SNL: S23E08... HOST: NATHAN LANE... DATE: DECEMBER 6, 1997

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A Christmas Lane Performance

First off, I think this season has officially grown on me as I start to see the comfort zone that I was complaining about is now coming across as actors and actresses growing confident in their craft as opposed to coasting through shows based on the success of the prior season. I still feel that the first half of the season validated my claims because those performances felt flat as opposed to a show minus nervous energy.

That said, I think that Nathan Lane’s experience on the stage as a trained Broadway actor helped take this show from being slightly above average to being a very strong intro to the second half of the season. Like last night with Giuliani, Nathan Lane’s energy was enough to make this show fun regardless of his stage experience. This is always good because the host’s energy always carries over to the cast, making them seem like they were having more fun as well.

The writing for this season is still so-so because even though I’m growing to like the performances more, I still tend to forget what I just saw as soon as the episode is over. Even the best episodes from the best years are never filled with successful sketches but they usually have at least one or two that stand out in my memory. This season seems to just have successful moments that get me to laugh but when I look back to come up with my top three lists, I often find that these hilarious moments take place in sketches that were just okay as a whole.

It’s like I keep saying, even when I wasn’t as into the season as I am now, the show from this year are fun to watch but are still not the best at inspiring me with something to write about. With that said, I’m going to wrap this review up right here by switching gears from sharing my views and share what I actually viewed, as I give you…

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. This week's show started with the parody NBC News Special Report: Well Babies Tragedy. This sketch was in reference to the Baby Jessica incident from a decade before this episode originally air where the eighteen-month-old Baby Jessica fell down an uncovered well down in Texas. In this version, the McCaughey Septuplets, who were making news at the time for being the first surviving set of septuplets, fell down a well as well and “Brian Williams” was psyched because he thought of the potential ratings being that people watched coverage of Baby Jessica endlessly and that was just one baby. Other famous anchors and fame seekers also stepped in and attempted to steal the spotlight. Even President Clinton chimed in for a bit to get some positive attention with his pro-trapped babies stance until the whole thing came to an end with the announcement of, “Live from New York…”
  2. Nathan Lane then officially opened the show with a monolog where he arrived in a bathrobe and read the funny pages almost as if he didn’t even care about his duties as host. Eventually, Ana Gasteyer and Nathan’s Lion King co-star confronted our host, leading him to burst out singing the chorus of Hakuna Matata as the three went on to sing and dance around the studio, collecting cast member to join in on the fun in the process.
  3. This was followed by a fake ad for Chess For Girls where “Mattel” offered a feminized version with dolls, dresses, and bubbles, claiming the original version was a “boring boy’s game.”
  4. The Spartan Cheerleaders then returned for another segment where this time they were both at home talking over the phone about their Christmas wishes. They both ended up falling asleep during their conversation only to wake in a shared dream where they are both official Spartan cheerleaders and perform a few cheers with a few of the real Dallas Cowboy’s cheerleading squad.
  5. The Quiet Storm then returned for another installment after a long time off, this time, Tim Meadows, pre-Ladies Man, smooth talking, overnight, radio DJ had a run in with Nathan Lane who hosted the morning’s easy listening show and the two went on to have an on-air turf war where they battled by sharing their top hits, answering viewer mail, and making shout-outs to their corresponding fan bases.
  6. Sister Wendy Beckett's Art Odyssey was a sketch where Nathan Lane played the titular nun who visits an art museum in New York and struggles to hide her love of all the erotic artwork.
  7. Marianne Faithfull then took to the stage to perform The Ballad of Lucy Jordan which was apparently accidentally cut off by a commercial on the night this originally aired.
  8. History Of Vaudeville was a profile sketch that featured Chris Kattan and Nathan Lane as Weber and Rose who were notable for being one of the earliest vaudeville routines to taste success thanks to their ethnically stereotypical content. Norm MacDonald, as the host of the profile-style show, acted as if these performances weren’t offensive since the people of the time genuinely believed that the Vaudeville duo was so good that they actually believed them to be the race they were offensively trying to portray.  
  9. Once again, Norm MacDonald gave us the news. This week, Nathan Lane dropped by as Lou Costello which led Norm to take on the Bud Abbot role in order to create an Abbot And Costello-style routine where Costello was freaked out by a mummy.
  10. Metallica then took to the stage to perform Fuel.
  11. This was followed by a fake ad for an album called Songs That Ruined Everything where Will Ferrell played the lead singer of Styx to promote this album filled with failed hits that ruined the careers of various rock stars from the era. The funny part is, most of the songs used as examples are the songs that the bands are now known for thanks to comedic movies and shows that overplayed these tunes due to their novelty value.
  12. The Lost Deep Thoughts then returned for another installment where this time Jack Handey shared his thoughts on the hypnotic effect of looking between an old man and a picture of him from his youth.
  13. Nathan Lane then went on to portray Broadway veteran Miss Milo who acted up in her eccentric ways as she complained about her trade while Will Ferrell attempted to get her into a Christmas tree costume to get her ready for her performance of Mrs. Christmas Tree which seems like it was meant for children. It turned out that she wasn’t getting dressed for a play at all, instead, she was just Santa’s sidekick at the mall.
  14. Metallica and Marianne Faithfull then teamed up and returned to the stage together to perform The Memory Remains.
  15. Colin Quinn then introduced his character Ex-Con Gene who took on a job as a cranky, kid-scaring mall Santa Clause. This sketch was fun but it would have been great if they would have also incorporated Nathan Lane as Miss Milo from the last mall Santa sketch.
  16. The Lost Deep Thoughts the got yet another segment tonight. This time, Jack Handey shared a tale of a little boy who desired to be an acrobat when he grew up only to do so and find out it’s boring, especially when he didn’t go the legitimate route and ended up a busking street weirdo.
  17. Finally, Nathan Lane closed the show by thanking the audience and saying his goodnights.

Again, as I said up above, I had fun watching this episode but found it hard to commit to noting these moments as my three favorites of the night. First, I loved the History Of Vaudeville sketch because it’s interesting to see this progressive take on racism in entertainment that itself would be considered too racist to air today. Next, I really liked Sister Wendy Beckett's Art Odyssey because it felt like a Nathan Lane character that performed outside of the show plus I also half-remember the real show being parodied, making it extra funny. Finally, I was a fan of the fake ad for the album Songs That Ruined Everything because I found it funny how with the passing of time, every song that was made fun is for being horrible has become many of the band’s biggest hits with the passing of time.

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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.