Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Nurse the Hate: SNL Special

Like most of you, I watched the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special.  I haven’t seen Saturday Night Live on a regular basis since The Cowslingers got serious about touring.  That led to me be very confused by “that guy” in the office during the week.  Do you know That Guy?  He is the one that re-enacts funny comedy bits he has seen in movies and TV shows and figures by osmosis that he’s funny too.  There was a guy I worked with in the early 90s that spent almost every Monday pretending to be Jim Carey and then staring and smiling with an open mouth patiently waiting like an obedient dog for a positive reaction.  He just never made the connection that because others would politely chuckle at the recollection of Jim Carey being “Fireman Bob” or whatever the fuck that character was, it didn’t mean that he was funny just by association.  I would uncomfortably do that move where you chuckle a little bit to show that you understand, but not too much to suggest that you wanted more impromptu impersonations from him.  “Oh yeah… ha ha… yeah… that was good…”

It was interesting to see a bunch of SNL’s best skits referenced to in quick hit fashion.   I can’t tell you how many I had to look up on my phone and watch as I paused the show.  Unlike most of America, I just saw the “Taco Town” and “Red Flag Perfume” fake commercials yesterday.  There’s a lot of funny material I missed.  Of course, I got up to speed in about 17 minutes, so maybe it worked out OK that I went out to play these shows in scuzzy clubs instead. 

A few impressions from this star studded broadcast…

I am becoming more and more unsettled when I see Paul McCartney.  The combination of dyed brown hair combined with what I assume is a “hair system” is sort of shocking when perched on top of a senior citizen’s head.  The sagging face combined with the hair is making Sir Paul look like a drag queen, and that makes me sad.  The rock star from that generation that got it right is Bob Dylan.  Dylan reached a point when he ditched the leather pants and dressed age appropriately, in his case like a Southern Gentleman that might have walked out of the mid 1860s.  Paul McCartney is 73 years old.  The hair and kid clothes did not fool me into thinking he was the Paul McCartney of “Band On The Run” era Wings.  When he couldn’t hit those high notes on “Maybe I’m Amazed”, I felt even more sad.  I hope he just had a cold.

I truly enjoyed Keith Richards slithering out on stage to introduce McCartney.  That’s a guy that is not trying to hide his advancing years.  He has dressed like a model runway pirate since 1978, and dammit, he’s sticking with it.  He just lets it rip.  I also really enjoyed his signature move of walking out for a prepared public speaking engagement and he is laughing before anything even happens.  While the confused audience will try to figure out what he is laughing at, he will mumble out something about whatever his basic task for the speaking engagement was and slip in a Rolling Stones reference as well as slurring “rockandroll”.    

Chris Farley might have been one of the funniest cast members they ever had.  To see a collection of the skits he did in rapid fire fashion was revelatory to me.  I had relegated him to a place in my mind as The Guy That Made Stupid Movies That Wished He Was John Belushi.  He was really talented, and it is a shame to think that his self destruction couldn’t have been prevented.

I found it odd that Chris Rock delivered a heartfelt introduction to Eddie Murphy as the Comedian of His Generation, a man that singlehandedly saved the show, and was the largest personal influence on his professional career.  Then Murphy walks out and awkwardly thanks everyone for the accolades, and again refuses to do anything remotely resembling comedy.  What the hell happened to that guy?  It is like he intellectually decided to dismantle everything about himself that people found appealing to become Tim Allen.  He is so iconic that even now the current crop of A List comedians won’t say, “I have no idea why he sucks now.  Maybe he doesn’t know how to be funny anymore.”.  The whole thing is very confusing.

It was sort of amazing to see how many people that participated in the show that they presumably knew in advance would have a huge audience appeared to be completely unprepared.  For example, as Robert DeNiro appears to be unable to read cue cards, could he have maybe memorized the three lines  he was required to read?  Did Chevy Chase just give up?  Could someone let Norm MacDonald know that this might have been a good opportunity to allow the industry know he was still alive?  Meanwhile Larry David kicked ass.  Martin Short was prepared and excellent.  Alec Baldwin crushed.  I’m thinking in this type of environment where everyone is ultra talented, it might be a good idea to at least have your lines ready.

I do not understand the appeal of Kayne West.  I have heard him on these award shows a few times now, and within seconds after his song ends I cannot recall even the basic melody.  He seems like the crazy pissed off guy at a party that it is important to keep on the radar because he is going to start a fight with someone as soon as he gets fucked up enough, and the key is to make sure it isn’t you.  Someone must like this guy’s music as he is on every one of these created events.  I may just need a 24 year old girl to explain it to me, and I will explain Tom Waits to her.  That would be a good trade.

I saw the Jimmy Fallon audition tape.  I don’t know why they hired him on.  He really seemed like a high school kid goofing around.  His Q rating must be off the friggin’ charts.  I am aware that every female between the ages of 18-44 thinks he is “cute”.  That can’t hurt ratings.  However, I don’t know if he has ever done a sketch on the show where he doesn’t start laughing in the middle of it.  That’s bad, isn’t it?  He seems like a one of the most genuinely nice people in show business, which makes it so odd that he made it on that show.  The best comedians on Saturday Night Live have been drug addicts, mentally ill, and difficult.  He must have stuck out like a sore thumb.  Once again, I feel as if I might know absolutely nothing about what America likes.

A man that apparently does know what America likes is Lorne Michaels.  Every single person that walked out on that stage (except  Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David) quakes in their boots at the mere mention of Lorne’s name.  I don’t know if I have ever seen a group of powerful entertainment industry people be more deferential.  Lorne does have the golden touch though.  It’s amazing the talent he has identified and nurtured.  I have no idea how scary it must be to audition for that guy on the SNL stage.  Mike Myers must have based Dr. Evil on Lorne Michaels.

While the power of the show has undoubtedly shrunk due to the influx of media outlets, it is still the ring to reach for if your profession is sketch comedian.  I know this not only because of the instant credibility and opportunities it provides for the illustrious cast, but because as soon as I walked to my desk at my day job someone quickly game me a Phil Hartman impression.  “yeah… haha…. That was good…”


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