Tag Archives: Will Ferrell

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

11 Years Since (September)11: On Grief, Despair and American Flag Speedos

“Ain’t no shame in holding onto grief . . . as long as you make room for other things too.”

Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins, The Wire 

We wanted to keep this bright and sunny and cheerful and light on the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and heed the words of Bubbles (Season 5, Episode 9) by making room for Will Ferrell sporting an American Flag Speedo. Unfortunately, we just can’t find that SNL sketch in its entirety online, either because Ferrell reveals too much of his undercarriage to get past the Hulu censors or because this sketch is included on the Best of Will Ferrell and NBC wants to protect its DVD assets. Either way, our attempt to demonstrate some levity on such a somber day was thwarted. So, instead, we will revert back to holding onto the grief and commemorate this day – and the still lingering sadness and pain – with our original choice, Jon Stewart’s personal, emotional, gut-wrenching but still hopeful words to open the first The Daily Show following the tragedy.

So there ain’t no shame in holding onto grief. Just don’t hold onto despair.

This should be required viewing every year for everyone, and just proves even more that we  already have our Will McAvoy.

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Filed under Brilliance, Lady Holiday

In Memoriam: Michael Clarke Duncan AKA The Club is Closed

When word broke late Monday night that Michael Clarke Duncan had passed away at the far too early age of fifty-four we were not quite surprised, having known that he suffered a heart attack in mid-July and was in serious condition ever since. But even before he was hospitalized he seemed like the kind of gentle giant who might be taken away from us too soon. With such a massive, powerful, outsized frame, accompanied by such a soft, kind touch, it would not have been illogical to wonder if his heart could support such a large figure, even though through his charm and personality appeared to have a big heart.

He’s most remembered for his Academy Award Nominated performance in The Green Mile, his breakout role, and, indeed, this is the primary credit noted in his obituaries. But we couldn’t help but feel like we knew him before that, in a lighter, less somber role, in a movie that was very close to our own hearts. And in studying his filmography, we realized what we were thinking of, what made us fond of Duncan all these years: A Night at the Roxbury. Yes, this is an exceedingly dumb movie, even by SNL movie standards, but we were enamored with it as teenagers, and you only need to take one look at Will Ferrell’s lifetime box office to know that it featured a future star. But it also had a small role for Duncan as a bouncer, a vocation that he was not unfamiliar with. It wasn’t anything significant, but with his bowling ball biceps, Barry White-like bass, and obvious warmth in spite of the nature of his role, Duncan left an indelible impression on us.

In the end, perhaps, he was literally larger than life.

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Filed under In Memoriam, Saturday Night Live

Remember That Time Vulture Ripped Us Off?

We joke a lot on this blog about people ripping us off – Stephen Colbert, Entertainment Weekly, Paul F. Tompkins (which resulted in a bitter Twitter feud) – but when were never as wounded as we were when we saw a new Vulture post presenting their “Map of the Comedy Zeitgeist.”  Why did we find this so alarming, so soul crushing?  Well, because it’s essentially an updated (and much, much prettier) version of our Judd Apatow Chart, which we used to launch this blog those three years ago.  Sure, the idea that there are these overlapping connections in the comedy world, most of which are tethered to the likes of Apatow, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, and Paul Rudd, has been oft-explored for several years now.  But never before has there been a graphic representation that feels so close to ours, so similar (and yet so much more visually appealing).  Thus, we will not rest until we receive the credit we are due.  In protest we will continue to read, appreciate and occasionally steal from Vulture.

Are we being paranoid?  Hyperbolizing?  Take a look and you decide.

Them:

Us:

 

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Filed under Interweb, Judd Apatow, MS Paint, Other people's stuff, Rip-off

Muppet Monday: Oscars the Grouch

If you had a chance (or the misfortune) to read our tweets from last night’s Oscars telecast, you’ll know that we were very sore that Bret McKenzie was not given a chance to perform his Oscar-nominated “Man or Muppet” (and one would assume a theoretical performance would include Jason Segel & Walter, if not the Muppet cast), and we took every opportunity to point out an uninspiring three minutes that could have been better spent with a Muppet musical interlude (which, basically, was any three minutes in the show, save for Tom Hanks’ presentation and Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis’s own musical interlude).  And, despite the hope that we foolishly granted ourselves in our most private moments, the Muppet contribution to the show was limited to a short bit with Kermit & Miss Piggy introducing Cirque Du Soleil (so you had time for those freaks and not the Muppets? C’mon).  So with that you could consider the chance to do something fun and different and special officially thwarted, in favor of the same old pabulum (and the new old Billy Crystal).

BUT, despite all that, the Muppets did deliver two of the night’s best moments.  First, of course, was Bret McKenzie’s triumph (although, let’s be honest, if the song from Rio won, we should just pack it in.  That would have been worse that Meryl Streep’s victory (which, by the way, was a win for lazy white people everywhere)), winning the Oscar for a film that deserved much more acclaim and recognition than it received.  The second moment was McKenzie’s gracious, earnest acceptance speech, and, more to the point, Jason Segel’s reaction when McKenzie offered his gratitude to Jim Henson.  That moment of pure joy could warm the coldest heart.

We can’t find that clip online (thanks a lot, the man!), but this almost approximates that joy and innocence:

On a related note, for the better part of the last year we’ve been slogging our way through Michael Davis’ Street Gang, the wonderfully detailed and thoroughly researched history of Sesame Street.  Not surprisingly, we found the most engaging excerpts to be those that touched on Jim Henson’s contribution to the show, and, in a macabre way, the description of his passing and his now legendary memorial service.  We finally came to this event towards the end of the book as we were riding along the E train yesterday; at one point the doors open, we look up and what should we see?  Jim Henson, surrounded by his greatest creations, a poster for their exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image.  It was a bit eerie, but even more it felt special, serendipitous.  And, then, mere hours later, McKenzie invokes Henson’s name, providing another fitting tribute to a man who remains an inspiration to so many of us.

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Filed under Bert-n-Ernie, Muppet Mondays, Muppets, Tyranasaurus Sex

This Is Exactly the Kind of Thing They Should Have Featured on ‘SNL Backstage’

A few weeks ago we griped that the recent prime-time special Saturday Night Live Backstage was thoroughly underwhelming, in large part because it recycled previously seen interviews and failed to deliver any new insight into what goes on behind the scenes.  What kind of stuff you ask?  Stuff like this:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Wouldn’t had it been great if they talked about Galifianakis’ last hosting stint, when he shaved his beard late in the show, only to don a fake beard for the goodbyes?  Or just gave us an-depth look at your run-of-the-mill costume change.  How do they change clothes so quickly?  How do they adhere the wigs?  Do they get notes about the upcoming sketch?  Do they ever change the order of the sketches mid-show?  Wouldn’t have those all been fascinating parts of the show to learn about?  Instead we heard again what a genius Will Ferrell is (which he is, but still).

Or, take for example, the Titanic sketch that closed out Galifianakis’ show.  This sketch seemed to require an immense amount of tech and an elaborate middle-of-the-ocean set, especially for a two and a half-minute sketch at 12:55am (and, indeed, it seemed to suffer a misstep towards the end).  We would have loved to see the frantic scramble to get this kind of sketch safely to air (and to see the reaction when it doesn’t go off exactly as planned).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

So hopefully they’ll heed our advice and showcase all of this in the eventual sequel, SNL: Behind the Comedy.

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Filed under Analysis, Saturday Night Live

Kieran’s Korner: Another Look at ‘SNL,’ Dana Carvey and “The Best Cast Ever”

Even before we finished our analysis of last weekend’s Dana Carvey hosted ‘Saturday Night Live’ we had no doubt that this particular episode, this particular crossroads, required additional insight.  Perhaps, more than ever, a Kieran’s Korner was needed.  As you know, we consider Kieran our elder statesmen when it comes to ‘SNL’ knowledge and personal experience, our very own living, breathing, sweater vest-wearing ‘Live From New York.’  To some degree, the Carvey years, ’86-’93, were always nostalgia to us; we were practically an infant when Carvey debuted, and thus only began to appreciate his talent towards the end of his tenure, largely because of the runaway success of ‘Wayne’s World.’  Our first time seeing the show live came just after Carvey’s exit, the final seasons of Farley and Sandler, and indeed we didn’t become regular viewers until the great cast turnover of 1995 (and, to be fair, like Kieran, we initially didn’t care for that group funny).  So while the Will Ferrell era was the first cast we became intimately familiar with, watched week in and week out, the Carvey period came during Kieran’s formative years.  We knew then that any effect the last episode had on us, there was a good chance that feeling would only be amplified for Kieran.  So we turned to Kieran for his special brand of wisdom, to discover his reaction considering his similar but much more personal relationship with ’86-’93 .  And, as usual, he obliged.

Speaking of the death of childhood, let me tell you about the flood of negative emotions I experienced watching the first episode of the 21st season of Saturday Night Live.

The date was September 30, 1995 and I was twenty-three years old. Mariel Hemingway was the host. There was an interminable sketch where Will Ferrell yelled at some kids who were, evidently, on a shed. Filmed pieces included a rather pallid spoof commercial for a “morning” beer named AM Ale. Against better judgment, Mark McKinney tried to import his Chicken Lady character from The Kids in the Hall.

I didn’t laugh.

Continue: Kieran’s Korner or: How Kieran Learned to Stop Worrying and Love ’95-’01. And a hindsight look back at Carvey’s auspicious beginnings…

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Filed under Fashion Show at Lunch, Kieran's Korner, Nostalgia Corner, Saturday Night Live