Saturday Night Live ended another season this week, and with the finale came the departure of longtime cast members Bill Hader and Fred Armisen. That's a huge blow to the show; though they currently have a surprisingly deep bench of talent, few are as adept as Hader or Armisen at being both weird character focal points or utility players. The show will go on because it always does, but it won't ever be quite the same.
Elsewhere, Ben Affleck came by to host for the fifth time (though no fanfare was made about him joining the Five Timers club; the show blew its wad earlier this season with Justin Timberlake) and the first time since winning the Best Picture Oscar for Argo. Affleck is a great host, way more willing to be silly and better at creating characters than his jockish build and "serious" movie career would ever suggest. I can understand why he was picked to host the season finale.
(Read the full SNL Ben Affleck recap)
Photo courtesy NBC
It's almost summer, which means Chicago is gearing up for the annual Just for Laughs Chicago festival.
The first batch of shows and comics have been announced, and -- surprise, surprise -- it's looking interesting already. Headlining their own shows will be Bill Maher, Artie Lange, Nick Swardson, Russell Brand, Anjelah Johnson, Pete Holmes, Maria Bamford and BOB NEWHART. Yes, Bob Newhart is performing as part of the festival. Amazing.
Seth Meyers will do stand-up as part of what is undoubtedly a number of club dates he's going to book to get ready for Late Night; he's appearing with "special guests" Al Madrigal and Hannibal Burress, and those two make the show worth attending. The Whitest Kids U Know will perform, as will the stars of truTV's Impractical Jokers, which I guess is a thing. David Cross will headline a bill that also includes Paul F. Tompkins, Doug Benson and Brian Posehn, so you'd be crazy to miss that.
This is only the beginning, people. More shows will be announced as the festival gets closer, but you should get your tickets to these shows now. It's a great festival every year.
Just for Laughs Chicago runs June 11-16. For more information or to order tickets, check out the festival's official site.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
This Saturday's episode of Saturday Night Live will be the last for Bill Hader.
Hader, who joined the show in 2005, has announced that he's departing after eight seasons, presumably to pursue other projects (read: movies). That means no more Stefon, no more Vincent Price, no more James Carville. Hader was one of the show's secret weapons, able to be funny in any sketch and completely disappear inside whatever character he was playing. This is a big, big loss for SNL.
The news comes on the heels of Seth Meyers' announcement as the new host of Late Night, meaning SNL is going to be out a head writer and its strongest asset next season. The show will recover, of course, because this is the way it has always gone -- cast members leave, and new people come in that are hopefully able to stake out a claim and do as good a job as the people before. But I'm awfully sorry to see Bill Hader go. He was such a unique presence on the show.
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Well, scratch what I said the other day about John Mulaney maybe getting his own talk show. It was announced today that Seth Meyers will take over Late Night at NBC once Jimmy Fallon heads to The Tonight Show.
The announcement is hardly a surprise, as this is exactly what has been speculated since Fallon's Tonight Show transition was confirmed. He'll take over as the new host of Fallon's old show early next year, Variety reports.
Meyers has been the head writer of Saturday Night Live for the last eight years and has anchored the "Weekend Update" desk for the last seven, first with Amy Poehler and then alone after she departed the show. He has been with the late night show for the past 12 years.
With Meyers gone, that leaves both the head writer job and the "Update" anchor position open. I would once again like to make a case that John Mulaney should take over as both, especially now that NBC has passed on his sitcom.
I have no idea what a Seth Meyers Late Night will look like, and can't say that I'm really excited by the prospect. In fairness, I didn't know what a Jimmy Fallon Late Night would look like, either, and he did such a good job with that show that NBC forced out its golden boy to give Fallon the keys to the late night kingdom. I've learned to reserve judgment on such things.
The important takeaway here? Give John Mulaney the "Update" desk. Make him head writer, too. I mean, congrats to Seth Meyers and everything, but let's focus on what's important here.
Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images
Remember May of 2012? Barack Obama was in the White House. Movies about Marvel superheroes were breaking box office records. Kristen Wiig was on Saturday Night Live.
It is with a fondness of a memory of 12 months ago that Wiig returned to host SNL for the first time less than one season after leaving the show last year. As could be expected, much of the episode -- the penultimate installment of the 38th season -- wound up being a Greatest Hits showcase of Wiig's popular characters. There was Target Lady, Garth and Kat, Gilly, Dooneese. Sure, several were missing (like that actress lady from Password, or Aunt Linda from "Weekend Update"), but that's only because Wiig had a lot of recurring characters during her tenure with the show.
It's difficult to evaluate an episode like this, because words like "good" or "bad" lose all meaning. It was a Best of Kristen Wiig show for the most part, and I didn't laugh a whole lot but I'm not even sure I was supposed to. I think I was just supposed to be happy to see her back, which would have been easier to do if it didn't feel like she literally just left. There were a handful of original sketches that I kind of liked because they were trying to do something (except for the Acupuncture sketch, which wasn't trying to do anything but be gross), and one fake commercial for a new Disney Channel series that was one of my favorite things the show has done all season. Episodes like this are common near the end of the season -- they're more victory laps than anything else. As those kinds of things go, this show was fine.
(Read the full SNL Kristen Wiig recap)
Photo courtesy NBC
Sure, he's been dead for almost 30 years, but that's not going to stop Andy Kaufman from putting out his first-ever comedy album.
In a stunt that can only be described as "Kaufmanesque," Drag City Records will release Andy and His Grandmother, the debut album from the legendarily odd comedian, on July 16th, complete with linear notes written by friend and frequent collaborator Bob Zmuda and between-track narration provided by Bill Hader. The album has been compiled from over 80 hours of tape recorded by Kaufman over the span of two years.
As much as this is the kind of thing that could be called indulgent and tarnish Kaufman's legacy -- after all, if he had wanted to release this stuff, he probably would have released it when he was alive -- this is a piece of comedy history. Even as just a curiosity, I don't know how any comedy fan could not listen to this. Whether or not Kaufman's comedy, which often was visual or at the very least depended on the specific moment in which it was created, will translate to a 30-year old album, I cannot say. I'll be sure to find out in July.
You know what this means, right? Bill Hicks has another six or seven albums in him.
Via AV Club
Photo courtesy Fotos International/Getty Images
NBC continues to make a lot of bad decisions.
This was the week where the networks announced which of their new pilots would be picked up and get a series order, which shows currently on the schedule would stay there and which shows would get the axe. As always, the week came with a number of disappointments (Happy Endings is no more), but none more disappointing than the fact that NBC has passed on the John Mulaney sitcom.
The show, which was tentatively called Mulaney, would have starred the stand-up comic (and current Saturday Night Live writer), as well as Elliot Gould, Nasim Pedrad and Martin Short. It was produced by Lorne Michaels. All of the buzz around the pilot taping was that the show was great. What the hell happened? Everything about this sounds like it would have been the best new sitcom on the fall schedule. Why did NBC pass? Do they have bigger plans for Mulaney?
And there's the silver lining. I'm very bummed that Mulaney isn't going to series, but it means one of two things could still happen: 1) Seth Meyers could get his rumored shot at hosting Late Night when Jimmy Fallon heads to The Tonight Show OR 2) Mulaney takes over Late Night. The latter is a longshot and not based on any rumors or anything -- just wishful thinking on my part -- but something that big is the only rationale I can come up with for the network passing on what sounds like a sure thing.
In other NBC sitcom news, the network finally did cancel Whitney, starring comedian Whitney Cummings. This came as a shock to me, because I was sure that show got canceled months ago.
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Zach Galifianakis returned to host Saturday Night Live for the third time in three years, making him something of a current institution on the show. I'm a fan of him as a comedian, but I can't say I've ever fallen in love with his appearances on SNL. There is a sameness to his shows, as he is repeatedly cast in what amounts to the exact same character he plays in The Hangover (and the upcoming Hangover III, which is coming out in a few weeks in case the shameless appearance by Galifianakis' co-stars, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms, didn't call enough attention to remind you). He's odd and the other people aren't, and I guess that's the joke. SNL has recycled that formula with him so many times that this week they stuck him in a Game of Thrones game show sketch just to make him even more odd than the odd superfans of that show (this is SNL's supposition, not mine). It all feels repetitive, and what was once unique and interesting about Galifianakis' presence on the show has been diluted over and over again to the point where his appearances are hardly anything to look forward to anymore.
(Read the full SNL Zach Galifianakis recap)
Hey, America. If you have a talk show that needs hosting, call Chris Hardwick. Chance are he'll do it.
Chris Hardwick is now one step closer to hosting all of the shows thanks to a new deal with Comedy Central to host a nightly talk show set to air after The Colbert Report. The new show, which will air four nights a week (the same schedule as Colbert and The Daily Show), is set to debut sometime in the fall.
Hardwick currently hosts Talking Dead, the weekly Walking Dead wrap-up show on AMC, as well as the Nerdist TV show on BBC America. These TV shows are in addition to his Nerdist podcast, which drops new episodes two to three times a week. Surely something has to give, right? Pretty soon there won't be a show on television that isn't hosted by Chris Hardwick. MTV show capitalize on this craze and begin showing classic episodes of Singled Out.
The new talk show is being co-produced by Funny or Die, and its executive producers/showrunners will be Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, the billionaire screenwriters who are formerly of The State and Reno 911! It will be airing opposite the new TBS talk show hosted by Pete Holmes, another successful podcast host (You Made it Weird) making the jump to nightly television.
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Despite being a hugely famous and beloved comedian since the '90s, Sarah Silverman has never released a proper stand-up comedy special. She actually skipped that step (if these things are measured in 'steps') and went right to released a concert film, Jesus is Magic, in 2005.
Now it sounds like she'll finally tape her first comedy special, We Are Miracles, this May for a fall premiere on HBO. The special is being presented in a partnership with Funny or Die, which makes sense seeing as Funny or Die Presents has its home at HBO.
It's nice to see Silverman back in the stand-up spotlight. While she has been very busy and visible the last few years, it's been more with movies and TV appearances than with actual stand-up. And I'm glad that HBO is making some moves to reclaim its former greatness as the premiere channel for stand-up comedy. Louis CK's newest special, Oh My God, made its premiere a few weeks ago, and with a Silverman special on deck, it's looking good for HBO. Comedy Central has pretty much been running the show for a few years now, so good for HBO for trying to reclaim the throne.
Looking forward to We Are Miracles. How about you guys?
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images