Live From New York – It’s Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition

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While my main goal in the city Wednesday was to visit the Seinfeld pop-up, I was hopefully that this particular activity wouldn’t consume my entire day. I was prepared to wait on line as long as needed, but I did have some other activities on my agenda that I was hoping to squeeze in: I wanted to finally visit the High Line (beautiful), have a lobster roll at Chelsea Market (always a good idea), sample a sushi burrito (delicious), bring back some cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar (worth walking 16 blocks for) and finally head over the 5th Avenue to check out the newly opened Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition. Amazingly, I was able to accomplish absolutely all of this AND catch an earlier train home. It was a Festivus miracle.

My relationship with Saturday Night Live has ebbed and flowed over the years; right now we’re in an ebb period where I rarely even watch the show (unless the guest is The Rock, Louis CK or Justin Timberlake), but in the 1990s and early 2000s SNL was definitely appointment TV for me. Now I’m more likely to watch a clip or two online rather than a whole episode, but I still have an affinity for the show in my heart – especially those casts from my high school and college years – and getting a ticket to see it performed live is a holy grail that I’ve been chasing for years. I’m always interested in behind the scenes info and though I think the quality of the show right now is not as high as it used to be, I am always blown away by the fact that this show is done from cradle to grave in one week every week. That’s mind blowing when you really think about it. So my interest was definitely piqued when this exhibition opened last month and while I wasn’t sure what I would actually get out of it, I was looking forward to learning more about the show and its process.

The exhibition is set up to walk you through a typical week in the life of SNL – from the writing to the pitches to costuming, set design and make-up to rehearsal, re-writes and the final show. Each day has a milestone that needs to be accomplished and while the exhibition provides a clearer template for how the show is created, it is also full of memorabilia and interviews from cast and crew to full flush out the development of an episode week to week, as well as some historical context of SNL in the larger world of comedy. Because it was a Wednesday in the middle of the day, the exhibition was pretty empty which meant that I could really take my time and read all of the placards and watch all the videos without feeling rushed. I found the whole thing really interesting and even though I’ve seen many of the clips that they show many, many times before, I would still stand there and laugh until they had cycled through. Apparently the eras of the show that I like the most are generally the most popular as most of the costuming and video clips used were from this time period, though there was of course some special attention paid to the early days of the show.

Lorne Michaels' desk - notable because he has the same Paul O'Neill bobblehead that I do.

Lorne Michaels’ desk – notable because he has the same Paul O’Neill bobblehead that I do.

The Killer Bees - SNL's first recurring characters

The Killer Bees – SNL’s first recurring characters

Nick the Lounge Singer's jacket

Nick the Lounge Singer’s jacket

The Land Shark

The Land Shark

Buckwheat costume

Buckwheat costume

Mister Robinson's Neighborhood

Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood

Stuart Smalley costume

Stuart Smalley costume

Tentative schedule for the show - note that this is from the recent episode that The Rock hosted

Tentative schedule for the show – note that this is from the recent episode that The Rock hosted

The Church Lady costume - isn't that special?

The Church Lady costume – isn’t that special?

Wayne's World! Party Time! Excellent!

Wayne’s World! Party Time! Excellent!

From SNL 40th

From SNL 40th

Celebrity Jeopardy!

Celebrity Jeopardy!

Turd Ferguson (aka Burt Reynolds)

Turd Ferguson (aka Burt Reynolds)

Dooneese (I don't think that I ever knew this character's name)

Dooneese (I don’t think that I ever knew this character’s name)

Conehead prosthetic

Conehead prosthetic

Goat Boy

Goat Boy

Dick in a Box

Dick in a Box

Products from commercial parodies

Products from commercial parodies

King Tut costume - my first memory of SNL

King Tut costume – my first memory of SNL

Spartan cheerleaders

Spartan cheerleaders

Stefon

Stefon

Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton

Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton

Matt Foley

Matt Foley

Mary Katherine Gallagher

Mary Katherine Gallagher

Opera Man

Opera Man

I just loved this old photo of Jim Belushi and Gilda Radner

I just loved this old photo of Jim Belushi and Gilda Radner

Night at the Roxbury

Night at the Roxbury

SNL Stage

SNL Stage

Jimmy Fallon's photo from the wall of head shots of all cast members. His hair cut is terrible.

Jimmy Fallon’s photo from the wall of head shots of all cast members. His hair cut is terrible.

I was surprised at how much that I learned about SNL and I really got a kick out of seeing all the costumes – especially Wayne’s World, which was one of my all-time favorites. The exhibition does an excellent job of highlighting the people that aren’t in the spotlight – like the crew that designs and builds all the sets and the makeup and wardrobe people – but are essential to the show’s success week in and week out. As someone who fancies herself a writer, it was also nice to get the insight from current and former head writers about their process. The exhibition also walks you through what it’s like to sit in the control room during the show and ends with a (brief) simulated show where you get to see what is happening on the other stages during sketches (I had no idea that the seats on the floor are on a swivel). All in all, it was both an educational experience and a trip down memory lane of some of my favorite moments from the show. I’m glad that I was able to squeeze it in – anyone that’s a fan of SNL should try and check it out.

Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition is located at 417 5th Ave, New York, NY 10016.

SNL at 40 – Favorite Recurring Characters and Sketches

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Last night NBC aired its Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary special, which was basically a who’s who of comedy all-stars. It’s kind of staggering to see the collective comedic talent that has appeared on SNL over the last 4 decades and even more impressive when you look at who has spent time in the SNL writer’s room. You’ve got to tip your hat to Lorne Michaels, who has an uncanny ability to spot people with comedic potential.

Saturday Night Live has been on longer than I’ve been alive, so I don’t know a world where SNL doesn’t exist. My relationship with the show has ebbed and flowed over the years; there are periods of time when I was really into SNL and then there are times when I’ll go years without being a regular viewer. I was in my SNL heyday from the late 80s through the early 2000s, which makes sense since that was when I had the most free time (middle school – early grad school) and when I would argue the show had the most resonance in pop culture. There were a lot fewer options for comedy during this time, so SNL was appointment viewing for me. As the show became intolerably uneven (it’s always a little uneven) and there were more options for my limited free time, I stopped being a consistent viewer. Now I just wait to see what sketches people are talking about and catch them online. They only times I’m likely to watch a whole episode are if I really like the host; if Jimmy Fallon or Justin Timberlake are hosting, it gets a spot on my DVR.

In anticipation of the SNL 40 event, I started thinking about my favorite recurring characters and sketches that SNL has done of the years. There are plenty of individual sketches that I’ve loved – who isn’t a fan of “More Cowbell? – but I wanted to focus on the aspects of SNL that had more staying power. These are the sketches that I always hoped would pop up and that I rarely tired of, not matter how many times they were revisited. When I think of SNL, these are generally the first sketches that come to mind. Because of my sporadic history with SNL, these sketches come primarily from the early years of the show (which I watched when they were syndicated in the early years of Comedy Central) and the period when I was a devoted fan of the show. I didn’t count political impersonations as recurring characters, which means that Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin and Phil Hartman’s Bill Clinton didn’t make the list despite them making me laugh every.single.time. So given that constraint, here are my favorite recurring sketches/characters from the history of Saturday Night Live (in chronological order).

The Festrunk Brothers (first appearance – September 24, 1977)

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These two “wild and crazy guys” are among the first sketches that I remember from the show; when I was a kid they cracked me up. I don’t think I really got these characters fully at the time, but I liked their loud clothing and their dance moves. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that Steve Martin wasn’t actually a cast member.

 

Roseanne Roseannadanna (first appearance – January 21, 1978)

6f6f35f4c3ed101184e76ed54c66ba63_21ycUw5v0ugq1_0_0I don’t know if I was taken by Gilda Radner’s hair, her funny voice or her memorable name, but I always enjoyed when the brash consumer affairs reporter made an appearance on Weekend Update.

 

Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood (first appearance – February 21, 1981)

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As I fan of Mister Rogers, I couldn’t help but giggle at Eddie Murphy’s parody of a neighborhood that was a little less welcoming and magical. Given how much Murphy’s stock has dropped over the years – when’s the last time he did anything worthwhile? – it’s always startling to look back at his run in the early eighties (standup, SNL and movies) to see what a dominant force he was in comedy. These sketches are a good example of how talented he was.

 

Church Lady (first appearance – October 11, 1986)

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Dana Carvey may be one of my favorite all-time cast members and the Church Lady sketches had a lot to do with that. This was the era when SNL was producing all sorts of catchphrases and the Church Lady was among the most quotable; I still hear her voice and pronunciation in my head any time I see the word Satan.

 

Wayne’s World (first appearance – February 18, 1989)

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PARTY TIME! EXCELLENT! My unadulterated love for Wayne’s World was as complete as it was inexplicable; I have no idea why this public access show from Aurora, Illinois tickled me so, but it may be my favorite recurring sketch that SNL has ever done. I drove my mother mad quoting the sketches and I think that the original Wayne’s World movie is the only SNL based film that was actually any good. I recently re-watched the first Wayne’s World and it totally stands up. Good comedy is timeless and Wayne and Garth were just never not funny to me.

 

The Continental (January 20, 1990)

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Christopher Walken + a failure at the art of seduction = a SNL classic.

 

The Richmeister (first appearance – January 19, 1991)

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This may be the only thing that I’ve ever liked Rob Schneider in, but this sketch wisely played upon his inherent annoyingness. The Richmeister’s ability to create nicknames for every person who was “making copies” was a good harbinger of the interesting personalities I would encounter once I entered the working world.

 

Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley (first appearance – February 9, 1991)

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“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” Before he became a U.S. Senator, Al Franken created a memorable character in this self-help devotee. Stuart never met a platitude that he didn’t like and he had more issues than Time magazine. The sketch with Michael Jordon was especially hilarious.

 

The Chris Farley Show (first appearance – October 4, 1991)

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“Remember when you were in The Beatles? That was awesome.” I am convinced that if I ever met some of my favorite celebrities, I would act exactly like Chris Farley in these sketches. In other words, like a babbling idiot that just recited their IMBD page to them. #notsmooth

 

Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer (first appearance – November 23, 1991)

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Phil Hatman was great in pretty much every sketch he was in, but I always loved his appearances as the Unfrozen Cavemen Lawyer. I’ve been known to use “Your world confuses and frightens me” on occasion in casual conversation. Just a solid and original character.

 

Delta Delta Delta (first appearance – January 11, 1992)

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At the time, these sketches reinforced every negative stereotype that I had about girls in sororities – vapid and not that bright. Yes, I fully see the irony that only four years later I would be a proud sorority sister myself. Regardless, these sketches still made me laugh. “Delta Delta Delta, can I help ya, help ya help ya?”

 

Opera Man (first appearance – April 18, 1992)

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The premise of Operaman is so simple yet so amusing – Sandler discusses current events by singing them in a terrible fake Italian accent and by adding “o” to the end of words. I think Operaman worked because his segments were short – always part of Weekend Update – and because Sandler just sold the hell out of the premise. Sandler’s recent movies may be terrible, but he really did shine on SNL.

 

Hollywood Minute (first appearance – October 3, 1992)

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This Weekend Update segment where David Spade took potshots at celebrities was the perfect platform for Spade’s trademark snarkyness. That man knows how to deliver a sarcastic one-liner, laced with a little bitchiness, with the best of them.

 

Matt Foley (first appearance – May 8, 1993)

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Oh man – there are a lot of reasons to miss the late great Farley and Matt Foley is certainly among them. Farley’s willingness to do anything for a laugh made his failed motivational speaker one of the most memorable characters that Saturday Night Live has created. There aren’t many people who don’t know what you are talking about when your reference “living in a van, down by the river.” Tragic that we didn’t get to see more from Farley before he passed away.

Melissa McCarthy paid tribute to the character last night:

 

The Denise Show (first appearance – October 2, 1993)

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Sandler’s talk show that was all about his ex-girlfriend Denise (inexplicably Shannen Doherty) made stalking funny, with his pathetic obsession with the woman that dumped him and his father (Phil Harman) angry call-ins demanding he shape up. Always made me laugh.

 

Celebrity Jeopardy! (first appearance – December 7, 1996)

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If Wayne’s World was my favorite recurring sketch then Celebrity Jeopardy! runs a very close second. These sketches were just so, so funny thanks to Darrell Hammond’s Sean Connery. Whether he was mispronouncing categories (“I’ll take The rapist for $200”) or just generally insulting Alex Trekel (Will Ferrell) and his mother, this sketch never failed to disappoint. Norm MacDonald’s Burt Reynolds (aka Turd Ferguson) was always great too. Pretty much everything about these sketches was on point; they brought it back last night at it was as spectacular as I remembered:

 

Mango (first appearance – October 18, 1997)

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I wish I could tell you why the absurd Mango (Chris Kattan) made me laugh, but I have no idea. Maybe it was seeing Kattan in that ridiculous outfit or his total commitment to the character. Whatever the reason, I was always happy when the male burlesque dancer of questionable sexual orientation popped up in a sketch.

 

The Boston Teens (first appearance – November 13, 1999)

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C’mon….you knew that I had to have Jimmy Fallon on here somewhere. As I wrote in my pop culture tribute to Boston, Sully and Denise always made me laugh with their over the top accents and their constant bickering. As a Yankees fan, I have to enjoy anything that pokes a little fun at Beantown. It’s in my fan contract. These sketches are also when I first started paying attention to Fallon, who generally annoyed me on SNL with his frequent inability to keep himself from breaking in sketches.

 

Waking up with Kimye (first appearance – November 16, 2013)

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I have to thank my friend Brigette for tipping me off to these sketches; Jay Pharoah‘s Kanye is spot on, and I say that as a Kanye defender. But what really sells these skits is the voice that Nasim Pedrad uses for Kim – it is just the perfect level of baby doll annoying and captures the nails on the chalk board experience of listening to Kardashian speak. Just so well done.

Now it’s your turn – what are your favorite recurring characters and sketches from the last four decades of SNL? Sound off in the comments.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Christmas Eve Edition

Tis the season of giving and I could think of nothing better to give my dear readers than an extra jam packed stocking of pop culture links. There is a lot in here, which will hopefully keep you entertained as the blog takes a mini-holiday hiatus for a couple of days. If all goes according to plan, I should be back Friday with a Wolf of Wall Street review.

And now, my gift to you: more pop culture knowledge than you can shake a stick at:

  • You can now watch Metallica’s entire concert in Antarctica:

 

  • Lifetime has also announced dates for their Flowers in the Attic and Lizzie Borden movies.
  • Kate Winslet has picked a name for her newborn son and yes, it’s unusual (though kudos for NOT giving the kid his father’s last name of Rocknroll).
  • STOP THE PRESSES – a Tom Hiddleston/Benedict Cumberbatch dance-off:

I think the Internet just exploded.

  • I do love me some touchdown celebrations, so I appreciate the Wall Street Journal analyzing all 1,150 in the 2013 season:

They also created this fancy chart.

  • Watch Ron Burgundy perform “Ride Like the Wind” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

 

  • Paul Rudd told Letterman about the time he tried to break up a drag queen fight while in his Anchorman 2 costume:

THAT should have been added to the movie!

  • Put Conan, Ice Cube and Kevin Hart together and watch the magic happen:

 

  • Conan also visited The American Doll store.

I think Conan has just earned his way to a season pass on my DVR. He’s killing it lately.

  • Watch a Jeopardy! contestant do his best Bane impression:

 

  • I enjoyed this Cougar Town ad created from thousands of corks. The Cul-de-sac crew loves its vino!

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  • Cracker Barrel pulled, then restocked, their Duck Dynasty merchandise after Phil Robertson’s controversial GQ interview.
  • Justin Timberlake photobombed some people at his concert:

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  • Ha! Watch Michael K. Williams (OMAR!) promote the Chalky White line of children’s books:

 

  • I’ll be on the market for a new car within a year; perhaps I should look into this LEGO car.

For your holiday perusal – a tone of trailers:

  • A new teaser for Community (January 2! Can’t wait!)

 

  • A teaser trailer for the new season of Orphan Black:

 

  • Anne Hathaway and Jamie Foxx in Rio 2:

 

  • A promo for Patton Oswalt’s new standup special:

 

  • A longer look at HBO’s Looking:

 

  • An animated trailer for Community:

 

  • Did the Oscars always have trailers?

 

  • Ha! Netflix did a trailer for their streaming Yule Log:

 

  • A trailer for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel:

 

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:

 

 

  • A red band trailer for 22 Jump Street:

 

  • The Other Woman starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton:

 

  • The Expendables 3 teaser trailer:

 

  • Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore team up for what I’m already predicting will be one of the worst movies of 2014:

 

  • Jon Hamm + Baseball = Heather’s wheelhouse. I will see Million Dollar Arm 100 times.

 

  • A third season trailer for Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee:

 

  • I have never seen Kanye as happy as he is in this photo, eating ice cream:

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There has been a sudden proliferation of oral histories;

A few quick Mashups and Supercuts

  • Check out this illustrated mashup of memorable pop culture events in 2013:

 

 

  • I try to keep you guys up to date, but if you want a real crash course, here’s a three minute video on 2013 pop culture:

 

  • Watch Jeff Winger and Dean Pelton’s relationship on Community reimagined as a psychological thriller:

 

And finally, we end with a bunch of holiday stuff:

  • A holiday themed Billy on the Street featuring Amy Poehler:

 

  • For those of you who feel a little grinchy, an “I hate Christmas” supercut:

 

  • This never gets old – the Happy Endings Hip Hop Santa dance-off:

 

  • A Peanuts flashmob? Outstanding!

 

  • Watch Elf re-enacted with pugs:

 

  •  Whoa – check out this gingerbread Optimus Prime:

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  • A song made only from Christmas tree ornaments:

 

  • Some guy named Paul inserted himself into Home Alone:

 

  • In honor of Festivus, a supercut of Seinfeld characters airing their grievances:

I’ve got a lot of problems with you people.

  • “Defying Gravity” as sung by Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer:

 

  • And finally…..Conan reveals a terrifying twist for Elf on the Shelf:

 

Wishing you all a very happy holidays – however you choose to celebrate, I hope you are smiling.