Sunday, November 02, 2008

SNL: No one dies harder than John McCain...

Quick thoughts on last night's "Saturday Night Live" coming up just as soon as I enjoy some fine gold...

Ben Affleck and John McCain are two longtime friends of the show, in large part because they're game to do just about anything asked of them. Affleck in particular is so much more likable on "SNL" than he is in most of his movies that his acting career might have gone differently if he had taken a year or two off from films to join the cast.

But last night's Affleck/McCain team-up didn't quite live up to expectations. The opening sketch, with a cash-strapped McCain on QVC, trying to counter Barack Obama's network infomercial while selling campaign-themed tchotchkes, was hilarious -- particularly when Tina Fey, in her final appearance as Sarah Palin, went rogue -- but McCain on Weekend Update fell flat.

As for Affleck, after getting what seemed to be the shortest monologue in "SNL" history (can anyone think of a shorter one?), he got to further the Alec Baldwin parallels by actually playing Baldwin as a guest on "The View" in a sketch I didn't find very funny, but that my wife (who watches "The View") laughed a lot at. Affleck's Baldwin was pretty good, as was Casey Wilson's Jennifer Aniston and Kenan's Whoopi; they just didn't get much to do. And I think I would have enjoyed Affleck skewering Keith Olbermann a lot more if I hadn't recently seen and loved the very similar "Double meat, sir!"

In Roger Ebert full-disclosure style, I should say that I decided to go to sleep about a minute into the latest Target Lady sketch, and then watched whatever else was available on this morning (including the German coat store ad and Kenan as an old man giving love advice). Did I miss anything good? How was David Cook?

And, with the election only a few days away, let me remind you all one last time: This is not a political blog. Talk about McCain only in the context of the show (i.e., whether you found it funny or not). Do not talk about policy, do not attack either candidate or each other, or I start deleting comments. Got it?


Anonymous said...

McCain was great. I though the QVC open was hilarious and the WU wasn't that bad. Kenan is one of my favorite cast members. His Whoopi was spot on. And one of my favorite SNL skits in the last few seasons has been Virginiaca. I still remember him from All That and Kenan and Kel. It was a little weird watching SNL without Amy. I hope she comes back and does some stuff along with her new show (like Fey is).

R.A. Porter said...

Ugh. I'm just watching now. And the writers just ruined a beautiful two-percenter by explaining it. McCain Fine Gold was brilliant.

The writers have no faith in the audience.

Anonymous said...

Loved the QVC opening and was impressed with how game both McCains were.

I'm not familiar with David Cook's material, but I thought he sounded really great, certainly better than Coldplay last week.

Hyde said...

Alan, I thought the last half hour of the show was more disposable than usual. Kristen Wiig was good as the hopeless Hasselbeck, but yeah, I'd say the only real highlights were the ones you mentioned.

I was a bit surprised that McCain was willing to go along with a sketch that lent credence to the rumors that his people and Palin's are fighting, but it was good to see Fey one last (?) time.

Matt said...

Interesting to see them arguably try and balance things with an absolute (and well-deserved) roasting of Olbermann's self-importance. (And I say that as someone who's generally sympathetic to Olbermann's political views.)

(Also, Poehler was still in the opening credits.)

Anonymous said...

I loved the open (especially the "rogue" part, but McCain was as funny as I'd been led to believe he'd be), the Olbermann skit, Weekend Update other than the "guest" appearances by the SNL players, and the two David Cook performances, which I thought were great. (If you didn't know that he'd been on AI, you wouldn't have guessed it from those performances at all.) I actually enjoyed McCain more on Update than you did, Alan, but that might be because I am easily amused by the use of the word "maverick." There were a few other things here and there, but that was about it.

Matt said...

Anne Hathaway's monologue a few weeks ago was also pretty short--basically, two jokes. Also, did Affleck get the "We've got a great show tonight! David Cook is here! Stick around, we'll be right back!"

Jeff K. said...

Can't ever go wrong with a GuyzNite shout-out.

Personally, I don't think the repubs did themselves any favors by doing the show.

Palin was crucified in front of her (Baldwin's "that horrible woman!" being the easiest to point to -- I would have a preferred a "I'm standing right here!" retort.)

And I don't understand why McCain would allow Faux-Palin to go "rogue" and hawk to "Palin in 2012" as if it's a foregone conclusion he doesn't have a shot.

"I'm standing right here!"

I don't know if it makes them game or not to be made fun of to their face or not, so I should like them more for rolling with the punches; or if I should be afraid that they'll do *anything* for the exposure...

But I don't think the writers did their cause any favors.

Is Jim Downey still writing on the show? I'd have expected him to bring a bit more "fair and balance" to the proceedings...

J said...

It's not good when the best thing skits do is remind you of better old skits. I saw an ad featuring Olbermann and hoped they'd hired the Subway guy you cited. Instead, Affleck did a really cringeworthy impersonation that was only aided by the length of the sketch; it's like they were trying to bully you into forgetting how the real one worked.

The View sketch was horrible, aside from Keenan's Whoopi. The classic SNL View sketches with Oteri's Wawa centering around how dumb Debbie Matenopoulos was were great showcases for guests. Wiig was bad, and Wilson's Aniston only acted like Janice from the Muppets.

I kept wondering whether GIRAFFES! was a tribute to the hard rock band or the McSweeney's book.

Opening McCain/Palin bit was good stuff, and McCain looks a lot more alive now than he was during the debates. He's good people, and it would be horrible if the last thing he was remembered for was this campaign.

Sucker Sapien said...

I'm trying to remain as close as possible to keeping the peace and not mentioning political content, but it was hard for me to watch the opening sketch without feeling like McCain had given up the election, McCain looked so resigned in the opening sketch that more than a little sad, even though he seemed to have more energy with the weight lifted off his shoulders. (He is physically stiffer than I remember him in past comedic appearances, and like Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock, he doesn't quite know what to do with his arms. I would bet that McCain insisted there be a joke about those town hall meetings. I don't blame him or his aides for insisting on restrictions, but it was such a pathetic little joke on an issue that no matter what it's real life merits, does not seem to have captured the public's imagination in the way that Sarah Palin's clothese have, that it warped back around and became funnier because of his resigned attitude.

I don't want to talk about the real Sarah Palin, but the Tina Fey impression is not a piece of affectionate ribbing, and it's shaped people's views of her. She didn't actually say "I can see Russia from my house!" but at this point she might as well have. When she appears on the show, it looks like she doesn't get the joke, or that no one is laughing with her. When McCain shows up and they openly play on the "Palin 2012" campaign in front of him, it's the live version of that devastating New York TImes Magazine article where everyone was pointing fingers at everybody else.

Anonymous said...

I thought McCain was so much funnier than Sarah Palin last night. I actually liked the Weekend Update sketch and him poking fun at all the Maverick crap. Ben Affleck was so great as Olbermann, but the Alec Baldwin stuff was really strange.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to me that watching McCain's body language, he seems much more relaxed with Tina Fey than the real Sarah Palin. The opening skit (Fey/McCain) was the funniest overall. The writing wasn't as good this week, the jokes coming off tepid. And I got the vibe that Affleck who I've seen do this better before, seems to be just coasting on this (he's in the Obama camp right?!). How was David Cook? Don't know the songs, but he was definitely better than Coldplay last week.

Anonymous said...

We had a similar reaction to the View skit. It was all right for me, but the wife really laughed a lot. Accoridng to her, if you watch the View, you got much more enjoyment from the skit because the impersonations were dead on.

The Olberman bit was hilarious for me, again perhaps because it was so dead on. At least, it was dead on as far as the bogeyman-ish reputation Olberman has on the right.

In both instances, it seems the skits were much fuinnier if you were more familiar with the originals, maybe 9 out of 10 vs 6 out of 10.

Question: Is that good enough. Can SNL say, "Hey for people who watch the View, this skit was a smash hit." Have they satisfied their obligations as writers with this result?

Is there an obligation to fill the skit with funny material, regardless of how familiar the audience is with the View?

Or is the humor in this sort of skit all in the impersonations, and the actors might as well be reading the phone book since all we should be looking for is the funniness of their exaggerated impressions?

Plus, Giraffes totally rocked!

Anonymous said...

Pretty boring and forgettable show overall. The cold open was pretty good, with the obvious highlight being the "going rogue" part. Frankly, Affleck isn't a good enough impressionist to overcome the material in The View and Olberman sketches, though I did love the overdramatic chair spinning in the latter.

They really miss Amy Poehler. I read an article about how without Poehler they will have rely too much on Wiig to the detriment of the overall quality. I think last night was a good example. Her crazy brilliance was spread a bit too thin.

She didn't actually say "I can see Russia from my house!" but at this point she might as well have.

Do you mean she didn't say that exact quote? Because then you are correct. But she did say you can see it from an island in Alaska.

afoglia said...

You did miss a good, if overly long, commercial for "Night School Musical" and a weak, but short skit where Affleck and Hader played movie-making brothers pitching a movie.

I didn't think "The View" skit was any good. They were trying to play things too safe. I get the impression they wanted to show Hasselback as a dumb, empty dittohead, but Behar and Goldberg's responses were equally empty and belittling. And all I could think was that SNL needs to hire a black woman.

Affleck's Olbermann impression might have been poor, but the skit was pretty good. Except it required a guest to not be a sycophant and actually question Keith, which never happens on his show. :-)

Anonymous said...

He is physically stiffer than I remember him in past comedic appearances, and like Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock, he doesn't quite know what to do with his arms.

Are you joking?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Yeah, McCain "doesn't know what to do with his arms" because he has a very limited range of motion thanks to his time as a POW.

CM said...

The opening was hilarious! If McCain loses, maybe he could be Sarah Palin's co-host on her "white Oprah" show.

But I agree with those who are surprised McCain agreed to do this in the first place -- I am not sure what it buys him to go on TV making fun of himself so close to the election and showing his running mate with a Palin 2012 shirt.

erin said...

I only watched the cold open on Hulu, but I laughed so hard I was crying. I just like McCain so much, and I think he's so much funnier than people realize (and I was happily surprised how game Cindy was in her cameo--she can come across so stiff in appearances, but I've heard she's not that way at all in real life). I actually do think the SNL portrayals of McCain and Palin have probably hurt them (my own sister confuses the real Palin's words with what Tina Fey-as-Palin says, *sigh*), but I give them credit for being able to take their lumps and laugh about it on national TV. They are thick-skinned, and I admire that! How can you not love McCain Fine Gold??

KLE said...

Definitely look up Night School Musical:Senior Year Equivalent. Cracked me up!

Similar reaction here to The View, I LOL'd a lot, husband not so much.

I don't really get why John McCain would agree to do a sketch with faux-SP - to me it's validating SNL's POV (and many voters') that she is a joke of a candidate.

The one true reason I stayed up late AND recorded the show was David Cook. I'm very pleased to read the comments here by non-AI/non-DC fans that he went over so well (and I agree, better than Coldplay, who were pitchy, dawg). It's hard to have a true perspective on the matter when one dabbles in Cook online fandom.

From that perspective, his fans are overjoyed that he even got such a prestigious gig right out the gate (first album's not even out until 11/18), and that he did so very well. We all thought he seemed nervous on the first song but performed well despite that, but that he really blossomed in the second performance.

That was the very first live performance (on national TV!) for him with that band, although he played in a band with the two guitarists before AI. We were all greatly anticipating what his second song might be, and overall it was received very well by the fanbase.

Nicole said...

The Olbermann skit was the funniest for me, with the cold open, especially Palin "going rogue" a close second.

I didn't take that section of the cold open as a sign that McCain was giving up, if only because it was his advisers leaking the story that she was a diva to the media. He certainly came off better in his SNL appearance than she did. I stopped watching before the Weekend Update so I can't comment what happened there, but after the Olbermann skit, there was nothing that funny to watch. The View skit lasted way too long, and while the impressions were accurate, (Hasselback really is that screechy - just google for clips) they would have needed to make the skit much shorter. But to echo an earlier poster, the View skit shows that not only does SNL need to hire a black woman, they seriously need someone to replace Amy.

Anonymous said...

What i noticed this week and last is how much funnier Seth Meyers is when Amy Poehler is next to him. The last two WUs have been lacking without her presence. In fairness, this could also be due to the extra time devoted to the thursday show watering down the amount of good material but without her, it is clear she carried the segments. Amy Poehler's chair needs to be filled with someone for Meyers to play off of ASAP. I cant begrudge her success of getting her own show, but I will miss her.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I found a source for the Cook performances, if you are interested. Adam B. Of throwing things would have my email address.

Anonymous said...

Best line NOT said would have been from David Cook:

"If polls were always right, David Archuleta would be singing now."

Anonymous said...

Nice headline.

-- fellow Guyz Nite fan

J.J. said...

I think they totally wasted McCain's appearance. The best parts of the opening were Fey's jokes (gesturing to her clothes when talking about how expensive campaigns are... and pitching her Palin 2012 gear). And the Weekend Update bit was lame.

In my opinion, they could have made better use of McCain by putting him in a sketch with Olbermann. Not only would it have been fun to see him mix it up (instead of sadly making fun of himself for being behind in the polls, like with that "sad grandpa" nonsense)... but it also would have been a better premise than the Olbermann sketch they ended up using, which seemed to drag on way too long.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but Wiig is completely overrated in my opinion. All of her characters are exactly the same and I just find them deathly unfunny. Affleck was pretty good, but the writers let everyone down as usual.

Karen said...

Because my politics kept me from being able to appreciate this episode, I will only say that your Guyz Nite headline made me laugh harder than anything on the show...

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the QVC opener with McCain. The tone and pacing were excellent. "Fine Gold" was hilarious. I liked "The View" sketch because Kristen Wiig's impersonation of Elizabeth Hasselback was just spot on. And Ben Affleck was great in the "Countdown" sketch. The spinning in the chair and the "Special Comment" just had me rolling. It went on longer than I would have expected.

I am a big fan of Kristen Wiig and have been ever since I saw her on "The Joe Schmo Show." I see a lot of similarities between her style and that of Maya Rudolph.

K J Gillenwater said...

I only watched the McCain clips after the fact, and I loved both of them. The first, of course, was much, much funnier. Why do people on here think it didn't do his campaign any favors, when he got to remind everyone of the 10 townhall debates that never happened....comedy gold! It was a very nice blow to the opposing side.

As well as the burn on Joe Biden.

It also makes it awfully obvious that neither Biden nor Obama have been seen on SNL. I know Obama cancelled his appearance a while back...but why didn't he find time to come back? I mean, most of them on there are gunning for him. All very strange.

Matt said...

I fully expect there'll be an Obama bit on the SNL special on Monday (most likely as a cold open). Given that he's been spending so much time in the Mountain West over the past few weeks, hard for him to carve out the time to do a rehearsal and appear in NYC. In contrast, McCain and Palin have spent a fair amount of time in Pennsylvania, which is much easier to do the trek from.

Two other thoughts:

1. It was far less the first sketch than the WU bit that had me thinking "McCain's given up." The whole premise of that second bit was "I'm losing and I can't figure out how to fix it."
2. My guess for who the next big political "get" will be? I expect we're going to see Hillary Clinton host (maybe with a special appearance from Bill) early next year. Cold open writes itself--Hillary pitching herself doing Amy Poehler's characters since "she played me, so I can play her!" (Also gives an opportunity for a Poehler cameo.)

J said...

It also makes it awfully obvious that neither Biden nor Obama have been seen on SNL.

Recently, perhaps. But Obama came on last October (an appearance that was rerun a billion times due to the writer's strike). And that might have been SNL's best Obama dig: That he was so dull or self-aggrandizing that he would only go out on Halloween dressed as himself.

Anonymous said...

thought the cold opening was great...McCain really showed he has a sense of humor.
And I had no idea who David Cook was until I looked him up before the show....if I had known he was the AI winner, I would have fast forwarded.....after hearing him, I think I am going to get his album...he was great.
As for Update, is it me, or does anyone else want to just slap Seth Meyers....I did not like him all that much before Amy left, and know he just appears so smug...he stinks.
Best part of the show (and Alan, with your musical tastes, I am surprised you haven't commented)..Giraffes!!! No idea why, but that thing cracked me up....I watched it like 3 or 4 times already. Guess that is just my old Monty Python stupid sense of humor!!
And, most importantly....please, everyone VOTE ON TUESDAY...regardless of who your choice is a privelege many have lost their lives defending!!

Pamela Jaye said...

I probably should have read this first, cause I wasted an awful lot of time waiting for some of the sketches to resemble something funny.

But I did like the open - made McCain seem to have a sense of humor (don't really know anything about the man other than he seems to have a lot of houses) and I also liked Ben Afleck talking about campaigning for Tsongas. (and that was only because he's from Boston and so am I. I don't have an opinion about the late Tsongas, it was just nice to hear his name)

I haven't watched Olberman enough to get the joke, whatever it was, so after a bit I skipped it. Target lady was annoying (all her characters seem annoying), the movie pitch was dull.

I'm guessing there was a time when SNL was good (well, it was better with Jon Hamm)but I may be showing my age by saying I miss Dana Carvey. (and I was in my late 20's then)

and is MadTV relevant at all? I finally found it was still on, but so far, they are doing I Love Lucy battles balloon payments.

Anonymous said...

Where is the Brotherhood review Alan?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Sepinwall said...

Where is the Brotherhood review Alan?

This would imply that I was still watching "Brotherhood" -- or, really, that I had ever cared enough about "Brotherhood" to write about it on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

you do not have to be smug about it

just a question and I seem to remember you reviewed the season 2 premiere

Anonymous said...

Affleck was a great Olbermann, but the sketch reminded me of Wric Idle's riddle:

Q. How is life different from an SNL sketch?
A. Life doesn't last forever.

Anonymous said...

The QVC bit was funny and clever. Like others, ,I loved the "McCain Fine Gold" line.

Regarding Affleck's Olbermann. He had the cadence of Keith's voice, and he had the mannerisms and facial experssions, and even looked like him. However, the sound of Ben's voice was way off. Instead of getting the deep booming voice of Olbermann, Affleck was just throaty and raspy. It really ruined the entire skit.

I really like Kristin Wiig, as I think she is one of the few people that carries the show. Her Hasslebeck was great, she nailed Suze Orman a few weeks ago, I love her in the "Two A-Holes" sketches and her nutjob/erratic character would be funny if they didn't overuse it.

For the first time since he shot a knucklepuck in D2, I actually liked Kenan this week as Whoopy.

WU is not the same without Amy, but had a great line about how Sopranos Wine will be coming out in the fall, playing off of the success of the hit HBO television show... "also in the works, Entourage Douchebags."

And finally, as this was the end of Tina Fey's stint as Sarah Palin, I just want to comment that she will go down in the annals of SNL history for having created one of the greatest political charactarures in the show's history. Right up there with 2000's Bush/Gore, and Dana Carvey's Perot and Bush (I was not old enough to see Chevy's Ford or Akroyd's Carter).

bill said...

(I was not old enough to see Chevy's Ford or Akroyd's Carter).

Even better is Ackroyd's Nixon in the LSD-influenced (or cocaine, I'll have to check the SNL book when I get home) "Final Days" sketch written by the potential Democratic senator from Minnesota, Al Franken. Franken, and his writing partner, Tom Davis, were sharing a salary and this skit basically saved their jobs. Brutal and funny.

Anonymous said...

Q. How is life different from an SNL sketch?
A. Life doesn't last forever.

Ain't that the truth. The Olbermann skit was the first SNL skit I've ever wanted to last longer. I laughed so hard I had to keep backtracking to hear everything.

The View skit was meh. It had some good parts, but as a whole, like much of what SNL does, it didn't work all that well.

Not that I actually watch SNL regularly. Even in its heyday, I wasn't a big fan.

Anonymous said...

Seeing John McCain on SNL and at the Al Smith dinner made me remember why I liked the guy so much, even though he and I disagree politically.

I wish we had seen more of that John McCain during the campaign.

Kate said...

I agree with other posters who have said that the opening QVC sketch was funny, but that I thought the WU bit didn't work for McCain.

Someone already mentioned that Obama *has* been on SNL, so I will mention that Biden doesn't even do funny hats or photos holding funny things or anything like that, much less going on a comedy show. I doubt we will ever see him on SNL because he has a very consistent view that this sort of thing is not appropriate for politicians. For better or for worse, he is consistent on that one.

Anonymous said...

weird so many commenters liked the olbermann sketch. i hated it. affleck's impression started out pretty good, then it devolved into some ian mckellan-ish excitable old british man, before he brought it back.

but in general, he spoke much too fast for me to feel like he put much thought into it. and of course, it was far too long.

and i agree with the commenter who said mccain seems to be more comfortable with the fake palin than the real one.

R.A. Porter said...

@giles, that's because Sarah Palin smells like a combination of moose, crude oil, and Obsession!

Tina Fey smells like snickerdoodles.

Sucker Sapien said...

>Are you joking?

Oh shit, I completely forgot the arm problems were due to his torture in Vietnam. I claim stupidity over insensitivity, but I'm ashamed all the same.