Trumping SNL

Is anyone going to watch Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live?  I won’t — but not because of any organized boycott.

Trump’s not my cup of tea.  I think he’s a buffoon and an offensive jerk who hasn’t even put on the pretense of studying the issues.  But what’s really pathetic is that Saturday Night Live invited him to be guest host in the first place.  It shows that SNL has reached the desperation stage and will try to do anything to get better ratings.

When I was in college the original SNL was must-watch Saturday night TV.  It was hilarious and absolutely nailed the ’70s.  And some of SNL‘s later iterations, particularly during the Phil Hartman and Will Ferrell eras, were equally good.  But the show’s been lame for some time now, and having Donald Trump on isn’t going to help any.

We’ve reached a kind of weird point in our culture, haven’t we?  A businessman becomes a reality show star with a catch phrase, then becomes a political candidate whose bombastic bluntness makes him popular with a segment of the electorate, and now he loops back to TV again to try to prop up the ratings of a once-great show.  Who’d have thought we’d reach the point where SNL needed a politician to get people to watch, and where a presidential candidate would move from a candidates’ debate to a late-night sketch comedy show?

I hope the show really sucks.



Theodoric of Cleveland

Today the Cleveland Browns announced that they were hiring Mike Pettine to be their new head coach. He’ll be their third head coach in three years, and his resume sounds a lot like the resumes of their last two coaches. He’s a guy who has had decent experience as an NFL assistant coach but has never been the head guy — just like Pat Shurmur and Rob Chudzinski. Shurmur was overwhelmed by the job and got fired after two uninspired seasons and Chud got the boot, unfairly, in my view, after only one season at the helm.

Who’s Pettine? He’s been an assistant coach with the Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, and the Buffalo Bills. These aren’t exactly the elite franchises in the NFL — Buffalo won just six games this past season. Pettine is a defensive guy, which could be a good fit because the Browns have some defensive talent. But who knows? He’s got a limited track record and limited experience.

I listened to some of the press conference for Pettine today and had to laugh when Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said the Browns were “thrilled” to have Pettine, who would be “tough, aggressive and innovative” and bring “a blue-collar, team-first mentality.” Who does Haslam think he’s kidding? Cleveland Browns fans may be ridiculously devoted, but we’re not blithering idiots. The Browns clearly hired Pettine because their coaching search had become an embarrassment. Cleveland was jilted and rebuffed by all of the hot coaches, who no doubt wanted to avoid a franchise that looks more like a clown show with each passing season. The Browns’ decision to can Chudzinski after only one season in which the Browns played without an NFL-caliber quarterback obviously limited the pool of people who would even consider a job.

I don’t wish Pettine ill. I hope that, against all odds and notwithstanding the obvious incompetence of the Browns organization, they found a diamond in the rough who succeeds famously. But the Browns have no credibility with me any more. Their front office is like a collective Theodoric of York, the medieval barber played by Steve Martin on Saturday Night Live in the ’70s. After Theodoric would kill or maim his patients with his quackery, Jane Curtin would confront him and say: “Why don’t you just admit it! You don’t know what you’re doing!” At the Browns’ press conference today, I was hoping Jane would make an appearance.

Weiner Rolled

Here is some good news:  disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner limped home to finish fifth in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary, getting less than 5 percent of the vote.

Why is it good news?  Because it not only shows that voters have good judgment, it hows that maybe — just maybe — we’ve gotten past the point where politicians and sports figures and celebrities are immediately forgiven by the American people simply because they appear in public and express regret for their appalling actions.

Weiner was repeatedly confronted by disgusted voters during his campaign, he was forced to admit that he had continued his misconduct even after he resigned from Congress, and he sank like a stone in the polls.  He was (or should be, at least) further embarrassed by his ill-advised reentry into politics and held accountable for his bad behavior, his previous lies, and his stunning willingness to expose his wife to even more humiliation.  (And, to top things off, another disgraced New York politician, Elliot Spitzer, also lost in his attempt to get back into politics.)

Some people may think these comments are unfair piling on a man who is down, and we should forgive and forget.  I understand that perspective, but I am fed up with people who abuse the public trust and then trade on their misconduct to achieve heightened fame and fortune and end up making jokes about their prior misdeeds on late-night talk shows.  I hope no network offers Weiner a “news” program in hopes that his notorious status will attract viewers.  I hope Saturday Night Live doesn’t recruit him to host a show.  I hope no reputable publisher will print a sugar-coated confessional.

I’m perfectly content to let Anthony Weiner live his life — but he should do so out of the public eye, without constantly looking to benefit from his past errors.

Those Carping Computer Voices

Whenever I am in the drive-through lane and have to unbuckle my seat belt to retrieve my wallet, an insistent computer voice repeats “Please fasten seat belt” until I comply.  (What, they don’t use definite articles in the computer world?)

When I am in the self check-out lane at our neighborhood Kroger, an annoying computer voice instructs me to “place item in the bagging area” — and it does it every time I scan an item and don’t instantly hurl it into a bag.  This computer voice is not only bossy, it also apparently thinks I’m such an idiot that I can’t remember a simple instruction throughout the check-out process, so it needs to remind me again and again and again.  I find myself speeding up the scanning and bagging process in hopes of avoiding that irritating voice.  (Hey, do you suppose that’s why they have the computer voice in the first place?)

It seems like everywhere we go we hear those aggravating, soulless mechanical voices telling us what to do and badgering us until we do their bidding.  I object not only to the dead-sounding voices, but also to the fact that the computer voices are always bugging us rather than encouraging us. Why not have a voice, sounding like the Bill Murray lounge singer from Saturday Night Live, that says “Looking good!” every time you get in the car, start the ignition and look in the rear view mirror?  Why not have the car say “Great driving today!” when you get to your destination and put the car in park?  Why not have the Kroger voice say “Way to go with the healthy eating!” when you drag the salad fixings across the scanner or “Hey, that looks good!” when you scan that frozen pizza?

We’re destined to hear hectoring computer voices for the rest of our lives.  I’d be more willing to put up with them if they paid me a compliment once in a while.

What Do Undecided Voters Want To Know?

We’re almost within two weeks of the election.

In Ohio, the campaign ads are airing non-stop, the candidates are showing up daily, and the polls are tightening.  All of this activity is focused on one group of people — the undecided voters.  After all of the debates, and campaign appearances, and TV commercials, you have to wonder:  who the heck are these people, and what do they need to know before they can finally make up their minds?

A few weeks ago, a Saturday Night Live skit had a pretty funny answer that probably isn’t too far off the mark.

We’ve got another debate tomorrow, and we’ll be discussing more serious stuff about the election as Election Day draws ever closer.  For now, though, we could all use a laugh.

The Comments Function, Free Speech, And Point/Counterpoint

Some bloggers disable the comments function on their blogs; I haven’t.  I think comments make our little blog more interesting, and I’m a big believer in free speech.  If someone wants to strongly disagree with one of my posts, and takes the time to write down their views, I’m happy to provide them with a forum — provided that their response stays within the broad range of decency.

If you read many popular blogs or opinion pieces on the internet, you quickly realize that comments often devolve into personal attacks rather than presenting any form of persuasive argument.  I think such comments — whether made from the conservative or liberal perspective — reflect mostly on the commenter.  Such attacks remind me of the classic Point/Counterpoint segment on the original Saturday Night Live, like this timeless treatment of the abortion debate.

In The Mood For A Classic

Sometimes, at the end of the work week, you just need to scratch that itch and satisfy that desire to see one of the sketches from the original Saturday Night Live — the greatest live comedy show in the history of TV.  And what better way to do so than to check out one of the classic “Two Wild and Crazy Guys” series of skits by Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin?

Great line:  “Don’t worry about disease!  In Czechoslovakia I was cured many times.”

Keep Your Eyes On The Skies

It’s bad enough that the Earth’s atmosphere is clogged with obsolete satellites and space junk of various shapes and sizes.  Now we are being warned that some of this stuff is going to come plunging to the ground as orbits decay and the inexorable tug of the Earth’s gravity becomes irresistible.

NASA is warning that the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite — which weighs 6.5 tons — is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere in an uncontrolled fall in late September or early October.  Of course, much of the satellite is expected to burn up on re-entry, but some of its component parts are predicted to survive and strike the Earth’s surface.

NASA officials note that, even after decades of re-entering debris raining onto the Earth’s surface, there are no confirmed reports of any actual injuries to people caused by the fall of fiery remnants of satellites gone by.  Even Skylab, the much larger space laboratory that plunged to Earth in 1979 — and became the butt of many jokes, including John Belushi’s classic piece on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, below — fell into the Pacific Ocean and remote parts of Australia without causing any apparent harm to humans.

Still, at times like this I’m glad that the Earth’s surface is mostly ocean.


The Man Who Put The Beat In The Beatles

Today is Ringo Starr’s 70th birthday.  He is celebrating with a private event at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York City, followed by a concert at Radio City Music Hall.

I always thought Ringo Starr was a vastly underrated rock drummer.  Because he was a character who became known for his “Ringoisms”  — like “a hard day’s night” — I think many people considered him to be less important musically than other members of the Beatles.  When Lorne Michaels offered some ludicrously small amount for the Beatles to reunite and play on Saturday Night Live, he specifically said that the other band members could give Ringo a lesser cut if they wanted to.  It was supposed to be funny, but it was a cruel joke.

Sure, Ringo didn’t write many songs or have many singing hits when he was with the Beatles.  (Ironically, for a few years after the Beatles split up, Ringo had the most post-Beatles hits of any ex-member of the band, with songs like It Don’t Come Easy and Photograph.)  Nevertheless, he was the man who put the beat in the Beatles.  He had rock ‘n roll in his soul and never let showmanship get in the way of keeping the beat.  Listen to the ferocious drumming on, say, Twist and Shout and you will know what I mean.  Anyone who likes to dance to the early Beatles tunes — songs like Dizzy Miss Lizzie or I Saw Her Standing There — should tip his cap to Ringo Starr because his excellent drumming made those songs easy to dance to.  Even on his one drum solo — at the end of side two of Abbey Road — Ringo seemed to focus mostly on the beat, and not on technical flourishes or showoff riffs that detracted from the rhythm.  Yet within that guiding framework, Ringo also was capable of inventiveness.  Rain and Come Together are two pretty good examples of that fact.

I think it is safe to say that the Beatles without Ringo would not have been the Beatles.  Happy Birthday, Ringo!  Let’s celebrate with this video of Rain:

White Hot !

Go to fullsize image

I’ve not watched Saturday Night Live in some time especially from start to finish, but when I heard that Betty White was going to host the show due to a facebook campaign I made sure I was home to watch this past Saturday.

I always enjoyed the characters she played, Sue Ann Nivens the host of a women’s show “The Happy Homemaker” on The Mary Tyler Moore Show back in the mid-seventies and Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls in the late eighties and early nineties. 

Betty has mastered the ability to entertain more than one generation and really good female comedians like her are a rare breed indeed. She did a terrific job on SNL. Click on the website below to view what I thought was one of her funnier skits.

From what I understand the SNL ratings were some of their highest they’ve had over the past couple of years so I wasn’t the only one watching. Cudos to the person that started the Facebook campaign to get her on the show.

 Enjoy !

A New Hope


Russell (as Han Solo) and Vassar buddies in their Star Wars costumes

I had to post one last Halloween item, after we received this picture of Russell and fellow Vassar College scholars on their way to a costume party, dressed as characters from the Star Wars movies.

I like the Yoda, Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewbacca costumes, and the Darth Vader costume looks decent, if incomplete.  But  have I forgotten a Star War character that looked like a wolf in sunglasses?  (Perhaps it was glimpsed at the Mos Eisley cantina where  Obi Wan Kenobi lopped off the arm of an aggressive bar patron who was troubling Luke.)  And what’s with the Johnny Depp lookalike in the background, dressed like Father Guido Sarducci from the early days of Saturday Night Live?

All in all, though, a darned good effort.

Theodoric of York

Theodoric of York

Theodoric of York

One of my favorite continuing Saturday Night Live skits of the 1970s occurred when Steve Martin was host. It was called Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber. Martin played Theodoric, a know-it-all medieval barber who treated all manner of ailments with the prevailing medical wisdom of the time. Bill Murray had too much mead at the May Festival and broke his leg after getting run over with an oxcart? Cover him with leeches and hang him upside down from the gibbet. Lorraine Newman is listless? Clearly caused by an imbalance of bodily humours, to be remedied by constant bleedings. When his patients inevitably died after suffering terribly, Jane Curtin would rip into him, closing with “Why don’t you just admit it? You don’t know what you’re doing.” Her speech would cause Theodoric to have a dimly perceived epiphany. He would then launch into a speech about “What if we followed a scientific method, where we formed hypotheses, and then tested them in controlled environments, to determine what actually works?” but then dismiss that radical notion with a “Nah!”

One of the funny things about Theodoric of York was the silliness of the remedies. How could the backward peasants of the Middle Ages believe that bleeding or leeches would cure anything?

I thought of Theodoric recently when I went in for my third colonoscopy. 500 years from now, humans no doubt will howl at the idea that people willingly went to doctors and had a long flexible tube with a camera at the end shoved up their keisters in hopes of detecting cancer. In fact, we’re not so different from our medieval ancestors. The reality is that people who hope for good health will endure all manner of indignities visited upon them by practitioners — be they barbers or doctors or faith healers — who promise to have the cure for what ails us.