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Comedy Stray Notes January 24, 2022
On the fastest sketch I've ever filmed, my friend's new hour, Will Forte hosting SNL and two comedy golden nuggets spotted on the world wide web
• Most projects take months from idea to completion. At least for me, usually a premise will pop into my head, I’ll throw it in a 105-page (and growing) file called “Twitter drafts” and file it away to write later. Then, once it gets past the writing stage, I might draw storyboards and toy with the idea of filming. If (and that’s a major if) it gets filmed, I’ll usually hold off two weeks before even looking at the footage. Then, I’ll edit. Next, I send the video to a few folks looking for feedback. I’ll take their notes into consideration and then finally, I will slow roll the video out onto Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Rizzle, Reddit and Sharezo.
It’s a real process.
Last Saturday though, I woke up with a fully formed sketch playing in my head. Never even wrote a word down- I knew exactly how it would look, sound and where the jokes were. When Anna got up, I explained the concept and she was ready to go even offering a few clutch punch-ups on the spot. A few hours later, we were filming. A local bakery even let us use their space as a location and the owner agreed to act opposite Anna as well. Later that night, I had edited the sketch. It was done.
In film school, you repeatedly hear about “Murphy’s Law” where anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. However, for this one 70-second sketch (it’s very short), every little thing went right.
If you want to see “Como Estas,” the easiest, fastest, cheapest sketch I’ve ever filmed, here she is.
• When I moved to New York, I went to A LOT of open mics. The first couple months are really tough when you have to prove that you’re in it for the long haul (ironically I haven’t done any stand up this year) but the best part is thanks to the allure of NYC, you meet other comics that arrived right at the same time as you forming an “unofficial class.”
One member of my “class” (at least in my mind) was fellow Arizona native Brian Bahe. Brian went to high school literally across the canal from my school in Central Phoenix and was at Arizona State when I was there. Somehow, we never crossed paths until we started doing Brooklyn mics though.
Over the course of the next seven or so years (leading up to the pandemic), I saw Brian perform everywhere almost every day. We ran a mic called “Home Runs and Strike Outs” at a sports bar off the Grand L train stop in a converted storage room in late 2016-early 2017, he hosted my goofy half hour I filmed in 2018 and somehow we ended up co-headlining an 8th grade graduation at a school in the Bronx (it did not go well).
This past Sunday, Bahe ran his “Reading From My Phone” hour at Union Hall and although it’s been a minute since I’ve seen him perform live, the kid’s clearly still got it. He opened by bringing a number of bodega treats like Muscle Milk, La Colombe cold brew, Mountain Dew, Doritos and a “Warhead for dessert” onstage since “talking for an hour is a long time.” From there, he launched into material about his Native American heritage starting with a humorous Land Acknowledgement and a family slideshow accompanied by a sweet voicemail from his mom reviewing “The 15:17 to Paris.”
The hour-long set peaked with a grand finale fit for television. Without giving anything away, Brian recounted a botched orgy invitation and escalated the awkwardness by reaching back out to the person he hadn’t contacted for months.
You’ll have to wait for the release of this freewheeling special to find out what happened.
• SNL proudly lets its freak flag fly during the show’s final five minutes every week and I love them for that. Just last week, they saved the spot for a sketch that took place in a “Texarkana” restaurant that didn’t make a lick of sense.
This week, they gave the entire 90 minutes to “the king of the five to one” Will Forte.
To me, this was far and away the best episode of the season thus far. I’m a bit biased since Forte is one of my all-time favorite cast members but there were more quality laughs here than any other show in this already standout season.
As usual, here’s my baseball-themed rundown breaking down the show by home runs all the way down to whiffs (there were none this week):
Will Forte monologue: Paying homage to his fellow castmates that have hosted the show before him, Forte bitterly makes light of his slightly smaller celebrity than his fellow show alumni. A great subtle nod to his relative lack of mainstream success gets heightened perfectly by a surprise Wiig cameo and then a rare Lorne appearance. This was catnip for any SNL obsessive as it was equal parts self-referential and downright hilarious.
MacGruber: I wanted “The Falconer” but gladly settled for this three-part runner. In each installment, Forte ballsily plays the anti-vax QAnon card amping up MacGruber’s grotesque right winger evolution. Had a lesser comic been handed this material, this series of sketches would have come off as cheap and immature but Forte’s brash idiocy and shamelessness toes the line of cringe comedy and satire beautifully here adding a new dimension to MacGruber.
Kid Klash: As always, I was a bit upset when I saw the elaborate game show set in the interstitial commercial break before we made it to the actual sketch itself. The game show format is so tried and true, it puts me to sleep. Leave it to Forte though to take something commonplace in a wholly new direction. Here, his game show host cruelly forces Aidy Bryant’s child contestant to search for the hidden flag in a vat of whipped cream. Slapstick mixed with menace is not at all what I was expecting but is now all I want from every game show.
Threesome: Once again, a sketch that would have flopped without the presence of Forte, scores. Here, Heidi Gardner and Mikey Day add a “third” to spice things up in the bedroom. That third is a nutso bleach blonde comic creation by Forte named Gannon. Not only does this Gannon undermine Day any chance he gets but his demonstration of how he would make love to Gardner and “fight off” Day was so visceral and graphic, the sketch quickly jumped into classic territory.
Weekend Update: In a long line of “home run” worthy Updates, tonight might have been my favorite of the year. This go-round, the co-anchors were joined by Bowen Yang’s unhinged Chen Biao making fun of NBC correspondents reporting on the Beijing Olympics from Stamford (“have fun walking home from the Metro North at 2 a.m., Grayson”), Sarah Sherman mocking Jost twisting his words every which way morphing his bashful interactions into accusations like “Local Female Body Inspector Colin Jost prefers hairless genitals” and best of all Alex Moffatt’s “guy who just bought a boat” needling Jost yet again for his joint ferry purchase with fellow Staten Island resident Pete Davidson which led to fits of giggles from the King of Staten Island.
On the jokes front, there’s an amazing jab at “Gen Z icon” Kyle Rittenhouse’s attempt to get his rifle back that needs to be heard rather than ruined in a newsletter by me.
Jackie and Clancy: Somehow, we didn’t get a true “ten-to-one” sketch from the ultimate “ten-to-one” master but this was close enough in spirit and in the show’s rundown to work for me. Employing the “silly song” blueprint that Wiig can do in her sleep, she and Forte sang nonsense lyrics on their “Songs About Spaceships, Toddlers, Model T Cars and Jars of Beer” album that were so goofy and illogical (“and now they’ll meet the wrath of God and burn in toddler hell” was particularly inspired) that you just have to give in and laugh.
The Ingraham Angle: In any other episode, this cold open would have been a home run but this episode was so jam packed with comedy goodness that I had to drop it a few notches since I’m grading on a curve here. While funny, my major gripe with these Fox News pieces is they oddly give a platform to right wing ideology. Even if it’s satire, it’s weird to be critical of modern politics from the right’s perspective no matter how distorted it is. All that being said, the mourning of America’s dad Robert Durst was a helluva misdirect.
*I feel bad for the SNL writers who have to watch hours of Fox News to find new things to parody each week but someone’s gotta do it.
**James Austin Johnson trotted out his Trump again and by having him get his point across via Wordle was equal parts timely and smart. By refreshing the “Trump gets a long winded message across via an unconventional medium” bit, they avoided stagnancy (even though we really don’t need more Trump exposure as funny as this gag is).
Cinema Classics: Once again, I’ll be a bit of a downer and admit I’ve never been a fan of this recurring sketch where classic Hollywood movies are reimagined with goofy scenarios. However, the simple inclusion of Forte in the mix makes anything instantly better (did I mention I was a biased fan?). Here, his character repeatedly gaslights his wife (McKinnon) in a parody of “Gaslight.” The manipulations like, “That’s not a book, it’s a rat!” are more harmless than biting but the kooky performances are so fun, that it’s hard not to appreciate the wackiness here.
• When Kenan introduced this sketch as his long-running Reese De’What character, he stumbled over a line. Now I’m not the world’s biggest Kenan fan but I think in his 17 (!) years on the show, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him flub a single piece of dialogue. Gotta give credit where it’s due.
Finally, NBC posted one “cut for time” sketch. Occasionally, they’ll spoil fans and give us two or three but I’ll settle for this week’s parody of ESPN’s First Take. This ridiculous six-minute sketch features a dead-on Stephen A. Smith impression by Chris Redd spouting out hyperbolic statements against Kenan’s Michael Irvin. Eventually, they’re joined by Forte’s crazed football website owner who’s just as loud and opinionated. The sketch makes one point and makes it well- people on TV will argue about anything.
Also, I have to give Kenan credit. His confident delivery of “it’s as American as orange pie” line defending oranges over apples was comedy gold.
• The New York Times puts out a weekly “What to watch this weekend” newsletter that I read pretty religiously on Friday afternoons as soon as I get out of work. I rarely actually get around to watching their recommended selections but this week, their first suggestion was called “The Last Open Mic At The End Of The World” and I couldn’t not watch it.
This 11-minute comedy doc/thing, filmed at the height of the pandemic in 2021 Los Angeles, is a sublime snapshot of COVID-era comedy. In it, Megan Koester plays an ambivalent open mic host perched in a garage waving in comics in cars to perform for her one at a time like a drive through.
No one gets that much stage time- Koester cuts between acts ruthlessly making their crazed sets seem slightly more manic and sadder than your average amateur hour- but the open mic vibe is unmistakable. Half-baked material, overly confessional rants and a nutty conspiracy theory courtesy of Tatenda Mbudzi are all met with utter indifference from Koester. One moment in which she plays a sad comic off with the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” theme was genuinely shocking for its pure heartlessness.
If this really was the last open mic, it’s a rough but entertaining way to go.
• 50 years after its initial release, George Harrison’s enduring “My Sweet Lord” finally gets a music video. Harrison is barely in it though.
The seven-minute short starts with Mark Hammill (yes, Luke Skywalker) explaining to Fred Armisen that he needs to go on a mission to track down “something that he wants him to see.”
What follows is a scavenger hunt cameo extravaganza featuring “Portlandia” veterans and alt-stars like Vanessa Bayer, Moshe Kasher, Natasha Leggero, Reggie Watts, Patton Oswalt, Weird Al, Brandon Wardell, Jon Hamm, Tim and Eric, Garfunkel and Oates, Taika Waititi, Kyle McLachlan, Three Busy Debras and a bunch more searching for something in suburban neighborhoods and retro movie theaters.
There’s not much of a story other than that and a cryptic message that “what you’ve been searching for has been in front of you all along” but when one of the greatest songs ever written is accompanied by a video featuring all your favorite comic actors and Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh and Jeff Lynne, there’s little reason to complain.
• Might be dropping a big project this week. Watch this space, friend. There might just be a cool surprise waiting.
RIP Louie Anderson.
Christine Baskets forever