Brittany Murphy / Nelly
November 16, 2002

By Mike LeBlanc

SPORTS NEWS: "[Fanaticism over competitive sports is]
a way of building up irrational attitudes of
submission to authority, and group cohesion behind
leadership elements -- in fact, it's training in
irrational jingoism."

OTHER NEWS: The current consensus among military
analysts is that the U.S. will probably go to war with
Iraq in January or February. The object? Nothing less
than world domination!

PRE-SHOW THOUGHTS: I was shocked, shocked to read that
so many people disliked last week's Falconer sketch
which I thought was one of the highlights of a decent
show (the best of the year so far, apart from the John
McCain episode). I would rank tonight's show beneath
Vardalos and McCain but above the others. There were
no really outstanding sketches but it was somehow all
very watchable until the last half hour -- and, even
then, TV Funhouse and Nelly's song pepped things up a
bit. Plus, there were enough cameos, inside jokes, and
recurring bits to satisfy the undiscriminating,
die-hard fan -- though what the casual viewer made of
it is anybody's guess.

COLD OPENING: Instead of a political opening, we get a
religious one. God help us, it's SNL alumni Adam
Sandler and Rob Schneider singing a
not-exactly-inspired retread of an old SNL hit. Still,
it was nice to see them -- and it could've been worse:
Steve Martin could've sung "King Tut 2" ...

THE MONOLOGUE: Uh oh. Another song? Must be karaoke
night. Apart from Tracy Morgan and Lorne Michaels
conspiring to fix a wrestling match a few weeks ago,
there haven't been many backstage-intrigue-at-SNL bits
this season so this is sort of a treat. MC Dean
Edwards has little to do as West Coast SNLers square
off against East Coast SNLers at Home Base for some
pathetic rapping.

The odd thing is that there really does seem to be a
split. This is an oversimplification, of course, but
the NY/Chicago SNLers tend to be the charismatic types
(Fallon, Morgan, Sanz, Dratch, Poehler, Armisen) who
are often at their best as broad, clown-like
characters. The West Coast SNLers strike me as better
actors, more sophisticated and versatile (Kattan,
Rudolph, Forte). [I tend to view Hammond and Parnell
as transplanted southerners.] Naturally, there are
plenty of exceptions to the rule, if you can even call
it a rule -- it's more like a tendency: certainly
Kattan has played his share of obnoxiously broad
characters and Poehler usually turns in excellent
character work. But you can sort of sense a
difference. Maybe.

In addition to Sandler and Schneider, the lyrical
references to Laraine Newman, pimp daddy Lorne and the
"sampling" of Don Pardo reveal that tonight's theme is
not so much "the West Coast school versus the East
Coast school" but "old school SNL meets new school
SNL."

WELCOME BACK, POTTER: Speaking of old school, Harry
Potter goes back to his. Halfway through the set-up, I
guessed the punch line. But then I expected an entire
sketch to follow -- with Dean Edwards as Lawrence
Hilton-Jacobs. Perhaps fortunately, I was spared.

THE LEATHER MAN: Fallon in leather? Breaking up at the
unbreakable Sanz? It's every fangirl's dream. Still, I
wish I enjoyed this sketch as much as Fallon seems to.
And the punch line is a riff on one of the oldest gags
in existence. I think Hope and Crosby used it in a
road picture back about 1962 ... with Peter Sellers,
if you can believe it. Six minutes of this Carol
Burnett sketch (Sanz plays Tim Conway to Fallon's
Harvey Korman) is too much of a middling thing.

DONAHUE - IS LIBERALISM DEAD?: Rudolph steals this one
as a gauzy Barbra Streisand but there isn't much to
steal. Technically, Michael Moore is a radical, not a
liberal. And Al Sharpton is less a liberal than a
power hustler on the Democratic Party fringes. Donahue
and Streisand are the real deal which may be why
mainstream liberalism is allegedly dead -- or ought to
be. Actually, the Dems have lost the last few
elections by mere percentage points, hardly an
indication of death or even illness, just that they're
virtually indistinguishable from the GOP. Public
opinion polling indicates that the American public is
about as "liberal" as it ever was (maybe more so on
some issues) but that the political leadership has
steadily shifted to the "right" since the late 1970s,
hence the incredibly low voter turnout: people don't
bother to vote unless they've got someone to vote for.

Also, according to Human Rights Watch, of the almost
two million Americans currently in prison, a little
over sixty per cent are non-white, mostly black and
Latino men. So even though black and Latino men make
up only a fraction of the general population, they
make up the majority of people in prison. ...

JARRET'S ROOM: I can't summon much enthusiasm for this
recurring sketch. I like Fallon and Sanz but they have
little to work with here other than lame doper humor.
Brittany Murphy is brought in for some equally lame
doper humor of the legal variety. And Seth Meyers
scores with some lame '80s retro humor through the
sheer power of his considerable geekiness. Good for a
chuckle.

PRINCESS DI'S BUTLER: Yuck. The Eric McCormack episode
had enough strenuous gay-denial humor to last me the
rest of the season. And I'm as straight as an arrow.
Honest.

TENNIS TALK w/ TIME TRAVELING SCOTT JOPLIN: I laughed
at the sheer audacity of the premise and liked
Rudolph's Scott Joplin a lot. I wouldn't mind seeing
the character come back in another, better context.
He's tough as nails. Bad camerawork prevented us from
getting a good look at Joplin's funky shoes. They'll
have to showcase them next time. ... Meanwhile, we get
Tracy Morgan in drag two weeks in a row? Look out, Big
Man, they're turning you into (!) Garrett Morris. You
know you're in trouble when the toughest black male
character in the show is played, impressively, by a
woman.

NELLY AND KELLY: According to an article in Newsweek,
much of Nelly's fan base is in the white suburbs and
he must balance various audiences as he pursues his
spectacular pop-rap career. As one of his
disinterested non-fans here in the white suburbs, I
can only comment: groovy song, dude.

As usual, the musical guest is brought to you by
Alcohol. Remember, kids, there are an estimated 50 to
200,000 deaths every year in the United States from
alcohol-related illnesses. SNL is proud to mass-market
POISON to the American people. Way to go, SNL!

WEEKEND UPDATE: Speaking of alcohol, the evil and
unfunny Drunk Girl boorishly intrudes on the sober
comedy team of Jimmy and Tina (who go together like
Venus and Serena). Fallon, in fact, borders on Buster
Keatonish deadpan this week, delivering his jokes with
rare subtlety and in near-flawless English. Is this
the same guy who played The Leather Man? And decent
jokes all around.

I like the idea of Fallon as Buster Keaton. Maybe with
Dratch as Harry Langdon and Kattan as Chaplin, they
could do a sketch called Silent Movie Roundtable.
Hammond could play the moderator, Lon Chaney, Man of a
Thousand Faces. No dialogue, just violent pratfalls.

Later, Rudolph and Kattan do what they can with a
less-than-inspired bit as David Gest and Liza
Minnelli, the unreal couple who nearly had a reality
show. The impersonations are spot-on but something is
lacking. The only good thing about it is that it's
inspired my latest fantasy: Maya Rudolph wakes up in
my manly, loving arms every morning so I can tell her,
"Honey, I am so hot for your woman body, let's make
babies the old-fashioned way." Meanwhile, in the real
world, I'd settle for more sketches co-starring these
two talented actors.

ASTRONAUT JONES: Sandler and Schneider weren't enough.
We also get GARRETT MORRIS?!?!?!?! I recognized him
immediately and my instant reaction was: GARRETT
MORRIS?!?!?!?! Nothing has changed in twenty-two
years: he's still getting crappy parts. Garrett Morris
is to old school SNL what Zeppo was to the Marx
Brothers. Still, it was nice to see him -- and things
could have been worse: he could've sung the Astronaut
Jones theme song in drag while a superimposed text
scrolled past making fun of him.

TV FUNHOUSE: A perhaps-too-heavy-handed rip on Veggie
Tales but skillfully done, as always. The Crusades,
the Salem witch trials, and child-molesting priests
are such easy targets (and ones that can be dismissed
as aberrations by the faithful) that to attack them in
this context seems like overkill. The real target
ought to be the casual, everyday promotion of
irrational belief. Religious indoctrination of any
kind (against children or adults, with or without
singing vegetables) is enough of a crime in and of
itself that you shouldn't have to drag in the
Crusades. It's enough to drag in Adam Sandler -- SNL's
own religious, singing vegetable.

MY BIG THICK NOVEL: I am unable to summon the energy
to come up with a suitable zinger for this offal so
ground down am I by the sheer weight and mass of it.
The end, already.

NELLY: Funky.

NICOLE - THE GIRL WITH NO "GAYDAR": Like Astronaut
Jones, Nicole is a character that should be shot into
deep space. Both premises are so reliant on a tight
formula that not much variation is possible -- or,
more accurately, not ENOUGH variation has been
introduced to make them worth seeing again. The
eternal problem the writers face with recurring bits
is in resolving the tension between formula and
novelty -- and, in these two cases, they haven't
solved it. Maybe they should combine them: Astronaut
Jones lands on the Planet of the Gay Guys, meets
fellow space traveler Nicole who thinks she's on the
Planet of Available Single Men, and then asks to see
her gigantic space boobs.

GOOD NIGHTS: Sandler sticks it out to the very end but
contributes only his song? Booooo! A lost opportunity.

Credits cut off again but not before the shocking
revelation of: An additional sketch by Tom Davis? I
guess this was to make up for the additional sketch by
Al Franken two weeks ago. Is this as close as we'll
ever get to a Franken and Davis reunion? What the show
really needs is an additional sketch by Michael
O'Donoghue but I suppose that's asking too much, even
of Lorne. On the other hand, I was reading
O'Donoghue's short story "Fish Waif" the other day and
thought that, if it were adapted intelligently, it
might make a fine SNL sketch for Rudolph and possibly
Kattan. Lorne should look into buying the rights to
Mr. Mike's literary output for adaptation to the tube.
Excerpts from his old SPIN magazine column would make
terrific rants on Weekend Update.

POST-SHOW THOUGHTS: Tom Davis, okay. Adam Sandler,
sure. Rob Schneider, maybe. But GARRETT MORRIS?!?!?!?!
Suddenly, I have a vision of Laraine Newman's Sherry
squaring off against Robert DeNiro in a few weeks for
"Godfather Group Therapy, part 2."

It's Dean Edwards' worst nightmare: having to compete
for air time with GARRETT MORRIS?!?!?!?! -- and
losing!