Jack Black / John Mayer
October 4, 2003

By Memory

THE WAIT:

Season Premier! Is it just me or does it seem we had to wait forever to get our season started? Also, have the websites been a little tight on dishing good gossip and leaking about who was hosting? There are just one or two sites that have said which cast members would be on, who would be leaving, etc.

THE CAST:

At long last, we get to see the cast members. Rumor was true. Long-time men-in-waiting Jeff Richards and Seth Meyers have finally been promoted from Featured Players to Repertory Players. Long-time Featured Player Dean Edwards? Rumor that he was leaving ... is confirmed! However, if anyone knows under what circumstances, LET ME KNOW. I want to know whether it was voluntary or whether SNL or NBC canned his ass so talk to me! Please resist the temptation to write as to whether he should have stayed or gone, I know, I know, I know!!

Rachel Dratch

Darrell Hammond

Jimmy Fallon

Tina Fey

Will Forte

Seth Meyers

Chris Parnell

Jeff Richards

Maya Rudolph

Horatio Sanz

Featuring:

Fred Armisen

Finesse Mitchell

Kenan Thompson

Let me just add that I thought Will Forte and Fred Armisen were equals last year, even though I prefer the humor of Fred Armisen in his over-the-top goofy way as Ferecito and as the drummer in the Buddy Mills act at the "Rialto Grande" and as Gabe Fischer. I realize that OBJECTIVELY Will Forteís rather quiet humor as Tim Calhoun and "The Falconer," for example, could resonate with others. Will is the White Stripes of comedy, whereas Fred Armisen is the B-52's of comedy. HOWEVER, despite my objective belief that Will and Fred are equals, I am subjectively, horribly disappointed that Fred didnít get promoted. DOES ANYONE OUT THERE understand the difference between the featured player and the repertory player anyway? Itís more than money? What? Write me if you know the difference.

Also, right now it seems weird to dump Dean and hire two performers who share something other than color: they are unknowns. Has anyone caught their acts? What is their style?

THE INTRO:

I have been told that Dave Meyers, whom P!nk believes is "a genius" (cite: VH1's Top 20 Countdown during the "Get This Party Started" video) has directed the new opening montage. This I could not wait to see. I WAS NOT DISAPPOINTED.

Love, love, love the intro. What I like about the opening montage is that it is about Saturday night in NYC. Itís about all the hustle and bustle of the city and the excitement of being young, single and having money to burn in the city. It has a theme, as stated above; also, it has various humorous and visually stylistic scenarios with a point of view from a male voyeurís perspective. Voyeur as in "observer" and NOT as in pervert. To illustrate: Chris Parnell grabs the cab away from the viewer. The viewer pays the cabbieís fare, played by Jeff Richards (the only one who is ACTING in the intro; everyone else is supposedly playing themselves being "out".) The viewer talks to a pretty barfly and gets dissed. The viewer lifts a spoonful of soup to his unobservable lips. The viewer and Horatio Sanz have a shot. Good concept, and well done. If one thing I could pick on exists, itís that it makes me a little motion sick because it moves quickly and itís sort of disorienting. In! all, a top notch production.

Now, for the review!

THE SHOW:

1. "Californians For Schwartznegger."

Darrell as Arnold.

Rating: thumbs up.

The deal is that Arnold is putting out five step plan to make California better, but his plan is lacking in detail.

We know that Darrellís voice acting is awesome. No surprise: his voice acting is awesome in this sketch. To my surprise, the real star is the writing of Arnoldís Austrian-English dialect, and Darrell knows this. To illustrate, "People think (X, Y & Z) about me; this is not so." "To Arizona, to Nevada, jobs go away, away, away." "I am against the criminals." You get the gist, ja? The subtitles of the details of his plan were silly, but they worked to illustrate that we donít really understand his English and to highlight just how empty his plan is. Think Miss America Pageantís interview and you get the hang of this sketch.

Nitpicks: could he look anything less like the a Terminator? Hans and Franz looked buffer. Also, does he break up a bit over the line with the gerbils and hamsters in the butt? I would have left out. Gerbils and hamsters up the butt ceased to be funny a long time ago in California. Maybe itís still funny in the midwest or south though.

2. Jack Black Monologue.

Rating: Thumbs up.

Like a brick, you notice a new set! I am thrilled. It is bright and warm with golden undertones and it still looks grimy without looking depressing. Itís needed a revamp forever. That and the fact that for some reason most of the hosts wear black when they pop out the door, and I feel that that aspect, combined with those dreary sets, say that itís 1989 and Goth is still in.

Jack is in dark blue, and his haircut is bad, like a character actor in Hunchback of Notre Dame. He looks diabolic in his face. The monologue starts off how he is now HUGE, that he has gone from superstar to megastar but heís not going to let it go to his head. He starts promisingly by going into the audience, just like a real SNL star. He razzes members of the audience a bit. Then, he starts up a song! Think Steve Martin singing about giving 100% tonight, or Mike Meyers extolling the pleasures of hosting.

Overall, I would say his song was the best one Iíve seen. Because (1) I love Jack Blackís humor, I just love him! (2) He gets involved with the entire cast and the audience. I didnít like the "meet his kids" bit with his Hollywood adopted kids and the wannabe Juggy nanny. Or the grabbing the boob and tonsil exam of a fan. But he is gold, gold, gold I tell you in other places. The guy who he makes to look into his eyes and his diabolical glare. The botox shots in the head. The fan he assumes wants an autograph of his guitar (and the autograph on the guitar). Pure gold! But the part I like best, of course, was the entire cast behind him and the group participation in the song, including the scat number with (surprise) Will Ferrell (earlier seen while Jack shoves him in the face pushing Will down)!! Itís like seeing an old friend, isnít it?? Also, I have to admit that Jack has a great voice for an actor of his particular qualities. He doesnít sing like a crooner or a theatre! actor but he sings loudly, on key, and with expression. Good presence, good song, good writing, good incorporation of live TV and a great new cast.

3. Advertisement: Huggies Thongs.

Rachel and Maya.

Rating: thumbs down (for concept).

The deal is that two moms discuss replacing the unsightly bulky diaper of their toddlers with the more attractive and slimming thong diaper. I liked the technical "commercial" acting of Maya and Rachel but I didnít like the writing. I guess I thought the concept of the thong diaper was too flimsy (so to speak). This was a miss compared to the hits of the retro Kotex and the Mom Jeans of the 2002-03 season. Maybe itís because even I refuse to believe moms are that concerned about having their babiesí butts look fat, even today.

However, I should compliment the film editors who made the tiny butts of the babies move to the music. Also, the urban music and singing, "thong thong thong" was a nice touch and very hip. The sight gag of the bare baby butt in the thong diaper was funny, but I couldnít get over the stale concept and Iím just really, really picky and hard to please.

4. Advertisement: Queer Eye for the Straight Girl.

Tina as the victim; Rachel, Jack, Maya, Amy and "the mystery woman" as the lesbian design experts.

Rating: thumbs down (for writing).

The deal is that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was so good, why not achieve the same success with lesbian designers? The underpinning is that lesbians, while good politicians, are poor designers.

Rachel is the fashion designer and looks like KD Lang. Jack is the interior designer, and looks like Rosie OíDonnell. Maya is the culture expert, and looks like a ë70's Maya Angelou type in a ëfro. Amy is the sports stylist and is dressed like a jock. The mystery lady is??? It sort of looked to me that she may be Jackís mom! Hmm. The acting was good, especially by Rachel and Maya, and the costumes and the style of the sketch was good. It was again the writing. Ugh. Not a "carpet" joke! Please, Tina. Carpet was funny last season but you should aspire to seek new horizons. However, the buffalo check shirt joke was very funny. Theyíre basically three of the same shirts and they have three different purposes, including one for meeting with the adoption people! That joke killed meñRachel does get some really good lines and is very consistent. Maya should be complimented on her voice acting of the Womb poem and throughout. But otherwise, the writing of the sketch is a bit tired! .

5. MTVís Wade Robson Project.

Seth and Finesse as the emcees, Maya, Amy and Jack as dance contestants.

Rating: thumbs down (concept, writing, acting).

Jokes involving white hiphop wannabes and anything surrounding MTV are in general not going to do much for me. This sketch had all of the worst. I hate MTV and have since they dumped videos for Spring Break and Real World. I hate urban dance contests. Ugh.

Please also pronounce your western states correctly, Finesse. You sound like youíve never left Long Island if you cannot pronounce Oregon or Nevada! Itís "Or a gun" not "Or a Gone" and itís Nevada, not NeVAHda.

Seth and Finesse both are doing the urban hip hop thing. Maya and Amy play Las Vegas skanks, although I am not buying Maya as a hookerñno hooker would get biz dressed like that in Vegas. The dancing of Maya and especially Amy is good. Then Jack shows up he can dance Russian, which was good and cracked me up. But altogether, a sad introduction to the new featured player.

6. Art of Italian Cooking class at the Community Annex.

Jack as the teacher, Rachel as Ruth Weinstock, Fred as Gabe Fischer, Horatio as Vasquez and Chris as Pete.

Rating: thumbs up (acting).

Recurring: The deal is that four socially pathetic characters are taking community education; here an Italian cooking class taught by an ethnically Irish chef as slob.

I am pleased these characters get a comeback! Tracyís departure created Chris as his replacement (I think Tracyís character was the weakest anyway, despite being a Tracy fan). If you donít already know, Gabe is a Woody Allenesque lonely guy played by Fred with excellent voice acting and mannerisms. Ruth, played by Rachel, is a lonely, older librarian type but horny as hell. Vasquez is a moron with a bow tie and an inner city dialect, played by Horatio. Pete, the new guy, is a white male with a bitchy wife that is making him go to cooking class because he complained about his wifeís cooking.

I donít know which character last year cracked me up more, Gabe, Ruth ("Hello! Package for Ruth Weinstock!") or Vasquez ("Iím going to make macaroni and cheeses!"). Here, you have it all. Gabe discussing the erotic component of fresh vegetables, Ruth and jokes regarding drunken sex, and Vasquez wanting something "other than peanut butter and jellies." (Do you have to be latin to to get that one?) Pete is also funny as the angry henpecked husband (as the loser is Chrisís favorite recurring role, think last seasonís Wayne Bloater). However, he is slightly angry which is even funnier than as if he didnít realize he was a loser.

Jackís character is sadly a long visual gag involving his bushy lionís mane of untamed locks, but thumbs up regardless since I just love these characters.

Nitpick: at one point youíll notice Jack glued to the teleprompter. Horatio haters will relish Horatioís possible break up with the garlic remark, but hey, heís just funny so what the hell. Just quit being a ham and be funny, dude.

7. TV Funhouse: Yankee Superheroes.

Rating: thumbs down.

The deal is: ?? No clue here. Maybe itís another version of George Steinbrenner is insane?

All I know about the Yankeesí owner and manager I learned from Seinfeld and other SNLís. No surprise: I didnít get this cartoon and I bet only NY locals and baseball fans got this too. I gotñand laughedñat the Mariah Carey joke (making out with her enabled Derek Jeter to emit a brain-liquifying shriek). I challenge Bob Smigel to surpass the concept of the Charlie Brown Christmas cartoonñthe classic. Sorry, this was sort of out there and I didnít get it.

8. John Mayer.

I donít rate the musical talentñbut a season too late, JM finally is invited to appear. I live for JM but donít know the new songs. The same vibe but less energy as Room For Squares. He no longer looks like a college kid, but more like a grad student.

9. Weekend Update.

Tina, Jimmy, Jeff as Rush Limbaugh, film review by Finesse, Maya as Wanda Sykes and Kenan as Bill Cosby.

Rating: thumbs up (Jeff, acting, writing).

Todayís news included the California Recall, the Rush Limbaugh quarterback comment, AOL Latino, and Al Sharptonís candidacy for president in 2004.

Big thrills: I love Jeff Richardsís impressions. He really shone today as Rush Limbaugh! A truly Darrell Hammondesque production, but with better pacing (Darrell can be a bit too slow, probably from playing slow-talking Clinton for years.) Good makeup and costuming. Excellent voice acting, mannerisms, and writing, but to credit Jeff, Jeff is in character 100%. He really loses himself, which is good, since he kind of creeps me out otherwise. Itís like Jeff is looking for a way to lose himself, almost and thank god he wasnít dumped when it seemed he wasnít being used. His impressions really started to rock me last year and please keep it up, talented cast. The sight gag with the hammer was a distraction though. A bit too Gallagher for me (as in Sledge-O-Matic, NOT as in Mary Catherine).

More thrills: Mayaís impressions can be good, but putting her as Wanda Sykes opposite Kenan as Bill Cosby was really cool. But Kenanís impression of Bill Cosby was spine chilling! Even though he didnít get a whole lot of lines like Jeff, his lines were so crystalline Bill Cosby it made me wonder if Bill himself were saying the lines. Itís too hard to imitate Wanda, but Maya tried hard. This was my first glance at Kenan and I thought he was good, but it may be hard to get over how short he looks.

Also, a solid stand-up act by Finesse, although I have to pick on his material: isnít Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Shrek a little old? I have to say, as hackneyed as it is to mock the african american in the theatre experience, itís real and itís funny. Think Scary Movie, think Dean Edwardsís African American Archives. So it was funny and I liked the cheerleading bit and the reading the subtitles aloud and with a finger.

10. The Wheel Folk Music Club

Jack, Horatio and Amy as Shelley Long

Rating: thumbs down

The deal is that Jack is playing folk songs on his guitar and playing to his absentee dad, who is sitting in the audience.

Although Jeff, Kenan, Maya and Rachel are in the audience, they donít have lines. I thought the concept of this sketch was a half-baked attempt to get Jack to sing and play guitar. Horatio is actually acting here instead of hamming. Yet Amy gets to ham as Shelley Long. I didnít get why Horatio was married to Shelley Long. They sing Cheers together at the end.

11. John Mayer.

12. Tuscany: Wine Cellar.

Jack, Seth as wine grower son, Horatio as wine grower dad (Maya and Rachel have no lines but they are the daughter and the mother, respectively).

Rating: thumbs down, bad everything.

The deal is that the family cellar has to impress the English wine critic with their wines and the critic is not impressed.

I didnít like a similar incarnation of this sketch with Chris Farley and Norm MacDonald and, no surprise, I didnít like a repeat of a crummy idea. Plus, I saw this coming by Sethís wearing of an ugly ecru shirt. The gag is that Seth gets red wine spat on about eleven times by the critic and once by the dad. Regardless of how funny the spitters are, itís not a funny concept and it cannot be acted right. I can only say, why did they stoop to put this in the show tonight?

13. Excellacom Telemarketing LLP

Jack, Chris, Kenan, Amy, Maya and Will.

Rating: thumbs up, concept, writing and acting/musical performance.

The deal is that itís the last call ever to be made by the workers of this company and it is the subject of another song.

This sketch was effective as the final sketch and wrapped up the show nicely. In song, Jackís character expresses how the dream of being a telemarketer is ended, and satirically laments the lost days of harassment by magazine salesmen, debt consolidation and real estate sales. Willís only line tonight was in song.

I should add that

OVERALL:

HIGHLIGHTS:

The monologue is tied with Jeff Richardís Rush Limbaugh. Jeffís Rush was a rush, but Jackís monologue and song was a sustained high point.

LOWLIGHTS:

Tuscan Wine Cellar and MTVís Wade Robson.

MOST USED:

Tonight I would say Horatio or Maya.

UNDERUSED:

Will and Chris.

BEST CONCEPT:

Telemarketing.