SNL: S12E19... HOST: GARRY SHANDLING... DATE: MAY 16, 1987

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or...

Where Was The Part

Where He Starts To Whistle?

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The creation of the FOX Broadcasting Network couldn't have come at a better time for my age and interest in comedy. Their prime-time lineup always had a bit more of an edge that the family-friendly content that was promoted by the big three networks from the time. At the time, I was still brand loyal and loved every show that the start-up network was putting out. 

The Gary Shandling Show was always a series that stood out to me. Not only did I already think that Gary Shandling was funny thanks to my love of stand-up comedy but this was my introduction to a brand of comedy that is still my favorite to this day. Now, I didn't have a name for this style of performing at the time. 

In fact, it wasn't until about a decade ago that I started to hear the term Meta thrown around as the name for this genre of entertainment. Up until then, I just referred to this type of nonsense as quirky, surreal or just weird. I loved The Gary Shandling Show so much for this style that I never got into The Larry Sanders Show because it just felt too normal compared to my expectations.

Even though I never gave the show a chance, I've always meant to watch it someday. Until then, it's time to talk about this episode of Saturday Night Live. This makes three nights in a row that I've felt that I've watched the best show of the season only, in this case, Gary Shandling takes the title without any doubt.

Where the last two shows were solid enough to be in the running for this title, the humor was on the safe side, which isn't necessarily bad but enough to keep them from landing this season's gold. This episode was not only solid but Gary Shandling involvement in the writing almost made it feel like a whole new show which is why I feel this could also be argued as the best episode that I've seen so far.

Alright, enough with the praising of one of my favorite funny people who has recently passed as it is now time to move on and share what I saw as I give you...  

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. This week's show started with a return to D.C for another sketch about the Iran-Contra Hearings making fun of one of the key-players testimony and his attempts to gain sympathy for how he's been treated since getting caught, ignoring the political crimes that got him in trouble in the first place. This technique works as the rest of Congress then tries to cheer him up leading to his announcement of, "Live from New York..."
  2. Garry Shandling then officially opened the show with a monolog about always wanting to host the show as if the show was around since he was a little kid, he then admits to this show coming out when he was in his twenties and is actually just happy to be doing anything on a Saturday night, this late in his life before meandering through the rest of his routine in that way that only Gary Shandling can pull off while still being super funny. 
  3. Gary Shandling then wandered from the main stage into a Department Store set to officially start off the first sketch before going to commercial. In the sketch, Gary tries a shirt but doesn't remember his receipt. He also seems to have forgotten that he was supposed to be acting in a sketch because he keeps breaking the scene to talk to the camera while also calling the characters by their real names and complimenting them on their performances. 
  4. Dana Carvey then played a Bruce Wayne type by day who was a jewel thief by night who was known as The Puppy. During the sketch, we learn why he has earned this name because when a detective arrives to discuss the latest crime Dana can't hide his excitement to talk and shows many other characteristics that are very reminiscent of the actions that would be done by a young dog.  
  5. This was followed by a Support Group Therapy sketch where Kevin Nealon played the counselor to a group who for the most part have common problems. That is until we got to Gary Shandling who plays a complete neurotic with a mother who is actively trying to warp his mind. In sharing his story we learn the group is completely on his side and after hearing two years of his stories the entire group decides to go on a field trip to confront this crazy lady. Once we get to the mother's house we learn that we've only been hearing half the story and all of the horrible things that were done are actually from Shandling's own doing and that he's just an attention whore that stems from an incestuous crush. After making out with his "mom," Gary breaks the scene to admit this is the most disturbing character he has ever played and Jan Hooks, as mom, also agrees as the two apologize for what has just been seen. 
  6. Los Lobos then took to the stage to perform Is That All There Is? 
  7. Once again, Dennis Miller gave us the news. This week, "Jimmy Stewart" dropped in for a segment to talk about the government's attempt to ban the colorization of classic movies with arguments as to why we should leave the black and white content alone.
  8. The Teeny Cafe was a sketch that takes place in a tiny New York establishment where the hipsters from the time pay a crazy amount of money to eat tiny food is a space that so small you can't turn around in it, even though there is room for a grand piano for Nora Dunn to sing us a tune that was written in French and translated to English that turns out to be a parody of Send In The Clowns.
  9. Apparently, this episode was shot around the time of the smoking ban on airplanes because Chewing Tobacco Airline was a sketch that made fun of the chewing/non-chewing sections of the plane as an outlet for these would be smokers. 
  10. Hollywood Mom was a short film starring Tracey Ullman that shows her receiving the call informing her that she got The Tracey Ullman Show while delivering her first baby and seems more excited about the news from her agent than the child coming out of her womb. We then see her a couple years later as she continues to brag about her Hollywood life while neglecting her child only to get shot by him while he is playing with a handgun. This was done comedically without a political point making the joke actually funny allowing the viewer to translate the message rather than having it shoved down your throat the way a sketch like this would be performed today.
  11. We then went to a nice restaurant for Dana Carvey and Jan Hooks' Anniversary Dinner with Gary Shandling as the waiter who just tries to do his job while witnessing the happy couple's relationship fall apart.    
  12. Los Lobos then returned to the stage to perform One Time, One Night.
  13. Finally, Garry Shandling closed the show by thanking the audience and saying his goodnights. 

I think this is the first time ever that I enjoyed every sketch in the show with these as my three favorite moments from the night. First, I loved the Department Store Sketch because that was pretty much the definitive sketch to showcase Gary Shandling's sense of humor. Next, I really liked the Support Group Therapy sketch which I kind of impressive because I don't often like sketches that take place in more than one location since these sketches usually get convoluted to the put where they feel like they are just filling time. Finally, I was a fan of the Hollywood Mom short because it was nice to see Tracey Ullman out of the blue and I also liked how it delivered a message without being preachy for the dumb folks.

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Matt Bunker

I started out with a goal of becoming a paid screenwriter. I had no interest in any other aspect of filmmaking. I received and scholarship to The Vancouver Film School's Writing for Film and Television program where I graduated in 2005. I fell in love with being on set during my first non-school produced short, . I loved being around all the creative people, seeing people having fun while working. The whole liking your job was a new world to me, so I decided to give it a shot. I volunteered for any project I could, doing what ever was needed. The set was my Film School this time. While working as a PA on a feature I was informed that the DP wanted the three tallest PAs to help out in the grip and electric department. That is when I found the department that felt like the best fit for me while I continued to write.