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Lorne Michaels wins rare Peabody Award

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The legendary Lorne Michaels won a rare individual Peabody Award on Wednesday morning. The awards, announced this time via Twitter and webcast, usually recognizes the group effort of a cast, writers and crew of a show during the course of a single season. Michaels, however, is being singularly rewarded for his entire body of work. His most recent productions include “Portlandia,” “30 Rock,” “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and, of course, “Saturday Night Live,” the most influential comedy show of all time, which he created in 1975. For more than 30 years, the dapper, dour Canadian-American has launched some of the best comedians in the world, looking over their careers from his office at 30 Rockefeller Center. He has always been fiercely pro-NBC, walking the fine line between creative and executive. “… (H)e is both corporate and uncorporate; a man who can feel comfortable in a Prada suit or khakis; a man who has counseled the highest echelons of NBC power, yet who feels beholden to nothing except the rigor of creating comedy — and the occasional glance at ratings,” wrote Stacey Wilson in a profile for The Hollywood Reporter.

Though born in Toronto, it is hard to think of anyone more American-to-the-core than Michaels. Lorne is a self-made man, creating, in his own self-becoming process, a cutting edge American institution that expanded the parameters of what could be done in American sketch comedy. “SNL,” under Lorne’s soft Canadian-American paternalism, lampooned our cultural obsessions as well as our leaders; “30 Rock,” under his guidance, has parodied the dysfunctions of a comedy show (and who would know that terrain better than Lorne?). His own comedic sensibility — intelligent, brash, martini-dry but with an acute awareness of the PR angle (particularly in his youth) — is the North Star which has led several generations of performers who hope to one day appear on one of the shows that he produces. Michaels, it should also be added, comes across as hyper-fair ( a rare trait in the world of comedy), especially when he gently led Sarah Palin into the treacherous waters of an “SNL” cold open in the thick of a Presidential contest. Except for a brief period in the 1980s, Michaels has been at the helm of his creation, the all-seeing Daddy, even doing memorable cameos over the years, enhancing his reputation among the creatives.

Everyone seems to have a Lorne Michael story. The theme of almost all of these stories is the outsize power and influence of the man. Tracy Morgan first met Michaels when he was hawking overpriced Yankees merchandise. Artie Lange has a funny story about meeting Lorne Michaels, in which he comes off as a gigantic asshole. But it is Alec Baldwin, whose Jack Donaghy on “30 Rock” lovingly parodies his comedic mentor, that grasps the sweet Candian-American essence that is Michaels. “In Baldwin’s mind, ‘Jack Donaghy is Lorne, first and foremost,” he told The New Yorker. “‘What am I, a farmer?’ That is Lorne. I think he said that. Lorne’s got a tuxedo in the glove compartment of his car. Lorne is a big-ticket A-list New York water buffalo. He’s big on the Serengeti. Lorne is a person who seduces you into thinking that if you take his advice and play your cards right you’re going to end up with his life.”

The most interesting recent Lorne Michaels story involves the memorable “SNL” cold open in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. “Between dress and air (Lorne) came up with the idea of after the kids sing ‘Silent Night’ they dip to black and then they come up and say ‘Live from New York,” Martin Short, on Studio Q, told the host. This insight into such a culturally significant moment not only gives us a glimpse as to what it is exactly that Lorne Michaels does at “SNL,” but also provides us with the reason why as to why he is so culturally invaluable. The Lorne Michaels touch.

No portrait, no matter how brief, of Lorne Michaels would be accurate without referring to the man’s position in the world of comedy. Michaels, in the winter of his life, gives off an air as patrician now as he exuded was smart-alecky in the 1970s. He was more of a creative when he was younger, and now he can only be properly construed under the category of “suit.” As something of a fixer — with none of the negative connotations, I must add — Michaels has been a major reason for the success of NBC late night (with Conan and Jimmy) and Saturday night. However, at no other time has Lorne Michaels wielded as much power as he does now. The rise of Jimmy Fallon (and in his wake, Seth Meyers), the fresh nostalgia over the end of “30 Rock”, the ungodly power of the Weekend Update chair all argue that Lorne Michaels has an almost unnatural pop-cultural influence. “For decades, the host of The Tonight Show has been crowned NBC’s late-night king,” wrote Nellie Andreeva for Deadline. “But through the years, one figure has been looming larger than any host or executive in NBC’s late night, producer Lorne Michaels, and the current turmoil over the Tonight Show transition is poised to further cement his enormous clout. ” His power grows stronger and stronger.

After 36 years, after being nominated for 80 Emmys (and winning 18), Lorne Michael will be honored by the Peabody’s at the Waldorf-Astoria on May 20th. Well played, Lorne Michaels.

What do you think of Lorne Michaels’ achievement? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Thank Azaria

Best. Characters. Ever.

Our favorite Hank Azaria characters.

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GIFs via Giphy

Hank Azaria may well be the most prolific voice and character actor of our time. The work he’s done for The Simpsons alone has earned him a permanent place in the pop culture zeitgeist. And now he’s bringing another character to the mainstream: a washed-up sports announcer named Jim Brockmire, in the aptly titled new series Brockmire.

We’re looking forward to it. So much so that we want to look backward, too, with a short-but-sweet retrospective of some of Azaria’s important characters. Shall we begin?

Half The Recurring Simpsons Characters

He’s Comic Book Guy. He’s Chief Wiggum. He’s Apu. He’s Cletus. He’s Snake. He’s Superintendent Chalmers. He’s the Sea Captain. He’s Kurt “Can I Borrow A Feeling” Van Houten. He’s Professor Frink. He’s Carl. And he’s many more. But most importantly he’s Moe Szyslak, the staple character Azaria has voiced since his very first audition for The Simpsons.

Oh, and He’s Frank Grimes

For all the regular Simpsons characters Azaria has played over the years, his most brilliant performance may have been a one-off: Frank Grimes, the scrappy bootstrapper who worked tirelessly all his life for honest, incremental, and easily-undermined success. Azaria’s portrayal of this character was nuanced, emotional, and simply magical.

Patches O’Houlihan

Dodgeball is a “sport of violence, exclusion and degradation.” as Hank Azaria generously points out in his brief but crucial cameo in Dodgeball. That’s sage wisdom. Try applying his “five D’s” to your life on and off the court and enjoy the results.

Harold Zoid

Of Futurama fame. The crazy uncle of Dr. Zoidberg, Harold Zoid was once a lion (or lobster) of the silver screen until Smell-o-vision forced him into retirement.

Agador

The Birdcage was significant for many reasons, and the comic genius of Hank Azaria’s character “Agador” sits somewhere towards the top of that list. If you haven’t seen this movie, shame on you.

Gargamel

Nobody else could make a live-action Gargamel possible.

Ed Cochran

From Ray Donovan. Great character, great last name [editorial note: the author of this article may be bias].

Kahmunra, The Thinker, Abe Lincoln

All in the Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian, a file that let Azaria flex his voice acting and live-action muscles in one fell swoop.

The Blue Raja

Mystery Men has everything, including a fatal case of Smash Mouth. Azaria’s iconic superhero makes the shortlist of redeemable qualities, though.

Dr. Huff

Huff put Azaria in a leading role, and it was good. So good that there is no good gif of it. Internet? More like Inter-not.

Learn more about Hank Azaria’s newest claim to fame right here, and don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Flame Out

Brockmire and Other Public Implosions

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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There’s less than a month until the Brockmire premiere, and to say we’re excited would be an insulting understatement. It’s not just that it stars Hank Azaria, who can do no wrong (and yes, that’s including Mystery Men, which is only cringeworthy because of Smash Mouth). It’s that the whole backstory of the titular character, Jim Brockmire, is the stuff of legends. A one-time iconic sportscaster who won the hearts of fans and players alike, he fell from grace after an unfortunate personal event triggered a seriously public meltdown. See for yourself in the NSFW Funny or Die digital short that spawned the IFC series:

See? NSFW and spectacularly catastrophic in a way that could almost be real. Which got us thinking: What are some real-life sports fails that have nothing to do with botched athletics and everything to do with going tragically off script? The internet is a dark and dirty place, friends, but these three examples are pretty special and mostly safe for work…

Disgruntled Sports Reporter

His co-anchor went offsides and he called it like he saw it.

Jim Rome vs Jim “Not Chris” Everett

You just don’t heckle a professional athlete when you’re within striking distance. Common sense.

Carl Lewis’s National Anthem

He killed it! As in murdered. It’s dead.

To see more moments just like these, we recommend spending a day in your pajamas combing through the muckiness of the internet. But to see something that’s Brockmire-level funny without having to clear your browser history, check out the sneak peeks and extras here.

Don’t miss the premiere of Brockmire April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Mirror, Mirror

Portlandia Season 7 In Hindsight

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available Online and on the IFC App.

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Another season of Portlandia is behind us, and oh what a season it was. We laughed. We cried. And we chuckled uncomfortably while glancing nervously around the room. Like every season before it, the latest Portlandia has held a mirror up to ridiculousness of modern American life, but more than ever that same mirror has reflected our social reality in ways that are at once hysterical and sneakily thought-provoking. Here are just a few of the issues they tackled:

Nationalism

So long, America, Portland is out! And yes, the idea of Portland seceding is still less ludicrous than building a wall.

Men’s Rights

We all saw this coming. Exit gracefully, dudes.

Protests

Whatever you stand for, stand for it together. Or with at least one other person.

Free Love

No matter who we are or how we love, deep down we all have the ability to get stalky.

Social Status

Modern self-esteem basically hinges on likes, so this isn’t really a stretch at all.

These moments are just the tip of the iceberg, and much more can be found in the full seventh season of #Portlandia, available right now #online and on the #IFC app.

via GIPHY

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