Tuesday, February 17, 2015

snl at 40: my 27 favorite moments

“In the clearing stands a boxer,
And a fighter by his trade.
And he carries the reminders,
Of ev’ry glove that laid him down,
And cut him til he cried out,
In his anger and his shame,
“I am leaving!  I am leaving!”
But the fighter still remains …”


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Sunday night, one of the most enjoyable celebrations of television greatness I’ve ever seen, aired on NBC.  Perhaps you were smart enough to witness it as well.

The Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Extravaganza.

In his review on Grantland, Bill Simmons noted:

“See, somewhere along the line, SNL became the buddy who makes you say, “I love him, but I wish he wouldn’t do (fill in 20 different things)”.

Here’s the thing: he’s right.  I’ve been watching “SNL” for as long as I can remember.  My folks never much censored television viewing in my house growing up, to be fair.  (Note: at some point in the next few weeks, I plan to have my #TBT photo be a pic of me, on my dad’s lap, watching “The Gong Show”.  I was probably two at the time, and it’s a classic that for some reason, was in my brother’s baby book.)  

I always watched “SNL” on Saturday night. 

Even to this day, I still do.  It’s established tradition before Chiefs GameDays*: the pre-party winds down by 10:20, because “SNL” starts at 10:29.  Ten minutes to throw the dishes in the sink, refill the glasses with whiskey, beer, or wine, and then ninety minutes of hilarity to fall asleep to.

Even up against the NBA All Star Game, there’s no way I was missing SNL:40.

And there’s no way I’m not sharing, my 27 favorite moments of the episode with you.

Because if I am anything?  Like SNL, I’m the friend you irrationally love, wish would do about twenty different things differently, get mad as hell at routinely over my latest “what the hell was he thinking there?!?!?!” moment … but then, redeems itself with a moment of unexpectedness, that immediately makes you forgive, and forget, how rotten things were a moment ago.

You gotta love, how I can make anything, about me.  :)

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(*: I am still in stunned disbelief, at the Gates on 40 burning to the ground this morning.  I sent the link to my buddy Ryan (whose family always picks up the Presidential Platter for our tailgate).  I am scared to read his response, that came in a little after lunch.  Losing that Gates, is like losing your dog.  Only if you experienced it, can you explain why you love it so much.  Here’s to a rebuild by September 13th!)

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I should probably note: the top three of my favorite moments, I do believe are the top three.  (Although I can understand if you want to move four, higher than I put it.)  While I’m not budging on my three favorite moments … I can budge on the order. 

Also, some of these I might really get into why I loved them so much; some might get a quick one or two line blurb.  

In the words of the friend I still somehow, someway irrationally love, that I wish would do about twenty things differently when it comes to our friendship: “deal with it!”

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* The Honorable Mention: Alec Baldwin as Tony Bennett on “Celebrity Jeopardy”.  “That friend of Huck Finn’s.  Name’s on the tip of my tongue.  Begins with a N -- / No!  No!  Please, stop! / I know – a N word!”  Or his opening: “there’s so many bells and whistles here, it’s like Atlantic City took a massive crap, and the Fourth of July happened!”  Trebek’s response: “thank you so much, for that visual none of us ever wanted to see.”

* 27. The “Jon Lovitz RIP” running gag.  Hysterical.  I wish we’d gotten a great Mephistopheles moment, but hey, you take what you can get.  Kudos to Mr. Lovitz for playing along with the gag perfectly.

* 26. Joe Piscopo as the Chairman of the Board, the late, great Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra.  Even more perfect thirty years later, than it was in its prime.

* 25. Kanye West during the “Wayne’s World” sketch.  He tried.  He tried to play along … only, Mr. West was laughing so hard at the absurdity of Mike Myers and Dana Carvey openly mocking him less than a week after he earned that mocking at the Grammy’s, it worked perfectly.  He couldn’t even fake being mad, that sketch was so perfect.  

Also, from that sketch:

* 24. “After Show Orgies”.  No, wait – the card stuck!  “Wigs” is actually number three, on the Wayne’s World top ten list.  The card “stuck”, on (or, more likely, because of the, uuh, output) of those after show orgies.  It’s the little, subtle things SNL does, that make it so damned awesome.  And speaking of the little things …

* 23. Sean Connery (Darrell Hammond) in the “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch.  Yes, just yes.  “I’ll take Whore Ads for $200”.  (The category was Who Reads.)  This moment was just awesome.  I lost it as soon as I heard it.  It took the audience about twenty seconds to catch on, and then once the camera lingered on “Who Reads”, you get that magical moment, when the audience realizes collectively all at once, that this is going to be something … well, in the words of the great Mr. Hugh M. Hefner, this is going to be something … REALLY special!

Alex Trebec (Will Farrell) putting Connery in timeout after the “whore ad” blast, then letting him out of timeout, only to have Connery pick “Le Tits Now” (aka Let It Snow) as his next category.  Every bit of interaction regarding Trebek’s mother.

And the question: “what color is snow”?  Connery’s answer: “yellow!”  He knows that, because he wrote Trebek’s name in it the other day … in Trebek’s mother’s handwriting, because “she was holding the pen!” 

This sketch hasn’t appeared for the final time yet. 

* 22. Miley Cyrus covering “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”.  Balls of steel, with Mr. Simon not just in the house, but a prominent feature, of the evening.  

(Note: still to come.) 

(To say nothing of the fact that one can make a credible argument the greatest moment in this franchise’s history, was Mr. Simon performing “The Boxer”, to open the first episode after 9/11.)


* 21. Martin Short.  He was brilliant.  The “I’ve hosted this show once!  Once!  You know who else has hosted this show once?  Robert Blake!” bit was hysterical.  His one liner that “if the roof were to cave in right now, it’d be the least of NBC’s concerns” was even funnier.  Glad to see Uncle Marty Sunday night.

* 20. Jack Nicholson.  “No jokes for me.”  #Yosted.

* 19. Norm MacDonald!  (Non-“Celebrity Jeopardy” appearances.  That one’s still to come.)  Loved how he stalled to p*ss off Chevy Chase while introducing him.  Loved the throwback to one of the best one-liners he ever did as “Weekend Update” anchor.  (It’s an OJ / Ron Goldman joke, and it’s hysterical.)  

Loved the recall of his Bob Dole.

I just wish we’d gotten a flashback to “you guessed it – Frank Stallone!

(In the interest of full disclosure, and I know this is sacrilege to admit … but Norm is still my favorite “Weekend Update” host.  Nothing was sacred, with him behind the desk.  The way it should be.)

* 18. The Debbie Downer appearance in the opener.  The first moment I truly lost it in laughter.  Closely followed by what might be my favorite liner from the Jimmy Fallon / Justin Timberlake opening number:

* 17. “Toonces on the pedal! / Well … isn’t that special?”  Toonces the Driving Cat!  I love, I freaking love how the show took pain-staking efforts on Sunday night, to honor even the sketches that appeared once or twice, that most people forgot within a year.  Toonces hasn’t been on since the very early 1990s, and wasn’t exactly a “memorable major character”.  Even Toonces the Driving Cat got his four words on Sunday night!

* 16. In this slot, I’m going to type five words, I never in my lifetime, imagined I would type, and believe.  In fact, not only did I never imagine I’d type these five words, and be serious as a heart attack … but I’m going to change one of the words, from what I usually refer to this individual’s first name as, to his proper first name.  And not just that, I’m going to capitalize two words I intentionally refuse to capitalize, as a show of intentional disrespect, and my verbal attempt at raising two middle fingers to this individual at all times.

(stevo sighing in disgust …)  Here goes.  And this might take an attempt or two …

Peyton Manning was (partially) right.

His wasn’t the best sports-star hosted show SNL has done.  (For my money, I’d say Michael Jordan’s was the best.  But what do I know.)  However, Peyton Manning was right about one thing: he did give us the best sports-star sketch of all time, the United Way ad when he’s throwing footballs at an eight year old’s face, teaching kids how to break into cars, and dropping f bombs as liberally as me after a loss to denver.

So for at least three, four minutes of his life, I didn’t hate Peyton Manning.

Now, let the hatred resume, unchecked and (hopefully, this time) uninterrupted, until the end of days.

* 15. The trainwreck that is Ellen Cleghorne.  I mean, my God.  Even if you thought pointing out the lack of diversity on “SNL” (and “Seinfeld”) was comedic gold – and in the right hands, * cough Steve Martin cough *, it was – my God.  She looked more strung out than … well, than The Ex most of the last two years.

Plus – and since this is my site, and I stand behind 92.46% of what I write – I’ve been wanting to ask this for years.  How the hell did anyone ever find Ellen Cleghorne funny?  Can anyone recall one sketch she was ever in, that was memorable?  Did she ever headline a sketch worth honoring?  I don’t ask this as a racial question, I ask this as a comedic question.  Is there a credible reason why Ellen Cleghorne’s audition wasn’t shown on Sunday night, in the audition montage still to appear?  The answer has to be yes, right?

She’s not funny folks.  To quote the great Steve Martin from my favorite movie he’s in: “if you’re going to tell a story?  Have a point!”  Ellen Cleghorne never had a point!  That she got MORE screen time than Eddie Murphy is an outrage!  It’s grouse!  It’s Zues in nature!

* 14. Colon Blow!  My second favorite SNL ad of all time.  (Nothing’s ever topping “The Love Toilet”.  Sorry, but you all know I’m right about that.)  To reair a bunch of classic ads (like Colon Blow, Mom Jeans) was great.  But there were three they should have also featured:

* Schmidt’s Gay.  Especially given when the ad aired (1991ish).
* Clucky’s Chicken.  The ad is for a chicken joint, and the voice speaking is a head-cut-off chicken being “flame broiled!” for your dining enjoyment.  It’s awesome.  And also:
* Donald Trump’s House of Wings!  How could SNL ignore this, given that The Donald is one of only about two “successful” shows on the network right now?

(Plus, the theme song for it, set to “Jump!” by the Pointer Sisters, is gut-busting hysterical.  “Trump!”  “Trump in!”  “Trump!”  “Donald Trump’s House of Wings!”)

* 13. The great Paul Simon, opening a moment still to appear, honoring the SNL Band, both past and present, closing his request for a standing ovation for these guys, by noting G E Smith.

You will NEVER convince me G E Smith isn’t Daryl Hall.

And also, G E Smith is THE coolest band leader of all time, and there’s nobody else within flying distance, for that distinction.

* 12. Melissa McCarthy as Matt Foley.  Sweet merciful Jesus, did this make me laugh.

* 11. Jim Carrey as Matthew McConaghay on “Celebrity Jeopardy”.  His performance was so damned convincing, the makeup artists so nailed the look, I actually thought it was Matthew McConaghay for a brief moment.  And the over the top moment: “wait.  Did you record a voice over?”  Yes.  Yes, he did.  And yes, yes it was hysterical.

* 10. Jim Belushi – not Dan Goodman – as the other Blues Brother.  The sketch covering SNL’s musical parody history was probably my favorite stretch of the night.  The moment before this one, is still to appear on this listing (and I’m still debating if it’ll appear as 2, or 3 – it’s that … man, can’t blow it this soon.  But it’s that funny.)

Most “SNL” Blues Brother appearances since John Belushi’s passing have had Dan Goodman playing Belushi’s brother.  Perfection?  Was having John’s brother Jim, play the role Sunday night.  An awesome two minutes, to close down one awesome fifteen minute segment.

* 9. Kanye’s performance.  I’m not a Kanye West fan, save for “Jesus Walks”.  And that’s what, ten, eleven years ago now, when “College Dropout” came out?  (Man, to think, ten years ago?  We had to buy the entire damned cd, to get the one song we wanted.  Hooray technology progress!)

Everything about his performance though, was wicked good.  The only thing I can personally compare it to, was seeing Korn at Project Revolution … gulp … almost eleven years ago.  Korn had one song I liked entering that concert (“Falling Away From Me”).  I’ve rarely been as amazed by a performance, as Korn that hot as hell itself August night.  That was Kanye, for me, Sunday night – amazing.

Speaking of amazing …

* 8. Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed”.  Look it – in the words of Roy Williams, “I don’t give a sh*t” if Paul McCartney can’t hit the high notes anymore, if the song should have been performed an octave lower.  I don’t give a sh*t if Paul McCartney doesn’t have the voice to go for nearly three hours anymore.  (Although as my mom and I can attest from last year?  He sure as hell does.)  And I really don’t give a sh*t if people ten years younger than me don’t have a damned clue that music exists as it does today, because Paul McCartney and John Lennon raised two middle fingers to the planet, and did whatever they wanted to, consequences be damned.

Paul McCartney can sing on my television any damned time he wants to, and I’m going to b*tch slap anyone who dares talk, during his performance.  He is the single most epic artist in recorded music history, period.

(Also, on a sidebar here … was I the only one who looked at Keith Richards introducing Sir Paul, and thought “my God!  Keith looks healthier than Mick now!”  I wasn’t?  Good.  Because Keith DEFINITELY looks healthier than Mick, and that’s a bet NOBODY would have EVER taken, at any moment in time.)

(Oh, and one final sidebar -- "The Voice of Reason" ranked this in his five favorite moments from Sunday night ... and I got routinely mocked / ridiculed / ripped, for demanding every Paul McCartney special, appearance, and/or fart in the wind, had to be on the main screen at all times, the eight years we were roommates.  Either I've won the debate ... or I've won the debate.)

* 7. The Auditions.  God I loved these.  Almost as much for who wasn’t chosen, as who was.  Loved seeing the early rough-draft characters we loved through the years.  The most fascinating one for me though, was Andy Kaufman.  Just a fascinating look, at one of the most fascinating comedians of all time.

* 6. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Jane Curtin host “Weekend Update”.  Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.  Yes!  A hundred times yes!  How great was Jane Curtin?

* 5. Dan Aykroyd re-creating the Super Bass-o-Matic blender commercial.  This, in the interest of full disclosure, is when I knew this was going to be a night to remember.  The way he knew, he freaking knew, every person watching knew exactly what should come next … and the sheer enjoyment, the sheer delight in his eyes, and in Mr. Aykroyd’s face, as he couldn’t quite pull it off, the “yeah, I know, I just botched the ending, but screw it, the journey here was worth it, wasn’t it?” moment.

Now, for the one … that you all will think I either have ten spots too high … or ten spots too low.

* 4. The Final Moment.  Lorne Michaels, center stage, surrounded by everything he has inspired and created, over forty years, and it finally sinks in for him.

Those of you who know me well, know the love I have for my father.  He is my hero in life.  I’ve experienced many a high and low moment with him.  I have seen my dad cry exactly once in my life.

He didn’t cry at his mom or stepdad’s funeral.  (I would doubt he cried at his dad’s; I was only two and wouldn’t remember.)  He didn’t cry at my brother’s wedding.  He didn’t cry during pain, like his double knee replacement (and therapy), or emerging from the last few Octobers’ health scares.  He didn’t cry at any of me or my brother’s successes or failures.  He didn’t cry over something my mom did or said.  He didn’t cry when they had to put Daisy down last month.  He didn’t cry when holding the twins for the first time.

The only time in my life I have ever seen my dad cry, was holding Ayden for the first time.  Holding his first grandchild, with every meaningful family member in the room?  The moment was too much for him.

That’s what Sunday night looked from afar, to be for Mr. Michaels.  His crowning achievement.  Something noone can ever take away from him.

As my brother said that February 21st, now 7 years ago come Saturday: “job well done, sir!  Job well done!”

* 3. Turd Ferguson arrives for “Celebrity Jeopardy”.

I can’t help myself.  The moment you hear a steering wheel, a car out of control, and “Alex Trebek” drop a “what in the hell?!?!?!” blast, I knew something epic was about to happen.

That something?  Was Burt Reynolds, as Turd Ferguson, arriving to join the “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch.

Or as Turd put it: “sorry I’m late.  I was busy getting a podium from the audience.”

Or as Trebek answered: “you’re not late; you weren’t invited.”

It just keeps going downhill from there – Ferguson going off on a “who is Andre the Giant” riff, culminating in Ferguson putting his oversized sombrero-style hat on Trebek’s head, as the sketch winds down with Trebek shouting “why do I even bother?”

(“sean connery” voice) Oh, your mother can tell you why we bother, Trebek!

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The top two, for me at least, are both musical numbers.  One poignant, serious, and just … damn, just hammers home, not just how much I love this show, but how much we as fans invest in this show.  The other?  Not so much.

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* 2. “The Love Theme From Jaws”.

I … I … I honestly, can’t do this one justice.  Until this clip below is deleted for intellectual property grounds, I just urge you to watch it.  (Once it’s down, it starts at the 12:00 mark of this clip off NBC’s official site.)

I mean … I honestly, can’t do this one justice.  I pulled up the NBC full length clip during my lunch hour today, and I literally could not stop laughing.  I had to keep rewinding the two minutes “The Love Theme from Jaws” gets.  The chica who sits next to me (who “doesn’t particularly like me”, mainly because before I answer a work related call from a certain co-worker in Seattle, something gets thrown against the wall between us, multiple naughty words get dropped, and then I compose myself long enough to say “(Department I Work For) this is Steve, how can I help you?”, in the most phony, fake, ingenuine voice … it’s so phony and fake, you’d think The Chica was speaking), she stood up to see what I was laughing at, and as soon as she saw the clip pulled up on my laptop, she started laughing, and dropped the “Love Theme from Jaws!  That was brilliant!” comeback.

Ladies and gentlemen, peoples and peepettes: Nick Ocean and the “Love Theme” from “Jaws”:


I ... I ... ("harry doyle" voice) Christ!  I can't top that!  The hell with it!

(But you're gonna rewatch this 726 times before posting the embed, right?)  Hell yes I am! 

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(note: the moment after this stretch of sketches was over, I had a phone call from my dad.  His exact comment: "I didn't think they could top the King Tut revival.  (Pause).  I loved the Blues Brothers close.  (Pause).  But I can't stop thinking about that bastard Jaws!  Those of you who know my dad, know he thinks saying "hell" is cheapening the language.  To be so drawn in that "you bastard Jaws!" made him laugh hysterically, just shows how EPIC this sketch was.

And it's that man and I's mutual love for this show, that made number one, so powerful to me, that I had to rank it number one ... even if, truth be told, it's at best a late teens admission, to the listing.)

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* 1. “Still Crazy After All These Years”.

This one … I’ll admit I shed some tears Sunday night, from laughter.

This is the only moment that hit me raw, emotionally.

Everything about this moment, hit me raw, emotionally.


When Jack White introduced Mr. Simon, I honestly hoped he'd perform "The Boxer".  (As always, I choose the theme to each post, for a reason.)  Then, remembering how emotional and epic that 2001 performance was, I hoped he'd do "The Sound of Silence".  Or, just for the hell of it, "You Can Call Me Al", since Chevy Chase starred in the music video, and my dad's name is Al, and he's the one who drug me into this show, sitting on his lap, from the moment I was born.

This is a moment, that just got me.

Here's to hoping you not just have at least one person in your life, you so irrationally love, that NOT forgiving them for the unforgivable?  Is unforgivable.

(God I hope I got the embed of this right.  If not, I'll edit it in the morning.)

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Paul Simon:



(update: I got the embed to start, exactly where I wanted it to.  Yay me!)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

you obviously work on snl or used to and have a grudge against someone. so sad. hope you find happiness somewhere.

stevo! said...

Uuh, I'm 38, single, have lived in KC or the Metroplex my entire life, work as an accountant for a global insurance company, and I have never spent a day in the entertainment industry. I wish to God I was creative enough to "work on snl or used to". Hell, I wish I was creative and/or motivated enough, to post to this site more than once every six weeks. But I'm not.

I appreciate the site visit. I too wish you the best in this amazing God-given journey we call "life", and appreciate you wishing me the same, in your comment above.