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My SNL Mount Rushmore

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.

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A Recap Of The Rock n Roll Hall Of…

Yesterday I went to the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame & Museum in Cleveland.  If you have not gone I strongly recommend it.  Perhaps if your favorite team is playing the Cavaliers, Indians or Browns one day/weekend build a trip around that, but the museum was awesome.  It is also geared as an all day experience (I spent about 5 hours there, which is a record for me at a non-school trip museum visit).  It was also relatively empty, which made for a pleasant visit (but it was weird watching all of the various movies and exhibits in empty theaters, except for the 45 minute recap montage of all the inductees – that was too amazing to feel weird in solitude).

And there is a special Bruce Springsteen exhibit on the top floor featuring tons of memorabilia.  Most interesting, at least from my perspective, was seeing items from the late 60s when he was promoting shows with handmade signs  saying “Come see The Bruce Springsteen Band – $3.”  With today’s technology, any as-hole (this as-hole included) can make impressive looking promo materials, but it must be especially gratifying for Springsteen to be able to see exactly how far he has come in every way.

I also had a black light with me to scan the exhibit for any body fluids of my housemates from Williams College.  Nothing was found, but the exhibit is supposed to be there through 2010.  Now I will give you a detailed recap of my favorite things in the museum, in case you never make it to Cleveland.

Best Hall of Fame Classes (in my opinion)

1) Gold Medal – 1989 – Rolling Stones, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Phil Spector (for producer and street cred).  This must have been an absolutely incredible induction ceremony.

2) Silver Medal – 1988 – The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Supremes, Bob Dylan, Les Paul.  Many would claim that this has to be number one, but I like the Stones way more than the Beatles, The Temptations win the Motown battle with The Supremes.  I do like the Beach Boys a lot, but they are cancelled out by Dylan’s mumbling. I did learn a lot about Les Paul at the Museum – they have a great exhibit dedicated to his evolution towards the electric guitar.  It was just great to learn about the guy who invented my Guitar Hero guitar.

3) Bronze Medal – 2001 – Michael Jackson, Queen, Aerosmith, Paul Simon.  MJ is like the LeBron James of the Hall of Fame classes – he could not have the supporting casts of the earlier classes (though Queen and Aerosmith are definitely better than the musical equivalents of Mo Williams and Anderson Verajao), but he alone makes this one of the greats.

4) To Be Determined – 2012.  This is when Guns N Roses is eligible and if the Hall of Fame can get them to reunite then all bets are off. (I was happy to see Welcome to the Jungle as one of the 500 songs that defined Rock according to the Hall of Fame).

5) Honorable Mention – 1999 – Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen.  No need to argue the better 70s/80s/90s singer-song writer when they are both on the bill.

Most Awkward Hall Of Fame Moments

1) 1992 induction of Ike and Tina Turner.  Nothing else needs to be said.

2) 2004 Induction of George Harrison as a solo artist.  Not sure he merited it, but it was the Hall of Fame’s way of telling Ringo Starr, “We really think you are the useless member of the Beatles, which is why the rest of them have been inducted twice.”

3) There is an exhibit of a photographer who has captured major musical moments at Madison Square Garden.  The last two photos in the exhibit are from a 2008 Holiday Concert.  The top photo is of Rihanna.  The bottom photo is of Chris Brown.  Did the Hall of Fame not hear about them or did they figure leave it – perhaps we’ll induct them together in 20 years.

4) 1998 Induction of the Mamas and the Papas.  Did nobody think it weird when one of the inductees was grinding his daughter on the dance floor?

Other than personal goals in comedy and seeing a Utah Jazz title, seeing a reunited GNR in concert would top my list of things I want to see

5) 1997 Induction of the Bee Gees.  Have you ever looked at the 4 Gibb brothers?  Clearly Mom fu-ked someone else when she had the ugly twins.  Andy, who died young, looked like a more handsome Heath Ledger and Barry Gibb looked like him.  The twins looked like anorexic Paul Giamattis.  But I will cut them slack since one of them passed on and their music was excellent.

Members That I think Are Overrated

1) Elvis Costello – don’t get him, don’t care for him

2) The Police – Every Breath You Take – great.  The rest of their songs – repetitive and annoying. 

Other Thoughts/Observations from the Hall of Fame

  • Based on sheer volume how is Phil Collins not in the Hall of Fame – he seems to meet their criteria.  Then I saw Genesis on the 2010 list of inductees.
  • Frank Zappa – has a musician ever looked more like a porn star?
  • No one has ever rocked a beard better than Marvin Gaye. Except maybe for early 90s Tom Cruise.
  • I used to not get why David Bowie got so much respect in the music world (you mean the guy from Labyrinth that slept with Mick Jagger?).  I wonder no longer – that guy’s catalogue is pretty sick.  And so diverse.  He’s like a whiter, more feminine Prince, but 10-15 years earlier.
  • Tom Petty has the deepest speaking voice and the whiniest singing voice.
  • Even though I usually roll my eyes at “spiritual” people (they generally believe enough to make themselves seem worldly, but really just hate judgment), Jim Morrison seemed pretty cool, at least the way they write him up.  Val Kilmer was a good choice to play him, but if Will Ferrell got in shape when he was younger and wore his Chazz Michael Michaels hair from Blades of Glory I think he could have pulled it off.

 See what I mean?

  • Good God a lot of rock stars died early.  How are Motley Crue and the Rolling Stones still alive given all the drug and plane crash deaths that seem to strike musicians.
  • I don’t want to meet James Hetfield of Metallica. TO me he seems like he’s 7’0″ tall and 350 lbs.  He looks like a monster bad ass on stage and it would be disappointing to stand next to him and dwarf him.
  • Steve Winwood was a member of Traffic, who got inducted in 2004.  Between his solo work, The Spencer Davis Group and Traffic this guy is like the Robert Horry of music.  Good work Steve.

Ok, that is it for the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame & Museum.  Now tonight it’s off to see LeBron in person (19 rows from the court).  And then it’s a good thing shows start up again at the Cleveland Improv tomorrow night because I think I will be out of activities to do in Cleveland.