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And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats - Matthew 25:32

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November 03, 2008


The Palin Doctrine on SNL's Election Eve Presidential Bash

Sarah Palin with a gun
Funny that Tina Fey doesn't seem to like or support Sarah Palin. On SNL as Palin, at one point she described herself as among other things "one part high school bitchy." But then Tina Fey some months ago on the Weekend Update before Palin's emergence famously declared that "bitch is the new black" and that bitches like her and Amy Poehler and Hillary Clinton get stuff done. It was a perfectly valid point.

Which brings me to one of the freakiest election eve things I think I've ever seen. NBC had a two hour prime time Saturday Night Live Presidential Bash. They appear to have done a few new introductory things live, with most of the best material from this last year of presidential campaigning, and a few choice moments of vintage Reagan and Ford and Bush humor for historical flavor.

Barbarians at the gate!
They also had new bits from the real McCain and Palin. I presume they were pre-recorded while the candidates were in as guests in the last couple of weeks. Palin's live appearance was perhaps fairly criticized for her lack of real lines and performance. The point of her appearance was more simply in her being physically present in the middle of the Palin rap, throwing her hands in the air like a true maverick as they shot down a "motherhumpin moose" to the beat.

But Sarah Palin's little bon mot that they saved for election eve was bitch in full and impressive effect, a solo monologue. Dig this:

Sarah Palin likes red meatIt occurs to me watching this that Sister Sarah is every bit the bitch that Tina Fey or Amy Poehler ever thought about being. Whoever exactly wrote that - and it sure at least sounds like she did - it comes across just a wee bit truly malicious and baring of fangs. It seemed a little bit purposely creepy and scary. I find myself both frightened and of course just a wee bit aroused.

Of course, Palin just went on SNL to make jokes about shutting down NBC in vegeance when she becomes veep as part of "the Palin Doctrine." That would be as opposed to the Barack campaign having lawyers making real threats against tv stations and such.

Besides being a really interesting freaky moment of tv history, I find this little 'joking' baring of the fangs rather reassuring. It kind of re-inforces my impression that Sarah Palin's bitch enough for the job. You'd think Tina Fey might appreciate that point.

Sarah Palin's wink during the vice presidential debate
moose slayer Sarah Palin John McCain and Sarah Palin

Labels: ,

posted by Al at 11/03/2008 10:32:00 PM

July 19, 2008


DVD Review: TV Funhouse
Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog on the TV Funhouse seriesIn a long and distinguished career, Robert Smigel has been among other things a writer for Saturday Night Live and Conan O'Brien. This includes creating the immortal Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog and the Saturday TV Funhouse cartoon shorts on SNL.

Those cartoon shorts provided the basis for the short lived Comedy Central series TV Funhouse, which aired a total of eight episode in 2000 and 2001. These have now been released on DVD.

I caught a couple of these at the time, and thought them fairly amusing. They're actually considerably more impressive now, watching them all carefully on DVD. They really filled out and expanded the idea a lot from the SNL shorts - without using any of the SNL characters, best I remember. For one thing, they didn't use The Ambiguously Gay Duo - the most popular SNL creation.

TV Funhouse host Doug DaleThere's really a lot of thoughtful writing meat on these faux kiddie show bones. They get stuff working in multiple simultaneous directions. I particularly liked the faux-50s educational film on "Overcoming Bowel Movements." It's got a lot of clever details as a parody of the educational film style. But it's also an ideas-level critique of supposed moral concerns involved in telling kids not to masturbate. They argue quite colorfully and imaginatively that telling people to deny or feel ashamed of the biological urge to masturbate is about as dumb and untenable as telling people to resist defecating.

The basic setup of the series had the relatively subtly perverse human host Doug showing up in costume for some theme of the day, only to find himself abandoned by the Anipals puppets, off for their own depraved debaucheries in Tijuana or Atlantic City. Special credit for creative perversion goes to the "Christmas cheer" episode. Turns out that "Christmas cheer" (which of course the Anipals lacked) was a drug, a chemical that they could get from the host's spinal fluid, which they boiled down to a powder and snorted. Doug's willingness to repeatedly subject himself to pain and abuse for the Anipals benefit was probably the strongest direct manifestation of his perversion.

Robert Goulet and the AnipalsProbably the best episodes were the Safari Day and Astronauts day episodes which the Anipals spent in Atlantic City. Robert Goulet was priceless as drinking buddy and wise confidant to the Anipals, trying to warn Chickie off of falling in love with a chimpstitute.

This also includes a great guest starring role for Triumph, the most near to character development I've seen for him. Plus, he has a great song about humping an "Underage Bichon." There's more excellent Triumph action in bonus features, especially his contribution to a Rob Reiner roast.

Perhaps partly this show didn't take off because a fair amount of it went over people's heads, even with the constant poo jokes and such. But also, the show was really dark in tone - far darker than the Simpsons or even South Park, the obvious points of comparison. Might have just been too evil for most people to watch. Watching eight episodes of this back to back was almost too dark even for me - but it sure was funny.


posted by Al at 7/19/2008 11:24:00 AM

December 15, 2007


John Belushi, Soul Man
The Blues Brothers were a pretty powerful phenomenon for a couple of years, but inherently suspect from the beginning. The genesis was that Chevy Chase had a gig at the White House doing his Gerald Ford impression for the president himself. As an excuse for Dan Akroyd and John Belushi to tag along, they were cast as Secret Service agents. The suits and the Ray Bans from that became the basis for Jake and Elwood Blues, building on an old sketch about blues playing bees back on Saturday Night Live.

Then they started taking it quite seriously. They recorded an album live at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. Animal House that summer of 1978 was making Belushi the man of the hour, making for exceptionally enthusiastic audiences as they opened for a week of Steve Martin comedy shows. The Briefcase Full of Blues album came from those dates, and spawned two full fledged Top 40 singles, "Soul Man" and "Rubber Biscuit."

Blues Brothers 1978 SNL Images 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Anything SNL or especially Belushi related being hotter than the proverbial two peckered goat, the SNL audience ate up a November live performance of "Soul Man" a few weeks before the album was released. It eventually went double platinum in the states. And of course it spawned a famous 1980 movie now widely recognized as a classic in which these recidivist criminals found themselves on a self-declared "mission from God."

Dan Akroyd and John Belushi as the Blues Brothers, 1978 imageI've always absolutely loved the Briefcase Full of Blues album, but even so racially insensitive a cad as myself can appreciate how the whole Blues Brothers phenomenon could be taken badly, particularly by black folk. I mean, who do these guys think they are? These white comedians are literally turning the blues into a joke for a comedy show, yet also casting themselves as purveyors of the form. Looking at some of these images from their November 1978 SNL performance of "Soul Man," you could not entirely unreasonably take Dan Akroyd's geek dance moves in particular as mockery. These white interlopers made big hits and big bucks on a lark making a joke of the suffering of folks like Robert Johnson. They surely made a lot more money playing "Sweet Home Chicago" than he ever made for writing it. I've certainly heard black folks say worse similar things about Elvis, with far less justification.

But then these questions of authenticity can be a bit tricky. John Belushi was from Chicago, whereas Robert Johnson never saw the place. Beyond that, they would describe their act as a tribute to the blues. They made a big point of promoting classic blues and r&b acts, pimping classic blues to their young white fans. They certainly could claim credit for turning millions of disco era kids onto the root music. How many young folk have gotten their introduction to Ray Charles or Aretha Franklin from the Blues Brothers movie?

But I'll go well beyond defending them against charges of cultural imperialism and argue for them as outstanding blues artists. Studio recordings of the group couldn't recapture that live moment of their beginning, and Belushi got himself dead before they had much chance to develop musically. But there's a real, visceral sense of moment in those SNL appearances, the movie, and especially that first album. After long years of listening to that album and the original source material, "Soul Man" sure sounds like it meant more to Akroyd and Belushi than it did even to Sam and Dave.

guitar baddass Steve Cropper with the Blues Brothers, 1978 imageOf course, their artistic success was in no small portion due to their crack band - which was mostly just the Saturday Night Live house band. But famously, that house band included some of the same badasses that had played on some of the original r&b classics. This was as good a r&b band as anyone ever had, give or take maybe James Brown, the Rolling Stones and one or two others. Steve Cropper in particular certainly stands out. But credit must also be given to Paul Shaffer for the tight arrangements he engineered.

Dan Akroyd blowing harmonica, 1978 imageBeyond the band though, Belushi and Akroyd really did throw their heart and soul into the mix. Comedy was their medium, but that too was an expression of their souls. Akroyd's aggressive geek dancing expressed his general spiritual hunger really effectively, actually, if you want to look at it that way. Plus, he can blow some pretty fair harmonica. Also, you could consider some of their affectations as subtle self-deprecating laments of their own whiteness.

John Belushi, 1978 imageMostly though, the ultimate success for the whole act hung on John Belushi's performance as a singer. John Belushi really was an excellent soul singer. I don't know that he was particularly gifted with that exceptional an instrument. He's not going to make you forget about Jackie Wilson. But he really meant it when he sang, and that totally comes through. A number of those performances on the Briefcase album sure sound as if the songs somehow meant more to Belushi than to the original artists.

And it wasn't all cutesy fun. Understandably, the goofy novelty of "Rubber Biscuit" was their other main hit single. But Belushi was a troubled man, and he expressed his inner soul more directly as Jake E. Blues than he ever did as John Belushi. His overdose death in 1982 was essentially a suicide. He really meant it when he was singing the "Shotgun Blues" and contemplating the possibility that he might just "take a shotgun, and disconnect my brain." Ultimately, John Belushi truly had the blues in his soul more than a lot of people who happened to be poorer or blacker.

THE BLUES BROTHERS movie cast and credits from
TV Listings
Message Board

Cast and Details
John Belushi: Joliet Jake
Dan Aykroyd: Elwood
James Brown: Rev. Cleophus James
Cab Calloway: Curtis
Ray Charles: Ray
Carrie Fisher: Mystery Woman
Aretha Franklin: Soul Food Cafe Owner
Henry Gibson: Nazi Leader
John Candy: Burton Mercer
Murphy Dunne: Murph
Steve Cropper: Steve "The Colonel" Cropper
Donald "Duck" Dunn: Himself
Willie Hall: Willie "Too Big" Hall
Tom Malone: "Bones" Malone
Lou Marini: "Blue" Lou Marini
Matt Murphy: Matt "Guitar" Murphy
Frank Oz: Corrections Officer
Kathleen Freeman: Sister Mary Stigmata
Armand Cerani: Trooper Daniel
Steven Williams: Trooper Mount
Charles Napier: Tucker McElroy
Steve Lawrence: Maury Slime
Twiggy: Chic Lady
Steven Spielberg: Cook County Clerk
Trina Parks: Church Lady

John Landis: Director
Dan Aykroyd: Writer
John Landis: Writer
Robert K. Weiss: Producer
Bernie Brillstein: Exec. Producer
George Folsey Jr.: Assoc. Producer
David Sosna: Assoc. Producer
Stephen Katz: Cinematographer - Technicolor
George Folsey Jr.: Editor
Ira Newborn: Musical Composer
Deborah Nadoolman: Costumes


posted by Al at 12/15/2007 02:58:00 PM

July 23, 2006


Tina Turner 1985 Saturday Night Live Pictures
I've got 100+ images of Tina Turner's February 1985 performance of "Better Be Good to Me" on Saturday Night Live. Considering her famously bad history with Ike and the particular themes of this song and the Private Dancer album it came from, I find some of her play with the band particularly interesting. Note how she's literally leaning on her guitar player for support a time or two here.

Here's Miss Tina in full effect
TINA TURNER 1985 SNL PICTURES 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Note that I generated these images in numbered sequence, so if you just save them to a local desktop folder and set your screensaver to show them in alphabetical order, they make a groovy screensaver slide show. This would actually apply to a lot of my photo sets, which you can find in the MoreThings Photo Gallery Index.

Oh, and here are more MoreThings Saturday Night Live pics while we're at it:
"Greenhilly" with Phil Hartman and Alec Baldwin 2 3
MARIAH CAREY 1997 SNL PICTURES 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Candice Bergen and Phil Hartman, 1987
NO DOUBT 1996 SNL IMAGES 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10



posted by Al at 7/23/2006 02:52:00 PM

May 20, 2006


No Doubt Photo Gallery
I have a new 46 picture photo gallery of Gwen Stefani with No Doubt performing "Don't Speak" on the December 7, 1996 broadcast of Saturday Night Live.

NO DOUBT PHOTO SNL GALLERY 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

More Saturday Night Live Photos


posted by Al at 5/20/2006 12:45:00 AM

April 20, 2006


Mariah Carey 1997 SNL Photos
Look, Mariah Carey is a known enemy of The People, but you have to admit that she's pretty cute. I originally put up some Mariah Carey pictures as kind of a sideways joke on my White Stripes Nation schtick. I was basically casting her as the whore to Meg White as the madonna.

I'm not entirely surprised that these Mariah pix have become one of the three or four most popular parts of MoreThings. Hey, you can always put on a good Macy Gray album to listen to while you look at Mariah.

Anyway, I can take a hint. You want more pictures of Mariah Carey. Alrighty then, I've conjured up 10 pages of images of Mariah Carey in action, performing "Butterfly" on Saturday Night Live on November 15, 1997. Here they are:

MARIAH CAREY 1997 SNL PICTURES 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10


posted by Al at 4/20/2006 07:58:00 PM

October 24, 2004


Ashlee Simpson's SNL Meltdown
Part of the beauty of live tv is the danger. There's a chance that something's going to slip, causing who knows what embarassment. Such was the case with Ashlee Simpson's ill fated "performance" on Saturday Night Live on October 23, 2004, in which the truth of the matter unexpectedly came out.

For her second song, the cameras cut in and the band was playing the introduction. Then what was apparently Ms Simpson's pre-recorded vocal performance kicked in. The most obvious explanation would be that she simply missed her cue, cause she didn't even have the microphone near her mouth. Her arm and mic were hanging to one side.

That was it. Control cut the pre-recorded vocal after a few seconds, and the band went right on playing. Just play through the changes until it comes back around again on the guitar. She tried to gamely dance a few steps.

However, she was just done. She couldn't even TRY to sing after that, and just walked off the stage after a total of about one minute. The band played on for a few more bars and they cut to commercial.

At the end of the show, she was on with host Jude Law with some explanation about the band playing the wrong song. This didn't really make any sense. The band knew what they were playing.

The problem appears to be lack of talent. It's generally rated pretty weak when you're a singer and "perform" live by lip synching. But it's really and truly lame when you can't even manage to lip synch. Even Milli Va-frickin-nilli could lip synch. Maybe she could get the one who's managed not to kill himself to give her lessons.

In those closing seconds of Ms Simpson's career aka the SNL closing credits, all the girls on the cast went out of their way to come to her on camera and give all hugs and moral support. That was a nice show of solidarity.

Now the one song she did manage to play was just nothing, and she's not even capable of lip synching the second one. I see a short shelf life for this "artist."



posted by Al at 10/24/2004 01:31:00 AM

July 19, 2004


Girlie men whine about the Governator
So some California Democrats are whining like a bunch of girlie men over Governor Schwarzenegger's speech invoking the ghost of an old Saturday Night Live sketch. From the AP:

"If they don't have the guts to come up here in front of you and say, 'I don't want to represent you, I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers ... if they don't have the guts, I call them girlie men," Schwarzenegger said to the cheering crowd at a mall food court in Ontario.

The governor lifted the term from a long-running "Saturday Night Live" skit in which two pompous, Schwarzenegger-worshipping weightlifters repeatedly use it to mock those who don't meet their standards of physical perfection.

Democrats said Schwarzenegger's remarks were insulting to women and gays and distracted from budget negotiations. State Sen. Sheila Kuehl said the governor had resorted to "blatant homophobia."

"It uses an image that is associated with gay men in an insulting way, and it was supposed to be an insult. That's very troubling that he would use such a homophobic way of trying to put down legislative leadership," said Kuehl, one of five members of the Legislature's five-member Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus.

Oh, yeah. The left went through the recall campaign calling Schwarzeneger every variation of Nazi and rapist and every ugly thing, but they can't stand the mild humor of this old Dana Carvey sketch. I feel bad for the poor little girlie men.

However, perhaps those what can't take even a mild joke need to be insulted. If you choose to be insulted and hurt by this, then maybe you deserve to be insulted and hurt. Jebus H Criminy, but these wussies wouldn't last five minutes on the playground at South Park. Being gay is one thing, but being a big cry baby just invites ridicule.

Ah, but here's the clincher of girlie man behavior, from Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, hiding behind his daughter's skirt:

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, a Democrat, said that while he wasn't upset by the remark, his 13-year-old daughter was.

"She's a young girl who knows the governor and really likes him a lot and didn't find the term to be a positive term, and finds it to be derogatory," Nunez said. "It was no question a very, very insensitive comment to make. I personally am not intimidated or threatened by it, but I think it really is beneath Gov. Schwarzenegger."

Daddy's big and brave, see, and he won't let that mean old governor threaten or intimidate him, no siree!

See, it's The Children that are being hurt by the Governator. Isn't that just like an evil rapist Nazi Republican?


posted by Al at 7/19/2004 02:38:00 AM

April 11, 2004


Saturday Night Live with Janet Jackson, 4-10-04
Saturday Night Live was well above average this week, though host and musical guest Janet Jackson was really the least of it.

Let's start with Ms Jackson's better part. She can dance. Not only her, but her whole troop had some outstanding choreography. It was worth watching her musical performances to see them.

The problem there being that the core part of all this, the actual SONGS, were nothing. Geez, no wonder this stuff isn't going over at radio. Forget any Superbowl backlash, the songs have no melody or hooks to speak of.

As to being a player in the sketches, though, Janet was just awful. She couldn't remember the lines, she's giggling nervously in the middle of others. The parts she actually remembered sounded like they were being read off cards by someone who doesn't get what they are supposedly saying.

This seems odd. She's had something of an acting career. What's the problem? Idiot baseball players and such have given stronger performances. Everyone thinks Jessica Simpson is a moron, but she gave a much stronger performance than this.

Wait though- I started out saying this was an especially good episode. Take it then that pretty much everything else was superior.

They did get good mileage out of Janet in the opening sketch. Jackson's execution was mediocre, but the IDEA of Janet as Condoleeza Rice flashing a titty to distract the 9/11 commission was killer. Best I could make out, apparently Janet in fact flashed The Titty to the live audience before shouting out the classic "Live from New York" tagline. In this case, however, The Titty was highly pixilated for broadcast and thus safe for public consumption.

Interestingly, the network made a point of noting that they would be broadcasting live (on the East coast), with no tape delay- despite the recent unpleasantness. The last time they put the show on tape delay was with host Andrew Dice Clay something like 14 years ago.

They did a pretty fair Good Times parody. The nominal reason would be that Janet had a part in the actual series. Her character was only minor to the show in the first place, though, and the least point of interest here.

Besides having fun parodies of the old characters, they had a good point of satire with the entire show, and how unfortunate and mistreated they were. Parnell showed up from a college to withdraw a scholarship from the gifted son, on the grounds that he had an overdue library book- about a "Malcolm the Tenth." Then he explains that "If you were white, we could overlook this." Then a huge rat ate the winning lottery ticket that JJ had spent the rent on.

Don't know if they have a name, but they had a little reunion of their group that features Horatio Sanz singing "I wish it was Christmas today." Both Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan were back as guests. Only this time, Simon Cowell himself was in the audience to review their performance- and eventually be dragged on stage with a pair of maracas to actually perform with the group. That was pretty cute.

Saving the best for last, Fred Armisen did an excellent sketch as Prince hosting a talk show. They did a surprisingly good job for starters at making Fred look like Purple Rain era Prince. Both the writing and performance of the parody were outstanding, putting Fred through paces as flake boy. By turns, he's playing fake-shy, whispering responses to the girl co-hosting, spouting non-sequiters, playing a bit of guitar, singing, and of course crawling across the floor a la "When Doves Cry." Then there were the recognizably masculine moments, seeming odd just by saying a normal sentence. "OK, I'm done with this."

This is the best work Armisen has done on the show. When someday they come up with a Best of Armisen DVD, this Prince sketch will be Exhibit A.


posted by Al at 4/11/2004 12:23:00 AM

December 06, 2003


No Sharpton on SNL for Iowa
Reverend Al Sharpton hosts Saturday Night Live tonight, but they won't be seeing it in Iowa. [STORY] All four local NBC affiliates in Iowa have decided not to run the live program, citing fears of getting tangled up in FCC Equal Time provisions in advance of his participation in the Democratic presidential caucuses in January.

Sharpton's campaign manager Charles Halloran had a clever retort. "Their lawyers must not have finished law school because NBC went through all sorts of research to make sure that it was appropriate."

Halloran had a cute remark, but it doesn't alter the underlying issue: all these FCC content rules stifle free expression. This makes a perfect example.

Sharpton's appearance on SNL may or may not be a violation of equal time provisions. It might be that none of the other candidates would complain. It might be that they would, but that the local stations would prevail in front of the FCC or in front of a court. Sharpton's manager might be exactly right.

On the other hand, screw it. The stations don't need the hassle, the possible liability or expense. They might well be judged not to be in any violation- after spending tens or conceivably hundreds of thousands of dollars defending themselves.

If it was my station, I would be inclined to put the show on as a matter of principle. This is a news event, even, besides a regularly scheduled network program, and voters who are interested absolutely SHOULD see this before making up their minds. Which might be a good argument against having me as a station manager, as my idea of principles would interfere with the most rational business judgment for what to do in such a situation.

The station managers have made what in fact looks like the best reasonable decision from the perspective of their job responsiblities. They are running businesses, not crusading for truth, justice and the American way. They are responsible for maximizing returns for stockholders. That is their principle job, and they don't need to be courting expense and problems over an episode of a late night comedy show.

It's hard enough to get businessmen to do the right thing by the community often times, and the more difficult you make it, obviously the less likely they are to do it. Fairness doctrines and equal time provisions and other content regulations actively turn the interests of business against open debate and thus against the true interest of the public.


posted by Al at 12/06/2003 04:52:00 PM

August 02, 2003


Victoria Jackson's birthday
Born August 2, 1959, Victoria Jackson turns 44 today. Happy birthday!

Goofy in just the right way, Victoria Jackson rates as my all-time favorite Saturday Night Live heartthrob. Ana Gasteyer, for one, was probably a more versatile performer, but only maybe Gilda Radner came close to be just this danged adorable.

The height of her adorableness may have come near the end of her SNL run, with her "I love a cop" bit on the Weekend Update, doing a handstand to display this motto sewn into her leggings. Soon after, she left the show to marry said cop (an old high school sweetheart) and make him babies.

Victoria Jackson on Saturday Night Live

There was a subtle kind of freakiness about being a good Christian girl, indeed a former Bible college student, working in the famously iconoclastic and cosmopolitan atmosphere of SNL. God love her.
Phil Hartman
Jon Lovitz
Sinead O'Connor Pope Incident, 1992
April 10, 2004 - Janet Jackson
October 29, 2005 - Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow
TRANSCRIPT: "The Man Who Plays Mr Belvedere Fan Club" 5-9-1992
Andy Kaufman-Elvis 1977 SNL Images 1 2 3 4 5 6
Candice Bergen as Anne Boleyn, 1987
Mariah Carey photos, 1997
Gwen Stefani-No Doubt photos 1996
Gilda Radner 1978 SNL Candy Slice Images 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Paul Simon Turkey Suit Monologue, 1976 Picture Gallery


posted by Al at 8/02/2003 01:08:00 PM

May 18, 2003


Saturday Night Live's tired season finale
Live broadcast on May 17, 2003 Guest host, Dan Akroyd - Musical guest, Beyonce

The show has been fairly weak much of this season, and they pretty much limped off with some mildly amusing material. Mostly the writing just hasn't been there.

Dan Akroyd was a waste. He was purely going through the motions, with no creative spark whatsoever. Most particularly, he didn't even do a monologue, but merely invoked the names of John Belushi and the Blues Brothers, then brought out Jim to sing some or other blues song. They couldn't even be bothered to put on the outfits and make some schtick. Lame, lamer, lamest. In best Comic Book Shop guy voice, "worst monlogue ever."

I want to give somewhat higher marks to Beyonce. I've never paid much attention, but she certainly makes a striking performer. For starters, she's obviously an extraordinary physical specimen. In fairness, she actually can carry a tune. Introducing her, Akroyd referred to her "soul fire". She certainly had a passion and commitment to her material. The steps she was doing and the dancers behind her were outstanding. Damn this girl would be dangerous if she had an even vaguely decent underlying song to work with.

The opening "Hardball" sketch was pretty good, mostly for the Santorum satire. Even Tracy Morgan's last dibs on Al Sharpton fell fairly flat. The TV Funhouse cartoon was at least somewhat amusing. The only other sketch I can even remember a few hours later was a dog restaraunt, where a lot of good creative effort went into spinning the grotesqueness of the menus of stuff dogs like to eat.

The most interesting parts were the swansongs for departing cast members Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan. Kattan had a pretty limber bit re-creating most of his major characters in one standing maybe two minute bit at the end of the Weekend Update.

Other than Sharpton, Morgan had one major bit, his Sammy-Davis-in-outer-space routine, with Maya Rudolph as the hot space girl. Then Tracy starts with some business about getting into the booty, and Maya stops the scene, telling "Tracy" to cut it out. This set up his last line on the show, something like "Come on Maya, you know I've been wanting to get you pregnant." I for one appreciate the spirit of that finale.

More interesting though was watching him over the closing credits. He made a little sign reading "What a ride!" to display for the cameras, and a very odd controlled look. He wasn't laughing or smiling whatsoever. He had a look of someone struggling hard to control some kind of strong emotions.

That was sure more emotion than anything else coming from this cast at this point.


posted by Al at 5/18/2003 11:31:00 PM

May 07, 2003


Bob Roberts, Tim Robbins paranoid comic masterpiece
"Bob? Ain't that a bitch!" - Prince

Tim Robbins was condemning the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy before Hillary made it cool. He wrote, directed and starred as the titular Bob Roberts in 1992. Bob Roberts was a smiling, good looking and charismatic fount of pure, twisted conservative Republican evil.

Politics aside, Robbins made a really outstanding and clever movie with a strong vision, and no small number of laughs. He took every bad or bad sounding thing from the original Reagan-Bush years, and rolled it into one almost believable conspiracy arch. You see, the damned conservatives were looting S&Ls to invest in drug running from Central America to raise money to support the Contras- and enrich themselves, naturally. These couple of sentences may not sound that promising for a movie comedy, but the skill of the writing puts it all across.

Particularly, he created an exceptionally clever and comedy worthy frame for the whole thing. Bob Roberts is a pop star, writing folk style songs to express his fanatical and callous right wing views- which form the basis for a candidacy for the US Senate. This gives him endless opportunities to invert Dylan, the classic model for this stuff, for example his album "The Times Are Changin' Back." He also has a video parodying the famous cards-in-the-alley video, in which Bob Roberts now advocates making millions "by any means necessary."

One big aspect that makes the whole thing work is the quality of the songs that Tim and his brother David Robbins wrote. Just as songs, they are more interesting than anything Dylan himself has done in 20 years. They're pretty catchy, have fairly simple but effective and wide ranging arrangements, and the stench of sulfur from hell emanating from every single one. For example, he really embodies the war on drugs in "Drugs Stink" in which he encourages the literal lynching of drugs users and sellers. "Be a clean living man with a rope in your hand." Not only that, it's a catchy little tune.

Putting it in another context, I'd rate the songs from Bob Roberts notably superior to the actually good songs from the classic Spinal Tap. Both movies feature songs specially written as parodic content in character. Tap had some grooves, but the brothers Robbins wrote much more intricately clever songs. This not surprising in that Tap songs were Zen songs written in the voices of stupid people. Roberts is a wicked smart dude, much more interesting. The tunes are more developed, the arrangements not purposely cheesy. The words of "Complain" are more sophisticated than those of, say, "Sex Farm". Not only are all the songs strong, but individually distinctive. Each one is a unique stylistic creation, not quite like any other.

Another thing that makes the flick great is just how far Robbins is willing to go, which is pretty far the hell out there. Specifically, the guy is conniving enough to stage an assassination attack on himself. Damn, but that's a HARDCORE Republican bastard.

The climax of the plotline kicks in on a guest musician appearance on the Cutting Edge Live television show- a doppleganger for Saturday Night Live. As a writer, Robbins took the time to make a nicely unsympathetic swipe at SNL as self-deluded corporate sell outs, nothing but glorified faux-progressive PR flacks for the military-industrial complex. He explained this directly in a monologue being rehearsed by the guest host. Then he demonstrated it with the inanity of the cast and material of the show. For this little subplot, I've never seen a harsher or better drawn criticism of this iconic show. This segment alone about justifies the effort of watching the movie.

Note how he plays the puds at the show. As a matter of artistic integrity, he insists on performing a brand new song live on the air, a patriotic statement that he had written just that very afternoon. Then he reached over to play the reel-to-reel tape of the pre-recorded orchestral arrangements for what turns out to be essentially a campaign song. The perfect cynicism of this gesture shows precision and careful thought in the writing.

Look, if you have any taste at all for political movies, then you really HAVE to see this, to own a DVD. If Dr Strangelove, Wag the Dog and The Manchurian Candidate rate high on your list of groovy movies, this one is absolutely for you, even if you don't necessarily buy a lot of the left wing politics.


posted by Al at 5/07/2003 12:56:00 AM

December 17, 2002


ELVIS is the sound salvation
Twenty five years ago today, December 17, 1977 was Elvis Costello's infamous debut on Saturday Night Live. He was a last minute replacement when the Sex Pistols cancelled out just a few days before the show.

They wanted punk rock, punk rock is what they got. At the start of his second song, Elvis stopped the band, and they ripped into a completely different song from rehearsal that no one at the show had heard or approved. This led to a quick panic in the control room, but he got to sing "Radio, Radio." Elvis apparently didn't submit the song for approval because he knew that the network would never him broadcast this diatribe against the corporate media giants such as themselves. As if The Man gave a rat's ass about the lyrics of some rock song.

The live performance has since been released on an official SNL album recently. At the time, it just got him banned from the show for a decade or so.

It was worth it, though. The pure visceral heady rush of getting away with something is remarkable. You really got to love this. It's a legendary moment.


[Adendum: Ashlee Simpson's October 2004 on air meltdown]


posted by Al at 12/17/2002 10:53:00 PM

November 18, 2002


Jewel has a sense of humor?
photo of folk singer Jewel KilcherIn a classic Saturday Night Live sketch, Jon Lovitz was all excited about winning a contest with the prize of a week alone in a mountain cabin with Jewel. HOT! But he was highly disappointed when it turned out she wanted to make him spend the whole time listening to her whiny ass soft rock complaints rather than having ANY interest in doing the wild thing.

However, it appears that perhaps Jewel does have a little more red blood flowing through her veins than you might think- and even a sense of humor. She is quoted telling an audience at a New York concert recently: "I was summoned to his dressing room and obviously Bob Dylan is gay if he's not interested in me. I mean, look at me. Who would have guessed Dylan was a faggot?"

Ho, ho! You've got to give her the point. Who'da thunk she was that saucy? That's just damned funny.

On top of that, there are cheesed off Dylan fans. Best of all the drama queens at GLAAD are all indignant.

Be still my beating heart.


posted by Al at 11/18/2002 04:16:00 AM

October 11, 2002


Give me that old time religion
Some of us go to church on Sunday morning, but others of us go to church on Saturday night.

Saturday Night Live premiered on October 11, 1975 with host George Carlin. It has become such a cultural institution over a quarter century plus that we often fail to appreciate what a radically old and new and totally unique creature was born. They reached way back to the dawn of television for the unique demands and rewards of a live variety show, thrust way forward into modern sensibilities with very pointed and sometimes macabre [ie Mr. Mike] social satire. No show before -not even All in the Family- gave such truly cutting mockery of political figures. Few have managed to equal the insight and sympathy for the geeks and outsiders that comes through SNL characters ranging from the Murray-Radner nerds to Mary Katherine Gallagher. They have also provided the best live music forum in television history.

Some combination of the rigors of the format and the unique talents of Lorne Michaels et al have made it a show that has really never been successfully imitated. Mad TV has been about the closest thing that has survived, but it's not really in a league with SNL. Nor is it live, thus lacking the distinctive edge coming from that special pressure.

People often say that the first cast era was the best. I certainly wouldn't want to take anything away from Gilda and Belushi et al. They came up with a whole new thing, and they were brilliant.

However, the show arguably peaked creatively in the late '80s to early '90s. For starters, Phil Hartman was probably the best sketch comedy actor ever- though Darrell Hammond for one cannot be denied. Add Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Mike Meyers, Chris Farley, Chris Rock- and we haven't even gotten to the girls. [Got to give a special love shout-out to Victoria Jackson, my all time SNL sweetheart.] Certainly Carvey as Bush the Elder went far beyond Chevy Chase's bumbling as President Ford in de-constructing a president. Nor could we forget the wicked Al Franken's definitive affectionate mockery of the self-help movement as Stuart Smalley. [Stuart Saves His Family made -by a good margin- the best movie ever based on SNL material.]

None of which takes away from the brilliance of the more recent casts. Ana Gasteyer in particular did brilliant work, especially playing the uptight white chicks ie Hillary and Martha Stewart. [With all due respect to a fine professional actress, she'll make you forget all about Jane Curtin.] Will Ferrell's Dubya was particularly good, especially as he became more distinctly sympathetic after 9/11, with moments such as the "dumb" president's promise to cast Osama Bin Laden as the subject of his own personal Where's Waldo. And of course, there's the phenomenon that is Darrell Hammond.

So keep the faith, brothers and sisters, because -like rock and roll- Saturday Night Live will never die.

We leave this obsessive fan's tribute with a nod to the best one sketch in the show's history- a dissection of obsessive fandom, "The Guy Who Plays Mr. Belvedre Fan Club." [CLICK HERE for complete transcript and pictures.]

Doug: Yeah, I'd like to say, partly to talk about it, and partly to let the new guy in on the mood here a little bit. Uh.. Mr. Belvedere is.. the light of my life. Um.. I know I speak for the others.. uh, when I say he is.. so amazing.. you know? And, uh.. he's just.. I wish.. you know.. I wish I could know him more, you know? Because.. he.. he is one of a kind, you know? He's.. I think about him all the time, and.. well, I'm wondering - should we kill him?


posted by Al at 10/11/2002 09:48:00 PM

September 28, 2002


Kings of Comedy
Two big stand-out comedy birthdays today:

Jerry Clower was born September 28, 1926. This one time agriculture extension agent from Liberty, Missisippi was maybe the funniest country boy ever, and quite the astute social critic in his own down home way. If you're not familiar with "The She Coon of Women's Lib" or "The Chauffeur and the Professor" [a college educated country boy's answer to anti-intellectualism], why you're just missing out. He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and has also supposedly sold more tapes/CDs out of American truck stops than any other act. He wrote several books, and was a good god fearing Christian.

Phil Hartman, perhaps the most versatile and subtle actor in the history of Saturday Night Live was born September 28, 1948. Besides such SNL classics as his portrayal of Bill Clinton and the Anal Retentive Chef, he was also the co-writer for the screenplay of Pee Wee's Big Adventure, and the voice of numerous Simpsons characters.


posted by Al at 9/28/2002 06:05:00 AM

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