Tag Archives: All That

Saturday Night’s All Right For Leaving

Screen shot 2013-05-21 at 6.42.30 PMMuch was made last week about the departure of Saturday Night Live stalwart Bill Hader, and still more was made when word broke just before (or, perhaps, during) last Saturday night’s show that longtime cast member Fred Armisen would be joining Hader in exiting Studio 8H. Add to that the speculation that Jason Sudeikis is a part of the exodus – only a year after show centerpiece Kristen Wiig left the show – and we seem to have a full-fledged panic. Hader, Armisen and Sudeikis – who accrued twenty-eight seasons of combined service on the show – will certainly leave a gaping hole, having portrayed such vital characters as President Obama, Vice President Biden, James Carville, David Patterson, the Devil, and, of course, Stefon. How could the show possibly survive such a great loss of talent, three of their leading men, a trio of go-tos. Losing one, sure, it happens. But all three, plus the farewell of Head Writer Seth Meyers at mid-season? Won’t that just be the end of SNL?

No, no it won’t. Despite some histrionics that seem to point to the opposite sentiment, the show will persist just fine. In fact, this is the circle of life for Saturday Night Live (it’s just Saturday Night Life?). Granted, if Sudeikis does, in fact, join Hader and Armisen, then you would have a more severe than normal bloodletting, but it’s not a lethal loss. The show has always and will always subsist on the infusion of new, exciting, eager talent. This season SNL was without Kristen Wiig, who seemed to have shouldered the load for so many seasons (to the show’s detriment, in our opinion) and it went on unencumbered in her absence, bolstered by noteworthy performances by newcomers Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong, two fantastic young talents who might have not had the chance to breakout if Wiig was still around. And the show has weathered the loss of every great star during its history, with someone waiting in the wings to step up. Chevy Chase leaves after the inaugural season and Bill Murray gets the call. Farley and Sandler leave and we get Will Ferrell. Ferrell leaves but Armisen and Will Forte join the show and Amy Poehler receives more screen time. Every time SNL closes a door it opens a window, a window cracked just wide enough for a talented young sketch comedian to crawl.

And it will be the same with this loss, which should better be classified as a transition than a remaking; it’s certainly nothing as a dramatic as the turnover before Ferrell’s first season. Bobby Moynihan, who had a stellar season with his “Weekend Update” appearances as Drunk Uncle and Anthony Crispino, has already been doing much of the heavy lifting, appearing in cold opens, monologues, parodies, and Update visits, performing as straight man as well as Guy Fieri. He’s certainly more than capable of being the show’s anchor in his sixth season. Likewise of Taran Killam, whose squared-jaw good looks and Baryshnikovian dance moves make him possibly the show’s most valuable not-yet-ready-for-prime-time-player, and who is due for his breakout season. Then you have Kenan Thompson, who has only improved with age, as he shook off his All That trappings and grew into a reliable SNL presence, and Tim Robinson, who had a strong, confident debut season, and Jay Pharoah, who is an incredible mimic but still looking to find his groove, despite getting the nod to play Obama this season. Not to mention the fresh new talent they might recruit to replace the departing cast members. And add to that the terrific female players that we already discussed, and you have a dynamic, hungry, inspired cast ready to make their mark and define their era on SNL. If the show is guilty of anything over its last 38 seasons, it’s of being lazy, relying on the old standbys. With the old guard on its way out, SNL just might not have that luxury next season, and we might be better off for it.

Yes, we had to say goodbye to Stefon, and that was very, very sad. But Stefon had to move on, and so do we. Because there’s another Stefon out there. There always is. We just don’t know him yet.

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Filed under Analysis, Be careful what you wish for, Makes You Think, Saved by the Bell

Have We Entered The Age of Kenan?

We’ve talked about the groundswell of support that has erupted around Kenan Thompson for his work  on SNL this season, and that “What Up With That?” has perhaps become the premier recurring sketch of the season so far, and while we don’t quite buy into all the buzz, there’s no denying he’s having his best season yet.  With his stock at record levels, he was the subject of a profile over at NY Mag, ostensibly cementing this as his breakout season.  Apparently even Lorne Michaels agrees, remarking that “Kenan’s on fire this season.”  Makes sense that Lorne would have a spot for Thompson, because while Thompson has found his groove, there were many sketches in previous years in which Kenan seemed out-of-place, like the SNL intern, incongruous to the rest of the sketch.  Those moments usually resulted some in some of laughter too, but more because they were stilted Kenan Thompson cameos, and not organic comedy.  Now he’s truly enmeshed in the sketches and earning the laughs. Now while we  don’t necessarily agree with any Kenan Thompson “MVP” chants (our allegiance, obviously, belongs to Jason Sudeikis), we’re starting to forgive him for “Deep House Dish” (but there’s still a long way to go).

But let’s not focus on the present, or even the future.  Let’s look back at the past.

And while we’re in the wayback machine, here’s an interview with Thompson I conducted five years ago this month just prior to the release of Fat Albert, and when Thompson was just midway through his 2nd season on SNL.  Interestingly, when asked about SNL he says “Probably one of the most stressful situations I’ve ever seen in life. But it’s only going to last a couple more years and then after that you can do whatever.”  Well, he’s been on the show for six years now and as he’s just hitting his stride it’s probably going to be a few more before he can do “whatever.”  But after paying his dues all this time and likely growing a little wiser, one must wonder if he feels the same way now.  At the moment, something tells me he’s just enjoying it.  But, you know what, I’ll see if I can’t get a follow-up interview.

NY Mag: What Up With Him?

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Filed under Nostalgia Corner, Other people's stuff, Saturday Night Live

‘SNL’ & JGL: Full of Sound and Fury Signifying…What, Exactly?

Well, there was no denying that the energy level was turned up to 11 on this weekend’s Saturday Night Live, with a burst of adrenaline that was no doubt due in great part to Joseph Gordon Levitt’s raucous enthusiasm, and, perhaps, with the scathing reviews after last weekend’s January Jones episode, the cast and crew felt they had something to prove.  And they came out and put on an entertaining, upbeat, cue card independent show.  But was it actually any funnier?

Well, yes, it was.  But was it the “best episode of the season,” the superlative that many blogs have given it, so soon after they did the same for the Taylor Swift outing?  That assertion, like the Taylor Swift platitudes, is debatable.  Certainly though, there was no arguing it was better, and, at the very least, not nearly as lazy.  But in this case, let’s not confuse enthusiasm for a good sense of humor, or entertainment for comedy.  They’re definitely related, but one does not necessarily equal the other.

Over on his EW blog Ken Tucker provided an excellent commentary that’s quite similar to my own take (so if you’re in a rush and can only read his review or ours, read his), noting that while Levitt’s frenetic monologue performance of “Make ‘Em Laugh” from Singing in the Rain was impressive (especially his two off-the wall backflips followed by a well-executed pratfall) and a crowd pleaser, it didn’t exactly make you laugh.  It was almost more like a successful awards show opening number than a sharp, funny SNL monologue.  That being said we’ll be lucky if all future hosts can provide as much talent and effort as “regular Joe”  (However, with that kind of energy, one has to wonder if JGL was on more than just regular joe).

Read on: What’s Up With Kenan Thompson, Family Dinners & Pierre Escargot? Plus, Jason Sudeikis makes 12:50am safe again…

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Filed under Analysis, Good Humor, Other people's stuff, Saturday Night Live