I’ve always been a big fan of Dana Carvey and I’m really excited to have him return to Saturday Night Live. Because of his lackluster movie career, I think he’s often forgotten and overlooked in the pantheon of great SNL cast members. Lorne Michaels was a huge fan from the beginning (Carvey famously got Michaels to laugh during his original audition, something that NEVER happens) and everybody thought Carvey was going to go on to be a huge movie star. With middling (but, I think, enjoyable) films like Opportunity Knocks and Clean Slate, things got off to a rocky start and his film career stalled, unable to show his versatility in a vehicle that was designed around him playing one character. That’s why he made a movie like Master of Disguise, which everyone kills him for. It’s a kids’ movie that enable him to play multiple characters, a showcase for his talent. But the movie was awful and that was it for Dana Carvey. Let’s hope tonight gets him back on track. I’m expecting a retrospective of all his best characters. Hopefully we’ll get a Wayne’s World skit, a Church Lady skit, and maybe even a Hans and Franz skit. I wonder how all of those sketches will play in this day and age. My DVR didn’t record it, so I’m watching on Hulu, hopefully everything is in order and I don’t miss anything.
As for Linkin Park…um, not a fan. Although this video of theirs, directed by the great Mark Romanek, is pretty amazing:
Okay, let’s get on with the recap:
Cold Open – WAYNE’S WORLD! You know, it’s funny, watching this skit reminds me that the Wayne’s World skits are really lame in comparison to the great Wayne’s World movies. Still, it’s nice to see these characters again, even if all they’re doing is saying “Winter’s Bone” over and over again. Strangely we didn’t get one “schwing” despite the fact that Carvey said it about eighty times during one of the promos. Compared to some of the Wayne’s World skits in the past, this one is not up to snuff. This is really all about the nostalgia factor, which I have to admit kicked in strongly for me. And why is Mike Myers wearing a Blackhawks jersey instead of the standard black t-shirt that Wayne always wears? Ultimately I can’t give it any more than a 6/10.
Monologue – Carvey makes a few salient points about the nature of SNL, about how everybody that watches it picks out one cast and then labels them the best. Carvey, of course, labels his cast as the best. Wiig, Samberg, and Hader all come out on stage to question this point until eventually the great Jon Lovitz comes out to agree with him. They sing a song about being the best cast ever. Truthfully, it’s a little bit like watching two dads come back to their old college and hang out at the frat house. It’s not embarrassing exactly, but it’s a little upsetting to watch Carvey try so hard when he used to be the most effortlessly hilarious cast member. He truly was one of the best, but he’s having too much of a good time with this monologue instead of just selling the jokes. It’s great to see Lovitz, of course, but this entire monologue is just an excuse for the two of them to say old catchphrases; “Acting!” “Chopping broccoli,” etc. I’m getting a bad feeling about this show…3/10
Church Lady – This one gets off to a good start, the writing seems stronger. I love Nasim Pedrad, Abby Elliott and Vanessa Bayer as the Kardashian sisters, they really nail it. (Side-note: I was really stoked when I saw Abby Elliott outside of a restaurant downtown on Wednesday night, but couldn’t work up the nerve to say anything.) “I’m Khloe and I’m third.” I understand that Carvey really wants to bask in the glory of his first “Isn’t that special?” in a decade, but the pause he takes feels a bit like grandstanding to me. Bobby Moynihan comes out as Snooki, which the crowd always loves, but it’s probably my least favorite recurring “character.” Moynihan is super talented, but his Snooki is lame, getting by on the “hilarity” of a fat guy in a dress. “Oooh, a Guido! You’re hot, make out with me!” Carvey makes it work, though. The Church Lady definitely ages better than Wayne’s World. Really, Justin Bieber? This dude is everywhere. He’s at the Knicks games, on Jon Stewart, now SNL. I have Bieber fever, I think, and it’s going to kill me. Church Lady is getting turned on by Bieber, that’s an interesting twist. Wow, this skit is nine minutes long, that’s ridiculous. People complain about skits on SNL going on too long, but lately they’ve mostly been under five minutes. Wayne’s World was six minutes, this one was nine, the monologue was six, that’s like a third of the show’s actual running time spent on three pieces. Crazy. But the Church Lady skit was the best so far, a welcome return. 7.5/10
The Roommate – Again with the Bieber! This filmed short is brilliant. It’s a minute long parody of the Minka Kelly/Leighton Meester movie, except with Samberg (as Sir Ben Kingsley, haha) as Bieber’s roommate. I really enjoyed this one quite a bit. Samberg often does this nerdy, nasally weirdo, but he does it so well. 9/10
Linkin Park – This is so awful. I know there are people that really enjoy this kind of music, but I can’t make it past a minute of this rap/rock/emo/whiny boringness. Ugh. 1/10
Teen Crisis Hotline – Celebrities helping teens. I love Hader’s Alan Alda, it’s one of the most pitch-perfect impression I have ever heard. You can see how good it is when you compare it to Dana Carvey’s Mickey Rooney, which is not really an impression so much as a caricature. But that’s what Carvey always did well. People think he was a great impressionist, but his real talent was in picking out one aspect of a person and then building a “character” out of this real-life person (i.e. George Bush, Ross Perot, etc.). Armisen does Ice-T, which is okay, but more dependent on the make-up and clothing than the voice. Abby Elliott’s Anna Faris is pretty great, though, spot-on. “Drunk dad, ooooh, bummer!” Jay Pharoah, the modern day Eddie Murphy, doing Eddie Murphy! Brilliant, just brilliant. Guess this will give Eddie Murphy another excuse to disown his SNL years and never return.
Weekend Update – This is all out of order because of Hulu, which is annoying. I wish they’d let me just watch Weekend Update straight through instead of breaking it up into clips and ruining the flow. Oh well. Paul Brittain as James Franco, hopefully this will be good. I think Brittain has secretly been one of the strongest newcomers I’ve seen since Andy Samberg and I’m glad he’s getting more airtime. “I like having jobs!” Brittain’s got the smiling down pretty well, but it’s not a particularly distinctive impression, and this segment seems designed just to make the joke that James Franco does a lot of things and it gets old quickly. Thankfully it’s only two minutes. Kristin Wiig as Angela Dixon, former disco queen turned weather expert. I’m guessing she’ll break out into song during a forecast…yep, there it is. Against all odds, I’m really enjoying this character and these songs. I think Wiig is at her strongest when she does larger than life personalities, but that are grounded in something like a song, which gives the character a focus. Sometimes she can fall into the trap of just being over the top, but here it makes sense and it works. And Meyer always make all these characters work with his exasperation, he’s a great straight man. Winners/Losers: Egypt was a strong segment. “You cannot punch the handsome off Anderson Cooper.” Tunisia is the Soundgarden to Egypt’s Nirvana, love the early 90s grunge references. “Egyptians are great at preserving things.” The Empire State Building run-up is “great if you love running marathons but always wished someone’s ass was in your face.” Overall, a pretty good update, no complaints. Still no Stefon sightings…sigh. 8/10
Linkin Park Again – I’m not even going to pretend that I watched this. I saw it was in black and white, though, for no discernible reason. Skip. N/A
Deidra Wurtz – Abby Elliott finally gets her own skit and it’s a pretty funny premise. She gives bad news to people even though she’s something akin to a Midwestern valley girl. She really fully embodies every character she plays and she’s very versatile. How long until she’s the star of a romantic comedy? This isn’t the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s got a strong conceit and it’s executed as well as it could be and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. I won’t be re-watching it anytime soon, but I wouldn’t mind if I saw this character again in the future. Where’s Dana Carvey? And, less importantly, where’s Kenan Thompson? 6.5/10
Sports Bar – Hey, it’s Taran Killam, haven’t seen him in a few weeks. Armisen and Carvey are the leads of a British New Wave band playing at a small sports bar during the Super Bowl, annoying all of the customers who just want to watch the game. I love Hader and Brittain in the background and Carvey and Armisen are totally committed to this. Finally, they’re letting Carvey create something new instead of just doing retreads. This is a really funny premise and I think Carvey and Armisen are just absolutely killing it. I really like the ending, with Killam admitting that he liked the song. And I have to admit, I liked the song too. I wish the skit went somewhere a bit more interesting, but it was still pretty good. 8/10
Pageant Preview – Starts with a very unfunny minute of Kenan and Dana Carvey doing southern accents. And it doesn’t get that much better from there. They’re hosts of a kids’ beauty pageant and they describe the contestants as they come out and it’s just awful. Samberg comes out as a kid dressed as a cowboy, which is mildly funny and helps save the skit somewhat. But really, there’s no joke here and it’s just uncomfortable to watch. How did this make it out of dress? 2/10
Dana Carvey – Really hit and miss and I’m not sure how much of the misses are his fault and how much was the writing’s fault. And I don’t know how much he contributed to the writing of his own skits. Church Lady worked, Wayne’s World didn’t, but the best parts of the evening – The Roommate and Weekend Update – were without him. He had a bit too much enthusiasm in the beginning, but seemed to settle down as the night went on. Overall, not the dynamic return we were all hoping for, but decent enough. 6.5/10
Linkin Park – Made it through one minute of their ten minutes of stage time. I don’t really think it’s appropriate to grade them since I find their music abhorrent (although, seriously, check out that Romanek video above, it’s awesome). So, I’ll go with N/A
The rest of the cast – I think the MVP award goes to Abby Elliott this week. Her Khloe Kardashian was stellar, her Anna Faris was unbelievably good, and her new character Deidra Wurtz really worked. It was good to see Paul Brittain, but I thought his James Franco was kinda weak. Wiig had a good week, her disco weatherwoman was a nice addition to Update. It was good to see old castmembers like Lovitz and Mike Myers, but wish they would have stuck around and done a few more skits. Bieber was in more skits than the two of them. Samberg was excellent as he always is, same with Nasim Pedrad and I wish Jay Pharoah was given more to do than just his amazing impressions. I was happy that Kenan was absent from most of the skits, though. 7.5/10
The writing – Not the best night for the writers tonight. I think The Roommate, Update and the Sports Bar skits all had strong premises but a lot of the others ones didn’t go far enough. The Pageant was awful and the Monologue should have been stronger and I really wish they did something better with Wayne and Garth. 5/10
I’ll give myself a 5/10 for watching on Hulu, which is not my favorite method of watching SNL. Plus, I’m fairly hungover, so I’m not sure I was on top of my game. Next week, we’ve got the hilarious Russell Brand and Chris Brown, so I’ll see you all then!
Which is easier, writing or directing a film? Those are two totally different things. Writing is slightly easier because you can do it in bed.
~ Ben Wheatley To The BBC
You can neither make beautiful, great movies without risk as you can make babies without sex. Risk is part of the artistic process. That’s why I like performance, because performance is walking a high wire.
~ Francis Coppola