”Uncover, Discover!” (What? You thought I was gonna say “O Captain, My Captain” or “Nanu Nanu”?)
Since there’s no Video or Transcript for this sketch available publicly (or at least one I could find) so you can judge for yourself, I would like to instead show this Alternate BONUS VIDEO in its place, another one of my all-time favorite monologues in the show’s history that I forgot to add to a previous list (Call it an Honorary #8), and a microcosm of just how Brilliant Robin was when in his own element.
Tomorrow: Almost 30 years later, SNL returns the favor…sort of…
In case you missed it (Either Here or Here), one of the most seminal SNL moments for me personally was when I got a VHS of a 1984 episode hosted by Billy Crystal when I was a kid. It was in this episode that I noticed something not all normal 10 year olds would care to notice…that Julia Louis-Dreyfus was Actually a Cast Member back then. I kinda knew she was already on “Seinfeld” at that age, but because the internet barely made a big enough of a blip for me to do actual research back then (read: I didn’t have a computer in 1994), the fact that she appeared in SNL sketches was a genuine shock to me. Later, I found out that her run on the show wasn’t all it was cracked up to be…which is a shame, because I thought she hit the ground running…
THE PTC CLUB (Original Airdate: 9/25/1982) – Who would’ve guessed that JLD’s Best sketch would actually be her First sketch (OK, she DID appear elsewhere in the episode, but this was her first significant sketch). Even more interesting, who would’ve guessed that SNL would do what is essentially a Tammy Faye Bakker parody Well before Jan Hooks would do it years later? This was supposedly an adaptation of a routine JLD, future hubby Brad Hall, and 3rd wheel/congressional hopeful Gary Kroger would do during their days at Chicago’s “Practical Theater Co.”, and while the routine is funny & (at times) intense, it also proves that a 9 MINUTE running time might be harmful in the long run. Be that as it may, JLD still owns the first half of the sketch by pretty much going on a pseudo-satanic diatribe as “April May June”, one of her Only recurring characters. But as much as this should be about Julia; Kroger not only steals the sketch in the 2nd half, but he probably commits Grand Larceny to it by venturing into one of the ultra-rare times the show goes into True Improv territory with a little help from some Coy audience members (I just hope this sketch isn’t used against him as he runs for Congress in Iowa…That’s NOT a joke, BTW, he’s REALLY doing that). This would’ve been perfectly fine if it were two separate sketches, but perhaps the reason why it was longer than it should’ve been was so the newbies of ’82 had a proper introduction to the audience—say that to anybody making their SNL debut in this day & age. Despite the lengthy running time, I thought this was a Diamond in the Rough for the Ebersol years……………just don’t tell These Two People that (Especially if you have a Ouija Board).
I think I’ve put off talking about political sketches long enough around here…and in light of who we have to choose this election year, I’m here to remind you that once upon a time, it could’ve been a LOT worse…
CRISIS GAME ’83 (Original Airdate: 12/3/1983) – Back in the day, it was conceivably plausible for people like John Glenn & Jesse Jackson to be considered Presidential candidates—In fact, up until a certain incident months after this sketch aired, Rev. Jackson looked like he had a chance…but that’s ANOTHER story. I want to say that this sketch was sort of a response to a number of “Nuclear Disaster” related movies that came out around this time (Particularly “Wargames” and “The Day After”). Everybody was going nuts over the fact that post-apocalyptic annihilation might be more of a reality that we thought……so why not make a Mark Goodson-esqe Game out of it? We kill 2 Birds with one stone here; Piscopo’s reliable Ted Koppel and Murphy’s so-so-ish Jesse Jackson are the main focus, while (co-host) Tom Smothers plays a seemingly befuddled John Glenn almost in a similar way George Carlin would play a cop a few months later when he hosted; a very “Not that I know of” mentality. We later see Kroger & Hall add a little extra as Carl Sagan & William F. Buckley respectively, as they agitate Murphy to the point where he (essentially) blows up the world. For the Ebersol era, this was actually a pointed piece of political satire; one of the rare times Dickie went down that road—and considering most political activity these days are reduced to the point where it all seems like one big game/reality show catering to the lowest common denominator, the sketch is actually kinda timeless because of it.
Now that we got the Holiday stuff out of the way, let’s look at a holiday just a little closer on the calendar as we dive back into the Will Forte Well (or Will-Well if you…uh…Will). The following is a sketch that is not only one of Will’s Greatest performances, but it also goes to show just not just how fearless he was on the show, but also a harbinger of just how fearless he will be in the future…
TRICK OR TREAT (Original Airdate: 10/25/2008): I can’t even begin to count the number of times since Forte’s departure several years ago when some of us superfans would watch a sketch where the main character is either a weirdo, a pervert, or a crazy person and then our immediate reaction would be “Why isn’t Will Forte Hosting? He’d be PERFECT For this Role!” I’d like to think that this sketch is the main reason why we think that sometimes, because Forte achieved the Trifecta here. Forte plays “Jeff Montgomery”, a man who—if the “Members Only” Jacket, Blu-Blocker Shades and Greasy Moustache didn’t already give it away—is a Sex Offender on Halloween…Literally and Figuratively. Clever word play & Forte trying to weasel his way through it is what makes the sketch, along with Jon Hamm playing the foil (Even more interesting is that the Hamm part Could’ve been played by Brian Williams a year earlier). The back & forth Forte & Hamm go through seems reminiscent of the “Firing Sandy” sketch, only here, Forte plays it Dirty/Creepy/Goofy. Best of all, the sketch doesn’t linger, we get all the obvious jokes out of the way and the jokes move fast and furious…probably a little too fast for the cameramen to keep up at the end. Either way, Probably my favorite sketch of the ‘00s.
And my #1 FAVORITE SNL Christmas/Holiday Sketch is……well…….In my mind, there is really only ONE piece that not only sums up the holidays, but also proves once again that a sketch or a film doesn’t necessarily have to be Funny in order for it to be Memorable. That being said, here’s this week’s film by Gary Weis…
HOMEWARD BOUND (Original Airdate – 12/20/1975…you’re gonna need Quicktime to watch, BTW): You may not know this about me, but I’m a bit of a sap on some occasions. I like the funny stuff as much as the next guy, but once in a while, I like the occasional tug at the heartstrings (Half of Tom Schiller’s stuff comes to mind). One of Gary Weis’ first films for the show certainly fits the bill. Not only that, but it does so in the simplest of ways—people are seen arriving at an airport into the arms of their loved ones just in time for the holidays, all while the Simon & Garfunkel song of the same name plays in the background…and that’s it, no gimmicks, no flash, no pizazz, not even any jokes. It’s just a simple & sentimental observation of human joy…something I WISH SNL would do more of in modern day times. It was a kind of film that signaled to the still-curious audience of 1975 “Hey, we don’t HAVE to be funny ALL the time”. That same signal might’ve been brushed off by the majority of the cast/writers/crew, but somebody else on staff wound up catching on, and HIS films would become almost as deep as Weis’. I Could go on about the differences between Weis & Schiller…but I won’t (besides, i’ve got a week of Schiller films to go over at some point). All I’ll say is that while Schiller is the more Avant-garde film maker in SNL Lore, Weis’ films had more of a “Human” touch, and it particularly shows in this one—my absolutely all-time favorite SNL Christmas piece; sketch, film or otherwise. And if you STILL Don’t believe me that a film like this can strike the right nerve, check out Weis’ website, and read the Fan Letter being expressed about this film…you can’t beat that…………..Excuse me, I think I have something in my eye…(*RUNS OFF*)…
OK, now that I’ve re-gained the sight in my eye, this concludes the Christmas sketches. We got back to (relatively) normal tomorrow.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE LOST ENDING (12/20/1986) – This is one of only a Handful of sketches I could quote verbatim from beginning to end, largely because the source material is also quotable verbatim from beginning to end. The ‘86-‘87 season was already becoming a legendary comeback year when this sketch came along to seal the deal. Carvey had debuted his Jimmy Stewart impression several weeks earlier in the classic “Mastermind” sketch, but it was here where it was perfected (portraying a Stewart 40 years younger helps too). But that’s 2nd to the fact that the sketch itself is pure insanity to the highest regard…especially once Carvey, Hooks & Dennis Miller (in a Rare sketch appearance) start beating the shit out of Lovitz doing an almost pitch perfect Lionel Barrymore. It was not only a high point of the comeback season & Christmases yet to come, but it also further cemented the notion that nothing was safe on SNL…not even hallowed holiday classics.
A HOLIDAY WISH (12/13/1986) –This is probably going to be the shortest entry I’ll do in this feature, because quite honestly, The premise couldn’t be more straightforward; Steve Martin has a simple holiday wish to share, he then tacks on a little extra, it falls off the rails in the long run, but it stays subtle to the end—all within less than 3 minutes. Say THAT about sketches in this day & age. A sketch that you KNOW has become a part of every holiday season when it winds up as a talking Hallmark Christmas Card years later (Same goes for “Dysfunctional Family Christmas”, but I digress).
THE NIGHT HANUKAH HARRY SAVED CHRISTMAS (Original Airdate: 12/15/1989) – I was debating to myself whether or not to count this one, largely because few people know about the Easter/Passover sequel this sketch had a few months later in April 1990. But since 2 sketches doesn’t exactly warrant the “Recurring” label, and Lovitz was on his way out by the time both aired, I’ll give it a pass…also, I’m Jewish so consider this entry flagrant & blatant tokenism (WINK, WINK). On the surface, it looked like a number of stereotypical Jewish jokes (I.e. Socks & Slacks as presents), but it was the way Lovitz was overly enthusiastic in his performance that sold me—one that he would sort of revisit years later in This scene from “The Critic” (sorry for the music overshadowing). And of course, who could forget the theme song—On Moishe, On Herschel, On Schlomo—All due respect to Sandler, but THAT should’ve been a more popular Hanukkah carol! Surprisingly, the gentile girls & boys at The AV Club goes into almost encyclopedic detail about this sketch and its sequel, I strongly recommend you read that next.
CHRISTMAS KANGAROO (Original airdate: 12/8/2001) – Will Ferrell getting raped by a Kangaroo while Hugh Jackman narrates…And in the end, isn’t THAT what Christmas is all about? Extremely juvenile imagery aside, I’d like to think that the other reasons why this one is funny was either because of Ferrell’s fearlessness in being on the receiving end, or the matter-of-fact way the story is being told by Jackman, or the fact that Jackman is giving the play-by-play of the Roo Rape while keeping a semi-straight face. But while those are valid reasons the sketch is funny by itself, we all know the REAL reason is because after several months of being a tense nation, the audience was yearning to let off some steam. It’s also a sketch like this that make me wonder why the hell Jackman hasn’t come back to host…then again, if other people can all take a long stretch of years to return, maybe the time will be right This year…lord knows just how many more “Wolverine” movies there are to crank out.
THE NARRATOR THAT RUINED CHRISTMAS (Original Airdate: 12/15/2001) – The 2001-2002 season was a watershed year for SNL; one that started out with a sense that we all had to “get back to normal” after 9/11. Yes, there were several shows & sketches before this one that sort of laid some foundation, but aside from a few “Update” jokes/commentaries and some sketches that walked the line of good taste, this might’ve been the first time they truly dove head-first into the subject while it was still fresh in our minds. At Christmas…with Rankin-Bass puppets. I was a Senior in High School when this first aired, and even though I had no personal loss at the WTC, many people I knew did (Also, I had visited the City a few weeks before it happened, so there was a slight sense of “What If” in my home at the time). So when this aired, I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or be angry about this. And not even for the tragedy still being fresh, but for the fact that they took a symbol of innocence like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and mashed it up with a subject that’s all parts solemn, mournful and still tense while laying down the harshness of it all at the same time (all of Santa’s lines, for instance)…but MAN, was it a much needed sigh of relief—not unlike “Rat Bastard” in ‘12. Not that all previous post 9/11 efforts weren’t, but this felt more like an exclamation point on the subject; and afterwards, we could truly begin to “get on with our lives”—though ANOTHER sketch I’ll talk about this coming 9/11 might actually be a better representative of that mentality. In the meantime, I feel that talking about something with serious subject matter today might’ve been a little too much to take. Ergo, tomorrow I’ll be putting up Another classic from 2001 that completely blows the seriousness of this out of the water.
SANTI-WRAP (Original Airdate: 12/11/1976) – To this day, I Still say “Ho, Ho, Ho” with a slur in my voice A La Belushi…whether I’m drunk or not…and that’s not even the focus of the sketch. Dan & Laraine visit a Mall Santa; and because it’s the far less hygienic 1970s, Dan warns Laraine of the dangers of sitting on Santa’s lap. So he gives her Red & Green colored Toilet Covers, and while that may have been a one-joke premise, sometimes one joke (without belaboring it too much) is all you need…That, and they clearly still had some of the freshman jitters to work through, so that alone gives this a pass. But like I said, Belushi steals the show here playing just about 99% of every Mall Santa EVER, albeit very briefly. Also, I just love the little girl’s reaction here in the still-shot, looking like she’d rather be ANYWHERE else but on a TV show that few thought would make it back then…My guess is she’s probably a lawyer or a nun by now.
YOU’RE A RAT BASTARD, CHARLIE BROWN (Original Airdate: 12/15/2012) – Speaking of “Peanuts”, This is probably one of SNL’s greatest impression showcases Ever—or at the very least, the best one in recent memory that’s NOT a “Screen Test” film (You know, one of THESE shorts). Hader’s Pacino, Sudeikis’ (now horribly outdated) Phillip Seymour Hoffman, an early look at Kate’s greatness as Edie Falco. And to top it off, Martin Short as an impeccable Larry David (which also makes me wonder if Short could’ve played Bernie Sanders just in case the Real Larry couldn’t make it in one night or was sick of playing him). Add the childlike innocence of “Peanuts”, and you wind up with a good laugh needed at the right time………Literally. This sketch was one of many that aired a little over 24 hours after the massacre in Newtown, CT occurred. And if SNL knew how to do at least ONE thing right in its 40+ years on the air, it’s giving the audience a much needed laugh. They proved it after 9/11, they proved it during the first Gulf War they proved it after last fall’s attacks in Paris, and I’m sure if they were able to air new episodes during the summer they would’ve been able to prove it after Orlando, Turkey & France again. This sketch was 100% pure catharsis right when we needed it the most, and both the show and the sketch shine brighter because of it.
Two sketches with one common bond this weekend, let’s begin with the more “Glowing” tribute first…
A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS ‘02 (Original Airdate: 12/13/2002) – This is probably my 2nd favorite Smigeltoon of all time (Don’t worry, I’ll get to my favorite in the future). Largely because Smigel & his animation company discovered a HUGE Flaw with a holiday classic, and then exploited that flaw in order to create a New Holiday Classic—and if his later forwards in the various “Peanuts Treasury” books are any indication, Smigel ESPECIALLY wanted to do this one with great care. It’s all based on that last scene in the original “Charlie Brown Christmas” where the Peanuts kids spruce up Charlie Brown’s stick with a Ball on it, and suddenly it’s a healthy looking tree. Realizing the kids possess the power of Alchemy, they go around town doing the same thing to other things with deep flaws—only for Linus to bring it all back home by the end. Some of the jokes here are inspired, others are a little Too on-the-nose for that point in time (and yes, most of the jokes are now horribly outdated…R.I.P. Michael, David & Anna Nicole); but regardless, it’s still a welcome modern take on something nostalgic. I also have to give Smigel some extra credit in the…well…credits at the end. The Peanuts specials were probably one of the few times they would refer to animators as “Graphic Blandishment”, which Smigel does here as well. Despite the Obvious/Blatant Peppermint Patty/Marcie joke, Charles Schultz would’ve been proud of this.
MOMMIE DEAREST (Original Airdate: 12/16/1978) – Just like the movie & the book itself, this is one of those things that people either Really love, really hate, or really love to hate. For me personally, it’s more of a “Guilty Pleasure”. The Daughter of actress/bitch nonpareil Joan Crawford came out with a tell-all book about her troubled Childhood around that time; and well before Faye Dunaway made us unintentionally laugh at her portrayal of Crawford, Jane Curtin probably gives her single best non-Update performance in the 5 years she was on the show (I’m Dead Serious). Practically everything the real Christina Crawford wrote in the book is showcased here; the beatings, the obsessive cleanliness, and even the fact she was fed raw meat was a prototype re-enactment of what was to come later in the 1981 movie. Add to that, Gilda’s underappreciated “Colleen” character being transplanted into Crawford’s daughter with some great physical comedy, as well as some sharp “Old Hollywood” impressions from Dan, Bill & Laraine, and this oft-overlooked Holiday gem could use a little more attention than one of Crawford’s neglected children (Wire Coat hangers not included).
CHRISTMAS SERIAL (Original Airdate: 12/20/2014) – SNL is DAMN Lucky I’m a fan of NPR/IFC/PBS Style Documentaries, otherwise this might have been completely lost on me—But I’m not sure about everybody else watching. I also think this is yet another case where the piece would be better if it were on sometime later in the show—not 12:50, but maybe pre-MG/Update. For the uninitiated, yes, “Serial” is a Real Show/Podcast, and for what it’s worth, they Nailed it; Especially Cecily as Sarah Koenig—possibly her best performance to date (not to mention that she once again seems to resemble a Young Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Kyle nails it as sort of a Nouveau Santa, Kenan’s part was quick and subtle, Kate & (host) Amy Adams’ parts were subtle too. Even Jay & Aidy (despite being Crudely Drawn Court sketchings) played their parts well. This was the 2nd biggest highlight of an otherwise DISMAL Christmas show, Highlight #1 being Mike Myers reviving “Dr. Evil”. They captured the style Very Well, I just fear that most of the audience watching might not “Get it”.
SNL & Christmas go together like Booze in Egg Nog—one can’t be half as enjoyable without the other. So with that (and because we’re deep enough in the month of July so that we can have some sort of “Christmas In…” sort of thing going on), I am going to present some of my favorite Holiday Sketches over the remaining 12 days of this month in a little featurette I call…
Criteria: The sketch Has to have Aired in December, and They have to be Actual sketches—No “Update” pieces (Sorry, Sandler “Hanukkah Song” fans), and MOST Importantly, Nothing Recurring—largely because it would make the list both too easy to fill & unfair to other memorable sketches (Apologies to Gumby, Irwin Mainway, the DIAB guys, Delicious Dish/Schweddy Balls & “I Wish it was Christmas Today” fans Everywhere for being a total Scrooge). This is a collection of “One-off” sketches only. Also, this is NOT a list (per se), but I AM going to end the 12 days with what I think is the Best SNL Christmas moment ever, so stay tuned. Also, because this is going to take 12 days to do, No Editorial/Lists this weekend; a new one will show in 2 weeks. So with that in mind, let’s begin with what I’d like to call a “Deep Track”; I.e. a Sketch that probably NOBODY remembers, but always stuck with me for some reason.
LESBIAN HOLIDAY PARTY (Original Airdate: 12/12/1992) – If you had a nickel for every time you’ve seen this sketch, congratulations, you probably just earned your first 5 cents! I’ll admit, it doesn’t look/sound/feel too funny on the surface. But then again, when dealing with subject matter that—at least for 1992 standards—may have been a little too “Progressive”, it was still a very big risk for the show to take and I applaud them for it. Sure, homosexuality has been joked about on the show a number of times both in the past and in small doses; but this might’ve been the first time since 1980’s “Deliverance II” that a full-blown sketch on the subject ever saw the light of day. At the same time, this might be one of SNL’s most politically correct sketches they’ve ever done, and this was LONG before people took the terms of what it meant to be “PC” a little too seriously a few decades later. They actually show same sex couples (led by host Glenn Close) in a tasteful, respectable manner. As for actual “Holiday” content…well, it’s there. They just call Christmas “Holiday”, but they still celebrate it (Suck on that, Bill O’Reilly!). The only drawback is the awkwardness of Kevin Nealon’s sperm donor showing up and trying to mingle with a crowd that’s CLEARLY not interested in him, but maybe that awkwardness is the point. Either way, this was probably one of the more unheralded risks the show ever took content-wise; and in an age of LGBTQ awareness at its peak (Or a least on its way to peak), this sketch should get a little more attention these days.
In case you missed it yesterday, I talked about a sketch that I hated a lot at the time, but everybody else seemed to really like (and eventually, I came around to liking it too). Tonight, I’m going to talk about a sketch that—though certainly NOT one of my personal favorites by any means—still makes me laugh despite the fact that it is probably one of the most Reviled sketches in the 40+ year history of SNL (Unless you’re the New York Daily News or Rolling Stone). Of course, it helps that the reason why I like the following sketch so much is because I LOVE the source material…
FILM BEAT (Original Airdate: 1/14/1995) – Once again, I urge you to put the pitchforks and torches away; but Yes, The sketch where they show the “Toilet” clip from “Dumb & Dumber” Over and over…and over…and over again is funny to me. Don’t get me wrong; by all accounts & purposes, the premise of the sketch itself IS Bad. But it’s not “Offensively” bad like, say for example, “Commie Hunting Season” or “Leather Weather Report” (Which I’ll reluctantly get to at some point), it’s just “Same Joke over & over” bad–kinda like the “Incredible Hulk” sketch from earlier that year (but at least in THAT sketch’s defense, it’s Aware of how bad it is.). But again, this sketch still makes me laugh because of that one scene; which in and of itself–and despite the fact that it’s Literally “Toilet” humor–is probably one of the funniest scenes put to film in the past 20 years. When one is 10 years old and watches it for the first time (like I was), of course it’s going to be the funniest thing in the world up to that point…20 years later however, you eventually have to read between the lines. Still though, I dare you…No, I DOUBLE Dare you to watch this scene over & over and NOT Laugh at it. It’s practically impossible. Otherwise, I totally agree that Chris Elliott showing Jeff Daniels that particular clip over & over for no rhyme or reason isn’t exactly good comedy (Unless you’re current SNL writers James Anderson & Kent Sublette, then they might think a sketch like this is the friggin’ Rosetta Stone…THEY know why!) But as long as there’s a saving grace–an inherently funny scene being used excessively for instance—it’s certainly not worthy of being on any “greatest of all time” list, but it’s not a Total waste and still a VERY guilty pleasure of mine.
Now then, Tomorrow is July 20th, which means there are only 12 Days left in the month……So what could I possibly review that not only has significance regarding “12 Days”, but is also fitting for the month of July………………….
OK, you got it, 12 Days of Christmas Sketches Starting tomorrow!
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been talking about Sketches I have enjoyed that may have slipped through the cracks. I’ve also discussed a couple of sketches that are universally liked by a majority of us fans without question. Today & Tomorrow, I’m going to discuss sketches that I feel are the Polar Opposite of popular opinion. We begin with a sketch that is universally liked by a lot of you…but when it first aired, I absolutely HATED it…No, really.
DR. BEAMAN (Original Airdate: 1/15/2000) – Please put your pitchforks and torches away, I Love it now, but when this first aired I was speechless…and NOT in a good way. Not surprisingly, this too was written by Oscar Winner Adam McKay; and with one bizarre non-sequitur after another, it actually helps “The H is O” make more sense now that I think about it. Everything about this sketch made absolutely NO sense at all with the exception of Molly Shannon cracking up after seeing Tim Meadows doing “The Robot” for no discernable reason other than for $5000 (Consider that blooper the Honorary #13 on the SNL Blooper list). Other than that, I honestly didn’t know what was so damn funny about this one—it Really felt like I was being taken down all kinds of directions and I didn’t know where I was going to end up. Having said that, this is one of those times when being 15 years old at the time I watch it (and NOT be a fully mature human being) can actually be a disadvantage. Simply put, The fact that the sketch made no sense at all WAS the Joke all along; and in a way, it helped introduce me to the world of Non-Sequitur humor. I’ll also give this credit for being one of the rare times when an element from a previous sketch links in to this one [NO CLIP/TRANSCRIPT OF “UGLY MODELS” AVAILABLE] —out of context, Dratch’s bit would’ve been confusing. Kinda like looking at a certain painting from a good distance away, this sketch actually takes on a number of different perspectives 15 years later. And of course, any sketch that comes up with the word “Vondruke” as a made up swear word has to be doing something right.
Yesterday while we were looking at Larry David’s job hosting the show this year, you kinda had to take a bit of a breath and wonder how a guy like him has come so far despite going through one of the rockiest tenures one could face; as a writer, cast member or otherwise. So with that, today we’re going to take a closer look at Larry’s Sole Sketch* contribution to the one year (*Though according to Billy Crystal in the bible of Shales & Miller, Larry also wrote a couple “Update” pieces).
THE GREAT ELEVATOR STOOL DEBATE (A.K.A. “Going Up”) (Original Airdate: 12/1/1984) – It shouldn’t’ve worked. It was the last sketch of the night, it barely got any laughs when they did it, and it felt a little “Too Smart” for the public–on the surface this sketch shouldn’t’ve worked. And yet, thanks to the miracle of hindsight, the idea of two people arguing back & forth about the merits of having a stool for an elevator operator to sit on is about as Proto-Seinfeld as one could get (not counting the Real-Life incident where LD quit SNL only to come back the next week). So uniquely perplexing was the premise of the sketch that LD couldn’t help but try it again 10 years later on an episode of Seinfeld, only this time involving a security guard minding a clothing store. In fact, Ignoring the fact that it eventually became a “Seinfeld” plot, I could easily see (host) Ed Begley Jr. in George Costanza’s shoes, Billy Crystal as Jerry, and Harry Shearer would essentially play himself in a guest shot. It’s easy to appreciate a sketch like this now that LD is one of the biggest big shots of all time, but the problem with a sketch like this is your typical “Square Peg/Round Hole” theory; during the Ebersol years, the comedy became mainstream…probably a little too mainstream in order for a so-called “Intelligent” piece to fit in to the rest of the show, ESPECIALLY during a season where they cram so many mainstream comedy stars down our throats that the fine line between Broad & Niche becomes all the more blurred. Regardless of that, the sketch became LD’s calling card when it came to writing about “Nothing” years later.
A look at an Actual FULL episode of the show, one that TPTB have chosen to be their “Emmy Consideration” episode for the season, Yadda, yadda, yadda…
“Ghostbuster Girls” week continues with the one you’ve been waiting for…Whether you love her or hate her, could you find a more polarizing figure in the world of SNL than Kristin Wiig? If you think she’s funny, you’re more than welcome to think so. However, the divisiveness is NOT questioning just how funny she is, far from it. The REAL divisiveness stems from the difference between those who think she’s a comedy goddess, and those who think her brand of comedy is downright infuriating to watch sometimes—I happen to fall right in the middle; For the record, I DO find her funny, but in Small, SMALL doses. So with that, let’s get the “Bad” one out of the way; and I PROMISE before the summer is out, I’ll cover a “Good” Wiig sketch. There HAS TO be a good sketch, because I think even the most ardent of Wiig fans would agree, this is probably as low as she ever got…
WHERE’S MY PURSE?! (Original Airdate: 10/13/2007) – How’s this for a complex premise? Aliens attack a Starship, all the starship needs to defend itself is have the captain of the ship steer out of harm’s way, but darn the luck……the captain (Wiig in this case) can’t find her purse, and things have to grind to a screeching halt because of it. And honestly, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if it wasn’t the ONLY JOKE OF THE SKETCH!!! Though To be completely fair, it’s not entirely Wiig’s fault that she’s giving such a scenery chewing performance. As is the case with most bad sketches, the performers are usually placed under the mercy of the writing, and whoever wrote this one (I’m ASSUMING longtime SNL writers & durable humor vacuums James Anderson & Kent Sublette) must’ve expected a LOT of mercy in return. The rest of the cast have to make the best of what they’re given, and what they’re given isn’t much to begin with. I mean seriously, the sketch is almost 5 minutes long, and 4 of them are wasted on Wiig acting all befuddled over the whereabouts of her Fucking Purse as though she’s a secondary character in a Garry Marshall movie! To make matters worse, on the miraculous moment that she finds her fucking purse, she spends the remaining minute notifying everyone on the ship that her purse was found; all the while, her crew is getting killed in the process………COMEDY (amiright?)! Now again, I don’t want to say that this one sketch totally discounts Wiig’s legacy on the show; if you find her funny, more power to you. But even the most ardent of Wiig’s fans had to realize this was beyond overkill. Whining & Moaning like a befuddled 80s sitcom mom wondering where your purse is and CONTINUING to whine and moan once you find it DOES NOT fit in between Lucy & the Chocolates, Carol Burnett & the Window Curtains, Jan Hooks as Bette Davis, Elaine looking for a Square to Spare, or even Amy Schumer BEFORE she became overrated. If it’s any consolation, However, I’d like to think that this sketch—at the very least—inspired THIS “30 Rock” joke a few years later. It felt EXACTLY like that, only more unnecessarily drawn out (almost like this review has become). Thankfully, I am happy to say that at least there’s ONE thing Wiig did on SNL that makes me forgive this sketch, but that’s gonna take some hunting to do.
“Ghostbuster Girls” week continues with a look at one of the better hosts to appear on the show in recent years; Melissa McCarthy. Thanks in part to stealing the show in “Bridesmaids”, McCarthy has become somewhat of a surrogate member of the SNL family. Granted, she also scored in the past times she’s hosted, but she has yet to Score Big—I.e. Do well in Every single sketch she’s in, not just one or two per show—it would also help if she wasn’t so surly in some of her sketches; but then again, if she wasn’t, she wouldn’t be a believable Ghostbuster, would she?
WOMEN’S GROUP (Original Airdate: 2/1/2014) – It should really come as no surprise that some of the roles McCarthy has played on her SNL hosting stints have turned out to either be Frumpy, Surly, Weird, Unpleasant or any given combination of each. This sketch–while actually having the potential of being one of the funnier sketches of the 2013-2014 season—can easily fit into the “Surly” category. Unfortunately, the whole thing might have been a little too low-key in order to maintain the humor. Don’t get me wrong, it was still funny, but perhaps a little too Dark-Humored. That, and I have a nagging feeling that we’ve seen this kind of sketch before too—y’know, the kind where there’s always going to be an “Odd One Out” within a group of normal people. (Best example I can think of is “Puppetry Class” from 2012, but I’m sure there have been others before/since) For what it’s worth, McCarthy plays her “Domestic Mercenary” pretty well, while the rest of the ladies are simply there for the ride. At the time this sketch aired, McCarthy was seen doing a string of Action/Comedy or “Serio-comedy” movies; “The Heat” just came out, “Tammy” wrapped filming, and “Spy” was on its way to being filmed. A shame, really, considering that McCarthy is more than capable to do classy comedy—and perhaps she should save the rougher stuff for when she wants to pull a Kathy Bates later in her career and go for an Oscar—for Real, this time, none of this “Bridesmaids” stuff, let’s see Melissa go full “Misery” one day.
“Ghostbuster Girls” week continues not just with something topical in light of Bernie Sanders joining the Dark Side, but also with a simple question…What can you say about Kate McKinnon?
HILLARY ON THE E-MAIL SCANDAL (Original Airdate: 3/7/2015) – I defy you to find another cast member who not has not only helped salvage a number of wrecks in her 4 years (and counting) on the show, but also does so by being consistently funny & versatile without going over the top inher performances. Kate is probably the best repertory member the show has had in recent years; She can do Main roles, bit parts, even background characters with no dialogue and STILL make an impact. Long story short, Kate’s got the power to be the next Jan Hooks in a World of Wiigs—choosing versatility over meek abrasiveness. Of course, it also helps her profile tremendously by playing one of the biggest newsmakers in the world right now. It should be noted that this is not her first time playing Clinton, that honor goes to the time where Kate played Clinton a la “Breaking Bad” (the 3rd spoof in the video). It should also be noted that up until this moment, Vanessa Bayer was the “Official” resident Hillary impressionist. Unfortunately for her, she played her Clinton too young, too sweet and too southern in order for it to be a credible impression. Enter Kate who not only hits the ground running with her impression, but does so in a way that leaves all previous Hillary impressions in the dust. Kate takes a page from the other people who have portrayed Clinton as power hungry in the past (Hooks, Ana Gastyer, Amy Poehler) and puts her own spin on it by playing her as power hungry AND borderline psychotic at the same time. It a performance like this that has all but given Kate several years of job security yet to come, just as long as she doesn’t piss it away by becoming the second coming of Wiig.
This is going to be a SPECIAL week of S.O.S.N.L., if not for the fact that we’re going to be looking at a few “recent” sketches, then for the fact that the people who are participating in them share one thing in common…They’re going to try to convince us that the movie they’re in this week is perfectly fine w/o any further backlash from (*INSERT GROUP HERE*)…
It’s “Ghostbuster Girls” week, where we take a look at some of the best (and not-so-best) work that the new breed of Ghostbusters (who also happen to be connected to SNL) has to offer; A Week that will culminate in a 100% unbiased review of the new movie by the end of the weekend (Look for that sometime Sunday since I already have something “Non-GB” in mind this Saturday). We begin with a look at a sketch featuring NOT!Winston Zeddemore herself, Leslie Jones.
SHANICE GOODWIN: NINJA (Original Airdate: 4/9/2016) – Every so often, a sketch comes along that is not only Stupid, but Stupid in the Best possible way. Sort of in a similar vein as “Where’s Jackie Chan at Right Now”, this was just Jonesy being involved in complete and total physical nonsense—and thankfully, she didn’t have to raise her voice at any time to pull off the funny. Host Russell Crowe’s “Russian” “Accent” gives me hope he will be the next James Bond villain, while Taran had the more credible accent. Kenan choking on his drink was a genuine blooper that didn’t seem forced, and Jon “JR” Rudnitsky continues to Goldbrick his paycheck. Everything else about the sketch seemed a little Farley-esque (and not JUST because he too played an plus-sized ninja); mostly Jonesy’s awkward ninja moves and Taran rubbing up against her pretending there’s no one there. There’s an outside chance I can see this recurring; but considering the possibility that SNL might be downplaying recurring characters as of recently, it’s a long shot–It’s probably better off as a one-off sketch anyway. Furthermore, this sketch (supposedly) wound up putting Jones on the sidelines for a few weeks due to injuries sustained while doing the sketch live—which, if you think about it, is actually kind of a plus. Jones put herself on the line to make us laugh, she got hurt, but she kept going. Can’t get anymore professional than that.
As a BONUS, It’s a rare honor for someone with an SNL pedigree to get the “Madame Tousaud’s” treatment, so it was actually kinda cool to see Jonsey get her own Statue this week (and chances are, the REAL Jonesy would probably give me the same cold stare if I tried to take a picture of her):
Sorry for the Black Box, there was a kid in the way.
Today’s entry was meant to kick off a week of sketches featuring the stars of the upcoming “Ghostbusters” movie…Unfortunately, we have to hold off until Tuesday to kick off the week; because today, sadly, we need to address a death in the family…
SAD MOUSE (Original Airdate: 10/21/2012) – When Andy Samberg & his “Lonely Island” crew left the show in May of ’12, he took with him one of the longest running franchises within the franchise; that of the “Digital Short”. With that; people wondered if the show would continue using short films, and if so, who would become the next Samberg? Enter the comedy duo of Osmany “Oz” Rodriguez and Matt Villines; a team who would be better known as “Matt & Oz”. Sadly, Matt passed away on July 10th, 2016 after a bout with Cancer; which given how young he was comes as a tragic surprise as well as a blow for the show. And why wouldn’t it be? In the 4 years they’ve been working together on the show, Matt & Oz not only caught the ball that Samberg passed, but the efforts they’ve put in has led to one touchdown after another. It would actually do them both a tremendous injustice to talk about their efforts without showing (Almost) EVERY SINGLE ONE of the films they did, so when you have a minute, check out their Vimeo page where you can see their works of art, both on the show and off. But I wanted to save a little time today to talk about one of their first major efforts for the show; this film featuring host Bruno Mars. When I first saw this film, my immediate thought was that whoever filmed it must’ve stolen several pages from the book of Tom Schiller. This film has just the right amount of humor and pathos that Schiller was known for in most of his films, yet Matt & Oz put their own spin on it by cranking the pathos to about 1000% and putting Bruno’s character through an emotional wringer. Watching it again tonight, I wasn’t sure whether to grab for some tissues or try and keep track of the number of times the audience went “Aww…” Thankfully, Matt & Oz did plenty of Happier films (which again, I urge you to check out on their Vimeo page), but it was this film that convinced me and other fans that when it came to the short films, not only would they be here to stay, but they would be in good hands (collaborations with Mike O’Brien Notwithstanding)…I just hope Oz has enough strength to carry the load for both of them.
During the 40th anniversary special a few years ago, a certain clip popped up during one of the many montages that I thought was long buried in the nether-recesses of my sub-conscious. That being said; Let’s take a moment to exorcise that demon, and at the same time talk about the otherwise Great Writer/Director/Will Ferrell Collaborator and NOW Oscar Winner, Adam McKay.
THE HEAT IS ON [Or “The H is O”] (Original Airdate: 2/5/2000) – Long before Andy Samberg & Co. monopolized the “Digital Short” umbrella title, it belonged to McKay first. The only difference between him & Samberg is that Samberg’s shorts actually garnered laughs, while McKay’s had a certain WTF-ness attached to his; And Nowhere was this WTF-ness more evident than in his first short film; a love letter (or poison pen letter) to singer Glenn Frey. Ben Stiller guest stars as a guy who claims he can pick up Anybody in just 3 lines—Key word being “Anybody”, male or female. Enter Ferrell as Frey, played in a way only Ferrell can play him. Stiller makes his moves, and then What follows (Solely in my opinion) is probably one of the most uncomfortable sequences ever made in the 40+ year history of SNL…Or at least that’s what I first thought when I saw this for the first time years ago. When this first aired; it made little sense to a lot of us, and it made even less sense when one watching happens to be 15 years old (which I was when it aired). Thankfully and HAPPILY for the progression of time, the stuff I saw wasn’t really that uncomfortable to begin with…it was still very weird imagery; but knowing what McKay would later be capable of in the Movies, it’s actually kinda “Normal” (and dare I say, “Funny”) in retrospect. Also thankfully, McKay managed to improve from there. His Short Films continued through the rest of the ’99-’00 Season, while McKay himself continued for a few more years as a writer until ultimately leaving to write/direct “Anchorman” (among OTHER, high profile things as of recently), and the rest is history. I’m just glad McKay strayed away from the Weird stuff, otherwise he might’ve been doomed to work in TV all his life.
It’s List time once again; This week, a look at those moments when the showstopper happened at the Start of the show. A List of memorable SNL Monologues, Right Here, Right Now.
For the past few weeks, I’ve pretty much been praising sketches left and right despite their flaws. But today, in an effort to balance things out (and In light of a heatwave here on the East Coast making me feel a little cranky), I think the time has come to let off some steam. So with that, here’s a recent sketch that just flat-out SUCKED!
CHEER SQUAD ABDUCTIONS (Original Airdate: 10/5/2013) – I’m sure there’s a specific name for these kinds of sketches, the ones where a group gathers to do something, only for an unseen and/or unexplained event/entity to come along and pick them off one by one (Google: “NASCARettes”, “Hip Hop Kidz”, the “Polar Bear” sketch from 1995). Only this time, the event/entity is explained (rather weakly in this case, but it still counts), Aliens want to steal the Moon, and……..That’s it? An alien abducts some people, says he wants to steal the moon, he does, and then………Then What? I’m sure this sketch’s intentions were good, but this feels like half the script is missing with a whole lot of unanswered questions. How about a joke about the Earth’s Oceans going haywire? (The moon controls the tides, you know) Why were cheerleaders targeted? What did they have to do with Stealing the Moon? Why did they stop after the Moon was stolen? Who the hell wrote this, and why did he/she/they stop (seemingly) halfway through?! (*EXASPERATED SIGH*) I’ll give them credit for Taran’s part as a closeted cheerleader (“…So Suck it, Dad!”), as well as pulling off a pretty good special effect for Live TV (Kenan firing a laser at Taran), but it does little to help overall. I could blame it on a time constraint, but without knowing if this was the intended ending of the sketch or not, it’s difficult to make that call…God, I need a drink. Sketches like this one makes my head hurt.
Last week, I featured a sketch that aired several days after I was born. This week, it’s only fair that I look at something from just a few days prior. It’s an underappreciated Film starring someone who was (and still is) grossly underappreciated in spite of constantly trying to step out of his Brother’s shadow.
PROFILES IN SPORTS (Original Airdate: 11/10/1984) – Three words usually come to mind when one brings up the names Jim Belushi or Dewey Cox…“Wrong Kid Died”. But even though some of us wish it was John who had lived long enough to have the long running unfunny sitcom on ABC, Jim DID have a few shining moments in the brief time he was on SNL…on film. And I’m happy to say that this was probably his best performance…on film (FYI, “Crazy Weinstein” & “Swan Lake Flashdance” are his best Live performances, hands down). It was a send-up on all sorts of Hallmarky sport stories that usually pad out a sports event, a Sportscenter Segment or an HBO Documentary film—not unlike “Synchronized Swimming” earlier that year. Belushi plays the coach of a Chess team as though he’s Bobby Knight. Hilarity ensues, but it’s the way it’s executed that makes it enjoyable. From the Knight-like temper tantrums Jim would pull when someone makes a bad move, to the use of a 70-something Russian Ringer, this almost seems like a prototype parody of ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” (or that OTHER sketch with Melissa McCarthy) Years before it even existed. Not only that, but I’m honestly surprised this hasn’t made the rounds on the various “Sports Extra” specials over the years, it’s Really solid stuff as well as a reminder that Jim Belushi doesn’t completely suck (In spite of what David Cross thinks of him).
As a BONUS, take a look at a couple of College kids trying to put together a faithful re-creation of the film…
FIRING SANDY (Original Airdate: 2/21/2004) – (NOTE: Sorry I couldn’t find a still shot of the actual sketch that didn’t Spoil the Ending) As hard as it is to believe, in SNL’s long history, this sketch comes about as close as it gets to being a Monty Python/Mr. Show hybrid. Everything about this one was just one head-scratching but hilarious line after another, and it’s all thanks to a combination of Will Forte’s [im]petulant childishness and Chris Parnell’s mix of playing it straight & smarmy at the same time. The premise is a simple one; Parnell tries to fire Forte for being insubordinate/frequently late at work, they argue back & forth a little, and on the surface that’s pretty much it. But it’s the ammo they use to argue that makes this one shine; From bizarre accusations of Racism & Sexism, to an eye-rollingly clever use of the term “No Way, Jose”, to far too many other jokes to keep track of the first time around. This sketch would be an Early example of Forte’s weird brilliance that thankfully carried on through the rest of his tenure, and onto his current FOX sitcom. As much as Forte carries it, you gotta give Parnell points too for maintaining the smug levels at just the right amount so that the banter between him & Forte is all the more bizarre. Certainly one of the more underrated gems not just of Forte & Parnell, but also a bright spot for one of the “Down” years of the show.
When the great character actor George Coe passed away last year, I was going to do a full-on commentary at a certain, now-defunct SNL fansite about his contributions to the show. But considering that his contributions the (brief) time he was there were really that of supplemental/background roles while the rest of the young cast did their thing, I honestly didn’t think there was much to say. Granted, he turned out to be one of the great Character actors of our time outside the show; but In terms of his time on SNL, he barely did much aside from guiding the scenes along by playing straight roles………………Except for ONE sketch…sort of…
THE UNTOUCHABLES (Original Airdate: 2/21/1976) – First of all, I just Love how wonderful (and at times, ridiculous) this sketch is—especially if you’re a fan of old-school nostalgia. Just the very idea that one of the most iconic sitcom stars of all time (Desi Arnaz in this case) would play a villainous gangster was worth the price of admission…even if it was still played up for laughs, and even if they couldn’t help but throw in a number of “I Love Lucy” references for good measure. Then you’ve got Aykroyd’s famous Robert Stack impression coupled with a number of false stakeout jokes (I.e. watching two girls sunbathing…at Night, apparently), as well as a few anachronisms to Modern (70s) Times—specifically Peter Fonda & “The Kitchen of the Future”. But for me personally, the uncredited star of this sketch was the person who was doing the Walter Winchell impression…George Coe. Granted, it was still very much a “Straight” role for him, but it was probably one of the only times on the show where he not only did a pretty uncanny impression of someone (or ANY impression for that matter), and not only contributed a couple of quick “4th wall” jokes, but he was also responsible for the sketch’s punchline (which I won’t ruin here…until/unless you read the transcript)—of course, that’s 2nd to the fact that (at the time) I JUST realized it was Coe who played Winchell in the sketch, when for years I just thought it was some other character actor they hired just for the part. Seriously, I used to watch this sketch all the time on a Starmaker “Best of the Classic Years” VHS many years ago, Never saw Coe’s name on the back cover. It’s either a sign of just how versatile he was, how forgotten he was on the show, or maybe he just didn’t need all the fuss of a little attention—most character actors don’t need it anyway. Albert Brooks may have been quoted to saying he was the “Detachable Booster Engine” that helped the show get off the ground, but I’d like to think Coe was the show’s “Navigational Computer” for the rest of the cast during the first season. What else can be said; this sketch was great…………and so was George Coe.
(Don’t read too much into that ISIS mug, this was from an “Archer” recording)
Rest easy, Woodhouse
Back in May, I posted this picture of me with Tracy Morgan that was taken around Christmas at my place of employment as part of my inaugural entry here at “UUI”…
…And yes, I still refuse to show my face…but I digress. So what’s the story behind this picture? Just before that picture was taken, he was talking to the other people I work with about how he was able to get through his recovery for all those months—It ultimately morphed into a 10 minute sermon of how God, Good Music and a Loving Family helped save his life by keeping him focused. The paraphrased coda to his speech (possibly aimed at the truck driver that caused the accident) was that “Stupidity is NOT hereditary, it is a flat-out choice.” To which I then asked Tracy, “Would it be Stupidity if I were to ask you for a Picture together?” To which he said–and again, I’m paraphrasing here, “No, because you made yourself present, you made your intentions clear, and they were not malicious.” Long Story Short, We’re all glad Tray is doing OK. But in thinking about that, and thinking about his tenure on the show, it almost seems unfair that he got the short end of the stick during most of his run. Don’t get me wrong, he MORE than made up for lost time during his last 3 seasons (In addition to “30 Rock” afterward), but a lot of us thought he was getting lost in the shuffle more often than not…Which brings me to what I think might be Tracy’s best sketch outside of “Brian Fellows” or “Astronaut Jones”…
WOODROW (Original Airdate: 10/14/2000) – In one of those rare instances where a Live sketch doesn’t necessarily have to be Funny in order for it to be “Good”, Tracy & Kate Hudson go for something “Schiller-esque” in terms of sweet sentimentality (And yes, there WILL be Plenty of Schiller to come)–And in the interest of full disclosure, this is one of the VERY FEW Non-Schiller sketches that actually makes me teary-eyed when I watch…yeah, you heard me. The real tragedy of this sketch is not Morgan’s sewer bum letting Hudson return to the surface while he returns to a state of loneliness, but rather that this was never done again after this 2nd time (1st time w/Britney Spears months earlier). I can understand that a little; it IS a comedy show, and it can’t be bittersweet ALL the time—unless you’re Marilyn Suzanne Miller. But Dammit, I was actually invested in Woodrow’s backstory (If there was to be one). WHO was He? HOW did he become a Bum? What were his plans to come back from the Gutter (If any)? He ambushes Hudson & her showbiz friends by exclaiming “It’s Me, Woodrow!” as though he used to be somebody in showbiz…but WHAT? It’s a shame there was never a follow-up of some sort (no, his surprise appearance in an “Update” commentary last year doesn’t count), because I’m genuinely curious as to what the deal was with him. Regardless, the sketch itself has a well-crafted blend of pathos & sweetness that helps highlight a side of Tracy that we’ve never seen to that point…until he started doing those OTHER “serious” sketches with Maya Rudolph and pretty much ran that seriousness into the ground (You know the ones I’m talking about). Point being, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Tracy started getting more air time after doing this one–Though a lack of Tim Meadows by that time kinda helps–he made it clear to everybody that “Hey, I’m on the show Too!” he just had to show a bit of his seldom-seen vulnerable side in order to get there.
7/3/16 (actually, posting it a little early due holiday related things):
Today’s sketch is actually a mini-history lesson brought to you by the legendary Robert C. (Bob) Wright, the Chairman & CEO of NBC for over 20+ years. I was reading his memoirs “The Wright Stuff”, when I came across a couple of passages that struck me as familiar. One was a mention of the failure of a 1992 Cable experiment known as the “Olympic Triplecast”, and the other was an apology from news magazine “Dateline” for falsifying reports on Car Safety. And as soon as I read about those two black eyes for the network, my immediate thought was “Wait, That was Real?!”
DATELINE APOLOGIES (Original Airdate: 2/13/1993) – Apparently so, but watching it as a teen in latter year reruns, it left me a little confused in terms of a frame of reference. I just thought it was a simple “make fun of the network” kind of sketch with (What I thought were) random jokes…that is, until Bob Wright’s book and good ‘ol “Captain Hindsight” reared its head. Yes, as it turns out, this opening sketch hit a number of times too close to home, all while NBC ate crow (or possibly Peacock) at the same time for a number of PR disasters that happened during the 1992-93 season. Stone Phillips (Mike Myers) and Jane Pauley (Julia Sweeney) Not only apologize for the Triplecast and the false Dateline reports, but even acknowledging a semi-infamous joke a “Wayne’s World” sketch made at the expense of (then 12 year old) Chelsea Clinton. In addition to most major NBC branches eating some humble pie on the sketch’s behalf, we also get an inexplicable appearance at the end from “Toonces the Driving Cat” (in one of the character’s last appearances). This was one of those sketches “Based on actual events” where if you didn’t know 100% of the story, it might’ve been a little lost on you if you were watching for the first time—I know I was. But once you DO get the context, you realize just how sharp & contrite the sketch was, and just how willing NBC was at laughing at itself once in a while…even if it meant licking wounds the size of a $2 Million settlement to GM after the fact.
Once & for all, we try to answer the question; “Was Colin Quinn REALLY that Bad on the show?” Find out HERE…
I think it’s about time we dove into “Ebersoland” for the first time; AKA, the 4 years Dick Ebersol kept things afloat before Lorne came back for keeps. And while I PROMISE to eventually get to at least One Murphy and/or Piscopo sketch before the summer is out, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was partial to the famed “Steinbrenner Season” of 1984-85…Particularly, this one because (1) it aired on the first show that aired after I was born, and (2) because of my fondness for “Classic” television…
LOU GRANT RESCUE MISSION (Original Airdate: 11/17/1984) – This actually begins with a little sort-of-related story; Once upon a time at a Yard Sale, I had purchased a crate of old VHS tapes for my old Youtube hobby as a VCR archivist (which I still sort of do, but more limited these days). Turns out, each of the tapes had ALL the reruns of the Mary Tyler Moore show on them; and even more sure enough, they came from WNBC-TV New York. By 1984—the date marked on the tapes, no less–the show (as well as reruns of Bob Newhart & Here’s Lucy—also on the tapes) had been banished to the Post-Letterman slot of overnight weeknights. Unfortunately, I lost all but a couple of the tapes to raging hurricane/flood waters a few years ago, so I can’t use them in any way other than as paperweights. Why is this information important? Probably because whoever wrote this sketch had dozed off to the reruns of MTM while pulling an all-nighter on the fabled 17th floor and possibly dreamed about seeing “Red Dawn” in the process, and that’s probably where the inspiration for this sketch came from (If you can come up with a better explanation, I’m all ears). Anyway, This is arguably one of the better remembered sketches of the Ebersol Era NOT Helmed by Murphy, Piscopo or the writing team of Blaustein/Sheffield—and it’s made even greater if you happen to be a fan of classic television (Like I am). It’s one of those sketches that actually bridges generation gaps; the simplicity of the 70s Vs. the MTV generation Xers of the 80s, and Ed Asner makes that clear (in a roundabout way) to the rest of the cast via the MTM characters they’re portraying. But perhaps that was why Mary wanted to stay in reruns, because the times were simpler, and a lot of us tend to want to hang on to nostalgia for as long as they can (which would probably explain why the Real MTM never had another big hit after her show…but then again, maybe one big hit was all she’d ever need.). As for the Cast’s portrayals, Mary Gross had done MTM several times on the show to that point and has always been one of her better impressions. Billy nails it as Ted Knight, as does Christopher Guest as Gavin MacLeod/Murray and the criminally underused Pamela Stephenson as Georgia Engel/Georgette. The Only impression I didn’t buy was JLD as Valerie Harper/Rhoda, largely because Seinfeld was still big when I first saw this sketch on Starmaker’s “Best of 1984” tape, and I thought it was just Julia using her regular voice as a New Yorker. The rest of the sketch was above average; just the idea alone that Mercenaries would rescue Mary from reruns seems so out of place that OF COURSE the idea would work. It’s nothing more than a good dose of nostalgia being infiltrated by modern times in a tongue-in-cheek way………and not bashed over our heads like a Certain OTHER Sketch comedy show tried to do 20 years later.
THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS (Original Airdate – 5/21/1977): What would SNL’s mythos be without Buck Henry? Here’s a guy who was either responsible or partially so for some of the most prolific pop cultural touchstones of a previous generation behind the scenes (“Get Smart”, “The Graduate”, “What’s up, Doc?”, etc…though to my surprise, he also wrote “To Die For” with Nicole Kidman in the 90s), yet when it came to hosting SNL 10 times, Buck was probably at his most causal when doing pieces that play against his seemingly meek persona. In other words, he was (on the show, at least) a high-class guy who was willing to do some low-class things just for a laugh. And while things like “Uncle Roy” and “Stunt Baby/Puppy” would actually lock up Buck’s fearlessness, this sketch—spoofing Charles Lindbergh’s famous flight—was what got the ball rolling. Nevermind the fact that the “Land shark” makes an appearance at the end, Buck holds his own on this…almost literally thanks to a carefully timed pause in Aykroyd’s Narration (“The plane was Jerked Off…Course……Course!”). That moment Alone pretty much solidified Buck as a man willing to do something somewhat perverted for a laugh regardless of potential backlash; but at the same time, it turned him into a team player. Yeah, the “Samurai Stockbroker” incident kinda gave the cast an impromptu reason to rally behind him out of injury related pity, but I’d like to think This sketch was a way for him to return the favor.
Back when SNL was beginning to celebrate its 40th anniversary season, the late, lamented website Grantland mounted a seri-ish discussion about who the best cast member of all time was; The winner (as voted by the masses a la the NCAA Tournament Brackets) turned out to be Will Ferrell. So what sketch that’s NOT “More Cowbell” would be the best representation of his staying power (IMO)?
GET OFF THE SHED (Original Airdate – 9/30/1995) – Some people are quick to call “Wake Up & Smile” the “Breakout” performance of Will Ferrell, and to some respect, they may be right. But after the notoriety of the 1994-95 season, just about ANYTHING they threw out there could be an improvement; and thankfully, Ferrell delivered a Great First Impression. Not to sound presumptuous, but I think this sketch—literally about 12 minutes in to the first show of the 1995 overhaul—acted as a sort of signal to the audience that the previous season was a Madonna-esque “Horrible, Horrible Dream” and SNL would go back to being funny again…or at least, in hindsight it would be the case. I just saw this sketch again, and while we can appreciate its genius now, the audience was nearly silent throughout most of it (Kinda like that OTHER Iconic sketch that launched the show 20 years earlier from this). Nobody knew what to expect from any of the new cast members who participated in this one—let alone what we expected of Ferrell. But as is the case with most of Ferrell’s work, the sketch was a building crescendo of sorts. Each warning to his kids to get off the shed was the ultimate mood swing; Cheery neighbor one minute, possessed disciplinarian the next. Watching this for the first time in 1995, of course the initial reaction to Ferrell’s ability to switch streams would be “Dude, this guy’s nuts!” But when you add up all the subsequent performances Ferrell did afterward, you realize that this is just a natural part of his performance DNA; it only looked awkward because we were witnessing greatness for the first time and we didn’t know what to think—but now we know better. The one drawback that this otherwise iconic sketch has working against it is the fact that Mariel Hemmingway can’t act her way out of a paper bag…at least when doing Live material (I’m sure she’s just fine elsewhere). Be that as it may, Ferrell’s performance here accomplished what few have done in the show’s history; make a strong first impression, and have us fans hang onto it for dear life for the next few years.
Here’s a look at one of the more under-appreciated sketches of the Late Phil Hartman…
ROBOT REPAIR (Original Airdate: 3/25/1989) – On the surface, this just looked like one of those ideas that would NEVER work in a million years…but somehow, it just does. Written by the inimitable Jack Handey, Hartman—in one hell of a make-up job, BTW—manages to take what is essentially a pseudo-“Who’s On First” dig at grammar & punctuation and dismantles it accordingly. Of course, it (somehow) helps that Hartman is doing it while maintaining a Monotone voice throughout the whole thing. As much as Hartman sells the hell out of the sketch, Handey’s writing deserves equal credit for combining a grammar lesson with the first class absurdity of a Robot trying to explain emphasis. It sort of reminds me of a joke Colin Mochrie once did on “Whose Line…” (“We’ll return to the ‘Wrong Emphasis Theater’ production of ‘What’s New? Pussycat?’ in just a moment”). The deeper we got into the sketch, the more absurd the explanations of each title change coupled with Phil maintaining the monotone became—and that’s pretty much the secret of why the sketch is very funny despite the fact that it shouldn’t have worked in the first place (A common staple of Handey’s…uh…Handy work in most of his sketches). Like many of his later “Deep Thoughts”/”Fuzzy Memories”/”Big Thick Novel” entries, Handey’s material—this sketch included–was delightfully droll.
There’s only ONE TV show where a hyperactive man with a microphone and a rogue camera crew ambushes people and ask such random questions in a point-blank way like “Would you rather vote for Donald Trump, or have your Balls chewed off by a Doberman?” I’m not going to reveal my answer here because both sound equally painful; not even for the mere sum of $1. The show is called “Billy on the Street”, and the hyperactive man is one Mr. Billy Eichner. Now, I know what you’re thinking, what does ANY of this have to do with “Saturday Night Live” (Aside from being BFF’s with Amy Poehler via “Parks & Recreation”)? The answer is surprisingly more than you think…
MY 75 KIDS (Original Airdate: 3/14/1992) – A couple years ago on “Late Night w/Seth Meyers”, Billy Eichner was a guest; and it was on this show where he dropped a pretty interesting piece of trivia—that he actually appeared on an episode of SNL when he was a Child Actor. As soon as he showed the still-shot of his brief, wordless appearance behind John Goodman & Chris Farley on a Staircase in the Yellow shirt, my immediate thought was “Oh, Crap, I remember THAT Sketch!” Which is weird because this is probably one of the more obscure ones of the 90s. The premise itself is pretty one-note, but actually kind of a mix between Silly & Corny if you’re a fan of cheesy sitcoms from the 70s & 80s. As the opening prologue states, Goodman plays a fertility doctor who’s accused of inseminating his patients with his own sperm, 75 of them as the title states. Instead of a Prison sentence, it is decided that a sitcom about the Doctor & his kids is a better punishment (certainly not cruel, but still unusual). From there, we get the typical cheesiness of the sitcoms of the era—complete with an “Also Starring: Jamie Farr” credit. Sadly, Farr does NOT make an appearance here, but Dana Carvey saves the day by playing “Uncle Charlie” from “My Three Sons” (and if you get THAT reference, you need more time outside than I do). The rest of the sketch is Goodman telling the bulk of his children which magazine he……..uh……..”Pleasured” himself to resulting in that child’s conception (Though I had to laugh when “Newsweek” was one of the ones mentioned). Other than that, the sketch is both harmlessly absurd and absurdly harmless; and thanks to Billy’s cameo as a kid, I guess that makes him a 4th cousin twice removed to the SNL family (Which also gives him something in common with Kirsten Dunst).
Now that Summer is here…Surf’s Up!
BIKINI BEACH PARTY (Original Airdate: 5/10/2014) – I don’t know why, but I always find blood to be hilarious when executed in surprise bursts—another sketch somewhere down the road further proves that point…but I digress. Blood notwithstanding, sketches like this one are indescribable (In a good way, I promise). Something about this one reminds me of Other sketches with bizarre plots; like Pee Wee Herman trying to find a Mouse in a bottle of Coke in order to save a Dinosaur theme park (which I’ll get to), or Will Ferrell & Jack Black duking it out in a Guitar battle at a place with an inexplicable Gas Leak (Ditto). The buildup to the punchline was just OK, with nuanced “Age Difference” jokes and Aidy Bryant being the scene stealer—as is her right. But then you get to the (First) whale blowing up, and I honestly did not expect it to be so Bloody. Nor did I expect that one moment to be the funniest one of this particular show…which is weird, because you know it’s coming, you know what’s going to happen, and yet when it does, it still gave me a big laugh. Of course, they had to squander that moment by having a Second whale blow up (Less is More, people!). But at least the initial shock of the whale blowing up is good enough for me. The ending was kinda weak, but again, the first explosion kinda eclipses everything else. One small nitpick, I couldn’t help but notice that host for the episode Charlize Theron was wearing Sneakers while she was “Surfing” in the sketch—I’m sure that’s a question of creative/artistic licensing, but something about that just doesn’t seem right. Like it almost defeats the purpose of “Hanging 10”…but I digress…
Today’s entry is a list of my personal favorite bloopers/mistakes/errors in SNL history…And since it’s a list and it’s FAR too big to put on this page, I put it on the Blog instead. Click Here, give it a read, and we’ll see you tomorrow!
Since the new “Match Game” with Alec Baldwin hosting premieres this weekend*, let’s take a look at one of his more “Underrated” efforts. In the 16 times Baldwin hosted the show, he’s done things that range from Iconic to “Meh”, but he was never a Bad host. And while “Schweddy Balls” remains the dubious zenith of the sketches he did, there was one sketch of his that I always found charming—in a “Murphy’s Law/Schadenfreude” kind of way…
BUCKWELL’S FOLLIES (Original Airdate: 1/20/1996) – Or, as some of you might call it, the “You Shot Lassie!” sketch. I don’t know what it is about seeing a random person’s downfall that’s so funny all the time, but this has to be one of my favorite variants of one (“Falling Down” and/or Frank Grimes on “The Simpsons” are other examples of “Funny” downfalls). Just about everything that could go wrong for Baldwin’s Buckwell character did go wrong as he runs for Governor; he shot Lassie–as David Koechner’s pained whine constantly reminds us though the sketch–cursed at a baby, wiped his ass with a flag, defamed “Babe” and then wiped his ass with a baby–And say THAT sentence without giggling a little on the inside. After all of these increasingly bizarre circumstances happened to Baldwin, did ANYBODY expect his character to win his campaign? Well…as the ending crawl states, the only way to recover from these kinds of circumstances is a combination of denial/insanity that only a crawl can describe (Because trying to put it to film might’ve been hard to convey). At either rate, this is probably one of Baldwin’s most underrated gems; and further proof that you can throw just about anything Baldwin’s way, and he’ll still be up for anything—sort of in the same way Buck Henry was up for anything whenever he hosted.
(*NOTE: In the future, I will try not to tie-in sketches with movie/TV releases unless I feel it to be necessary–Spoiler Alert, Take a Wild Guess who I’ll be covering when the new “Ghostbusters” comes out in a few weeks.)
Somewhere in my own personal Top 10 of all-time great SNL Cast members is one Mr. Orville Willis Forte IV…Thankfully he shortened it to “Will” and managed to pull off 8 seasons worth of some of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen on the show. Despite all that he achieved during his SNL tenure, there is One sketch of his that—unfortunately—got lost in the shuffle thanks to a number of events that happened during the episode where it came from…
SPELLING BEE (Original Airdate: 12/17/2005) – You would think that an idea as absurd as Will Forte catastrophically yet casually misspelling a simple word for nearly 90 seconds straight would’ve gained more traction on a number of “Best Of” lists/specials through the years. Unfortunately, this sketch had the misfortune of being a runt among several 800 lb. Gorillas that night—Particularly, Neil Young as that night’s MG, Jack Black rockin’ the house in the Monologue, The “Two A-Holes” making their debut, Robert Smigel using Darlene Love for the sake of a Rankin-Bass Parody, and some other short film involving a lion named Aslan & the Magnolia Bakery all while veteran cast member Chris Parnell & then newcomer Andy Samberg rap about their day (*AHEM!!*). If it weren’t for either/all of these sketches, this one with a charmingly awkward Forte would’ve stood alone as the highlight of that show…Alas, it has now become a mere footnote in SNL Lore—not unlike Forte himself. At either rate, this is probably the most quintessential, non-MacGruber Forte sketch (Except the one where he dances like a spaz in front of Peyton Manning, “Potato Chip Thief”, and another sketch we’ll get to Later). As if Forte’s seemingly spaced-out/Tim Calhoun-ish delivery wasn’t enough, “Tenacious D” shows up as the Cherry on Top. It may have been the runt of the litter for this episode, but then again Wilbur the Pig was a runt in “Charlotte’s Web”, and we all know what happened with him next (My sincere apologies for a creaky metaphor).
THE NUDE HOUSE OF WACKY PEOPLE (Original Airdate: 11/15/1989) –First of all, I had to giggle a little when looking up the video for this one, especially when there was a disclaimer that said “No Actual Nudity”. I’m guessing the title of the sketch itself is sort of a take on how awkward Japan/English translations can be sometimes (Isn’t that right, Jimmy James?); in fact, nowhere is that more evident than in the end of the sketch…but Let’s not jump ahead. Now then, I don’t want to say anything pretentious like “This sketch could be a Spiritual Successor to 1981’s ‘Script In Development’” (More on THAT One later), but the more I think about it, it kind of is. Only this time, Mike Myers–in full-on “Asian Blackface” mode–is the one that’s doing the narrating of the random (and I Do mean RANDOM) activities that are happening here. Disguised as a preview of a TV show produced by Columbia Pictures’ new Japanese President, Myers is doing the talking while Dana Carvey, Victoria Jackson and some kids do the physical stuff. This includes Crashing a stock footage Car (TRIVIA: That car crash scene comes from the Asian/Blaxploitation Movie “East Meets Watts”—Thanks, Joel Hodgeson!), Dana Carrying hundreds of “American” Hamburgers into the house, Fighting a Bear, Throwing Fudge in Victoria’s face, Fighting a bear, Kids complaining about first world problems like not having homework to do, and fighting a bear…all under the guise of the late Phil Hartman’s “Ronald Reagan seal of Approval” while Myers remains both upbeat and incredulous at the same time. How this wound up making the “Best of 1989-90” Starmaker tape remains one of life’s great mysteries; You could toss a Dictionary & a thesaurus in a blender & set it on puree before asking yourself if anything in this sketch made sense…then again, as long as it still made me laugh a little, I guess even nonsense can make sense.
WOLVERINES (Original Air Date: 10/11/1975) – The one that started it all is also probably one of the most enigmatic sketches in the 40 year history of the show. Nobody knew what to expect at the time it aired, nobody knew who was who, nobody knew how the piece would set the tone for the rest of the Episode, let alone the next 5 decades. That being said, Within those first 100 seconds of airtime the sketch all by itself was a short, simple concept. Michael O’Donoghue teaches John Belushi’s foreigner a series of bizarre non-sequiturs that just happen to involve wolverines. While the Wolverine lines have their moments, the true punchline of Belushi mimicking O’Donoghue’s Heart Attack at the end has the sketch’s biggest laugh. Chevy walks out as a Stagehand (In one of the rare times he DOESN’T fall down to start the show), and we’re off & running. There was certainly a feeling of “I Don’t Get it” when it first aired, but perhaps that was the point. Nothing had to make sense, it was late night TV on a Saturday, nothing was established as far as what the rules were because of how desolate Late Night TV was back then—especially on the Weekends when nothing would happen anyway aside from old movies/reruns in a 3 (or more) channel atmosphere. Though certainly not a comedic masterpiece in its original context, “Wolverines” certainly earned its place in comedy history over time just for launching SNL—As the old Chinese proverb goes, “All Great Journeys begin with but a single step”. All things considered, it does what it’s supposed to do pretty effectively—if not in a no frills way first.