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In Other News Out of Spain, Generalissimo Francisco Franco, is STILL Dead …

February 16, 2015

Breaking away from sports for a minute, here are my favorite moments from the SNL40 Celebration, which despite its lengthy airtime (even the website broke it up into Part 1 and Part 2) was much more entertaining and easily beat the 2015 NBA All Star Game in the television ratings Sunday night. (Video links are embedded below for each, as well as the complete episode at the SNL website linked above, and I’ve found the SNL app to be handy and addictive).

1.) Celebrity Jeopardy – A completely nonsensical and absurd rendition of the classic Will Ferrell vehicle sketch. I laughed my ass off. Turd Ferguson (a possibly tipsy Norm Macdonald), Sean Connery (Darrell Hammond well above his fighting weight) misreading the categories and cracking Alex Trebek Momma jokes, and Jim Carrey’s “Lincoln Ad Philosopher McConaughey” (which I think adds a whole new layer to “Interstellar”) slayed me. Plus, Kate McKinnon’s Justin Bieber was eerie, Taran Killam’s Christoph Waltz was spooky, and Alec Baldwin’s Tony Bennett is a Great Great Great Great, Great caricature, speaking into the buzzer as if it were a microphone and reciting every other main “Adventures of Tom Sawyer” character whilst not remembering the title character was comic gold.

2.) Marty & Beyoncé – Normally, I find many of these musical medley tributes to be disjointed and forced, but almost every recreation (as much as I like Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig, I’ve never been a fan of the Garth and Kat sketches, to me it’s an idea that’s better on paper than in practice) worked. From the always enjoyable Marty Short (loved the Robert Blake crack and the funniest use of a windstorm mime I’ve seen), to Maya Rudolph’s over-the-top Beyoncé, to the best Marty & Bobbi Culp skit ever (“Turn Down the What!”), to Piscopo’s Sinatra, to Choppin’ Broccolaaaaay, to Opera Man, to What’s Up with That?!? (complete with track suited running man Jason Sudekis), to King Tut (I’m not sure I want to know what it took to convince Steve Martin to don that goofy fez and resuscitate that one), to the return of Bill Murray’s show-stealing Nick Ocean singing the “Love Theme from Jaws” (accompanied by SNL’s first bandleader, Paul Shaffer), and ending appropriately with the Blues Brothers 3.0, it was campy and hilarious throughout.

3.) Weekend Update – Jane Curtin shined, Emma Stone’s Rosanna Rosanna Danna was terrific, and Ed Norton’s “Birdman”-esque Stefon was evocative (YANK!), but Melissa McCarthy as Matt Foley destroying the Update desk was pause-live-TV-to-stop-laughing funny. Topped off by the Candy Gram Land Shark eating Tina Fey, which from what I can tell was barely noticed. Finally, Garrett Morris’ translation for the Deaf gag (not included in the video linked above), no matter how politically incorrect, still cracks me up.

4.) Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” – Yes, I know, his voice isn’t what it was, truthfully it was mostly shot last night, but he performed the hell out of that song, pouring out every ounce he had to give into a performance that became a singular rendition unto itself. Turns out, the night before he performed “Maybe I’m Amazed” during a 2-hr plus impromptu Valentine’s Day concert at New York City’s Irving Plaza (with a blazing set list that spanned his career), then he did a 10-song rehearsal for the audience prior to the show, as well as an additional sound check, so I’ll excuse his straining over a few notes. If anyone could have mailed it in last night, it was a Beatle, but the opposite happened; All of which makes Sir Paul even more of a badass.

5.) The SNL 40 Digital Short “That’s When You Break” – Of all the self-congratulatory tributes to different aspects of the show, this was the most effective due to its deprecation (especially the calling out of Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz for breaking character more than just about everyone else combined). Samberg and Sandler were two of the most musically inclined cast members, so it only made sense they collaborated on this satirical send-up of Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best”.

6.) Chris Rock’s Eddie Murphy Tribute – Funny and incisive on it’s own, an important and accurate recognition of the Most Important (if not the Greatest) SNL cast member in the show’s history. Even though Eddie Murphy might have been too cool for school, I wish they had Murphy do something more later in the show.

Honorable mentions go to Wayne’s World (slightly dated, but a serviceable microcosm of SNL itself, good to see Mike Myers is still alive, and the Lorne Michaels impressions alone were worth it), Miley Cyrus’ “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” (probably the best thing I’ve ever seen her sing, no surprise since it was a Paul Simon song), Jerry Seinfeld’s awkwardly funny Q&A session (Ellen Cleghorne was a surprise, and I had no idea Larry David once wrote for SNL), and Dan Aykroyd’s Bass-O-Matic 2150 (a concept that still has currency today, and the fact the blender stopped working only added to the comedic effect).  Yes, it was long at three-and-a-half hours – something several former cast members and hosts had no issue pointing out during the show – but it was time well spent awash in nostalgia on a Sunday evening.

Still crazy after all these years, indeed.

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