The Washington Post

Pop Culture with Paul Farhi: MacGruber, SNL, Daily Show, Colbert, plastic surgery

Apr 27, 2010

Washington Post staff writer Paul Farhi will be online Tuesday, April 27, at 1 p.m. ET to talk about topical issues in the pop culture world of TV, radio, movies and trends.

Coming soon: "MacGruber," a full-length movie based on the short "Saturday Night Live" skit of the same name. Question: Why? A brief history of SNL-related movies suggests that popular skits don't translate into popular movies. Plus: The overlooked part of "The Daily Show" and "Colbert." Plus plus: What plastic surgery says about us (or at least "you") ...

Greetings, all, and welcome again. So, here's something you didn't ask for: A movie version of the "MacGruber" skit from "Saturday Night Live." I have one reaction: Why? Was "MacGruber" (a parody of the old "MacGyver" TV series) so popular and hilarious that public acclaim forced SNL's hand? (Just a guess: No.).

I have no idea whether MacGruber will make a successful movie, but the odds are against it. Why? Because most movies based on SNL characters have been huge bombs. I'm not sure why this is, but it is. Outside of the Blues Brothers and the two Wayne's World movies, nothing has really caught on (and a Blues Brother sequel was a gigantic turkey). Says here that the fourth-highest grossing SNL-related movie, "Superstar," starring Molly Shannon as the super-nerdy Mary Catherine Gallagher, didn't even cover its production costs when it was released in 199X. The list goes downhill from there. Did anyone actually see "A Night at the Roxbury" (with Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan) or Sen. Al Franken's Stuart Smalley movie, "Stuart Saves His Family"? Did anyone even know that there was a movie of "It's Pat," starring Julia Sweeney as the adrogynous one? Apparently not. It generated just $31,000 in ticket sales before it was spiked from existence.

I should add here that any movie based on an SNL character should do well with audiences. The characters are already "pre-sold"--that is, familiar to movie goers from repeated exposure on the show. What's more, SNL is its own best P.R. agency. One of the stars of "MacGruber," Ryan Phillippe, was the guest host of SNL a week ago, apparently for no other reason than to hype the movie (he appears to have been booked to coincide with the movie's release, which was subsequently pushed back a month).

Anyway, I wonder: What's the problem, SNL? Are you picking the wrong characters to make movies out of? Are you picking the wrong writers and directors to make the movies? Or do skits not really translate into films (The Blues Brothers, by the way, was never a skit; it was a musical act). Would love to get your thoughts...

In other news: Know what I love about "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report"? Many things, but one of them is the guests they choose to interview each night. Unlike any other entertainment/talk show on TV, both programs book guests with ideas. Yes, like every other show, there's the occasional movie star plugging his/her "project," but mostly it's obscure people (authors, journalists, pols, thinkers of one kind or another) who have stimulating ideas. Last week, Jon Stewart had on John O'Hara, the 25-year-old Tea Party proponent and author. Stewart clearly didn't agree with O'Hara, but the conversation was respectful, amusing and often enlightening. He also had on Fred Pearce, a Brit who has written a book on demographics and population trends. Colbert has made a media star out of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. You won't see this on Letterman or Leno or Kimmel. You might see it on "Charlie Rose" or "Tavis Smiley" on PBS, but it won't be nearly as entertaining.


And in yet more news: R.I.P., Alan Sillitoe, the most excellent British author, who died on Sunday at 82. Just re-read "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner," and loved it anew. Check it out, if you missed it in English Lit.

Okay, let's go to the phones

I have always wondered why almost all SNL cast members, including the best ones, leave the show after a few years or 5 to 7 years. They may think they are going to make it big elsewhere in TV or in the movies, but only a few of them really succeed, like Will Ferell, Bill Murray and Tracy Morgan. So many funny SNL stars of the past are almost unheard of today. Are the cast members pushed off by Lorne Michaels, or do they get burned out after a few seasons? Thanks.

Hi, sorry about the late start--we're having major tech problems here...Many of the stars of SNL leave for movies, but almost all of them are rotated out at some point. The bigger names can stay longer, but there's always been turnover. Darrell Hammond and Tim Meadows are the huge exceptions; both lasted about a decade or so.

I must say Iwas never a Tina Fey fan until Date Night, never saw 30 Rock, loved her in movie but what is that scar on her face? Did she get that on a date night?

She talked about that in a magazine interview last year. It's a nasty, nasty story. And I see that she's done something to cover it up...

Paul, the comments appended to your article were quite interesting and certainly reflected a diverse range of views on plastic surgery. Recommended reading (article and commentary) for those interested.

Oh, thanks for mentioning that! Yeah, I tried to not be too judgmental (although I've got plenty of opinions about plastic surgery. Wanna hear 'em?). The readers filled in most of the angles, though...

Hi Paul -- What do you think of Jon Stewart singing, "go f*** yourself," to the Muslim extremist bullies, who threatened the South Park guys? And do you think Comedy Central did the right thing by censoring part of the episode?

Was not aware he did that. If so, that's one too many "eff yous" for him because he sang the same lyric to Bernie Goldberg, who has been attacking him on Fox News.

You think the SNL sketch this weekend was (aside from being wrong and -- worse -- unfunny) a tad racist? Here's a straight out of the 1970s right-wing stereotype -- overweight black obstructionist female federal worker. Would they have done the sketch -- would they have even thought of the sketch -- if, say, Jennifer Garner or Kate Hudson or Anne Hathaway were the guest host? Like your colleague Gene Weingarten says, funny absolves everything. But it was offensive to me, and it sure wasn't funny either.

HATED that sketch! It was unfair AND unfunny. Government workers have a right to be ticked off about it. Btw, not to flatter the hometown crowd, but I have found federal employees to be among the smartest and hardest working people around. The stereotype stinks.

I've never really considered Stewart and the Daily Show as making fun of the politicians, but more as being incredulous about how you all in the media cover politics. Why can't a Sunday Morning host call a senator or congressman out when they sit through a 12-minute interview reiterating the same talking points over and over again? I know that might damage "access" but when all politicians say on your show is pablum, what good is access?

I think the late Tim Russert was the best at this. He lined up all the clips, all the soundbites of whatever his guest had to say on X subject, and he threw it all back at the guest. There's no need to be rude. There IS a need to do some homework. This is, by the way, one of the ingenius aspects of "The Daily Show"--the clip that utterly calls out the hypocrisy of some talking head, usually a Sunday morning talk-show talking head.

Ugh, there are skits from SNL that I've enjoyed that became movies (e.g. Wayne's World). Other funny ones seem to escape me at the moment. But the MacGruber skits aren't even funny in five minute format. How do they plan on making this at all worthwhile?

The weird part of making a movie out of "MacGruber" is that the skit is pretty wispy to begin with. It's usually done in, what, 15- or 30-second increments (short, in any case). And the punchline is always the same: MacGruber dithers, bomb explodes. Hilarity does not ensue.

Hi, Paul. What do SNL skits and plastic surgery have in common? 1. Someone has more money than common sense. 2. Someone doesn't know when to leave well enough alone. A little goes a long way and does a bit of good. Too much and you become a caricature of yourself. However, you're hanging around with people who think it's a smashing idea to make "B" movies or keep going under the knife, so you do it.

Wow! You win the ThreadWeaver(TM) Award for today, AC. I never looked at it that way, but yes and yes. Knowing when to stop is a good thing.

Greed and cocaine, in varying amounts, coupled with complete disregard for their audience. More to the point: have you ever seen the nuts and bolts of the production costs? I'd bet these movies exist as a payday for the principals, and any profits they pull are purely incidental.

But if that's true, why go to all the trouble of making a movie? Why not just pay off the actor and/or the writer and/or Lorne Michaels and save the overhead? And, really, did Julia Sweeney (Pat) or Molly Shannon (M.C. Gallagher) really have so much juice that they could coerce/stampede/wrangle a movie? Nope. More likely answer: Someone, or a lot of someones, thought it was a good idea.

Frankly, many, many of the SNL skits are at their funniest point when the title or premise is presented. It's hard to make one minute funny, much less five, as the last 25 years of SNL prove.

Oh, come on. SNL has been one of the greatest shows in the history of TV. Period. It's not always funny, but no one is. I think it's always worth watching. Their failures are pretty interesting, too.

Funny, that's what the plastic surgeons do too.

I swear: No pun intended. It would have been so easy to go pun crazy on that story. As is, I restrained myself, holding to the federally mandated pun limit for newspaper articles.

I do like SNL, but even during skits that I like I'm often thinking "they're dragging this out, could have been a lot funnier if it were a tad shorter." To take that same skit and turn it into a full-length movie, not going to work. I love MacGruber skits. But it's more the idea that's funny, and not so much the execution.

Again, no idea whether this is going to work as a movie. It could have a brilliant director (one of the guys who creates the SNL "Digital Shorts" is helming the movie, as they say at Variety), and it could all come together.  But "dragging it out"? Yeah, strong possibility, since "MacGruber" has only one joke and it was exhausted the first time it aired.

Never been to a post office, then?

Them, too! The very busy Post Office on Vermont Ave. near the Post runs quite efficiently. Same with the one I go to in the 'burbs...It's funny, there's plenty of lousy service in the "private sector" these days, but there's nothing equivalent to the "lazy government worker" stereotype there...

I dressed up as Pat one Halloween when I was in college. I have no idea why, but I was never hit on so much at a party as I was in that costume.

I loved Pat! It was the same bit every time--gender ambiguity and the social consequences thereof--but they found new ways to take it each time. I never saw the movie, however. And apparently no one outside of the people who made it did, either.

What's happened to Andy Parks? Is Fred going soon too? Any chance Chris Core would come back?

Parks is gone from WMAL.  Grandy's status is unclear. And I doubt you'll see Chris anywhere near the station anytime soon. Citadel, the owner, is near broke and in no mood to hire any bigtime hosts.

It's why we still love Belushi, and Elvis, and Buddy Holly, and Hendrix...

Not sure I get the connection. Elvis, Hendrix and Belushi were drug casualties, but  Holly died in a plane crash.

Really? Tell that to Bush, McCain, Palin, Romney...what do those people have in common? And I know Stewart's a liberal, and that's okay, but how could he have ignored the (Democrat, obvs.) congressman who worried that Guam might tip over?

Wait. Did I say that? That's ridiculous. It makes fun of pols all the time. That's why it EXISTS....As for the Guam thing, badly distorted in the reporting. I believe he was talking about the transfer of so many military people to Guam as being overwhelming for the island. He really didn't literally mean it would tip over.

Yes! And a scary looking caricature at that. The people who keep getting more and more surgeries look so strange after awhile. Does anyone think Joan Rivers looks human anymore? Jocelyn Wildenstein, anyone?

There's a web site for this (as there is for everything): Awfulplasticsurgery.com. I don't buy ALL of the speculation on that site, but some of it makes sense.

Only above average movie absed on SNL skit was the original Blues Brothers. Anything after that was godawful And you forgot to mention MacGruber's tie in with the WWE. Only thing wrose than SNL folks in a movie is WWE wrestlers trying to act with the exception of the Rock.

I also forgot to mention MacGruber's tie-in with Pepsi. Remember last year when SNL ran what appeared to be a series of MacGruber bits with Pepsi all over 'em (they even changed to name to "Pepsuber"). It was a pretty funny parody of product placement--but then it turned out to BE a series of commercials. SNL just aired them right at the start of the commercial break, without any indication that they were paid for. Clever, if cynical...

Both Stewert and Colbert, each in his own style, manage to cram more inteligent satire and thought-provoking guests into 1/2 hour than other late night hosts do in a month. Especially love Colbert's "The Word" - riviting, literally, cause you can't glance away! Last night's send-up of the politician who said we could go back to paying doctors with chickens was a hoot! He had a full petting zoo on the desk with him by the time he finished.

I agree. Both shows demand intelligence from the viewer and are themselves very intelligent (for TV, I mean). "The Word" is a great bit--the writing is always top notch.

Agree with you about "Blues Bros" and the 2 Wayne's World movies, though I had to pause when you mentioned the turkey sequel- surely you are off your rocker; I would've remembered a sequel to one of the best comedies ever. And then I remembered: "Blues Brothers 2000" (which came out in 1998). Even worse, I then remembered that I saw it in the theater. Wow. Thanks for reopening that memory- now I'm angry and bitter and want my 6 bucks back (I really buried that one).

I never saw that one, either.  From your recovered traumatic memory, it doesn't sound like I missed much, either.

Wasn't Universal getting into something with Disney or Viacom about this, because there's also supposed to be a MacGyver movie in the works, and there's some concern that one turkey will detract from the awesomeness of another turkey?

Yes, I vaguely recall that there has been some crossfire. And, frankly, though I don't hold out high hopes for "MacGruber," there's only one way to go vis-a-vis "MacGyver" and that's to play it for laughs. A "serious" remake of that cheesy-but-loveable show just makes me shudder.

I liked the one where he was checking his stocks, and was like "what the..."

One other thing about those MacGruber skits: Did they really need to waste Kristen Wiig in them? She is a national resource, and must be used wisely.

By men or by women, or both?

This sounds like it could be an "It's Pat" skit--Pat goes to a Halloween Party as...as...help me, people!

These doctors really use cadavers for practice? Why don't they just get volunteers since so many people look like they've been experimented upon post-surgery anyway? As you said, leave the "donated for scientific research" bodies for useful study. (ps - 'robust of bust' - lol)

I was surprised by that, too. I don't know the ins and outs of cadaver research, but I imagine any legit doctors org can request 'em from the cadaver bank (if that's where they come from). But I guess "aesthetic" plastic surgeons need to practice on real people, too, to perfect their procedures and techniques.

Sure, the post office where the people in charge would go if they had an hour to kill is probably great...but try it out here in The Real America (TM), where the lone clerk has nowhere to go, and apparently takes delight in seeing exactly how long she can chat about stamp selections with each and every customer/victim.

Okay, okay...I can't defend every single federal worker. Some of them are bad, just like in every other profession, I'm sure (don't get me started on journalism...). I'm just opposed to the stereotype, which (like most stereotypes) demeans a whole class of people. Not kosher.

I would have had more respect for this commenter had he just left it at this.

Leaving well enough alone: The theme for today's chat.

I saw most of the SNL movies- some on purpose, some by accident. "Roxbury" at 3 in the morning on Showtime; "Stuart" on HBO while impatiently waiting for the new Entourage ep. I kind of liked "Superstar", if only b/c it had a before-he-became-a-huge-star Will Ferrell, and Molly Shannon really did go for broke whenever she put on that plaid jumper. "Ladies Man" just didn't work because it would be the same as if they tried to make a movie about the Larry King Show. The common denominator was that none of them held up for an hour-20-plus.

I always thought Molly Shannon put it all out there with that character (and I especially loved the quotes taken from some horrendous made-for-tv movie). And I think you've hit it--it takes a heckuva lot more to sustain 80, 90 minutes of comedy than 4 minutes of it. Those are just two different things.

You're wrong Paul. He most certainly does believe the island will tip over! "Addressing Adm. Robert Willard, who commands the Navy's Pacific Fleet, Johnson made a tippy motion with his hands and said sternly, 'My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.'"

I'm a big fan of irony and exaggeration. And if you give the benefit of the doubt here (as I am), you can interpret that comment as ironic and exaggerated, all for effect.

I'm wondering if the producers of the SNL movies are deliberately trying to "aim low" and hope that they become cult hits? It's happened before, only it seems pretty calculating and blatant for them to try to throw millions of dollars at a bad production. Unless this is maybe Universal trying to pull a "Producers" and somehow tank their stock so that The Bad Company from Philadelphia decides it's just not worth it?

Ah ha! So, the SNL movies are essentially an accounting scheme! Bialystock & Bloom--white courtesy phone!...Naw, I think they're really, really trying.

Seen the film?

No! Would love to, though. I was imagining what the movie would be like as I read the story again. It wasn't hard.

There have been tons of "inept spy" movies made. I haven't heard any details about the MacGruber movie, so maybe it falls into that category. I doubt enough people remember MacGuyver enough that a feature length parody would be funny. Now if they could work Patty and Selma Bouvier into the plot ...

Sure. Not necessarily a bad genre. And it doesn't necessarily scream, "Run away from the theater." But, given what we know of "MacGruber," I do think they've got a steep hill ahead of 'em.

In other words, SNL is helping to somehow provide Linda McMahon with free-ish campaign ads?

I sorta doubt she's going to pop up in the movie...

Not really trying to weave those together, but two comments: Sillitoe's death really makes me nostalgic for that era of wonderful British films in black and white. Not just the Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (both from his novels), but This Sporting Life, with Richard Harris, Morgan (starring David Warner), A Taste of Honey, The Knack And How to Get It (directed by Richard Lester)--I could go on and on. I was seeing part of English society that didn't get into American films and certainly had never been portrayed in English movies. There was a realism (even in Morgan) that seemed so fresh and new. As for the Post Office, I am glad you stuck up for 'em, Paul. But the employees are not federal workers. The Post Office has been an independent government corporation for years now. It gets no funding from the general revenue, but must be self-sustaining. Which is precisely why it's in so much financial trouble as first class mail dwindles to nothing.

Thanks for saying this, on both scores. Yes--and Alec Guiness' early films fit into this category, too.  I loved "The Lavender Hill Mob." Gave me a view of England I had not really seen before. Also, and maybe this doesn't quite fit, Alfred Hitchcock's pre-Hollywood movies are tip top, too.

Because he knows a sarcastic joke when he hears one?

Yes. Thank you.

Comedian Doug Benson has a podcast called "I Love Movies," and he did a show the other week from South by Southwest in Austin, Tex. He said he saw a showing of "MacGruber" and it was hilarious. Just throwing it out there, I'm as skeptical as anyone, but perhaps we should see the movie before we bury it. I'd also argue that the shortness of the sketches could allow for a broader interpretation in the cinema because there is less "canon"(for lack of a better term) to adhere to.

Right. That's why I hesitate to declare it a failure, sight unseen. Btw, I was at the movies with my 15-year-old nephew and sister this weekend (we saw "Kick-Ass," which was horrible) and the big poster for "MacGruber" had a surprisingly laudatory blurb from a usually reasonable critic. So maybe it doesn't stink.

Normally, I'm annoyed by her characters, but that thing she did in the Weekend Update this past Saturday... whatever it was, I don't even remember and I don't think I could wrap my head around it even if I did... well, it was amazing.

Yes, that's the "Just Kidding" lady character. Not particularly funny, but truly wonderful as performance. Gotta be on Hulu somewhere. Check it out.

I think it's in her contract that she must appear in all skits.

She's not having a great year (last season was better) and she IS overexposed, but she's so talented that it really doesn't matter.

Tootsie.

Oh! Mindblowing!

There are parallels to both. A talented athlete in college may think that his worth to the pros actually decreases with the longer he/she stays in school. Sometimes they jump at the right time, and it works out really well for them (Carmelo Anthony left Syracuse after his freshman year and landed a huge contract with Denver). Others, not so much (Maurice Clarett left Ohio State after his freshman year, and I think I saw him on AMW not long ago). The same could be said for SNL performers- some might have to strike while the iron is hot, and leave at the peak of their popularity (Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler); others jump when they think they're hot, only to find that they should've stuck around a little longer (Joe Piscopo, Chris Kattan).

I think the latter category is pretty small, actually. Piscopo IS a good example, but I think Kattan was pretty much played out on SNL and HAD to leave.  Hard to imagine, but Chevy Chase barely lasted a full season on the show before he jumped. He didn't do badly in the movies, however...

First time I saw him on TV was on the Olbermann show, before it jumped the shark. He's no Edward R.

He seems to be on Colbert about every other week. And I gotta say, the guy's great. Explains complicated stuff very, very well, looks great, sense of humor, etc. He's going to be a huge star...

If you want a great - and surprisingly funny - book on cadaver research and such, read Mary Roach's Stiff. She writes about all different ways cadavers have been used in the past and presently.

Thanks. I didn't think I wanted to read more about this, but maybe I do. Appreciate the recommando...

. . . . . a plastic surgery patient?

Oh, good, too! And the surgeons have no idea what they're supposed to do...

I agree with you that Stewart and Colbert have the most interesting and often obscure guests. It is also obvious that they have done their homework and actually read those books they are interviewing the authors about. Or they've been very well briefed by some one who has. And they're not afraid to have people on with differing points of view. Neil Degrasse Tyson is on The Daily Show all the time too.

Yes, I like the differing-points-of-view thing. Olbermann could stand to have a few more conservative guests and not have his amen-choir along, too....As for the books, I know I can't read that fast. If I were hosting those shows, I would want an official debriefer to make me sound like I  did my homework. Or maybe I'd just pluck out a fact from page 248 and pretend that I'd read all the way through. You know, the way you did it in college.

Pondering why the SNL folks rarely achieve success in films: aren't most of these people graduates of comedy improv companies such as Second City? The skills and timing that make you a gifted improv comic are not really skills that translate well to the tedium of conventional film making. (Still not decided on whether Jimmy Fallon's comic skills are going to help him survive as a late night host.)

I think Fallon has done fine. His show is pretty good; much better than I would have expected. And I take your point on improv skills. Doing comedy skits is not the same as acting. I think a great comic actor can do comedy skits, but it's not necessarily the case  that the reverse is true.

I saw it and am a government worker (so no connection to industry). Gotta say, there is one scene that makes me laugh still. Pat and his/her androgenous mate (Chris) shared interests that the whole world shares (good movies, good food) and hated the same things that everyone hates (random acts of violence, bad movies). But the funny (to me) part was that they thought they were so unique and MFEO. After typing this I realize why I'm the only one who thought this was funny.

That's pretty funny and really subtle. I wonder if it was too subtle for the 12-14 people who saw the movie.  But now I'd really like to see this movie.

Whomever posted that is clearly clueless, a troll, or simply an awful person.

Well, there WAS some kind of violence involved (I forget what exactly). I just remember thinking, "Oh, that's just horrible." She was a little kid at the time.

Here's how you make the SNL movies work: they aren't funny anyway, even if (unlikely) the original sketch was. So make them dramas. Can you imagine "Pat" as a study of one person's gender identity issues? "Wayne's World" as a suburban "Brokeback Mountain"? Guaranteed winners at Sundance!

Sorry--both "Wayne's World" movies WERE funny. And I'm not a big fan of "The Blues Brothers," but it has its fans for very good reasons. Over-the-top car chases/crashes, Belushi's manic energy, great music, etc...

I, too, like irony and exaggeration. But find the video on YouTube and then make a decision. He didn't seem ironic or exaggerated at all. I generally believe this is what he thinks.

It's possible I'm wrong here. Either way, it proves that sarcasm/irony are not really appreciated in serious contexts. That is, even if he was being sarcastic, people didn't get it. Better to drop it.

Is it possible that these things are made by studios to fulfill the cable beast? Something has to be on HBO12 at 3a.m., and maybe there's enough profit there to do the deal and feel good about it.

Hmm. Movie accounting is a very tricky business, but I don't think you can really make back your investment (at least not in a timely way), if your movies don't meet their production budgets in their theatrical release. Since so much of a movie's future revenue is dependent on its theatrical box office, a flop at the theater is very unlikely to make back much via cable sales, DVDs, etc. Exception: "Office Space," which became a huge hit on DVD after college kids discovered it long after it left the theater.

Sure, Paul, you "have found federal employees to be among the smartest and hardest working people around" -- but that's because you're here in D.C., where there are lawyers, doctors, physicists, economists. The sketch was about the clerks, etc. ,who work the bureaucracy, who, admittedly, may not fall into the above 100 IQ range. It's the same as doing a useless customer service sketch, or a ditzy cashier at Target sketch, and I don't see anyone getting their panties in a bunch when Kristen Wiig plays that role. (Oh, and the characters in the SNL sketch weren't federal workers, they were state workers -- mostly from the NY/NJ area -- and the point of most of the sketch was the abuse of the union rules those workers, but maybe I'm getting nit-picky) Not overly funny, yes -- but offensive to play to a stereotype of a certain profession? I can't get worked up about it, unless every time SNL does a sketch bad-mouthing lawyers, or dentists, devious corporate types, or greedy bankers, you're going to level the same charge. (and I think the charge of racism from the original poster was a bt attentuated.

Dentists? Who makes fun of dentists? And "devious corporate types" isn't exactly a very specific group of people, unlike, say, "unionized government workers." But forget all that. As a previous commenter said, quoting the illustrious Gene Weingarten, funny trumps everything. If the government worker skit were truly hilarious, few people would really be able to make a case stick. But it wasn't.

I was always sorry that some of Gilda Radner's characters weren't expanded upon more . . . . . she was a genius, but perhaps, like Lili Tomlin's 'Ernestine', those personae were best in small doses.

Although I believe Gilda had a very successful concert movie (or maybe it was a TV special) featuring her doing her many characters. But point taken: Those would be small doses too.

She's sort of like Will Ferrell or Phil Hartmann, in that she's so reliable that writers seem to go to her first (as opposed to Jenny Slate, et.al., though Naseem Pedrad has been a pretty good addition). She seems to also have a Hartmann-like knack of being able to be in small roles in quality movies while still handling a big workload on the show.

SNL has to have a Phil Hartmann type to succeed--an every man who can play anything, usually in a supporting role. I think Jason Sudeikis does a wonderful job in this regard. He NEVER fails, even if the sketch stinks. He wins my Phil Hartmann Memorial Award.

I don't watch Colbert so I didn't know he was on that show, but I've loved seeing him in all kinds of PBS specials. He is so easy to understand, not condescending at all like some scientists can be.

Yes. Total lack of pretentiousness. I'm sure less telegenic scientists turn up their noses at him, and think he's not hardcore "science-y" enough, but there's a real gift to translating heavy science into understandable English. Which is what Tyson does so well.

Actually, the reason Chevy left SNL wasn't to make movies -- he left because his then girlfriend, whom he later married, was trying to put together an acting/modeling career in Hollywood and told him she wouldn't do the bi0coastal thing, so it was either follow her or break up. He followed her and tried his hand at Hollywood. (Some) hilarity ensued.

Really? Had not heard that story. I do know  Chevy was HUGE by the end of the first season of SNL and was undoubtedly being courted for lots of movie stuff by then (incidentally, I recall seeing the pre-SNL Chevy in "The Groove Tube" as a young teenager; I still remember stuff from that pic).

Olbermann could take a page from Terry Gross. She's had everybody on, and even when you can tell she disagrees with somebody's politics or beliefs, she does such a good job of moving the conversation along without turning it into a soapbox for the guest. Also, she seems to have some really smart people briefing her on the book front- or else she really is that smart, and that fast of a reader.

Yeah, but there's a major difference between Gross and Olbermann, and it's mostly the networks they work for. Gross is on NPR, and NPR doesn't do gladiatorial combat. Olbermann is on MSNBC, and it does.

Someone ran into her front yard when she was playing and slashed her face with a knife.

Yes, that sounds about right. As I said, awful.

Gilley? Judith Grimes? The family that full-on kisses on the mouth whenever they see each other?

Gilley? Hmmm... that's an odd and funny character. Maybe a children's movie? The kissing family would get tiresome six minutes in...

It had a very clever sequence. The Blues Brothers Band is mistakenly booked at a Bluegrass festival. They don't know bluegrass music at all but work their way through Ghost Riders in the Sky.

Okay...okay...Like it.... Now, what about the other 89 minutes of the movie?

Does that mean you've never heard Bill Cosby's famous routine? "Dentists tell you not to pick your teeth with any sharp metal objects, and then the first they come at you with is a metal hook."

No! I listened to that one again a few months ago. A great monologue--Cosby in his prime. But do we really associate that bit with dentists when the word "dentist" comes up? You can't say "government worker" in many contexts without the usual snark flowing.

Biting satirists.

Thank you very much. You won't be here all week.

Various people say in Shales's book that after Wayne's World Lorne Michaels started looking for the next franchise sketch, thus producing the Coneheads, Pat, Stuart Smalley, Ladies Man, Night at the Roxbury, and Superstar movies. Having typed that list, I will now go and light myself on fire.

Haha. The Coneheads movie, by the way, came out in 1993, for some reason. In other words, about 15 years after the Coneheads were big on SNL. Surely something got lost in all those years.

Her movie was a film of her Broadway show. It opens with the funniest song ever written "Let Talk Direty to the Animals." It works so well because the incredibly sweet Gilda curses like a sailor

That's it! Thank you.  But again, it was Gilda, performing in snippets, just like you saw her and loved her on SNL...

Klinger

Variation on Tootsie!

It's a great one, but she's done it like 10 times already. This is my problem with SNL, think of something new!

They need to get recurring characters off at their peak, not when they're in decline, yes...

Tried watching on DVD, a lot turned out to be lame. Should have tried the herbal remedy, like the first time

I bet it is (lame), but don't mess with my memories from when I was 13 or 14!

Folks, thanks for stopping by (and sorry about some of the  glitches here). Gotta run now. In the meantime, please do the assigned reading before next week's chat. Yes, there will be a test...Hope you have a good week. As always, regards to all....Paul

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Paul Farhi
Pop Culture With Paul Farhi explores the latest in the world of pop culture, trends and daily news.
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