A Little Verklempt: Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special

It’s a good thing I get President’s Day off, because otherwise I’d be taking a mental health day today. The SNL 40th Anniversary Special had me up to my eyeballs in feelings. I knew it would, because I remember how it felt watching the 25th Anniversary Special as an SNL-obsessed toddler teenager. Obviously we were primed to love everything on our screens last night, but here’s what I loved the most of the most:

Opening Musical Number with Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon

Did you start off counting the throwback references and quit because the number was so jam-packed? There were shout outs to Lazy Sunday, Dick In A Box, the Ambiguously Gay Duo, Matt Foley, the wild and crazy guys, Debbie Downer, the cheerleaders, the “don’t make me dance” lady, the Blues Brothers, cowbell, Mary Katherine Gallagher, and a bunch more.

The Opening Credits

The only thing missing was Don Pardo. Yes, I’m talking about the list of people who would appear in the show. During our high school masses sometimes they’d roll out the litany of the saints, where the school chorus would just bust out a list of Catholics. The opening introduction of SNL 40 was the closest I’ll get to a personally relevant litany of the saints. But with Sarah Palin in there also.

The Bass-o-matic

Do you ever have that dream that you’re on stage and you’re supposed to be performing a play you were in years ago? And you worry that you’ll screw up your lines and blocking, and in the good version of the dream as soon as you’re out there it all comes rushing back. I bet this felt like a real-life good version of that dream to Dan Ackroyd.

Jeopardy

ALL of my favorite Jeopardy idiots in one go? AMAZING. From Kate McKinnon’s spot-on human piddling puppy Justin Bieber, to Sean Connery’s filthy misreads of Let It Snow and Who Reads (Le Tits Now and Whore Ads), it was hilarious and – success! – went on for exactly the right amount of time.

Audition Reels

If there’s one thing that makes me verklempt (and there are a billion things, we did a whole week on it), it’s seeing successful people during those little tenuous moments before things started for them. Just the idea that they were living a normal-isn life and couldn’t know how much things would be changing is so sweet. The one that really got me was seeing a baby-faced, slightly nervous looking Amy Poehler. Andy Samberg as a jogger from 1982, Jimmy Fallon looking like he took a cab over after junior high, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig debuting some of their most famous characters – it was like when you see baby pictures of people you’ve only seen as adults.

The Californians

Everyone I know loves the Californians, and I only ever just liked it. This one was different. Laraine Newman cracked me up, Betty White making out with Bradley Cooper was the best thing I’ve seen in weeks, and even Taylor Swift’s wacky accent and hair-mustache were hilarious.

WEEKEND UPDATE DREAM TEAM!

Highlight of the night, here. I had hoped for a Tina/Amy reunion, or a Tina/Jimmy, Amy/Seth showdown, but I hadn’t even dared to dream we’d get Jane Curtin. Watching the clip reel of past Update moments, it’s really clear that some people are just better at it. They have the right combination of charisma and crisp, sharp delivery to make the jokes land hard. I’m not here to name names of the people who weren’t as good (though let’s just say that everyone I listed was amazing, and I think Cecily Strong had the makings of being darn good too). Anyway, whenever anyone starts the job, I think they should sit in a room and watch tape of Jane to see how it’s done.

[Sidebar: my favorite Jane Curtin story is also a Gilda Radner story. Compared to the coked-out masses of the early Not Ready For Primetime Players, Curtin was always very straight-laced and diligent. She had a stable marriage and was basically just normal. Gilda would go over to Jane’s house just to watch Jane and her husband Patrick Lynch make dinner and act like regular people. Jane felt like it was a little weird, but of course she let Gilda keep coming over because she so loved seeing regular, happy people in their natural habitat. So while Jane Curtin pulls off the stern, ball-busting news anchor thing, she’s a giant sweetheart at the same time.]

The celebrity tributes to their favorite characters was an adorable way to bring back Roseanne Rosannadanna (Emma Stone, who nailed it and looked like she was living a Gilda fan’s dream) and Matt Foley (Melissa McCarthy, physical comedy for DAYS). They were perfectly framed not as an attempt to replace Chris Farley and Gilda Radner, but as recognition of what all fans did growing up, impersonating recurring characters. And of course, no Update segment would be complete without the return of Seth Meyers and Stefan and the land shark at the update door.

Maya Rudolph as Beyonce

With appearances by Garth and Cat, Marty Culp and Bobbi Mohan-Culp, Opera Man, What’s Up With That, the Love Theme from Jaws, and the Blues Brothers.

Jerry Seinfeld Q and A

The audience Q and A is a classic SNL opener, and this one with an all-celeb audience was great. Ellen Cleghorne really stole the show though, didn’t she?

Tracy Morgan

Yes, I shed a little tear when Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin introduced a clip of Tracy Morgan, who is still recovering from last year’s car accident and couldn’t be there last night.

Digital Short: That’s When You Break

Andy Samberg and Adam Sandler are a perfect pairing, and it felt so right to celebrate the many times cast members have cracked up over the years. But mostly Fallon and Sanz.

In Memoriam

Look. I cannot watch Gilda Radner without my heart breaking and singing at the same time. I knew that part would make me cry a bit, and it did. There are some other cast members, like Phil Hartman and Jan Hooks, who were taken far too soon. But I was especially touched to see the tributes to the crew members who have passed on. Next time you watch SNL, pay attention to one non-performing aspect of the show, whether it’s sets or costumes or props or cue cards. The show wouldn’t have made it 40 years if they didn’t have one of the best crews in television. It felt so special to acknowledge their efforts, especially in a room full of performers from all different eras who knew firsthand how important these workers were. It was also fitting to end with a moment of levity, mourning the untimely loss of John Lovitz.

Mega-Goodnight

I should probably watch the goodnights in slow-mo, because it was like a Where’s Waldo of awesome people who I love. The whole night was, really.

 

 

Did I Do That?! Top TV Teen Nerds

Believe it or not, I wasn’t a cool kid. Yes, I know this might be hard to get your head around, but despite my appealing attributes – short, freckled, bookish, brillo-textured red hair — I wasn’t exactly homecoming queen.

However, I wasn’t so uncool that I was a total pariah. I was just more of a non-entity. I was also not a social striver: I figured whoever liked me, liked me and I wasn’t about to try to act cool to get cooler friends. First of all, I didn’t care enough*, and second of all, I don’t know HOW to act cool. Did those girls just get a special book at the beginning of every school year telling them what to wear and how to behave? Because if there was a book, I’d have been golden. I’m good at books.

* If you think this means I was too cool to care, let me disabuse you of that idea. I am just astoundingly lazy.

All of my favorite TV nerds are the same way. These characters aren’t all so dorky that people point and laugh at them in the hall. They’re just too busy being themselves to care what anyone else thinks. However, if they did put out an annual annotated guide on how to be cool, that’s not to say these characters wouldn’t have read it:

Millie Kentner from Freaks And Geeks

Although the entire cast of Freaks and Geeks really deserves a place on this list, I’d like to take a moment and single out Millie. Millie was that girl in high school who was a total goody-goody, but only because she actually liked wholesome activities and behaving. I can relate, as my main interests in high school were being obedient and exceeding expectations. Something about Millie is so earnest, it just tugs at my heartstrings. She isn’t so nerdy and well-behaved because she’s sucking up, it’s because that’s what comes honestly to her. Again, I can relate. I can remember one girl on my tennis team  who was acted like I was judging her because she was a “bad kid” and I was, well, hyper-compliant. I wasn’t — I just wasn’t interested in anything too badass myself.

Since I brought it up, tennis is the dorkiest physical activity you can join that still counts as a sport. Seriously. Even bowling might be cooler, in an ironic, blue collar, old-man way. Tennis: The Reading Of Sports.

Also this:

Seth Cohen from The O.C.

Seth Cohen made teen nerdiness hot. And God, do I still love him for it. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since we first met young Seth, who is the first and only person I would ever describe as being “adorkable.” From his snarky message t shirts to his enthusiasm for comic books to his dorky joy about introducing people to Chrismukkah, Seth was everything good about uncool adolescents. I also appreciated how Seth was into indie/alternative music, just like most of my unpopular friends. This just goes to show that most nerdy teens aren’t lame and boring, they’re just not into whatever is in the teen mainstream. Cohen reminds us that dorky teenagers are just one semester of liberal arts college away from being hipsters. Also, just look at him.

Sue Heck from The Middle

The Middle really does not get enough play. I think it’s funny (usually) and hilarious (sometimes). Like all teen nerds, Sue is supremely enthusiastic. Rather than understanding and accepting that she’s a geek, Sue has total faith that someday, she will be one of the cool kids. Because of this, she flies whole-heartedly into the nerdiest activities (see: specialized cheerleading squad for the wrestling team). I especially love her supporting cast of dorky Wrestlerette friends:

Lisa Loopner from Saturday Night Live

By far the most hilarious teen nerd on the list, Lisa Loopner had a chronic stuffy nose, frizzy hair, and a boyfriend named Todd. She may sound like a typical dork, but this character is played with classic Gilda Radner joie de vivre, and that makes all the difference. I… listen. Just watch this.

Lisa Simpson from The Simpsons

Lisa may be too smart to fit in at Springfield Elementary, but she’s also too smart to care… usually. While she does try to fit in with the mega-90s kids on her beach vacation and the occasional third-grade mean girl, she is usually pretty content filling her time with her music, inventions, and Thanksgiving diorama of influential women in U.S. history. However, she is still just a kid, and can be seen playing hopscotch with Sherri and Terri or pining over Malibu Stacy. Lisa isn’t technically a teen nerd, but she has the reading comprehension and math skills of a girl twice her age, which has to count for something.

Landry Clarke from Friday Night Lights

On paper, Landry (or Lance, whatever) doesn’t really sound like a nerd. He’s a high school football player in a land where high school football is king. He’s the lead singer and bassist in a garage band. He loves the lovely and sometimes-badass Tyra. He even may have committed a pretty big felony (seriously, what WAS that plotline?). However, life isn’t lived on paper. Somehow, despite all of these cool factors, Landry is kind of a dork. He’s also proof that sometimes dorks can emerge victorious. Or crucifictorious, I guess.

Fun fact: As far as I know, Jesse Plemons is the only actor who appeared in both Varsity Blues and FNL. Those, along with the times my high school won states, mark the trifecta of Things That Have Made Me Actually Care About High School Football.

Kimmy Gibbler from Full House

Kimmy Gibbler sucked. I’m not denying that. The thing is, I feel so sorry for her! It didn’t occur to me as a child, but she had three grown men living next door to her who mocked her mercilessly. Danny? Joey? Jesse? You’re bullies. Also, her BFF was kind of a dud. Remember when DJ forgot Kimmy’s birthday cake and made her a dish of hashbrowns with Happy Birthday written on it in ketchup? I sometimes use that as a metaphor when I’ve made really weak gestures of friendship. Try it for yourself sometimes. Kimmy did have some positive attributes, like being a pretty decent keyboardist when Girl Talk butchered The Sign (no, not that Girl Talk).

Steve Urkel from Family Matters

I wasn’t even going to put Urkel on the list. I think he forfeited his Teen Nerd title during the later seasons, when suddenly it was All Steffon, All The Time. I’m also still a little bitter that his affinity for cheese made cheese seem nerdy. I freaking love cheese. Come at me, nerd haters and vegans!

You gotta hand it to Urkel, though. He really knew how to deliver a nerd catch phrase.

Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel Air

He invented “The Carlton,” and that alone earns him a spot on the list. It’s got to be hard being a nerd when you live with super-cool Hillary and Ashley and your badass cousin from West Philly. Having so much money that you live in a full-size replica of the White House probably softens the blow a little. While mostly a classic uptight nerd, Carlton also knew how to let loose and dance.

Best SNL Sendoffs

Remember the pomp and grandeur of high school and college graduation? Saturday Night Live sendoffs are nothing like that, thank God. It’s more like that last get-together before all your friends took off for freshman year of college, or the final walk-through of your college house the week after graduation. It’s informal, and everyone is trying to be light-hearted. In most cases, you are genuinely happy for the opportunities ahead for your friends. But underneath all of it, there’s that knowledge that you have reached the end of the life you’ve gotten used to. A few tears, some laughs, and a lot of gratitude – here are a couple of my favorite goodbyes from cast members leaving Studio 8H.

Seth Meyers and Bill Hader

I wrote this post last week hoping against hope that I would be able to add another great goodbye from this weekend. I wasn’t disappointed. This included Stefan’s club attractions brought to life, Anderson Cooper, Amy Poehler, and the wedding of Stefan and Seth, who were sent off by all of the great Weekend Update regulars of the past several years. I loved it, and keep seeing new callback club characters every time I watch it. Which has been … some times.

Kristen Wiig

I cried watching this. I cried re-watching it. Then, I cried just thinking about it as an emotional Kristen Wiig took the stage as an SNL host this month. Everything about this was perfect. Poehler and Dratch even show up, which is exactly how I plan to leave every job ever.

A note: a few articles after the fact talked about how Jason Sudekis was clearly pissed off because he wasn’t clapping and dancing. I disagree – am I the only one who sees the man fighting back tears? I recognized the need to hang back, as another person who is terrible with permanent goodbyes. Seriously. When I said a prayer over my grandmother’s coffin, I think I told her “I mean, we’ll still get coffee sometimes or something.” When I visit graves of loved ones, I pray “don’t worry, we’ll totally keep in touch.” I get it.

Jimmy Fallon

We were just teens in the early 2000s, when this blog would have probably been hosted on Livejournal and called Cookies + Juiceboxes. And man, did we spend our fair share of study halls and lunch periods discussing the merits of Jimmy Fallon. So, how much did I love it when Jimmy went out on a parody of a classic high school flick right before we graduated high school for real?

On a related note, for all of you cringing at the YouTube video clearly snagged off of someone’s tv screen, let me tell you this. When I was in high school, we would have watched this as a camcorder video made of someone’s home VHS recording of the episode. And it would have been posted on Kazaa. And that’s if we were LUCKY, because we usually had to wait for someone to get off the phone so we could use the internet. I mean, we were practically accessing the internet via a tin can and string. You kids don’t know how comparatively okay you have it.

Gilda Radner

On my well-worn childhood VHS tape of The Best of Gilda Radner, there was the classic sketch “Dancing in the Dark.” I didn’t learn that it was also used as a farewell until years later. As fate would have it, Gilda’s dancing/comedy partner Steve Martin was hosting SNL the day she died, and this is how he said goodbye. Radner passed on early on a Saturday and there was time to assemble a tribute by showtime. Of course. In fact, she even would have been ready for prime-time.

A note: I wrote this post last week, as well as another mentioning Gilda that will be posted later in the week. I didn’t realize it at the time, but today marks the 24th anniversary of her death. The subconscious is a funny thing. Not funny “ha-ha,” like this classic song I’ll throw in for good measure:

Phil Hartman and Chris Farley

[http://www.buzzfeed.com/stacylambe/the-top-5-snl-departures?sub=1578360_309810]

Sorry for all of the tragedy and heartbreak in this post. I didn’t mean to. I still remember how shocked I was by both of these deaths.

All sorrow aside, this is by far the most ’90s thing you’ll probably watch all week.

Do you spy Sarah Silverman looking exactly the same 20 years ago as she does now? I think she bathes in the blood of virgins.

The only place I could find this video online was a Buzzfeed article with the exact same thesis as mine. No surprise there — Buzzfeed is always one step ahead of me. When I order a special at a restaurant, and they “just ran out,” I am almost positive that Buzzfeed ordered the last one. It’s like that.

Amy Poehler

As always, among the best of the best.