Tag Archives: Joe Biden

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

Must Flee TV: ‘SNL’ Says Goodbye to Kristen Wiig – We Know What We Got When It’s Gone

For the last week we’ve been taking a look at NBC’s Thursday night comedies, but with Kristen Wiig’s sendoff on ‘SNL’ this past weekend we decided to add her departure to the conversation. 

It’s not worth going into detail about how the season finale of SNL – and the season as a whole – was middling.  The Mick Jagger-hosted episode was a hit-or-miss mixed bag which typifies nearly every episode and every season.  As we’ve learned from several seasons of recaps and now over a decade-and-a-half of religious viewing, that’s the show.  It will never be too far up or too far down, so just try to enjoy it.  What is worth discussing, as all of the internet has been doing for the past two days, is the exit of Kristen Wiig after seven stellar seasons, leaving behind a body of work that positions her as arguably the strongest female cast member of all-time.

More: Kristen’s gone and we feel fine…

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Filed under Analysis, Be careful what you wish for, Good Humor, Mancrush, Must Flee TV, Saturday Night Live, Yvonne Hudson

An ‘SNL’ Holy Trinity: Politics, Jon Hamm & Sports: AKA An ‘SNL’ Hamm Sandwich

Earlier this week comedy.com published their list of the 10 Funniest SNL Sketches Inspired by Presidents and I wanted to share it with you for a number of reasons.

1. As was the impetus for the list in the first place, it’s relevant, as it was uploaded in anticipation of President Obama’s State of the Union Address this past Wednesday night.  Now I don’t have much to say about the address, as I only saw about the last 20 minutes of it, and it was closed-captioned at a bar, but I feel pretty confident that on tonight’s SNL they will lead with a parody, mining jokes from Joe Biden’s seal clapping and Nancy Pelosi’s emphatic, frenetic applause.  Sorta like this:

2. In my recent list of the Top 10 SNL Sketches of the 00s, I decided to only include one political sketch, so the comedy.com list rather fills that void (and saves me from doing more work).  If I were to add one more in, it would probably be a debate, but in terms of personal preference I have a real affinity for this Obama commercial:

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3. This is something to whet your appetite for tonight’s new episode, featuring the return of, you guessed it, a beardless Jon Hamm!  First hosting last decade, in October of 2008, Hamm proved that he’s more than just a handsome face, just as skilled at comedy as he is staring into the nothingness, drinking whiskey and smoking a cigarette, and looking dashing doing it.  I’ve already included many of the sketches from his last go-round, so here’s one from later in the show that I have yet to employ:

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4. On Sunday night NBC goes back to the well and serves up another SNL compilation special, this time, in honor of the Super Bowl and in lieu of a game, it’s SNL Sports All-Stars.  Like the Christmas special, a show made up old sports-themed sketches is nothing new.  However, also like the Christmas special, Sports All-stars will be “hosted” by characters who originated in the last two seasons and are already over-exposed.  In the Christmas special it was Gilly, whom I’ve already wrote many words about hating, and whom I thought might actually ruin Christmas.  This time around it’s ladies’ sports commentators, Pete Twinkle and Greg Stink (Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte respectively), with Twinkle always finding a way to plug the latest feminine hygiene sponsor and Stink being generally clueless, unprepared and often a bit creepy.  When these characters first debuted in Ladies’ Billiards last October, I thought it was a success, an unorthodox sketch that Sudeikis and Forte made it work.  The kind of sketch that comes late in the show for a reason.  So I was alarmed when the sketch turned up again so quickly, this time in the form of a Bowling final, and again two weeks ago in the Sigourney Weaver episode in the guise of a darts competition.  It was a fun sketch to start, but now they’re stretching it thin, showing it three times in half a season, and it’s only a matter of time before they exhaust these characters.  However, I will say that Twinkle and Stink are a much better choice to host a compilation show, and I’m actually interested/excited to see how they might expand these characters.  Can’t be any worse than Gilly.

And here’s one of my favorite sports sketches, an all-time classic that I assume will be included in the special:

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And don’t forget: Jon Hamm tonight.  There’s a 50% chance it’s going to be funny!

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Filed under Other people's stuff, Saturday Night Live