My Fantasy Football 2012 (and yeah, I’m serious)

I don’t know why I’m so interested in fantasy football every season. Maybe it’s the only way I can feel invested in the teams I root for anymore (being a Vikings fan makes that all the more problematic). Maybe it helps me to share in the love of something that could be seen as very divisive amongst my more anti-sports nerd friends. Either way, this year I was actually prepared to give up on fantasy football. Then, one day, I got a bug up my butt to start join some free leagues on ESPN. Within 24 hours after setting up three new teams (Team Space Olympics, Team Clear Eyes Full Hearts, and The New Caprica Browncoats), I went through three drafts.

By request (of Cooper Foyt), below are the rosters of my three teams, one good, one bad, and one toss-up.

 

The Good:

SPACE OLYMPICS

QB – Aaron Rodgers, GB (The nose knows!)

RB- Fred Jackson, Buf (“I’m NOT sorry, Mr. Jackson!” – Guy who makes the world’s worst joke and is proud)

RB- Steven Jackson (No relation.), StL

RB/WR- Doug Martin, TB RB

WR- Steve Smith, Car (Cam’s gonna have a big year, I expect, and Stevie’s gonna get the best of that.)

WR-Percy Harvin, Min (“He’s so good it makes my head hurt!” – See Fred Jackson)

TE- Rob Gronkowski, NE (GRONK SMASH!)

FLEX- Kevin Smith, Det (No relation.)

OP- Matt Ryan, Atl QB (Why do we need a Flex AND an OP? Because points! (Apparently.))

DP- Charles Woodson, GB CB (AKA Chuckie Woods.)

DP- Sean Lee, Dal LB (Because I know who THIS guy is!)

D/ST- Bears (I almost drafted Devin Hester as a backup, then I remembered punt returns don’t count for WRs.)

K- Garrett Hartley, NO (Let’s hope he actually plays!)

Bench- Toby Gerhart, Min RB (To-by! To-by! To-by!)

Bench- Reggie Wayne, Ind WR (Still got some gas in the tank.)

Bench- Jared Cook, Ten TE (….Nothing to say here.)

Bench- Nate Burleson, Det WR (Because of course he’ll do better now that he’s not a Viking.)

Bench- Brent Celek, Phi TE (See Jared Cook.)

Bench- Cardinals D/ST (C-A-R-D-I-N-A-L-S!)

Bench- Brian Quick, StL WR (Never heard of him before this draft. And yet…)

 

 

The (Really) Bad:

CLEAR EYES FULL HEARTS

QB – Peyton Manning, Den (yay?)

RB- Kevin Smith, Det (Still no relation; also, THIS is my starting RB. *shakes head*)

RB- Toby Gerhart, Min (To-by? To-by? To-by?)

WR- Pierre Garcon, Wsh (Living in Washington means I have to care about the Redskins.)

WR- Brian Quick, StL (…I drafted him again.)

TE- Vernon Davis, SF (THIS was my second-round pick. Not my best work.)

FLEX- Pierre Thomas, NO RB (Two Pierres, one team.)

D/ST- Cardinals (C-A-R-D-I-N-A-L-S…that’s how you spell Cardinals.)

K- Mason Crosby (Likely my most consistent player…..and he’s a kicker.)

Bench- Matt Schaub, Hou QB (“Not too Schaub-by.” – Percy Harvin)

Bench- Jason Witten, Dal TE (He did so poorly for me last season, I thought I’d draft him again!)

Bench- Jacquizz Rodgers, Atl RB (Tell me that name doesn’t make you giggle.)

Bench- Kevin Walter, Hou WR (who?)

Bench- Damian Williams, Ten WR (who??)

Bench- Donnie Avery, Ind WR (who???)

Bench- Adam Vinatieri (My second most-consistent draft pick.)

 

The Toss-Up:

NEW CAPRICA BROWNCOATS

QB – Cam Newton, Car (They laughed at me for picking him 1st round. We’ll see who’s laughing in the playoffs….possibly still them.)

RB- Shonn Greene, NYJ (You know what we needed? More creative spellings of “Shawn”.)

RB- Roy Helu, Wsh (“Why, Helu there.” – See Matt Schaub)

WR- Hakeem Nicks, NYG (Friggin’ Giants, man. Had to do it.)

WR- Malcolm Floyd, SD (Is it just because I don’t live on the West Coast that I never heard of this guy before?)

TE- Antonio Gates, SD (Please don’t be too old, please don’t be too old, please…)

FLEX- Kevin Smith, Det RB (Actually, there might be some relation.)

D/ST- Seahawks (The team everyone thinks of when they think the word “defense.”)

K- Sebastian Janikowski (The crabbiest Sebastian since The Little Mermaid.)

Bench- Christian Ponder, Min QB (Please don’t let Cam Newton get injured, please don’t let Cam…)

Bench- Brian Quick, StL WR (Along with Kevin Smith, one of two players on all three of my teams.)

Bench- James Jones, GB WR (Hey! It’s…….that guy! How ya doin’….you?)

Bench- Jason Snelling, Atl RB (Sure, why not.)

Bench- Joel Dreessen, Den TE (He sure is.)

Bench- Bengals D/ST (Rawr.)

Bench- Olindo Mare, Car K (You kick that ball like a Panther, Olindo!)

The Day of Small Amazements

Have you ever had a day where everything just seemed to line up, where from the moment you woke, small, positive things kept coming into your life and changing your view of everything around you? And on that day, has a crazy woman ever said you should kill yourself for being white?

Let me back up.

Wednesday I woke up later than usual. It was the day before I was set to start my new job (a temp job at the Council on Foundations doing general office work, a very lucky catch after a month with no work), and on waking I gradually scrounged through my social networks on my phone, delaying the inevitability of extruding myself from my sheets. The first and sweetest thing I saw was this:

My dear friend, Chris McCarthy, had made this video for his fiancee’s birthday and uploaded it to YouTube. Watch it, and if it doesn’t make you swoon, you might be blind (seriously, get that checked out). What better way to wake up than to see two of my best friends celebrating their love?

Next I jumped to Twitter, where I came across a link from the National Society of Collegiate Scholars:

Suffice it to say, I am often bored, and thus this link did so tickle mine fancy to exploriate and reviewitize. Bouncing down the rabbit hole, #22 on this list (“Turn old and unused objects such as books and magazines into practically useful objects such as these!”) led me to a site that featured an eye-catching project: “1. Hollow out an old hardback to create a nifty iPod case

Following the link again (so much clicking!), I got to an instructional guide on how to make an iPod case out of an old book. And, wouldn’t you know it, I had all the supplies required. The picture looked incredibly clean and functional, and somehow I thought I could make something just as neat.

Well, five or so hours later, what I had was this:

Functional and attractive, though hardly as clean as the instructions. Still, I was feeling proud and handy, like I actually accomplished something useful with my life (see, mom?).

While making the audiobook, I noticed that the show Jon Benjamin Has a Van was recently added to Netflix. Now, I love Jon Benjamin, but for whatever reason I never got around to watching an episode of this series. So, feeling bold, I gave it a go.

I absolutely loved it.

Matt Walsh’s role in the first episode was hilarious, and the show’s irreverent structure and harsh but absurd sense of humor made every new sketch a surprise. It’s experimental, it’s loose, it’s often complex to follow. As sketch comedy series go, it’s definitely a winner, and made excellent background noise for my book-destroying art project.

In the middle of all of this, I got a call from a friend that shocked and awed me (Bush-style). It seems a certain old pal of mine has a new business venture. I won’t go into details lest I steal his thunder, but trust me, it’s both exciting and cool, and I could not be happier that he’s taking it on, not to mention how happy I am that such a business will exist at all.

On top of that, Ajia sends me an email while she’s on her break; she got us two tickets to a screening of Serenity at the Arlington Drafthouse next month. See? I married smart.

When Ajia got home from work (with beer, which she noticed I’d run out of, because she’s awesome), I was in such good spirits I announced that I’d be taking her out to dinner. A local restaurant that we’d been putting off trying out was calling our names. So we each dressed a little more nicely and set about the walk.

And it was here we made our first mistake.

Walking towards the corner of Franklin and Rhode Island, we saw a woman presumably waiting for the light. Nothing unusual about her that we could see; she seemed young, casually dressed, clean, and absently holding a bag of groceries under her arm.

It wasn’t until we got closer that I realized she was talking to herself.

I thought briefly that she might have a bluetooth in her ear or one of those inane earbud contraptions with the receiver on the cord. But then she turned and looked at us, and things got scary.

The first thing I heard her say was “And now a couple white devils f***ing walking through here.”

See, I thought the term “white devil” was a cliche that white people dreamed up to put in the mouths of black actors in movies like Crash. Apparently I was wrong. I was also extremely unlucky; the light turned red exactly when we walked past this woman, and now we had to wait for the walk signal with a crazy woman behind us. And, of course, she immediately started berating us.

Exactly what she said for the majority of the minute-or-so we were trapped on the sidewalk with her, I’m not entirely certain. I remember her insulting both Ajia and myself (I distinctly remember her calling me “the most misshapen motherf***er on Earth” and saying awful things about Ajia’s ass), conceiving of brutal ways in which we should both be killed, and chiding us for walking through her neighborhood, as though we were tourists strolling through to see how poor black people lived so we could feel better about ourselves.

At no point did we engage her, or even turn to look at her; we were both obviously terrified. Though, as Ajia pointed out later, she did say that Ajia and I “deserve each other,” which, though it was certainly not meant as a compliment, was kind of sweet.

The last thing I heard her say as we finally crossed the street was, “You both deserve to die in some kind of murder-suicide or some s**t.”

Now, before I go on, I should point out that at the time, I merely found this encounter kind of funny. Yes, it was extremely uncomfortable, and I was listening very carefully for her footsteps in case she tried to take a swing at either of us, or worse, but I couldn’t help but laugh. In retrospect, this experience has really stuck with me. It was the first time since we moved to Washington that I’ve felt real fear, and a crazy woman calling you a devil and waxing elaborately on how you should be killed is someone to be scared of.

But more than that, it highlights a narrative that has cropped up recently in both mine and Ajia’s experience, which is that, while our neighbors are extremely polite and sweet to us and say “Hello” when we see them, a lot of the people from our area have just stared at us, sometimes disturbingly, if we try to wave, or say “Hi,” or smile, or even nod at them. On that same walk with the devil woman, we passed an RV that’s been parked on the side of a nearby street for weeks. When we walked by it, having walked by it many times before and had no encounters, we saw two things: On one side of the street, a group of three people engaged in conversation. And in the door of the RV itself, the owner.

I tried to say hi to the group. Ajia tried to say hi to the man in the RV. We both got the same response: Glares. Not stares, not eye-rolls, not even nothing; I’d have preferred to get no response at all. But every one of them glared, a seething look that really disheartened both of us.

At what point did we do something to offend anyone here? When we moved into the neighborhood? When we were born? I recognize the irony in a white male bemoaning a narrative of racial discrimination at the hands of others. But honestly, up until now, it hasn’t been a problem. We’ve met some great folks in our block that don’t seem to care what race we are, just as we don’t care what race they are. And maybe it has nothing to do with race, maybe it’s because we’re young college graduates, or that we’re not from this part of the country, or maybe it’s just that we’re new and no one knows who we are.

But I gotta say, being called a “white devil” for walking down the sidewalk has really messed me up.

Okay, enough depressing racial awkwardness.

For dinner on we ate at this amazing Neapolitan pizza restaurant called Menomale. The meal was tremendous, and even though the place was packed, we managed to get seated right away. It’s hard to believe such a chic little eatery is only a couple blocks from a street where the only food is a Papa John’s and a Caribbean fast food chain. But if you’re ever around DC, well, first say hi to us, then check that place out.

Again, none of these things on their own was life-changing. And, in the scheme of things, this is probably a boring day to most people. But somehow, the way everything added up, I came out the other side of the Day of Small Amazements with confidence and a sense that everything in our lives is going to be alright. And really, that’s what I needed most.

Oh, and also, if someone calls you a white devil, just go to the next block, and don’t wait for the light.

PersonAbsurdCast: An Epic Comedy Podcast

Hey comedians!

…Over here, people. See the birdy?

PersonAbsurd is proud to announce a one-of-a-kind comedy showcase: PersonAbsurdCast, a new weekly comedy podcast starring (possibly) you!

That’s right, we’re looking for submissions of live comedy recordings from all over the country to put together in a showcase of talent at the amateur, professional, and “other” level. Basically, if you’ve got a recording of five minutes or less, send it in, and the best submissions each week will make it onto the show.

If you’ve got a recording from a recent performance that you’re proud of, if you’ve got some material you’d like to bring to a brand new audience, if you’ve got a clip of a set that killed, send the recordings to christianhagen@live.com and you could get on the bill for the PersonAbsurdCast.

The mission is to make the first nation-wide weekly open mic, a chance to showcase and network comedians from all around the country and from all skill levels. Feel trapped in a small town with no clubs in your area? We’re here for you.

All performances must be under 5 minutes. Windows Media and mp3 file formats preferred, but whatever the format, if it sounds good, we can make it work. Along with your recording, please submit your name, location, and a short bio, including any plugs you might like to put out there.

To recap, send the following to be included in the show:

-A quality audio file

-Name

-Location

-Short bio (and any plugs)

Please, only one submission at a time. We’ll try to answer each email in a timely fashion, and it may take time to accommodate all the files received. If there’s a sound quality issue that prevents you from getting on, we’ll try to let you know. But be realistic; human error is not a myth

There are no language or content restrictions. It has to be funny, and it has to be good. That’s all that matters.

If you’re an established, amateur, aspiring, or wannabe comic, this show is about and for you. Send your material to christianhagen@live.com for your chance.

The PersonAbsurdCast Comedy Podcast: Coming soon. GET PSYCHED LIKE DULE HILL!
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IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re submitting material for the podcast, be prepared that it might get used; all your work will be attributed to you, but by submitting, you’ve agreed to let us distribute the recording in the form of our choosing and use it and edit it in whatever manner we deem necessary.

Hoffman List: Haywire & Mission Impossible 3

A couple great villain roles this time around.

Haywire (2012)

Starring:Ewan McGregor (with Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Charming Potato, and Michael Douglas)

McGregor’s Role: Bad boyfriend of the main character and *SPOILER* main villain.

Performance Grade: Hoff-win.

Review: Seeing Ewan McGregor play a bad guy, albeit a spindly sneaky type rather than a massive badass, is oddly exciting. I love him as the charming misguided type, but he plays hate-worthy dick quite well. The rest of the film is serviceable; action and fighting are surprisingly great, and most of the acting is top-notch, though star Carano’s obvious inexperience in the acting world makes her character feel a bit stilted.

Film Grade: A nerve-racking Haywire act.

Mission Impossible III (2006)

Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman (with Tom Cruise, Michelle Monaghan, Ving Rhames)

Hoffman’s Role: Cold-blooded bad guy Owen Davian.

Performance Grade: Hoff-win.

Review: If you’ve only ever seen P.S.H. in his more artsy roles, seeing him as one of the most straight-up evil villains in recent blockbusters can be jarring. His viciousness is matched only by his cleverness, which is much like the film itself. Despite a less than stellar pedigree, J.J. Abrams made a sequel that outguns its original.

Film Grade: Mission Thrill-possible

Update on Me: Where I’ve Been

Loyal (read: occasional) readers, you may have (though not likely) wondered where I’ve been the last few weeks, and why I missed the boat on Power Ranking the last few weeks of the SNL season, which, I assure you, is one of my very favorite things to do in the world.

The good and the bad is this: My wife and I have moved to Washington, D.C.

Now, I love Washington so far. I mean, I’m unemployed, but I’m unemployed in a major U.S. city. There are worse things to be.

The trouble is, between the move, the unpacking, the general unease of not having jobs, and the fact that we no longer have cable (an antenna in our basement apartment would be futile) have conspired to prevent me from watching live television and writing dripping blog posts about it the next morning.

I’ve also been unable to live-tweet SNL, my other favorite thing to do in this world, and have sorely missed it.

If you’re worried about me, worry not. By the time you return to this site out of boredom or StumbleUpon, I’ll have updated the content with new entries in the Hoffman List, a music post or two, and hopefully a recap of the SNL season. And by the time the next season of SNL rolls around, money willing, I’ll have cable, and can write about it to my heart’s content.

Thank you for being patient, and continue to enjoy your internet.

P.S. You can enjoy some standup I did last month:

Saturday Night Live – Power Rankings 04/14/2012

SNL POWER RANKINGS: Josh Brolin / Gotye 04/14/2012

1) Andy Samberg (Up 9) - Not everyone likes it, but when Samberg is given as many chances as he was given last night to shine, he typically knocks it out. Last night was no exception. The dude was in everything: The awful Cold Open (as Santorum), the “Game of Thrones” sketch (as the lead character), the “New York State of Mind” parody sketch (as Weird Al, of all people), TWO Digital Shorts (both of which were hysterical), Piers Morgan (as the wire dancing guy), and the “Slow Motion Hallway” sketch. And there wasn’t one sketch wherein he did not make me laugh. They handed him an episode on a plate, and he took it with ease.

2) Jay Pharaoh (Up 10) – Okay, we get it now: Lorne Michaels likes to keep fans on their toes. After weeks of background spots and a few no-shows, Jay Pharaoh had several stand out moments in last night’s episode. Mostly, it was in his impressions; his Will Smith was in the monologue, and was funny as always. His Jay-Z was really the best part of the “New York” sketch. He even debuted a solid Kanye West impression. But his best part was inarguably his recurring character Principal Frye, who made me laugh harder than anyone else in the entire episode. Pharaoh’s character breaking wasn’t as prevalent as Bill Hader’s, but it was almost funnier, and his delivery was perfect. Really ended the show on a very high note.

3) Bill Hader (Down 1) -His sketch volume wasn’t as high as it usually is, but he was given good material and he made it play. He got to show off some technique in the “Slow Motion” sketch, and reprised his role in “Lazer Cats” (a personal favorite). But he owned the episode’s most talked-about moment in “The Californians.” Not only did he lose it, he lost it in full-face close-up. His face changed colors. It was a treat, and one people are going to remember.

4) Kristen Wiig (Down 1) – Wiig could have been higher here, because she made plenty of appearances throughout the night, but she rarely stood out in any sketch and was mostly used as support. Her main highlights were as Michelle Bachmann in the night’s worst sketch and as the main woman in “The Californians.” Otherwise, “Garth and Kath” was dreadful, and she basically danced through her parts in “New York State of Mind” and “Slow Motion Hallway.” They’ve stuck her into supporting roles for a few weeks now, and I wonder if she’s tiring of the treatment.

5) Taran Killam (Down 4) - The Killam train kept rolling last night, showing up in a high volume of sketches with mostly positive results. He shared space with Andy Samberg in the second Digital Short, which let him play around with the musical guest. He got to don the role of Piers Morgan again, and though his impression is dreadful, his caricature is infectious. And he played a small role in “Game of Thrones.” Was it a Killam blowout like last week? No. But they’ve clearly got a space for him going forward, and showcasing his skills has been a priority of late.

6) Fred Armisen (Up 5) - Armisen mostly redeemed himself from last week’s sh*t show, especially in “The Californians,” in which he pretty much single-handedly cracked up the rest of the cast. And while “Garth and Kath” and his rap in “New York State of Mind” weren’t really that funny, it wasn’t for lack of enthusiasm on Armisen’s part. His impression of Ice T was downright funny. Still, they need to keep him on a short leash if they don’t want Armisen overload like they’ve had in the past.

7) Keenan Thompson (Up 1) - From Herman Cain to Tay Zonday to his ridiculous villain’s role in “The Californians,” Thompson took his usual place in the production: The sweet petit fors that shows up out of the blue, makes everybody smile, and then quietly steps out. He’s the cleanup hitter of the team, popping up near the ends of sketches and ensuring they come to a satisfying conclusion.

8) Vanessa Bayer (Up 5) – Thankfully, they managed to bring Bayer out of whatever cellar in which they’ve kept her locked. Sure, she played straight man most of the night, in “Slow Motion Hallway” and “Booker T Washington High School Prom,” but they let her have a moment or two of fun in “The Californians.” It was so nice to see her again, it made up for a general lack of things for her to do.

9) Bobby Moynihan (Down 4) - I love this guy to death, and he had several solid spots this week. Of the rapping bits in “New York State of Mind,” his was the only really funny attempt, and even though they didn’t give him much to say, seeing him as George R.R. Martin was amusing. And though he didn’t have lines, he sold the “Newt Gingrich stealing nuts” bit in the Cold Open, which is no easy feat considering how stupid that whole sketch was.

10) Nasim Pedrad (Down 1) - All she gets are scraps, and she makes them into gold for a few minutes at a time. They just don’t know what to do with Nasim anymore, and it’s gotten very, very sad.

11) Kate McKinnon (Down 4) – Part of me expected McKinnon to be completely off the show this week, what with their recent track record of completely forgetting the featured cast members for weeks on end. But she was in the same number of sketches as her debut (two total) and though neither appearance was as visible as they were in her first week, she made the best of both of them.

12) Jason Sudekis (Down 8) - Are they winding down the clock in preparation for some end-of-season exodus from Jason Sudekis? I don’t know. But I can only recall his face from a Cold Open that did him no favors in terms of writing, and then I don’t recall seeing him again the rest of the night.

13) Abby Elliot (Down 6) -Abby Elliot was in this episode. I know, because she played Ke$ha in “New York State of Mind” and basically had one line (“My songs aren’t parodies”). That’s really all I can say about her this week. She was hardly seen or heard from, and wasn’t really a part of the show in any way beyond a moment or two of screen time.

Host Grade: C+ – It’s not a necessarily a knock against Josh Brolin to say he didn’t need to be on screen this week, but really, they didn’t write any sketches where he was prominent enough to factor in the show’s quality, and when he did have things to do, they were sort of passe. He’s a terrific actor, but this wasn’t his show.

Musical Guest Grade: A- – I find Gotye to be pretty middling on record. Decent output, decent background noise. But he really brought it in his two performances, and though he couldn’t stop smiling in the Digital Short, he got a whole sketch devoted to him, which is a high compliment.

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SEASON 37 EPISODE RANKING

 

1) Jimmy Fallon / Michael Buble

2) Jason Segal / Florence and the Machine

3) Zooey Deschanel / Karmin

4) Josh Brolin / Gotye

-A rare example where the cast and the writers, not the personality of the host, made an episode great. After a dismal Cold Open, it immediately picked up steam, and then it was gold pretty much all night long.

5) Melissa McCarthy / Lady Antebellum

6) Danielle Radcliffe / Lana Del Rey

7) Maya Rudolph / Sleigh Bells

8) Alec Baldwin / Radiohead

9) Charlie Day / Maroon 5

10) Sofia Vergara / One Direction

11) Lindsay Lohan / Jack White

12) Emma Stone / Coldplay

13) Anna Faris / Drake

14) Ben Stiller / Foster the People

15) Channing Tatum / Bon Iver

16) Steve Buscemi / The Black Keys

17) Charles Barkley / Kelly Clarkson

18) Katy Perry / Robyn

[Still haven’t watched the Jonah Hill ep. I’ll work on that.]

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COMING UP

05/15 – Eli Manning / Rhianna: This is my nightmare.

Saturday Night Live – Power Rankings 04/07/2012

It’s been over a month since I wrote one of these (two weeks I was in Washington D.C. and didn’t have my computer, then three weeks of re-runs), and it feels surprisingly good to be back at it. Kinda like revisiting an old friend. This was an especially weird week too, so without further ado…

SNL POWER RANKINGS: Sofia Vergara / One Direction 04/07/2012

1) Taran Killam (Up 10) - It was inevitable. Killam’s been getting more and more screen time, and with each new sketch he manages to find a different way to nail the role. Michael Cera impression? He knew how to hang back and wait for the big moment. Andy Cohen impression? He made it all him, and it killed. And he was the only part of the godawful “Manuel Ortiz Show” that made me laugh, and that actually counts for a lot. Actually, he wasn’t in the most sketches this week, but if his work continues to stand out like this, he’s got big things coming.

2) Bill Hader (Up 1) - Bill Hader is slowly turning into the guy whose friends have heard all of his jokes but they’re too nice to say anything, so he goes extra big on every line to make people laugh. And sometimes it works, but more often, it’s just kind of disappointing, because this guy that we love is trapped in this cycle and can’t get out of it. That, or everything written for him lately was bad. Either way, he’s getting all the screen time, and a fair amount of laughs, but last night it felt a bit stale.

3) Kristen Wiig (Up 3) -The fact that they brought Gilly back is reason enough to see her this high on the list. That’s a bold move: A character that at least half the audience outright hates and one that hasn’t been seen in over a year. That’s a vote of confidence in Wiig’s abilities. Beyond that, a batch of familiar character types brought her screen time up, and her Drew Barrymore was actually the surprise impression of the night.

4) Jason Sudekis (Up 1) - The front half of this show might as well have been “The Jason Sudekis Power Hour.” Then he all but disappeared. His Mitt Romney Cold Opens aren’t getting better, but I honestly don’t think it’s him; they just have no bite to them at all. That’s a writing issue. He was straight man in the “Action News” disaster and the “Pantene” sketch and cuddled with Andy in the “Just Friends” ad. He’s so likable, he climbs up the ranks bit by bit, week by week.

5) Bobby Moynihan (Up 5) – From here, the cast was so evenly spread, it comes down to very minor differences to break up the rankings. Moynihan’s “Drunk Uncle” was the only Weekend Update correspondant, and was hilarious as always. He also appeared for humorous facial expressions along the way in other sketches, but being the only character in Weekend Update is a big deal. Let’s see if he can break out of it and into some real sketch leads.

6) Kate McKinnon (NEW) -The newest cast member, added over the break, didn’t appear until the back half and provided two impressions. However, these impressions were absolutely hysterical, first as Tabitha Coffey in the “Watch What Happens” sketch and then as a co-lead with the host in the “Pantene” sketch. Most impressively, she didn’t seem at all nervous on screen, really laying into each character with perfect timing and tone. It was really skilled. Don’t expect to see her this high again for a while, though; new people rarely get any screen time after their first episode or two. But this bodes well for her future.

7) Abby Elliot (Up 5) - She was only in two sketches that I can recall, but she was the lead character in one of them, and the other was “Gilly,” in which her part is always fairly large. Weird that her Zooey Deschanel impression would be the only thing keeping her on the show, but it’s a good bit, and any lead role where you can actually draw the laughs is a plus. She’s better off than another female cast member whose most frequent contribution is a celebrity talk show impression*.

8) Keenan Thompson (Down 7) - It simply couldn’t last. The last rankings I did had this man at #1, and I stand by that. But the abnormality of a highly racial SNL episode ensured he’d be somewhere in the bottom half of the list by now. Why does he jump ahead of other cast members who appeared in more sketches? Simple: His turn as Desmond Tutu in “Watch What Happens” made me laugh the hardest of anything in the episode. Add his always amusing awkwardness in the “Manuel Ortiz Show” and you’ve got a case for a place that’s not high, but certainly respectable.

9) Nasim Pedrad (Down 2) – What does this show have against letting Nasim Pedrad have screen time? I don’t know, but it’s getting frustrating.

10) Andy Samberg (Down 2) - I miss Andy when he’s not a big part of an episode, because he typically finds a way to make me chuckle even when he’s doing lame material. Honestly, I know he was there last night, but other than the “Just Friends” ad, I can’t even remember him.

11) Fred Armisen (Down 9) - This isn’t an exact science. If it was, Armisen’s sketch volume would probably vault him higher than this. But his sketches were by far the worst of the night (“Action News” and “Manuel Ortiz”), and basically represented characters I’d like to see buried alive. I’ll concede because he was actually on my television enough to be represented, but if I could, I’d have let him off this week’s list all together.

12/13) Jay Pharoah / *Vanessa Bayer (Down 8/Down 4) – Someone’s bound to be underwritten on this show every week, but honestly, these two are in a bad position. Pharoah has yet to prove he can be a good comedy actor without the impressions on any consistent basis. And poor Vanessa. Clearly somebody just isn’t liking her material for some reason.

Host Grade: B+ – Vergara surprised me. I had very low expectations for her going in; I’ve never particularly liked Modern Family and have actually always thought of her as the most annoying character on that show. But from her monologue, I could tell something good was coming, and she really did quite well, even getting the beats mostly right in the very weirdly written bits like “Gilly.”

Musical Guest Grade: C – One Direction could not be more innocuous if they tried. They’re less N*Sync, more New Kids on the Block. If that distinction even means anything. Iwill give them credit for trying in the “Manuel Ortiz Show” and looking like they were having a genuinely good time poking each other in the face…yeah, I’ve got nothing.

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SEASON 37 EPISODE RANKING

1) Jimmy Fallon / Michael Buble

2) Jason Segal / Florence and the Machine

3) Zooey Deschanel / Karmin

4) Melissa McCarthy / Lady Antebellum

5) Danielle Radcliffe / Lana Del Rey

6) Maya Rudolph / Sleigh Bells

7) Alec Baldwin / Radiohead

8) Charlie Day / Maroon 5

9) Sofia Vergara / One Direction

-Sofia was good, but the writing was hit-and-miss at best. Some sketches made me laugh almost too hard. Many left me bored.

10) Lindsay Lohan / Jack White

-Missed ranking this one from the road, but while Lindsay Lohan was a disaster in everything, the cast managed to pull themselves together and pull out a relatively decent show.

11) Emma Stone / Coldplay

12) Anna Faris / Drake

13) Ben Stiller / Foster the People

14) Channing Tatum / Bon Iver

15) Steve Buscemi / The Black Keys

16) Charles Barkley / Kelly Clarkson

17) Katy Perry / Robyn

[Still haven’t watched the Jonah Hill ep. I’ll work on that.]

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COMING UP

04/11 – Josh Brolin / Gotye: The only confirmed episode I can find right now, but a great line-up. I have a really good feeling about Brolin in comedy, and the world is all abuzz about Gotye right now (my wife will be pleased, to be sure).

THE HOFFMAN LIST: BIG FISH, MR. MAGORIUM’S WONDER EMPORIUM, MARY AND MAX

Back from an extended break, my quest to watch every film starring the members of a list I’ve dubbed The Hoffman List continues, this week with three “children’s” films (some of which might be too weird and sad for kids).

Big Fish (2003)

Starring: Ewan McGregor (with Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Helena Bonham Carter)

McGregor’s Role: The young version of the protagonist, Edward Bloom.

Performance Grade: Hoff-win

Review: This was the film that ignited the spark of my love for Ewan McGregor. The guy’s so affable and infectiously energetic in this movie, containing a boyish enthusiasm within a grown-up, confident face. He doesn’t get to show off his usual crying chops, but the film’s ending will leave you weeping enough even without him. The movie hasn’t fared as well in terms of coherance (it’s oddly paced, upon reflection), but it still gets me every time, and might be the most pleasant movie Tim Burton’s ever made.

Film Grade: Not too fish-y

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (2007)

Starring: Dustin Hoffman (with Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman, a bunch of kids)

Hoffman’s role: The titular Mr. Magorium, owner of a magical toy shop and dispenser of ancient magical wisdom.

Performance grade: Hoff-win

Review: Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is one of the most criminally underrated children’s movies of the last decade. Its plot is a little muddled, especially in the third act, and the ending is a bit weak, but Hoffman makes the movie dazzle. Plus, he delivers one of my favorite monologues in the history of film, which I won’t spoil for you but involves King Lear. It’s funny, cute, and heart-warming to the maximum.

Film Grade: Wonder-ful

Mary and Max (2009)

Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman (with Toni Collette and Eric Bana)

Hoffman’s role: Max, a sad, lonely, mentally-handicapped man from New York City who becomes pen pals with a sad, lonely girl from Australia.

Performance grade: Hoff-win

Review: This is one of the saddest claymation pictures you’ll ever see. Also, it’s one of the strangest. But there’s a real sense of love for these characters written into this script, and the voice actors (Hoffman especially) make their tragedies (and they have many) into deeply moving adventures.

Film Grade: To the Max

In case you were wondering….

…why Ewan McGregor is on The Hoffman List, Louis C.K. explains why. And then, of course, Ewan makes it even beter:

No power rankings for SNL this week

I’m writing from my phone in the passenger seat of my car on the way to Washington, D.C. This is both difficult and tedious. This, no power rankings this week. Suffice it to say that Bill Hader killed, Bobby Moynihan shined, Andy Samberg dropped the ball in all but the Psychic sketch, Jason Sudekis and Kristen Wiig did well, Keenan Thompson referenced Good Burger, Lindsay Lohan was a disaster, Jack White was rocking, and next week should be solid.

Concise enough?

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