Tag Archives: Digital Short

Saturday Night Live – “May 8th: Betty White and Jay-Z”

“Betty White and Jay-Z”

May 8th, 2010

I wrote yesterday that I didn’t think that Saturday Night Live could pull of an episode which lived up to the hype surrounding Betty White’s triumphant ascension to the position of host for this week’s penultimate episode of the season, but I’ll admit I underestimated the infectiousness of her personality and the amount of material they would choose to give her (keeping the returning alumni largely sidelined in favour of White). However, I was right in that the show didn’t really have much material for her, relying too heavily on sex jokes, her age (which worked for a while but felt overdone), and the incongruity of an old lady saying dirty/angry things for me to say that they really rose to the occasion.

As a celebration of women on “SNL,” the episode showed that there have been some funny performers from the show’s past who are part of an important legacy of comedy on television; however, as an episode of “SNL,” the episode indicated that they still don’t entirely know how to write for those women in a way which delivers on their potential.

For all of my thoughts on the episode, though, you can check out my complete recap of the show over at HitFix.com, where I run down all of the individual sketches, including the genius of the Digital Short. Here’s a brief introduction to that review, then head over to HitFix for the rest.

Betty White is an extremely funny lady, Jay-Z is a darn engaging performer, and when you start listing off “Saturday Night Live” alumni like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ana Gasteyer, Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph and Rachel Dratch you can’t help but think back to some pretty darn memorable sketches and characters. In other words, on paper, this has the potential to be one of the strongest episodes of the series in a very long time.

However, the big question I had going into tonight’s episode is whether it will actually be able to properly do justice to this potential: White seems too old to be able to carry a full host’s load, and while bringing in a wheelbarrow full of past cast members allows her to take on fewer sketches it may also crowd out her contribution to the episode. The balance between the internet-appointed host and the likes of Fey and Poehler is not going to be easy, and I don’t know how Betty White fans will respond to Jay-Z as the musical guest.

Ultimately, the most-hyped “SNL” since the 2008 election delivers what it promises: with an absolutely journeywoman-esque performance from White and some energy from the returning cast members, the show turns in one of its most enjoyable episodes in recent memory even if the material never quite feels like it earns the talent who bring it to life.

[For my complete recap of Betty White on SNL, click here.]

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Saturday Night Live – “November 7th, 2009 – Taylor Swift”

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“Taylor Swift”

November 7th, 2009

There was one question on everyone’s mind when it comes to Taylor Swift’s hosting stint on Saturday Night Live: Kanye. It’s really the only thing of any note, and to be honest it’s probably the only reason that she was asked to host in the first place. There is no question that Swift is charming, and that her confidence behind the microphone is beyond her years, but she isn’t a comedienne. While she is the kind of musical artist who could easily be integrated into a single skit (or even two), she’s not the kind of artist who could go beyond the typical list of hosting gigs (playing a celebrity with vague resemblance, playing herself, etc.).

So, as such, what works about this week’s episode is when the show plays to Swift’s strengths, placing her behind a microphone or in settings which don’t have the pressure of live comedy. When the show asks her to do much more, the stilted cue card reading rears its head, and you realize that beneath the glossy exterior she really is a teenage girl with a beautiful voice but without acting training.

Which isn’t a huge problem if the show around her is even the least bit funny, but that’s asking a bit much of SNL these days.

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Season Premiere: Saturday Night Live – “Megan Fox and U2”

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“Megan Fox and U2”

September 26th, 2009

Saturday Night Live was last Fall’s biggest pop culture sensation. With Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impression saving the show from a weak Obama impression, and Thursday timeslots building the show’s reputation, it built to some of its best numbers ever and its cache went beyond viral internet sensations written by Justin Timberlake/Lonely Island and into the show itself.

But suddenly, coming back this Fall, there is no election to provide a new impression that will keep people tuning in, and the Thursday shows are less a chance to built momentum and more a chance to burn material that might have been saved for the Saturday show under different circumstances. So while this week’s Weekend Update Thursday was somewhat tepid, it was still pulling away people and ideas that could have been put to use here.

This is all relevant because the start of Saturday Night Live’s thirty-fifth season is a collosal failure of comedy, an endless string of one-joke sketches which feel the exact opposite of culturally relevant. If the goal of this episode was to remind us that Saturday Night Live was capable of being funny even without Sarah Palin or a political climate which welcomes satire, then they have not succeeded: perhaps unfairly handicapped by a host who can’t actually act, and perhaps feeling too secure with a musical act that knows how to put on a good show (but, really, didn’t live up to that), the cast and crew of Saturday Night Live delivered a complete and total dud, one where we expect a Judy Grimes-style “just kidding” at the end that says what we’ve seen is some sort of big mistake.

And that’s probably not the best way to reassert your cultural relevance.

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Saturday Night Live (September 29th, 2007): Lebron James and Kanye West

Through the joys of YouTube, but perhaps not for long, I’ve been able to get a glimpse at what Saturday Night Live brought to the table in their season premiere. The episode always presents the show’s biggest challenge, in that the quality of the season to come will be judged based on this hour and a half. This year, it will be judged based on three qualities: its cultural relevance, its musical guest and, of course, its Digital Short.

Kanye West

Champion/Everything I Am

Stronger/The Good Life

Skit: Kanye West the Awards Crybaby

Ummm…why didn’t Kanye West host the show? Based on this clip, he is infinitely funnier than Lebron James. I’m guessing it was probably a time commitment issue, which kind of sucks, but Kanye West is a funny, funny guy. And the performances are good…the freestyle is a little bit off, as I prefer the actual lyrics of Everything I Am, but what can you do? In other news: “Give a black man…give a SHORT black man a chance” from the skit is pretty well hilarious.

Pop Culture Sendoff 

SNL does High School Musical [YouTube Link]

Ummm…this is not funny. It’s clear that Andy Samberg is being treated like the star of SNL now, but James is rather unfortunately unable to embrace the skit’s real comedy. It’s a rather lazy High School Musical parody that, even with a strong performance from Samberg, never feels like biting satire. In other words, Mad TV could have done this sketch. That’s not a compliment.

The Digital Short 

SNL Digital Short: “Iran f. Adam Levine” [Youtube Link]

A sendoff of Mahmoud, the lovable president of Iran, this digital short is something that many of them have not been: genuinely well-produced and going for a fairly subtle form of comedy. The song is actually fairly catchy, especially with Levine doing the chorus, and the piano riff is apparently from Aphex Twin’s Avril 14th.

And the skit is funny! Mahmoud is performed wonderfully by Fred Armisen, the Jame Gyllenhal cameo is great, and it’s just a very enjoyable piece of comedy. I don’t expect a viral sensation, but I certainly enjoyed it.

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