So unless you were living under a rock, have no social media presence, or just plain don’t care* then you know that last night was the 40th anniversary special of the seminal comedy sketch institution Saturday Night Live. There have been reams and reams of print spent on the cultural impact of this program over the past 40 years, the stars produced from the show, how this is basically the Harvard for comedians, etc. I could express my views on how this show is a major reason we were given the gifts of Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy to Will Ferrell and Tina Fey for our general enjoyment. However, I have nothing interesting to add to this argument. If you want a good summary Rolling Stone recently published a list ranking all 141 of the cast members over the past 40 years. Now although I disagree with some of their rankings** it does serve as a pretty good summary and a walk down memory lane. Here I just want to give my thoughts on what was, in my opinion, a great tribute show put on from Studio 8H at Rock Center last night.
#1 Celebrity Jeopardy!
This was my favorite sketch/moment of the night. First off Ferrell always nailed Trebek. You know that on the inside Trebek is thinking exactly what Ferrell is saying during any celebrity tournament of the program. Darrell Hammond is back playing Sean Connery, which is always great for Trebek mom jokes and misread categories. Last night was no exception “Whore ads” and “Le tits now” were great. The joke about Trebek’s mom holding the pen…all good. Kate McKinnon was good as Bieber and Alec Baldwin did a spot on Tony Bennett. At first I was sad because there was no Norm…but that lasted about 1 minute because
Burt Reynolds Turd Ferguson showed up in a souped up Bandit style podium. “I’d like to solve the puzzle, who is Andre the Giant?” and “…he was a giant and he went by the name, uh, Andre” still have me laughing. Jim Carrey showing up to do another McConaughey and Taran Killem doing a pretty solid Christoph Waltz rounded out the sketch. I have watched this a number of times now and have been laughing hard each time.
#2 Wayne’s World
Ok, ok…so yeah this hit the air right about the time I started watching SNL. Yes, it is probably my all-time favorite SNL running sketch. Yes, it stars my favorite SNL cast member of all time in Dana Carvey. Still this was great. The competing Myers/Carvey Lorne impersonations. The running Kanye joke. Dana pulling the Beck was a better musical guest than Beyonce gag. This one just worked for me and made me happy I stayed up to watch the entire show. Scha-wing. Party on Wayne and Garth.***
#3 Digital Short
Paying tribute to those who break. Solid concept and great execution from Samber and Sandler. The best was the final bit of another one of Fallon and Sanz, easily the two most prominent breakers from the last decade at a minimum.
#4 The monologue
Seriously does anyone do the smug, I’m famous, better than you and I know it routine better than Steve Martin? No I think not. Perfect choice to lead off. Rock got a great zinger in there as well during his bit, but it was Steve Martin who really pulled this all off. The only two that drug this down a bit were Peyton and Miley. Just felt like they were doing a bit too much with it. Which can be said for the entire show, when things fell flat was when sketches just drug on a bit too long, but more on that later.
#5 The SNL music tribute
Generally I don’t like Marty Short, but paired up with Maya Rudolph’s incredible Beyonce and it was great. They probably pulled in a few too many ‘SNL’ music acts. The Garth and Kat bit was a bit disjointed, which is part of the point…the timing just seemed off. Whatever Keenan Thompson does and bringing back King Tut were probably just a few too many. Also, the Blues Brothers should have been retired when Belushi died…plus I am fairly certain Aykroyd was completely hammered. However, Marty and Bobbi were pretty great with the Uptown Funk/Turn Down for What/All About That Bass mash up. Piscopo bustin’ out the Frank, Opera Man, Carvey Choppin’ Broccol-I all great. Still Bill Murray stole this one busting out the Nick Ocean bit to sing the ‘love theme from Jaws’ that was just epic and probably won the night in my opinion.
#6 The Running Joke
Jon Lovitz is dead. Deal with it America. Giving him the hammer on the in memoriam montage was fantastic.
#7 NYC Tribute
Of all the montages this was the best. The clips of post 9/11 Paul Simon singing ‘The Boxer’, Rudy and the first responders…it struck a cord then and still did last night.
Sort of Worked
The concept was great, but Fallon seemed to be out of breath the entire time. Still great concept to lead off the show and set a great opening tone for the night. One quick note, I thought it was interesting that they didn’t bleep ‘Dick in a Box’ here but still bleeped it during the tribute to Digital Shorts.
Basically a dead repeat of the original sketch, still funny and Aykroyd is the only guy who could pull this off.
Great idea having Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Jane Curtin doing the honors, but not sure we really needed the celebs doing impersonations of old characters. I didn’t need to see Emma Stone do her best attempt at Gilda Radner. The same goes for Melissa McCarthy doing Matt Foley. However, Edward Norton did kill it as Stefon made even better by Hader joining him. However, I do like the fact that Norm once again proved he is the funniest of the anchors by cracking all of the former anchors up while trying to introduce Chevy Chase, who looked like absolute hell, to do his old bit with Garrett Morris.
The banter with Larry David was great and I could have watched that for seven minutes and Catherine Zeta Jones facial reaction when Michael Douglas dropped the ‘sexual icon’ line was great, however, the bit with Ellen Cleghorn and James Franco’s part sort of killed any momentum this bit had. Sarah Palin’s part sort of saved it at the end, but the bit was already pretty long and lost interest.
I’m glad Tina and Alec did a small tribute to their 30 Rock buddy, and I really miss Tray. Still I didn’t like how it felt like they were giving him the dead guy treatment. Get well Tracy, I’m sure we will see you back soon enough.
#3 – Eddie
Rock gives a fantastic intro for Eddie to just come out and say thanks? What the fuck. The biggest disappointment is that they couldn’t get Eddie to do anything last night. A Stevie bit during the SNL musical number, hell even James Brown, would have KILLED. KILLED. Easily the biggest disappointment of the evening was not getting Eddie more involved. Oh well, I don’t know if Lorene didn’t try or if Eddie wasn’t into it. Either way, this was a bummer.
#2 – Musical Numbers
They weren’t needed. I don’t need to see Kayne do Jesus Walks on his back. I don’t need Miley Cyrus doing a Paul Simon song. I love me some Beatles, but McCartney sounded terrible. Paul Simon was great at the end and it was a fitting number to close the show, but I think we could have done without four musical performances and instead we could have seen a montage of past performances.
#1- The Californians
I wonder if I am the only one who doesn’t like this sketch? I just find it to be stupid and unfunny. Plus I could have done without seeing Taylor Swift chewing her hair on national television. I’m sure Bradley Cooper and Betty White’s make out session will be the talk of something for a while, but I didn’t enjoy this at all.
One other quick thought, I did love Norm smugly chomping on his gum behind Lorne during the closing credits. Also, that was a complete murders row up there. Jeez. Finally, Bill Murray still proved he is the funniest player in my opinion. I think Eddie could have taken this unofficial title last night had he done something…still Bill killed it with everything he was involved in. He is the cream of the crop.
*In which case, I have to ask why are you reading this?
**Seriously Norm is #135? Get bent RS, his Letterman and Burt Reynolds put him in the better half of the list.
***Also, RIP Phil Hartman the voice of Aurora cable access television.