Some High Energy Fun
As We Return To The Solid Show Trend
First off, I almost decided to skip this episode. As you may already know, if you follow these post with any regularity, before each viewing I build my Wicker Breakdown by creating a very rough sketch list with the help of an online resource that I now have to use the Way Back Machine to view. During this bit of legwork, I discovered that there was a fake ad that also reran during the last episode, making it a segment that aired in four out of the shows from this year. The recycling of content makes me crazy, especially this early in the year.
Though I am exaggerating the fact that this made me mad enough to even think about skipping this episode, it did legitimately start me out in a bad mood toward the show. You have to remember, today make five-hundred-ninety-three days in a row of watching a reviewing this show making it extremely easy to lose motivation from time to time making it easy for tiny issues like this to set me off.
As for the actual episode, as a stand-up nerd, I was a huge fan of Dane Cook when he first hit the scene so I was excited to see him as the host. Granted, I did kind of get caught up in the Dane Cook hate when that became a thing but my issue was a bit different than the other comedy fans who accused Cook of being a thief. My issue was very similar to an issue that I often have with Saturday Night Live where following a successful year, the show seems to shift gears to play to what they think the audience wants and locking in on what they think was successful only to miss the mark when it comes to hitting the original charm.
Back in the day, when SNL would replace their cast by bulk, this would consistently happen with season three of a new set of Not Ready For Prime Time Players. A new group's first season is a little rough but by year two they almost always were able to find their legs to the point where they get good enough to be offered external work. All this success then seems to make everyone think their an expert when really, the audience liked the change and not just more of the same.
Thankfully, there's usually a backlash that makes season four one of the best as everyone adjusts out of the fear that they might lose their job. This is why I never fully write off shows or comedians that I once loved who get criticized for tapping into the mainstream because it seems like a step in the process to become the top of the field. This is the same reason I still liked Dane Cook even during the time a lot of people were starting to say that they used to be a fan.
That said, I was still a disappointed fan at times but not tonight. Though it took a couple minutes for me to get over the initial annoyance of the four-peat of the stupid Morgan Stanley ad, that was never funny in the first place, I was fully onboard after laughing at the first couple of jokes. Dane Cook has the perfect blend of high energy physical comedy and just an overall goofy way of being that I can barely look at him without cracking up.
I did struggle through the first couple of sketches for reasons other than the above mentioned fake commercial. The opening sketch was fun but it did seem to run a little long, as did Dane Cook's stand-up routine, which I would have loved back in the day but am now too familiar with, and the school play sketch ran long as well but also suffered from being too serious while delivering the jokes making it feel almost legitimately dramatic to me.
From that sketch on, we were in and out of the rest of the sketches at just the right moments to keep the energy high and the show entertaining to watch. In fact, including these three longer sketches, I'd say that, other than the four-peated ad, I didn't have a real problem content-wise from any of the sketches that made up this night.
With all that said, it's now time to wrap this thing up by switching gears to share what I actually saw, as I give you...
The Wicker Breakdown:
This week's show started with parody coverage of The Tree Re-Lighting Special that celebrated the re-lighting of the “holiday tree” in Rockefeller Center, where they turned off the lights moments after the first lighting just to turn them back on to the soundtrack of a choir that sang religiously-neutral carols that ran no risk of offending viewers with beliefs where they don't practice the celebration of Christmas. This is probably around the time the whole, “War on Christmas,” nonsense in the news began. Of course, with it being the opening sketch, it eventually led to the announcement of, “Live from New York...”
Dane Cook then officially opened the show with several bits from his stand-up routine, ending on the joke about him flicking cashews off of his penis when he gets bored.
Monday Morning Assembly had members of a high school drama club put on an avant-garde show where they re-enacted the mundane events of recent morning announcements to the school.
We then got a repeat of the fake ad for Taco Town from earlier in the season which was a taco that was wrapped in every type of food you can think of only to be serviced in a bag filled with salsa.
The Long Ride Home: The Jay Feely Story was the parody of a movie of the week that share the tale of Dane Cook the titular disgraced football kicker who flubbed a field goal attempt during a big game. Our hero almost got a chance to redeem himself by saving the day when a pilot fell ill during their flight home Jay's hometown. Though he took the controls with confidence, the landing of the plane was very reminiscent of the incident that cause Jay his shame which only added to the pressure, and though he successfully avoided a repeat of history by landing the plane a new problem arose when Jay realized that he had no idea how to stop while on the ground.
Wool Sweater took place at a Christmas party where Dane Cook was excited to show off his new eight-hundred dollar wool turtleneck sweater that he bought to impress Amy Poehler. It didn't take long for Dane to end up working himself into a frenzy while trying to cope with the discomforts that come with wearing wool.
SNL Digital Short then made its show debut with a short film that featured Andy Samberg and Will Forte as two friends who discussed their problems while each was eating a head of lettuce, instead of sharing a beer or a smoke of something more traditional for this type of conversation. It then turned out that this was actually an ad from The United Lettuce Growers Association.
Target Greatland, introduced Kristin Wiig's Target employee character who trained Dane Cook and the two provided some of the worst customer service ever but it was also clear that the positive intent was there highlighting that they were naturally weird and this wasn't a case of slackers who just didn't want to be there. If anything, Wiig's and Cook's over-enthusiasm for the store and it's products was the biggest problem.
James Blunt then took to the stage to perform You're Beautiful.
Once again, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler gave us the news. This week, Rachel Dratch dropped by with a film that showed a social experiment where she walked around New York City in a fat suit. First struggled to do things that even a skinny person would struggle with, then drew attention to herself while freaking out over the fact that people weren't giving her extra positive or negative attention, and finally discovered that at this weight she was more popular with black guys. Kenan Thompson also stopped by as Michael Irvin to comment on his recent drug arrest.
The Coma had Dane Cook wake from a twenty-four-hour coma to find that even though he was only out for one day, he seemed like he was in an altered universe that seemed like he was out for decades.
Fight Back With Victor Ramos was sketch about a show hosted by Horatio Sanz as a self defense instructor who, along with his sidekick Dane Cook, attempted to teach Amy Poehler, as a Chicago Transit Authority employee, the proper way to fight a terrorist, only to have the demo go completely wrong when it turned out to be just a racist play of sorts highlighting how Horatio's and Dane's characters just didn't trust brown people in turbans without giving any real helpful advice. Though these two characters were bigots, I wouldn't say that the sketch itself was racist but instead racial considering how it ended with Amy Poehler pointing out that this line of thinking was wrong and she got to have the last line/joke.
James Blunt then returned to the stage to perform Goodbye My Lover.
This was followed by yet another repeat of the Morgan Stanley that has already played a few times since its original airing. It infuriates me that they reuse this ad so often because I didn't even like it the first go around and now it seems to be on every other episode.
Finally, Dane Cook closed the show by thanking the audience and saying his goodnights.
Hopefully, tonight with start another string of solid content because tonight was pretty fun with the help of these sketches that contained my three favorite moments of the night. First, I loved the Wool Sweater sketch because it doesn't provide the answers as to why but it does showcase extreme physical comedy that I like and would probably hate if it was done by people with the energy of Jim Carrey or Martin Short. (Note: I can fully see why some would see no difference but there is a weird difference to me.) Next, I really liked the Target Greatland sketch because I really like that the show's been quick to give Kristin Wiig time to develop as an SNL star pretty much right out the gate. Finally, I was a fan of The Coma sketch because I always find humor in the joke about life-changing as if a decade has passed when, even in the reality of the story, only a day or less has passed.