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Carvey’s Show Carved Out Some Great Careers

February 4th, 2011 by Ben Collins Editor

If you’re wondering why Dana Carvey is hosting Saturday Night Live this week, it may be because he’s the best ambassador to great comedy that the show has ever had.

Nope, this isn’t because he’s doing SNL this weekend in a Love of the Game sort of situation. (Even though he is—he has nothing specifically to plug.) It’s because his forgotten-about self-titled show in 1996 may have been a better breeding ground for today’s most influential comedians than Saturday Night Live was in that entire decade.

And The Dana Carvey Show didn’t even last a whole season.

It was, at the time, critically panned. That’s probably a mild way to put it. It was critically devastated. It was ridden off television for, mostly, being in the wrong timeslot.

Yes, in an era of TGIF and Full House in primetime, The Dana Carvey show was premiered at 9:30 p.m. on ABC right after Home Improvement, and it opened with a skit in which President Clinton had milkable udders that could breastfeed babies, puppies and kitties. The President also had implanted a ducktail onto his lower-back for the purpose of nesting eggs to help save money for school lunch programs.

This didn’t go over well. ABC had ordered ten episodes. They cancelled it after seven.

But Dana Carvey helped launch four of the most pivotal comedy careers for today’s culture in those seven episodes.

The idea of the opening sketch came to the show’s head writer, a then-absurdist comedian and recent SNL reject, on the way to work one morning. He thought it would be funny to see “Bill Clinton breastfeeding a baby on national TV.” Then it aired. He got letters about how this deeply offended some viewers. He said it helped him grow into the comedian he is today.

That writer was Louis C.K., one of today’s best and most famous standups.

You can hear more about his time at the doomed show at the 11:00 mark of the WTF Podcast with comedian Marc Maron, which aired on KCRW.

But Louis C.K. didn’t even wind up being the most distinguished writer involved with the show. Robert Smigel was just one of the faceless writers at SNL and Conan before he got a chance to whip out The Ambiguously Gay Duo on The Dana Carvey Show.

This eventually spawned TV Funhouse, some comic shorts that aired on SNL for years after the Dana Carvey Show and eventually won itself its own timeslot on NBC for a year. And a year after becoming a castmember on Dana Carvey’s experiment, he invented a dog puppet that smoked a cigar and made fun of humans: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

Oh, and if Ace and Gary from The Ambiguously Gay Duo sound familiar, it’s because they’re two of the best, most famous comic actors alive. Gary was Steve Carell. Ace was Stephen Colbert. They were both castmembers on The Dana Carvey Show.

Here they are attempting not to throw up on television, before Carell dresses up as Fabio and shaves his chest. Yep, this kind of thing happened all the time on this show.

In the last three episodes, Carvey’s writers had written some sketches for a young Stephen Colbert to deliver some satirical news as a deadpan pundit.

Thank God they cancelled the show before that. That sort of thing would’ve been a real disaster.

Ben Collins is an Assistant Editor at Hulu. You can find him on Twitter @globesoundtrack or email him here.

Friendly Rivals: Steve Martin vs. Alec Baldwin

November 12th, 2009 by Rebecca Harper Editor

For years, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin have had a friendly rivalry as members of the Platinum Club, an exclusive group of Saturday Night Live regulars who have held hosting duties on NBC’s late night sketch comedy show at least a dozen times. The running joke? Every time Baldwin is about to tie Martin for the most number of SNL appearances, the “wild and crazy guy” — that’s Martin — attempts to thwart the 30 Rock star at every turn. Current tally? Martin has hosted 15 times, while Baldwin has tallied 14 himself.

But in a surprising turn of events, the longtime rivals are joining forces to co-host the 2010 Oscars in March. “I am happy to co-host the Oscars with my enemy Alec Baldwin,” Martin said in a statement. “I don’t play the banjo but I’m thrilled to be hosting the Oscars – it’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” Baldwin added, referring to Martin’s current gig, touring with a bluegrass band. To mark this new truce, the Hulu team looked back at some classic Martin-Baldwin appearances on SNL. — Rebecca Harper (), Editor

Baldwin Gets Mugged
In this sketch from Season 31, Steve Martin’s on a hot date with a married woman (Kelly Ripa), and things appear to be going well — until she mentions that Alec Baldwin is about to tie him for the most times hosting Saturday Night Live, that is. Cue a hasty departure from the restaurant as Martin rushes to Studio 8H to secure his position as the king of late night.

Martin Asks for a Raise
The same night, Martin approaches executive producer Lorne Michaels in hopes of getting a raise. After all, the paycheck for hosting duties is still $5,000, the same as it was when Martin delivered his first monologue in 1976. When Michaels refuses, Martin threatens to walk off the stage, but the SNL honcho has the ultimate bargaining chip: Alec Baldwin.

Going Platinum
In this bit from Season 32, we’re treated to a look at the Platinum Lounge backstage at Studio 8H, when host Alec Baldwin tries to give cast member Mya Rudolph a tour. Strangely enough, Baldwin’s frenemy, Steve Martin, is hanging out in the lounge, too, and offers to Baldwin a drink. Look for a pair of surprise cameos (sad as one of them may be) as the two catch up over a glass of Scotch, and Martin reveals his nefarious side.

A Baldwin Classic
In “Platinum Lounge” (above), Baldwin references an older sketch that he’ll never live down. A riff on a talk radio show, it features Baldwin as baker Pete Schweddy, a guest on NPR’s “Delicious Dish.” He’s there to talk about his Christmas goodies — everything from zucchini break to fruitcake — but one specialty is his best. They’re delicate and tender, but bigger than you might expect.

Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin have a long history with Saturday Night Live. Which of their characters have been your favorites?

Last comment: Sep 30th 2014 1 Comment

Headline Acts: Musicians Who Host “Saturday Night Live”

November 6th, 2009 by Rebecca Harper Editor

This weekend, Taylor Swift joins a long list of artists who have pulled double-duty on the Saturday Night Live set, performing not only as a musical guest, but also hosting the show and acting in several sketches. Time will tell how well the country/pop star will do — though perhaps she picked up a few things while filming Valentine’s Day with her boyfriend, Twilight: New Moon star Taylor Lautner. (Oh, we can imagine the jokes already.) As Swift preps her monologue and braces herself for a cavalcade of Kanye West jokes, the Hulu team took a look back at some of the other musical artists who gave hosting a try — sometimes with mixed results. — Rebecca Harper (), Editor

Justin Timberlake: Host with the Most
Few artists from the Billboard charts have managed to resonate with the SNL crowd as well as the guy who brought sexy back. Whether he’s wearing a Chess King button-down in digital shorts like “Motherlover” or rocking a white leisure suit as Robin Gibb in the hilarious “Barry Gibb Talk Show” sketches, Justin Timberlake is gold as far as SNL is concerned. Here, he shares some family history in a little sketch called “Immigrant Tale.”

Paul Simon: The Original
Long before Justin Timberlake was born, singer-songwriter Paul Simon paved the way for generations of musical guests looking for hosting duties. His monologue was self-effacing, good-spirited — and still funny after all these years.

Sting: The Rocker
Promoting his 1991 release “Soul Cages,” Sting put on a punk rock wig to channel his inner Billy Idol for this classic sketch featuring the who’s-who of 1990s SNL. In the end, the sketch served as a vehicle for the late, great Phil Hartman to deliver his belligerent Frank Sinatra impression, but Sting did a respectable job as the snarling rocker.



Queen Latifah: Crossover Artist

Though her 2004 movie Taxi — also starring Jimmy Fallon from SNL — bombed in the box office, Queen Latifah is one of the few music artists who can hold her own in front of the camera. In this fake commercial, she played up the stresses of being one of the only two black women in her office. Fortunately, she had just the cure.



Ludacris: Sharing the Spotlight

In November 2006, actor-rapper Ludacris stepped aside for the debut of the much more talented Blizzard Man (Andy Samberg at his dorkiest), whom ‘Cris lauded as “Marvin Gaye mixed with a little Stevie Wonder.” And though Samberg is definitely the scene stealer here, Ludacris’ performance proves that the SNL writers can’t go wrong when they ask their double-duty hosts to just play themselves.

Janet Jackson: Tongue-Tied
Granted, when Janet Jackson — that’s Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty — hosted, she was no stranger to acting. After all, she starred in “Good Times” in the 1970. Her “SNL” gig was nearly 30 years later, though, so it’s no wonder she tripped up in this tongue-twister of sketch that was full of innuendo.

Jon Bon Jovi: ’80s Flashback
While Amy Poehler is the true star of this ’80s flashback sketch, a cloud of Aqua Net fumes brought a bandana-clad Jon Bon Jovi to life, straight from the “Slippery When Wet” era. For those of us old enough to remember “You Give Love a Bad Name,” it’s a delight to hear that the young Jon Francis Bon Jovi, Jr., was just another fat kid who played the French horn.

Steve Martin: Role Reversal
SNL alum Steve Martin was no stranger to hosting duties when he headlined the late night show last January — after all, it was his 15th time delivering a monologue — but this time, things were different. Martin also performed “Late for School” as musical guest. In addition to his folksy banjo ditty, he presented one cool digital short: “Laser Cats 4.”



Garth Brooks: Alter-Egos

In November 1999, the second time country singer Garth Brooks hosted SNL, his alter ego, Chris Gaines performed as the musical guest. The writers played up this peculiar lineup with an ongoing gag about a bizarre love triangle between Brooks, Gaines and Chris Kattan’s “Mango” character.

Last comment: Sep 28th 2014 4 Comments

Recap: ‘Saturday Night Live’ with Megan Fox

September 27th, 2009 by Rebecca Harper Editor

As the Saturday Night Live writers and producers pulled together the series’ 35th season premiere, they must have had one rule in mind: keep it sexy. With Megan Fox hosting, it wasn’t too much of a struggle, and every sketch featuring the ‘Transformers’ star made good use of her looks, starting off with a monologue that poked fun of the fake nude photos of her scattered across the Internet. We saw the 23-year as a blonde bombshell flight attendant in one sketch; a red-headed Russian bride in another. When the spotlight wasn’t on Fox, world politics came to the forefront. To open the show, Fred Armisen donned a brown robe and did his best Omar Gadhafi, blaming a computer crash for the Libyan president’s rambling U.N. speech. In an otherwise flat week, the week’s standout was newcomer Jenny Slate — who dropped an F-bomb in the live feed (it was fixed for the West Coast) — and Kenan Thompson. His Grady Wilson impression was one of the funniest bits of the night (dip the ladle!), and his Jean K. Jean report on Weekend Update upstaged Kristen Wiig’s Judy Grimes. Only time will tell if Thompson’s this season’s breakout star, but in the meantime, check out some of this weekend’s SNL highlights below. — Rebecca Harper (), Editor



Which sketches do you think stood out this week?

Last comment: Sep 30th 2014 7 Comments

Live from New York, It’s Sarah Palin

October 20th, 2008 by Rebecca Harper Editor

Saturday Night Live continued its long history of political cameos this week, with Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin making two appearances on the show. She follows the likes of Gerald Ford, Janet Reno and, most recently, Hillary Clinton, who have all dropped in to prove that they can handle some good-natured lampooning.

So how’d Gov. Palin do? Hulu has clips from both of her appearances this week, so you can be the judge. She appears first in the opener and again with Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler on Weekend Update. And though Palin didn’t rap along with Poehler behind the news desk, she did raise the roof a little. Her opening sketch proves she’s a good sport about all the jibes — and even capable of delivering a good zinger.

Rebecca (),
Editor

Last comment: Sep 25th 2014 1 Comment