MEET ME IN THE LADIES ROOM by Klymaxx

Sometimes, you can’t make this stuff up.

SNL has been working hard lately to do insane music videos, and the latest one seems too absurd to be anything based on reality.

But you’d be wrong.

Here’s the parody:

And here’s the original:

VERDICT:

Well played, SNL — you got all the details right. I’m just sad the original didn’t feature parachute pants.

HALLELUJAH by Kate McKinnon, who is just killing it

I’m not alone in adoring Kate McKinnon’s impression of Hillary Clinton during the campaign, though Alec Baldwin’s job as Trump got more attention.

This song, though, hit me hard. Who knew she could play piano and sing? (If you don’t know the song, it’s by Leonard Cohen, who just died.)

Capping it off? Her lines after the song is over, when you can she’s choked up. Appropriate for our times.

Though she does a great Clinton (below), she also does spot-on impressions of Justin Bieber, Ellen DeGeneres and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

So she can act and sing. If she could dance, McKinnon would be a triple threat.

Yeah, she can dance.

Kate the McKinnon, please keep on doing what you do and we won’t give up.

Why MELANIANADE is peak SNL and brilliant comedy

Music has never been more competitive. A good music video adds another layer of difficulty–and when you add comedy–the hardest thing of all–then it’s no wonder that truly funny music videos are rare.

Your typical parody video looks cheap and takes easy shots at the artist who made it. Weird Al Yancovic has been the king of parody videos for precisely the opposite reason: he knows poking fun of the singer or band will only go so far, so he takes a song and twists it to make fun of something entirely different, like when he used American Pie to rip on Star Wars.

Comedy is hard because it speaks to painful truths. Cheap, easy laughs aren’t deep. The deeper the pain, the more truth gets revealed.

This video works because the cast of SNL clearly put a lot of time and effort into it. They committed, absolutely, and didn’t hold back.

James Corden did something similar with his Lemonjames video. Take a look:

Corden is making fun of himself, and his industry, more than he’s taking shots at Beyoncé.

The quality of both these videos, in how well they’re shot and edited, may seem like an irrelevant point for comedians. Why waste so much time and effort making the lighting, costumes and settings so perfect.?

Except it’s not a waste of time. Chances are, most people have seen the original video. A cheap knock-off that’s badly shot and uses thrown-together sets and locations will keep dragging you out of it. Instead of noticing the jokes, you’ll get distracting with how amateurish things look compared to the real video–and these days, music videos are expensive affairs, often shot by moonlighting Hollywood professionals. So the bar is high.

These two videos leap over that bar of quality, letting you focus entirely on the comedy.

Well done, SNL and James the Corden–give us more, more, more.

Ariana Grande blows up Saturday Night Live

There are stretches of time where Saturday Night Live forgets the funny.

And there are guest stars who fail to shine, or twinkle before they explode like a supernova the moment they attempt to act.

This is not one of those times.

Ariana Grande nails this skit. Just kills it. I can’t think of another singer who can imitate others so well. Later on, she does a killer Jennifer Lawrence impression.

Well played, Ariana the Grande–come back to SNL and give us more.

Bonus content, if you haven’t seen it: Adam Driver on SNL as Kylo Ren, Undercover Boss.

Why TOO MANY COOKS blew up the interwebs

too many cooks

There is no shortage of funny or strange videos on the Series of Tubes, and it takes no great talent to find them.

HOWEVER: It takes some talent to make something as long, and interesting, as TOO MANY COOKS.

Before you watch it, listen: this thing starts out slow, and if you’ve never watched bad TV shows from the ’80s and ’90s, because you weren’t born yet, or have a rule about never watching the Glowing Tube, some of these parodies will fly over your head like a B-2 bomber.

I don’t believe there are any bad words or anything other than cartoonish violence and creepiness, but be warned that it does get weird, though I think in an interesting way. This really is something for people who grew up watching reruns of The Brady Brunch, TJ Hooker, Airwolf, Battlestar Galactica, Wonder Woman and about seventeen other shows. Funny stuff. Watch, then we’ll dissect it.

So: there’s no way to name every single genre and show that video just parodied. The list is ginormous.

From a big picture, though, the secret seems to be how this is different from Saturday Night Live skits from the bad old days, where writers took one funny idea and beat that dead horse all the way to the glue factory.

TOO MANY COOKS is the opposite. Despite repeating the opening song again and again (though they twist it), they’re actually cramming five metric tons of funny ideas into one parody skit, constantly changing their target to different genres and specific Bad TV Shows We All Used to Love.

Love is a big part of this. You can’t film a video of this breadth and style without loving those shows, and knowing them incredibly well. I could write a pretty good fake Airwolf script, and completely skewer it, because as a pookie, I watched that show religiously and adored the thing. Jan Michael Vincent FTW! And yeah, that thing was terrible when you fire up an old episode on YouTube now. But we loved our TV trash, and part of us will always love it.

Here’s why: entertaining trash, however trashy, is still entertaining, while pretentious nonsense, however well done, is still pretentious.

Well done, crazy makers of this parody.

Tiny film teaches us big honking writing tricks

writing meme spiderman dear diary

Here’s an itty bitty film that’s crazy funny and extremely well done. Watch it, then let’s talk it over.

So, here’s the thing. Drama is very simple, when you get down to it.

  • Step 1: Create conflict, say two young brothers wanting to inherit the same rich farmland.
  • Step 2: Dream up ways of making it far, far worse, like one brother stealing the other brothers favorite cow and serving up Bessie barbeque at the next family gathering.
  • Step 3: Raise the stakes even higher in the big finale and put our fighting farmers in a North Dakota version of the Thunderdome — two men enter, one man leaves, because the other guy has a pitchfork in his head.

Humor is far, far tougher.

You have to dance on the knife’s edge of normalcy, push boundaries, tell uncomfortable truths. Be edgy without being offensive, insanely creative without coming off as insane.

Humor doesn’t have easy formulas, and the risks are far greater. Jokes fall flat. Things that seem hilarious in the writing room go nowhere, while little throwaway bits turn into comedy gold. You can’t predict it.

So let’s talk about three little things before the Big Thing that I noticed in this short film.

First, they dispense with names, with one exception: the delivery service logo.

A typical story would be awash with names. If David Lynch was doing this, DUNE style, the floating head of a princess would be on screen for five minutes, telling us the name of the planet, its ruler, the strength of its army, the name of the alien who’s supposed to get this package delivered and so forth. Then we’d get all kinds of voice-over about the delivery ship and how it travels through space-time using dark matter or whatever.

Second, there’s no backstory. No flashbacks, no explanations, nothing. The makers of this short film know backstory is irrelevant when they’re showing everything now, as it happens. If you’re explaining, you’re losing the storytelling war.

Third, no dialogue. Maybe you could argue about the aliens saying things we don’t understand, but no, that doesn’t count. It’s like the opening half hour of WALL-E, which was brilliant without a single word of dialogue.

So: no backstory, no names and no dialogue. What’s the Big Thing they did?

These filmmakers maximized the gap, creating chasms between expectation and result from BOTH directions. They were constantly, creatively, always raising the stakes from the POV of the space delivery man and the aliens.

That gap usually exists only for the hero. The villain knows exactly what’s happening and why. He’s not surprised at all.

It’s the hero who’s fumbling around, wondering what the hell is happening, and only at the very end does the villain have any gap between expectation and result, because the villain expected to shoot the hero after his monologue, not get thrown down a bottomless pit.

Most films and novels stick to that unwritten rule: No Surprises for the Villain, because surprises are precious and reserved for the hero. We don’t usually see the villain failing or being confused. If we see things from his POV at all, the villain is doing deliciously dastardly things and doing them well, because that makes it harder on our hero.

In this film, the gap grows wider and wider from both points of view until it can’t get any bigger, and they’re doing something interesting with the gaps: not only is each gap funny, they also raise the stakes every time until the climax.

Could you make it even worse for the alien planet than being Death Star’d at the end by the delivery ship’s main engines? No.

The opposite of this happens in bad Saturday Night Live skits, which are bad for a very specific reason: they latch onto a single funny idea like a lamprey eel, then do it seventeen bazillion times until it’s time for a commercial break so we can get educated about the new formulation of Head and Shoulders.

Those bad kits aren’t funny because of a structural problem. The gap doesn’t grow bigger. The stakes don’t get raised. It’s repetition without a purpose.