SNL had its season premiere this past Saturday to rave reviews, in particular the Alec Baldwin-Kate McKinnon Trump-Clinton debate sketch. The show also provided a long overdue Mr. Robot sketch, considering cast member Pete Davidson is a taller doppelganger for Mr. Robot star Rami Malek. However, one comedian in the far more anonymous part of the web has managed to combine a dead on Trump impression with a killer parody of Mr. Robot. Comedian J-L Cauvin, who was sure to post thumbnails of his sketch before the SNL premiere (justifying his paranoia that they might finally do a Mr. Robot sketch) in case anyone believed him to be a copycat gives the world Mr Trump: a perfect representation of the conflict so many voters have between supporting Hillary Clinton vs. supporting Donald Trump. Here is the sketch for your viewing and sharing pleasure:
Kenan Thompson, long running member of the Saturday Night Live cast recently gave the desperate, hungry beast known as Manufactured Internet Outrage (MIO, not to be confused with the drink additive that Tracy Morgan pitches) a morsel to feast on. Saturday Night Live is particularly white and has always seemed to have a lack of women of color. In a TV Guide article, Thompson said, regarding the casting issues (please hide the children and be careful reading the following sentence): “Like in auditions, they just never find ones (women of color) that are ready.”
Oh. My. God.
Obviously there could be many reasons for Saturday Night Live‘s lack of diversity, especially in the women of color category. Perhaps they represent a small sample size of people available to audition (coming from the Stand Up, Sketch and Improv ranks it would not be surprising), perhaps Lorne Michaels is hugely racist or perhaps the small sample of women of color who may audition did not do as well. There are many reasons both benign and pernicious that could justify the whiteness of the SNL cast over the years, but the response to Kenan Thompson’s quote is simply a desperate and angry overreaching of people craving a villain for the day. What exactly did Thompson say – that IN AUDITIONS, there never seem to be women of color ready for the spotlight? So he is speaking of the auditions he seems to have observed. He did not say black women are no good at sketch comedy or comedy. He was very specific and not very harsh or definitive in his condemnation of sketch performing women of color. But did that stop the Internet from finding outrage? Of course not.
“Kenan Thompson blames black women for lack of black women on SNL” – Jezebel
“Kenan Thompson Blames SNL‘s Diversity Issue on Lack of Talented Black Comediennes””- TV Guide
“Kenan Thompson Blames “SNL’s” Lack Of Black Female Cast Members On Black Women” – The Urban Daily
“Stephen from Django Unchained Calls Black Female Sketch Performers Worthless Trashy Hoes” – Huffington Post
OK that last one is fake, but this is just the latest example of web traffic driving the presentation of content, instead of the actual content itself. What Kenan Thompson said was not controversial or mean or sexist or racist. It was a half-hearted explanation based on his personal observations. This just represents this year’s “Girls” controversy or Eddie Brill situation where a group feeling slighted generally parses and latches on to something someone said to create a straw man upon which to place their anger. Why not direct the anger at Lorne Michaels? Because his show has been on for four decades and he is not going anywhere or doing anything he doesn’t want to at this point. So let’s get mad at today’s straw man monster Kenan Thompson. ZUT ALORS! And just remember the flood of women (under five I think) that have appeared to do stand-up on Letterman since Eddie Brill stopped booking it? I would look for a similar deluge on next year’s SNL. Because sometimes there are bad people doing bad things, but other times there aren’t but someone still has to get blamed anyway.
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At the risk of seeming redundant if Buzzfeed has already posted 17 versions of “23 SNL stars we cannot live without,” Bill Hader’s announced departure from Saturday Night Live made me ponder who my favorite SNL stars of all time are. I wrote it on my Facebook page and all hell broke loose. My criteria for choosing may explain why the four I have are the four I have, but it won’t appease all/most of you so feel free to leave your homophobic and questioning-my-mental-state type comments in the comments section. I chose Eddie Murphy, Phil Hartman, Will Ferrell and Bill Hader. I got a lot of heat for neglecting several names. First their were the folks I call the conservative SNL fans – the ones that want an original member on – Bill Murray, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd were the three names mentioned most often in that order. Then there were the folks in my age range and a little older who wanted their pre-teen and teenage nostalgia represented with Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Chris Farley and to one delusional, but well-meaning soul, Adam Sandler. And lastly there are the folks who clamor for Kristen Wiig or Gilda Radner, but I am not the Huffington Post Twitter recommendations! Kristen Wiig is like the Carmelo Anthony of SNL – very talented, but took so many shots (Kristen Wiig was in 107% of SNL sketches in her final two seasons) that stats appear bigger than impact. If I had to replace Hader (because to me he is admittedly the most tenuous selection of the four – only Bill Murray or Dana Carvey could take his place, but I stuck with Hader. My criteria was simple (and has nothing to do with post/outside show successes):
- Versatility – impressions and inventing new characters.
- Stature on the show – were they a pillar of their era
- Do I still laugh at them today?
Now admittedly this criteria will favor modern comic talent more, which is what makes Eddie Murphy even more amazing. He very well might be #1 overall and emerged in the earlier phase of the show. But this is what I picked so here it is:
Versatility – I don’t think anyone can dispute the versatility of the men I chose. They did both iconic impressions, but also created many original characters/sketch ideas. This is where someone like Dana Carvey would stand out and be right at the top of an all-time SNL list. But this is only one category.
Stature on the show – each person was a big time player on the show and was undoubtedly the best on the show at the peak of their respective SNL careers. But of course to some people on my Facebook comment stream ignoring the original pillars of Murray, Belushi, Aykroyd, etc. is sacrilegious. Murray would be the only guy I would come close to replacing Hader with, but part of me feels like that would be me incorporating his terrific and long film career into the mix subconsciously (though Hyde Park on Hudson was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen). But like versatility I need more than just one category dominance.
Do I still laugh at them today – yes for all four. Though Bill Murray”s Lounge Singer act was something I still laugh at, the majority of early SNL just makes me smile. I do love Dan Aykroyd’s shady toy seller character as much as anything that has been on, but those are isolated examples. I find Murphy, Hartman, Ferrell and Hader to be great in just about everything they did and can laugh at a majority of their work right now. I understand the show as a whole has been better than it is now (as well as more culturally relevant), but that should not penalize Hader who is absurdly gifted and will leave a huge whole in the show. I understand there is a modern bias because humor on SNL has developed in large part thanks to the early efforts and development of sketch comedy on the show. But Dana Carvey impressions and sketches do not make me laugh the way they once did (“Chopping Broccoli” is an exception) and a lot of the general early stuff doesn’t get me going anymore. Farley was hilarious, but I do not see him as having the body of work (in part because of tragedy) or versatility of the other guys on the list. The guys on the list were alpha dogs during their time. It is easier to be a 3 sketch supporting second tier guy, I imagine, than to be the guy who most of the writers are trying to write for. Each of my selections was “the guy” at some point. So Murphy, Hartman, Ferrell and Hader – congrats!
Of course if this was all sketch comedy I might put Jim Carrey’s work on In Living Color above them all.
One of the sad parts of being an up and coming stand up comedian, besides having to call yourself an up and coming stand up comedian for at least a decade before you can just be a “comedian,” is that producing time-sensitive original content can be difficult since you do not do it professionally you do not have crew and actors on the ready to produce whatever you come up with. Well, a month ago I wrote a sketch for PMSports – a new website that claims to specialize in sports-related comedy, but actually specializes in dick jokes, racial slurs and only approaches sports stories that even non sports fans are aware of. Well, after having 11 sketches rejected by the site in a month and seeing them set comedy back several IQ points I decided to film a couple of my sketch ideas.
This one is about how Brett Favre treats rehearesals for his commercials the same way he treats pre season for football. Sadly, 6 days after filming it, but two days before completion of editing Saturday Night Live, which tends to be funny by accident these days, produced a spoof of Favre’s Warangler commercial. Their spoof focused solely on Favre’s texting of penis pictures (did someone sneak a PMSports sketch into the SNL writers’ room?). Mine has a couple of references to that, but is about more than that. Hopefully you enjoy it and can forward it around.
Unlike most of my sketches this one is a very manageable 2 minutes in length.
Hey – I have no topic big enough to warrant an entire post, so I thought I’d just politely ask some people to simmer down:
1) Fantasy Football players – you make me ashamed to be a man. Shut up about your league(s). From hearing about your preposterous “draft” plans to hearing d-bags cheering against my team in a bar, simply because they need someone to make two more catches to win in their league, I hate it all. I do not care how many people do this – you are a fu*king loser. The inability to enjoy sports for sports’ sake should be a sad thing. Perhaps the exponential growth of fantasy sports is one more indication of our culture being overstimulated to the point of needing more than just their favorite team to make sports interesting. And there is just something extra grating about seeing many unathletic people participating at Fantasy Sports, giving them a long-awaited outlet to be competitive over sports. It is the extra dose of rage I feel at losing in sports video games to a lesser athlete – it just feels doubly wrong.
2) The Comedians who are sweating Louie. The FX show is solid. A lot better than Lucky Louie which I thought was terrible. But comedians can’t wait to heap praise on it. It is hardly the best comedy I have ever seen, let alone the best on television. 30 Rock, Eastbound and Down and Community are all better right now. Metaphorically inserting Louis C.K.’s balls into your mouth on your Facebook or Twitter updates will not make you any more meaningful a comedian by association. I will say that – at least it is delivering a lot more than the movie Funny People did, with regard to stand up comedy.
3) Jay Pharoah. Technically he has not said anything yet, but this is pre-emptive when he gets to be the Obama impersonator for the 36th Season of Saturday Night Live.
Tomorrow I am doing a show at a hospital and auditioning for a club in Long Island, so hopefully those experiences will provide some blog inspiration.
No movies made this list (but I have already given you my Top Ten of the Year, so they don’t really need another platform anyway). Not everything is from this year, but they were read, viewed, worn or observed by me this year.
10. Fred Armisen. In a year that had some ups and downs, he represented both. He gave what is the least funny impression ever on Saturday Night Live and he did it week after week. To quote Forrest Whitaker’s character from The Shield, “It’s like he is pissing in my mouth!” But the bright side of that is that one year in there is still a void for a decent Obama impression. If ever there was hope for me in 2010…
9. Arrested Development – I know this show is older, but I watched the first three seasons on Netflix this year and it is the funniest multi-season show I have ever seen (important distinction hint hint). If you have not seen it, you should.
8. Laid Off/Full Time Comedian
According to my biopic script:
I walked out from the law firm that had crushed my soul with a defiant stride knowing that although I was taking a risk pursuing comedy full time I had the confidence of knowing that I would follow my dream and in the end be a success. I was also touched by the slow clap I received from all my co-workers as I left on my last day.
According to reality:
I planned on going to do comedy full time in 2009 at some point, but given the economic climate and the generally good feeling of a swollen bank account (from a pretty nice place to work as law firms go) I probably needed the push, or shove, of being laid off to pursue comedy full time. Now my dream still feels attainable, but is starting to resemble a bad acid trip as much as it does a dream on its way to fulfillment.
7. Steeler Super Bowl – This was cool because it was a great game and washed away memories of the only Super Bowl the Steelers had won in my lifetime – Super Bowl XL (40), which was the worst Super Bowl ever played. I also cannot put the Yankees title on here, because although I like many of the players, something about that victory felt like cheering Goldman Sachs’ bankers when they date rape your daughter and your pension fund. Of course the Steelers did not help themselves with their “ni-ger” shouting fans this season, but perhaps a poor season will be their punishment for having racist fans.
6. Obama’s Inauguration/Nixonland – Such a cool moment when Obama was inaugurated. Even cooler was being able to predict how half of America would turn on him as soon as they could and how his young supporters would realize that politics is work and detail and compromise and not a pop culture reality show called For The Love of Obama on VH1. I always bet on old people in the long term in politics and in 2010 the book Nixonland will prove quite prescient when the Republicans break through the 60 voting block in the Senate and win about 30 seats back in the House. If you like politics or just want to predict the 2010 election read Nixonland. But January 20, 2009 was still a great day. The country was divided on September 10, 2001 and after 9/11 the country rallied around Bush (91% approval, after being dismally low before). Do you think if the same happened today the country would rally around its President? I am guessing not.
5. The West Wing – Watched the entire seven seasons on DVD in 5 weeks. The greatest dramatic series I have ever watched not named The Wire. Sorry The Sopranos I think you’re great as well, but the detail and the writing of The West Wing was intimidating in its brilliance.
4. New York’s Funniest Comedian – I am still waiting for an e-mail response(to a very politely and respectfully worded e-mail) from a certain comedy club as to why I never got a call back, despite being promised a spot in a showcase and simultaneously being denied a chance to audition because it was unnecessary. This moment was a low point in my comedy naivete, but also a wake up call that was invaluable. That is not to say that 40 years from now when I am sitting a lone in a mansion, miserably counting my money in the dark, that I won’t assault, with a bowling pin, some booker or manager or assistant sycophant who shows up to my home. That reminds me, I think my next CD will be entitled “I’m Finished!”
3. The Bonfire of the Vanities – The most enjoyable piece of fiction I have ever read. Did for novel writing what The West Wing did for me in terms of television. As Salieri said of Mozart’s music in Amadeus, “Remove one note and there would be diminishment.” That is how I felt about every sentence of this 600+ page novel, which is just as relevant today as it was 22 years ago. Just don’t see the movie before or after reading it.
2. Paul Millsap Jersey – I received this gift Christmas 2008, but I did not wear it until this hoops season. If it’s the thought that counts, then I have never received a better gift in my life. And I seem to be the only person outside of Utah to possess one, which makes it even more exceptional if you consider things in Utah fashionable.
1. Eastbound and Down – So this is the answer to the question what could be better than great literature, historic national elections, pursuing your dream or seeing your team win a title? That’s right – a fu-king redneck. If Eastbound and Down ended after only these 6 episodes it would be like Guns N Roses dying after releasing Appetite For Destruction – a perfect debut to live on forever. So apologies to my girlfriend, Barack Obama, Tom Wolfe, Jason Bateman, The Steelers, stand up comedy, and everything else that went on this year, but my favorite thing this year was a foul mouthed racist pitcher form Shelby, North Carolina – Mr. Kenny Powers.
And feel free to support Kenny Powers with a Kenny Powers jersey: Kenny Powers Jersey
Have a Happy New Year readers and fans. All 6 of you.
In light of President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize I must encourage him to engage in a newer and more muscular form of international and domestic governance.
(warning – you need a working knowledge of the first two Godfather films to fully appreciate)
New plan that should satisfy everyone. After consulting my advisers (NY Times, my uncle, my mother, history books) I have come up with a plan. Several years ago a jingoistic and bellicose colleague of mine at the Bronx DA’s Office had suggested nuking the entire Middle East because you could not reason with that part of the world (most likely save Israel, lest his parents become upset with him as a military advisor) And I thought he was nuts, primarily because invading a country that you had no business invading (Iraq) and then claiming them to be unreasonable savages when they fight back is hardly conclusive proof of a people’s inability to use diplomacy.
But Afghanistan has proven a clearer quagmire (giggity giggity) if that makes any sense. They attacked us and we half-assed fought back because Bush and Cheney had dumber and/or greedier ideas. My advice to Obama is simple on Afghanistan. I believe that is the real front on terrorism and that leaving it alone will only foster another 9/11 perhaps 10 or 15 years from now. But at the same time the corrupt leaders of Afghanistan are more than willing to talk out of both sides of their mouths, letting America fight for it, while badmouthing America and all the while not preparing and securing their country as best they can. So my solution is simple. We leave. Pack up everybody.
But at that point Obama should play Vito Corleone to Hamid Karzai’s Barzini, Tataglia, Strattchi and Cunio (seriously, who the fu-k was Cunio?). We will denounce their heroin production as a dirty business which Karzai will insist on keeping among the dark people because they are animals anyway. But then on to more serious matters – this Bin Laden business. Obama should just stare at Karzai chillingly and tell him we are leaving and will let them do what they want, but if any harm comes to the United States in any form; if we should be attacked by terrorists finding safe haven in Afghanistan;or if our troops are harmed in another part of the world; or if Americans are struck by a bolt of lightening then this we will not forgive. And we will literally erase Afghanistan from the map (I’m talking nuclear), or at least blow it into the 12th century, which may actually be an improvement in some respects. But until that day we swear on Bo Obama that we will not be the ones to break the peace.
The Senate, except for a few members, is a group of whores and prostitutes. They have been turned out by corporations and industries and are no better than the women who date investment bankers (I feel the crack whore stereotype needs to be updated). Health care reform, gun control, environmental legislation and a myriad of other issues are blocked, not by the minuscule consciences of the Senators, but by their corporate pimps. So, what the country needs now is term limits for Senators.
Someone once wrote to me that we do have term limits; they’re called elections. Not when we have allowed money to infect and dominate every part of the process we don’t. The longer you stay in the Senate, the more corporations want your ear because of your seniority and influence. The corporations buy your money and then give you more money to keep it, which allows you to advertise more and gain a stronger and stronger foothold for re-election. Your constituents gain from your seniority in the form of small pork projects so they remain pacified. The cycle continues until you are a big, bloated fat (sometimes both literally and metaphorically) whore of a Senator. The ironic thing about men like Ted Kennedy was that he was able to be a champion of the people because his money and legacy did not come from, or at least was not reliant on, an industry pimp. He did not rely (though I am sure he used) the wealth of soulless companies and lobbies to get him re-elected so he had the rare luxury of actually prioritizing people over companies.
Would the NRA really be the biggest lobby if Senators could only serve 12 years? Think of how much more would get done for people if the Senate was not a de facto lifetime appointment.
Needless to say this might require more of a Michael Corleone approach, more aggressive than the diplomatic Vito. After all, Michael put Senator Pat Geary of Nevada in his place, so if Chris Dodd or Max Baucus wakes up in a sorority at Oregon State with a dead co-ed, I assume Joe Biden will be there to assure them that they are lucky it happened there because that’s President Obama’s Brother-in-law’s place.
Saturday Night Live
Make a call to Lorne Michaels and have Fred Armisen removed from impersonating you. Yesterday I received a call from my brother. My 2 1/2 year old nephew had seen a picture of Obama on the computer and said, “Uncle J-L”. One of three things is possible:
- My brother has shown my nephew my YouTube clip way to many times.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAyUoDEX0GE
- Obama is leading a double life.
- Fred Armisen needs to step aside.
I think the answer is #3. Make the call President on all of these things. Especially the SNL thing. Lorne Michaels, I think you know what happened to that producer Woltz.
In keeping with today’s cultural trend I will provide some random and short quips today on television (I have been watching more because the book I am reading on Robert Oppenheimer is sort of heavy – side note – is it possible that if Mel Gibson were sober he might have meant to say “Jews End All The Wars” – based on how many were involved with creating the Atomic Bomb?):
I have seen documentaries on Rwandan genocide that made me laugh more than the debut of Saturday Night Live. Lorne Michaels needs more black friends because maybe he is looking for their permission to fire Keenan Thompson. That guy has taken more jobs from deserving black people than segregation and Jim Crow.
Fred Armisen does such a bad Obama impression that Secret Service should arrest him.
Bill Hader of SNL is extremely funny. His Kieth Morrison alone almost makes watching SNL worth it.
Friday Night Lights is a great show (re-joined Netflix to catch up on some shows that I have heard are great – Breaking Bad is on the list). So of course it has terrible ratings. it is odd to me that a show featuring good looking young people and football could not be a success. It is as if America is collectively saying – give us shallow things, but don’t you dare deliver them to us in anything that could be called high quality.
If Modern Family can keep up the pace from its pilot then it will be the best comedy on television not named Eastbound & Down.
I watched a 5 part mini series on Sundance called Brick City, on Corey Booker and his attempt to change Newark, NJ. I am now working on a Corey Booker impression and once I have perfected it one of two things will happen: Corey Booker will not get re-elected and will fade into obscurity, or he will gain an even higher national profile and then Fred Armisen will do an impression of Corey Booker that is so bad, it will make his Obama look good.
The Cleveland Show was not good.
Family Guy premier was great.
Glee started strong, but I think it will fade, only bolstered by religious-like support from women and gays.
Cougar Town – see Glee, but eliminate the started strong part. And the term Cougar is really just a brilliant re-branding of “she’s kind of old, but yeah, I’d probably fu-k her?”
I have only seen 4 episodes of Jay Leno’s show, but only Jim Norton stood out to me as exceptional.
Bored To Death, Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm provide a nice HBO Sunday night.
At 4 pm, if not at the gym or sitting at my desk staring at the wall, I prefer Ellen to Oprah.
On Saturday will be the 2 year anniversary of my appearance on Craig Ferguson (my national television debut). Since then, based on travel expenses, web expenses and gigs I have made about -$450 dollars from comedy. My comedy career feels like the final third of a Behind The Music special; the downfall part, but without the awesome rise and hedonism that precedes it.
A lot of big things in September that can potentially lead to incremental success as a comedian or months of bitter regret. I have not done any new writing since returning from Denver in a hopes to avoid what is often the death-knell for me in any audition/competition in the past. It goes something like this: I think of a funny premise, which will be funny in a month, a week before an important show. I then say to myself – this is my best joke! I then do it and it ruins part of a set that would have been good, but for the prematurely born joke. I then punch inanimate objects and write about my frustration. Not this year. Here are my upcoming trials:
The Boston Comedy Festival – August 30th-September 6th. This is aspirational. If I am performing on September 6th it will have been a success. If I am not angry on September 7th it will have been a huge success/possible miracle.
An Obamacare Tale– We just finished filming my latest spoof/video and not only do I think this will be the best, but also actually semi-relevant. Imagine a health care town hall with all the worst elements of Obama haters, then imagine a guy who looks like Beck playing Joe Biden and the best Obama impression you’ve ever seen by a member of my family. Then model it after the scene in A Bronx Tale where Chazz Palminteri beats up a group of bikers. What do you have? A video that should go viral and be on Olberman’s Countdown and launch my new career as SNL’s Obama. What will it actually get – 14 Facebook comments and 500-600 hits. But it should be up this week and will make me momentarily happy.
San Francisco Comedy Competition September 9, 2009 – November 4, 2013– This is a prestigious comedy competition that lasts for a very long time if you are good/lucky. I hope to go far (it actually ends October 3, 2009 – see Boston Comedy Festival above for similar description). I have never been to San Francisco, but I hear it’s a nice city. I am sure I will enjoy my friend’s couch and the nearest 24 Hour Fitness club and Starbucks. But don’t worry, I will tell everyone that it is awesome when I return, the way people returning from Europe trips show how much they were changed by experiencing Europe by saying things like Barthelona.
Hope to have good news to report in September/October. Probably will be more entertaining if I don’t. Stay tuned.