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pwn
May 27, 2004

This Christmas get "Shoes"







Alt title: Satire is just dead for the time being, due to *points in every direction* (too long, but thanks whos that broooown for the title)

We'll get to all that in a minute. First, the obligatory overview that everyone already knows.

Nearly seven months after their last show before the lockdown, SNL returns to studio 8H, and at least somewhat live.

Back at the end of July, I made some bold predictions - mainly, that the show would return on a staggered schedule, would be mostly pre-taped, without a studio audience. And it was recently announced that they would be roaring back with a "limited" studio audience, in a run of five consecutive episodes in October.

1 out of 3 ain't great.

Now, there hasn't been any official confirmation that the show will be mostly on tape, so allow me to explain my case:

1. All the aforementioned production reasons - banking sketches greatly reduces the time and spatial crunch factor. Doing a live cold open, monologue, maybe a sketch or two, and Weekend Update live, with pretapes padding out the rest, would be much safer, and doable in quantity, which leads to

2. Five or more shows in a row - There's a reason they don't usually go more than three shows and only ever a max of four: Physical exhaustion of the crew. Being creative week after week isn't productive. This year, they've announced an intention to do live shows every Saturday in October, and potentially even more after the election. While it would still be grueling, this can only be realistically achieved if much of the show is on tape, and isn't topical week-of material.

3. They've already announced that they're taping in other locations - Namely, Brooklyn and New Jersey. While I have no idea what these warehouses are, they do get their sets made in the Stiegelbauer and Associates Navy Yard in Brooklyn, and taping there would reduce exposure and time for travel. Several of the show's senior cast are reportedly still living in LA, which would explain why they've retained everyone and hired three new players.

But enough of that. We'll see what they do soon enough. What about those new featured players? How about I copy what CNET already wrote, rather than even pretend I know anything about them?


Punkie Johnson is a comedian and writer who's appeared on the shows Space Force, Corporate, A Black Lady Sketch Show, Adam Ruins Everything and Bill Burr Presents: The Ringers.

Johnson was a New Face at the Just for Laughs Festival in 2019 and is a paid regular at the Comedy Store in Hollywood. Johnson is also the first out Black lesbian to join the Saturday Night Live cast in the show's long 46-year-old history.


Lauren Holt is a house performer from the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in Los Angeles. She was a founding member of the UCB's musical improv troupe called The Pickup.

Holt's also an actor who starred in the independent LGBTQ web series The Filth and the short film Parent Teacher Conference. In 2015, she appeared in the music video for the song Til It Happens to You by Lady Gaga.


Andrew Dismukes is a stand-up comic who's been working behind the scenes as a staff writer at SNL since its 43rd season. This will be his debut as a cast member.

Dismukes was part of the 2017 New Faces Showcase at the Just for Laughs Festival and performed at other festivals such as Comedy Central's Colossal ClusterFest and the New York Comedy Festival.

Watch Dismukes perform in the finals of the 2016 Funniest Person in Austin Contest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDBizE-0eEs


------

I'm uncharacteristically not excited for this season of the show. I AM excited to see the show, of course; it's been a significant part of my life for 28 years. And this historical time will hopefully- emphasis on "hope"- lead to some historic shows. But the real world is getting far too scary, and I have doubts that the show can do the needful thing when it comes to the horrors to come.

The Election That Could Break America

I cannot emphasize this enough: Please read this, if you haven't already. It lays out in painstaking detail the gears which are already set in motion to prevent Trump's removal from power. November is very potentially going to be an unbearable nightmare, at least by the standards of Democracy to which we're used to in America, and have perhaps taken for granted.

It's not the show's job to save democracy, but it has to be better than it has historically been, at least in recent memory. There's a Vox article that perfectly encapsulates these concerns, and I'm reproducing the article in its entirety.

quote:

Saturday Night Live premiere: The sketch comedy series won't save you
The show’s empty Donald Trump caricature misses what makes the real one so dangerous.
By Emily VanDerWerff@emilyvdw Oct 2, 2020, 11:00am EDT


Alec Baldwin has played Donald Trump for way too long now. | Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

In the wake of the maddening, utterly incoherent first presidential debate of the 2020 general election — a debate that mostly consisted of President Donald Trump trying to yell louder than everybody around him — the most predictable of all takes emerged from the ether.

“I cannot wait,” said the take-havers, on Twitter and off, “to see what Saturday Night Live does with this!”

Here, for instance, is NBC News mainstay Andrea Mitchell:

https://twitter.com/mitchellreports...141533270319106

This kind of response to a big news event is hardly new. The notion that Saturday Night Live will provide a kind of consensus view of what happened in the world of politics in the past week has been around almost as long as the program itself.

Chevy Chase’s bumbling Gerald Ford made America see the accomplished athlete as awkward and impotent. Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush made the 41st president seem like a prissy buffoon. Darrell Hammond’s skewering of Al Gore saying “lockbox” and sighing in the 2000 presidential debates was seen as a fatal blow to his campaign. And, Tina Fey’s turn as 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin made the former Alaska governor seem completely unqualified for public office.

Except ... do Saturday Night Live’s portrayals of these political figures make them seem a little more like TV characters who don’t really exist? Do those portrayals normalize their immense power or reduce them to walking personality tics in such a way that it becomes harder to see them for who they really are?

These questions have been heightened by the Trump era, when the firehose that is the president’s stream-of-consciousness expression of his innermost thoughts has made satire at once incredibly easy and incredibly difficult. If you want to make fun of the president, it’s not that hard. Just have a famous actor — Alec Baldwin, let’s say — pop up on TV and repeat some of the things the president has said in a big, brash New York accent, then have him pout a little bit as the audience roars its approval.

But this approach is also incredibly lazy, and it turns Trump into something vaguely approachable, a video game boss who can be defeated if we can just string together the magic combination of words that will cause him to explode in fury.

The “let’s make Trump angry!” mode of comedy isn’t exclusive to SNL. It is present, to some degree, in the late-night monologues of Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Seth Meyers — and it’s all over social media, perhaps most famously in a wildly popular series of Trump lip sync videos by comedian Sarah Cooper.

Reimagining Trump as a goon to be stomped on and defeated has its value. He is, after all, just a man. He won’t be the president forever, and will perhaps leave office as soon as January if enough people vote for former Vice President Joe Biden in November’s election. But that “perhaps” underlines just how complicated making fun of Trump really is — because if you don’t find a way to satirize not just Trump but Trumpism, you run the risk of normalizing what the man stands for while trying desperately to trigger him.

And that risk is exactly the one SNL has flirted with again and again throughout the Trump years.

Television normalizes everything, even presidents
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7e4vFMJmBIc

One of the guiding philosophies of my approach to TV criticism is the idea that TV, by its very nature, can’t help but normalize whatever it depicts, because we become inured to what it shows us. (See also: the police drama.)

That’s why long-running TV shows tend to dramatically increase their stakes over time, the better to re-engage an audience that might have grown too used to the status quo. Otherwise, they simply settle into conflict-free bores where everybody is nice to each other.

Consider, as an example, the acclaimed drama Breaking Bad. Chemistry teacher Walter White begins cooking meth to ensure that his family will be provided for after his eventual death from terminal cancer — which he’s diagnosed with in the series pilot. Drawn into the criminal underworld, Walter first faces off with low-level drug dealers, then slowly begins to work his way up the food chain of Albuquerque lawbreakers. By the final season, he’s fighting Nazis and capitalism.

Breaking Bad is probably better than any show in TV history at pulling off a gradual heightening of dramatic stakes. You don’t really question the ways it goes from Walter trying to figure out what to do about one drug dealer he has tied up in his basement to Walter using a car key fob to trigger a trunk-mounted machine gun that will destroy his enemies. It feels like a natural progression, even though it’s patently ridiculous from the standpoint of what might “really” happen.

If Walter had spent the whole series facing off with low-level drug dealers, his crimes would have eventually come to feel downright normal. As he faced off with these low-level villains, viewers would have eventually felt bored or, worse, like he was an unquestionably good guy with unimpeachable motives. As Walter’s enemies grew in stature, the evils he committed to take them down grew in stature, too.

But if TV doesn’t take great pains to slowly change the story it’s telling, it runs the risk of just making everything it depicts start to seem ordinary, through the sheer power of repetition. And reality doesn’t come with a built-in, steady escalation of dramatic stakes.

To some degree, all presidents benefit from TV’s power to normalize — the more that Trump is on TV as president, the more we get “used” to him being our TV president, even those of us who despise him and his policies. You can’t avoid the president on the news or on your social media feeds, not entirely. And, this being reality, the president is not subject to the same kinds of dramatic stakes that slowly intensify, as we’d see on a scripted TV show.

But a show like Saturday Night Live inevitably turns the president into a character, which makes it uniquely ill-suited to the sorts of satire that might actually expose the politically powerful for who they really are. The more we see Alec Baldwin as Trump, the less power the caricature has (if it ever had any to begin with — I would say it was always empty posturing).

What’s more, SNL is bound by the reality we live in. Its Trump can’t precisely become captain of a starship, pursuing a great whale across the galaxy. Alec Baldwin’s fake president will be forever linked to the real one. And that means the show will forever struggle to say anything consequential about him at all.

The best political satire finds something beneath the surface. SNL too rarely figures out how to do that.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbhz3XcNzGU

Think, really think, and try to remember an SNL political sketch from the last five years that you really adored. There’s only one I can think of for myself — Melissa McCarthy’s debut as former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer, which was buoyed by McCarthy’s talent as a sketch comedian and some really solid jokes and comedic bits.

But the fact that I described it to you as “Melissa McCarthy’s debut” shows just how empty the Trump era of SNL satire has been. The show’s approach to Trump has been one long parade of famous guest stars impersonating the various “cast members” of his administration and other Washington power players. Rather than allowing SNL’s talented cast to play, say, Dr. Anthony Fauci or Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Brad Pitt or Matt Damon gets the call. And so on and so on, right down to Jim Carrey signing on to play Joe Biden this fall and Maya Rudolph returning as Sen. Kamala Harris.

https://twitter.com/sasimons/status/1311116078135652356

(In Carrey’s casting, at least, SNL might have something comedically potent. Carrey rose to fame on Fox’s sketch comedy series In Living Color and certainly knows how to be wildly funny within that format. Rudolph, of course, was an SNL cast member for many years and is an extremely funny performer, especially within the sketch comedy format.)

https://twitter.com/nbcsnl/status/1311807261489201152

But the constant presence of celebrities further cements the weird idea of SNL as constantly firing its cannons at the Trump administration in an effective way. If everybody in Hollywood is on SNL, then SNL becomes Hollywood’s de facto response to Trump, and Trump’s broadsides right back (especially early on in his presidency) only serve to further entrench his popularity with his base.

“Trump is the first president or really politician even to kind of counter back at Saturday Night Live, to respond on Twitter. Everybody else embraces being made fun of. Even Sarah Palin, who they made fun of brutally, went on the show to engage with Tina Fey,” said Amy Becker, an associate professor of communication at Loyola University Maryland, whom I interviewed for my podcast Primetime in 2019. “I’ve looked at what that interaction means, and I have found actually that at least right after the election it certainly helped Trump because it made him seem more authentic to viewers because that’s his style.”

This improvement in the public’s opinion of a president whom SNL pillories is well-established. George W. Bush was similarly buoyed by Will Ferrell’s portrayal of him, which made him seem dumb but basically well-meaning.

“Will Ferrell’s impersonation of Bush 43 was so singular and became so popular, but it cut both ways because even though he used the word ‘strategery’ and some people thought he was making fun of the president, a lot of Democrats thought that Will had made W. the kind of guy that you want to just hang out with and have a beer,” James Miller, the co-author of Live from New York, the definitive SNL history, told me in 2019.

SNL, especially in the Trump era, has consistently mistaken flashy but over-obvious satire — satire that will win it plaudits among the pundit class for its bravery in taking on Trump by making fun of the most buffoonish things about him — for anything meaningful.

It’s possible I’m being unfair to a show that, by its very nature, is uneven, thanks to having exactly one week to pull each episode together. But the show is capable of incisive political satire. As overhyped as it was in terms of tanking Sarah Palin’s image with voters, Tina Fey’s portrayal of Palin was devastating at digging into just how oblivious she was.

And there have been a handful of genuinely thoughtful political sketches throughout the show’s history, including my favorite, in which Ronald Reagan’s folksy grandpa act is just cover for a ruthless mastermind, secretly controlling everything in the world, a comedic exploration of the Reagan administration’s portrayal of the 40th president as simultaneously all-knowing and completely checked out during the scandals that buffeted his second term.

Good political satire that responds to the tumult of the times is possible. Stephen Colbert’s Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report, somehow turned the George W. Bush administration into a serialized tale of an administration and a country nosediving straight into the ground, and Key & Peele could be merciless in dissecting Barack Obama’s lack of public anger, even when public anger was well-warranted.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2X93u3anTco

But the Trump administration is so obviously cartoonish, while also working to achieve such obviously horrific ends, that it becomes all but impossible to make fun of via SNL’s usual techniques of ridiculousness and over-the-top impersonations.

Nonetheless, those techniques don’t match the times they are being used in. How do you write a comedic sketch about a blathering bully who’s also mostly avoided dealing with a pandemic that has killed 200,000 Americans, and hundreds of thousands more people around the world? If you’re Saturday Night Live, you mostly make fun of the way he looks and acts and talks and ignore everything else. Will this change in the show’s new season? Maybe. But I’m not holding my breath.

The hope that SNL might finally crystallize how everyone should feel about the Trump administration — and maybe make us laugh about it, to boot — isn’t really a fault of the show but, rather, the expectations some might hold for it. But after four years of weak, empty attempts, why do those expectations still exist?

That all said, I hope there is some respite from these looming problems in the form of the show's non-topical material.

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pwn
May 27, 2004

This Christmas get "Shoes"





Oh yes. And here are the promos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyCLdWm66Hc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-aqTtywDDI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaWlZGd3srE

And tonight's Vintage is last season's Woody Harrelson/Billy Eyelash opener, in case you missed the 3 times it was rerun, as recently as August 29.

Zeluth
May 12, 2001



I like this song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qXBaqdKuyM

pwn
May 27, 2004

This Christmas get "Shoes"





And the official lineup for the first three episodes:

Mr. Powers
Jun 28, 2005

white and gold.


Thanks to whomever suggested Ted Lasso. I am perfectly happy with Sudeikis being unavailable for this reason.

Zeluth
May 12, 2001



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCDAFSOmUxE

pwn
May 27, 2004

This Christmas get "Shoes"





This was a rare example of a good one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ6WuWeBoY8

Toxic Fart Syndrome
Jul 2, 2006

*hits A-THREAD-5*

Only 3.6 Roentgoons per hour ... not great, not terrible.




...the meter only goes to 3.6...



Pork Pro

Really hoping it's just Carey and not Baldwin in the open...

Small White Dragon
Nov 23, 2007

No relation.

Wow, Dismukes looks very young (is he?). Guess we know who's playing the teenager in every skit now.

BigBallChunkyTime
Nov 25, 2011

Kyle Schwarber: World Series hero, Beefy Lad, better than you.



Illegal Hen

This ought to be interesting

Mr. Powers
Jun 28, 2005

white and gold.


Antenna signal not cooperating tonight. Too many leaves on the trees still.

Edward Mass
Sep 14, 2011

The Timeless Child is THE DOCTOR? Oh, for God's sake!


OK, Jim Carrey has already sold me as Biden.

BigBallChunkyTime
Nov 25, 2011

Kyle Schwarber: World Series hero, Beefy Lad, better than you.



Illegal Hen

Holy crap. Carrey is nailing this.

Zeluth
May 12, 2001



Hey, Jack! Where you bat at. Skit skatalick wack!

DC Murderverse
Nov 10, 2016

"Tell that to Zod's snapped neck!"



This is almost more of a Bill Clinton than a Biden

Zeluth
May 12, 2001



ASMR sleep hypnosis.

Small White Dragon
Nov 23, 2007

No relation.

Am I way out of touch? Has Joe Biden had serious anger issues?

DC Murderverse
Nov 10, 2016

"Tell that to Zod's snapped neck!"



Small White Dragon posted:

Am I way out of touch? Has Joe Biden had serious anger issues?

No but why get in the way of Jim Carrey doing his thing

Zeluth
May 12, 2001



Whoop whoop!

BigBallChunkyTime
Nov 25, 2011

Kyle Schwarber: World Series hero, Beefy Lad, better than you.



Illegal Hen

I didn't expect Carrey's resemblance to be so similar to Biden.

You are a nerd
Apr 9, 2003

See?

Small White Dragon posted:

Am I way out of touch? Has Joe Biden had serious anger issues?

I don't know about *serious*, but there have been several times that reporters/rando citizens he's interacted with have clearly rattled him with some pretty softball criticisms.

BigBallChunkyTime
Nov 25, 2011

Kyle Schwarber: World Series hero, Beefy Lad, better than you.



Illegal Hen

Make America Not Actively on Fire Again.

I'm on board.

Doctor Candiru
Dec 23, 2004
Umbrella Monkey Sand

Carrey has the Biden voice down really good. Sudeikis was more fun, though; it's tough to tell what Carrey's take is.

DC Murderverse
Nov 10, 2016

"Tell that to Zod's snapped neck!"



That reads like they wrote a Peter Pan-esque “If you believe that Donald Trump can get corona I want you to clap your hands together” and someone at legal nixed it because they’re afraid of a visit from the secret service or a bunch of lawyers

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007

Dallas Mavericks
Dallas Stars

I’m shocked at the positive responses to that opening. I thought it was one of the least funny openings I’d ever seen

Zeluth
May 12, 2001



Chloe Fineman still there? I forgot Chris Rock was hosting.

DC Murderverse
Nov 10, 2016

"Tell that to Zod's snapped neck!"



blue squares posted:

I’m shocked at the positive responses to that opening. I thought it was one of the least funny openings I’d ever seen

Yeah it was pretty bad, I must be watching a different Joe Biden impersonation than everyone else because it was some good makeup on a stock Jim Carrey character

TheBizzness
Oct 5, 2004

It's the smiles that keep us going. The bits of giggles and good cheer.



DC Murderverse posted:


it was some good makeup on a stock Jim Carrey character

Yeah, it ruled.

You are a nerd
Apr 9, 2003

See?

blue squares posted:

I’m shocked at the positive responses to that opening. I thought it was one of the least funny openings I’d ever seen

I don't get it either, but 15 minute long joke-free political cold opens are a pretty reliable staple of SNL since about 2000.

Maybe people just no longer expect better.

DC Murderverse
Nov 10, 2016

"Tell that to Zod's snapped neck!"



Chris Rock advocating for fully reforming the constitution

Bring on the revolution

Zeluth
May 12, 2001



Yahtzee!

My voting station is at the fire station. Usually with old ladies. Not sure what happens this year.

Mike Hunt has a word with you.

Zeluth fucked around with this message at 04:00 on Oct 4, 2020

Edward Mass
Sep 14, 2011

The Timeless Child is THE DOCTOR? Oh, for God's sake!


Moe Leston, Jr.

DC Murderverse
Nov 10, 2016

"Tell that to Zod's snapped neck!"



Cleansing our souls with the absolute dumbest name puns, this is a nice change

SHVPS4DETH
Mar 19, 2009

seen so much i'm going blind
and i'm brain-dead virtually







Ramrod XTreme

DC Murderverse posted:

Cleansing our souls with the absolute dumbest name puns, this is a nice change

absolutely

Doctor Candiru
Dec 23, 2004
Umbrella Monkey Sand

Thompson appears to have become a teenager again.

SHVPS4DETH
Mar 19, 2009

seen so much i'm going blind
and i'm brain-dead virtually







Ramrod XTreme

this is legit banger and funny af

Revol
Jul 31, 2003

EHCIARF EMERC...
EHCIARF EMERC...


DC Murderverse posted:

Cleansing our souls with the absolute dumbest name puns, this is a nice change

It's a super easy win. But it's still a winner.

DC Murderverse
Nov 10, 2016

"Tell that to Zod's snapped neck!"



I hope that they just got all of the unfunny out of the way at the beginning

SHVPS4DETH
Mar 19, 2009

seen so much i'm going blind
and i'm brain-dead virtually







Ramrod XTreme

holy poo poo bill burr?! that's gna be smtg

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ArtVandelay
Jul 13, 2004



I know I'm getting old because I don't know who most of the musical guests are anymore. Morgan Wallen?

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