Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why I Don't Like Kristen Wiig

Anybody that follows my twitter on a Saturday Night (and why wouldn't you? I use it so much this blog has fallen into disuse) knows that I am a die-hard SNL fan. I've been following the show live since 2002 (I was 16) and aside from a few isolated shows in the early, pre-Hulu years, I've never missed an episode. I've also seen the vast majority of the 90s shows and a smattering of shows from the 70s and 80s. Even so I don't claim to know what's funny and what's not. There are tons of sketches I think are hilarious that most others probably don't, and I'm sure it works vice versa.

That all being said, I've noticed a growing trend in the show that I find somewhat disappointing, giving its legacy of top-tier, groundbreaking humor: lazy, annoying, recurring characters. And the woman most responsible for these characters is presented to you stage left: Kristen Wiig. Now Wiig is not the first performer to fall into this trap. Both well known alums Chris Farley and Molly Shannon had characters with similar personalities that they ended up running into the ground. Current cast-member Fred Armisen is starting to fall into this category as well (as tends to happen after being on the show for 8 years). However not one single cast-member continues to bring out the same, annoying characters, week after week, for a decent chunk of show time.

Now before I'm accused of bias, I don't hate Kristen Wiig. I actually liked her for her first 3 years on the show (she joined in 2005). I think she's pretty funny in pretty much anything she does outside of SNL. But in the early days of her tenure, she meshed well with the rest of the women and cast. She had some great sketches like the awkward carpool with Alec Baldwin and the Two A-holes sketches with Jason Sudeikis. However, once the veteran women performers Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler left the show, things began to change. Wiig had slowly began to build up a small arsenal of characters that, while funny the first time, wouldn't work as recurring sketches because the characters fail to have any potential for further development. The ones that did have potential were simply reused in the same situation over and over again to the point where any shred of originality ceases to exist the third time they use the character.

Let me illustrate with some examples. Some of Wiig's more popular characters include the Target Lady, Penelope, Sue (the "surprise!" woman), Gilly ("sorry!"), and lesser used but still tired Shana. All of these characters feature Wiig in a somewhat silly costume using a weird voice. Wiig is hardly the first SNL player to use this to generate her humor (Adam Sandler, anyone?), and all of these characters work well on a solitary basis. The characters also feature an easily recognizable quote, and Wiig is often the sole star (or acts like it) of the sketch, with anyone else rotating in and out of supporting roles to her maniacal whims. It's fun the first time around.

Unfortunately, we get these characters several different times. And each time, the audience already knows what's going to happen because the writers (or Wiig) do nothing to further the character beyond her one amusing quirk. The Target Lady will always wander off for a bargain. Penelope will always try and one-up the other characters. Sue will eventually do something crazy before she spills the surprise. and Gilly (sorry!) will always end up killing or seriously injuring the other students. There is no change of scenery, no different characters, no progress from sketch to sketch. It's as if time stands still. In the Shana sketches, the same three guys are always attracted to her bubbly and sexual way of speaking, only to be immediately grossed out whenever she actually does anything. Over and over again. As a viewer I'm not supposed to know the outcome of the sketch, yet every time I see one of Wiig's characters, I do.

This is not solely a Wiig problem. Lots of recurring characters suffer this same problem with the current show and writing staff. But Wiig is a repeat offender given her perceived popularity, general hammy-ness, and shear number of characters.

Wiig's popularity spike has also caused her to be the go-to female for writers, despite the continued presence and rotation of other females in and out of the show. Since 2007, with the departure of Maya Rudolph, 4 different women (Casey Wilson, Michaela Watkins, Jenny Slate, and Abby Elliott) have rotated in and out of the show without making much on impact. It seems like these women were routinely passed over for roles that were give to the more mundane Wiig characters. Abby Elliott has been on the show for THREE years and I have no idea if she even has a single character. Sure, some of this is because Wiig is a strong female lead, but both Wilson and Watkins had star potential as well. Wiig performed well in a group with other strong women before, now she simply dominates over everyone else, including the men. There is simply no reason why this should be the case.

SNL has been due for a revolution for awhile. There are many funny, talented people on the show, but something just hasn't been clicking for the last few years (save the spike of awesomeness during the 2008 election year). It is unfair to put the blame solely on Wiig, but as the most prominent cast-member with such blatantly bland, poorly-written characters... she definitely gets the lions share of it.

On the plus side, Nasim Pedrad is pretty funny.
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LOST: Live Together, Die Together

Obvious warning: Here be SPOILERS.

Hello, blog. It's been awhile but I think I have something that I can talk about for more than 140 characters. Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure you are aware that the LOST finale aired on Sunday night, causing millions of people to stop what they were doing and watch a show that most people haven't seen since season 3 (not that I blame them, season 3 was pretty bad). Milestone claims aside, I think it's safe to say that this finale was probably one of the most anticipated and hyped television events in the last decade, if not ever. For those of us who were not sucked in the show first started, myself included ("a bunch of people stuck on an island? lame"), we were pulled in by the friend who had "just bought the first season" or had the burning desire to know just what was in that hatch that everyone was talking about. It was addicting and consuming, but at times lost its way and jumped around more times than the survivors did when the Island started jumping around in time. I survived until then end, so before I take you into my thoughts on the finale, I figured I'd give you some insight on my investment as a fan.

I first caught on to the show via a first season DVD set that my college roommates had acquired, and began watching the show live midway through the second season. I don't know what I would have done if I had to wait a summer to find out what was in the hatch. At the time I was a firm believer that the show shouldn't head past a third season out of fear that it would grow stale. I mean, they have to get off the Island some time, right? Of course, six seasons in and I was still watching. Maybe I wasn't as invested once everyone started leaving the Island ("We have to go back!"), but I still wanted to know how the damn thing was going to end.

That being said I think we can break LOST up into two distinct chunks, and I think the chunk you prefer dictates the type of fan you are. The first chunk consists of seasons 1-3, and is mostly concerned with on-Island activities and character development. I also call this chunk the "Walt-relevant" period as during this part of the show, there's a kid named Walt who is kind of special and might be the key to a lot of things. During this period we learn about our main characters as well as the other people on the island, and we delve a little into some science-explainable Island mysteries (electromagnetism, Dharma, sonic fences, jamming beacons, etc). The second chunk consists of seasons 4-6, and is primarily concerned with off-Island developments as well as learning more about the Island itself as opposed to the characters on it. The actor playing Walt has aged 10 years overnight so he's written out of the story, and the science-explainable events give way to science-fantasy (time displacement, ageless guardians, mythological games and rules, moving Islands, etc). Obviously there is bleed over between the two sections (there's always a smoke monster around, and Daniel Faraday is metaphysical theory incarnate), but I think this is a solid place to generally split the show. The first jarring realization that the show is much bigger than it is in season 3 is the reveal of the flashforwards (not to be confused with the poser show of the same name), which show that the characters will get off the Island, but for whatever reason will desperately want to return. I think it's important to be able to take in and accept both of these elements of the show in order to fully appreciate the finale.

yes ladies, this man-on-man action has been brewing for awhile.

For the record I think I've enjoyed both parts equally. I was on board with season 4's mass slaughter of secondary characters related to seasons 1-3, I was on board with season 5's crazy time travel, and I was on board with season 6's humanization of Jacob and the Man in Black. And I've long accepted that I'll never really know why the Others kidnapped random people or why Walk caused birds to crash into his window. I accepted that I'd never really know why Jacob doesn't age and why if he touches people, he give s them a gift. I've accepted those things for what they are, and I didn't expect to hear Ben say "by the way this is why we were douchebags to you guys for three seasons" while they were on the way to defeating the Man in Black in the finale. I didn't expect to get those kind of answers.

Overall, I was pleased with the finale and it certainly elicited the emotions in me that I'm sure the writers were going for. It was nice seeing everyone together again at the end and it presented a good message of hope and the importance of friendship, and that it was the journey that everyone went on that brought them close together. I liked that Desmond, always my favorite character on the show, was the catalyst for bringing everyone together in the alternate reality and for enabling the on-Island defeat of the Man in Black. And I loved the image of Vincent being the last thing that Jack saw, tying in with him being the first thing he saw on arrival to the Island way back all those years before.

But on reflection I can't help but feel a little cheated by the obvious deus ex machina of the whole thing, as well as how much the closing narrative relied on Jack. Jack has always been the central character of the show, there's no denying that, but having all the characters wait around for Jack to finally decide to wake up kind of lessened their importance. Making the alternate timeline just a metaphorical purgatory put into question what, if anything, the survivors had accomplished at the end of season 5 when Juliet detonated the H-bomb. It invalidates all of Daniel Faraday's theories about changing the future and the sacrifices made my him and others involved. Furthermore, having Christian Shephard say that "everyone was dead", while technically true, really lessened the on-Island events of the exact same episode. Sure it was nice seeing Jack save the day and watching the plane leave with Hurley in charge of the Island, but this scene basically says "what happens after that isn't important, they all died at some point which doesn't matter and now you're here." Well, sure everyone dies eventually, I guess, but then why did it matter that I just invested myself in watching these people survive? Why does it matter if the plane leaves or not, or if Sun and Jin die on the sub, if everyone dies eventually? It just puts a damper on all the tension that was felt up until that point.

"Yes, I died. We all died. The Island looks like it sucked, but I drank myself to death and am here anyway, so... maybe next time you won't have to do all that."

Bringing it back to my point about the two chunks of the series, the finale is not a finale for the Island and the second half of the show, but more for the characters we fell in love with in the first chunk. All of the Island developments past season 3 were put aside in favor of uniting our characters for a happy ending, so much so that I found myself caring less and less what was happening on the Island and more about what was happening in the alternate timeline as the finale went on. I felt like it was leading up to some grand unification between the two, where the characters in one timeline would absorb the consciousnesses of the other, which would ultimately put the fate of the Island to rest. This payoff never came, and while I was satisfied with the emotional denouement of the series as a whole, I was left with a feeling of "that's it?" for the on-Island timeline. I don't think I ever got the sense of urgency from the whole "don't let MIB off the Island!" mission, as opposed to the "stop the Others from killing us all, prevent the Swan station from exploding and killing as all, prevent the freighter from killing us all" missions of finales past. It was never really explained what he would do if he left and why it was bad, and by the time they hinted at it (very late in the season in "Across the Sea", the 3rd to last epiosde), I cared more about the alternate timeline with Desmond awakening people. I know in the end this was the writers' intention, but ultimately I was left with a feeling that nothing on the Island mattered, it was more about the journey. And while that's a nice way to cap off the character arcs, I feel like it really downplays the importance of the Island itself as a character.

All of that being said I teared up like a baby when Vincent laid down next to Jack. Image-wise it was a very fitting end to a roller-coaster show. And that's not to mention the whole Juliet/Sawyer scene. Sunuvabitch.
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Finally Getting Reimbursed


Finally getting a return on my high school tuition investment. That's right, the payer has become the payee! YOU WORK FOR ME NOW! BIZARRO BIZARRO

Only, what, 100k to go? I'll get there. Read entire post...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Top 25 Best Saturday Night Live Sketches Ever (Part 5)

Tonight I present the final 4 (ish) of my top 25 SNL sketches series, including numbers 1-4.

4. The Sarcastic Clapping Family of Southhampton
from episode 16.12 - Kevin Bacon, Original Air Date 02/09/1991

(Apologies for the poor video, it was the only one I could find. TRANSCRIPT for those who need it.)

SNL has been around for so long that every generation who's watched it (there should be 3 of them, now) will either think that their era is the best or that SNL "wasn't as good as it used to be in the 70s/80s/90s/before Will Ferrell left. A lot of these opinions depend on the strength of both the writing and of the cast, and it is rare that an era so gelled these two qualities together than is evident in the shows from the late 80s/early 90s. Lacking the penchant to over rely on recurring characters that writers and cast today often do (I'm looking at you, Kristen Wiig!), this era produced many standalone sketches of brilliance that stand the test of time. Led by the always dramatically hilarious Phil Hartman, the Sarcastic Clapping Family of Southampton is a sketch that has always been ingrained in my head from the first time I saw it. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. Nice.

3. White Like Me
from episode 10.09 - Eddie Murphy, Original Air Date 12/15/1984

It is unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on the season in question) that I have been unable to see very many episodes from the Dick Ebersol period of SNL, the early 80s experiment that occurred after the original cast and producer Lorne Michaels left the show before the disastrous 1980 season. The best thing that supposedly came from this period is that it was the launching pad for arguably one of SNL's greatest exports: Eddie Murphy. While Murphy has effectively shunned the show that gave him his start (never appearing at cast reunions or providing much insight into his time there), he was perhaps at his funniest during these times. This pre-taped gem not only is utterly hilarious, but also manages to tackle race relations in a manner that Dave Chappelle dreams he could accomplish.

2A. Nude Beach
from episode 14.02 - Matthew Broderick, Original Air Date 10/15/1988


Also known as "the penis sketch," this is probably one of the most infamous sketches in SNL history, and it's so hard to come by that I've never actually seen the whole thing. I would do a write-up about it but this lady does a much better job at explaining its awesomess. Suffice to say, no video is available online. That being said...

2B. Celebrity Jeopardy (with John Goodman)
from episode 22.19 - John Goodman, Original Air Date 05/10/1997

...clocking in and sharing the number 2 spot is the CLASSIC Celebrity Jeopardy sketch, probably the most famous thing to come out of SNL in its long history. With 14 sketches over a 15 year span, it was very hard to pick just one (let alone one that doesn't feature Sean Connery), but in the end I had to go with the Brando/Donahue/Reynolds bit (the Stewart/Connery/Reynolds one is already all over most of the DVDs). Before he was fired, Norm MacDonald's un-caring Burt Reynolds was the recurring guest, which freed up Darrell Hammond to tackle other impressions such as this perfect take on talk show host Phil Donahue. As usual Norm just has fun with Burt and annoys Trebek in a less childish way than Connery would later do, but I think the real winner here is John Goodman channeling a perfect senile Marlon Brando. As a whole the Celebrity Jeopardy sketches represent the best part about SNL in the 90s, and is one of the few sketches that will almost always have something funny in it no matter how many times they drag it out every time Will Ferrell hosts.

Some bonus runners up: Travolta/Reynolds/Keaton, Connery/Driver/Goldblum (hilarious Goldblum by David Duchovny!), and the now classic Kathie Lee/Hanks/Connery/Reynolds from '09.

1. First Presidential Debate (Bush/Gore)
from episode 26.01 - Rob Lowe, Original Air Date 10/07/2000

You may wonder why this is what I consider to be the best SNL sketch of all time. This is one of the few on this list that I actually remember coming out when I was younger, and in retrospect it sums up perfectly the political and social power that SNL can have at its pinnacle. Before the Tina Fey/Palin sketches of this past season, this was the benchmark for SNL political humor. The sketch pits then Governor George W. Bush (Will Ferrell) against Vice President Al Gore (Darrell Hammond at his peak) in a satire of the actual debates occurring at the time. The crux of the sketch isn't necessarily the great impressions (Ferrell's Bush is more of a caricature than anything), but of the ingenious ability of the writers to nail down the two candidates traits to two words that the media was able to pick up and run with: "lockbox" and "strategery," the latter of which became synonymous with the Bush administration. Some have said that the public voted not based on the real candidates but rather their SNL portrayals, and whatever that says about America, it sure says a lot about SNL's raw power and influence that continues to this day, no matter how many times Andy Samberg punches things.

In my next entry, which hopefully won't be 4 months from now, I'll list some runners up.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Top 25 Best Saturday Night Live Sketches Ever (Part 4)

Tonight I present part 4 of my top 25 SNL sketches series, including numbers 5-9. Not much longer now until the top 5!

9. Delicious Dish (with Alec Baldwin #1)
from episode 24.09 - Alec Baldwin, Original Air Date 09/12/1998

This is one of those Christmas classics that for some reason or another works on several different levels. The Delicious Dish sketches were always dead-on parodies of NPR programming, and both Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon (in a rare subdued role) perfectly spoof the typically smooth-voiced hosts of public radio, complete with lame jokes and square puns. Alec Baldwin is the real show stopper here, however, as he just as monotonously described his holiday creations with little to no regard to the rampant double entendres spewing out of his mouth. Most people have seen this sketch at some point or another, but the perfectly delivered punchline always delivers to me. Good times, good times.

8. The Angry Boss
from episode 26.18 - Pierce Brosnan, Original Air Date 05/05/2001

I think it's safe to say that this might be Will Ferrell's craziest moment on SNL, and that's really saying something. Will is always good at playing angry, hyper-manly characters, but I think the writing is what really takes this one over the top, as well as Brosnan's attempts at not laughing and the usual brilliance from Chris Parnell as Will's "nemesis." Many of the jokes seem to be prototypes of what would later appear in Anchorman, so I'm willing to bet that they had the same writer. Above all this sketch perfectly utilizes the rule of over-doing something just the right amount to keep it funny.

7. Space: The Infinite Frontier (with Jeff Goldblum)
from episode 22.20 - Jeff Goldblum, Original Air Date 05/17/1997

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

What, two Will Ferrell sketches in a row? I say it's unavoidable in a list like this, and several other sketches with him just barely didn't make the cut. Anyway, Will was not the greatest impressionist during his tenure on SNL, however like his predecessor Dana Carvey, he became known for exaggerating certain aspects of his subjects' personality and forming his impression off of that. His eccentric take on legendary Chicago Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray would certainly qualify as exaggerated, and while quite amusing in his own right (see this runner-up video of him on Colin Quinn's first Update), the absurdity is taken to another level when the character is inexplicably placed in his own space show. Add in Jeff Goldblum, and needless to say, hillarity ensues.

6. Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker (with Christina Applegate)
from episode 18.19 - Christina Applegate, Original Air Date 05/08/1993

Chris Farley was one of the most genuinely funny guys to ever grace the SNL stage, and in doing so created one of the most memorable characters of the 1990s. Farley had a penchant for physical humor, throwing himself about the stage with remarkable ease and dexterity while flailing his arms and legs and shouting in his loud, thundering voice. All of these elements combined to create a diminutive, angry motivational speaker who despite all his shortcomings still managed to find work over 3 seasons on SNL. The first sketch will always be the best, though, with a rare crack-up from David Spade as he understandably is overwhelmed by Farley's brute force sense of humor.

5. Behind the Music: Blue Oyster Cult
from episode 25.16 - Christopher Walken, Original Air Date 04/08/2000

Considered by some to be the greatest SNL sketch of all time, the infamous "More cowbell" sketch lands on my list and number 5. There's not much I can really say about this that hasn't already been said. While Ferrell and Walken are thr ones who usually get credit for the shear absurd hillarity of this sketch, there's no way it would have been as funny without Parnell's straight-man, and yes, even Jimmy Fallon's standard laughter plays a key role in this, for it sets off the chain reaction that eventually gets the entire cast, including Ferrell, to laugh, a rare occurance indeed. I've got a fever!

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Facebook Video Dump

I decided spontaneously to go back through my entire Facebook profile and archive all of the random video things that I've ever put up into one neat and tidy blog post. As a side note, I was quite surprised to find how far back my Facebook records actually go (January 2005). That's some scary stuff. Anyway what follows is some not so scary stuff, chronologically from most current to oldest. Things that I consider especially awesome are in bold.

July 8 2009 - Web Site Story (CollegeHumor)
July 7 2009 - Conan Explores the Universal Studios Lot (The Tonight Show, Hulu)
July 4 2009 - Team America music video (MySpace)
July 2 2009 - Me dancing to Journey from 2007 (YouTube)
June 30 2009 - Jeff Goldblum "Memorial" (The Colbert Report, Hulu)
June 23 2009 - Johnny Strange Interview (The Tonight Show, Hulu)
June 20 2009 - Triumph Visits Bonnaroo (The Tonight Show,
June 17 2009 - Obama kills fly during interview (YouTube)
June 15 2009 - Crossfire commercial (YouTube)
June 10 2009 - Conan and Andy Canoe the LA River (The Tonight Show, Hulu)
June 2 2009 - Conan Takes the Universal Tram (The Tonight Show, Hulu)
June 2 2009 - Tonight Show Cold Open (The Tonight Show, Hulu)
May 17 2009 - Celebrity Jeopardy w/Tom Hanks, Norm MacDonald (SNL, Hulu)
May 12 2009 - Kia "Soul Hamsters" commercial (YouTube)
May 10 2009 - Torii Hunter's amazing catch (
May 10 2009 - Motherlover (SNL, Hulu)
May 3 2009 - Jack in the Box Menopause smoothie commercial (YouTube)
March 18 2009 - AIG/St. Patty's Day protesters (The Daily Show, Comedy Central)
March 12 2009 - Saturday Morning Watchmen (YouTube)
March 4 2009 - Mess-o'Potamia: The War is Over (The Daily Show, Comedy Central)
March 1 2009 - WKUK: Dumb Newscast (Whitest Kids U Know, YouTube)
February 27 2009 - Bobby Jindal's Republican Response (The Daily Show, Comedy Central)
February 22 2009 - Conan/Colbert String Dance-Off (Late Night w/Conan O'Brien, Hulu)
February 16 2009 - Scheduling Meeting from hell (SNL, Hulu)
February 9 2009 - Really?!?: Michael Phelps edition (SNL, Hulu)
February 5 2009 - Stephen Colbert's Remix Challenge (The Colbert Report, Comedy Central)
January 27 2009 - Guantanamo Baywatch: The Final Season (The Daily Show, Comedy Central)
January 19 2009 - Gitmo Closing Ad (SNL, Hulu)
January 13 2009 - Whopper Virgins (SNL, Hulu)
January 13 2009 - Orchestral Doogie Howser Theme (SNL, Hulu)
January 7, 2009 - Puppedential Debate (The Daily Show, Comedy Central)
December 16 2008 - White House 2008 Barneycam (CBS, YouTube)
December 16 2008 - Jizz in My Pants (SNL, YouTube)
November 28 2008 - Mad Men: The Carousel (Mad Men, YouTube)
November 20 2008 - CNN Magic Wall Conspiracy Thriller (The Daily Show, Comedy Central)
November 12 2008 - Role Playing w/Dwight (The Office, Hulu)
November 7 2008 - Sarah Palin is So Dumb... (The Daily Show, Comedy Central)
November 3 2008 - Vote or Lie (YouTube)
October 30 2008 - Obama and McCain Dance Off (YouTube)
October 25 2008 - Mandalorian Dance (DailyMotion)
October 24 2008 - SNL Update Thursday: Bush Endorsement (SNL, Hulu)
October 24 2008 - 10,000 McCainiacs (The Daily Show, Comedy Central)
October 24 2008 - More Hatred at a Palin Rally (YouTube)
October 16 2008 - Vincent Lin Must Die! Special Edition (YouTube)
October 10 2008 - SNL Update Thursday: Debate Opening (SNL, Hulu)
September 28 2008 - Couric / Palin Opening (SNL, Hulu)
September 27 2008 - Katie Couric exclusive Palin interview (
September 15 2008 - Hillary / Palin Cold Opening (SNL, Hulu)
September 5 2008 - The Pretentious and the Belligerent (
July 8 2008 - ImprovEverywhere: Suicide Jumper (YouTube)
July 8 2008 - ImprovEverywhere: Food Court Musical (YouTube)
May 21 2008 - WKUK: What Really Happened to Abe Lincoln (Whitest Kids U Know, YouTube)
April 9 2008 - Googly Eyes Gardener (SNL, Hulu)
February 5 2008 - Yes We Can Obama song by (YouTube)
January 6 2008 - The Pretentious and the Belligerent Promo Scene #1 (YouTube)
December 22 2007 - Santa Saves Xmas (YouTube)
August 16 2007 - Colbert Ingmar Bergman Tribute (The Cobert Report, Comedy Central)
June 14 2007 - Brains and Brawn Promo Scene #1 (YouTube)
May 17 2007 - Open Toes Trailer #1 (YouTube)
March 26 2007 - The Meeting (
February 7 2007 - Interruption. (YouTube)

And there you have it. I assume that before 2007 Facebook didn't have video posting capability, so that is EVERYTHING. Kind of amazing how much higher the volume is now than 2 years ago.
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Monday, June 01, 2009

A Handy Chart I Made

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Top 25 Best Saturday Night Live Sketches Ever (Part 3)

Tonight I present part 3 of my top 25 SNL sketches series, including numbers 10-14.

14. Roxbury Guys (with Jim Carrey)
from episode 21.20 - Jim Carrey, Original Air Date 05/18/1996

Of all the SNL sketches that would eventually get turned into movies, this classic bit featuring Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, and a rotating host seems like the least likely candidate. However something about the simple premise - a bunch of guys club hopping looking to "score" set to Haddaway's "What is Love" - just clicks. This particular version of this sketch was not the first nor the last, and while Tom Hanks, Sylvester Stalone, and Cameron Diaz put their own spins on the third character, it is the performance of Jim Carrey that pushes this sketch into legendary status... as well as the increasing absurdity of the locations that the brothers frequent. This sketch also gets bonus points for having 1995 era cell phones in it.

13. The French Chef
from episode 4.08 - Eric Idle, Original Air Date 12/09/1978

I think I saw this absurdly hilarious sketch on TV when I was younger, and frankly I'm surprised it didn't scar me in any way. That being said, one of the greatest strengths of early SNL was physical comedy - it was present in the earlier Belushi Samurai sketch, and it's equally present here in Dan Aykroyd's wonderful send up of cooking host Julia Child complete with a cleverly situated blood hose and perhaps one of the greatest understatements in sketch comedy history: "I've cut the dickens out of my finger."

12. Bill Clinton at McDonald's
from episode 18.08 - Tom Arnold, Original Air Date 12/05/1992

Nowadays Darrell Hammond is known as perhaps the best Bill Clinton impersonator around, however during his first few years in office he was played by Phil Hartman, who did an equally great job. However probably the sketch that both captured Clinton's mannerisms and public persona is this gem from before he was even elected president. The best part is the self-prophesizing line about there being a lot of things he won't tell Mrs Clinton about, several years before the Lewinsky scandal.

11. Point/Counterpoint
from episode 4.15 - Margot Kidder, Original Air Date 03/17/1979

There have been many of these segments on Weekend Update over the years, but it was Dan Aykroyd who popularized the standard rebuttal of "Jane, you ignorant slut," delivered in a deadpan tone that only Aykroyd could pull off. On top of that, his response is some of the best writing to ever appear on the show.

10. Wayne's World with Aerosmith
from episode 15.13 - Tom Hanks, Original Air Date 02/17/1990

Wayne's World is another iconic SNL sketch, and it was tough choosing between this one and the similarly amazing Madonna Dream installment that parodies her "Justify My Love" video, but in the end I had to go with this one, simply because Mike Myers and Dana Carvey actually join Aerosmith at the end in playing the Wayne's World theme song. Oh, and Tom Hanks is in it, too.
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Rembering Nick Adenhart

It's taken me a couple of days to gather my thoughts on the tragedy that occurred to a young Angels pitcher and his 3 friends last Wednesday night. For those of you who may not have heard, rookie Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, 22, and three of his companions were involved in a hit and run drunk driving accident in the early hours of last Thursday. Adenhart and two of his three friends were killed when a drunk driver with a BAC three times the legal limit ran through a red light in Fullerton and broadsided their vehicle. The driver then attempted to flee the scene but was found and later detained. Earlier that evening, Adenhart had just pitched the best game of his young career against the Oakland Athletics.

When news of this tragedy first reached me, I was in shock. As most of you are probably aware, I'm a huge baseball fan and a devout follower of the Angels. I recently took a job as a fan photographer for Angels home games, and I was at the game that Wednesday night that Nick pitched in his final game. As a relatively young Angels fan myself, I had taken an interest in the young prospect because, being a year younger than me, he was the first player that I knew of to be younger than me in the Major Leagues. Beyond that, we shared the same first name, and based on a few stories I had read about him, we seemed to have the same quiet demeanor. In a way, I guess, I found myself able to identify with him, athletic talent not withstanding.

Adenhart was first called up to the majors last year, in 2008, for a few spot starts due to injuries in the Angels' rotation. The young phenom would finally get a chance to show what he was capable of against Major League hitting. Unfortunately, things did not go well for him in his first couple of starts, and even though he collected his first Win as an Angel, he was sent down to the minors for the rest of the season. For 2009, injuries again allowed Adenhart to earn a spot on the opening day rotation, and this time, after several good starts in spring training, he was able to dominate in his first start in April against a fairly formidable A's lineup. Although he did not win the game (as the bullpen would give away the lead in later innings), that Nick pitched well was an understatement.

It was only hours later that he was senselessly killed. This was not an accident through any fault of his own. He nor his friends were drunk. They were all wearing their seatbelts. They were proceeding through a routine green light at a routine intersection. And just like that, he was gone.

I've talked about the baseball aspects of Nick mainly because I never got the chance to meet him in person. There are people far more qualified than me who have written far more personally about the event then I ever could. I feel so much for his family, for the players that played with him, for his friends. By all accounts he was as good of a kid as any. As a fan, I felt like I was losing a friend. I could not even begin to imagine what those who actually knew him have been feeling.

As I've said, there are others who have been able to say things that I am unable to. While I haven't scoured the nets looking for articles about the tragedy (given that I get teary-eyed just thinking about it), below I've listed a few good places to start to get a better idea of who this young man was that we lost so early to drunk driving.

Lyle Spencer, Angels beat writer - Remembering Nick
"Rev Halofan", owner of - The Loss of Nick Adenhart
Bill Shaikin, LA Time writer - Alone with his grief in baseball cathedral
Dustin Moseley, Angels pitcher - video press conference
Torii Hunter, Angels outfielder - MLB network phone call

Someone on Halos Heaven mentioned that God needed Nick for his own All-Star team. I think that's probably the best way anyone can put it.
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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Top 25 Best Saturday Night Live Sketches Ever (Part 2)

Tonight I present part 2 of my top 25 SNL sketches series, including numbers 15-19.

19. Wake Up and Smile
from episode 21.08 - David Alan Grier, Original Air Date 12/09/1995

Starting off tonight's count is a very early Will Ferrell sketch from his first year at SNL, also featuring the underrated Nancy Walls and host David Alan Grier as members of a morning show that must cope with a broken teleprompter. Naturally things devolve fairly quickly into a surreal Lord of the Flies style fight for survival that showcases Will's talent for the insane.

18. Japanese Game Show
from episode 20.08 - Alec Baldwin, Original Air Date 12/10/1994

For number 18 we travel back exactly one year earlier, an odd transitory season with few bright spots. Here is one of the few exceptions that is played brilliantly by Mike Meyers, in one of his final SNL performances, speaking what I'm pretty sure is fairly accurate Japanese throughout the entire sketch. This is also the rare sketch where host Alec Baldwin doesn't steal the show, instead that honor goes to Chris Farley as the perplexed American tourist trying to manage his way through the insane game show that surrounds him.

17. Reagan the Mastermind
from episode 12.06 - Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Martin Short; Original Air Date 12/06/1986

One of SNL's strongest points that I have really yet to touch on in this list is their ability for political satire, no matter who the incumbent is (The classic Lewinsky-era Clinton sketches are an example). This gem comes from another transitory time in SNL's history, and features the late Phil Hartman doing an impeccable President Reagan with a split-personality. The way he manages to transfor between the public Reagan and the evil, scheming, mastermind version is utter brilliance.

16. Samurai Delicatessen
from episode 1.10 - Buck Henry, Original Air Date 01/17/1976

"NBC'S Saturday Night," as the show was known during its first year, had what many consider to be the most ultimately well-rounded cast that the show's ever had, and while it would be a good 9 years before I was born, I can appreciate the talents of the legendary John Belushi and his samurai character. The humor here is much different from the modern show, not particularly refined, but with a much stronger emphasis on absurdity and sight gags, which is pretty much what you'd expect with a sketch called "Samurai Delicatessen."

15. Lazy Sunday
from episode 31.09 - Jack Black, Original Air Date 12/17/2005

Before I started making this list I had no idea that this famous Digital Short and the spelling bee sketch were from the same episode. Either way, the Digital Shorts are probably the most well known feature of the current era of SNL, and it was a hard decision to choose this Short over some of it's brethren (particularly Dick in a Box, and other lesser known ones such as Business Meeting), but ultimately this classic featuring Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell put SNL back on the map after several disappointing post-Will Ferrell seasons. With so many incredible one-liners, it can hardly be argued that "Mr. Pibb + Red Vines = Crazy Delicious."

Check back later in the week for 10-14...
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