Monday, May 01, 2006

Robert Smigel TV Funhouse on SNL

As long as I'm on the subject of TV...

This past weekend, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE ran an episode composed of some of the "TV Funhouse" segments that Robert Smigel has been doing for the last decade. Mostly animated bits, imitating the styles of various older cartoons in political and pop culture parodies. While the feature misses as often as it hits, it has often produced the funniest bit on any given SNL episode I've watched in the last decade, and since I don't watch most of them a lot of the special was new to me.

It's well worth catching if it gets repeated (though the editing was pretty bad at times. I'd have preferred a fewer clips and all of them complete). I'm not a big fan of the main regular feature, "The Ambiguously Gay Duo", a super-hero parody. That provided the new framing sequences as well as a few of the clips. There's some funny stuff in there, but it gets old fast.

One of my favourites was from just a few months ago, and was included in this special. "Christmastime for the Jews", a great tune sung by Darlene Love and with some sharp animation in the style of the old stop-motion "Davey & Goliath" cartoons. I've watched that thing a dozen times, and while a few of the lyrics are clunky it's a lot of fun.

They've done a few parodies of the old Charlie Brown Christmas special. I remember one as being pretty bad, but it wasn't included here, fortunately. Two of the other ones were included, and are a lot better. I especially liked the one of Jesus walking around as various modern "religious" figures talk about what Jesus preached (using actual audio from them), zapping them in various ways, until finally seeing Linus's speech from the special. And then doing that goofy dance from the cartoon (one of the fade-ins to commercials had a Schulz drawing of Linus looking shocked. Does anyone know if that was something Schulz did specially for the Funhouse crew after one of their parodies?).

"The X-Presidents" was another one I enjoyed. It has Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush Senior as super-heroes, and is pretty ridiculous but funny (Carter: "I have lusted in my heart... to kick your ass!"). I also liked the one with Mr. T trying to make a comeback by doing Ibsen on stage. The pair of Disney parodies ("Bambi 2002", a sequel to Bambi, which they actually did, and a look at the Disney vault) were pretty funny, though sometimes cruel.

Not quite all of them were winners, of course. There was a Yogi Bear parody that was pretty flat throughout, and the Michael Jackson one might have crossed the taste line a few times. But overall fun stuff. I'd consider getting a DVD of the feature, provided it had more of them and unedited. I also wouldn't mind some commentary on the process of imitating the old cartoon styles (which is pretty close to perfect throughout).

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