Tagged: lorne michaels

Martha Thomases: Lampooning The Lumpen

Like many old farts, I think it’s been a long time since Saturday Night Live was reliably funny. A lot of this is nostalgia for my youth, when I was cool and cutting-edge. More, alas, is that I think Lorne Michaels tends to stick to what he thinks works and not to take chances and rock the boat. Too many sketches rely on catch-phrases or stock characters, or the surprise visit of a guest star.

For me, the last straw was letting Trump host the show when he was running for president. I thought it was antithetical to humor to suck up to power that way, and Trump’s racism, sexism, xenophobia and general lack of class are pretty much what good comedy is supposed to attack. It’s much funnier to point out that the Emperor has no clothes than to laugh at the naked peasants.

So you can imagine my surprise when I find myself, in general, liking at least the first half-hour or so of SNL lately. I mean, I’ve liked Alec Baldwin since at least Beetlejuice, and Kate McKinnon might be my spirit animal, so I liked a lot of the campaign. Since the election, the humor seems sharper, going after Trump’s ego and narcissism and ignorance rather than just his appearance, or the size of his hands.

And then, this.

Melissa McCarthy does angry better than anyone. My favorite parts of Spy are her manic rants against Rose Byrne. Even in a mediocre film like The Boss, her angry outbursts make me laugh. Therefore, I was going to laugh at her impression of Sean Spicer even if she didn’t actually copy his mannerisms.

In his response to the skit, Spicer showed that he has as little understanding of how comedy works as his boss. From the link, “Extra asked Spicer for his thoughts on the sketch, and his reaction was that McCarthy “could dial back” with her impression and she “needs to slow down on the gum chewing; way too many pieces in there.”

Because it’s only funny if it is factually accurate? I mean, I know this administration has trouble understanding the difference between fake news and satire, but this is something a kindergartner would get.

I confess I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the fact that McCarthy is a woman and Spicer is a man. She nailed the confrontational tone of the administration’s attitudes towards the press because that is her jam, not her gender. However, SNL might have accomplished more than that, for a change. According to this, Spicer’s job might be threatened. To quote, “More than being lampooned as a press secretary who makes up facts, it was Spicer’s portrayal by a woman that was most problematic in the president’s eyes, according to sources close to him.”

Politico was not the only media source suggesting that Spicer’s days might be numbered. CNN also had the story.

If all it takes is some cross-dressing on television to rein in Hell Presidente (thanks to Steve Grant for the nickname!), then I’m all in. Rosie O’Donnell has already agreed to play Steve Bannon, an easier way to get rid of him than calling all my elected representatives every week. Let’s use Trump’s misogyny to our advantage.

NBC has noticed that SNL is getting buzzier, and they’re looking for ways to monetize this trend. I get that. Given that SNL has such a spotty record, and that “Weekend Update” is among the spottiest, I’m not sure how this would work. Could a network show be as opinionated as The Daily Show or The Colbert Report?

I don’t know if they can pull it off, but I’d love to see them try.

Marc Alan Fishman: Missed Opportunities

Final CrisisBarely a week ago, WWE World Champion Seth Rollins turned his knee into goo after botching a routine move. The Internet Wrestling Community was set on fire with speculation to the immediate future of the flagship of professional wrestling. And a few days later, the fire was doused with the reality of predictable corporate future endeavors. A tournament to crown the new king of the ring was announced (no, not the King of the Ring™… I’m being poetic, damnit), and the brackets were filled to the brim with rehashed match-ups.

To any savvy fan, the winner is already clear-cut. Worse than that, the obvious feuds they were building to were pre-populated into the tourney. It was the worst possible outcome following the worst possible injury to happen to the roster at the worst time.

What sucks the most though is what brings me here to my personal rant this week: the missed opportunities.

Too often, we fans of Geek Culture can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s inherent in our very nature to forget to enjoy the journey, not simply skip to – and then quickly judge – the outcome. Typically, I would have reached that catharsis after lambasting you, my cherished fans, with several iterations on that theme. Like This American Life, but less maudlin. To take a bit of my own medicine though, I’m going to play devil’s advocate; I’ll argue in favor of screwing the well-worn journey in lieu of an unguessable ending. Someone cue some lighting or something.

I listened to Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast this week, wherein he was able to confront Lorne Michaels as to why he didn’t get hired on at SNL back in 1996. Rather than dance around the subject for an hour or so and reach the eventual bittersweet climax as I’d anticipated, Maron flipped his own typical script to change the predictable outcome. Within seconds Maron let slip his big finale, and covered his missed opportunity so many years ago. The answer, predictable perhaps more to his audience to then himself, was a complicated mélange of half-explanations. Somewhere between network notes, the right stuff, or the right timing, Maron simply wasn’t the proper fit. Michaels danced around it a few times more throughout their nearly two-hour talk, but the larger arc to their conversation held true. With the predictable ending out of the way, the two men connected on a much deeper level. As a listener, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat awaiting the answer. Instead, I was relaxed as they were, and I thoroughly enjoyed their banter in the moment. For the first time in listening to his podcast (which I’ve been a fan of for about four years now), I truly felt the connection brewing between Maron and his guest. It was riveting.

So it was disappointing to come home to Vince McMahon’s machine, chugging to the same destination it was headed in, when the universe handed him the ability to remove the predictability his product has been plagued with for the last five years – save only for the time when Seth Rollins himself turned heel. Missing the opportunity to even fill a tournament bracket with a few honest-to-Rao underdogs could have been the shot to the arm the wrestling community has sought after since the conception of Stone Cold Steve Austin. It’s been over nearly two decades since we’ve heard “Austin 3:16 just whipped your ass!” and we’ve not seen a better moment since.

And don’t think I’ve forgotten our dearly beloved comic books, my friends. You see, part of my longstanding feud with purchasing weekly books has been inherently tied to the continual delivery of the same beats over and over. The missed opportunities for originality. When Swamp Thing crossed over with its sister title Animal Man, we got yet-another-epic where nothing-would-be-the-same-again, when in fact it’d been beat-for-beat the same crap I’d read in a million other books.

To make it worse, it forced extra issues into my subscription box, under the auspices of being a completest. Call me – like so many others in our brood – a completest. Fearing forever that the one issue we’ll miss will end up being Wonder Woman #219. Don’t get the reference? Google it.

Suffice to say that in the information age it’s hard to put one over on an audience. When BitTorrents, Wikipedia, and a DVR exist, fast-forwarding to the end is easier than ever. The only way to fight it then, is to stop taking us from point A to B. Start instead at C, backtrack to A, and end somewhere on Q. So long as it makes sense for the characters to have ended up where they needed to be in a believable way – under whatever accepted rules exist in their respective universe – then everyone wins in the end. If not? Well, you’ll end up like so many Matrix sequels, and back issues of Countdown to Final Crisis.

At the bottom of the discount bin, along side an unending ocean of missed opportunity.

The Point Radio: The Real MOST INTERESTING MAN

In the late 90’s, the music of ladies known as SWV was all over our radio and at the top of the charts. Then personal pressures drove them apart, but now it’s SWV REUNITED with new music and a hit reality show. We talk to Taj & LeLe about hitting the top twice. Plus forget about that guy in the beer ad, Johnny Pagozzi  is the Most Interesting In The World, named so by a lot of folks including Sir Elton John. We’ll let him explain why he gets that title.

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