Friday, November 30, 2007
Chez can dance.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wow. That's Chris Farley, Kevin Nealon, Sarah Silverman, and Chris Rock in Sloppy Joe costumes at the end. I can't see the others.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
11/28/07 - New addition:
Andy Samberg watches a fight.
Bad Acid Trip Scene - When Dave takes acid in the movie Hot Rod.
Forest Dance Scene - Rod takes his anger out into the woods, then trips and falls down a ridiculously long hill.
Grilled Cheese Vs. Taco Scene - Rod held unconscious by his fall has a vision about the greatest fight of all time.
Um, that last scene was a little too lame. They just went into Dave wondering if he was having an out of body experience while everyone was concerned. It would have been better without the cheesey setup.
Here's a great image of Andy Samberg on TRL.
"Andy Samberg gets the audience charged up while visiting MTV's TRL in New York's Times Square on Monday. The actor chatted about his infamous D--- in a Box video (which is up for an Emmy Award) and his new film Hot Rod."
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
This uses a lot of elements from Andy Popping Onto Frame, but it also uses the dancing and "Believe in your dreams" line from Andy Punching.
Very well done, but what it's missing is the fun music to make it more silly. Good music, but way too serious.
"What makes Andy Samberg so great? Not this. My brother and I got bored at Calico Ghost Town today."
Added: November 24, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
"Andy Samberg gets touchy-feely with his pregnant costar (and onscreen love interest) Isla Fisher at the Hollywood premiere of their film, Hot Rod, at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Thursday. Of his costar, Samberg tells PEOPLE: "She's hilarious . . . She's a total nut bird!""
Sunday, November 25, 2007
"Andy Samberg lends Martha Stewart a hand (and almost a finger!) carving turkeys on The Martha Stewart Show in New York on Wednesday. Afterwards, the SNL comedian immediately hopped on a plane to California to join his family for the holidays."
Andy joins Martha's show for Thanksgiving.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
Let me know if this isn't French. LOL
Also, for some reason, the sound quality on this one is amazing. The laughter isn't as loud than the other versions. You can hear the lyrics much better.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Just to reiterate, Natalie Portman and Andy Samberg are "just friends." I JUST saw Mr. Magorium last night, and it was funny because Natalie Portman was saying how JUST is an uncreative word. Ah, it comes full circle!
At 00:55 you see her dancing with a viking who happens to be Andy Samberg.
And here at 00:46 and 01:00 she dances with a Jewish boy named Andy Samberg.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
August 15, 2007
Quote of the Day: Andy Samberg
On waking up:
"At SNL, it's built for the kind of guys we are, which is sleep through the day and stay up late -- and on a movie, you're up really, really early... Really early. And for me, personally -- I know it's bad for them, but for me personally, it's really hard to wake up in the morning. And when you're shooting for daylight, which we were, you got to get up at 5 in the morning.
And I'm sure people with regular jobs are, like, 'Stop your crying.' But we intentionally geared our life to NOT HAVE TO DO THAT, and then you're like 'Finally! The big dream! A movie! And now you have to have ... a ... regular person schedule.'"
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
YouTube took down a bunch of Hot Rod vids (via Paramount), so we're going to see if we can find them elsewhere. See yas!
Monday, November 19, 2007
Hot Rod on DVD 11-27-07
We replaced all the YouTube vids with other embedded vids in the featured "Popular Samberg Videos" links on the right. Most notable is the Natalie Portman rap, which you can find here:
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Andy Samberg and Kiv dance. Kiv goes shirtless and Andy wears a trash bag. This is when Andy had short hair.
This is where we really get to see how good Andy is at brushing his teeth.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
August 03, 2007
Hot Rod is a Little Lonely
Andy Samberg's first big movie Hot Rod is out in theaters today, and The Onion AV Club has a new interview with him. Here, he talks about the influence of Lonely Island on the flick:
AVC: Did this feel like a bigger, more expensive Lonely Island short?
AS: It definitely has that feeling to me, anyway. It certainly has a lot of the story and the comedy of Pam Brady's original script, but it's tough to put something through the three-of-us strainer and not have it come out a little Lonely. I think it's equal parts Paramount and Pam Brady—those are two separate things. As it is, we definitely have our stamp on it.
"A sketch comedy movie about the joys and embarrassments of teen sex. But mostly the embarrassments"
It's directed by these guys:
Adam Jay Epstein
...who haven't directed anything, but they wrote Not Another Teen Movie and the 2002 MTV Music Awards alongside Will Forte. Will Forte wrote The Brothers Solomon, which he starred in with Will Arnett. Will Arnett is another writer on Parental Guidance Suggested. Except he's using the name John Solomon, his character on The Brothers Solomon. Here are the writers on Parental Guidance Suggested:
Adam Jay Epstein (written by) &
Andrew Jacobson (written by) and
Will Forte (written by) &
John Solomon (written by) and
Andy Samberg (written by) &
Akiva Schaffer (written by) &
Jorma Taccone (written by) and
Erica Rivinoja (written by) and
Phil Lord (written by) &
Chris Miller (written by)
And, of course Will Forte is working with Andy Samberg on Saturday Night Live. Thus, we come full circle.
I can't wait to see the dudes' segment!
The actors in this movie include none of the writers:
Frankie Muniz ... Chuck
Jamie Kennedy ... Mateus
Matthew Lillard ... Himself
Andy Milonakis ... Justin
Friday, November 16, 2007
Warning: Animated blood, violence, and puking. But, hey, apparently it was okay for TV.
The song is Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap
Here's another one: Barf-O-Rama!!!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
October 23, 2007
Quote of the Day: Andy Samberg
On his new friend Jonah Hill:
"I texted Jonah the other day while I was taking a (poop). I wrote, 'I'm taking a (poop) and wanted to let you know I'm thinking of you.' He wrote back, 'That's weird, I was thinking of you too, but I was watching another dude take a (poop).'
"So, our friendship is going good so far."
Blender, September 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
This skit starts at 3:35. Before that is the monologue (still funny, but it's Andy-less).
If it ain't loading, click it to bring the video up in a new window. It loads then, for some reason.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Fred Armisen mentions Andy's skits in his blog.
Here's the blog:
"For the "Sofa King" sketch, we had to be careful with how we said those words. With the way it was sounding during rehearsals I thought for sure we weren't going to get to do it for the live show. Uni-brows are always funny to me btw...
"We shot the "Dear Sister" digital short really really late on a Friday night. Me and Jason did our part at like two in the morning. It was at this hotel a few blocks down from the studio. We walked down the street dressed as cops and pretty much looked like two comedians dressed up as cops. Our dressing room was one of the rooms at the hotel. As soon as we got there we started joking around but were immediately told "shshsh! People are sleeping!" It's so funny to me that that's still a part of my life. Being told to shush. I remember Jorma trying to explain the video idea to me. He was saying "there's this thing that they did on the finale of the O.C., and they play this song and well...you just have to see it." When I finally saw it, it killed me. That song! And Shia's line.. "You guys I just thought of the funniest thing". Who says that? Also putting on that cop uniform made me realize what a terrible cop I would make. I can't deal with confrontation and I know that if I was questioning a criminal, I would take whatever they said at face value, just to get out of there. "Oh okay. You were visiting your cousin but you don't know his name? Sounds good to me, thank you.""
Sunday, November 11, 2007
[SNIP: Taken down by Paramount already! We're looking for another copy.]
Saturday, November 10, 2007
"Perhaps no company has had more of a love-hate affair with YouTube than NBC. On practically a weekly basis over the past year or so it seems like NBC's official position on YouTube switches back and forth.
"First, they hated YouTube because the SNL Andy Samberg video "Lazy Sunday" was widely available on it, requiring NBC's lawyers to demand it get taken down. This seemed odd to us, as it was a great promotional vehicle for Saturday Night Live. And, in fact, for a little while, it seemed that NBC agreed, as they set up an official NBC channel on YouTube where they released lots of content, including newer Samberg videos.
"NBC execs started to talk about how great YouTube was for promotional purposes and some even hoped that NBC would put more content on YouTube. Of course, then Jeff Zucker took over, and one of his first public statements involved slamming YouTube even as his executives were talking about how useful a tool it was. NBC soon filed an amicus brief against YouTube in a lawsuit against the company and, more recently, have been speaking out against the company. Perhaps this isn't too surprising, as the company has teamed up with News Corp in a weak attempt to create its own online video property.
"So, with that flip-flopping in mind, it should come as little surprise that NBC has now completely shut down its official channel on YouTube according to Valleywag. This is pretty weak, though, as many people who enjoyed getting NBC content that way now have had that rug pulled out from under them. NBC still seems to be under the entirely wrong belief that people will come to them. People want to get content however it's convenient. That means offering it in a variety of places and a variety of formats so that people are more likely to view the content. Taking away options doesn't help things, it just pisses off more fans."
I wonder if this means NBC is going to crack down on trying to get their content off of YouTube again. However, if they're already suing YouTube, then YouTube may not care if NBC is asking them to take down content. I wonder how that's going to work out.
Friday, November 09, 2007
I noticed that he gets hit a lot! =^)
- Opening Ramp Jump
- You're Pretty (I love the Yo-Yo Ma shot!)
- Pool Jump
- Gotta go to his Happy Place
- I Like to Party (they end too soon, cutting out the last line)
- Sneak Training (a great gag)
- Explosion too Early
- Kevin's Hot Rod Video
- Not Legit (with the awesome ending)
- Cool Beans (classic)
Warning: Some crude language.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
In this video, check out 1:59, and make sure you aren't drinking anything at that second.
This one has a little more movie at the beginning and end of it:
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
"Brian Williams shows his funny side away from the NBC Nightly News anchor desk"
We added a short clip from the skit where Brian Williams is selecting an opening song:
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
In this skit from 11/03/07, Andy Samberg wears makeup that's for men only.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Andy Samberg is a funky rocker and sings Frasier for Brian Williams. The skit ends very well too. It's from SNL on 11/3/07.
Will Brian Williams get heat for calling Andy gay?
Sunday, November 04, 2007
I like how this interview describes everybody by what they're wearing. That's pretty unique. Read up, cuz this is all good stuff: Andy Samberg's history, present, and future. And, yes, Kirsten Dunst walks in. He's definitely just friends with her.
This was published September 28, 2007.
"Awk-weird," Andy Samberg blurts out in a voice that's just a bit too loud. Kirsten Dunst, his Ray-Ban-wearing alleged former fling, has unexpectedly walked into Sant Ambroeus, the West Village bistro where Samberg and I are meeting. A little while later, he looks at me and says, ambivalently: "I probably should go up and say hi -- that's what people do, right?"
While the word "Muppet" is often invoked when referring to Samberg, he's actually more of a Fraggle. His mouth is extremely wide in proportion to the rest of his face and his hair (probably his most defining feature), which starts as a recently-showered mess, morphs slowly and steadily into a tall pile of straight-up Jewfro by the end of our lunch.
The 29-year-old Saturday Night Live newbie turned movie star is as goofy as they come -- this is a man, after all, who first appeared and then solidified himself within the American consciousness by creating a hardcore rap about Magnolia cupcakes and, subsequently, for sticking his dick in a box. Despite (or more likely because of) his proclivity for making crass and ridiculous jokes about replacing peg legs on pirates with his dong, he's rapidly become both a part of and a challenge to the mainstream comedy world.
His extreme silliness often gets him compared to a young Adam Sandler (I think also, partly, because their names sound so similar), but, says SNL creator Lorne Michaels, "I don't really see that." He continues, "to put it this way, I didn't have a déjà vu moment when I first saw Andy Samberg."
Though much of his schtick screams "dork alert" (it should be noted that he is a major abbreviator -- competition becomes "competish," appropriate: "approps") there is something very un-awk-weird about Samberg. And while he's ever humble -- when he found out we wanted him to actually look handsome on the cover, he was frankly shocked -- not since Jimmy Fallon has there been an SNL cast member capable of even allegedly dating Kirsten Dunst. Maybe it's because he's younger than the rest of the cast, or because he cites Joanna Newsom as one of his favorite singers and looks like the guy sitting across from you on the L train -- whatever the case, girls with tote-bags who wear leggings find him adorable.
Andy wears a customized T-shirt and wristband by American Apparel and tights by Running Funky. Cape, shorts, rollerskates and socks from Austins Wardrobe.
Born and raised in Berkeley, California, the son of a photographer father and schoolteacher mother, Samberg had a relatively normal upbringing. He devoted much of his early years to goofing around and trying to make his two older sisters laugh, and at around the age of eight, came to the conclusion while watching I Love Lucy reruns, Mel Brooks movies and, of course, Saturday Night Live episodes, that he would like to be a comedian. In the seventh grade, when he saw Jim Carrey on In Living Color, he realized he could make a career of it. "Carrey's way of being funny was so nailing what I liked. Seeing that dude, it felt like until that point, I was waiting for someone who was really funny in a way that represented me. For me, it was Jim Carrey rolled into that Sandler-Farley thing that was like, ohhhhh my God."
It was during high school that Samberg first started hanging with two like-minded fellows, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer. Post-college (Samberg attended Tisch in New York while Taccone and Schaffer stayed in California), the three buddies re-teamed in L.A. and pursued low-level Hollywood jobs while making comedy on their own. In 2001 the trio launched thelonelyisland.com, a skyscraper in the pre-YouTube desert, to showcase their comedic talents in the form of digital videos. Many of the clips -- a two-episode-long sitcom, Lonely Island, an O.C. satire called The 'Bu and music videos (be sure to check out "Stork Patrol") -- were inane and well-executed forebears of their future work. The boys got a gig writing jokes for the MTV Movie Awards in 2005 and Jimmy Fallon, that year's host, liked what he saw. Fallon hooked them up with an SNL audition and very serendipitously, all three were hired -- Taccone and Schaffer as writers; Samberg as a member of the cast.
One Saturday night in mid-December of 2005, I was watching SNL when Samberg appeared onscreen alongside fellow cast member Chris Parnell in a so-called "SNL Digital Short." The ensuing rap about two dudes going to see the Chronic -- WHAT? -- cles of Narnia on a "Lazy Sunday" in the middle of winter, while consulting Google Maps and loading up on cupcakes beforehand, was a piece of comedic genius. The next morning I found the video on YouTube and forwarded it to everyone I knew. Apparently, so did a lot of other people.
In the wake of the ensuing hysteria surrounding their video (over one million views on YouTube the day after it aired, a New York Times write-up, "Mr. Pibb + Red Vines = Crazy Delicious" T-shirts for sale on eBay, an appearance on Letterman), it was obvious that we had a comedy revolution on our hands, with the Lonely Island crew (Samberg as its mascot) somehow at the forefront. But it was unclear what was going to happen next.
For a while there, following the short, the Samberg hype sort of died down. There was the Natalie Portman rap ("I don't sleep motherf**ker off that yak and that durbin'/ Doin' 120, getting head while I'm swervin'), which had people talking, but not much more. The guys chugged along, regularly churning out the Digital Shorts and showcasing their offbeat man-child ways. Among their shorts, it should be noted, are the two very unsung "Laser Cats" and "Laser Cats II," which star Samberg and castmate Bill Hader as Admiral Spaceship and Nitro, who try to save the world while arming themselves with cats who shoot lasers out of their mouths. Aesthetically, the videos look like a drunken teenager made them. While "LC" and "LCII," according to Samberg, "are the cool Brooklyn of Digital Shorts -- I'll probably be hanged later for saying that," they and their brethren ("Lettuce," "Roy Rules") did not quite take off like "Lazy Sunday."
"I think 'Dick in a Box' really took the pressure off a lot. And by pressure I mean took the pressure off our balls. It really lifted the dick up," Samberg jokes, before getting serious: "And the video 'Dick in a Box' with Justin Timberlake took the pressure off more figuratively. After 'Lazy Sunday,' I was like, 'This is going to be the only thing anyone is ever going to want to talk to me about for the rest of my life.' I mean, I was really happy that we had something that people connected with, but you don't want to be the band that always has people talking about their first album. After 'Dick in a Box,' we were like, 'Ahhh, now we have two things we can talk about.' And then after Hot Rod it was three."
Very soon after the success of "Lazy Sunday," Samberg, Taccone and Schaffer, still numb from the aftermath, were approached by Paramount and Lorne Michaels to make Hot Rod, a film originally developed for Will Ferrell. Though the parameters were not ideal -- they would work from a script already written and get the film made quickly during the summer hiatus from SNL -- the boys jumped on it. "If you wanted to do comedy your whole life and then one day Lorne Michaels says you can make a feature movie to star in with your buddy directing and your other buddy co-starring from a script that you like -- you don't say no," Samberg says. "And I still think we made the right call -- the movie is really weird."
Depending on whom you talk to, Hot Rod is either a terrible stinker or a really strange and wonderful movie that you can't believe they got away with making. Samberg, not surprisingly, is of the second camp. Most critics, alas, were of the first. The film, which follows hapless stuntman Rod Kimble (Samberg), as he prepares to jump his motorcycle over 15 buses to win $50,000 and pay for his stepfather's heart surgery so he can beat the crap out of him, is certainly nontraditional. It's full of non sequiturs, inexplicable asides and random '80s film references. Each time Rod gets ready for a big jump, he summons the "totem spirits" -- an eagle, a bottle-nosed dolphin, a housecat and a fox -- which appear onscreen, floating beside his head. On the way to a date, Samberg rides his bike, singing, "Ohhh, when you're going on a date you put on a shirt/ and you ride your bike to the date." A joyous parade leading up to Rod's big jump for no reason at all turns into a violent riot. After mastering a pommel horse routine in the woods in a Footloose-reminiscent dance number, Samberg tumbles down a hill in what is quite possibly the longest and most absurd fall scene in film history. None of it really makes any sense, which is what makes it so brilliant. It's a cutting-edge comedic revolution wrapped in a poop joke.
"A lot of people don't like a movie that stops making sense -- it's human instinct. When a movie goes off on tangents and is stupid for stupid's sake, that's not appealing to them, because they want to feel like they're invested in something," Samberg says, adding, "I've never been that way."
The film's less-than-magnificent reception appears to have neither Samberg nor Michaels particularly concerned. "I've lived through everything from Wayne's World with Mike and Dana to Tommy Boy with Chris Farley, all the things I did with Ferrell, and even Three Amigos," Michaels says. "Critics just don't like new comedians, and they certainly don't like them if they come from SNL or television. Later on, they revise their opinions and say that so-and-so's later films aren't as good as the first ones. I think the picture will be thought of differently in two years."
Samberg adds, "The movies I've always liked, comedy-wise -- Billy Madison, The Jerk -- always got terrible reviews. When our reviews came in, it was like, 'Oh, we're right on track.'"
Whether Hot Rod goes on to cult film heaven or winds up in the $5.99 bin at Duane Reade, for now all Samberg's doing is getting excited about his upcoming CG-animated film Space Chimps ("I love monkeys and I love space -- it was an easy pitch"), the Emmys ("Dick in a Box" was nominated for "Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics") and going back to SNL in the fall. It's been said that the new season is going to be a lot more Samberg-focused than before, but, Samberg counters, "There's no predetermined anything on that show." He's just happy to be part of the revered institution. "Even though I've had a lot of good stuff happen to me, I'm still so new on the show. I mean, I just got there. The magic hasn't worn off on me -- I love getting to sit in on meetings and see how the show works. I'm not numb to it at all."
In the more immediate future, Samberg has decided he is, in fact, going to head over to Ms. Dunst's table. Once our food is cleared, he gets up, runs his hand through his hair and replaces his plastic-rimmed glasses with a pair of retro shades. "Yeah," he says, "they're prescription."
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Here Fred Armisen mentions Andy Samberg and the skits they were in together in his blog about the Iran So Far sketch:
"For the High School Musical dance parts, Danielle (our choreographer) was standing right in front of us behind the camera and did the moves as we followed along. Having those other professional dancers with us makes it look like we know what we're doing...
"Andy, Jorma and Akiva started recording the Iran So Far song on Tuesday. They do it all in their tiny office. It's pretty much Jorma's computer and a microphone. We were scheduled to shoot around the city on Thursday. I was psyched because I had already been watching Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on TV a lot. I noticed that he always had his eyebrows in exactly the same position no matter what he was doing. A permanent upside down V. Let me see if I can find something here on my keyboard. Here... / \ We shot a bunch in Times Square, and there were times where I was pretty far from the crew. So I was kind of alone walking around dressed like that while looking at postcards. It took a lot of last minute scheduling to get Adam Levine. They only had one day to record and shoot his part of the song. He flew in at midnight, did his vocals, and shot around the city at 8am. By 11 he was back on a plane to Detroit. Thank you Adam!"
New episode tonight!!!
Friday, November 02, 2007
Here's that blog:
Then Michaela gave us more info about Andy on Andy Samberg's forum:
So here's Michaela's post on Andy's IMDB forum:
Oh Cool!!! Thank You. I want him to know that we liked him because sometimes the stars dont talk to the kids and joke around on the set as much as Andy did with us. He was really cool. Maya Rudolph was really nice to. Actually everyone at SNL was nice but Andy and maya were especially nice. I didnt get to meet Amy but I saw her working all day and she is so funny and Mean Girls is one of my favorite movies.
I was wondering how you knew I am 11 but then I saw your post and I remembered that my birthday is there and so thats how you must know. Haha. Im gonna be 12 soon. I wish you could be younger to be a regular on SNL but they said that even the audience has to be over 18. Im gonna work there when I get older because that is a really fun place to work and everyone is so funny.
Hey I looked at your blog and its really cool and I loved the guitar skit about the cheese! Is that you? I play the guitar too.
Thanks for putting me on your blog and visiting my page and telling Andy I said Hi! I hope they call me again for another skit. I didnt even know that some of my favorite actors all work on that show until I was on it. Now Im going to watch it all the time. Tonight Bon Jovi is going to be on and that is the first ever acting job I booked when I was 9. I was in one of their music videos. Thanks again! I love your blog.
Well, Michaela, thanks for the compliments on the blog and on our music video! Here's the Bucket Full of Cheese video she mentioned:
We hope to see you on SNL someday! We'll keep our eyes open to watch your career. Anthony Michael Hall joined SNL when he was 17, and Drew Barrymore hosted when she was 7. So don't listen to them if they say you're too young!
Check out Michaela Annette's IMDB page:
The bottom line of this post is that Andy really goes out of his way to talk to and joke around with the kids. It really comes across as genuine and down to earth.
Bonus points for Andy Samberg (as well as for Maya)!!!
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Here is a marathon (meaning painfully long) report of SNL for the 2006-2007 season. It is incredibly interesting. Andy Samberg's quotes and mentionings are bolded.
Around two on the Sunday morning after the Saturday Night Live season premiere on September 30—after the studio audience has filed out down the long photo-lined hallway outside Studio 8H and the cast has paused outside the NBC headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza to greet fans and pose for pictures—the 11 members of this season's slimmed-down cast and their guest host, Dane Cook, head to the after-party at McCormick & Schmick's, a high-end seafood restaurant on Sixth Avenue a few blocks away. NBC News anchor Brian Williams is there with his family, celebrating his hilariously awkward "Weekend Update" cameo, while Kenan Thompson sits nearby in an oversize jersey with matching hat and shoes. At a table in the back sits Lorne Michaels, the show's 61-year-old executive producer and creator, joined by Seth Meyers, Andy Samberg, and a select few. People come and go from the table; Michaels stays there, holding court.
It's a fairly laid-back evening, wholly unlike the wild post-show parties that became the stuff of legend when Saturday Night Live exploded on the culture in the fall of 1975. Back in those days cast members Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi brought the party to their Blues Brothers Bar downtown and consumed impressive quantities of drugs and alcohol, as befitted the times and their role in shaping them. For years, SNL was synonymous with wild and crazy, not just in its comedy but also in its animating spirit; the dark side of that was discord and drug abuse—to the point where, by the late 1990s, two cast members, Belushi and Chris Farley, had died of drug overdoses.
Tonight, those days seem especially distant. No one is getting smashed. No one is in the bathroom snorting cocaine. A few cast members come outside for a cigarette—Amy Poehler with her husband, Arrested Development's Will Arnett, Bill Hader, Will Forte—but that's about it. Inside, there's conversation and camaraderie on display, not overindulgent egos or out-of-control consumption. The guest lists for these events vary, but tend toward the chill—it's more about catching up than throwing down. At a party a few weeks later, Parker Posey, Sarah Chalke, Paul Rudd, and Nia Vardalos join the group, along with former cast member Rachel Dratch and a group from 30 Rock, the NBC sitcom created by former head writer Tina Fey in spoofing homage to her former employer.
Sometime after 3 a.m., the crowd starts to break up, and a group heads down to the after-after-party at the Plumm on West 14th Street, called for 3:30 a.m. And why not? It's still SNL, after all, and at least until the sun comes up, it's still Saturday night.
After 31 years of making television history, where does SNL stand now? This summer, the show had a well-publicized budget crunch, and Michaels was told by NBC brass to cut episodes or cast members. He chose the latter, firing eight-year veterans Chris Parnell and Horatio Sanz, plus recent arrival Finesse Mitchell. With the loss of Fey and Dratch, this reduced the cast by almost 30 percent, from 16 to 11. The two SNL-inspired shows launched this fall on NBC—Aaron Sorkin's earnest Monday-night drama, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and 30 Rock—have both gotten off to a weak start, despite considerable hoopla and critical praise. Sure, network TV is in crisis everywhere (NBC itself just carved a deep swath out of the budget), but this doesn't change the fact that SNL's ratings have slipped over the last five years.
Meanwhile, the increasing popularity of programs like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on Comedy Central has introduced another variable into the equation: competition. And with the proliferation of digital online content over the past couple of years in the form of viral video, blogs, and websites, plus stalwarts like The Onion (growing wildly online), there's another variable: choice.
This clanging death knell is nothing new, of course; the media have been declaring SNL dead since its second season. "Week to week, you're fighting it," says Michaels. "When people refer to it as an institution or part of the landscape—that's not the way I view it. I think every week you go up there to reinvent it."
Right now, says Michaels, the cast is in what he calls a "rebuilding" period, with few old familiar favorites to entice viewers and no big star like a Will Ferrell or a Mike Myers. True, stalwarts like Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph are familiar veterans by now, and in his 12th season, Darrell Hammond is officially the longest-running player still on the show—but there are no Billy Madisons or Tommy Boys, at least not yet. And while last December's "Lazy Sunday" short may have brought SNL a level of attention it has not been paid in years, Andy Samberg—one of its stars—is still frequently referred to as "Adam." (And look where it got Parnell.) Would you recognize Kristen Wiig on the street? If so, you're one better than all the Gawker Stalkers out there. She moves among them, invisible. Concedes Michaels: "They're not household names yet."
And yet these are Michaels's chosen few to drive SNL forward into the post-Fey, pan-YouTube unknown. This season, as the cast mills around onstage at the end of the show, the downsizing is obvious—but it's obvious, too, in the preceding hour and a half, because the same faces keep showing up in sketch after sketch. Without the Debbie Downers and Carols there's suddenly room for a Peter O'Toole and a Kuato and a couple of A-Holes. "With the amount of people on the show, and with Seth just doing 'Update,' suddenly it's allowing for these really interesting moments," says second-year cast member Jason Sudeikis. "Everybody is scoring, everybody is getting time." It's also obvious offstage in their clowning and kidding around. A third of their number is gone, and whatever alliances may have existed previously, whatever complacent ruts of familiarity or easy fallback partnerships they may have enjoyed have likely been shaken up. As they run scenes during rehearsal, hang after at the cast party, or high-five each other seconds before a cold open, there's a distinct sense of we're-all-in-this-together fellowship.
They're also, unusually, rather settled: Unlike most cast ensembles of the past three decades, most of them are married or in long-term partnerships. Maya Rudolph lives with movie director Paul Thomas Anderson, with whom she recently had her first child; Sudeikis is married to 30 Rock writer Kay Cannon; Bill Hader was married last summer to filmmaker Maggie Carey. The SNL cast joined to celebrate in Boise, Idaho.***
It's quite a change from the SNL chronicled in Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller's Live From New York: An Uncensored Oral History of Saturday Night Live, where the binge-doping, partner-swapping, backstabbing proclivities of players past were meticulously documented. "We were young, and the guys were single and the women were single and we were together twenty-four hours a day—you do the biology," recalled former writer Marilyn Suzanne Miller in its pages. This group seems to love the job and each other in a wholesome, decidedly non-angsty manner. "There's way less, you know, crazy everyone's-boning-each-other kind of awesome gossip, but at the same time everyone's much more relaxed and friendly," says Samberg. "Everyone in the cast and all the writers too are just super-laid-back, humble, mellow people—it's really nice." Agrees Poehler, "We all really love each other a lot around here."
Is this feel-good chemistry enough to keep the creative sparks flying? Aren't artists supposed to be, you know, tortured and drama-driven? Only four episodes in, it's hard to say; depending on which MySpace page you're reading, SNL is either hilarious or it sucks. Michaels, who no doubt has had enough of drama, thinks the alchemy of a new group finding its way is enough. "I think that the vitality of the show is about turnover, and about discovering new people and seeing new people develop," he says. "When you see somebody come into their own and do something remarkable, you realize why you're there."
The current cast, like most of its previous incarnations, has described SNL as "a family," with Michaels as the unofficial father figure. Which raises the question: What happens to the family when, all of the sudden, Dad fires three siblings?
"We had been pretty well warned that no matter how close you get with people and no matter how much it feels like family, it's still a TV show on a TV station, and ultimately that means that it's going to be cutthroat at some point or another," says Samberg. "We were definitely bummed that Parnell's gone. He's a good friend of ours and we think he's amazing and hilarious, but I don't think that change happening is something that caught anyone off guard, just because they tell you so much ahead of time that that's how it is."
Hammond, the show's elder statesman, came to success in comedy later in life after a tough slog. "I've always felt that show business was just brutal," he says. "There are times in show business . . . it just seems so difficult. I just try to take everything as it comes."
The group speaks with real fondness for Sanz and Mitchell, but a special category of reverence seems reserved for Parnell. "Somebody resubmitted a sketch that was done last year and I had to do a part that Chris Parnell had done last year, and I couldn't do it nearly as well as he was able to do it," says Forte. "I just remembered him doing it in my head as I was doing it, and I was like, 'Awww, he's so awesome.' " Says performer Bill Hader: "He's one of my heroes. Just to be able to do a scene with him was amazing."
But there's no arguing with more playing time, and the flip side of a sad departure is a leaner, more active cast. Fred Armisen is both diplomatic and optimistic. "It's not black-and-white," he says. "I'll say that I love the cast the way it is right now, and I love the cast the way it was then. And that's the nature of the show."
Michaels had a year to mull the decision, knowing of Fey and Dratch's departures and deliberately bringing on players from which to carve his new cast. "It's always hard," he says. "But I think for me, all the people who left were sort of in a good place in their career. And I really felt that I couldn't build the current cast unless they could get a lot of playing time." Michaels admits he had a sense of who would be leaving, and part of it had to do with bringing in new blood. "I think with Horatio and certainly with Parnell, I'd be happy if they were all here forever," he says. "They're great at it." But on SNL, even talent has its limits. "Half the fun of it is watching people who are just starting, and discovering it for yourself, and the other half is watching people who are incredibly accomplished," Michaels says. "I mean, the tragedy for me is that when people have mastered it, it's usually time for them to move on."
Though it was kind of a tragedy of his own making, there were those budget cuts, rumored at $10 million. (Michaels says "it wasn't that much" but declines to confirm a number.) As for cutting episodes instead, it was never a possibility: "Last season we did 19 episodes because of the Olympics, and it's an easy way to solve budget problems. But part of it is, all of television is going through this."
That doesn't change the fact that SNL's ratings have dropped. The September 30 premiere with Dane Cook and the Killers pulled in 6.7 million viewers and a 3.2 rating; five years ago, the show was getting a 3.7 rating—for the full-season average, which includes lower-rated reruns. As a raw statistic, 6.7 million viewers represents a lot—Jon Stewart gets 1.4 million, and the nightly-news numbers are not that far off (8.65 million for NBC, 7.56 million for CBS, both at 6:30 p.m.).
But there have been other measures of the slide—for example, in the 12–17 category. They may not be buying cars and big-ticket items, but this demo represents an incubator for lifelong fans of the show. A common denominator between older viewers and even those who no longer watch is an affinity for the show born in early adolescence, when kids are old enough to stay up and watch SNL but young enough not to have any other alternative on a Saturday night. (Hader, Samberg, Forte, and Sudeikis all back this up; Hader even went late to his prom so he could catch a super-special episode with Monty Python, and recalls being sent to the principal's office for refusing to stop talking like the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer in biology: "What is this photosynthesis? Your world frightens me!") Over the past five years, the numbers for this demographic have dropped 1.3 points, from 2.4 in 2001–02 to 1.1 last season.
Still, NBC vice president Tom Bierbaum, who oversees ratings, cautions against interpreting the data too strictly. "[SNL] has kind of kept pace with the general trends in television," he says. "Unfortunately, it's kind of a downward trend." Bierbaum is quick to note that SNL has more than held steady against the Saturday lineup, in prime time and running opposite the show, on all networks, and also notes that there are "now about a hundred" channels from which to choose, not to mention "the explosion of Internet options" for viewers. "Very few shows would be able to claim growth over a five-year period," he says.
Michaels acknowledges this as well. "I think that network television is also in the process of reinventing itself—right now it's the Web, 10 years ago it was cable that was going to destroy it," he says. "And somehow, they all find Grey's Anatomy or they all find the Super Bowl—there's an audience there, but there's more competition for it."
But Grey's Anatomy and the Super Bowl aren't making Bush jokes. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are. "If we were working on something and someone said they just did it on The Daily Show we'd not go near it, obviously," says Michaels. "But they're daily—and we have more time on one level—it's magazine versus newspaper." Veteran SNL writer-performer Al Franken agrees. "SNL has writers, sets, cameramen, lighting, makeup, wigs—and really good actors," he says. "There's definitely a place to do the kinds of things that you can't do anywhere else. It's up to the writers to adjust to the realities of the other things, and do the kinds of things that only SNL can do." Seth Meyers thinks they're already doing that: "Those shows are incredibly cohesive, but it doesn't really change what we do. They're going to talk about politics and we're going to do scenes about politics. And to me, they don't bump that much."
Where they do have a noticeable edge, however, is on the Web. Although their audience may have a fraction of the numbers, when it's time to pass around YouTube clips the kids from Comedy Central are way out front. "GE/NBC's gotta be willing to put up with a little more copyright violation to get a better Web presence," says Alex Pareene, editor of the popular political website Wonkette. "I get sent at least one Daily Show and Colbert clip every day that some random guy uploaded to YouTube, but I never hear about it if SNL had something I could use in a post."
It's Friday, October 20 at 6 p.m., the night before the John C. Reilly episode. On the stage of Studio 8H , the cast is rehearsing a six-person sketch about a support group for attention-seeking celebrities, with Amy Poehler as Madonna, Rudolph as Paris Hilton, Hammond as Rumsfeld, Hader as a wild-eyed John Mark Karr, and Samberg as the suddenly famous stingray. By airtime the sketch will be gone, replaced with a Fox News parody featuring Hammond as Brit Hume grilling Forte's George Bush over a long list of Republican blunders, which turns out to be a zing at Fox News itself (as Hammond's Hume cheerfully supports him anyway). Michaels later said the piece, which dragged a bit, "misfired" but pointed to it as a result of high-concept writing, in this case by longtime SNL writer Jim Downey, which used a longer setup to deepen the payoff of the punch.
About five other sketches will die at dress rehearsal, maybe to get resurrected in a later show, maybe never to be heard from again. One that barely squeaked by was a sketch called "BearShark," a goofy piece that combined sight gags, a musical number, and SNL's newly signature tactic of going meta at the end. In dress, the piece was epic: Reilly welcomed his scientists by each of their funny names ("Dr. Franklin Mint!") and toasted the "BearShark Project," their secret mission to combine bear and shark into one cuddly species. Sudeikis's arrival to break the news of the project's demise triggers disbelief in the group (Rudolph: "I trust the BearSharks like my own family!"), Rudolph and Reilly break into song, and Sudeikis returns to address the camera, wondering if the BearShark is really a metaphor for the war in Iraq or the debate over cloning.
Watching this sketch from the floor, it was clear that the cast found it hilarious. Yet by air, it had been slashed so that the scientists were mute and nameless. " 'BearShark' is more of an attitude piece than a joke piece," says Meyers. "Everything is sort of half for time and half for choice. That was a case where the audience voted, so to speak." Despite a gag with Sudeikis's arm as a bloody stump spurting blood, the sketch failed to connect at air.
The choice of sketches doesn't reflect any one person's opinion, even that of Michaels. Dress is a brutal, ruthless democracy with only one metric: laughter. "It's one of the things I really relate to about the show," says Poehler. "It's totally democratic." This democracy pervades the process, since nothing gets past the writers' room without cracking everybody up. "I think you trust the Room with a capital R," says Meyers. "Live comedy is about making a collection of people laugh at the same thing, and we have that at the read-through table on Wednesday. It's rare that something in the room that tanks will work on air, or vice versa."
This, by the way, seems obvious to Michaels, who bristles when asked about diversity in the writers' room. "If you said to Tina, 'How do people rise here?' it's almost always because of their work," Michaels says. "If something killed at read-through, nobody goes into the room and says, 'I don't know, that was written by a woman.' " A mention is made of a recent episode of Studio 60 that makes racial diversity—or the lack thereof—a major plot point. It's suggested to Michaels that diversity is part of an ongoing discussion. "No it isn't," says Michaels, a tad exasperated. "It is in Aaron Sorkin land, but it isn't here." He points out that Alec Baldwin is set to host on November 11, followed by Ludacris on November 18 as host and musical guest. "Now, Alec Baldwin we know is an acknowledged comedy star, and obviously a favorite here. Ludacris? . . . I think it's all about funny people. Last year it was Maya, Finesse, and Kenan. This year there's just Kenan and Maya—but you know, if Darrell's got a really good Jesse Jackson, no one's stopping him" (and no one has; it's one of his specialties).
It's 1:15 on a Wednesday morning and Lorne Michaels is calling. After a discussion the day before about the necessary evils of the budget cuts, tonight he is thoughtful, expansive. He is asked about a comment he made when receiving the Mark Twain Prize at Washington's Kennedy Center in 2004, that being on SNL was like living an arrested adolescence, with all the rebelliousness and questioning of authority that entails. He thinks for a moment, then notes that most of his handpicked first-season staff had had a major life event during adolescence. "In my case my father died, in Gilda's case her father died—and I think, not to put an emphasis on that, I think that there's something that if you're formed that way, you sort of connect to questioning authority." He mentions Twain's Huckleberry Finn, and how the rebellion centers around freeing a slave despite social convention: "To the extent that we're supposed to speak truth to power, you want to get back in touch with that part of yourself that always questions things."
A lofty comment. "Well, sorry for that," he says. "It's late."
But how can SNL not be a sentimental enterprise for someone like Michaels? He long ago stopped needing the money. Why is he so excited about another new cast, in another new season?
"I'm here because I just love it," he says. "And . . . I care about it. And on some fundamental level I think it's important to be doing it." He goes on, "There's something about when the show works, what the audience is thinking and what we're going through and where the country is and performance and writing and all of it connects—it's a certain thing—there's no parallel to it."
But for all the thousands of hours of television Michaels has produced, he acknowledges that doesn't watch much television at all, though he admits to having seen a chunk of Studio 60 at the up-fronts. He does watch 30 Rock, for which he is an executive producer (though he claims never to have watched an episode of SNL after it's aired). As a businessman, Michaels seems frustrated with the presence of a creative competitor for 30 Rock on his own network.
"It's complicated now, because when she started work on it a year and a half ago it was sort of a clean shot, and when the Sorkin surprise happened in May, well it was like, well OK, there's another show," Michaels says. "And honestly, I don't have any issue with his choice—I think he's very talented—but it sort of muddied the water. I can't tell you the number of people who've come up to me and said they saw Studio 60 and how much they're pleased with the show I'm doing. I go, 'Well, actually, I do the other one . . . ' "
Thirty-one years later, Michaels is still doing the other one: SNL. "You're doing 90 minutes from blank page to on-air," he says. "How can it be everything you'd hoped it could be? And the reason that you show up next week is that hope springs eternal and maybe this week, it'll be that." He mentions the Jaime Pressly show, where he'd seen "the sparks of a new cast" and he'd been "pleased." He mentioned the A-Holes and Kuato and how Will Forte's writing is starting to turn heads, and also seemed "pleased" that the audience might soon develop "that thing of old friends they can hold on to," which clearly Michaels knows something about.
Forty-four minutes have passed, and at 1:59 a.m. Michaels excuses himself. "All right," he says, "and now I'm going back to work."
This one has Hot Rod and Junk in a Box:
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