Attack Of The Season With
Stronger Second Halves
I have to admit that I was very excited by this season when I first saw the host line up because it’s a season filled with some of my favorite people from the big screen and TV. Last year turned out to be pretty fun, but there was a fifty/fifty blend of dramatic performers and people who are known for their jokes. The two years prior to that seemed to be filled with people who were promoting their work with very few people who seemed like a legitimate fit for the show. This year, my only concerns were Daniel Ratcliffe, because I’ve never seen a Harry Potter film and unfamiliar with him and/or his work, and a couple of the hosts toward the end.
That is, until last night, when I was thoroughly disappointed by Ben Stiller’s episode. The viewing got me a little nervous about how the rest of this challenge will play out because the performances were brilliant, everything was well written, I could see how I would have once considered it to be a strong episode, only to barely laugh at all due to my newly evolving relationship with comedy. Sorry, I’m a little extra hung up on my relationship with comedy at the time, but as the shows get closer and closer to the present, I can no longer use “It was a different time,” to explain away humor that I used to defend.
When it comes to Ben Stiller, I thought for sure that I would absolutely love the viewing, I even gave him a pretty nice write up for the introduction. Then, buy the end of the show, I was surprised to discover just how put off I felt toward most of the sketches with Ben Stiller coming off pretty mean. Almost all of his segments centered around making fun of people for stereotypes while being more harsh than funny. I’m trying to ease up on being mean as a comedy tool, so I never really got into the episode.
It isn’t just Stiller and his brand of comedy though. I also found that I was a little bummed out by all of the self-deprecating humor coming from Melissa McCarthy during her episode. As I said in that review, her negative view of herself being expressed through her jokes reminded me of how part of my mid-life meltdown stemmed from me starting to honestly believe all of the negative things that I’d say about myself for attention and laughs. This left me feeling sadder that even when people reach a level of success, the self-hatred never seems to end. Yeah, she was going through the motions with a smile but so was I and so was every single one of my friends who found humor in attacking their own flaws.
Between these two episodes, I started to get worried about how I would feel about tonight’s viewing because I love Anna Faris in everything that I’ve ever seen her in. Prior to sitting down for tonight’s viewing, I was super excited about tonight because, Anna only did so-so on her first showing, which is common with the people who I am a fan of due to my high expectations, and them finding their place with the show. I thought for sure there was no way for this episode to not be any good.
That is until right now, when I sat down for the viewing and went through my pre-viewing legwork and am worried that it’s going to be a pigeonhole episode where she plays up how dumb she is in an effort to get the laughs. I know this is her own comedic style and not the writers forcing a character choice since she does the same thing in most of her movies. I don’t mind this choice when it comes to her roles in film and television. You have more time to get to know her and her character to see why it’s the choice as opposed to the rapid-fire world of sketch where it can seem rather lazy, especially when they use the same character choice throughout the entire night which was the only issue that I had with Anna Faris’s first appearance.
That said, depending on the quality of the content, I could easily end up eating my words and love every minute of Anna Faris acting like an idiot, because of how stuck on the fence now feel about comedy concepts in general. Alright, enough rambling about how I feel about tonight’s host and her brand of jokes, it’s now time to hit play so that I can share my real-time viewing experience. To kick things off, I’m willing to bet that if you’ve read at least one other of my recent reviews, you’ll know how and why I feel about the opening political sketch of the night. For those new readers, I hate it, as well as most of the other political content especially the closer and closer these episodes get to present day.
Anna Faris’s monolog was precisely what I was talking about where she did her dumb girl routine, but as opposed to her last visit, there was a bit of a stoner vibe to her character’s slowness and not just her acting like a typical vapid blonde. This feels like she could just be having slower moments because of the drugs and not the self-hating game to protects one’s own self-esteem by beating any critics to the punch.
As I said in past reviews, I used to love The Manuel Ortiz Show when the sketch would come on while watching it with friends since we’d all get up and dance along while drinking and laughing our asses off. As a sober shut in, however, it feels more like a rip off of What Up With That only with dancing instead of singing while also using accents and cultural stereotypes to fill in any gaps. Not in a horrible way but in a way that I no longer find funny. I did laugh my ass off when Bobby Moynihan arrived in drag but more because he reminds me of an old best friend who could get me to laugh just by looking at him. At the same time, I’m still lost as to whether or not it’s now acceptable to laugh at guys in drag or if it’s an outdated device that shows still be used in comedy. More often than not, when it comes to straight guys in drag purely for laughs, it can seem like the vagina’s blackface, if you want to get controversial.
The Lifetime Movie-Themed game show was brilliant because, between my mom and my older sister, I don’t think that I ever need to see any form of Lifetime murder/abuse show because I’ve probably heard them discuss them all. I think with me being the only boy in the house, my mom and all of my sisters got caught up in real-life murder mystery shows after Unsolved Mysteries first started to air. Meanwhile, since I was a guy who has the freedom to not fear getting raped and killed the paranoid energy that I picked up from the bunch went towards shows about not trusting the government, and people looking for Bigfoot who I recently read was actually an interdimensional being.
I know absolutely nothing about Drake other than he seems to be the biggest rapper in the world, which is weird considering I was a huge rap fan in my youth and never heard of the guy until about two years ago. Well, I heard his name, and he seems like he can be pretty funny based on what I’ve listened to, but I didn’t know his music at all. Now, I may know a couple of songs if I heard them and this SNL Digital Short about Drake being interviewed led me to at least believe the fact that he has the potential to be funny.
Though I hate politics, I am really getting a kick out of this ongoing coverage of the debate of the GOP nominees to run for President in 2012. It cracks me up that it was seemingly so hopeless for the Republicans this year that they had to hold their debates in hotel conference rooms and didn’t even bother to count of name any of the events being held. I wish people would take this as a sign because I can see this being the Democrats in 2020 with nothing but huge egos fighting to be the one to run this planet into the ground over profits. Other than that, I started to zone out when the talking head began to ramble on a bit too long.
I was familiar with the first Drake song to be performed. I probably would have liked it more toward the end of my primary interest in rap when I was listening to groups my skater friends were into like Del The Funky Homosapien, and Pharcyde, but would have hated it during my NWA and Boogie Down Production days when I preferred more aggression and anger. Now, I wouldn’t change the radio station if this song came on but I would not buy a Drake album. If I did, however, I’d use the link down toward the bottom of this page.
The news was fun once again but mainly because I’m such a huge fan of Bobby Moynihan as his secondhand news sharing character. I wasn’t sure about how I felt about Drake and Jay Pharoah acting like they invented bag snatching, or that they were the first to rap about the subject because they should both my of My Mind Is Playing Tricks On Me by The Geto Boys. In this song, Bushwick Bill rapped, “This year Halloween fell on a weekend, me and Geto Boys are Trick-Or-Treatin’, robbin’ little kids for bags, ‘til a law man got behind my ass...,” but still it was a pretty good rap for a news goof.
The sketch with Anna Faris and the girls from the show acting like women from the ‘50s living in the “modern” world of 2012 seemed like just another sketch during the previewing legwork. Then when I saw that Hulu didn’t include this in their abridged version of the show, I thought that it might be interesting and/or dark because the sketch wasn’t on the NBC site either. I thought maybe the women talking about men using old term logic in modern time may have gotten a little too offensive, then I found the sketch online, and it wasn’t included because it was a song based sketch, meaning there must have been an issue with copyrights. Other than that, it was a sweet/fun, innocent sketch, I a definitely like Anna Faris better in the dark wig she was wearing.
I’d say that I know more about J-Pop fans that I know about actual J-Pop culture so my liking of the J-Pop-themed sketch about how these fans often have no grasp on Japanese culture may be just as misguided as the characters from this sketch. It was also kind of funny when Jason Sudeikis’s character called the main J-Pop fan characters out for being borderline racist, considering the shows overall history with Asian culture where up to this point they’ve still yet to have an Asian member of the cast. I do, however, remember liking this show more back in the day when I was still talking to the specific few friends who were J-Pop fans.
Drakes second song wasn’t a good as the first and though I still think that he’s better than I once though when I knew his name alone, I still feel he’s a bit overrated based on how often his name comes up as being the hottest thing in mainstream rap. I also don’t really get why Nicki Minaj is as big as she is, but I’m an old guy with my music taste trapped in the mid-to-late nineties, and the early zeros.
I wasn’t sure how to feel about the Lord Wyndemere until about thirty seconds in when I realized, I was looking at the screen with the same exact confusion as the family from the sketch as they watch Paul Brittain prance around while dressed like someone from Shakespeare’s days. If that wasn’t funny enough, I then started to crack up at Jason Sudeikis’s crazy erratic energy as he bounced back and forth between loving his daughter’s new quirky man and yelling at his typical high school aged son. At one point I surprised myself by how hard I was laughing.
The final sketch of the night that took place at a bookstore with Anna Faris and Kristen Wiig drooling over men in a calendar just wasn’t for me because as I often point out, due to my grandfather’s creepy ways, I’m bothered by lecherous behavior no matter the gender involved. On top of that, I just didn’t like the character, but I did still laugh when Bill Hader revealed himself as a spaghetti legged pepperoni nipple having freak.
I had mix feeling for most of the night, so once again, I was happy for Anna to hit the stage to say her goodnights and get this viewing over with. I was also glad it was over because this was my second viewing of the night as I returned to my goal to rebuild my review backlog to once again have a safety net and not have to rush to meet my day.
Though I was a bit disappointed by tonight’s viewing, at least I saw an improvement to Anna Faris’s hosting skills. She didn’t default to ditsy for every single scene, and even when she did, it didn’t feel like she did so in the old school “dingy broad” way that she did for every sketch during her first appearance. If anything my biggest issue was that they didn’t use Anna more. She barely even appears in the first half of the show, and when she does, she’s just a secondary character.
In fact, my biggest problem with this year so far is that the shows have been second-half-strong which is a worst-case scenario for SNL. When the first half is strong, my enthusiasm for the viewing can carry over to where I’m more lenient toward the second half’s flaws. Meanwhile, when I hit the halfway mark, and the show starts to get strong, I don’t trust that it’s actually getting better or if I’m just desperate to make something out of nothing. Either way, since these viewings are part of a daily project and not just for casual fun, it’s hard to flip that switch back and forth.
Keep in mind, I’ve been at this for going on two years, and at this point, my default mode is at least slightly bored to where I need to be won over even more, especially as we get closer to the present where nostalgia is no longer in play to potentially save the day. Oh well, I need to wrap this one up so that I can get on with my life. In order to do so, it’s now time to switch gears and dig deeper into the details of each sketch, as I give you...
The Wicker Breakdown:
This week's show started with A Message From Michael Bloomberg where Fred Armisen as the New York Mayor applauded the Occupy Wall Street protestors but then offers them a few words of advice of thing to do in New York City to any protestors planning to join instead of actually joining the crowds. He went on to share how he was all for the Occupy group and was meant as help to clean their facilities with pressure washers and that the water wasn’t meant for the protesting crowds. He also shared that they were using organic pepper spray before pointing out New Yorkers who were richer than him. Of course, with this being the opening sketch, it eventually led to the announcement of, “Live from New York...”
Anna Faris then officially opened the show with a monolog where she played up the character of herself that’s too dumb to even grasp the questions being asked by the audience. This led her to become over the moon she found Abby Elliott in the audience, looking like her twin who asked a question that revealed they were on the same page as far as intelligence levels may go.
This was followed by another installment of The Manuel Ortiz Show again was pretty much the same Spanish rip off of What Up With That only with Spanish dancing interrupting every word from the guest instead of Kenan constantly interrupting with his theme song.
Yet Another GOP Debate was a sketch that took place in a Marriott bar where the hopeless Republican Presidential hopefuls got down and dirty for yet another pointless debate since there was no way the GOP was going to win this year. This hopelessness also explained the low rent venue for the scene.
Drake then took to the stage to perform Headlines.
Once again, Seth Meyers gave us the news. This week, Bobby Moynihan dropped by to share more secondhand news. Drake and Jay Pharoah also stopped by as two teens dressed as werewolves to rap about their new Halloween bag snatching trend. (Clip 2) (Clip 3)
Tell Him took place in the ’50s where our host and the female members of the cast portrayed a group of teens from the time who used the power of song to teach their confused friend, Vanessa Bayer how to use deception to land a guy in the “modern” 2012 world.
J-Pop America Fun Time Now! was a talk show sketch hosted by Taran Killam and Vanessa Bayer who were J-Pop loving American teens that are way off on their cultural facts while attempting to express their love for The Land Of The Rising Sun.
Drake then took to the stage with Nicki Minaj to perform Make Me Proud.
Lord Wyndemere had Anna Faris as a college student home for the holidays where she really hoped to impress her parents with her new foppish/spritely boyfriend Lord Cecil Wyndermere as played by Paul Brittain who looked like he just stepped out of Shakespeare In The Park and was entirely out of it.
Ferrari Calendar had Anna Farris and Kristen Wiig as two airheads who get so excited when they see the new 2012 Ferrari calendar so they can scope out all the hot guys that their asses exploded from the anticipation before they even got a look inside the cellophane wrapped time tracker.
Finally, Anna Faris closed the show by thanking the audience and saying her goodnights.
Though I wasn’t a huge fan of tonight’s showing because I didn’t like the sketch order or the fact that they didn’t properly utilize the host, but, overall, the viewing experience was still pretty fun thanks to sketches like these that contained my three favorite moments of the night. First, I loved Lord Wyndemere because I hated the sketch at first based on the character I thought was supposed to be the star but then when Jason Sudeikis’s character started to act up, I couldn’t stop laughing my ass off, every time that he talked. Next, I really liked Tell Him because it was an adorable sketch with a fun little song, plus I liked seeing Anna again with her dark hair because that’s how she looked when I was introduced to her work. Finally, I was a fan of What's Wrong With Tanya? because it reminded me of my mother’s and sisters’ obsession with Lifetime murder shows.