Stand-up comedian and former Saturday Night Live writer John Mulaney has a sorta-autobiographical sitcom that has gone through some ups and downs — mostly with NBC — before getting a series order from Fox this week. Entertainment Weeklycalls Mulaney "one of the most promising-sounding pilots from earlier this year." Splitsider, in an impassioned piece from May titled "Why NBC Will Regret Not Picking Up Mulaney," wrote that "it was a good pilot and … the series had enormous potential." The latter went on to argue that NBC's biggest loss wasn't so much the series but Mulaney himself — co-creator of Bill Hader's Stefon, 31-year-old candidate for prime-time stardom, and deliverer of great joy. So congrats, Fox! You got yourself a John Mulaney!
There is an indie act called Islands; they just put out an album Pitchfork finds kind of OK. Commemorating the occasion, though, is an improv-heavy YouTube clip about Islands' dubious rock-and-roll legend status. Michael Cera says things like, "They're all basically conductors, electrical conductors, and sometimes you can't even give those guys a high five without getting a little zap." Bill Hader, in top Bill Hader form, comes up with material like, "You've got a guy with a voice, who's saying lyrics, out to you." Alia Shawkat and Joe Lo Truglio also jump in, to delightful effect. Still haven't listened to Islands, but if Ski Mask is half as funny as this clip, I'm giving it a spin.
At the will-call table outside the taping of the James Franco roast, I'm handed a manila envelope with my name and affiliation written on it in Sharpie. Inside that envelope, there's a smaller black envelope, and inside the black envelope there's a thicker envelope of glossy white card stock, held together with tabs, like the little document pouch that comes with a new iPhone. The word FRANCO has been die-cut into the top flap, with scorched edges, as if from a brand or a wood-burning kit. Inside this envelope, there is the actual ticket to the James Franco roast, and a pass to the after-party on a little chain, and underneath that, printed on the inside of the last envelope, there is a picture of James Franco making a sexy face. He has a little mustache in the picture. It's kind of the first James Franco joke of the night. Although I guess the truly Francoesque envelope would be a series of envelopes within envelopes within envelopes. Each one would be (deceptively) transparent, but no matter how many you opened, there would always be another layer between you and James Franco and his little mustache.
When Bill Hader left Saturday Night Live in May, he took Stefon — the much-beloved "city correspondent" and brainchild of Hader and former SNL writer John Mulaney (whose multi-camera comedy was passed on by NBC, but may still be floating around at Fox for a potential six-episode order) — with him. Stefon was given an emotional farewell during which Seth Meyers interrupted Stefon's wedding to Anderson Cooper in a nod to The Graduate, rushing into a chapel filled with all of the mythological characters that populated Stefon's night clubs: Alf in a trench coat (from "Slice," a hot spot that also featured club promoter Gay Liotta), Furkels (Fat Urkels) Gizblo, the Gremlin on coke from "Booooooooof," and little people in various costumes (dressed as fire hydrants, parking cones, and leprechauns infected with Hepatitis C).
Stefon is arguably the most likable character dreamed up by SNL in years, so it was inevitable that rumors of a full-length vehicle would be raised eventually. Despite the mixed reception to movies based on SNL characters, which range from the really good (oh, how I love Wayne's World) to awfully bad (among them, the notorious It's Pat), it's easy to fall into the trust trap: During the course of four seasons, Stefon never let us down. Isn't there some way to capture his essence, his Ed Hardy–clad joie de vivre, and build something respectable around him?
Aubrey Plaza's splashiest starring role to date, The To Do List, has released another red-band trailer. Seeing as this is a movie about a goody-two-shoes high school valedictorian trying to ramp up her (nonexistent) catalog of sexual experiences ("Pearl necklace? Actually sounds really elegant") before her freshman year of college, that's only appropriate. What wasn't as clear before was how many of your favorite familiar faces are set to pop up in this thing. Written and directed by Bill Hader's wife, Maggie Carey, it's got, of course, the late Stefon, but also a shirtless Jason Street, a pro-sex Maeby Fünke, the still-employed Troy Barnes, McLovin, and even Summer Roberts getting in on the dirt-dog action ("There's penises everywhere! It's awesome"). It's set, for some reason, in 1993, and hopefully the entire explanation why revolves around a certain wardrobe joke. See, once the phrase "You got a dick under that poncho?" enters the atmosphere, you might just have to go ahead and Fandango yourself a ticket.
The Lonely Island have become grown-ass men. In a new video for YouTube's Comedy Week, the trio take on the mature subjects of wife sex and cemetery real estate ("wobble-dee-wobble-dee drop into my grave plot"). It goes hard, because it's #DIAPERCORE. Reggie Watts also debuted a video for YouTube's celebration with his variation on the Rickroll, faithfully re-creating Rick Astley's outfits and letting his upper lip dance to '80s synth like no one is watching.
Bill Hader was an SNL presence so precious, he merits more than one good-bye. His impressions were among the cast’s best (Kate McKinnon, I see you), but he also brought to life original characters that were layered despite the limits, time-wise and otherwise, of the sketches in which they appeared: Stefon, Vinny Vedecci, Greg the Alien, and, though he simultaneously terrified and depressed me, senile reporter Herb Welch. Hader was responsible for the majority of the personae you wanted to hang out with after their four-minute segments ended; they were always so charming, even when they were embodied by a bloodthirsty, guts-hungry take on Dateline’s Keith Morrison. If they were real, you would want to park their imaginary butts on your sofa to take in all of Hader’s Criterion double-feature picks, drink margaritas, and gab. Hader shines bright like a di-mon, and when I attended a showing of The Great Gatsby last night, huddled under a gray cloud of casting-department disappointment, I mentally replaced Tobey Maguire with Bill Hader for a second. He seems able to take on anything, from a hypothetical Nick Carraway to James Carville to creative consulting/producing South Park. As we look forward to Hader’s next move and contemplate the uncertain future of SNL, let’s spend an hour or so staring zonk-eyed at the computer in honor of some of his greatest hits. Cue up the DJ Baby Bok Choy single, everyone. It’s Stefon’s funeral (just kidding, he’ll pop back up in a year to give a special appearance like Gilly) and we’re going to Boof to shoot meth mixed with his ashes.
In the words of the legend himself: "It has to happen sometime." Bill Hader — who, over the last eight years at Saturday Night Live, has quietly put together a body of work that can rival the best to have walked through the doors at Studio 8H — is leaving.
In an interview with the New York Times this morning, Hader announced that this Saturday's season finale will be his last SNL ever. (Silver lining: Kanye's the musical guest. Maybe Bill will get an Auto-Tune emo ’Ye rant all to himself?) As the Times explains, "Mr. Hader's contract at 'Saturday Night Live' expired in spring 2012, but he was persuaded to stay on for an additional season. In February, he told Mr. Michaels that he was ready to move on, he said. 'I’d heard stories that you get very emotional in those conversations,' he added, 'and I’ve had other people tell me, "Oh, I cried." I didn’t, but I did think I was about to faint.'" As for why he's bouncing: He wants to move to L.A., where his wife, movie director Maggie Carey (The To Do List), works, and where he's got his own fair share of upcoming movie projects; also, seeing Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig leave pushed him to do the same. Basically: "It got to a point where I said, 'Maybe it’s just time to go.'"
I love Martin Short, but I was still surprised at how good this weekend’s episode of SNL was. This season has been spotty to say the least, and considering the horrific event that happened one day before the taping, it seemed like the holiday-themed show was destined to be like the last two inches of egg nog in the bottle slowly separating in the fridge: Nobody wants it, but abandoning it would be like giving up. Short was featured on the tenth season of Saturday Night — a tumultuous period with some seriously weird opening credits (hot dogs, cockroaches, spray paint) — but, you know, that was 28 years ago, the 62-year-old couldn’t be blamed if he was a little rusty, even if this was his third time hosting. Plus I really didn’t want to see Short playing “Thug #2” or on a “Mission to Mars.” Luckily, we didn’t have to. Plus we got this photo of an embarrassed, post-possible-f-bomb Samuel L. Jackson out of the deal. Everybody wins!
It’s too bad that entire generations of people had to die without ever hearing James Bond compare a woman to “a big bowl of butt soup with extra nipples” in a Triborough Bridge accent. Thankfully, Saturday Night Live took care of that for the rest of us, and now we — or our children — might live to see a day when Nipples Galore shows up to Bond’s suite all covered with clam chowder and cozied up in a crusty butt bowl. I hope. Unfortunately, the Daniel Craig–hosted show was peppered with less successful sketches, including a cold open that was a lot less funny than the cover of The New Yorker. As Kenan might once have asked, what’s up with that? This season’s political satire sketches are off to a rocky start, and even a guest appearance by Chris Parnell as Jim Lehrer couldn’t liven up the debate parody, during which Jay Pharoah’s Obama VO’d his dismay at feeling woozy from the altitude and worried over the fact that he’d forgotten to get Michelle an anniversary gift between cutaways to footage of the real First Lady looking glum. It seemed bizarre that a debate that caused such a stir would be dealt with so gently by SNL in the opener; most of the goods (read: Big Bird) were saved for "Weekend Update." Wasn’t there enough to go around?
Looks like Larry David has got some friends in this town. His upcoming HBO movie Clear History is shaping up to be a doozy. David co-wrote (alongside some other Curb Your Enthusiasm writers) and will star; Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) will direct. And the rest of the cast includes [deep breath] Bill Hader, Jon Hamm, Danny McBride, Phillip Baker Hall, Kate Hudson, Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes, Amy Ryan, and JB Smoove [exhale].
Last weekend, the topic of the short-lived but supposedly really great (11 Emmy nominations! Conversational endorsements!) Buffalo Bill came up. I haven’t seen Buffalo Bill, and there was no time to fix that between when it drifted across the table of La Scala salads and when I hopped Griffith Park and took it to the 5 freeway where I drove “forever,” but there were only 26 episodes, so I’ll probably get around to it next weekend when I have no SNL episode to recap for you. Apparently, canceling Buffalo Bill was Brandon Tartikoff’s biggest professional regret: It showed up at the party, dazzled everybody, ate some appetizers, and breezed out the door in a cloud of little question marks asking what could have been. The gripe about Saturday Night Live is usually just the opposite — a once-beloved sketch stops by for a martini, then leaves and comes back five minutes later, just real quick, to grab its coat. Door closes, everyone breathes a sigh of relief. But wait! Then it stumbles back inside, apologizing, because it just wanted to tell you one more thing that it forgot to mention earlier. You shoo it away. At midnight it returns because it wants to know if anybody’s got any cocaine. At two in the morning it wants to sleep on your sofa, and it keeps repeating the same story, except now it’s drooling and smells like the subway and you just want to beam it to the moon and import some other entertaining alien in its place. Still, a few weeks after you’ve Febrezed its odor off of your futon, you remember it with fond nostalgia (well, not always). The sketches and cast members of every golden period of SNL have to get dumped into the Lorne Michaels recycling bin eventually, but when the door shuts for good there’s a creepy feeling of uncertainty that hangs in the air, empty Solo cups of butts and booze.
Before DVRs, part of the charm of Saturday Night Live was that it created a sort of community of viewers — granted, the kind of community who didn’t have anywhere to be on a Saturday evening, so not necessarily a club you wanted to join four times a month. Its jokes became like prehistoric viral culture, a consolation prize to rehashing the best moments of the weekend’s rager. It gave you something to talk about at brunch (brunch sucks; I’m saying “brunch” hypothetically) at the dining hall if you’d been stuck inside all weekend writing a term paper and had missed the physical experience of the club, the bar, the house party. Its relevance has always been at least partially related to the repetition of catchphrases, pratfalls, and goof-ups, within the show (legions of “What Up With That”s, “MacGruber”s, “Church Lady”s) and without (the far-reaching effects of “More Cowbell” made it leap from the mirror like Bloody Mary; “More Cowbell” essentially slimed out of our televisions and entered society in 3-D). Ever since Saturday Night Live has been available for consumption as Sunday Morning Hangover or Wednesday Afternoon Lunch Break, and perhaps even more so since the introduction of the digital short in 2005 (Lettuce), it’s become somehow more satisfying to revisit, even as it so often revisits itself. That’s why this weekend’s episode with host Will Ferrell, and a self-fellating celebration of the 100th digital short, was so good.