Still Crazy After All These Years

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 3.35.24 PM

Don’t forget to revisit the Chair’s interview with SNL expert Stephen Tropiano here… and then read on.

Watching the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special was very much like attending a fun family reunion with home movies from the past that you get to revisit once more along with all the cool aunts, uncles and grandparents you haven’t seen in years. A great television show can be like that – spending time with the fantasy clan you once were and will always be a part of – the one that, when you get together, you always want to hang out with just a bit longer.

When it’s a series that is a rarity like SNL – one that is celebrating a four-decade long run and is still somehow going strong, well, just multiply everyone’s feelings – both good and perhaps bad – and you get a sense of what the reaction will probably be from various quarters. In the end it is not unlike the feelings one’s own family engenders.

So happy together

So happy together

I can only say that for me the show was a wonderful mix of past and present served up with a lot of care and class with most of the people who made the show what it was returning one more time. It also occurred to me that one’s enjoyment of the event could perhaps be somewhat commensurate with one’s age. Like viewing a 16mm film with scenes from your parents’ honeymoon or your great Uncle Sol’s bar-mitzvah – a time when you were not even a thought or a twinkle in their eye – it would be entirely possible that some of the moments those of us over 40 thought were great could likely have fallen flat for you.

Though I may find that hard to believe

Though I may find that hard to believe

On the other hand, that might be selling the younger generation short – something Saturday Night Live has never done. Part of the magic of the series is that it reinvents itself with a younger and younger cast that turns almost totally over every five to ten years. In that way, the show and the special did and do have something for everyone. And you can’t say that for many things these days.

Sure, I loved Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon doing the opening musical bit with SNL catchphrases. Pretty funny. But not as funny for me as seeing Steve Martin “hosting” once more and making fun of himself and the general “whiteness” of the show for so many years. Then when Paul Simon and Paul McCartney came out and sang 30 seconds of I’ve just Seen A Face, well…they had me at Paul and Paul.

Except then there were moments like Dan Aykroyd, one of the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players (Note: As if!) reprising his famous Bass-O-Matic sketch, complete with blender, dead fish and the flick of a switch. Which was followed by a killer Celebrity Jeopardy! where I got to see Darrell Hammond’s version of a sexist Sean Connery pick the category of Le Tits Now instead of Let It Snow. See, you had to be there…oh, never mind.

If you’ve ever been to Los Angeles or have even resisted coming to the west coast because you hate all of us pinko commies who live here then you probably LOVED The Californians sketch, complete with guest appearances by Bradley Cooper, Taylor Swift and Betty White.   And I won’t even talk about the power trio of Jane Curtin, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler doing the news. Well, I will because Jane Curtin had one of the funniest bits of the night.

Jane: Times have changed since I first sat behind this desk.  For example, I used to be the only pretty Blonde woman reading the fake news. Now there is a whole network devoted to that.

Cue Logo of Fox News with the image of one of its many interchangeable bottle Blondes.

Touche Jane

Touche Jane

This SNL also got me to belly laugh at Adam Sandler for the first time in years when he reprised his Opera Man, and had me giggling like…uh…use your imagination…when Maya Rudolph showed up as Beyonce with a continuous wind machine blowing back her fake flowy tresses. Yes, there was this strange, odd stand alone tribute to Eddie Murphy – as if he were the only huge star to emerge from the show – and a moment when I noticed a few people on social media were down on Paul McCartney’s voice when he soloed on Maybe I’m Amazed. To the latter I say: He’s Paul McCartney. Just deal with it, fool. He’s freakin’ Paul McCartney!!

Remember when you were in the Beatles?

Remember when you were in the Beatles?

I loved Paul Simon closing out the show with Still Crazy After All These Years but who would have ever thought that by far my favorite musical moment of the night would be Miley Cyrus doing a slowed down, twangy version of Simon’s own 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover? Not only was she not born when SNL started she wasn’t even alive when that song first became a hit. And I don’t care much for country music. (Note: Except for Dolly Parton but hey, c’mon). Still, this is also some of what the show has always done best. Introduce or reintroduce young talent to people who either don’t know them or choose to dismiss what they do out-of-hand. Bravo Miley and cheers to SNL for once again getting it right.

He's been fooling us this whole time!

He’s been fooling us this whole time!

It doesn’t matter if you didn’t understand why including Jon Lovitz in the tribute to the dead SNL cast members was funny, wondered why Bill Murray ended the touching tribute to the deceased with a joke about Spain’s General Franco having just died or scratched your head over Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey doing Wayne’s World, still pretending to be goofy Midwest teenagers Garth and Wayne. Scratch the latter. I’ll bet there were very few people who didn’t get the value of Wayne’s World – one of the few SNL sketches and characters to become a successful feature film aside from The Blues Brothers. Yup, some characters do reach across generations and just don’t age.

On that note, I hope to be watching Stefon 40 years from now, cheering for more Cowbell once again, and getting on the bandwagon for some as of yet unwritten comedy gem that will make me laugh even more than Roseanne Rosannadanna did the first time I saw her. That might seem as unlikely to you as the fact that 40 years from now I will be watching, much less understanding anything, especially SNL.

But you underestimate both of us at your own peril.

Advertisements

Word/Play

If your parents never told you that you are your worst enemy they should have.  (My Mom did and look how much it’s done for me!).  Nothing, nothing – not all of the unfairness in the world or the injustices you might face at the hands of your friends, co-workers or the industry you work in (yes, even the entertainment industry is included) can sink you faster than yourself.  And if you find yourself sinking and are still playing the blame game you might as well tattoo a big neon Titanic sign across your ass because truly – you will wind up so far down below the bottom of the ocean that not even James Cameron’s newfangled crane/camera technology and a slew of nimbly written and expensive press releases plus a year of community service will be able to excavate you to dry land.   At the very least you’d have to join a church, synagogue or mosque, do a year or two out of the public spotlight and write a book and, let’s face it, who has time to consider all of that.

We’re speaking of course of the debacle this week that is called Brett Ratner and Herman Cain.  I use the royal “we” as an homage to Mr. Cain – who seems intent on continually speaking about himself in the third person as if he were the title of a new reality show and not, simply, starring in a real life version of one.

(Charles Foster) Cain

As for Mr. Ratner, the purveyor of the gay slur (“rehearsals are for fags” – I guess I can use the word because I like to rehearse), and kiss and teller of his mastery of oral sex (oy…) and avoiding STD’s to Howard Stern on the radio, he seems to have been banished from the Royal Hollywood Kingdom for the time being by who really knows whom (I suspect more than a few MAJOR Hollywood director/producers dialed him directly) and says he will be helping in the synagogue of GLAAD as a way to stop anybody who speaks or represents said rehearsers in movies the way he referred to them.  For my money, I’d prefer he’d just stop talking and not make it any worse for us rehearsers but hey, that’s probably why I’m not in a position of power or even someone with consultation rights.  Still, I will offer that a better strategy is to just go away and make a good movie but “good,” as all of the rest of us learn as each day of the media circus goes by, is truly in the eye and ear of the beholder – rehearser or not.

For the one or two who don’t know what the hell we’re (royal, again) speaking about, here goes.  U.S. Presidential candidate and former Godfather Pizza founder Herman Cain was accused this week of sexually harassing one  two  three  FOUR women in the nineties (that is at blog press time).  Brett Ratner spouted his use of the homophobic slur this past week while trying to promote his new movie at the Arclight for no reason at all other than, well, he did.  But that wasn’t all — for dessert he kissed and then voluntarily told about his exploits with women in and out of the bedroom on Siruis Radio.  Even though the industry looks at the Stern show on SIRIUS as a bit of a non cost effective audience disappointment and anything but serious, the remarks eventually did land on the ears of enough influential people by the end of the week in the Motion Picture Academy (obviously not Stern listeners, though Stern ironically himself does qualify for membership in the Academy as the star and writer of his 1997 film “Private Parts”) to give Mr. Ratner the final push over the cliff as the producer of this year’s Oscar show.

The latter gave me pause as an “out” rehearser because I couldn’t help but wonder why Academy president Tom Sherak was willing to stand behind Mr. Ratner after his offensive comment about those of us who like to “prepare” (nee rehearse) but yet when he talked grossly about his sex life he was put in the inevitable position of resigning.  Is it worse to talk publicly about your sex life than it is to malign a particular social or ethnic group with a 4-letter slur?  Obviously.  Somewhere in the Academy rule book it must state that using a mean word about the rehearsers in the business is a hand slap but talking about the size of your private part and/or your prowess as a non-rehearser is a fireable offense.  Hmm.  Not sure I would have called it that way but it could account for the sorry state of most studio movies nowadays.  (Perhaps if us rehearsers were a little more represented things might be different.  Not necessarily better but different, which in itself might be at least a momentary blessing).

Who has one thumb and is a huge jerk? THIS GUY!

The drama that is (Charles Foster) Cain continues this week in light of vehement denials and a perhaps planned public press conference with at least two and possibly four of his accusers on some public stage or forum for the no doubt benefit of the public.  In his own press conference several days ago, Mr. Cain, as is his right, categorized one of his accusers as a “troubled woman” and lamented that there were forces that wanted to stop a “businessman by the name of Herman Cain” from being president.   That businessman/presidential candidate’s cigarette smoking campaign manager then separately accused Politico, the publication that first broke the unsavory story of one of Cain’s sexual accusers, of having an axe to grind because it employed the son of said accuser but the following day that allegation was proven to be false and the employment disproven.  As to the sexual allegation, Mr. Cain said he would be happy to take a lie detector test to prove his innocence but then added he’d only do so if he finds it necessary.  Hmmm.  Is it necessary?  I guess I’ll leave it up to you.  Oops, I misunderstood.  I guess the decision is really up to him – whether it be his first or third person doppleganger – (Herman or Herman 3.0)

Everyone has the key to that lock

The bottom line from all of this WORD/PLAY is a lesson that keeps popping up again and again ever since Al Gore invented the Internet and Ted Tuner started 24-hour Cable News.  NOTHING. IS. PRIVATE. ANYMORE.  (Not even your parts).  You can’t speak publicly, online, or even act slightly oddly privately with another living being or recording device of any kind present and not expect it to rear its ugly head and attack you with octopus tentacles that will grab you and put you behind the public 8 ball.  Adult males seem to have a particularly difficult time with this concept.  As if they’re operating from some 20th century paradigm of privilege and have not yet caught up with the fact that the rest of the world is OCCUPYING their zone, too.  Yeah,  AS IF!

We know how this mystery ends...

It’s been difficult for the Chair (that’s me in the third person) to understand all the hysteria about Facebook privacy settings because the Chair has been able to perceive that it wouldn’t take much for any one of its students who are unable to drink in many states (but able to go off to war) to certainly invade not only its privacy but its, well…everything.  Fine.  They can have it all.  Because The Chair will thus live its public and private life in an honest, truthful and respectful way and let all the proverbial chips fall where they might.  As for me in the first person, my Dad is and always has been a gambler (literally!) and gave me this advice long ago.  He didn’t go to college, never produced a megahit movie and doesn’t live in Allan Carr’s old house (check the Ratner real estate records).  He also certainly won’t be running for president or running a Washington, DC lobbying firm (that’s what the Restaurant Association was, guys) or even be founding his own pizza company (he hates cheese) any time soon either.  But as far as life lessons go, he was always right on the money, as gamblers tend to be.  And — as I and my third person Chair can assure you — that’s not just word play.

************************************************************************

THIS JUST IN…

… EDDIE MURPHY, RATNER’S CHOICE FOR OSCAR HOST THIS YEAR, JUST RESIGNED.  AND BRIAN GRAZER, OSCAR WINNER FOR PRODUCING “A BEAUTIFUL MIND,” HAS BEEN NAMED AS HIS REPLACEMENT…

LATER BREAKING NEWS…

… THERE COULD EVEN BE A HERMAN 4.0 AFTER HERMAN 3.0 CONDESCENDINGLY CATEGORIZED FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER AND CURRENT CONGRESSWOMAN NANCY PELOSI “PRINCESS NANCY’ IN HIS RECENT WEDNESDAY REPUBLICAN DEBATE PERFORMANCE…

LATEST BREAKING NEWS…

…BILLY CRYSTAL HAS JUST REPLACED EDDIE MURPHY, A PERFORMER WITH HIS OWN CHECKERED PAST WITH US “REHEARSERS,” AS THE NEW OSCAR HOST…

GEEZ…WHO CAN KEEP UP WITH THIS STUFF!!

More updates as they become available!

The Nutty Professor

Once upon a time in the eighties I was over a friend’s pool lounging in the sun and listening to an Eddie Murphy comedy album.  Why?  Well, this friend of mine had just worked on an Eddie Murphy movie and they had enough of a love-hate relationship that he had an advance copy and we figured, why not?  Then I heard it – the joke.

I don’t know whether to repeat the joke because that gives it more credence.  So I’ll paraphrase.  Mr. Murphy was on a comic roll and mentioned AIDS and how scary it was at the time.  Then he made this off-handed remark about not dropping your wallet in a gay neighborhood for fear that you’d have to bend over, pick it up, risk getting AIDS and basically dying.

I didn’t find the joke funny at all then and find it even less so now.  Especially since the friend whose pool I was lounging around at the time is now dead of AIDS and has been for, oh, about 15 years.   And Mr. Murphy, who I don’t know but somehow still resent, seems to be flourishing.

Eddie Murphy was announced as the host of this year’s Oscars and for the first time in, oh, 40 years, I doubt I’ll be watching.

Have you lost your damn mind?

Is this a hissy fit, or just typical Scorpio behavior (my astrological sign being the one that you supposedly never want to cross for fear of retribution), or an honest reaction.  Or all three?  I’m not sure.  I mean, life isn’t fair.   People get sick and die.  And the nature of comedy is that you have to put yourself on the edge and joke about things that a segment of people will in no way, shape or form feel is funny.

Nevertheless, I can tell you that I hadn’t seen an Eddie Murphy movie in more than 20 years (ask all of my friends) until “Dreamgirls,” which was directed by an openly gay writer-director and, as a film adaptation of an iconic musical, seemed gay enough in my mind to make an exception.  Not only that, but I actually leave the room whenever he or one of his films is on television.  And I avert my eyes whenever the coming attractions for his movies appear at my local theatre.

Meaning, I can’t stand the sight or sound of Mr. Murphy doing comedy.   Perhaps I’m the only one.  At the very least, I must be in the minority.

But I know a long line of women who do this with Woody Allen movies ever since he married his longtime girlfriend Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter.  I understand their anger but don’t have the same reaction.  Is that cause I’m insensitive to anyone’s plight but my own or a typical double standard-bearing man?  Or is it because we all have our own issues?  Probably the latter.  But again, I’m not sure.

What I do know is that the Motion Picture Academy could do better for a night of movie celebration.  But ask producer/director Brett Ratner to co-executive produce and you wind up with the star of one of his upcoming holiday films (whose name I won’t plug) hosting the show.  It reminds me of the time I was in a charity committee meeting years ago when a very high level gay Hollywood lawyer wanted to get his then client, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to be keynote speaker at a huge L.A. gay fundraiser event.  This was not long after Mr. Murphy’s AIDS joke and right after Ah-nold (then years away from Governator) had publicly endorsed any number of top politicians of the day who were outwardly unsupportive and downright anti all of this group’s issues.   But he personally likes gay people, the attorney argued.

Really?

Well, this guy and I did get into a bit of a row when I called his client a snide (but not dirty) name and this lawyer scolded me for being “very unfair” to his client.  For the record, I stated I was actually being quite fair because the last thing this lawyer really wanted to do at the time was put said client in a room full of lesbians and gay men who, most everyone else in that room agreed, would feel no compunction at biting his head off or booing him off the podium for his public support of the very politicians (and in turn laws) their organization were fighting to circumvent.

Was this a missed opportunity?  Perhaps.  But nearly two decades and many fighting-for-civil-rights years later, I don’t think so.   Still, Pres. Obama preaches bi-partisanship and reaching out to the other side.  Building bridges.  And since that’s obviously working for him, well then, I guess perhaps I could have been wrong.

Yes, that’s a bit petty and cynical but that’s why he’s the president and I’m a mere blogger and not Martin Luther  Queen  King.

But back to Eddie Murphy and the Oscars.  Do we have to?  Oh yes, I think so.

Where are we going with this?

My arguments are admittedly personal.  But FYI, others that younger people have voiced to me in person and online about Mr. Murphy’s Oscar hire are: “uh, what a great choice – for 1985.”  Or – “are there going be fart jokes?”  Or – “huh, what was the last good movie he was even in?” I prefer the latter argument because it would have me believe more than a few of you in the upcoming generation believe Oscar night should still be about film quality and that does give me (or us?) hope.  In fairness though, those same people have said things like, “Bring Back Whoopi,” and when I try to think of the last good film she was in, my mind goes blank.  Though I do remember her famous Oscar line when she hosted one year and, looking at the array of young women so impossibly perfect-looking who were modeling that year’s costume designs, quipped to us all at home – “Don’t they ever smile?”  So there is that.

But obviously Mr. Ratner and folks want some new blood and, after the debacle of trying to “hip it up” with James Franco and Anne Hathaway last year to somewhat disastrous results, they’re going with a film comedian whose movies, they tell you, have grossed  $7 billion worldwide (HOW is this possible??). In the end, I guess you have to bow to and accept and even love the overriding rule of show business and all industries (and in fact, the world) – survival of the fittest.  This is not necessarily the same as what you, the audience member, blogger or pundit see as those who are the most deserving.  Which is why boycotts, hissy fits and any combination thereof actually do matter.  It’s irrelevant if you’re Martin Luther Queen or well,  Ellen (who has also hosted the Oscars).  The only way to get your voice heard and have any effect at all (even for the next time and because you never know who is listening, or is listening and will tell someone who is listening) is to voice it.  And loudly.  Yes, I’m talking to you Motion Picture Academy — In honor of my then poolside friend Rafe who very much loved the Oscars, the movies and pretty much all of the business.

No, it’s not fair to play on your sympathies, but as they say on the battlefield, “by any means necessary.”   I suppose that’s one way those who will be judged the fittest among us, will survive.  By any stretch of the imagination, Mr. Murphy is a survivor, and a damned resilient one at it.  But he’s not the only one.  Is he?