Sometimes, you see a date on the calendar and get excited about it. For me, on a personal note, Saturday night was my birthday. For Jenny Slate, it was her debut on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Neither of us ended up with the night we quite expected or dreamed it would be, but we both had a night to remember; Slate, a little more so.
For the record: I counted 61 mentions of frickin’, frick, frig, friggin, freaking and f*ck in the sketch “Biker Chick Chat” that aired live at 12:42 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009. Jenny Slate wrote the sketch herself. It went completely fine during the dress rehearsal earlier Saturday night. There was no conspiracy. It was a slip of the tongue, pure and simple. Well, in as much as saying f*ck on live TV can be considered pure. Slate misfired on the 12th utterance of the profanity (so for you numbers fans, it wasn’t unlucky number 13, but the dirty dozen that did her in), and after visibly catching her breath, she, Kristen Wiig and host Megan Fox continued with the talk-show sketch through its conclusion. SNL’s head writer, Seth Meyers, also hugged Slate right behind Fox during the good-night thanks segment, and that pic is shown on NBC’s own site so we can see the public sign of solidarity.
Within minutes (nay seconds, thanks to Twitter), the Internet was abuzz about Slate’s slip, and multiple videos of the sketch appeared on the YouTubes. Rachel Sklar at Mediaite compiled more than a few of them and also noted the coincidence that U2’s Bono was on the show (he had faced FCC complaints after he had dropped an F-bomb during a live awards show years ago). And in NYC, it was only just a few days ago it seems (because it was) that local FOX anchor Ernie Anastos misspoke during a live TV promo telling his co-worker to “Keep f*cking that chicken.” He apologized and the world moved on. Slate should be fine, too.
Of course, the fact that that’s what we’re talking about and not Megan Fox or the show itself means that Slate’s accident makes her debut a truly breakout performance. Because, let’s face facts. The 35th season premiere of SNL otherwise was not going down in the record books as one of its best. But let’s rewind back to 11:30 p.m. and get to a recap!
Last year’s host was that bastion of comedy, swimmer Michael Phelps. If you realize that sometimes, host casting is about getting casual viewers to tune in and less about comedic potential, then you’re good to go. Because Megan Fox didn’t really seem to stretch — Did they even ask her to? Or was everyone stunned and reduced to writing about her looks? Before the show began, I went down to 30 Rock on the off chance I could get a ticket or standing-room space somewhere. Alas, not to be. But I did see Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss, there to support her fiance Fred Armisen. Martin Short breezed in minutes before showtime. NBC honcho Jeff Zucker walked into the building virtually unrecognized sporting a casual sweater around 11 p.m. (wonder what he thought about the show?!?). And I think I also saw Kirsten Dunst. None of these people made cameos on the program, however.
The cold open: With the show burning through Obama stuff on Thursday, but the United Nations in Manhattan, SNL took on Muammar al-Gaddafi (or Moammar Gadhafi) with Fred Armisen doing the honors while Bill Hader narrated translation of his long-winded speech. Iran was making even bigger news this week, and Armisen plays Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, too. But Gaddafi had pitched a tent in New Jersey — New Jersey — and in even more of a coinky-dink, Armisen broke into English with his Gov. David Paterson voice to say the words New Jersey. The structure of this sketch seemed designed to get subtle laughs. Which made it a cold kind of cold open.
New opening titles! Same old announcer? No Darrell Hammond in the credits? That means he is on contract basis. As I expected. Fox’s monologue was curious; like the promo ads, focusing on her looks. “It feels like I’m in a dream. And based on the way they dressed me, I guess it’s a 13-year-old boy’s dream.” Then: “Some of you may know me from TV?” No, probably not. No plug for Jennifer’s Body? Instead, they go for a joke about fake pictures of Fox naked on the Internet, with an assist from Bobby Moynihan as an eager fan.
FAKE AD: Fred Armisen suffers from shy bladder syndrome. Will Forte, Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, Jenny Slate…Bladdivan. See how not shy he is afterward? I’m peeing right now!
In the first AD BREAK, we do get to see Darrell Hammond doing Donald Trump alongside Trump in a commercial for Oreos. Always amused and impressed to see companies figure out when and where to target ads. When we come back to the actual show, it’s a sketch with two flight attendants who are horrible at making announcements and keeping passengers calm, starring Wiig and Fox as the attendants with dueling Southern accents. The passengers include Andy Samberg with Abby Elliott, and in nonspeaking roles, Nasim Pedrad and Jenny Slate, Bobby Moynihan, writers Hannibal Buress, Christine Nangle and John Lutz. Lutz! “We have decided to land in the ocean” can be used as a punchline, people. Bill Hader makes a late voiceover appearance again, this time as the pilot. This is not the first sketch of the night that tries to squeeze a joke into the opening to no avail. You see, they’re bummed about vacation being over…because they have to go home…to Hawaii.
After more ads, we see Will Forte as an American in Russia looking to buy a bride, with help from Bill Hader. He has to decide between Megan Fox or Svetlana (Fred Armisen). The whole premise rests on the American feeling that $10 makes a big difference. For a second, I thought Svetlana cost only $10. But it turned out she cost only $10 less than Megan Fox. Somehow I think it might have been funnier if she were only $10. Or if she had a Klondike bar. What would you do for a product placement?
Our first SNL Digital Short of the season finds Will Forte and Megan Fox on a dinner date. Forte talks like a kid. But he’s a SWAT team commander. Who raises lambs. And there is an F-bomb that is bleeped. Foreshadowing? Not eggsactly.
Then we saw the return Grady Wilson (Kenan Thompson) in a new infomercial for his DVD, “Burning Up the Bedsheets,” that offers his unique exercise moves. Dip the ladle. The pan for gold. Speaking in tongues. The striking 12. The skydiver. The rollercoaster. The Jabberwocky. And Megan Fox will help demonstrate a couple of moves, too. Mother may I? This was probably the most fun you saw on Fox’s face the entire evening, and it was on tape.
More ads, and at midnight, it’s time for our first song from U2, in which Bono gets in a lyric about New York, does his usual reach-out to the camera, and his unusual something something or other talking about stoplights at the end? I don’t know.
More ads, and now it’s time for solo Weekend Update with Seth Meyers. Nothing remarkably good or bad worth mentioning (which in itself is something?) but Thompson somehow still has his French Def Jam comic, Jean K. Jean, getting screen time. I noticed last night monitoring mentions of the show that casual fans either really love or really loathe that character (and Thompson, too). Zut alors!
Whomever was suggesting Wiig would co-anchor the Update desk, it wasn’t me. Instead, she’s back with travel tips as character Judy Grimes. Just kidding. No, not kidding. If her Penelope character met Kevin Nealon’s Mr. Subliminal and had a daughter with the guy from the FedEx ads of the late 1970s and early 1980s, that would be this.
More ads, then a spoof of an actual ad for faux phone sex line “Live Lounge” with a live ad, featuring Megan Fox sprawled on a sofa shaped like lips. The first line didn’t land. This sketch sounds as if someone is excited for the upcoming movie, The Invention of Lying. What if everything in the ad were actually true? So who really calls Live Lounge? Featuring nonspeaking roles for Pedrad, Sudeikis, Elliott, Moynihan, Slate, Armisen, Hader, Wiig, Forte. Would you like to talk to people who masturbate, “are into that belt-choke sex thing,” murderers, and David Duchovny?
For U2’s second song, it’s another new number that I’m not familiar with, and why is Bono rapping about streets in midtown Manhattan?
More ad breaks. It’s 12:42 a.m., time for “Biker Chick Chat” with Dawn (Slate). “I do me,” she opens. “Either love it or change the frickin’ channel. OK?” This already seems like it’s doomed to a slip-up. Her guests are her mom’s best friend, Beth (Wiig), and her best friend Donna (Fox). I don’t think the live audience knew what to do after the slip-up, but everything moved onward and upward. Wiig got a solid laugh out of injuring her “front bum this.”
We’re “treated” to a second SNL Digital Short. This time, it’s Fox taking Andy Samberg back to her apartment — which is clearly a hotel room?! — and introducing him to her roomie, Optimus Prime (Moynihan?). He’s worried that Samberg is getting in the way. Meanwhile, Optimus is getting naked? And Bumblebee? (Brian Austin Green?!) Oy.
We have time for more show, so it’s a sketch called “Your mom talks to Megan Fox.” With Wiig in the laundry room with Fox, dishing out Mom-speak, which means not quite keeping up with pop culture and some awkward personal stories. Suddenly I’m thinking there’d be nothing worth writing about if not for Slate’s slip-up.
After another ad break, Fox’s thank-yous and good-nights, we get a third song from U2, and this time they sing something we know from Achtung Baby, “Ultraviolet (Light My Way).” Why is Bono swinging from a glowing red ring, again? Who cares. Show’s over. Roll the credits! Among curious things I note out of curiosity: Steve Higgins, the announcer on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, is still credited as a producer and writer for SNL. Double duty! Also meet SNL’s new writers: Jillian Bell, Hannibal Buress, Christine Nangle, Michael Patrick O’Brien and Ryan Perez. Also, John Mulaney is now listed as a writing supervisor with Emily Spivey and Colin Jost. There’s a new regime in town. Time for them to step up and show us what they’ve got in mind for the latest iteration of SNL. Maybe next week? Ryan Reynolds hosts with Lady Gaga.