Saturday Night Live Turns 40

Saturday Night Live will begin its 40th season tomorrow! Saturday Night Live FAQ author Stephen Tropiano tells us all we need to know about the new season.

Saturday Night Live is Turning 40!

Stephen Tropiano

Saturday Night Live’s 40th season begins on September 27th with host Chris Pratt and musical guest Ariana Grande. They are both smart choices for the season opener: Pratt is the star of the summer blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Grande’s album, My Everything, debuted last month at #1 on the Billboard Chart. Pratt and Grande will be followed by two former SNL cast members: Sarah Silverman with musical guest Maroon 5 (October 4), and Bill Hader with Hozier (October 11). This is Silverman’s first appearance on SNL since her short stint as a cast member in Season 19 (1993-1994). Hader is a veteran cast member (Seasons 31-38, 2005-2013) currently co-starring with fellow SNL vet Kristin Wiig in The Skeleton Twins.

As expected, some cast changes and shuffling occurred at SNL over the summer.

  • Nasim Pedrad has officially left the show to join the cast of former SNL head writer John Mulaney’s new sitcom, Mulaney. Lorne Michaels is the executive producer, which explains why the Mulaney cast also includes former SNLer Martin Short (Season 10, 1984-1985) as Mulaney’s boss, a legendary comedian turned game show host, and Elliot Gould as Mulaney’s gay neighbor. The first member of SNL’s “Five-Timers Club,” Gould hosted the show five times during Seasons 1-5 (1975-1980) and the season opener for the disastrous Season 6 (11/15/80).
  • Three of the eight-featured players–Noel Wells, John Milhiser, and Brooks Whelan– will not be returning. A fourth, Michael O’Brien, who wrote for the show for four years, will be returning to the writer’s room full time. It’s not entirely clear why Wells, Milhiser, and Whelan’s contracts were not renewed, though it is safe to say that due to lack of airtime, they probably didn’t stand out enough compared to the two returning featured players, Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney, who, filling the void left by Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island collaborators, showcased his comedic talent in a series of quirky shorts. Bennett and Mooney will be joined by Sasheer Zamata, who debuted in January, and head writer/Weekend Update anchor Colin Jost.
  • Two new feature players, Pete Davidson and Michael Che, will be joining the cast. Twenty-year old Pete Davidson is a young stand-up comic from Staten Island whose credits include Nick Cannon Presents: Wild ‘N Out , the MTV series Guy Code, and an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Che will take over for Cecily Strong as co-anchor of Weekend Update with Colin Jost, marking the first time the news has been co-anchored by two males. Che, a stand-up comic, was a SNL writer last season and spent the last three months as a contributor to The Daily Show. Apparently Cecily Strong has no hard feelings–hopefully she will return to Weekend Update soon as “The Girl You Wished You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party.”
  • Darrell Hammond, whose tenure on SNL was the longest in the show’s history (14 seasons, 1995-2009), will be replacing the legendary Don Pardo as the show’s announcer. There is likely to be a tribute to Pardo, who died at the age of 96 this past August, sometime soon. As Hillary Clinton will no doubt be running for President in 2016, Hammond will hopefully also be appearing on-camera as the man who may become America’s “First Gentlemen.

South Park FAQ

New season of South Park starts tonight! Dave Thompson, the author of the South Park FAQ travels through the lives, times, and catastrophes that have established the tiny mountain town of South Park, Colorado, as America’s favorite dysfunctional community. There are few modern animated television shows that could survive over a decade and a half and remain as funny… or as stupid… or as sick… or as depraved… today as when they started. Read an an excerpt below!

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Increasingly, we live in a world where opinion is pinioned by the need not to offend, nor even risk offense, by saying—even lightheartedly— something that someone might feel belittled by. Including people who aren’t actually present when the remark is made.

The soccer manager who told his charges the old joke about a monkey and an astronaut, and was promptly accused of racism by somebody else entirely.

The teen playing a video game who made an off-the-cuff remark about shooting up a school and eating his victims’ hearts. A fellow player over- heard the exchange, and the kid was arrested and threatened with eight years in jail.

The … and so on and so forth. All it takes is one person who doesn’t understand, appreciate, or maybe even acknowledge the existence of humor (however humorless the humor might be), and it doesn’t matter if he is the only person in the world who doesn’t sneak a smirk at the gesture. One complaint is worth a thousand chuckles, and the only positive that comes out of the experience is the possibility that maybe one day, the rest of the world will tire of these petty-minded dictators and start complaining about them instead.

Which is why we love South Park so much.

For there, exaggerated political correctness and microscopically focused nitpickery are already like a red rag to a bull in the eyes of creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Like Cheesy Poofs to a big-boned eighth grader.

Totalitarianism is totalitarianism, no matter how loudly you condemn the people who actually point that out, which is one of the reasons why South Park has never rested in its campaign to highlight humbuggery wherever it may dwell.

True political correctness means respecting other peoples’ right to say whatever they like, no matter how much it might offend you, because that is the only thing that guarantees your right to say whatever you want to. Chip away at other people’s right, no matter how worthy your intentions may be, simply opens the door for other, perhaps less worthy people to take the process to its logical conclusion and outlaw free speech altogether.

Matt Stone outlined South Park’s approach.

“On one hand, it’s really fun when you flip off the principal and the principal yells at you. But in general, we do the show because we want people to like it. We are entertainers. We’re trying to entertain people. At the same time, we’ve been doing it long enough to realize we’re still not a mainstream show … we’re still on cable, we still consider ourselves an alternative show.” Far more people, he acknowledged, dislike South Park than enjoy it, but unlike most television shows, that was fine. “Twenty percent of people got this joke, and they love us for it, and we’ll piss off the other 80 percent just for them.”

The very best of South Park teases, as well. But it’s a knowing tease, a worthy tease, taunting the viewer with just enough information that you think you know where the story is going … but you cannot believe anybody has the balls to take it there. Again, a lot of the targets are as ephemeral as the headlines they are drawn from, but that is not an issue. The fact that … to draw a cultural irrelevance at random from the stockpile … Honey Boo Boo is even sufficiently well known to be considered a worthy target for the South Park sniper is itself sufficient condemnation of the culture that the show so gleefully ridicules, and of course she is not alone.

To concentrate on South Park’s status as the devourer of worthless worlds, however, is to overlook its other primary purpose, to act as a mirror to what we might call everyday society. South Park itself is Anytown USA, as accurate a reflection of small-town life as any live-action television series has ever mustered, and a lot more honest as well.

 

 

 

 

Women’s Comedic Monologues – Introducing Jenny Yang

And here it is, folks. The last in our monologue series for Women’s Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny! Watch Jenny Yang perform her original monologue, “Asian Goggles.”

Be sure to check out more from Jenny at her website  and don’t forget to follow her @jennyyangtv

Women’s Comedic Monologues – Introducing Jessica Glassberg

It’s a whole new week, which means we have a brand new video for Women’s Comedic Monologues That Are Actually Funny! Here is Jessica Glassberg reminiscing about the traumatic days of adolescence in her monologue “Always Awkward.”

 

 

To see more from Jessica, check out her website.

And don’t forget to follow her on twitter!

 

Selecting America’s Best Short Plays

For years now, Bill Demastes has been selecting and editing together the best short plays in the U.S. for the long-running series, The Best American Short Plays. The newest volume in the series, The Best American Short Plays 2012-2013, includes works from a wide variety of writers, from seasoned playwrights to college students. Many ask, how exactly does Bill pick the “best” plays out of such a huge selection of eager voices? Mr. Demastes has been so kind as to write us a post giving us some insight into his quest to find the best plays in America.

 

First, let me say that I love this job. I get to read hundreds of plays from some of the best new talents in the country, and I get teasingly exciting submissions from many of the most established writers today. Judging from the number of high quality submissions I receive from year to year, I can say that

Bill Demastes taking a break in his Baton Rouge office.

Bill Demastes taking a break in his Baton Rouge office.

creative talent in New York City is definitely alive and well.  (That might actually be an understatement.) What’s equally exciting to me is that talent exists across the country, in Baltimore, Atlanta, Knoxville, Athens, New Orleans, Kalamazoo, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Southern and Northern California, and even up there in Alaska. Where next?

People often ask me how I pick the plays for each volume. It is a very difficult decision, and there are no real rules to this procedure. I read for fresh writing, stuff that reads like spoken language. Neat ideas certainly help, but well-done, quiet vignettes and reminiscences work well, too. I’m a sucker for surprise endings and good jokes. Political messages are not what I look for, but well put together and heartfelt pieces often catch my eye. I love comic word play when I see it. Not a big fan of gratuitous profanity–can’t the effect be better generated through wit rather than coarse bludgeoning? 

After I pull together a large list of plays that I like, I look to see what common threads course through most of the works and try to string together something of a theme for the volume. This is a difficult task. However, if you look hard enough, common threads do surface among good writing since all really good work deals somehow with the common experiences of love, hate, loss, regret–the things that occupy those moments in our lives beyond the empty hurlyburly of simply making a living.

I frequently hear from authors included in these volumes that their works find their ways onto the stage thanks to the exposure from these volumes. That’s a very gratifying thing. In a world where being a playwright is no easy occupation, it is a good thing to be able to help in some small way.

I look forward to the publication of this new volume, certain the playwrights and plays I’ve included will not disappoint. And I welcome submissions of scripts that have been produced over the past theatre season from any and all–including recommendations from discriminating theatregoers.

The SAVI Singing Actor on Dramatic Circumstances

The musical theatre technique blogger, The SAVI Singing Actor, has written a comprehensive review of William Wesbrooks’ Dramatic Circumstances. Check it out!

 

Once upon a time, there was a professor who taught singing actors about how to perform00103894 songs. He worked in a big city at a university with a big reputation, and many students came to study with him. He loved his work; he loved being able to help students, and the things he taught them were genuinely helpful. After awhile, he thought to himself, “Maybe I could help more students if I were to write about the ways I train my students in a book.”

Yes, this is my story, but it’s also the story of Bill Wesbrooks, Director of Vocal Performance at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at NYU. The difference between Bill and me is, he’s actually written the book. It’s called “Dramatic Circumstances,” it was published a few months ago, and it’s a great addition to the literature of singer-actor training.

 

Read the rest HERE
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Harold and Stella: Opening night!

fringeThe two-person play “Harold and Stella: Love Letters” opens at the Hollywood Fringe Festival tonight (Friday). Here are some details from the Festival website…

 

In 1942 Stella Adler (queen of modern acting) and Harold Clurman (dean of American theater) were living on opposite coasts of the country as the U.S. entered the Second World War. They began a steady stream of correspondence to buttress their long distance romance, letters that reveal times as tempestuous as their relationship. Through their words, we enter the lives of two artists unflinchingly committed to their work while struggling through creative, financial and romantic uncertainty.

 

Sheana Ochoa, author of Stella Adler’s new biography, Stella! Mother of Modern Acting will be at each performance to sign copies. Enter discount code “BOOK” to receive a signed copy of the book along with your ticket at the discounted price of $35. Visit the festival website HERE for more details. Hope to see you all there!