Julia Stiles / Aerosmith
March 17, 2001


*** WILL FERRELL GREATEST MOMENTS ***

This season I am recounting Will Ferrell's Top 20 greatest moments on SNL:

15. Bobbi and Marty Culp. May 10, 1997. Host: John Goodman.

Out of all of Will's recurring characters, Marty Culp is probably my favorite. He and Ana Gasteyer have to put so much work into these sketches, and they are always flawless. I have said it many times before, you have to be a really good singer to make singing sound so bad. Ana is a voice major and did a duet on SNL with Sarah McLaughlin, and Will can't be that far behind as far as singing talent. So not only does this character get to showcase Will's blank grin and comic timing, it also gets to showcase his seldom seen singing talent.

The premise of nearly every Culps sketch is the same. There is a party or dance at a school, and the featured musical guest usually can't show up. So in come Marty Culp and his wife, Bobbi Mohan-Culp. They are middle aged and directors of the music program at Alta Dena middle school (which is a real city in California.) They have put together a medley of popular songs, based around the theme of the dance, and play it for the kids. The genius in these sketches lies in the fact that the Culps are possibly the two least hip people on the face of the earth, singing hip new songs. Bobbi wears this godawful blue high-collared old lady dress, and Marty (Will) has the stupidest Amish beard I have ever seen. Will totally gets into character, with this blank stare and his trademark (what I call) shit-eating grin in reaction to everything that happens around him. He also looks SURPRISED all the time because his eyes are WIDE OPEN at all times. But the Ferrell feature that really adds to this sketch is the way that Marty o-ver-e-nun-ci-ates ev-ery syll-a-ble. Watch how expressive his mouth gets when he sings. When he sings an "o" he really overemphasizes it. Another trademark of this sketch is Will dropping trite life lessons in the middle of a song: "Don't drink and drive, gang." Of course, Ana does many wonderful little touches to her character as well, but I'll stick mainly to Will's contributions this time.

You could really pick any of the Culp sketches as Will's best, but I am picking their second appearance on SNL. The first appearance was great (the Chevy Chase episode), but my favorite is the second. The Culps are last minute replacements at Woodrow Wilson high school's senior prom. The original band, the Scooby-Don'ts, are having van problems and it is the Culps to the rescue. I'm not going to transcribe the whole sketch, because it is impossible to accurately portray in print, but some of the songs have water themes since the prom theme is 20,000 Leagues Under the Prom. The songs they sing in this medley are:

* I Feel for You (Chaka Khan)
* One of Us (Joan Osborne)
* Where It's At (Beck)
(at this point someone in the audience gives the Culps the finger)
* Come Sail Away (Styx)
Special Note: Will seems to love Styx, in 1996 and 1997 he made reference to them quite a bit
* Rock Lobster (B-52's)
* Rock the Casbah (The Clash)

"Rock the Casbah, Rock the Lobster, Woodrow Wilson rocks the prom....."

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[OVERVIEW]
I don't really know a lot about Julia Stiles. Since she is mostly known for being in teenage movies, she really hasn't crossed my TV screen very often. I do know that she looks like a cat and has a deep voice. I can't even describe why I say she looks feline, she just... does. I really have no preconceived likes or dislikes about her, so this will be quite a nice unbiased review. Wait a minute, I just thought of something Stiles-related! Last year I bought 50,000 shares of stock in her movie, Save the Last Dance, on the Hollywood Stock Exchange website. It was selling for $3.00 a share. When the movie hit #1 a few weeks back, I sold all 50,000 shares at about $65.00 apiece. I made over 2000% profit because of her movie, so I take it all back. She is the best host ever and a wonderful human being.

Tonight's musical guest is Aerosmith. This marks a historic event in SNL history, the largest age gap between host and musical guest, at 75 years. Julia Stiles is 19 and Steven Tyler is, of course, 94. I can't believe they got permission to take him out of the nursing home and perform tonight.

As a small Aerosmith related note, they were the stars of what I consider the Most Unlikely Event in Movie History. In 1978, there was a movie version of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The movie fails on just about every level imaginable (i.e., George Burns singing "Fixing a Hole") but there is a climactic scene towards the end where two bands fight each other. In a stunning upset, The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton kick Aerosmith's ass in a fight. Now, c'mon. Frampton looked and acted like a teenage girl at the time, and he was MUCH tougher than the Bee Gees. How could they possibly beat Aerosmith in a fight? The only fight in movie history that was equally improbable was Rocky Balboa beating Drago in Moscow while the Russians cheered him on. But I could write a whole review about that movie, don't get me started. Just rent Sgt. Pepper's and watch Aerosmith get their asses spanked by some medallion-wearing fancy boys.

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[COLD OPENING]Martha Stewart St. Patrick's Day
Wow, an opening without George Bush. That's a first. Ana's Martha Stewart has always been one of the great underappreciated impressions on SNL, it is so darn accurate, right down to the blatant mispronunciations of words ("herbs", "leprechauns.") In fact, one of my favorite SNL moments of the past few years was when Joan Allen played Martha Stewart's mom. That was hilarious!

This was a great sketch, like all the Martha Stewart ones. Ana was a little saltier than usual, working in the phrases "pisswater beer" and "You must be Irish because my penis is Dublin." I'd never heard that last one before, that was pretty funny. By the way, I've never really understood the St. Patrick's Day stereotypes of drinking and puking because no one cares about the Irish or the holiday on the west coast. Out here St. Patrick's Day only means you can get Shamrock Shakes at McDonalds.

Good sketch, this impression never gets old. The ending was kind of overdone though, this didn't transition well into "Live from New York..." It shouldn't have been a cold opening.

Grade: B+

 

[MONOLOGUE]Julia Stiles and Tracy Morgan
How nice it is to see a young female movie star who is normal sized (not stick thin). Julia Stiles acts and looks just like a regular person, which is nice. Is she really tall or is Tracy Morgan just short? Hard to tell, but she was taller than he was.

Tracy's cameo was kind of pointless, but he was very funny. I don't know if it's just me but I have found him funny the past few shows. They mentioned that this was SNL's 500th show, but just in passing. There was a lot of speculation that Dan Aykroyd or Steve Martin should have hosted such an important show, but those guys are old news. I admit they could have picked a bigger "name" than Stiles but it looks like SNL wanted this to be just another show.

Tracy: "You know what they say: Once you go black you don't never go back!"
Julia: "C'mon, Tracy, you're smarter than that."
Tracy: "Uh, no I'm not."

Grade: B

 

[FAKE COMMERCIAL]Homocil: If your kid is a homo
I loved this commercial when it first aired and still love it now. Very edgy, very offensive, very well acted, very funny. I give it the same thumbs up that Will gave it at the end.

Grade: A

 

[SKETCH]Wake Up, Wakefield!
I really liked this sketch. This was Maya's first really truly funny and likeable character, and Rachel Dratch was born to play a 12 year old boy. Basically, it was a Wayne's World type show by middle school AV geeks. I laughed at nearly everything Rachel did as "Sheldon", particularly her lines about stuff being screwed up at home, her plea for people to stopping shoving people in lockers, and her hand gesture signoff at the end. Not to mention her nerdy brown slacks and tie. Great character.

Maya wasn't quite as memorable, but I liked how she talked in one big run-on sentence. Her voice was pretty funny too. Her obsession with Randy Goldman was nice, I liked how she flipped out whenever he was mentioned. Horatio and Julia were decent, nothing special. Although it's -always- nice to see Horatio in a subtle toned-down role.

I thought just about everything in this sketch was well done and funny. It wasn't really laugh out loud funny, though, just a sketch to be admired. I thought the awkward band nerds in the corner was a nice touch. Rachel Dratch will definitely have to play Sheldon again, hell, give him his own sketch. I would love to see more of these characters in the future.

Grade: A-

P.S. This was the second sketch in a row where someone breathed into a paper bag to stop hyperventilating (it also happened in the Homocil commercial.) Weird.

 

[SKETCH]The Post Office
I could swear these characters were used in the Airport Security sketch a few weeks back. Anyway.. Maya gets two featured sketches in a row, and she pulled this one off better than the first. She is really good at playing "attitude". Her comments were all pretty funny, and I snickered whenever she called a form a "forum." And I have no idea why, but Jerry Minor killed me whenever he opened his mouth. "What is it, girl?" Sometimes I find him incredibly funny, but he's inconsistent. Obviously the best part was Julia Stiles telling off the Postal Clerk and calling her a bitch. I didn't find it that funny the first time, but upon repeat viewings I found the whole sketch quite funny. It didn't hurt that I have to go to the Post Office weekly to get packages and nearly always encounter long lines and foul, bitter clerks like Maya.

I will take off points because it was basically the same as the Airport sketch, but I will add points because I f'ing hate the Post Office and the clerks that work there.

Grade: B

 

[WEEKEND UPDATE]Fey, Fallon, Schwarzenegger, David Copperfield
Highlights this week: Tina's Army beret joke ("These guys need a war!"), Jimmy's Robert Ludlum joke ("He died. . . or did he?) and Jimmy's lottery ticket theft joke ("The thieves made off with 6.5 million dollars, or nothing.)

Also, as the parent of a baby, I really got a perverse laugh from Tina's rectal thermometer joke. ("It is the best way to take a baby's temperature, and it really teaches the baby who is boss.") I'm just kind of speechless about that one, but I can attest that it is true.

Darrell's Schwarzenegger impression was great. From his opening line and pronunciation of "Fallon" he had me laughing. I loved that he was in charge of the entire universe as Mr. Universe. This was a really good impression.

David Copperfield made a particularly pointless cameo. Maybe he owed Lorne some money.

Grade: B+. No particularly great jokes, but the baby thermometer one neatly walked the line of good taste.

 

[SKETCH]Suel the Director
Wow, they dug up Suel from the dead? Shouldn't they at least have him resurrected by lightning like in Friday the 13th, Part 6? I was surprised to see him back, maybe Lucian Callo and Fagan will show up later tonight.

Julia Stiles made a wonderful old time actress, because she really talks like one and has some of that old time glamour. Chris Parnell, too, had a nice old style stage voice. Other than those two, this was a pretty unremarkable sketch. Suel is still kind of funny from time to time, but it's not like we haven't seen it all before. It certainly wasn't a bad sketch or an unfunny one, it was just kind of old and uninspired.

Although it was funny when he said "Action!" and it sounded like "Erection!"

Grade: C

 

[SKETCH]Beppe and Bushka
Ana's first line about her boss was really funny: "One time he told me I was getting a raise and then pointed to his pants." I admired the sheer bluntness of that line.

I laughed nearly the entire way through this sketch. I have always been a sucker for Rachel Dratch. She is so quirky and plays such odd characters. She is easily the most unique female SNL has ever had, and you either like her or you don't. She seems to take particular pride in creating the most unappealing and unglamorous characters possible. I loved her hard luck Russian cleaning lady. Every time the Americans had a complaint about their jobs, she topped it.

American: "I have to get home and tuck in my daughter."
Russian: "My daughter was killed for being a girl!"

Julia Stiles was pretty funny too, she was believable. In fact this whole sketch had some pretty good acting, particularly from Ana Gasteyer. But it boiled down to just another Rachel Dratch oddball showcase. She had one of her trademark rants at the end, where she gets all worked up and has this crazy bug-eyed stare and it makes me love her all the more.

Face it, oppressed Russians are funny.

Grade: A- if you like Rachel Dratch. D+ if you don't.

 

[SHORT FILM]The Doberman!
Apparently Adam McKay is starting to grow on me because I liked this one. Special bonus points because A) It was weird B) It was evil C) It featured a scary German guy D) Will was watching "Saved by the Bell" on his TV. I've always liked films where something strange happens and the director has the balls to give no explanation for it. Like, why would Will call the doberman attack service? I have never given an Adam McKay film a good review, but I'm feeling generous and this was his best one yet.

Grade: B

 

[SKETCH]Showtime at the Apollo
This was a decent sketch, better than it should have been. I've always considered Showtime at the Apollo to be one of the more ridiculous shows on TV. Maya did a great job mocking the current trend of singers overenunciating each note and doing unnecessary hand gestures (most recently, 12 year old bulimic Christina Aguilera.) Just the concept of a white girl from Wisconsin appearing at Apollo is funny in itself, particularly when you have the flawless Ana and Parnell as the parents. I don't think it's possible to ever pick two better SNL actors to play nerdy parents.

Julia's dancing and costume were pretty funny (loved the big hair). If they still did the Cheerleaders, she would have made a good guest star. In fact, she did the same sideways hand shuffling move that Will and Cheri used to always do. Jerry Minor's role was pretty pointless and not all that funny. He's so inconsistent, but I think he will be a star some day. Just not yet. Julia's extra dorky dance moves were really what separated this sketch from mediocrity, it takes a pretty good dancer to make dancing look so bad.

Grade: B-

 

[SKETCH]Willy Sluggs' Eye Poppers
Now here we have another instance where I found Jerry Minor to be really funny. I don't know if I'm just in a giddy mood tonight, but I'm finding nearly every sketch to be enjoyable. Jerry made this one much better than it should have been with the way he talked and mugged to the camera.

I loved how all the testimonials were so obviously fake and had vague details ("I'm a businessman, and I took a business trip on an aeroplane to an important business meeting at the stock market.") They all made me laugh. I also liked how Willy was nervous and alternated between timid and pissed off.

Woman: "How did you do that, Willy?"
Willy: "I aint telling YOU!"

It was pretty forgettable, but I found the whole thing to be silly and amusing. Jerry Minor just added a lot of little touches that helped rise above the average material.

Grade: B

 

[SKETCH]Der Lacheln Beherrscht (The Smile Masters)
I don't know where to begin.

This was possibly the darkest, strangest, most purely evil sketch I have ever seen on SNL. It was like glimpsing inside Kathie Lee's brain for 2 minutes. I also thought it was one of the best of the season, no question the most memorable of the show. But I give it a cautious endorsement because it was simply not meant to be enjoyed. I'm quite surprised it didn't feature Rachel Dratch, because it was very much in line with her humor (unpleasant and awkward).

To truly explain this sketch, we'll go through the writing process behind it. Let's say we are going to parody a kids' TV program. Hmmm... what's the best way to do it? Make it extra goofy? Feature large lovable stuffed animals? No, how about we try to frighten the children as much as possible. We will feature:

* Will Ferrell covered in ape hair, with bloody streaks on his face and wielding a hammer
* Chris Parnell, wearing a large scary pumpkin head and yelling at kids
* Horatio Sanz in a skintight bodysuit, screaming and wielding a giant pair of scissors
* A maid who wields a whip and screams at children
* A human ear
* A talking skeleton who cackles to children that "I'm inside every one of you!"
* A corpse who rises from his coffin and scares children
* Pictures of crying babies
* An image of a bloody knee

Oh, and we will set the whole thing in a meat locker with cow carcasses in the background. And it will be in German (the angriest sounding language around.) I had to admire the sheer amount of creativity that went into making this sketch evil. And there were a whole bunch of random images just thrown in with no explanation: * Why was Will playing a trombone in the credits? * Why did Helga have her arm in a sling in the credits? * What the hell was Horatio doing to that dog in the credits? * Why the plate with a piece of toast and a gun on it? * Why did Will hammer the ear? * Why did Horatio have scissors? * Why the happy carnival music at the end? * What the hell was that goop being squirted out in the last segue?

This was truly the ultimate LOVE IT or HATE IT sketch. I have to believe Adam McKay was somewhat involved in it, but in a good way. He seems to have a fascination with angry Germans. If you look at it from the perspective that it wasn't really meant to be enjoyed, I would think you have to admire the sheer audacity and pure unfiltered evil that went into making this sketch.

Grade: A

 

[SKETCH]Happy St. Patrick's Day from Guinness and Van Morrison
Not particularly funny or interesting. I don't know much of Van Morrison's work, but I know enough about Jimmy to assume this was a flawless impression. I didn't care for it, but if you know Morrison you will probably appreciate it.

Grade: C-

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[SUMMARY]
I thought this was a fun, enjoyable show. Like I said, maybe I was in a giddy mood tonight, but I found nearly every sketch to be funny. The featured players really took over, and all fared well. Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch and Jerry Minor all impressed me and all proved to be able to carry a sketch. That's very good to see, because they will have to do so more in the future when the old guys start leaving.

Julia Stiles was nothing outstanding, but she made me appreciate her more by hosting, so it should be considered a success. She has some old style glamour and sophistication that a lot of young actresses lack, and she pulled off some impressive accents and characters that would be a stretch for much more experienced actors. I will have to keep an eye on her career, I think she is quite talented. By the way, she looked especially beautiful in most of her still shot pictures.

My favorite sketch tonight was obviously The Smile Masters, although Wake Up Wakefield was probably the best. Good luck comparing those two.

Next new show is Alec Baldwin, who is always a good host. Until then, take care of yourselves, and each other.


Episode Review written by Mario Lanza


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