Kristen Wiig follow-up: SNL got the memo

If you type “Kristen Wiig sucks” into Google, the very first link you will see is to a piece I wrote. I am not proud of this.

Here’s the back story: in February of last year, I wrote a rant where I complained about the overexposure of Wiig, who was at one time my favorite new “SNL” cast member. But the exposure itself wasn’t the problem – it was Wiig’s tendency to play characters that, if they showed up at a party you were at, you would leave the party. She never played anyone sweet, or friendly, or even just strange. Her characters all had one thing in common: they were incredibly annoying. And they were in every other skit. I’d had enough, and so I posted “Memo to Saturday Night Live: Kristen Wiig must be stopped.” I wish I had posted that one to Reddit. It would have been huge, though at 162 comments and counting (they’re still coming in, 21 months later), it is easily the biggest response we’ve gotten to anything posted on this site, though John Paulsen’s companion piece, “Gilly: The unfunniest returning SNL character…ever,” is not far behind.

And that’s why I feel so awful. I never intended to be the lightning rod for the ‘Kristen Wiig sucks’ movement, because she doesn’t suck. She’s actually very talented, but has a weakness for playing obnoxious people. But silly me, I should have known that the commenters of the world would not have been as level-headed in their remarks as I attempted to be in my piece. The first wave of comments were all pro-Kristen, telling me I didn’t “get” her (one of my favorite comment cliches, because it’s mostly used when there’s nothing to “get”) or that I had no sense of humor. Slowly, though, people started rallying in my defense, and now, well, it’s a bloodbath. One commenter even said, “I typed ‘Kristen Wiig sucks’ into Google, found this piece.” My first reaction to that was, “Wow, I wish I had the free time to do that.” My second reaction was, “Shit. This is not what I wanted.” All I wanted was for the show to have more balance, and for Wiig to tone down the ‘does it offend you, yeah’ factor to her characters. Bring the “Two A-Holes” skit back, or have her do more impressions (she does a dead perfect Bjork).

Well, she’s still not doing impressions – and the “Two A-Holes” skits remain inexplicably shelved – but it appears that my other prayers have been answered this season. I just watched the episode that Scarlett Johannson hosted, and Kristen had one lead skit (the one-upping Penelope). One. In everything else, she was a co-lead or not in the scene at all, and for me, it made for a much more enjoyable viewing experience, especially since it opens up space for “The Miley Cyrus Show” (my new favorite recurring skit) and Jay Pharoah, who’s got ‘breakout star’ written all over him. If I’m lucky, I’ll never have to see another skit featuring Jamie Lee Curtis, Kathi Lee Gifford, the woman who can’t keep a secret, and if I’m really lucky, this woman.

Man, is she painful to watch. Ha ha, let’s laugh at the cripple. Jesus.

So thank you, “Saturday Night Live,” for righting the ship. You are now a hundred times more watchable than you were just a few months ago. And Kristen, I’m sorry that my piece became the sounding board for some malicious comments. I just wanted my TV to be more funny. And now it is. Ahhhhhh.

  

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Saturday Night Live: The Best of Will Ferrell, Volume III

Considering that even the biggest stars “SNL” has ever produced only have one ‘Best of’ collection to their names, it’s a testament to Will Ferrell’s versatility that Universal is giving him his third compilation (well, that and the fact that Ferrell is bar none the biggest star “SNL” has produced in 20 years). From the looks of “The Best of Will Ferrell, Vol. III,” however, it’s starting to look like they may be coming close to the bottom of the well. The set is funny, mind you – it includes arguably the best cheerleader skit of all, at the chess match – and you can never go wrong with a “Celebrity Jeopardy” skit. They even include the oddball “Do You Like Luxury?” skit, which only Ferrell could make funny. However, the inclusion of a “Lawrence Welk” skit is a big minus (that should have been saved for a “Best of Kristen Wiig” DVD, God help us), and the “Inside the Actor’s Studio” skits are only as good as the honoree, and while Abby Elliott has her good points, her Drew Barrymore impression does not leave much of a…well, you know. The warm-up performance of Green Day singing “East Jesus Nowhere,” with Ferrell rocking the cowbell and even taunting Billie Joe (“Does this song ever end?”), is a great extra, though. Pity they couldn’t get him to do an audio commentary; those have always been as entertaining on the other best-of DVDs as the skits themselves.

Click to buy “The Best of Will Ferrell: Volume III”

  

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The Island is on the toenail of a giant…

Okay, so Fred Armisen was just a bit off, but while everyone continues to digest and debate the “Lost” series finale, it’s fun to look back on this old “Saturday Night Live” bit where several “Lost” fans share their early theories about the show while they share an elevator with Matthew Fox.

  

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A Chat with Rob Riggle

Given how long Rob Riggle has been doing stand-up, it’s actually kind of funny to think that there are lot of folks who don’t even know that he does stand-up. Then again, given that he’s been on “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show,” as well as in “Talledega Nights” and “The Hangover,” it’s not like you can’t understand why some people only know him for his TV and movie work. On March 5th, however, Riggle will be taking the stage once more for an episode of “Comedy Central Presents,” where he’ll be giving viewers 22 solid minutes of stand-up. I had a chance to chat with him about the special, as well as his work on “SNL,” his two and a half year stint as John Oliver’s officemate, and some of his upcoming film projects.

Bullz-Eye: Hey, Rob!

Rob Riggle: Hey, Will! How are you doing?

BE: Pretty good. Well, welcome back to the stand-up scene on Comedy Central!

RR: I know! I’m excited! Very excited…and I haven’t even seen it yet!

BE: It’s very good. I caught it on the online screening room.

RR: Oh, well, thank you. I’m glad to hear that. I’ve literally only seen a couple of clips, so that’s good. You never know how those things go, because I think I did, like, 34 minutes, and they cut it down to 22, so you’re, like, “Uh, okay, I hope it’s good.” I’ll be very interested to see what they cut!

BE: I can only presume that the 10 minutes they cut were the slowest minutes. (Laughs) So how often do you even get to do stand-up? Because you’ve certainly got plenty of acting keeping you busy.

RR: Yeah, well, actually, I’ve been very lucky with the acting, but I try to get out as often as I can…which, in my humble opinion, is not often enough. But I book gigs whenever I can, and to answer your question directly…I dunno, I’d say probably two times a month. At least right now. There was a time where I was a lot more consistent. It just depends on the work schedule, y’know? If there’s a gap, I’ll get out there and pound it out three or four times a week, but it just depends on my work schedule, that’s all.

BE: So are you forever honing material, just in case you might have a free night for a gig?

RR: Yeah, that’s the constant work, I guess. I’m constantly waking up in the middle of the night and jotting down notes, and I have a stack of notes and thoughts and premises that I am dying to explore… (Laughs) …and I hope to have the time work them out, but I just haven’t been able to get to them yet. But one of these days I will, and hopefully I’ll be able to develop a new set. That’s what everybody’s got to do.

BE: So what was the case with this Comedy Central special? Was it planned out well in advance, or did you just get a last-second phone call saying, “Hey, Rob, come on back to the family”?

RR: No, y’know, I was just very fortunate that they came and saw me do stand-up at…I think it was right there in New York, at Comics Comedy Club. I was doing a weekend there and they came down, saw me, liked what they saw, and asked if I wanted to do it. And I was flattered. I was, like, “Yeah! Count me in!” So that’s how it all came about. And, y’know, I love Comedy Central. The people over there are awesome, and I have a good relationship with them, so…it’s all good.

BE: Well, in particular, the routine during the special that hit home for me was the bit about men’s rooms in stadiums.

RR: (Laughs) Oh, how true is it, my friend?

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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The logic of casting

Yesterday, Mike Fleming reported that Nick Cassavettes was in talks to direct the fourth, or possibly fifth — depending on how you reckon it — version of “A Star is Born,” a perpetually successful property that dates back to the 1930s.

You can complain about remakes all you want, but this is one story that really begs to be remade with every generation, as it’s always pretty much always relevant and only more topical with each new decade. In case you’ve never seen any version, it’s the story of a young actress and/or singer on the way up who becomes involved with a star very much on the way down, mostly because of substance abuse. Apparently the thinking is to once again make the on-the-go female a singer, as in the now iconic 1954 version starring Judy Garland and James Mason directed by George Cukor, and the commercially huge but critically dissed 1976 Barbara Streisand/Kris Kritofferson version directed by Frank Perry and, perhaps, an uncredited Streisand. Names like Beyoncé and Alicia Keys are being mentioned for the female lead.

The two male stars Fleming mentions are interesting. I don’t need to say why Robert Downey, Jr. is either too on the nose or absolutely and utterly perfect for the role. Real-life parallels and method acting possibilities aside, he’s a intriguing choice also because of his own forays into singing. Could make for a dramatic duet or two.

The other name being floated according to Fleming is Jon Hamm of “Mad Men.” This would presumably take the film more in the direction of the 1954 version, which featured James Mason as the alcoholic movie star in love with Judy Garland’s singer. Hamm’s a terrific and versatile actor and I’m sure he’d be very good. I just hope, however, they’re not just mentioning his name because just he does a great impression of Mason.

This Mason, by the way, is mainly inspired by his “A Star is Born” character. In real life, it was Judy Garland who had the drinking and drug issues. As for Hamm, let’s hope we see his impressionistic skills again — and the writers can again figure out something funny for him to do with them — when he returns to SNL later this month.

  

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