SNL: S34E13... HOST: ROSARIO DAWSON... DATE: JANUARY 17, 2009

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A Flaw Of Unfamiliarity

 

This is another case where I’m fully aware of the name Rosario Dawson and have seen her in a couple of films where she’s had a minor role, or was the voice of a cartoon character, but I don’t really know the work that made her famous enough to be invited to host. Some of these hosts who are strangers to me, who are known to have a silly side, win me over right away, but when it comes to performers like tonight’s host, who are known for more serious work, the episode usually max out at slightly better than average.

That was the case tonight, partially because I may have missed some of the subtleties of any jokes that may have been specific to Rosario’s personal life or career. I think the bigger issue is that the show still doesn’t really know how to handle hosts who are people of color who aren’t known for their comedy, especially when the person in question is a female. I can tell when this is the case when the host’s monolog has them claiming that they’re only concern going into the show was that they wanted to avoid racial stereotypes while some cast member interrupts with the most stereotypical character based on the race in question.

Night’s like these have a bit of a half-assed feel to them as the show does seem to attempt to respect the host call for a stereotype-free night, only they do sneak in racial humor where ever they can. Granted, the snuck in racial humor, that the host claimed to want to avoid, is nowhere near as extreme as it was in the ‘70s and early ‘80s but it’s definitely still there. Then again, it wasn’t really offensiveness that made this a so-so episode, but instead, how they seemed to play it safe in a way that didn’t win me over into liking Rosario as an SNL host. That said, Rosario’s efforts did win me over, and upon researching her prior work, I found a few films that I definitely need to check out.

As for the show itself, once again, the opening sketch bummed me out because at the time this episode air, I genuinely believed that this type of satire where the show continually slammed Dick Cheney and the Bush administration would bring to light how horrible these people are enough to get the viewers to demand actions to punish these monster. This is opposed to how I now see this type of satire working the same way as the court jester who was the only one allowed to make fun of the king as a false sense of addressing the citizens issues with the ways that they are being led. Now, these sketches just make me sad to see how well this strategy works as most people still believe that they do lead to change.

As I said, the monolog was funny to me, but it did set me up to expect just an average night since the show doesn’t seem to know how to write for a person of color who doesn’t want to resort to stereotypes about race. The fake ad for the bank that followed is another case where it may have been fun at the time with the banking bailouts still fresh in the news, but it’s a bummer now as the banks have continued to be involved in scandals ever since. Meanwhile, all that we do is express out shock through social media then wait for the, “I know, right?,” jokes to roll into our comments.

As usual, on nights like tonight, the very first official non-opening/non-fake ad sketch broke the promise in our host monolog and went straight to stereotype-based content. Though it cast a wider net by stereotyping a multicultural “urban” hip-hop crowd, the stereotypes were still generously spread around. The Crazy Eddie’s Gitmo sketch got me to laugh because I love parodies about local TV pitchmen, but again, it bummed me out since it highlighted how Gitmo never ended up going away despite all the promises that it would, and now we just laugh it off.

The Aladdin sketch hit a nostalgic nerve because I have two sisters who are younger than me enough to where this movie was always on our TV whenever Little Mermaid wasn’t throughout the entire time I was in high school. Other than the Shyamalian Twist at the end of the SNL Digital Short, I’m a bit burnt out on watching funny guys make out in an effort to prove their not homophobic. As crazy as it sounds, I do think this brand of humor that was gay obsessed without being homophobic did help the cause. That said, now that many American’s are more open to homosexuality, it heightens the sense that these jokes were purely about the shock value, which is a genre of comedy I used to adore and still do because it is effective, there are just some areas of what was once considered shocking that no longer works as a joke.

Though I love the Gilly character, and this sketch did get me to laugh several times, there was a bit of a slow tone so that while I waited for the next funny moment, I found that I was getting bored, even though the gaps were only thirty seconds apart. The Fleet Foxes took the stage, which is a band that I never heard of but I did like what I heard. The news was the news, and the Mexican police sketch went back to stereotypes, but only in that, they had a few white folks playing Mexicans. Other than that this sketch cracked me up because I love high school Spanish class humor because I had a blast while taking Spanish in high school and there’s something hilarious about having to dumb down a language to the level of when you first learned to speak your birth language.

I couldn’t care less about the real The View or any of its parodies, so I was bored for a couple of minutes until the band returned for another decent song. The Good Excuses sketch then ending the night on a fun note before Rosario closed it all up with her goodnights. So, it’s not that I found this episode to be terrible, but my interest went back and forth leaving me entertained but not to the point where I wanted more.

With that, it’s now time to wrap this thing up and give a better summary of each sketch, and in order to do so, I will now switch gears as I give you…  

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. This week's show started with a parody of an ABC News Special: Vice President Dick Cheney: The Final Interview where Kristen Wiig as Diane Sawyer interviewed Darrell Hammond as outgoing Vice-President Dick Cheney who insisted that he had no regrets about the things that went down while he held the position. Not only did he have no regrets about his time in the White House, as the interview went on we learned that he also had no regrets for any old tropes like how he had no regrets over the shooting of Old Yeller. Of course with this being the opening sketch, it eventually led to the announcement of, “Live from New York…”

  2. Rosario Dawson then officially opened the show with a monolog about has she was raised in an abandoned building in New York with made her a huge fan of the show since it provided a form of entertainment. She then went on to discuss her efforts to get Latinos out there to veto and started to speak against Spanish stereotypes only to be interrupted by Fred Armisen’s Fericito character to contradict her every word with his “Ay, dios mio” Latin-themed jokes.

  3. This was followed by a fake ad for North American Savings that promoted a bank that claimed to let you save your money without the bother of collecting interest in these hard economic times to make them look like the good guys even though they created this mess. It turns out that they are able to make this promise by turning every single application down to avoid any financial risks.

  4. Da Learnin' Train was an “urban” kids’ show with Rosario Dawson as a hip-hop inspired host with her crew who tried to encourage kids to read books. After a few song and dance routines about reading they introduced Jason Sudeikis as Harry Connick Jr. who kept pointing out there the show was based on style over substance. Though he was correct, considering how these songs just mentioned things that had to do with education but there was absolutely no teaching being done at all with the host and the crew were promoting thing like how “skool” is spelled with a “k” to be cool in a hip-hop way.

  5. This was followed by a Crazy Eddie’s style fake ad for the Guantanamo Bay Going Out Of Business Sale where Jason Sudeikis made an announced that all torture devices and accessories must go, now that Obama was elected and going to close the controversial detainment center down.

  6. Aladdin Anniversary was a sketch where to celebrate their ten year anniversary, Rosario Dawson and Jason Sudeikis as Jasmine and Aladdin sing their frustration of married life on their first night out above town aboard a flying carpet for their first romantic night since saying their wedding vows. These songs were parodies of songs from the film like The Spark Is Gone song to the tune of A Whole New World.

  7. We then got another SNL Digital Short called A Couple Of Homies where Fred Armisen and Andy Samberg shared how they manage to remain such good friends even though the never kiss while Will Forte provided an explanatory soundtrack through several quick songs. There was a Shyamalian Twist at the end where this was actually a PSA to reach out to friends who you know need help with drugs as Will Forte turned in the recording studio to reveal that he was pantless, messed up, and alone.

  8. Gilly then returned for another installment will Kristen Wiig as the frizzy-haired Gilly who performs pranks/violent crimes while dancing around a classroom to her own fictional show’s theme song while merely saying, “Sorry,” when called out on her action.

  9. Fleet Foxes then took to the stage to perform Mykonos.

  10. Once again, Seth Meyers gave us the news. This week, Fred Armisen dropped in as Bernie Madoff to present a scam where he asked for donations for a fund that would promote putting himself in jail for his horrific pyramid scheme in his effort to keep swindling the people of America. Kristen Wiig also stopped in as her travel correspondent character to share how to take advantage of bargains offered through the travel industry since no money was being spent during this time of economic struggle. For those that need a reminder, this travel correspondent character is the one who can’t share a single fact because she can’t stop kidding around. Andy Samberg then wrapped up the guest portion of the news as Larry The Goose who told his side of the Sully and how he was the one that was hit by the freakin’ plain so he shouldn’t be the one that the news constantly blamed for the incident. (Clip 2)

  11. La Policia Mexicana had Rosario Dawson, Fred Armisen, and Bill Hader as a trio of Mexican cops who interrogated their suspect, Bobby Moynihan, using the most basic Spanish that they can to dumb down their language to make this sketch seem like it was written by a high school freshman for their introductory Spanish class. Even when Bobby Moynihan broke character to ask to go to the bathroom, Fred Armisen demanded that he ask in Spanish before denying Bobby from leaving the room.

  12. This was followed by a parody of The View which made fun of typical The View topics with Rosario Dawson and Jason Sudeikis as their guest, Selma Hayek, and Ricky Gervais.

  13. Fleet Foxes then returned to the stage to perform Blue Ridge Mountains.

  14. Good Excuse! was a talk show sketch hosted by Will Forte as a character who looked like a new age cowboy and Kristen Wiig played a character who looked like Ellen DeGeneres and Paula Poundstone’s love child. These two quirky hosts offered several guests a stream of extremely convoluted excuses for solutions to any of their problems.

  15. Finally, Rosario Dawson closed the show by thanking the audience and saying her goodnights.

Though I openly admit that I probably would have liked this episode more if I had a better connection with the host and her career, tonight’s show was still pretty fun thanks to these three sketches that contained my favorite moments of the night. First, I loved La Policia Mexicana because the basic Spanish that was the basis of the joke brought back fond memories of joking around with my friend back in my high school Spanish class. Next, I really liked the fake Guantanamo Bay Going Out Of Business Sale ad even though it bums me out as a reminder that Gitmo is still there, I just can’t help but enjoy parodies of Crazy Eddie-style of local television advertising. Finally, I was a fan of the Aladdin Anniversary sketch because it also hit that nostalgic spot since I used to watch the real Aladdin all the time with my little sisters.

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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.