Tag Archives: Will Forte

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

Top Ten ‘SNL’ Sketches of 2010

Back in May we had every intention of compiling a “best of” list for SNL‘s 35th season.  However, for one reason, or another, that never happened.  So, instead of just abandoning this intention altogether we decided to put together a list for the 2010 calendar year, and then come spring we’ll post revised rankings that only pertain to the 2010-2011 campaign.  Sound good?  Great.  And hopefully this will hold you over until Jim Carrey graces Studio 8H on Saturday night.

1. Jeff Bridges/Cookie Monster Monologue: Obviously we’re completely biased towards this piece, but nothing from the previous 12 months provided us with nearly as much glee.  It gave us much the same feeling we imagine Cookie Monster experiences when he devours a particularly delicious cookie.

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Keep going: #2-10! Night tremors, weddings bands, NY’s hottest club and more!

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Halloween ‘SNL’ & Jon Hamm: Tricks, Treats and the Return of the Old Guard

Last week we hypothesized that the Halloween episode of SNL hosted by Jon Hamm would either be the best of the season or the laziest.  Hamm, making his third hosting appearance, has already proven to be a go-to, top-notch host, one that brings out the best in the cast and crew.  But, on the other hand, what often happens when the show is blessed with a skilled host is that they relax, relying too much on the host’s charm and natural comedic talents (see: Galifiankis, Zach).  However, what we were treated to this week was something in between, and something, in hindsight, typical of a third hosting go ’round.  During a debut performance the material can often be safe, figuring out if the host has what it takes, a bit of a feeling out process.   If that host succeeds, then when he or she comes back for a second stint the crew is energized, knowing that they have someone who will deliver.  You could see that confidence, motivation and excitement in Hamm’s second hosting job last winter.  But when a host comes back for the three-peat, the crew is now so comfortable and at ease that they’re willing to taking more chances, throwing more caution to the wind.  So what you receive is not mainstream yuks and recurring sketches, or weary, unmotivated punchlines and recurring sketches, but a sense of adventure laced with apathy for the viewer.  This is what happens when you have a host who no longer needs to prove himself, who has tenure, which is why so many of Alec Baldwin’s shows are peppered with offbeat sketches, some that delight (like last season’s bizarre “Timecrowave“) and some that crash and burn (like “Arizona Evenings” from the same episode).  Judging from this past weekend’s show, it seems that Hamm is now in that class.

More: Mustaches, kisses, Rihanna, Star Wars & Sam Kinison! Plus, WHOM did they rip off this week?

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‘SNL’: Plain Jane

Not that Jane Lynch was sub-par in her first (of hopefully many) outing as host of SNL,  quite the contrary, but it’s that, once again, the material failed to live up to the vast talents of the host.  It’s confusing, bewildering and frustrating that they keep wasting their resources.  Perhaps, as we felt with the Zach Galifianakis show last season, the writing staff is actually less motivated by a talented host; they rely on the host to elevate the material, so what they deliver is second-rate.  It’s just a theory, and probably misguided and misinformed, but you also can’t ignore the body of evidence, because, while this week’s show was better than last week, it wasn’t a great improvement.  We saw plenty of Jane Lynch (and plenty of wigs), but nothing truly memorable.

Read on: Gilly on Glee? Is that all you got? Also: who did SNL rip-off this week?

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‘SNL’ Shake-Ups & Sensationalism: Slate & Sudeikis

It’s hard to believe that a year has passed by since we waved goodbye to Michaela Watkins (we hardly knew ye) and Casey Wilson (probably for the best) and welcomed with skeptical arms the rookies Jenny Slate and Nasim Pedrad.  And it’s sad to report that a year later we’re already saying goodbye to the former of that dynamic young duo.  And once again, the changes are sure to raise eyebrows.  However, this time around, we don’t have a good theory as to what precipitated the moves.

With Will Forte’s departure two weeks ago the whispers began to circulate and the dominoes began to fall.  Except, they really didn’t fall so much as erect themselves next to already firmly planted playing pieces, with Taran Killam (best known from Scrubs), Paul Brittain and Vanessa Bayer from the iO Chicago, and Jay Pharoah, a comedian and talented impressionist, joining the cast, while veterans Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Kenan Thompson – rumored to possibly be following Forte out the door – remain (as of press time) at their posts.  So it came as a bit of a shock when word got out yesterday that the show had released a cast member, but not one of its established male veterans with s burgeoning film careers (or even Kristen Wiig, who may have already over-stayed her welcome a season or two), but, instead, Slate, who had only put in a season’s worth of work.

Now, if you recall last year’s history lesson on women & SNL, you’ll recall that going into the season with four women (Slate, Pedrad, Wiig & Abby Elliott most recently) was on the high side.  In fact, going a whole season with four veteran female cast members is just about as good as it’s ever been on the show.  So, with the addition of Bayer, it’s not surprising that SNL & head honcho Lorne Michaels decided to cut loose a lady.  It was a numbers game.  That we understand.  But then why add one in the first place?

Read on: The curious case of Jenny Slate. Also, Jason Sudeikis is the new Ben Affleck.

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In Memoriam: Will Forte (Sort Of)

Well, it’s the end of a weird, absurdist, hit-and-miss era, as Will Forte and SNL announced their amicable separation today, after 8 years of professional bliss and uneven comedy.

As for Will and this blog, it’s no secret that our relationship has not been so smooth.  We’ve often voiced our objection to some of the more outrageous, off the wall sketches that seemed to spring forth from the Forte womb, most often found in the 12:50am dead zone, or sometimes only in dress rehearsal (see: skeevy stalker Hamilton, the bizarre Falconer, and the lyrical stylings of Jackie Snad and Clancy Bachlerat, which literally consist of just random words thrown together in random orders).  In many cases we’d rather see Jason Sudeikis elevate a simple premise or a lame idea to something spectacular, rather than a Forte sketch that was just too far out there.

But, to his credit, Forte willingly flew too close to the sun.  Sure, he got burned a time or two (certainly in our eyes), but we have to respect his ambition.  And beyond the odd sketches and one-note “Weekend Update” characters, we have to begrudgingly admit that his MacGruber was often brilliant, and even more impressive, it never got old.  And while Forte’s George W Bush never managed to escape the shadow of the definitive Will Ferrell version, he really never had a shot, but he still soldiered on and made it work in its own way.  We can certainly salute him for that.

So, Will Forte, we’re going to miss you challenging us.  The show is going to be a little more dull without you (if that’s even possible.  Riiiiight???). We didn’t always like what you did, but we (usually) respected it.

In honor of Forte’s departure we’re going to leave you with what we consider his grand opus, a sketch from another planet; strange, baffling, completely dead in the water and with the impression that it was made on a dare, but, yet, oddly compelling.  Will Forte, for better or worse, this is your legacy:

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(on another note, can you believe it’s already been a whole year since that whole uproar over the firing of Michaela Watkins and subsequent hiring of Jenny Slate and Nasim Pedrad?  Time sure flies when you’re occasionally offered sharp and/or funny sketch comedy).

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‘SNL’: Hamm & Cheese and A Bublé Disposition

PUNS!!!

Jon Hamm SNLIn yesterday’s SNL appetizer post I surmised that last night’s show had a 50% chance of being funny.  However, immediately after making this less than bold proclamation I realized that I should have at least given the odds at 51%, and more accurately probably around 75%.  With SNL returning after a week off, having proven they perform best with a little rest, and under the capable reigns of Jon Hamm, the odds were certainly in their favor.

And had I thought it through yesterday and gone with the 75% estimation I would have been right, as about 3/4 of the show was (surprisingly or unsurprisingly, I’ll let you decide) solid.  From the moment Hamm stepped out onto the stage for his monologue you knew you were in good hands (sorta like the way I feel during the opening credits of any Quentin Tarantino movie).  Obviously the easy thing to do here would be to compare Hamm’s hosting performance to that of his Mad Men co-star, Ms. January Jones.  Of course, that’s entirely unfair, because Jones was clearly over-matched and out of her element, and Hamm has already demonstrated his hosting prowess.  There’s really no reason to compare a Picasso to a Bazooka Joe comic.  We already know which is going to come out on top (well, I guess in that scenario it depends on the criterion, if we’re talking about which is the superior work of art or which serves as a better gum wrapper.  But I digress).  However, we’ll indulge that comparison briefly, because, like Jones’, Hamm’s monologue employed some Mad Men parody, and to far better results than the “Mad Mennies” bit in Jones’ monologue.  As Hamm’s big break has been his role as the mysterious, stoic Don Draper, he showed some clips from his earlier “roles,” but in each of these Hamm maintains the personality of the debonair Draper.  The first clip, a Saved by the Bell parody titled “Late for Class,” was the best (if only for the spot-on opening credits.  Oh, the early 90s!), but the second, Hamm on QVC giving Kristen Wiig the same tough love treatment that Don gives Betty Draper, and the last, Hamm as Draper doing Def Comedy Jam, were nearly as good.  By the time Hamm said “stick around, we’ll be right back,” he didn’t need to.  We were sold.

Read on: A funny and incisive cold opening?! Pork and Champagne?! Serigo?! Plus: the bottom 25th percentile.

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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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‘SNL’ & Sigourney Weaver: Old Tricks AKA The Worst ‘SNL’ of the Decade

Well, at least they’re consistent.  These days every good SNL episode (see: last week’s Charles Barkley affair) is almost always immediately followed by an underwhelming effort.  Despite the buzz they drummed up last week,  and the return of Sigourney Weaver (coming back after 23+ years, the longest such stretch between hosting gigs in SNL history), they once again did not disappoint when it comes to disappointing.

Sometimes it’s lazy writing.  Sometimes it’s bad writing.  Sometimes it’s just bad ideas.  This episode had all three.

With all the attention paid last week to the drama in late night television (including on this blog), it was only natural that they would use the fiasco as fodder.  Indeed, it was encouraging at first to see Darrell Hammond return to play Jay Leno on a Larry King Live cold open.  But where the sketch succeeded in mocking King’s senility and misappropriation of social networking tools, it kind of failed in effectively mocking the late night situation.  There was the big chinned, high voice Leno impression we’ve seen everywhere (although, big points on the denim on denim outfit), and Bill Hader turned in a weird, detached, dour Conan O’Brien.  I understood that they were showing that O’Brien is the powerless victim in this situation, but they didn’t seem to get a handle on his personality (if he wasn’t going to be the crazy Conan we know, he should have been the sharp, assertive pugilist of his mission statement).  It was especially discouraging because Conan honed his chops as a writer on SNL (see: the Lady Watchers). He’s part of the family, so you’d think they could have done him justice.  The best impression was probably Jason Sudeikis’ David Letterman, who appeared via satellite.  Except, that it was the wrong David Letterman persona for this situation.  It was basically Norm MacDonald’s beloved (by us) hyena laughed, self-indulgent, pencil throwing Letterman impression (he of “you got any gum???).  And although Sudeikis did it well, throughout the late night debacle we’ve seen the other Letterman, the outraged, seething, vitriolic Dave.  Obviously, it’s not as broad of an impression, but it could have worked if they tried.  Instead, they took the easy way out.  And, come to think of it, Fred Armisen’s Larry King also owes a lot to Norm MacDonald’s own King impression (but I guess this is perhaps a topic for another post; how, after being on the air for 35 years, it’s impossible for previous versions of celebrity impressions on SNL to not to color the imitations of the same personas by new cast members).  So, really, this sketch was just a testament to the unheralded work of Norm MacDonald.  Although, that all being said, it was definitely one of the strongest opens this season.

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Keep reading: More Jaypocalypse jokes, Alien Vs. Laser Cats, and the worst sketch of the decade!

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Charles Barkley Hosts the Best ‘SNL’ of the Decade! No Foolin’!

Alright, that headline is an obvious and deliberately misleading statement, you got me.  However, even more than being technically correct, this weekend’s show actually earned the distinction.  I previously stated my disbelief over the choice of Barkley, NBA Hall of Famer, current commentator and compulsive gambler, as the first SNL host of the decade.  It not only seemed completely out of left field, but even if Barkley was relevant among SNL‘s core demographic, you’d think they would have still chosen someone hipper, funnier and actually from a performing background for the first show.  At least save Sir Charles for 2010 week 2.

But I was wrong.  What I failed to realize is that Barkley was likely to succeed precisely because of his limitations.  It’s the extreme version of Christopher Walken or John Malkvovich, where the fact that it’s the host in a specific role is more of the joke than the sketch itself.  And with Barkley being a good sport ex-athlete instead of an eccentric actor, the writing staff was able to even more successfully use Barkley’s personality and performing constraints to his advantage.  It’s like the Jets plotting a game plan whereby Mark Sanchez has to just manage the game, hand off the ball for the majority of the snaps and avoid turnovers (bet you didn’t see that sports analogy coming.  Well, some of us care about football 3 weeks out of the year.  Mostly for the nachos).  And this is different from writing for an actor who just isn’t particularly talented when it comes to comedy.  Despite her SNL showing, January Jones is still a better acting talent than Charles Barkley; it’s just that SNL could use Barkley’s weaknesses to its advantage.  With Jones they could only try to minimize the damage by having her look pretty and leave the funny to the cast.

All those platitudes aside, while it was a surprisingly good episode by SNL standards, it wasn’t wall-to-wall successful, and I’d still rather see a host earn the laughs with natural comic ability as opposed to lack of it.  However, Barkley really was impressive, and set the bar high for 2010 (tall guy joke!).

More: Highlights! Racism! Cake! Chopping Broccoli!

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