Friday, March 23, 2007

SNL has Jumped the Shark

Peyton Manning hosted Saturday Night Live last weekend, and I was nervous. I like Peyton Manning, and it worried me that he was going to be on SNL. I mean, Peyton is a funny guy - his Sprint commercial is fantastic, his Mastercard spots are very funny...but SNL? I'm wasn't worried about Peyton's performance per se, I was worried about the material SNL was going to give him. To Peyton's credit, he was funny. And most of the bits he did were funny. But I think that was because of him, and in spite of SNL.

Because SNL stinks.

Boring as all get out.

Completely unfunny.

Try to remember a funny bit from this SNL group.

You can't. Impossible. Want to know why? Because they stink. They've jumped the shark.

SNL used to be funny, with funny people, people whose name would make you laugh just thinking about funny characters and bits they do. Will Ferrell as James Lipton, Norm McDonald as Burt Reynolds in Celebrity Jeopardy, Mike Meyers as Linda Richman.

Talk amongst yourselves. Rhode Island is neither a road nor an island - discuss.

And political jokes? Please. The Daily Show and The Colbert Repor(t) have far surpassed SNL in terms of the edgy political satire. I have watched a couple of the opening scenes of SNL, they have all been attempts political satire, but they were neither political, nor satire.

Discuss.

So what happened? A friend of mine, who claims to be friends with some comedy writers, says the problem with comedy writers is that what they feel is funny 9 times out of 10 doesn't fall into what the majority of the world finds funny. But because they are comedy writers, it never occurs to them that no one else will find their bits funny. Saturday Night Live has not been funny in a long time...even the tail end of the Will Ferrell/Jimmy Fallon/Tina Fey group had kind of lost its funniness. They were about half and half funny. Maybe 2% or 1% funny. Not quite skim, but definitely not whole.

So I have some ideas for funny bits that SNL can use...and I freely give them to SNL, for a small fee of $1,000 dollars per bit. Not that my bits are extraordinarily funny, I just need the cash.

BIT #1:
You know the Army commercials that used to be one, with the "We've been waiting for you"? Where a family is out next to a mildly white-water rapids river, and someone drops a bag, and the guy goes running after it, then jumps down a waterfall to get it, and it cuts to "we've been waiting for you" and the same guy is jumping off a helicoptor into the ocean? The idea of course being that this guy is willing to take risks, willing to damage himself for the end goal. So my idea is to take the "we've been waiting for you" but use more normal situations. Like, you're crossing the street when the "do not walk" sign is up, and you barely beat the oncoming traffic. "We've been waiting for you." You stand up to tell the guy who's being loud in a movie theater to shut up. "We've been waiting for you." A scrawny guy helps spot the big hefty guy at the gym. "We've been waiting for you." You successfully hook up the cable to your digital box to your tivo to your tv. "We've been waiting for you." Guy gets a girls phone number at the bar by using a cheap pick up line. "We've been waiting for you." Turns out the girl gave him a phony number. "We've been waiting for you."

The possibilities, with this bit, are pretty much endless.

And that's a bit where you can have one or two per show - real quick hitting spots, but stuff that the everyday person will recognize and find humorous.

BIT #2:
American Idol judges on familiar, normal situations. For example the dinner you made for the family, or the project you did for work, or the paint job you did on your house, or the karaoke song you did at the bar. Randy: "You didn't bring it dawg, I just didn't feel it, I dunno." Paula: "You smell nice." Simon: "That was a horrid excuse for a ______, I really feel you owe me 2 minutes of my life back." And you could use any kind of real life situation, again something that people recognize and sympathize with. Plus, since American Idol has like a hundred million viewers, everyone will recognize the humor in whatever Randy, Paula, and Simon do. Heck you could even have them judging each other on the job they did judging the contestants. Or you could have the AI judges critiquing the President, or Tony Snow, or Karl Rove, or Condoleeza Rice, etc.

BIT #2.5:
Deal or no Deal in real life situations. Can you imagine having a Deal or no Deal game in the work environment? People vying for a window cubicle, or a free lunch, or something to that effect. Since I don't actually watch the show, I'm not 100% sure how it works, but I'm guessing that putting it in a real life situation would be funny.

BIT #3:
The daily commute as a race. Two contestants going against each other to try and get to work first. They have to deal with making the train, merging onto the right traffic lane, people stopping in the middle of the sidewalk for no apparent reason. And the winner gets? The chance to be at work, something everyone always looks forward to.

BIT #4:
In-appropriate/annoying office worker guy. The guy who interrupts conversations with stupid nonsensical lines, the guy who talks to other men while standing right next to them at the urinal, the guy who sings pop songs with all the wrong lyrics, and then argues with you when you try to tell him the real words, the guy who hits on the women in the office and says inappropriate things, the guy who sucks up to the boss, the guy who tries to pretend he knows current events, when in actuality he knows nothing, and and gives out his opinions based on wrong information, etc. We've all dealt with people like that, we hate people like that. A running bit on situations involving him would be funny.

BIT #5:
Well I don't have a bit #5. But how about doing a bit about bad bits? SNL has done that in the past, where Lorne Michaels will come in to talk about how he's having a nightmare of being in a bit that goes nowhere. Bring something like that back.

So I guess it's not that easy to write bits. But the problem that I see with SNL is that I can't really relate to any of the bits. There's nothing in there where I think to myself "that's totally true, I can see that happening, etc." Going back to the Peyton Manning SNL, they had a bit where Peyton was a basketball player, it was halftime, the team was down big, and the coach was trying to pump up the squad with music. The joke was that Peyton Manning got up and started dancing to the music. And that's funny, how exactly? I don't think I even smiled. Stand up comedians make a living of telling stories that people can understand, stories that people can relate to. SNL needs to bring in writers who do that, who write bits that we can watch and laugh because we've all been in a similar situation.

And by the way, SNL, I'm available.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Walshian Jon Stewart

The first episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was kind of boring. Stewart had taken over for Craig Kilborn and basically just did Kilborn's show, complete with the "Five questions" that Kilborn would ask each guest. Since then, Stewart has made that show his own, to where he, and the show, are both household names.

How many of you actually knew that The Daily Show was not originally Stewart's?

I'm guessing not many.

Kilborn stunk.

Is anyone surprised that he was let go from his CBS late night show, replaced by the boss from the Drew Carey Show?

I'm not.

His wikipedia page says that Kilborn decided not to re-up with CBS, but I think we all know better.

Kilborn should have stuck with Sportscenter, at least people knew him there as the "Jumanji" guy.

Back to the original point though, Jon Stewart has now become the Bill Walsh of comedians. For those who don't know, Walsh was a Hall of Fame Coach for the San Francisco 49ers, and his coaching family tree extends to many, many coaches on many, many teams. These current head coaches all have ties to Walsh: Tony Dungy, Indianapolis...Andy Reid, Philadelphia...Mike Holmgren, Seattle...Herm Edwards, Kansas City...Jeff Fisher, Tennessee...Jon Gruden, Tampa Bay...Mike Shanahan, Denver...Brian Billick, Baltimore...Mike McCarthy, Green Bay...Gary Kubiak, Houston...Lovie Smith, Chicago...Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh...Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville...and Brad Childress, Minnesota.

Needless to say, a lot of coaches. Bill Callahan (Nebraska) and Pete Carroll (USC) also have ties to Walsh.

So how does Stewart's name get mentioned in the same breath as Walsh? Look at the list of correspondents who have come through TDS. When Stewart began, he had Steve Carrell, Steven Colbert, Nancy Walls, Vance Degeneres, Frank DeCaro, and Mo Rocca. Carell starred in more than a few movies, including The 40-Year Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine, and now has his own show on NBC, The Office. Colbert has his own show on Comedy Central, The Colbert Report, which follows TDS. Nancy Walls follwed her husband Carell, she has a recurring role on The Office. Degeneres is traveling with his band Cowboy Mouth (he also just finished writing for sister Ellen's gig on the Oscars). Frank DeCaro has a show on Sirius Satellite Radio, as does Mo Rocca who I think has 18 other jobs, including working for The Tonight Show, writing for USA Today, and working on VH1's I Love the (enter decade here).

So then the next wave of correspondents come in: Dave Attell, Ed Helms, Rob Corddry, Nate Corddry, Lewis Black, and Matt Walsh. Attell got his own show on Comedy Central, he's now more of a household name. Ed Helms followed Steve Carell, he's now on The Office. Rob Corddry has his own show on FOX called The Winner. Nate Corddry was one of the stars of the now-canceled Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Lewis Black still comes on TDS, but he is now a household name, he's had his own HBO specials, and has also been seen in such films as Man of the Year, Accepted, and Unaccompanied Minors. Matt Walsh has been in shows like Dog Bites Man, and films such as Old School, Christmas with the Kranks, and School for Scoundrels. You've probably also seen him in a ton of commercials, even if you weren't aware that the guy who looked familiar was him.

So The Daily Show has become somewhat of a funnel to bigger and better things (although what is bigger or better that The Daily Show?!). Correspondents have come and go, and sometimes come again. The one constant has been Jon Stewart. He tried movies earlier in his career (he was great in Playing by Heart, fantastic movie), but his film career seems to have stalled (I believe Death to Smoochy was his last movie), and he seems content to give us the news, for the most part un-biased.

So I guess what I'm saying is, please Jon, don't ever leave.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Male Bathroom Etiquette

There is absolutely no reason why this has to happen, but it does. Guys should absolutely know better, but they don't. Women probably won't understand the issue here, but as a man, if you've ever used a urinal in a public place, you know what this is about.

I shall explain.

At my work, the bathroom on the bottom floor has 4 urinals in a row. One day I enter the bathroom and I go to the first urinal, closest to the door. No one else is in the bathroom. As I zipper down, the bathroom door opens and someone else enters - and he goes to urinal number 2, RIGHT NEXT TO ME. Now as any man knows, that is just simply not allowed. If you walk into a bathroom, and someone is using a urinal, and there's no one else in there, you do not go to the urinal next to that one person there. You go to the one next to the one next to the person, at the very least. Think of it as breathing room.

OK so that was annoying. But then it gets worst. I don't know this man who was right next to me - I knew who he was, but we'd never been formally introduced. He turns his head to me, as we're both doing our thing, and says "hey how are you."

"Hey, how are you."

I mean seriously, you couldn't wait until we were washing our hands? If the stream hadn't started already, I probably would have been dammed up! I mumble "fine, how are you," thinking (hoping) that would end the conversation.

No.

It wouldn't.

He went on to talk about what a nice day it was, how nice the weather's been, how strange that's been for this time of year, and I'm thinking dude, you're strange. You do not go to the urinal next to someone else if there are other urinals open, and you most assuredly do NOT TALK TO THE PERSON NEXT TO YOU!!

I think it's weird to talk to anyone while in the bathroom, but I think if you're going to talk, you need a minimum of one empty urinal between you and whoever you've decided to annoy.

On that note, talking between stalls is strictly prohibited.

People who use their cell phones in the bathroom are just strange. I'm sure whatever you're talking about is extremely important, but it seriously couldn't wait for 2-3 minutes, 5 max? Do you really think that because you're using bluetooth it looks ok? It doesn't.

So guys (and girls) if you're unsure of the rules, you can use this game as a lesson: http://games.download3000.com/play/the-urinal-game

In fact, use it as a life lesson.