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Lorne Michaels wins rare Peabody Award

lorne-michales

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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.

Bourne

Bourne to Run

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Bourne Movies

Catch The Bourne Ultimatum this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

You know his name, as the Super Bowl teaser for the upcoming summer blockbuster Jason Bourne reminded us. In this era of franchise films, that seems to be more than enough to get another entry in the now 15-year-old series greenlit. And gosh darn it if we aren’t into it. Before you catch The Bourne Ultimatum on IFC, here are some surprising facts about the Bourne movies that you may not know. And unlike Jason Bourne, try not to forget them.


10. Matt Damon was a long shot to play Jason Bourne.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Coming off of Good Will Hunting and The Legend of Bagger Vance, early ’00s Matt Damon didn’t exactly scream “ripped killing machine.” In fact, Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe and even Sylvester Stallone were all offered the part before it fell into the hands of the Boston boy made good. It was his enthusiasm for director Doug Liman’s more frenetic vision that ultimately helped land him the part.


9. Love interest Marie was almost played by Sarah Polley.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon wasn’t the only casting surprise. Franka Potente, of Run Lola Run fame, wasn’t the filmmaker’s first choice for the role or Marie in The Bourne Identity. In fact, Liman wanted his Go star Sarah Polley for the part, but she turned it down in favor of making indie movies back in Canada. A quick rewrite changed the character from American Marie Purcell to European Marie Helena Kreutz, and the rest is movie history.


8. Director Doug Liman was obsessed with the Bourne books.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Liman had long been a fan of the Bourne book series. When Warner Bros.’ rights to the books lapsed in the late ’90s, Liman flew himself to author Robert Ludlum’s Montana home, mere days after earning his pilot’s license. The author was so impressed with his passion for the material, he sold the rights on the spot.


7. Liman’s father actually worked for the NSA.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Part of Liman’s fasciation with the Bourne series was that his own father played the same spy craft games portrayed in the books while working for the NSA. In fact, many of the Treadstone details were taken from his father’s own exploits, and Chris Cooper’s character, Alex Conklin, was based on Oliver Stone, whom Arthur Liman famously cross examined as chief counsel of the Iran-Contra hearings.


6. Tony Gilroy threw the novel’s story out while writing The Bourne Identity.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Despite being based on a hit book, screenwriter Tony Gilroy, coming off of The Devil’s Advocate, had no idea how to adapt it into a movie. He said the book was more concerned with people “running to airports” than character, and would need a complete rewrite. Director Doug Liman agreed, and Gilroy claims to have condensed the original novel into the first five minutes. Getting that out of the way, he then wrote his own story, based on a man who wakes up one day not remembering anything but how to kill.


5. Damon walked like a boxer to get into character.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Damon had never played a character like Bourne before, and was searching for a way to capture his physicality. Doug Liman told him to walk like a boxer to give Jason Bourne an edge. Damon took that to heart, training for six months in boxing, marital arts and firearms.


4. Damon broke an actor’s nose.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon’s training for the films is legendary, but mistakes still happen. While filming a scene for The Bourne Ultimatum, Damon hit actor Tim Griffin so hard, he shattered his nose. Apparently, the space the scene was filmed in was smaller than originally intended, throwing Damon off just enough to exert a real beat down.


3. James Bond visited The Bourne Legacy set.

Eon Productions

Eon Productions

Actor Daniel Craig stopped by the set of The Bourne Legacy to visit his wife, actress Rachel Weisz, who was starring in the movie. While having James Bond on a Bourne set must have been exciting, The Bourne Legacy was the only Bourne movie to not actually feature Jason Bourne, meaning our bets on who would kick whose ass would have to wait for another day.


2. The Bourne Identity was nearly a bomb (in the box office sense).

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

As reshoots began to pile up, and an all-out war between the studio and director Doug Liman spilled into the press, expectations were that The Bourne Identity was going to flop. Matt Damon told GQ that, “the word on Bourne was that it was supposed to be a turkey…It’s very rare that a movie comes out a year late, has four rounds of reshoots, and it’s good.”


1. Matt Damon wasn’t the first actor to play Bourne.

Warner Brothers Television

Warner Brothers Television

Aired on ABC in 1988, the TV movie adaptation of The Bourne Identity, while not exactly critically acclaimed, was a more faithful version of Ludlum’s book. Richard Chamberlain, of The Thorn Birds fame, played a much less ass-kicking spy, while “Charlie’s Angel” Jaclyn Smith played love interest Marie. If you like your Bourne movies heavy with poorly lit ’80s melodrama, this might just be the adaptation for you. Otherwise, you should catch The Bourne Ultimatum when it airs this month on IFC.

SNL Sketch Showdown: Motivational Speaker vs The Chris Farley Show

Chris-Farley-Show-vs-Matt-Foley

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Welcome to the “Saturday Night Live” Sketch Showdown. Every weekday, an IFC writer will determine the winner of a matchup between two classic “SNL” sketches. You can check out the full bracket here.

Farley Fest

Chris Farley. Love him or hate him, miss him or not, Chris Farley was a large man with an even larger talent for making people laugh. The Wisconsin-born performer was part of the early ‘90s exodus of folks from Chicago’s Second City to New York’s “Saturday Night Live,” coming aboard in an era that gave us Adam Sandler, Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, and the exit of Nora Dunn. Farley may have seemed like the prototypical “big fat funny guy,” but the longer he was on the show, and the more tell-all books about his tenure on the show that are written show, he was a complex human being who never let the pressure of live television get to him: He was performing for the audience and also for his fellow cast mates. That kind of passion is incredibly rare.

The Matchup

Everyone remembers Matt Foley, the motivational speaker who lives down in a van by the river. He was an incredibly flawed character who was a motivational speaker in title only: He was depressing and seemingly hired by suburban families to crush their children’s’ dreams and also demonstrate what happens to people who don’t clean up their act — they become motivational speakers. He was a loud, brash character who would be perpetually hiking his khakis higher and higher before wiping out spectacularly (another Farley trademark — his physicality) and crushing a table or crashing through a window. It’s funny as it happens, but when you sit and think about it, there’s a large deal of intense sadness in these scenes just under the surface.

And then there’s “The Chris Farley Show,” where all those bathos come bubbling up to the surface. Chris parodies himself in these sketches, where he has that week’s host as a guest on his personal talk show. On Farley’s show, Chris is a nervous host-interviewer who fumbles his way through talk show standards like the monologue and introducing his guest, and then proceeds to reminisce with his guests about their projects without shedding any additional insight. Sometimes, the projects Chris remembers has nothing to do with his guests, like when he asked Jeff Daniels about “Die Hard” and Paul McCartney about “Terminator.” Regardless, when Chris beats himself up for how horrible he’s doing, his guests always perk him back up and assure him he’s really quite good at this.

And The Winner Is…

“The Chris Farley Show.” Chris Farley had that rare ability to create a long string of characters “SNL” audiences couldn’t get enough of, but these were a cut above the rest for so many reasons. They were light satires of entertainment journalism (and what it would become) and our culture’s obsession with celebrity, while also just being flat-out goofy and lovable. It also showcased Farley on a completely different wavelength — there’s no screaming or table-smashing here.

Did the right sketch win? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

SNL Sketch Showdown: Wayne’s World vs. The Festrunk Brothers

Wayne’s-World-vs-Crazy-Guys

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Welcome to the “Saturday Night Live” Sketch Showdown. Every weekday, an IFC writer will determine the winner of a matchup between two classic “SNL” sketches. You can check out the full bracket here.

The Dynamic Duos

The latest round of our “SNL” Sketch Showdown features a pair of duo-driven, recurring skits that were a regular staple on the series across several seasons. Both sketches starred a pair of unconventional characters who lived in their own very unique – and very funny – worlds, one full of rock stars and gorgeous “babes,” and the other full of disco and sexy “foxes.”

Actually, now that we look at it that way, they might have more in common than than you expect…

Sketch 1: “Wayne’s World”

Mike Myers and Dana Carvey made their “Saturday Night Live” debut as metalhead slackers Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar during the 1988 season, and the sketch went on to spawn not one but two live-action movies based on the characters’ adventures. Not only did the pair’s fictional public-access television series rock, it actually made DIY television seem cool – and if you’ve seen much public-access programming, you know how impressive of a feat that is. “Wayne’s World” quickly became one of the most popular recurring sketches in the history of the series, with Wayne and Garth hosting everyone from Tom Hanks to Aerosmith in their basement “studio” and coining catchphrases like “Schwing!” “We’re not worthy!” and “Party on!” And by imprinting with songs like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver,” this sketch managed to become just as significant of a pop-culture reference point as the subjects it riffed on.

Sketch 2: “The Festrunk Brothers”

Steve Martin and Dan Akroyd introduced the world to the Festrunk brothers in September 1977, strolling into the sketch with medallions swinging from their necks, chest hair protruding from their shirts, and bulges, well… bulging… from their too-tight pants. The combination of improperly used American slang, horrible accents, and a parade of guest stars playing it straight against these self-described “Wild and Crazy Guys” made this sketch not only a popular recurring element of the series, but a cultural touchstone. While Georg (Martin) and Yortuk (Aykroyd) Festrunk weren’t the most famous roles either actor brought to the series, the “Wild and Crazy Guys” were such a memorable team-up that they were brought out of retirement this season for a special sketch pitting them against this generation’s model: Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake’s “Dick in a Box” crooners.

The Matchup

Let’s face it: Every “SNL” sketch to feature some variation of inept, party-hopping guys has simply been trying to recreate the success of Martin and Aykroyd’s “Wild and Crazy Guys.” Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell never quite captured that magic in their “Roxbury Guys” sketches despite spinning their rayon-clad, Haddaway-loving brothers into a live-action film. Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake, however, may have usurped the throne with their slick, musical “Dick in a Box” duo. Still, it’s hard to argue with the success of “Wayne’s World” – the most successful franchise to spin out of “SNL.” With two successful movies, a long list of bands and songs that found their way to the top of the charts thanks to a mention by Wayne or Garth, these friends from Aurora, Illinois, may actually be one of the only duos capable of tearing our attention away from the Festrunk brothers’ antics.

And the Winner is…

“Wayne’s World”

Like Martin and Aykroyd, Myers and Carvey were more than capable of giving us memorable individual characters – but when it comes to team-ups, no pair gelled better than Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, who consistently made their characters seem so much larger than the series that hosted them.

Did the right sketch win? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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