Monday, August 13, 2012

My Favorite SNL Alumni

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 I certainly don't claim these are the 3 greatest  Saturday Night Live
Alumni in the show's history - just that they are my favorites for the
reasons outlined below.   I present them in no particular order:

Bill Murray has had quite simply the greatest motion picture career of 
any alumni.  Unlike Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell who are perpetually 
stuck in films which play as a little more than extended comedy sketches, 
Bill Murray has caught the eye of some of the best directors of our time 
from Michael Almereyda to Jim Jarmusch to Tim Burton and Wes Anderson, 
not to mention such stalwarts as Richard Donner, Ivan Reitman, Sophia 
Coppola, Sydney Pollack and Harold Ramis.   

Still even his frequent forays into messy, high-concept, low production values comedy reveal a sensibility which appeals to the imagination like no other SNL alumn's crotch humor.  The scene I've included from the early Meatballs captures the essence of Bill Murray for me:  a profound belief that it just doesn't matter.  An insouciant willingness 
to fail is the source of Murray's strength, and it's what makes his work in his "throw-aways" sometimes as compelling as his most   "serious" work.

Mike Meyers does not rank as one of the greatest performers from the alumni ranks - though he is a very good performer - but for my money he has the most original comic mind to come from the main cast.   The very late night sketches on SNL are usually, putting mildly, of the second rank - that is unless they were Mike Meyers sketches, in which case they were often just too weird to go into the prime time of the show.  

Even when the sketches don't quite work, such as a time machine sketch in which a young man finally gets in synch with an attractive woman and a competitive male via the time machine in a bathroom stall, they still hold and intrigue the imagination and linger in the memory.

Although Wayne and Dieter are Meyer's most popular creations, for me the epitome of the Mike Meyers character will always be Simon, the hapless, cheerfully unloved British schoolboy who loves drawering.  

But what made Mike Myers most special for me was that  no other SNL alumn has ever showed the same talent the classic but rare comic tradition of developing and then sustaining and building a sight gag.  Just think of the various fruits Austin Power holds up to cover block Elizabeth Hurley's breasts in the first Austin Powers' film, or this one from the second:

SNL deserves credit for launching Chris Rock, although his special talents do not lie comfortably in the usual skills  around which the show is designed.

Quite simply Chris Rock is the hardest hitting social satirist left since George Carlin died.  He is the best of today's stand up comics.  His remarks on male-female relationships are probably the source of his popularity, but it is the distinctions he makes between being wealthy and being rich, or between having a job and pursuing a career which really have bite.  His remarks on racism, by contrast are so carefully nuanced, whites might well be surprised they are not made more uncomfortable.

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

FLOAT: a super short Chicago story

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He had one of those laughs which sounds like an assault when it
comes up unawares behind you on the street, but as he passed her
she found her hatred of the abrasive laugh melting into an
undeniable sense of oneness with the still laughing man and his
fatuous sideburns, so sharply delineated along a 165ยบ angle.

In another moment she grabbed at the air she lived in to keep
her balance as she found herself - right there on the sidewalk
on Wells outside the stucco busts of Second City - melting into
a strange oneness with all those coming and passing.  Did they
feel this oneness all the time?  No surely not.  Had anyone
ever felt it before?

Still she kept melting, struggling to keep her head up and her
lungs open,  feeling the danger was real, and she might really
go down under a single, infinite wave into this sudden ocean.
Had it always been there?  Could it continue to exist if she
drowned in it?

She wasn't panicking exactly, but she couldn't stop struggling
either, despite the voice inside her which kept counselling:


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