Posts Tagged ‘standup’

First time for Everything

Posted: January 7, 2012 by Brendan Wahl in Articles, Entertainment
Tags: , , ,

Did some standup for the first time at a local bar on Thursday night… check it out.

by Brendan Wahl

(Season 36, Episode 17)

Can you believe there’s only five more episodes after this one until the end of the season? This has been one of the strongest seasons in quite some time (comparable to the 2000/2001 season) and unless the train falls completely off the tracks by season’s end, this will shape up to be one of the more memorable ones as well.

After last week’s gamble (but ultimately, success) with Miley Cyrus taking the realms of host, SNL relies on a returning host this time in Zach Galifianakis, who delivered a slew of fun performances in an above-average episode from last season. The biggest note about his last stint was the shaving of his beard merely so he could do the last sketch of the night as his alter-ego, Seth Galifianakis. However, Zach also proved himself to be a team player and was very clutch during that episode. Obviously, the cast enjoyed having him around and hence, he is back once again and this time he is promoting The Hangover 2 and also his new stand-up DVD.

Joining Galifianakis is a young lady making her American television debut, Jessie J. I really don’t know too much about this woman but something tells me I’ve heard at least one of her songs before. She is supremely popular in the United Kingdom, so hopefully we will see some examples of why she is so well-liked over there and it will translate over to the US.


The Show:

1. Selection Sunday (5:01)
-Hader, Samberg, Sudeikis, Thompson, Wiig, Pedrad

I will be the first one to admit that I do not watch sports on television. At all. So when this opener started with Greg Gumbel (Thompson) and Jim Nantz (Sudeikis) opening a sports-related sketch, I thought here is something that will go way over my head. However, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that this would in fact not be related to March Madness, but rather just Madness, the tournament to decide the craziest person in the world. The interviews with Kaddafi (Armisen) and the Melissa Leo (Wiig) bit were funny, but Charlie Sheen (Hader) popping up again, this time on Sheen’s Corner, was the highlight. I would like to add that Two and a Half Men performed with popsicle sticks would probably be a better show than the real thing. The acting would be better, anyway. Hi-yo! …oh yeah, the sketch. It gets a solid B.

2. Monologue (7:01)

For the second time this season, we get a sampling of the host’s stand-up material. Even though Brand’s monologue was funny, this one blows it right out of the water with multiple highlights found throughout. I personally enjoyed his “Worst Bragger” character (“So, I was french-kissin’ my brother last night”) and the guy who really likes cargo shorts. These segments then lead into Zach getting into a dress ala Annie and while “Tomorrow” starts playing, he does his bit where he rips sheets of paper off a big display. A top-notch monologue here; it was easily the best one so far this season. A+

3. The Talk (6:24)
-Galifianakis, Elliott, Hader, Thompson, Wiig, Bayer, Pedrad

As soon as this started, I thought it was just another way for SNL to take a stab at “The View” and I thought… why wouldn’t they just do another View sketch instead? Alas, this is an actual morning show that airs with Leah Remini (Elliott), Sara Gilbert (Bayer), Julie Chen (Wiig), and Sharon Osbourne (Pedrad) discussing banal topics that no one really cares to hear about from a group of third-rate actresses. I used to like Leah, but damn she has lowered herself with this show. Anyway, this sketch is not exactly first-sketch-of-the-night material, but is still a pretty funny condemning of the terrible program, particularly one The View-obsessed fan (Zach) who is disappointed at being taken to the wrong show on his birthday. Although Bayer shines as Gilbert, who just wants to hide in her sweater from the embarrassment and the Steven Tyler (Hader) segment goes nowhere. B

4. The Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy (2:47)
-Armisen, Elliott, Hader, Meyers, Moynihan, Samberg, Sudeikis, Thompson, Bayer, Brittain, Killam, Pharoah

I’m not sure why not a lot of people understood what they were making fun of with this one. Stupid one-joke comedians like Larry the Cable Guy (who, for the love of God, should never host) and Jeff Dunham are skewered here as an this piece advertises a show with catchphrase comedians. There are way too many to list here, but suffice to say there are a few highlights like Pete “Airhorn” Schultz (Galifianakis), White Bernie Mac (Sudeikis), Barry the Plumbing Gentleman (Killam), and finally Boston Powers (SETH MEYERS!). Very clever parody. A

5. Scared Straight (5:48)
-Galifianakis, Hader, Moynihan, Samberg, Sudeikis, Thompson

Marking his first appearance since Betty White/Jay-Z from last year, Lorenzo McIntosh (Thompson) shows up again to teach a number of kids and send them on the straight and narrow. This time, he brings along a Hannibal Lecter-like criminal in Larry Bernstein (Galifianakis), a former accountant who now eats people. Zach’s insane criminal was the cherry on the sundae as he basically stood there and unleashed some truly great lines (“And also, Helena Bonham-Carter is there ’cause this is real!”). It should be noted that Hader didn’t crack up this time, which is truly an accomplishment for this sketch. Solid. B+

6. Digital Short: Zach Looks For An Assistant (2:59)

As a companion piece to last season’s piece where Zach showed up on various TV show sets, this time our host begins his search for an assistant, but he only interviews awkward children. What follows is some Between Two Ferns-like banter between Zach and some cute kids, which alone makes for a solid and humourous digital short. B+

7. Jessie J (feat. B.o.B.) sings “Price Tag” (3:56)

And the verdict is… Jessie J’s debut is a very successful one. This song sounded familiar and I’ve definitely heard it before, but just didn’t know who actually sang it. B.o.B. (who?) comes out at one point to rap with her, but that’s really the only downside to this otherwise electric number. A-

8. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (9:12)
-Also: Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig

There’s no possible way they could’ve followed up last week’s amazing edition of Update, but Seth did an admirable job this week. The bit about the NFL lockout was pretty good as well as the International Women’s Day/Mardi Gras piece. I also enjoyed the piece about men who cheat on their wives. Guests this week include Julie Taymor (Wiig), the director of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, who is in the midst of a certain kind of madness after being fired from the production. After constantly bringing up her other successes (i.e. The Lion King), Taymor keeps defending her Spider-Man knowledge and takes credit for writing “Hakuna Matata.” Her constant bits of advice were funny too, resulting in a great commentary from Kristen. The other guest this week is Liam (Samberg), the teenager who just woke up. Well, I didn’t think his first appearance was particularly amazing, but this time it fares a little better and Andy’s performance is a lot of fun even though he barely comments at all on the topic at hand. All in all, a pretty good edition of Update but not as outstanding as last week. Classy ending with the mention of Red Cross. B+

9. Noodles (4:48)
-Galifianakis, Elliott, Hader, Moynihan, Thompson (voice), Wiig, Pedrad

After an unfortunate event involving the family dog, a mother (Wiig) and father (Galifianakis) are forced to explain to the children what had happened without getting into any grisly details or leading them to believe that the dog has perished. What starts off as a sketch that looked like one of the kids (Pedrad) was just going to challenge the parents’ logic the whole time developed into something much more than that. The ending felt a little tacked-on but the dark territory that this sketch reached at times was pretty funny. A-

10. Celebrity Scoop (4:00)
-Galifianakis, Armisen, Hader, Wiig

Well, it’s been a long while since SNL has taken a swipe at their neighbour up north. I, myself, am Canadian so I felt a special attachment to this sketch, which would’ve been all the more special if this bit were funnier. To be fair, they hit all the Canadian stereotypes with pinpoint accuracy but it was run into the ground a bit too much and the sketch ran long. Zach’s bit as the guy who enunciated his words for far too long was pretty funny, but my favourite part was the moose as the producer. If they really wanted to go for broke though, it would have been a beaver. C

11. Jessie J sings “Mamma Knows Best” (3:15)

This time, Jessie gets to sing solo without the unnecessary B.o.B. in there ruining things. She really gets to showcase her voice with this one as she reaches levels that Christina Aguilera only wishes she could get to. She’s not too hard on the eyes, either. Yowsers. A

12. Corn Syrup Producers of America (1:25)
-Moynihan, Wiig, Pedrad

What starts as some vague criticism regarding the excessive use of corn syrup from a fellow housewife (Wiig), a woman (Pedrad) suddenly becomes quite scornful at these allegations and dresses down her friend. The ending packed the punch and I enjoyed the banter between the two ladies. B+

13. Titanic (2:35)
-Galifianakis, Elliott, Hader, Moynihan, Wiig, Bayer, Pedrad

Moments after the infamous ship sunk, one “woman” (Zach) sneaks “her” way aboard a lifeboat with the women and children, but they quickly discover that it is obviously a man. It feels like I’ve been saying this ad nauseum, but Zach was delightful here (“Mrs. … Boat”) and Hader showing up as an imposter baby was also amusing. B

And for the goodnights, Zach shaved his head to get a Mr. T look (“Unfortunately, we did not get to the Mr. T sketch”) and then thanks everyone before closing out the show.

And this would be known as the night of the B grades. There was nothing outstanding or amazing this week (aside from the monologue and the catchphrase comedians bit), but there was nothing truly terrible either. The “Canadian Scoop” sketch may not have been that good, but it certainly wasn’t awful and didn’t drag anything else down.

Zach was a willing host once again and it seemed like he got to do a lot more this time out. Despite being thrust in the background of a few sketches (albeit, very hilariously) Zach was one of the major highlights of a solid episode of SNL, thus continuing the awesomeness that is Season 36. Jessie J, as well, was outstanding and if not for B.o.B. interjecting himself, her first performance would have been near-perfect.

Good stuff this week, although I find it amusing that after praising Taran Killam last week and declaring him a big player, he was only in one sketch tonight.

Host Rating: A-
Musical Guest Rating: A
Show Rating: B+

by Brendan Wahl

(Season 36, Episode 15)

Have we ever been this far into a season without a truly bad episode? The last season I remember being this good was Year 26 (2000-2001) and the difference there is that the cast during that year was not nearly as strong and cohesive as the one that has been present on the show for the last few years. The year-end awards are going to be very difficult for this season as there are some real strong contenders for best host and best episode, specifically, that will be a chore to sift through and choose the strongest candidate.

This week we get British stand-up comedian/actor Russell Brand aka Mr. Katy Perry aka I’m Jealous. Brand exploded onto the acting scene in 2008 with Forgetting Sarah Marshall and his hilarious ex-junkie rock star character, Aldous Snow. Soon after, Russell became almost as popular in America than he is in England with starring roles in Get Him to the Greek and supporting roles in Bedtime Stories and The Tempest. Before that bit of success, he was eternally popular in England to the point of an actual rock star and he actually IS an ex-junkie.

Joining Brand is musician/Rihanna-beater Chris Brown. Talk about controversial choices. Not only has Chris Brown been convicted of beating his ex-girlfriend, Rihanna, but the aforementioned songstress is also good friends with Katy Perry, who is Russell’s wife of course. This would make for a pretty interesting dichotomy and whether to see if Brand would put up with having to share the stage with this loathsome personality.

Show show here we go!

The Show:

1. The O’Reilly Factor (5:09)
-Armisen, Sudeikis, Pedrad


Well, with Darrell Hammond no longer on the show, Jason Sudeikis takes over the impression of conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly, who highlights his pre-Superbowl interview with President Obama (Armisen). The satire is pretty close t the mark, as they mock O’Reilly’s obvious factual errors, his constant interrupting of the president’s answers, and his undermining of the whole segment. The sketch takes things a little further though as Bill turns the proceedings into a gameshow-like affair with Obama being forced to hold up letters to answer the various pop-culture questions. My favourite little aside was O’Reilly remarking that, combined with the Superbowl, his interview was viewed by a record TV audience. Overall, despite Jason’s impression that was lacking, this was a well-rounded satire of the big interview. A-

2. Monologue (7:46)

For the first time since Dane Cook (I might be wrong), the monologue consists of no goofiness with the cast or writers-as-audience-members, but rather just a good sampling of our host’s stand-up comedy material. Russell riffs on many different subjects from his English patriotism to his marriage to Katy Perry having lots of “ordinary moments.” It ran a little long in the tooth (much like Dane Cook a couple of years ago), but it was still good to see the host let loose and he clearly had a lot of fun with the crowd. B+

3. Gublin & Green (1:42)
-Armisen, Moynihan, Samberg, Bayer, Brittain, Killam, Pedrad, Pharoah

Due to the problems with one of the latest broadway productions, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, a lawyer (Armisen) presents his firm that specializes first and foremost in re-imbursing various folks for their Spider-Man-related woes. The best bit comes from an actor who is “not Bono” (Samberg) talking about how his soundtrack was used for this play and in turn, it makes him depressed. B+

4. Ultimate Vacation Giveaway (5:00)
-Brand, Elliott, Moynihan, Thompson, Wiig, Killam

Kristen Wiig makes her third appearance as sweepstakes congratulator (I guess that would be a good job description) Cheryl Bryant, who proceeds to inform the latest winner (Brand) that he’s won a $50,000 cruise. Of course, like the other two sketches they’ve done with this premise, the winner is none too impressed and instead just remains stone-faced throughout the whole ordeal. These sketches really depend on two things: the host’s performance and the reactions of past winners (Elliott, Thompson, Killam in this case) that they always show. It succeeds mostly based on Brand’s portrayal of a redneck-type individual and his ability not to crack during Wiig’s crazed performance. B

5. Don’ You Go Rounin’ Roun To Re Ro (2:42)
-Brand, Armisen, Hader, Wiig, Pedrad

In a brilliant parody of those British gangster flicks that all seem to be the same now, ex-con Terry Donovan (Hader) is on the prowl for a big-time gangster (Armisen) in order to save his young daughter. The little details in this trailer are exquisite like the look of Russell’s dreadlocked villain and Armisen’s angry dog companion that every British gangster villain seems to have by his side. The performances by everyone are superb and it’s so well-done that if one told me this was a real film, I might believe them. A+

6. Royal Taster (4:31)
-Brand, Hader, Killam, Wiig (Voice)

King Reginald (Brand) employs his new royal taster (Killam), who couldn’t be more nervous due to the intense hatred between his Highness and his tortured chef (Hader). The majority of the sketch is Russell and Hader screaming at each other much to the utter horror of Taran, but it’s a sketch that relies heavily on Russell’s large amount of charisma. Bill was a delight as the chef though and Killam was game as the unfortunate soul in the middle of this scuffle. Aces. A-

7. Chris Brown sings “Yeah 3x” (2:43)

I’m surprised he didn’t get booed out of the building upon his appearance on the stage. With regards to the actual performance though, this wasn’t as bad as I thought it might end up being. It was actually pretty short too. B

8. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (15:12)
-Also: Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Taran Killam, and Jay Pharoah

The highlight of Update this week has to be Seth’s comments revolving around a recent senator’s retirement due to a Craigslist picture of him being leaked on the website, Gawker. After commenting on what could be the Egyptian President’s next job (replacing Regis), Hosni Mubarak himself (Armisen) stops by to comment on his recent resignation. Mubarak cracks some cheap jokes in between the discussion of his regime and his bit is well-written and very funny. Seth’s AOL bit is cute but a little cheap, but his joke regarding Al Gore’s new TV channel that no one but Al Gore knows about was exquisite. His bit on the superpower poll was delightfully nerdy and so it was great as well. Lil Wayne (Pharoah) and Eminem (Killam) stop by to present a Valentine’s Day song that they recently wrote and promise that the song contains no misogynistic lyrics. The two crooners censor themselves at the most opportune moments, but it still doesn’t hide the fact that the song is much like their other offensive songs. Despite Pharoah’s good impression of Lil Wayne, he is upstaged by Killam’s phenomenal wailing impression of Eminem, the best I’ve ever seen. Finally, the last guest to join Seth is city correspondent Stefon (Hader), who offers some terrible romantic hot spots (“Booooooooof… with 9 o’s.”) for New York couples. That is funny in itself but the interplay between Bill and Seth is terrific and the unwanted flirting is also a delight. And of course, Bill loses it again. One of the better Updates of the entire season. A+

9. Livin’ Single (5:08)
-Brand, Elliott, Wiig, Bayer, Killam

A strong independant woman (Bayer) hosts a show in which she boasts about the joys of the single life to her studio audience (including Elliott and Wiig) and her DJ (Killam), who harbours an unrequited love for her. Taran gets another one for the highlight reel here and Bayer is a delight as well. Bayer brings out a pastry chef (Brand), who gets her motor runnin’ in more ways than one, which also upsets the DJ as well of course. The side-story between Bayer and Killam was very well-written and it is the highlight of this amusing sketch. B+

10. A Spot of Tea (3:52)
-Brand, Hader, Samberg, Brittain

Three gossipy old coots (Brand, Hader, Samberg) host a British panel-discussion show from a low-rent house built directly on the fault line where earthquakes are a-plenty. The inclusion of a seismograph and the strange juxtaposition of the constant earthquakes with a dry show hosted by old ladies make this one of the more odd sketches in recent memory. It kind of reminds one of Monty Python and that’s definitely not a bad thing. The sponsor bit was definitely the best part of the sketch and Brittain’s walk-on at the end was also amusing. A-

11. Chris Brown sings “No Bullshit” (3:46)

The intro to this song was pretty funny, as Brand remembered at the last second to take off his earring from the previous sketch. Why does Brown decide to start his songs up before he’s even introduced? Nevertheless, Brown takes it down a notch for this song but it’s hard to buy this sentiment with the obvious nature of his character looming overhead. It’s also not as good as the first song. C

12. Time Machine (2:45)
-Brand, Hader, Sudeikis, Wiig, Killam

To finally settle the forefathers debate once and for all, a general (Sudeikis) unleashes a super-secret time machine much to the surprise of Nancy Pelosi (Wiig), House Speaker John Boehner (Hader), and Rand Paul (Killam). Out comes George Washington (Brand), but instead of educating everyone on what he truly thinks of today’s politics, he goes mad with the devices of today and attempts to murder the people before him. It’s a fast-paced sketch to close out the night’s festivities and it’s quite amusing. The ending was fittingly dark as well. B

Russell doesn’t look too enamoured by Chris Brown but thanks him nonetheless as well as the cast, crew, Lorne Michaels, and even lighting director Phil Hymes. Brand even shows everyone that he injured his finger during the proceedings.

Another show in the can, another positive episode. This is the season that WILL NOT DIE. Russell helmed a very funny episode and was a really fun host as well, participating in sketches where he didn’t always have to be the center of attention. Whereas Chris Brown was an alright musical guest, Brand was a burst of energy and looked to be having a ball during the night. I can only hope that he will be invited back at least once more to show more of what he can do in 90 minutes.

It should be noted again that this was another highlight show for Taran Killam, who continues to impress ever since his great showing in Carrey/Black Keys. So far, Bayer and Killam have been the two featured players who have impressed me the most while Brittain has had some isolated pockets of comedy and Pharoah has relied a bit too much on his impressions.

Host Rating: A-
Musical Guest Rating: C+
Show Rating: B+