Tag Archives: Fred Armisen

An Earlier ‘Late Night’

Q: When is a sitdown a standup? 

A: When Seth Meyers premieres as host of Late Night and takes his act out from behind the “Weekend Update” desk and moves it to center stage. 

Seth Meyers Late NightIt was a much less of an auspicious debut for Late Night with Seth Meyers than Jimmy Fallon’s maiden Tonight Show voyage, even with a visit from Vice President “Crazy” Joe Biden (indeed, maybe the most notable part of the evening came from Amy Poehler, who utilized the opportunity to announce a second season renewal for Comedy Central’s Broad City). However, that it was a low-key evening was not a surprise, it was probably by design. In fact, whereas Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night distinguished itself for being the late night show for millennials, the first one crafted with YouTube and Twitter in mind, this iteration of Late Night might stand out for being something quite the opposite. And if it’s balance that Lorne Michaels’ late night lineup is after, then Meyers’ hour might bring it.

It’s foolhardy to judge the long-term success of a program based off of one show, or the first week of shows, or even the first moth, maybe even the first year. Conan O’Brien famously took some time to adjust, and Meyer’s predecessor Fallon slowly settled into his groove, and even after his promotion he still struggles mightily as an interviewer. So it was both no surprise and no cause for alarm that Meyers’ first outing left much room for improvement. His monologue, something that likewise remains a weak spot in Fallon’s arsenal, felt awkward, unnatural, and Meyers seemed uncomfortable finding his mark on the studio floor instead of behind a newsdesk. Indeed, leading up the premiere, we wondered if Meyers should dispense with the traditional stand-up monologue all together and just do it all from the desk, Daily Show style. However, after seeing what we feel is a beautiful, vibrant studio with distinctive sliding doors in place of curtains, we’re rethinking that sentiment; the setting is right, it’s just the style, subject and delivery that needs some work. More topical, pop-culture and current event setups, less obscure, strange-but-true stories. Similarly, his first desk piece, “Venn Diagrams,” had promise, but quickly lost momentum, and had little to separate itself from a Buzzfeed slideshow. We applaud the concept, but it needs more. Or less, like some cheap, low-concept Late Show segments. But, unfortunately, it was caught between a throwaway sight gag and entertaining, clever wordplay. What it maybe missed most was more of Meyers himself.

Which is where the show might need to go to find its sweet-spot. Meyers’ strength, as opposed to Fallon, is interviewing, is engaging with his guests in a way that’s neither fanboy nor sycophant. It was for precisely that skill that he was considered as a replacement for Regis Philbin on Live!, and it’s that ability he needs to exploit, even if, in the current talk show landscape, traditional interviewing is something that seems to be reserved for Charlie Rose. Perhaps, then, it is not any of Meyers’ Late Night forebears that he should strive to emulate, but Tom Snyder, whose Tomorrow Show was the precursor to Late Night with David Letterman. While we’re far from suggesting that Meyers dispense with the live audience, only interview one guest per show and take up smoking, emphasizing a more straightforward format – interesting, revealing interviews that allow for both Meyers’ and his guest’s personalities to shine through – might make the most sense, might allow Late Night with Seth Meyers to find its own voice. In fact, the new Late Night set itself – a sparse, almost teacher-like desk, and 70s style chairs instead of a plush couch – evokes the feeling of The Dick Cavett Show, another early talker that stressed insightful interviews over bits and punchlines. If Jimmy Fallon is the cutting-edge, high-energy, internet-savvy model at 11:30pm, then Meyers can be the more relaxed, subtler throwback at 12:30pm. He might need to go back, if he wants to stay late.

And, if Meyers focuses on those things, then he can leave the fun stuff to Fred Armisen.

 

 

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Filed under Back to the Past, Must See TV, Reeeeeege, Saturday Night Live, Talkies, Weigh-in

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

WOMP: The Best ‘SNL’ Sketch of the Season

This is that time of the year when blogs across the countryweb sit down and decide on the top five or ten or seventeen sketches from the recently concluded season of Saturday Night Live (and we’ve done this too).  But, for us, there was one sketch from the 2011-2012 season that stood head and shoulders above the rest.*  It was simultaneously the best political satire and pop culture parody and was damn near perfect.  And it made us so happy.

*Obviously any Stefon segment is exempt because he’s already been granted emeritus status.

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Filed under Checks & Balances, Good Humor, Saturday Night Live

Was That Special? Dana Carvey Returns to ‘SNL’ And Our Childhood Officially Ends

We’re going to warn you right off the bat that this is probably going to be the most subjective SNL recap we’ve yet written.  So if you like your SNL analysis free of emotional attachment, well, then you should look somewhere else (we’re sure the web might offer one, maybe two, other options), because, unfortunately, as we watched this last SNL, hosted by legendary cast member Dana Carvey, our reaction was intrinsically bound up in how we’ve watched this show since childhood, and how the this particular episode made us reexamine and reassess our feelings about the show, Dana Carvey and his SNL era.  So, at the extreme risk of being self-indulgent, here we go.

Read on: We mourn our youth and ask the question: who is Dana Carvey?

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Filed under Analysis, Be careful what you wish for, Crucial Taunt, Flashback!, Nostalgia Corner, Reeeeeege, Saturday Night Live, The Bieb

It Certainly Does Zuck: Jesse Eisenberg Meets His Maker On ‘SNL’

This past weekend’s SNL could have been the funniest of the season and it probably wouldn’t have mattered.  That it wasn’t the funniest of the season also will not matter years from now.  No, what this episode is being talked about for, the reason that it will ultimately be remembered, is that it featured the first public meeting between Jesse Eisenberg and the social network magnate he portrayed to the tune of a Best Oscar nomination.  It was a worlds colliding, fabric of the universe fraying, I’m seeing double (four Zuckerbergs!), moment (although Andy Samberg’s presence as a tertiary Zuckerberg carried much less weight and meta-significance).  It was awkward, sure, but that was by design, as the two ‘bergs, Eisen and Zucker, seemed rather comfortable with each other, indeed, giving the sense that they may, in fact, be bros.  The tone was less confrontational and more self-congratulatory, as if Eisenberg and Zuckerberg had successfully pulled the wool over our eyes, that the real Zuckerberg is not an unnaturally focused, perennially scowling, monotone misanthrope, but a laid back, dorky, goofball visionary, and that perhaps Zuckerberg was in the on the joke the whole time.  Now, that’s not the case, but if there’s any sense of animosity between the two ‘bergs, then Zuckerberg is a far greater actor than anyone is giving him credit for (and by all accounts he’s a terrible, terrible actor).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

But, more importantly, what does this mean for SNL? And for Mark Zuckerberg? And WAS anything funny?

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Filed under Analysis, Interweb, Saturday Night Live, TV Killed the Music Video Star

Sudeikis Week: JSuds Goes to the NW

Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein have created a terrific little sketch comedy show with Portlandia.  The IFC show (executive produced by Lorne Michaels, because the only way an SNL cast member is allowed to do anything away from the show is if Michaels is involved) is a breath of fresh northwest air.  And they made a very savvy choice recruiting Armisen’s SNL castmate Jason Sudeikis for the pilot, casting Sudeikis as successful organic farmer/charismatic cult leader Aliki.  And, as usual, Sudeikis lit up the screen.

Unfortunately, video of his scenes aren’t available, but this should give you an idea:

But go watch the sketches that they have posted, and make sure to watch the new episode tomorrow night!

 

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Filed under Good Humor, Saturday Night Live

‘SNL’ With Host Cee-Lo, Musical Guest Gwyneth Paltrow and a Very Special Episode of ‘Pee Wee’s-Playhouse’

A little late this week so let’s get right to it:

We get it Gwyneth, you can sing!  You already proved it with Country Strong, your appearance on Glee and your CMA performance (and with Huey Lewis in Duets ten years ago).  But you had to show us again in your monologue, as Taylor Swift in this My Super Sweet Bar Mitzvah sketch, and by joining meandering songsmiths Kat and Garth on “Weekend Update.’  Listen, Gwyneth, WE GET IT.  It’s a wonder they didn’t hold off the “Worst of Soul Train sketch another week so Paltrow could play some kind of disco queen.  But they probably thought that would be overkill.

Also, Cee-Lo, we get it.  You’re a big deal right now.  Gwyneth Paltrow covered your hit song, and hugs you and treats you like her best friend.  But we don’t need to see the you also singing during the monologue and in the Bar Mitzvah sketch and also appearing in the “Record Label Meeting” sketch that was just a device to introduce your musical performance.  What’s that we said about overkill?  We mean, c’mon, it’s not like the guy is Paul McCartney.  And, sure, we admit, “F*** You” is one of those songs we heard about ad nauseam before we ever actually heard it (much like “Umbrella”), because the only radio we listen to is sports talk and NPR.  But it is good, at the very least, it’s dangerously infectious.  However, isn’t “F*** You” just like “Hey Ya,” but not as good.  Seven years later we still think the former is a great song, not sure if the latter will fare so well in 2018.  Will it be a classic or a novelty?  Only time will tell if it stands the test of time.  But, until then, we could have done with at least one less Cee-Lo appearance.

Read on: Pee-wee plays with fire, Bill Hader gets political, and a hidden meaning to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air sketch

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Filed under Analysis, Good Humor, Impatience, Saturday Night Live