In what's new with Will Forte news, it's all good news. Forte just won a role in the big-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical, Rock of Ages, joining a cast that includes Tom Cruise, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Malin Akerman, Bryan Cranston, Mary J. Blige, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julianne Hough and Russell Brand. Forte's role -- Mitch Miley, network news anchor -- wasn't in the stage edition.
And in this new Funny or Die video, Forte forgets to remove his audio tour device when he visits an L.A. museum and learns a lot more than he bargained for. Also features Erinn Hayes and Joe Lo Truglio. Roll the clip!
Remember last spring, when not-quite spring chicken Betty White was going to host Saturday Night Live, and some people loved seeing the elderly actress do it, while others thought, isn't she a bit old to be hosting a 90-minute live TV show? Well, SNL figured out how to ease Betty White's burden by surrounding her with additional talent.
Now remember last week, when aging queen Elton John was going to host SNL and be its musical guest, and some people loved the idea, while others thought What Up With That? Well, SNL used the same formula for Sir Elton John, bringing in veteran SNL host Tom Hanks, bringing back Will Forte, and bringing in new New York Knick Carmelo Anthony just because, and also Jake Gyllenhaal because he had a new movie to promote, but that wasn't enough to give him the hosting gig. So. How did that all work out?
About as well as you might have expected. Meaning: Sort of. Sir Elton John did a really great job of standing in one spot and looking at his cue cards. The show made use of his personal and professional life to find plenty of jokes about gay people, rich people, the Royal Family, and Broadway. Yay?
But any good recap begins at the beginning, so let's get to it.
We open with The Lawrence Welk Show, or rather, the Judice show, in which Kristen Wiig plays the fourth sister (other three sisters may vary due to cast changes) with tiny hands, a big forehead, and an isolated personality. Fred Armisen as Welk does much better in this cold open than he ever does as President Barack Obama. Elton John is on the piano. Abby Elliott, Vanessa Bayer and Nasim Pedrad are the "normal" singers. And as Judice...wait a second. Hold on now. What's this? I'm just receiving word from the NBC.com description of the video that Wiig's character name is Dooneesee? When did this happen? Nevermind. Because it's not really all that important. All that matters is that Wiig's fourth sister is supposed to be a freak we laugh at. Got it? Good. Now forget about it.
Elton John's monologue. He's rich. He's gay. He's chubby. He has gay sex! And he made that same crack about getting rich off of royalties earlier last week when he was a guest on Fallon. I do wonder, though, who he keeps glancing over at during the monologue.
It's been awhile since they did a fake ad after the monologue, and they skipped it here, too.
Hey, they brought back ESPN Classic team of Twinkle and Stink! You know what that means...Will Forte is back alongside Jason Sudeikis! And the audience reaction was...nothing? Nada. Zip. Not enough a recognition laugh. It's like they didn't know that Forte had left the cast this season. What gives, audience? Don't you realize that this season of SNL has been missing Will Forte? But there was more, much more, in this sketch. The audience did clap and hoot for Carmela St. Knix, aka Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks as Wiig's shot-put competition. This week's ESPN Classic sponsor, K-Y Jelly, gives Suds and Forte plenty of chances to make sex jokes, and lookie here, it's Tom Hanks as Forte's brother, Greg Stink. The sex jokes are easy, of course. But it was something to watch as Suds and Hanx held that pause after Suds went for the taco rhyme. And then the audience applauded before the end of the sketch when Hanks exited offstage (an exit unseen on camera)!?! You've got to work on your live audience skills, live audience.
When people say that something isn't quite right about this season of Saturday Night Live, whether or not they know it, they're saying that they miss Will Forte.
While it's true that Forte was far from the only member of the cast and writing staff to leave SNL over the summer, his departure left a void that the show has yet to fill several episodes into its 36th season. Sure, the thing you remember most about 2008 was how SNL capitalized upon and influenced the presidential campaign and election -- thanks to Tina Fey's Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler's Hillary Clinton -- and the statistics will show that from 2008-2010, Kristen Wiig has become the breakout star of the show both in terms of screen time and recurring memorable characters. But in his last few years on SNL, Forte provided a necessary counterbalance to almost every live episode by bringing that one element that SNL always has needed: the wildcard.
Forte may not have been a "wild and crazy" guy, as his SNL predecessors literally were, or in the case of the previous big SNL Will F. as in Ferrell, figuratively. Forte was more the "weird and crazy" type. The guy whom you could count on to prove why late-night TV is different from primetime TV. The guy who brought a sense of danger, although based in just enough silliness as to not be scary.
Seeing him last night return to 30 Rock as Jenna's impersonator/boyfriend Paul was a highlight, but Forte proved his worth even more so earlier this week on Conan, impersonating Ted Turner, riding in on a stuffed buffalo to insult Conan O'Brien -- and saving a failed joke by making Conan laugh even harder. Roll the clip!
As I've noticed a lack of buzz throughout this season, with much less chatter online during the live broadcasts or Monday-morning gushing about particular scenes, I thought about the things that people had been buzzing about. And Forte was usually front and slightly off-center in the things that got everyone's attention.
Before you get too excited by thinking I've rounded up some interviews with the brand-new members of Saturday Night Live, let's remember that Will Forte just left the cast and moved back to California.
The folks at JoBlo got on the horn with Will Forte, and he told them that eight years was enough for him at SNL, and that it was time for him to take a break. "I just wanted to be close to my family," Forte says, specifically mentioning his sister, a niece and an impending nephew. "If you really want to do good work there, you really have to give it your all and that makes having a life outside work kinda tough." He also said he'd return in a flash to do a one-off of MacGruber or anything else they ask, just not another full-time year. JoBlo says they'll post the rest of their interview next week.
Colin Quinn, meanwhile, left the show a long time ago, but his off-Broadway show Long Story Short has been making waves and getting raves (see clips of Colin Quinn and his producer/director Jerry Seinfeld). This interview with The A.V. Club gets off to a rough start and doesn't quite land the dismount, but in the middle, Quinn says some interesting things about his show, his previous gun ownership and other matters.
What about people who still work at SNL? SNL fan blog Live From New York, It's Saturday Night! got writer Michael Patrick O'Brien to dish quite a bit about his first year on the staff, as well as how he got into comedy.
The folks behind the SNL sketch-to-film adaptation of MacGruber really have won me over with their promotional efforts this week, and even just in the past night. How did they do it? More like how did Will Forte do it, is like it.
Forte told a story of how his mom and relatives visited him on the movie set on the very day he filmed a graphic nude scene with a celery stalk (SPOILER ALERT!), then joined The Roots to sing a customized version of the MacGruber theme song, letting us know it's earned its "Hard R" rating. With his mom and sisters in the audience. Joyous.
Also last night, Forte and co-star Kristen Wiig appeared throughout NBC's primetime lineup in a series of parodies of the network's PSA campaign, "The More You Know." Each spot spoofed the very show that was airing at the time. Nice.
Forte also granted an interesting interview with The Onion's The A.V. Club, in which he talks quite a bit about his various SNL characters, the nature of recurring characters, and more. Here's an excerpt in which he takes on the inevitable question of why make an SNL movie:
We weren’t too concerned. We just went in thinking, “Let’s try to make the best movie we can, and not worry about how it stacks up.” It does get kind of frustrating, because sometimes you will read articles that talk about it like… [Pauses.] If people have a problem with SNL films in general, they’ll just jump on it and say, “Oh, this can’t be good, because it’s an SNL film.” They’ll never even watch it and give it a chance. I’m really proud of this movie, and I hope people will give it a chance, because I think it’s way different than people probably expect it to be. I think they’ll be very pleasantly surprised.
And if you need to know more about the MacGruber movie itself, why don't you just watch the official trailer:
If I were to tell you that Saturday Night Live closed out its 35th season with a perfectly enjoyable episode, would you believe me? Of course you would. I'm very convincing. If I were to tell you that SNL's 35th season finale also produced little that'll show up years later on a "greatest hits" video, then, well, you'd probably believe that, too. After a 34th season that tapped into the American zeitgeist and brought the show back into the front and center of even the most casual viewer's minds, this season felt wildly inconsistent -- but leave it to Alec Baldwin, hosting for a record-tying 15th time, to bring it all home in timely fashion. Everybody got a chance to shine. Nobody dropped the ball nor did they even choose to announce their farewells. Just on with the show.
Let's begin with that cold open, shall we? SNL poked fun at the oil executives who cannot either accept the blame for BP's tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, nor can they figure out how to stop it. All in under three minutes!?!? Short and to the point, with Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis as the oil executives talking about their outrageously idiotic ideas for stopping the spill. Club soda gets everything out, right?
Then Baldwin came out for his monologue, and mentioning tying Steve Martin with his 15th hosting stint on SNL, you'd think Martin might be there. He has shown up plenty of times before for a cameo. This time, however, he's stuck on video. Considering Baldwin just delivered the commencement address to NYU students, why not also help this cast graduate for the summer? Let's hear it, "Dr. Alec Balwin, OB-GYN." Baldwin also referenced last week's Betty White episode, as well as a tacit acknowledgement of the difficulty of being a celebrity as well as the joys of finding success in a sitcom. Here's looking at you...
And we're right into the SNL Digital Short. No ads yet. Instead it's Andy Samberg with a song-and-dance routine that's as easy to figure out as the powdered mustache on his face. He's all coked up! Really. That's it. That's the whole premise. If you're looking for a plot twist, well, keep on looking. Or do some blow (don't do blow, kids or big kids, it's bad for you). The execution still manages some laughs, though.
And still no ads. Instead we're on the set of "Arizona Evenings," so obviously we're going to find a scene that satirizes Arizona's latest attempt to show how it's the least tolerant state in the union. By pushing forward another new wacky character from Kristen Wiig. Obviously. No, wait. What? So this is a TV melodrama, and Baldwin, Samberg, director Kenan Thompson, Bobby Moynihan and others are interrupted by the substitute script supervisor with big front teeth, Starfish (Wiig). Who cannot stop from walking into the shot. And it's only a two-line scene. How and why is her mouth in the shot? How and why is this happening? I'm sure there's a metaphor in here somewhere, and if you're not an avid watcher of SNL, it doesn't feel nearly as hard to swallow this whole.
OK. Now we have a commercial break.
We open cold with the Lawrence Welk (Fred Armisen) take on Mother's Day, so many tiny bubbles and a tease to the Jugglettes: Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey and Molly Shannon. Not a reference to the Juggalos so far as I know. OK, audience, cool it. Stop applauding just because you see Betty White alive. Here she's mother to the sister act of Janice (Amy Poehler), Peggy (Maya Rudolph), Clara (Ana Gasteyer) and tiny-handed big-foreheaded Judice (Kristen Wiig), who sing with Will Forte. Look. They got all of the old ladies in the open with one of Wiig's crazy characters and gave White as little as possible to do. Don't get me wrong. It's cute and all. But this is a comedy entertainment show. Let's try to keep some perspective on it? Just showing up does not automatically warrant complete fawning. A little bit of fawning is expected, though. See? Perspective.
White makes it to center stage in a quicker time than either of my grandmothers did when they were 88 (especially since one never made it to that age). "It's great to be here for a number of reasons," White said. She reminds us that in the 1950s, they didn't want to go live, either, but they didn't know how to do it otherwise. She thanks Facebook, before mocking it. And let there be old people jokes. White does a nice aside while joking about poking. "Guess what? Jay-Z is here! If I had a dime for everytime I've said that, I'd have a dime!" Nicely played. Nicely executed.
MacGruber! Ready for the movie? Ready or not, MacGruber is working with his Nana (White) now, who keeps embarrassing him in front of Vicki (Wiig). As in past weeks, SNL has put the night's trilogy of MacGruber bits into one clip, which will roll at your convenience:
An NPR scene brings back "Delicious Dish," a recurring scene hosted by Gasteyer and Shannon -- and best known for their "Schweddy Balls" bit with then-host Alec Baldwin. Tonight they're celebrating dietary fiber. Their guest is Florence Dusty (White), and she is known for her muffin. "I can't wait to taste your muffin." And so on, and so forth. Dusty admits that bakers of her day may have dry, crusty or even yeasty muffins. Just ask her how long it has been since her muffin had a cherry. We dare you. So yes, you'll probably want to see this:
The first ad of the night is the Snickers Super Bowl ad with Betty White, and don't forget Abe Vigoda! The second ad is for the MacGruber movie. The third ad is for beer. The fourth ad is for Sex and the City 2, which you need to drink a lot of beer before deciding that's a good idea. The fifth ad is for an iPhone. The seventh ad is for Betty White's new TV Land sitcom.
Funny thing about gossip: They rely on spies instead of attending actual events that are open to the press and reporting on them. I had to laugh when I saw this New York Daily News gossip item about James Franco, which alleged that Franco's reps got in the way of a person who asked "some dicey questions" at the panel following the Tribeca Film Festival screening of his SNL documentary, Saturday Night. Where were Franco's reps? When did the crowd get uncomfortable? I'm confused, because I was standing in the room. So were plenty of other reporters who stuck around for a second panel Q&A. Here, for instance, is the report from Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times on the SNL panel.
So here is some additional real footage from the panel, in which Franco talks about the process of documenting a week in the life of SNL, followed by reactions from cast members Will Forte, Kenan Thompson and Jenny Slate. Roll the clip!
Running around the city, but here's a brief glimpse inside the panel discussion that followed Sunday's Tribeca Film Festival screening of Saturday Night, James Franco's documentary look behind the scenes of a week in the life of SNL.
Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly wondered if cast members had a grand plan in developing a new character for the show, and the panelists -- Will Forte, Kenan Thompson and Jenny Slate -- said no. Slate said she just hopes to make her fellow cast members laugh at the table read, and that her first recurring character as a rookie (Teena Teena Cheneuse) came about in one of those late-night writing sessions when her original sketch (which did feature a broken doorbell) wasn't going so well. Thompson agreed that he merely hoped to be funny, rather than hoping that a character would take off and become a regular. When Karger turned his attention to Forte, he wondered about how a character can take off and become a movie, as Forte's MacGruber will do later this month.
That led to this discussion between Forte and Thompson, not just about MacGruber, but also about the importance of writing your own sketches. Roll the clip (with my apologies for not getting a better spot for audio/visual quality control purposes):
We open cold with President Obama (Fred Armisen) blabbing away something about financial reform, and yes, I know Obama gave a speech to Wall Street on Thursday, but that doesn't mean we can go a couple of minutes into the show without a single joke or laugh line. Not a one. I started to fall asleep. Granted, I'm working on very little sleep over the weekend, but still. You know how some political comedians say the jokes sometimes write themselves? It's also nice when comedians write something funny, too, just in case the real-life joke isn't so funny.
Gabourey Sidibe is hosting. You know that famous comedic actress? Well, she's young, right? That's all that counts, right? I don't know what counts. She's not going to be one of those sassy young big black women, is she? One thing's for certain. She's not Precious. But she is singing with the SNL cast in the background as part of the doo-wop phase that reminds us how great black people had it in the 1950s. So great. Fun fact: The last time I was in the Pacific time zone and missed SNL when it aired live, January Jones was the host. That turned out great. So great. Lowering expectations now. Even knowing what I know a full day later.
Oh, look, it's the return of SNL's Suze Orman parody, starring Kristen Wiig as Orman, dispensing financial advice on the TV. Sidibe plays a Jamaican nurse guest who wrote a book. Orman has some jokes about her lesbian cat and such, but they're not big laughs, and Sidibe is focused too much on reading her cue cards on the first take. I'll say this: Wiig is good at channeling Orman. This sketch falling somewhat flat is not her fault.
For some reason, that reason most likely being Kenan Thompson developing his Steve Harvey impersonation, we get a spoof of game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire, with guest host Steve Harvey (Kenan Thompson), and contestants played by Abby Elliott, Bobby Moynihan and Sidibe. Bill Hader provides the voiceover. They also use this sketch as an excuse for Harvey to stumble over the pronunciation of Iceland's volcano and cities. There's a throwaway line at the end suggesting Larry the Cable Guy would guest host Wheel of Fortune. So, that means this sketch is suggesting that comedians should not be game show hosts? If that's the underlying message, then why, SNL, why?
We're on a stoop with Armisen and Thompson, being told to quiet down by an old lady (Sidibe), old Mrs. Johnson. Sidibe is messing up her lines again. And yet, you see, the point is she's not an old crazy lady, but an old lady who knows a lot about a lot of the things she is yelling.
SNL Digital Short: Cherry Battle. Does it make sense? Should it? Is it referencing something none of us know? Is it a technical marvel to show Samberg and Sidibe spitting several cherries from one mouth to the other? That last question is a surefire yes. Weird, but proudly so.
The cold open is not political (yay!) and featured Larry King (Fred Armisen), in the news this week for his eighth divorce. But as I realized tonight, how many people in the SNL audience (live or at home) even realize who King is, that he is on CNN nightly, and that his looks and fundamental lack of understanding of the people he's interviewing is what makes him funny? I am old. We are old. That said, if you're talking 34-and-up demos, this was a great way to work in King's travails, the Iceland volcano, courtesy of Bjork (Wiig), and the impacts on air travel with Virgin Airlines honcho Richard Branson (Bill Hader). Bjork didn't quite generate enough laughs, nor did King's mispronunciation of Lady Gaga as Lady GooGoo. The audience did respond to Hader's Branson, though. And they knew enough not to drag it out, although it still felt long. Weird, right?
Phillipe's monologue was almost perfect. The promotional start was, well, necessary, but nice way to tie MacGruber in with other SNL recurring characters wondering when they'd get their own movies; among them: Target Lady (Wiig), Andy Samberg's early 1990s hip-hopper from "Dick in a Box," and Kenan Thompson's host from "What Up With That?" When he broke into song, you hoped he'd break out the whole sketch, and though Thompson did get in two digs on MacGruber, and Jason Sudeikis danced a little bit (sort of), and Armisen fake-played the sax, they didn't really go for it. Which made it feel a little incomplete. Better, funnier to take over the monologue and make Phillipe work to throw it to the fake commercial.
Which was a repeat fake ad for Broadview Security, in which everyone wants to attack a woman (Nasim Pedrad) in her home.
And then another edition of ESPN Classic's Twinkle and Stink, this time from the Today Sponge Women's Weightlifting Championships of 1986. As always, it's really inconsequential who is competing -- in this case, Sue Ferrigno (Wiig) and Olivia Newton Cougar Mellencamp (Phillipe) -- because it's about the broadcast interplay between the mustachioed duo of Pete Twinkle (Sudeikis) and Greg Stink (Forte). I haven't crunched the numbers on this, but it feels like we're seeing them as often as we used to see Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri as the cheerleaders from a decade ago. And, just as in every other one of these sketches, the jokes come from Sudeikis coming up with slogans for the lady product and Forte not knowing how to answer questions. Is there a formula within 30 Rock that determines precisely how many weeks can go before recurring this sketch effectively? I mean, I usually enjoy it. So it must be working. This formula.
Finallly. Some actual ads. And then...
If you're lucky, every once in a while, you get to experience one of your favorite TV shows as an audience member, from inside the belly of the beast -- or if you're talking about last night's SNL, inside the belly of the Bieber. Now. I was teased for using that phrase on Twitter last night, but when it turns out that my wordplay is nowhere nearly as creepy as how SNL itself turned out, well, jeepers creepers Biebers, I'm fairly sure all of the tween girls who tuned in were shocked and amazed by all of the aggressively sexual material. Not that it wasn't all funny. Much of it was. Just thinking maybe it was a bit more mature than its audience. Heck. Maybe not. Kids these days, right? I don't know.
But I can tell you that as an audience member at the dress rehearsal, they made some great decisions about where to trim, and what to cut entirely for the live show. If only you could have seen the other ad spoof they had ready...not going to say anything more lest they decide to air it next week (or during the Betty White episode). Recap, shall we?
Considering what a poor track record the show has had recently with its political cold opens, this one with President Obama (Fred Armisen) leading viewers through the Census form was surprisingly good. And, ahem, aggressively sexual. A question asking if you fantasize about sex with individuals living in your house -- as in incest, in every case except for the foreign exchange student? There's also the first of multiple jokes about Obama's health-care reform, and some fun with stereotypes and getting you to reveal things that should be left confidential. At this point, it's not even worth debating Armisen's Obama. It has become, like SNL's original presidential caricatures, something that doesn't bother worrying about precision.
OK, so Tina Fey walks out for her monologue, and immediately I recall a recent interview in which Fey described how she knows what dresses work for and which do not, and this dress is designed to show off as much cleavage as possible without getting an FCC fine. I mean. Just. What? Anyhow. The audience already seems less of a teen scream crowd than the dress rehearsal crowd. Good nanny joke. Will Forte as a creepy personal trainer. Fun fact: In dress, Fey had Andy Samberg playing her husband. At air, she had Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. Upgrade! At both dress and air, she also had Steve Martin playing her tax lawyer. An early Justin Bieber appearance, and Kenan Thompson as Chaka Khan. All that, plus a tease that she'll play Sarah Palin later in the show. (Guessing that the Chaka Khan song is what's holding this off of the legal Internet for now)
Brownie Husband is not an actual Duncan Hines product, but let's talk about it. No. Let's not talk about it. Just watch Tina Fey get down and dirty with a giant brownie shaped like a man. Her commitment sells the bit, but if you want to keep track of the types of women Fey plays tonight, and how important sex is thematically to the sketches, this would be a good time to get out your notepads.
No real commercials yet. We need to get to CBS coverage of the Masters golf tournament with Jim Nantz (Jason Sudeikis), Nick Faldo (Bill Hader) and special commentary from slutty Las Vegas model and party gal Ashlyn St. Cloud (Fey), who naturally, has had sex with Tiger Woods. Nice getting Michael Jordan's name into it, as well as making fun of golf as a sport, and golf's own heritage (even though I admittedly love playing golf). They also manage to get their parody of Tiger's new Nike ad within the broader context of the golfing sketch. And a "that's what Tiger said," to boot? I'd have suggested they get in a dig at Faldo, but only actual golfing fans would have gotten that joke.
Ads, ads, ads. Anyone noticing how even the SNL bumpers show Tina Fey in sexy poses and outfits? Just me? No, not just me. Carry on.
Movie stars on the red carpet get asked plenty of silly questions. Would they like to play a game? (If you say that last sentence as a talking Radio Shack TRS-80, you get bonus points in everyone's books)
So when CollegeHumor's Jeff and Streeter had the chance to visit both SXSW in Austin, as well as the MacGruber movie premiere screening featuring SNL's Will Forte and Kristen Wiig, well, why not test their puzzle skills with a game? They say the famous comedians are better at the game than the public, but what was that in the beginning about "randomly" setting the timer? Hmmm. Anyhow. Still worth a minute or two to waste your time. Roll it!
With all of the talk last week about Betty White anchoring the mother of all Mother's Day editions of Saturday Night Live in May with several former female SNL cast members helping out, it's maybe a good a time as any to talk about the role women play on SNL. Because there are typically so few women in the cast in any year, you'd think that would mean we'd get to see more of them throughout the season. That's not how it tends to work, however. It's almost as if SNL subscribes to a Highlander theory for female cast members: There can be only one. Amy Poehler dominated her final seasons on the show, and when she left, Kristen Wiig soon became seen in multiple scenes with recurring characters. Last night, however, belonged to newcomer Nasim Pedrad. Sign of things to come? Or just a one-off? Something for you to think about, as we get to tonight's recap...
OK. As someone who lives in New York, I've heard more than plenty about newly outed, ahem, Congressman Eric Massa, who left the House because of aggressive tickle fighting? That's a thing? You can get kicked out of Congress for tickling? Well, if it involves your male aides, whom you have live with you, and allegations of sexual harassment, that sounds more serious. Anyhow. I don't think people who live outside of New York and may not be up on the news would need a lot of catching up time -- which is why the cold open's voiceover intro from Bill Hader seemed especially lengthy. You could open with the scene. It's an exit interview. They're going to tell us what happened, anyhow. I can only imagine that the voiceover will become more necessary years from now when this season comes out on DVD and viewers go, oh, what is this about again? Oh, right. This guy. Bobby Moynihan plays Massa, getting debriefed, as it were by Wiig's Congressional bureaucrat. With nothing to hide, Massa happily recounts his 50th birthday party, with tickling by and with aides played by Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader and Will Forte. And, yeah, "snorkeling." Yes. That's right. We get an act-out of oral sex to open the show, followed by footage of a sailor rubbing his crotch. This beats last week's funny-free political opening, but when you have such a gimme with the real-life material, how could it not be? Wait a second. This looks like the "dress rehearsal" version -- in which the opening voiceover appears in an on-screen crawl. Makes more sense? Also: Moynihan's mic did drop out for a couple of seconds in the "live" version. So yes. Makes more sense.
Jude Law is our host again, and quickly reminds us of the last time he hosted, with musical guest Ashlee Simpson and a lip-sync joke. Then he references his starring turn on Broadway playing Hamlet, by boiling down the Shakespearean classic into a quick version -- essentially making sure nobody should bother paying to go see the full version. Though he gets in a gag on Jeremy Piven. And a jab about cell phones going off during Hamlet's "to be or not to be" soliloquy. He tells us he's on Twitter during his time offstage? Hmmm.
Our first of a couple of parody ads. Kenan Thompson and Abby Elliott climb into a Toyota Prius. Which immediately speeds out of control. "Did you step on the brakes?" It's...a Ford ad. This felt obligatory.
During the break, two observations. Wow: Comedy Central is putting a ton of money and energy into promoting its new animated series, Ugly Americans. I hope it's good. Also, right before SNL came on my TV, Mercedes aired an ad voiced over by Jon Hamm. Yes. It sounded exactly like Don Draper making an ad campaign pitch to Mercedes. It was so meta, my face melted. What do we think of that? I'll take your answers offline.
I know my hopes were up, your hopes were up, comedy nerds everywhere held their collective breaths last night to see what would happen when Zach Galifianakis hosted SNL. It wasn't his first time hanging out there -- he'd been there as a writer for a fleeting moment many years ago -- and there was a sense on many people's parts (his included) that his sense of humor was, to borrow a phrase from the show's early years, too "wild and crazy" for the show. And yet. There he was. So let us recap.
Last night, I gave a first impression during the show that everything that included Galifianakis was amazing and awesome, and that all of the "skitches" without him were not quite so much. So how about that cold open? The C-SPAN presidential address from Barack Obama (Fred Armisen) on health-care reform, and repeating the mistakes of the Clintons, with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Kristen Wiig) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Will Forte) was so cold, you could hear the studio creaking when Armisen paused for what he had been told would be laughter. Watching the actual health-care debate might actually be funnier than this. Nope.
Alas, once the credits rolled, we got our first glimpse of Galifianakis. From the first words: "Stop clapping!" To his thanks for "being back hosting Saturday Night Live again," to the rapid-fire jokes. Yes. If you're a big fan, you may have heard one or two of these lines before. But have you ever seen him say any of this on live network television? No. No you hadn't. I could tell he was even a little bit nervous about it all, but damn did he pull it off. Loved, loved how he turned the audience immediately by saying how he lives in Brooklyn, but hates it, and without saying Williamsburg, accurately described the skinny hipsters and mocked them with his subway calls. "Hey, everybody, here comes the choo-choo!" The way he does this, and then announces he will "go to the piano and talk about myself," followed by "I don't really know what I'm doing here." It's just so great. Even greater is how he sells some of his more dangerous punchlines by looking up from the piano and staring directly into the camera. Then barking at the SNL house band. And the Hoobastank line. It was one of those times you could watch SNL and the Live part really came alive.
Quincy Jones (Kenan Thompson) opened this episode, introducing the all-star song "We Are The World 3" to address the disaster which is and was the 2010 remake of "We Are The World," which featured "randos" such as Nipsy Hustle. Nice reference! Jennifer Lopez herself opened the song as Rihanna (or some variation of her), Kristen Wiig showed off her singing chops as Gwen Stefani, and a collection of characters soon followed. I have to say, seeing the dazed and confused look on Bobby Moynihan's face in the chorus scenes was Precious! Nasim Pedrad played hot crazy Shakira, Bill Hader used a Joker-like perma-grin to utter Eddie Vedder, Will Forte as Willie Nelson, Jason Sudeikis as Adam Lambert (?), with Jenny Slate as Lady Gaga, Abby Elliott as Melissa Etheridge, and Moynihan played David Crosby. There weren't a lot of jokes, however, in the song, save for a nice play on the observation that Fonzworth Bentley was in the chorus -- lettting J.Lo confirm he was the "Umbrella" man for Sean Combs (when she was dating him?!). Oh, Andy Samberg was there as Josh Groban, with Fred Armisen as Carlos Santana, to apologize for being in the remake. Yep. Still lacking in real funny punchlines. Which could portend awful things ahead. Until. They cut back to Kenan/Quincy to say "Hmmm. Well, that was pretty bad, too." Good cover!
Jennifer Lopez looks hot, and in her monologue, she talks about how much she has grown up -- married with kids -- since the last time she hosted SNL. Thompson shows up in the audience as Dante, the guy in her former entourage who used to hold her orange juice, and cannot get a new job because of his past job experience. "You can't live in the past," Lopez says. But her drag queens (played by Hader and Sudeikis) begged to differ. But. Butt! Did you see her turn her back on us at the end to show us her back end? She's putting on the hard sell tonight, if you know what I mean. You know what I mean.
They found a quick way into the almost-obligatory Olympic curling sketch by going back in time to 1987 so they could have their "ESPN Classic" broadcast team of Pete Twinkle and Greg Stink (Sudeikis and Forte) cover the Ladies World Cup of Curling from the Tacoma Dome, sponsored by Gyne-Lotrimin. As with previous installments of this sketch, the lady athletes (such as Finland's Helga Birkenstock (Wiig) and Paraguay's Maria Shakira Prinze Jr. (Lopez)) were secondary to the broadcast patter between Sudeikis and Forte and their sponsorship mentions. As were the actual rules of curling. Elliott, Pedrad and Slate held the brushes for their skips. I'll be so pleased when one of these feminine hygiene products decides to embrace Sudeikis' Twinkle taglines into an actual commercial, just for the sheer audacity of it. Until then...
An SNL Digital Short on Flags of the World. I guess this could be inspired by the Olympics, but you can file this in the random pile. Oh, and of course you saw the "We Love Betty White Flag," right? It's before the random "Moz Flag" and the jab at John Mayer by calling his flag the "Jag Flag."
If Ashton Kutcher hosts SNL one more time, then the "Five-Timers Club" will need to be abolished and replaced with the "Ten-Timers Club," because, really?!? Who let the dogs out and made Lorne Michaels chase them down the street, thereby letting Kutcher inside 30 Rock on four separate occasions to host?
Twas a night of oddities, and some of the oddest involved Kutcher in a bad way, and some of the best odd moments didn't involve Kutcher at all. Ready for my recap?
The cold open went with FOX News scare tactics as a premise, and I don't know how many times I have to remind you that when SNL goes political, it's usually more about getting their message across than landing any jokes. Oh. I guess I did have to remind you one more time, then. Kristen Wiig played Greta Van Susteren in Greta's post-Botox era, Bobby Moynihan played Karl Rove for laughs (watch out for the cracks in his forehead, though!), and which audience member thought it'd be a good idea to inject additional politics by clapping at the mention of "Don't ask, don't tell"? Will Forte as Col. Oliver North and Bill Hader as Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs were there, as was Abby Elliott as "Attractive Blond Lady," who was funny because it's true about FOX News, with their cast of hot ladies who are on TV because they're hot ladies willing to agree with FOX News to be on TV. But this was all just a set up to Jason Sudeikis choking up as Glenn Beck, wasn't it? He promised himself he wouldn't cry, because there's no "i" in crying. Oh, and Rove loving lesbians was a good line. Otherwise. Say it, already, Greta! Say the words. Live from New York!
Our monologue from Kutcher was equally hit and miss. For a miss, I'm going to have to go with everything that came out of Kutcher's mouth. And for a hit, I'll go with every non-sequitur bit happening to the side of the stage, from the dog on a surfboard who almost jumped into the audience, to Superman (Forte) ordering a drink from a Stormtrooper bartender before Mark Twain showed up on a mini-motorcycle, and almost even the kid swinging a bat with Jason Sudeikis, and definitely the old lady dance-off. I'd watch almost all of those as actual sketches instead of Kutcher. You want to leave a comment saying SNL hasn't been funny since 197X, and I'll see your comment and raise you a comment saying why are millions of people following Kutcher on Twitter?
What comes next is a bit of a short switcheroo sketch, as a family gathers to hear the last will and testament of a 110-year-old billionaire matriarch. Hader reads the will, and son Moynihan, grandchildren Jenny Slate and Sudeikis get $200 million, a museum gets $600 million, and for the pool boy "Angel" (Kutcher) who had sex with her for her last decade? Full pool privileges, except during the summer and weekends. Did you see where the switcheroo happened? The most important thing I learned during this sketch is that "Stage 5 Chlamydia" is by far the deadliest of the chlamydias. That, and there are racist STDs, including one that Hader didn't want to say, even though Chevy Chase could say it to Richard Pryor's face on SNL 35 years earlier. Progress?
The title card with Don Pardo saying SNL will return Feb. 27, 2010, with Jennifer Lopez as host and musical guest makes me want to say I told you so, but I would never stoop to something like that. So far, I'm chuckling at a few asides, but not the main themes of any sketches. Hmmm.
Jon Hamm hosted one of the best episodes of the 34th season, so why wouldn't he host one of the best this season? Well, er, um, hmmm. As this week's episode of Saturday Night Live got underway, I found myself thinking we were living the exact opposite of the popular saying that it's not about the destination but about enjoying the journey. Wait. What? WTF? Who is reviewing this show anyhow? Some sort of dingleberry? What's a dingleberry? Let's try doing this like a normal person and not some comedy nerd. I'd try that this week, but this week's SNL offered comedy gold for comedy nerds, so maybe next time when Twittertard Ashton Kutcher hosts we can try reviewing this show for people who don't know what words mean. This week is for the rest of us.
The cold open. Oh, SNL. Why do you insist on writing political sketches that are so inside baseball that even baseball players cannot find the humor in it? There were funny things that everyone agreed happened this week, from Apple's overhyped iPad, to President Obama's showdown with Republican Congress members, but what we got was a version of the State of the Union address that took seven minutes before it got to a single joke. Seriously? Seriously. The vast majority of it was about what? As VP Joe Biden (Sudeikis) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Kristen Wiig) looked on and said nothing, Obama (Fred Armisen) ranted against Martha Coakley for losing the special U.S. Senate race to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts seat. Also, for some reason a look back at where he was a year ago, he talked about how the Bushes literally left the White House a mess, with dishes piled up and wrappers left on the ground, and an unpaid cable bill. When they cut to Supreme Court Justice Alito shaking his head, this time, I agreed with his decision. But when they’d lost me, Armisen got me interested minutes later by reading individual job listings. I liked this. Just wish it had gotten here quicker. And the random cut to Brendan Fraser’s Golden Globes yippee-yay clappity clap was a nice surprise. But still. Seven minutes for this? It would have been funny at two minutes. Ominous.
Jon Hamm was back for round two, after a spirited hosting effort last year. That was a dream come true, he said: “So honestly, this time it’s just for the paycheck.” He said people connect him so much with Don Draper, they do not realize he had acting roles for years before this. If they had pulled together real clips, this could have been really funny. Instead, they wrote some fake clips for him. Here’s “Late For Class,” a teen show with Andy Samberg, Abby Elliott, and Hamm as Bonzo, who is more like Don Draper. See where this is headed. Or when he did QVC, with Kristen Wiig selling turquoise, and Hamm as, well as a domestic abuser. “I actually had sex with that woman.” Or Def Comedy Jam, smoking a butt with a glass of scotch in his other hand, in which Hamm’s bit is eerily reminiscent of Martin Lawrence’s SNL monologue from 1994 that got him banned. It's one of SNL's 10 most outrageous moments. Again, I liked the ending, but not how they got there.
The second segment opened at an apartment party in NYC from 1928. Kristen Wiig hosts it as Lydia in a voice I feel I’ve heard before but cannot place. The guests include Elliott, Bill Hader, Will Forte, Fred Armisen and Hamm. There’s a piano. They all want Hamm to play a song. Lydia keeps begging no one in particular not to force her to sing. “You’re making me sing?” Except she really does not hit her cues after willing it to happen, and blaming it on Hamm. Is this an allegory for Jay Leno? I’m stretching. Or am I? Oh, don’t make her dance? If this isn’t an allegory for Leno, then it’s most certainly an allegory for every character Wiig plays on SNL. Tell me I'm wrong.
Now we have an SNL Digital Short – ooh! After seeing Landline TV try to take Samberg on this week, I wondered if SNL would respond, and if so, how. I don't know if you'd consider this a response, but they definitely didn't fall into one of the two major categories Landline had accused them of, and went for the weird. Samberg steps out of a limo in a suit and breaks a sacred talisman, and Armisen’s sidewalk squatter curses him. At a business meeting, Samberg is interrupted by a topless Hamm in a ponytail playing the sax. Sergio! I love it. Samberg on a date with Jenny Slate. Sergio! With his therapist, Jason Sudeikis. Sergio! Samberg tries to reverse the curse. And…well…Wiig and Hader are there, but. SERGIO! FTW. Even funnier was how quickly my friends found a pop culture inspiration for Sergio. From The Lost Boys, even.
After a full week of NBC-bashing by the various late-night TV talk-show hosts, how would the reigning big daddy of late-night TV comedy handle its own mockery? Not quite the way you'd think, or hope, even when it looked like they might just surprise you with something magically great. Not once. Not twice. Three times this happened on last night's Saturday Night Live. Let's go through the motions...
The cold open imagined an edition of CNN's Larry King Live in which King (Fred Armisen) presides over a summit with Jay Leno (Darrell Hammond), Conan O'Brien (Bill Hader) and via satellite, David Letterman (Jason Sudeikis). Starts out with a funny line by Armisen about himself, quickly fizzles when you think, they brought Hammond back tonight for that impression of Leno? "C'mon. We didn't come here to have fun!" Prophetic. The voices are all over the place. And the jokes are, well, aimed at Larry King? Hammond and Hader are known for some great impersonations, but here, it seemed more about the look than the voice. Sudeikis, meanwhile, had a decent look but was reduced to the throwing-pencils shtick. But this sketch really only works if you forget about what's really happening at NBC and focus on making Larry King look silly. Wait. Maybe that was the point? Oh, also a Carson Daly (Will Forte) reference.
Sigourney Weaver was our host this week, and it's her second time. First time was way back in 1986? Which means we get a look back at the 1980s. Weird but sexy. Yep. That was the '80s. Did you know? Fun fact! Weaver's late father not only used to run NBC, but also created The Tonight Show. How do you like them apples? OK. Maybe not an apt metaphor movie catchphrase, but still. Great timing. So Weaver has something funny or profound or profoundly funny to say about her dad and this current kerfuffle, right? Right? Well. Hmmm. Someone hands her a piece of paper reputed to be the letter her dad wrote pitching the show. Not enough payoff there. Another foul ball. Two swings at the NBC mess, two foul balls.
Now what? A great show? Stick around and we'll be right back. But first. It's Grady Wilson (Kenan Thompson) with another instructional video of his personal love-making techniques. The sexy sex moves sketch moves up early this time around. Sometimes it's the name of the sex position that sells it, sometimes it's trying to figure out how Kenan, or how his partner Marta (Weaver) visualizes the title, and a couple of times, how what the two of them are doing is really supposed to look. How long did it take you to figure out The Brandy Snifter? The Lawnmower?
This is quickly followed by another recurring sketch with adult themes. It's the return of ESPN Classic's classic mustachioed broadcasting duo, Pete Twinkle and Greg Stink (Sudeikis and Forte), this time covering the Summer's Eve Lady Stars of Darts Championship. Featuring Darcy Vancouver (Wiig) and Olga "The Wolf Bear" Bogunskaya (Weaver). Everything the lady dart-throwers do is secondary to the pitter-patter of Sudeikis and Forte. Which, come to think of it, carries a similar writing pattern to last week's movie quote quiz sketch with Charles Barkley answering questions the wrong way. With another recurring idea, which is how many funny slogans can Sudeikis deliver for the sponsor, Summer's Eve...douche. (Childhood flashback for "old" people to Eddie Murphy's Brut, by Faberge)
Now we do have a commercial break? Nope.