21 July 2009

Love Letter to Lifetime Movie Network, From an Unlikely Fan.

I know I’ve blogged about this before, but anytime the subject of made-for-TV-movies and/or Lifetime Movie Network programming comes up, I’m forced to bring up what I consider to be the standout candidate in both categories: 2002’s “The Glow” starring Dean Cain and Portia DeRossi.

Cain and DeRossi star as a young NYC couple looking for a sweet-ass apartment near Central Park. Some senior citizens see the beautiful, glowing newlyweds and pay off a guy to stage a mugging, as means to an introduction. The old people then swoop in and save them from said mugger, then they offer them a ridiculously cheap apartment in their Old People’s home. The old people are nice--too nice. And in good shape--too good of shape. And they drink smoothies all the time--too many smoothies.

Strange things begin happening. It turns out, a new young couple moves into that same apartment in the old people’s home every few months, and then mysteriously vanishes. We find out at the end of the movie that the old people are turning young couples into some sort of fucked-up Jamba Juice that gives them eternal life and, you know, that youthful “Glow.”

Robbie, who was my original sidekick in watching this perplexing, emmy-snubbed, can’t-believe-what-you’re seeing film, got me a copy of “The Glow” on DVD for Christmas. Best present ever.

Up until a couple months ago, that was really the only program I can say I’ve voluntarily sat through on Lifetime. Now, for some reason, I’m experiencing a sea change of sorts in my attitude towards Lifetime: the network I used to LOVE to hate on (I mean really hate on), I’m a little embarrassed to say is more and more frequently becoming more…uhhh…frequented on my dial.

It all started when I noticed they started airing “How I Met Your Mother” reruns. I was actually a late-adopter of this show and watch it exclusively in syndication. It’s one of the best sitcoms out there, in my opinion, and many an evening, fresh home from work, I crash on the couch and watch a block of episodes on Lifetime.

Then, about 2 weeks ago, Sarah came over for one of our dinner-and-a-movie nights. We baked mini-corndogs, I made spicy cilantro peanut slaw and Sarah made blueberries in maple cream. We watched “The Break-Up” while having dinner and planned on creating some sort of sightseeing itinerary for our upcoming trip to Spain in September. After the food and after the movie, we started flipping through my “Rick Steve’s Spain 2009” book. That lasted about 10 minutes.

You see, my roommate Liz got a hold of the remote after our DVD ended and started flipping through channels. She came across a Lifetime Original Movie called "I Want to Marry Ryan Banks," starring Jason Priestley and Bradley Cooper (and Mark Whalberg. But not THE Mark Whalberg. Apparently there’s another guy out there with the same name. That was the only true disappointment. About ¾ of the way through the movie, we realized that at no point were we going to be thrown any sort of Good Vibrations via a Marky-Mark-twist).

Anyway, I think have some sort of mild form of tourettes when it comes to anything having to do with Bradley Cooper because as we were flipping through channels, I saw him and shouted out some sort of profession of love/lust. We were transfixed for the rest of the night.

Clearly pre-“Wedding Crashers” + “The Hangover” Bradley Cooper was takin’ what he could get to pay the bills, but his general hotness combined with the awesomely terrible plotlines of Lifetime movies is like a vortex of guilty pleasure I can’t escape. Truly hypnotizing.

“I Want to Marry Ryan Banks” was pretty much your predictable, run-of-the mill behind-the-scenes-of-a-Bachelorette-type-reality-show love story for the first hour and a half of the movie. Around 11:30, though, Sarah had to leave to catch the bus since it stops running the route between our respective apartments at midnight. She made me promise to let her know what happened in the Jason Priestly--Bradley Cooper--canadian chick love triangle. To which I replied, “Listen, I can already tell you what’s going to happen. It’s pretty predictable.”

“But I’ll let you know of any earth-shattering changes in plot direction,” I added sarcastically.

20 minutes later, Sarah received a text message from me: “MAJOR PLOT TWIST! I will explain over drinks tomorrow!”

So, I don’t want to spoil the ending. But if you want to stare at Bradley Cooper for 2 hours of your life that you will never get back, and you love movies that are so bad, they’re good, this is the movie for you.

Unless you want to see an even worse movie that is so terribly awesome, I feel like you need to ALSO take into account not only the fact that it will take up 2 hours of your life that you will never get back, but you will spend hours afterwards thinking about how bad it was--so much so that you take another hour to write a blog post about it.

Last night, I watched a movie that I cannot remember the name of. Starring two no-name actors. So I REALLY have no excuse other than Monday night television is turrible.

In a word, this movie was…EXTRAORDINARY.


Boring computer programmer-turned CEO multi-billionaire guy sees a poor assistant-level young blonde chick at check-in for some tech conference, and naturally has his security team run a full background check on her. They are pretty thorough and I’d think John McCain should feel remiss for not using this team in his veep vetting process.

Once she passes muster, he arranges to “bump into her” while she’s jogging in the woods. I guess he had his team hack into her itinerary to find out when she had “jog in woods” scheduled.

Dinner date in a secluded gazebo and really bad, borderline soft core love scene ensues and they are married the next day. Instant billionaire blonde moves into his compound, where his sister, who seemingly runs the estate, gives her the cold shoulder. Blondie tells grouchy sister that she heard she loves horses, so “I guess we have that in common.” Sister admits that while she does love horses, she does not have anything in common with blondie. FACE IT SISTER! YOU BOTH LOVE HORSES! But even if she could face the fact that there is enough horse love to go around, I don’t think it would have detracted from the uber-scowl on her face when they arrive at the stable together and spot Mystic, a brown lady-horse with a big red bow on her head and a note that Mystic is a gift for blondie. Thank you, Lifetime movie director, for explaining the horse with the big red bow on its head is a gift. Your attention to detail is magnificent and noted. I hope she’s not looking it in the mouth!

Another soft core love scene using a feathered-focus lens follows.

Security team has a sit-down with blondie the next day to get her cleared for access to life on the ranch. This includes a download of alarm code passwords, fingerprinting, bloodwork and a full retinal scan among other precautions. I think they probably saved a lot in the production budget by stopping by the Paramount Pictures secondhand set-clearance sale after Mission: Impossible wrapped.

Later that night, as the two are dressing for dinner, billionaire hubby pulls out a necklace and says “I have a gift for you.” She smiles and turns around for him to drape it around her neck and fasten the clasp. He continues: “It has a global tracking device on it so I know where you are at all times.”

Bar none, that was the funniest moment on television since 30 Rock wrapped for the season in April. I laughed, I tweeted (www.twitter.com/Llesliee), I realized I’d have to see this movie through to its conclusion.

With an hour to go in the movie, Blondie gets taken aside by an FBI agent while on a shopping trip. Turns out, billionaire hubby’s last wife, soon after meeting with a divorce lawyer, was kidnapped and then found dead. The FBI thinks that the husband staged the kidnapping and had her killed and now they blondie to run a secret spying op on her husband of less than a month, since she has access to the retinally-secured ranch.

So the husband is the bad guy!

Sensing that she’s pulling away, hubby takes blondie away for the weekend to a romantic cabin. No sex feathery love scenes by the fireplace though, as suspected murderer surprisingly not a turn on for blondie. The cabin is seemingly on the same plot of land as the big house, since when blondie has a choking attack at brunch the next morning, the sister shows up and says “sorry, I forgot to tell the chef about your shellfish allergy.”

So the sister is the villan!

Final climax scene: Charity gala at the compound. Blondie decides she is in a death trap and arranges for the stable girl to saddle up Mystic so she can make a break for it via equine while security is being distracted by the party. Things go awry when she learns that a horse cannot outrun a car. She is captured by a pair of henchmen and taken back to the neighboring cabin. The very scene of the sex shutout and the crab-stuffed poison crepe mere days earlier. Arriving with her hands bound behind her back, she discovers that her husband has been captured and bound as well. He’s innocent! She shunned him and missed out on sex by the fireplace for nothing.

So is the grouchy sister the mastermind?

No, it’s a peripheral character we haven’t heard much from (until now) - Old creepy business partner! (but he IS effing the grouchy sister). He instructs his henchmen to burn down the cabin with the billionaire couple inside.

Blondie pulls a MacGyver, hits the henchmen over the head with a shovel, rescues hubby and they run out of the cabin just before it explodes in flames, with the bad guy accomplice inside. Just as old creepy business partner is giving a toast at the charity gala, the peeved couple rolls up with FBI in tow. Old creepy biz guy pulls a gun on hubby, but after a really lame, unconvincing line from Blondie, turns it on himself. A shot is fired and he falls bloodless and in slow motion to the stage floor.

Just before the credits roll, the newly happy billionaire couple rides off together on a pair of horses.

I am still laughing about the global tracking device necklace.

18 June 2009

For Your Consideration: A Rainy Day Movie Concept

I’m not going to editorialize following conversation. I want to share with you the verbatim e-mail exchange that has unfolded on this rainy, dreary morning. But to put it into some sort of semi-logical context, last Friday, our office had a pizza party (yes, it’s as if our 8th grade class just kicked your 8th grade class’s ass on our Citizenship Exam scores) and the conversation turned to parrots. One of my co-workers brought up Alex the parrot, the first animal to understand the concept of zero. I was so intrigued that he had to pull up video on YouTube to convince me that Alex was real. It’s fucking incredible, and you should all watch it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6KvPN_Wt8I

He’s smart enough to count, identify colors and shapes, do elementary arithmetic and more. But what really blew me away is that he is smart enough to make up excuses to get OUT of having to do math. He really reminded me of some toddlers I know. (sadly, this is Alex’s obituary tribute from a couple years ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4gTR4tkvcM )

Later that night at Sarah’s apartment, I tried to explain the wonder that was Alex the parrot, but she just kept laughing at my bird impressions. She really needed to watch the video to understand how serious I was about this math bird. And thinking about it now, that video is ABSOLUTELY the source from which the concept of Brian Fellow’s Safari Plant sprung.

Fast-forward to this week, I came across this gem: http://www.cracked.com/blog/matthew-mcconaugheys-next-10-movies/ and shared it with Sarah. Her response (“What about him acting with a counting bird? Where's that movie poster?”), set off a chain of ridiculousness, which follows:

SUBJECT: MM’s 11th Movie

He's a world-renowned avian math professor more commonly known as the "bird whisperer." She's an out-of-work circus performer with a soul-crushing fear of birds after an unfortunate run-in with a pigeon during a near-fatal trapeze accident.
Adam the Algebra Cockatoo is an unlikely matchmaker in:

The Lovebirds

Coming this Fall
Starring Matthew McConaughey and Lucy Liu, with Bill Hader as the voice of Adam

PS--I think if we can figure a scene such as this into the film somehow, we can get away with saying "based on a true story"

SUBJECT: RE: MM’s 11th Movie

It was a crazy busy day yesterday so I finally caught up on my bird videos.

1. You movie plot is amazing. We need an agent.

2. "Go back? Go back" "No, we can't go back yet." That bird lady is nuts and I feel bad for the deceased Alex.

3. Totally agree on the "true story" aspect. We'll flesh this out at Ganter's party this weekend.

4. Met a zoologist/animal behaviorist this weekend... so it was seriously a weekend of animal stories. He was British and teaches at Purdue... and he is totally crazy. It was an amazing conversation.

bet you are going to be crazy busy a lot more now that you a bigwig senior analyst....awwwwwwwww snizz-ap.

Dude. this rain + Ganter's roof would be shitty. It needs to stop for Saturday. Or i will seriously have some words. With myself. Under my breath. Cursing Al Roker (he makes the weather, right?).

Totes the same about the roof. I checked the weather and it said it would be cloudy. So hopefully you can stave off the rain with your curse words. Mike and I are going to hit up the Whole Foods in the Bowery for their special beer stuff and to pick up food to bring as well. Would you like to gather your party goods with us there? What time is the party anyway? All I know that there is S’Mac (ed. note: S’Mac is this totally amazing skillet macaroni-and-cheese restaurant in the East Village) in my future on Saturday, because that is how the last party ended. But this time I WILL NOT get one with figs in it.

Al Roker TOTALLY makes weather. And I hate his face for it.

I have a hair appointment in the East Village at 1pm (I am going back to blond). That'll probably go until 2:30 or so. The party is at 3. So I will totes hit up the Bowery Whole Foods for snack-gathering, it's right near my hair place. We can figure out meeting up via this thing the kids are calling "text messages" or cellular phone.

You should not have mentioned SMAC, because now if it doesn't happen I will be really disappointed. Or I will go by myself and order the family size Buffalo Chicken Mac n' Chz. I will eat 1/4 of it, hop on the D Train to Rockefeller Center, and throw the rest of it in Al Roker's face. Yes, Al, that is blue cheese you taste. Isn't it fucking glorious?

Blond... so fancy!

I laughed out loud with the short film that just played in my head beginning with you carrying the family size portion out of S’Mac and ending with the look on Roker's face. I think I will enter this short film in Cannes... and it will win.

Between your short film and my feature-length bird rom-com, we'll have Palme d'Ors coming out of our asses.

01 April 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different...

I committed myself to SocialWorkout.com's "April Body of Work Challenge."

You can read more about it here: http://socialworkout.com/april-body-work-challenge

But the jist is, 1 month: 26 workouts, 26 blogposts about said workout. I really want to win that 1-year membership to Crunch. I'm already a member, but that's $89 bucks a month I could spend elsewhere...like on any of the pieces in the upcoming Matthew Williamson line for H+M that my heart currently flutters for. Lord knows I'll need the extra bicep muscle to knock all the waify girls waiting in line on launch day out of the way.

Of course, an inch off my hips would be a nice prize too. So I guess it's win-win in that way.

Participants can choose the minimalist approach to blogging their workouts, you know- as little as what you did and how long you did it. But me? MINIMALIST BLOGGER? Only if I'm April fooling you!

So, for the month of April, you can track me at http://socialworkout.com/users/lesliegwinn

After that, it's back to the old antics here on the regular old blog, only I'll be typing posts with tighter abs and a firmer butt! Maybe I'll choose a skinnier font! Well, here's hoping...

19 March 2009

Gin? Goooood. Jam? Goooood.

This weekend, I found out that I live in a world where toddlers are indie rock savants, where bouncers at Irish pubs kick Guinness-guzzling patrons out for being dainty, and where jam goes with EVERYTHING (ok, everyone lives in that world).

Let me start from the beginning, the beginning being about 8pm on Friday night, when I met the Dells (Mike and Sarah) in the West Village for a drink. Earlier that day, I had e-mailed Mike his birthday present: a list of random "NOUN" pairings for him to wiki-link in 6 moves or less. Here is the list:

• Ki-Jana Carter to The Theory of Relativity
• The Ptolemaic dynasty to Norm Macdonald (comedian)
• Jean-Michel Basquiat to Tupperware
• Stonehenge to Charles in Charge
• Post-Keynesian economics to Maple Syrup
• State College, PA to Camouflage

By the end of the day, Mike had turned in the following:

• Ki-Jana Carter -> Penn State Alumni -> Douglas Comer -> Physics -> Special Theory of Relativity [4 MOVES]

• Ptolemaic Dynasty -> Alexander the Great -> Disambiguation -> Alexander (film) -> Rosario Dawson -> SNL -> Norm MacDonald [6 moves]

• Jean-Michel Basquiat -> Andy Warhol -> Advertising -> Direct Marketing -> Tupperware [4 moves]

Impressive progress for just a half day of wiki-surfing between work.

While we all walked together to The Slaughtered Lamb, a bar at the corner of West 4th and Jones Street decorated in the "pirate dungeon" motif, the wiki-challenge Mike claimed he was struggling most with was connecting Stonehenge to Charles in Charge.

After he shared with us the various routes he'd tried linking them through and all of the roadblocks encountered along the way, he finally yelled out, exasperated, probably one of the top 3 most profound things I’ve ever heard another human being speak: “The answer HAS to lie in Scott Baio! If it' not in Scott Baio, it must be in someone else!”

God, I hope someone overheard ONLY that part of the conversation.

Once we made it to the bar, we were delighted to hear that the music in the dungeon wasn’t old drunken sea chants, but primarily consisted of Early-90's to Early 2000's rock. Weezer, Harvey Danger, a punk cover of Rhianna's "Umbrella," and I would assume a song by The White Stripes, since our conversation navigated to Jack White and the fact that he’s in a new band.

Oh YES! I had this covered. Hadn't heard the song, didn't know what the new band was called, hadn't read any reviews online or otherwise.

What I did have, was the advice of a toddler (Tim Jacklepappy reference if anyone got that).

3 toddlers in fact.

Not two days prior, Charlotte had her kids record a video commentary on the new Jack White song and posted in on Facebook.

If you get into a conversation about the relevancy/merits of the new Jack White song, this is all you need to know:

1. It is not better than The Wizard of Oz.
2. Depending on who you ask, it may or may not be cooler than a toy helicopter.
3. The DRUMS are f*cking AMAZING.

Drop those 3 tidbits and no one will question you.

Later in the evening, we made our way over to the East Village to meet up with Joe Dell and I’m making the editorial decision not to post the details of the conversation that ensued on that side of the island. But for anyone who was there, I am doing the "hook and pull" sign language gesture...now.

Whereas Friday night started out on an awesome, Scott-Baio-referencing note, Saturday night included no Scott Baio references and therefore began on an inferior note. Actually, to be honest, Baio or no-Baio, it started out terribly.

Sarah B. and I had planned on starting the night out on the Lower East Side, but 1 lost priceless Russian hat (Sarah's), 3 changes in planned meet-up locations, and a wild text message goose chase later, we wound up at a sports bar at 33rd and Broadway. A veritable cesspool of Penn Station transferees, tourists, and New Jerseyans frolicking in all their March Madness glory, I might as well have been at a St. Patrick's Day all-you-can-drink bonanza at the Holiday Inn Paramus.

In our defense, we didn't pick this spot. It was the location of Sarah's co-worker's birthday party. The "party" showed up about a half hour after we got there. We stayed for another 45 minutes to be polite and got the heck out of dodge and headed downtown.

We ended up at Double Crown. Sarah’s new gentleman suitor had taken her there the week before and she knew I’d be interested in the fact that they serve a special drink there: GIN AND JAM. So of course as we passed it, I insisted we stop in to taste test a G.J.

You can only get G.J.’s in the secret DoubleCrown lounge, a dark, speakeasy-type situation (there’s even a trick door to get in!) that they have goin’ on in the back. Officially dubbed “Madam’s Preserves and Gin,” G.J. orderers are served a glass of Beefeater Gin over crushed ice and a teaspoon full of the jam of your choice. Saturday night, the “J” options were Blood Orange-Cardamon, Mango-Chili or Quince and Clove Marmalade. I went Blood Orange, even though it’s hard for me to pass up anything with “chili” in the name.

In one word, Gin and Jam is BRILLIANT. In 2? BLOODY BRILLIANT.

I have a mind to mix jam with everything now. What could go wrong?

As I polished off my jam, and began chewing on the crushed ice (yeah, I’m an ice chewer), Sarah noticed her new gentleman suitor had texted her from a bar a few blocks from our current locale; an Irish Bar, called “Phebe’s,” which he described as “Frat-tastic.” Oh God.

Here is what happened no less than 3 minutes after we arrived: Sarah’s suitor, gentleman that he is, went to the bar to buy us drinks. At the bar, a fistfight of sorts broke out, Sarah’s dude and his friends were guilty by location (I think, although one might have been involved), and they were kicked out of the bar.

Being St Patrick’s Day weekend, we naturally went to another Irish bar. As I sat down at a table full of derisory drunkards, or to coin the previously mentioned term “Frat-tastic” guys, I was none too pleased with the turn the night was taking. A turn for the worse, after after the G.J. had erased all of my Midtown bridge-and-tunnel-crowd memories.

To add salt to the wound, I received no less than 4 text messages related to Brian Fellow’s Safari Plant, which meant that my worst nightmare was coming true: Former-cast member-returning-as-host Tracy Morgan was reviving my favorite SNL character of all time and I WAS MISSING IT! For what?! For some guy sitting next to me loudly slurring “This is the part of the night when I take over! I AM THE MICHAEL JORDAN OF NIGHT!”!

I made eyes at Sarah that this was seriously the biggest wash of a night ever. But that all ended when one of the guys in our new group bought a round of Irish Car Bombs for everyone.

And I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but beep beep: I was the only girl besides Sarah at a table full of guys pounding car bombs and I beat every single one of them. A guy at another table even commented that he’d never seen anyone do it with such speed and grace. I might as well have patted my lips with a doily when I was done.

I was in very good form that night. Good thing, too. Because 5 minutes later, another round of car bombs appeared. Another 10 minutes later and the third round had arrived.

I think that was about the time I had a change of heart, as evidenced by my semi-shouting “BEST NIGHT EVER!”

Moral of the story, if you’re having a terrible night, a hat trick of Irish Car Bombs makes it all better. (SUB-moral: You can watch Brian Fellow’s Safari Planet on Hulu as many times as you want the next morning).

If the guys sitting next to me were absurd BEFORE the three car bombs, imagine the scene after. It did not take long for security to remove them from the premises. That was also about the time that Sarah and I also decided it was time to go, but apparently I was not moving quickly enough for the bouncers. While I was still seated at our table, security tapped me on the shoulder, said “Have a good night,” and pointed to the door. I was flummoxed. I exited, not quite understanding what had just happened. I explained the situation to Sarah and posed the question: “Did I just get kicked out?”

The bouncer stationed at the door smirked at me and nodded his head yes. Somehow, we’d been kicked out of 100% of the Irish bars we’d entered that night. IRISH bars. Do you know what that takes?

The following Monday, I sat down in my cube with a cuppa coffee and an English muffin. I perused my g-mail and found a reply from Mike to Friday’s chain:

Stonehenge -> Disambiguation -> This Is Spinal Tap -> Ed Begley Jr -> Arrested Development -> Scott Baio -> Charles in Charge [6 moves].

Turns out, the answer DID lie in Scott Baio.

And so I leave you, with this:

Charles in Charge Of our days and our nights…Charles in Charge
Of our wrongs and our rights… And I sing, I want, I want Charles in Charge of me.

09 March 2009

Live From New York, It's...the longest and most detailed post in this blog's history.

A typical rise and shine on Saturdays falls between 10:30am and noon for me, no matter when I went to bed the night before. Any more past that and I feel guilty, any less and I feel shortchanged on my weekend freedom to sleep in as late as I want.

This Saturday was different. I happily shot out of bed at 8:30am, showered and stepped out into the glorious 60-something degree weather. It was the first Spring-like weekend day of 2009. I had plans to meet a group of friends in Chinatown around 12:30 for dim sum. It would be my first dim sum experience, and I would eat chicken feet (after trying duck feet, which we thought were chicken feet at first, but then realized they were webbed. Surprisingly, I liked the duck feet better). I took the subway to Broadway-Lafayette, with my mind set on taking a leisurely morning downtown stroll before arriving at Jing Fong Restaurant to meet up. I window-shopped in Soho, stopped for cappuccino in Little Italy, and waded through the massive crowds on Canal Street without aggravation for once. But the extra spring in my step wasn’t because of the weather, my fistful of caffeine, nor my pending new culinary adventure…

Today my friends, was the day I was going to Saturday Night Live. (LIVE.)

After 10 long years of annually entering my name into the SNL ticket lottery (as long as I’ve been eligible to enter), a year and a half of pestering every NBC Page and producer I’ve encountered during my many work visits to the Today Show greenroom, and an attempt at pulling strings with the Broadway Video publicist who got a co-worker and I “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News “ tickets (henceforth canceled), I won. The lottery. The Saturday Night Live ticket lottery.

Would I rather win the real lottery or the SNL ticket lottery? That’s a tough question. Millions of real dollars or a priceless commodity? You would think from my visceral reaction upon finding out the news that I had won, via e-mail one late Thursday at work, that it’d be the latter. I think my co-workers would back me up on that one. But when I win the real lottery I’ll let you know…via satellite from my gilded penthouse in Paris while wearing a gown made of money…muah ha ha ha.

Anyway, the winning of the SNL tix was the single most exciting moment of utter surprise and joy that I have ever experienced in my life thus far. Which I am sure seems trivial to most of you (especially the "you's" that are married and/or have children, where a television show is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things), but that show has had such a major impact on my life. I can chart my pre-teen years to mid-twenties by who’s anchored Weekend Update. I found out Princess Diana had died when a breaking news report interrupted an episode while on vacation at my Aunt’s beach house in North Carolina. I can have entire conversations with people consisting solely of quotes from SNL sketches. Hell, I have entire relationships based on quoting SNL (yeah, I am talking to you, Will).

Of course I brought Sarah D. as my guest. If it’s a Saturday Night and there’s a new episode of SNL premiering, you can most likely find me at the Dell’s apartment with a spread of pita and hummus and a case of beer. She’s my comedy sidekick: The Amy to my Tina, the porcupine to my Brian Fellow, the Mark Payne to my peppa.

Our tickets were for the dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal is just a longer version of the televised show. In the hour between dress rehearsal and live air, the producers end up cutting the sketches and jokes that got the least laughs during dress rehearsal.

This week 4 sketches, a commercial parody and several jokes hit the cutting room floor. They also rearranged the order of a few sketches. In that light, I preferred the dress rehearsal, since we got over 2 hours of showtime and got to see sketches that no one else will ever see!

The rundown of the evening went like this:

5:45pm--Leslie and Sarah arrived at 30 Rock to queue up in line, an hour before the cutoff time for arrival. We were right by Le Maison du Chocolat, so Sarah got an espresso and I got 2 mini macaroons to snack on.

6:30pm--An SNL staffer announced that the person whose name is on the guest list should from a separate line in front of her to pick up your pair of tickets, but that your “plus one” should remain in the already-formed line to save your spot. I fetched tickets, Sarah spot-saved. When it was my turn to talk to the lady with the ticket list, the ticket/list lady took my I.D. and asked me, as she did with all of the ticket holders in front of me, if I was excited for the show. I tried to say “yes”, but I think it came out as more of a giggle-squeal hybrid. Then, she asked if my guest was also here. I found that question odd, since I didn’t hear her ask that of anyone else before me. But, I went with it, said “yes” and she asked me to point my guest out. I motioned to Sarah and said “the girl in the green sweater.” Ticket lady instructed me to begin forming another line along the opposite wall. I think she sensed the panic in my face and reassuringly whispered. “It’s OK, we select a few people to sit on the studio floor, and you’re going to be on the floor.”

Not that I ever questioned inviting Sarah as my guest, but I am so glad that she was able to be there with me, if only for the fact that she’s the only person who could understand what I was feeling at this moment…because she was feeling it too. And sweet mother of god, we must have looked like a pair of hyperventilating fools. We waited in this line for a while, and pair by pair, other lucky floor-seat-recipients queued up behind us. A total of 15 “couples” to fill the 30 coveted swivel chairs. And that’s when I noticed a pattern. They were picking the most attractive people. I was in the attractive person line! I was first in the attractive person line!! All of those hours spent toiling at the gym have been worth it!

7:30pm--An NBC Page began taking us one-by-one through security and put me, Sarah and two other pairs onto an elevator destined for the 8th Floor. The doors opened to reveal the backstage area of studio 8H—the black-and-white-checked floors, the walls lined with signed photos of all the past hosts, a jet ski wedged into a rock (this was, of course, part of the lighthouse sketch, for anyone who watched). The Pages lined us up backstage, where we stood for an unknown amount of time…unknown mostly because I was so high on life at this point the space-time continuum ceased to exist for this portion of my life. But, let’s say it was about 20 minutes.

The experience is, however, cemented in my brain forever. It began like this:

Darrell Hammond slowly shuffles (and I do mean shuffles) by us wearing a navy blue sweat pants-and-shirt ensemble and Yankees cap; appears to be staring into space.

Leslie: "I am using so much self-restraint right now to appear calm that my energy has no where to go except as tears welling up in my eyes and shaky hands."

Sarah: "Yeah, I’m shaking. I need one of those things they give to people when they have seizures. To put in their mouth. You know? I need a seizure-biter."

Leslie: "Yes. A seizure biter. That says everything about what I am feeling right now."

At about that time, Sudekis comes gallivanting down the hall in hi-tops, black dress socks, a short-sleeve button down and shiny KU basketball shorts. His hair is moussed and out of control. Will Forte rounds the corner wearing a nice pair of jeans, a button down shirt, sipping on coffee and reading a script. Oh and he’s wearing his Jon Bovi 80's-hair-band wig and a ridiculous moustache. He waves and says "hi" like nothing is weird about this situation.

Darrell Hammond shuffles by again. I think he is doing laps. I think he might have also had a lobotomy.

Bill Hader walks by a few times. He high fives people in line and congratulates us on the best seats in the house. After watching him interact with the SNL staff backstage, he seems to be the nicest cast member. Kristin Wiig is shoveling something into her mouth out of a styrofoam takeout box. She is tiny.

Darrell Hammond shuffles by, but decides not to go for another lap. He sits down at the wig station and continues staring.

We can see one of the studio monitors from where we’re standing. Seth Myers, Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake are doing a run-through of Weekend Update. When they’re done, the crew wheels the Weekend Update desk into backstage area where we’re standing.

8:00pm: The Pages send the line into the studio. On the way in, I touched the Weekend Update desk. Score! Since Sarah and I were first in line, we got first pick of the seats. We were front row, center and close enough to get clobbered with props as the stagehands move them on and off the stage…which we did (get clobbered, that is). Most notably, I was hit in the knees with the Weekend Update desk. I have bruises. Glory bruises.

Before the show started, a bit after 8, Don Pardo introduced Jason Sudekis, who then introduced a special opening act: Kristin Wiig (on vocals) and Fred Armisen (on guitar) covering Blondie’s “One Way Or Another.”

After that, my favorite cast member, Will Forte began the cold open, as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. 3 feet away from me, he yelled those magical words “LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT!”

As Sarah said, one of her top 3 dreams came true that night, and she doesn't even know what the other 2 are.

If you’ve read this far, chances are you’re an SNL fan, so you’ve seen the televised show (Host Dwayne Johnson, Musical Guest Ray LaMontagne). So, I’ll try to keep my commentary on what made air to a minimum, and focus on the sketches that were cut from the televised show.


Dwayne Johnson Monologue -- That guy’s muscles are out of control. Also, SNL does not use teleprompters, they use old-fashioned poster board and sharpies.

Commercial parody (CUT FROM TELEVISED BROADCAST)-- Sudekis stars in a commercial for a website where you can sell everything from your worthless stocks to illegal drugs. It ended up getting cut this week, but I have a feeling it will pop up in a future show.

Hawaiian Tiki Bar -- This got moved to a later spot in the televised show; good move.

“The Rock” Obama -- Samberg as Rahm Emanuel…totally brill. This ended up being the first skit after the monologue in the televised show.

McGruber-McGyver sketches -- The three McGruber episodes were sprinkled throughout the dress rehearsal in different spots.

Activia Commercial Shoot -- We’ve seen this sketch before, we get it, Kristin Wiig poops the couch. Although in the televised sketch, Sudekis plays the director. In the dress rehearsal sketch, Dwayne Johnson played the director. It was funnier with Dwayne.

Tiny Horse TV (CUT FROM TELEVISED BROADCAST) -- I probably would have labeled this the “TCM sketch,” as it featured Darrell Hammond the host of a “hidden gem”-type movie program on Turner Classic Movies. But the labels on the back of the props said “Tiny Horse TV,” and Sarah loved that. Hammond was seated right in front of me. Before the cameras started rolling, the button popped off his suit pants, and he seemed to be pretty flummoxed. He looked at his pants, then looked at me and said “My button broke!” And kind of gave me that “Bill Clinton” smirk he does so well. I started laughing. Then he said “My button broke” …to me…every few seconds…until the sketch started. I laughed every time. It was a far cry from his backstage shuffling. When the sketch started, we find out that his movie pic for the week is a film about an oversized jockey (Dwayne Johnson in a belly shirt) and a miniature horse (real pony in-studio!) This sketch was pretty funny; too bad it got cut.

Game Time with Dave and Greg -- Hader is an awesome alien. This was actually funnier on TV.

Ray LaMontagne -- “You Are The Best Thing”

Weekend Update-- I saw the Justin Timberlake/Jessica Biel Cameo coming, but I DID NOT see Samberg-as-Cathy coming. ACK! He wasn’t wearing that wig during the run-through. Also, my absolute favorite part of the show was the Jon Bovi (Bon Jovi Opposite Band) interview during Weekend Update. Not only because making up “opposite” lyrics is totally something my friends and I would do…but we definitely do do the “WHAT?! WHAT? WHAAAAAAAT?!” Check it out here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/61232/saturday-night-live-update-jon-bovi

Steady John and Itchy (CUT FROM TELEVISED BROADCAST) -- Dwayne and Fred Armisen play sidekicks; Dwayne as steady John is the straight-talkin’ tough cowboy, Armisen as itchy is his semi-retarded cowboy best friend. Lame. Cut for good reason.

Tarzan, Esquire (CUT FROM TELEVISED BROADCAST) -- Dwayne plays Tarzan. Apparently Jane told him to “get a real job,” so he becomes a criminal defense attorney for chimpanzees. Cut…and for good reason.

Celebrity Apprentice: Darrell Hammond as The Donald shoots promos with Tom Green (Fred Armisen), Joan Rivers (Michaela Watkins), and Dennis Rodman (Dwayne).

Lighthouse -- This one was edited for time in the televised broadcast, and I think it was funnier in dress rehearsal. But a pretty solid sketch, for being the last in the TV lineup.

Ray LaMontagne -- “Trouble”

Early-90’s Jingle-Writers (CUT FROM TELEVISED BROADCAST) -- Kristin Wiig and Dwayne Johnson don AMAZING early-90’s wigs for this sketch where she plays an anorexic jingle-writer and he plays her composer-partner. They are going through the songwriting process for a pantyhose commercial. This was one of those short, weird sketches that I found hilarious, but I don’t think the normal Nielsen family would appreciate.

Thank You -- The host, musical guest and cast gather and do the usual hugs-during-rolling-credits thing. I overheard Jessica Biel say to Bill Hader: “This part is kind of weird, huh?” To which Bill replied “Yeah, but you just gotta do it.”

Sarah can correct me if I’m wrong on the order, but I think the above “set list” is accurate.

After the show I got a bottle of champagne, Thai take-out and headed home to my couch to watch it live. To attempt to describe the experience: Unforgettable, amazing, once-in a lifetime. It’s a good thing, too. Otherwise, I always would have remembered March 7, 2009 as the day I ate duck feet.

09 February 2009

"Where there's a will there's a way; Where there's titties...well, I'm just sayin'." -Will on how he planned to move the party from Duffy's to Camelot

(Title quote courtesy of Rachel's Tumblr.)

I’m beginning to think that blogging is some sort of reflex to my physical presence in DC. I was there over the weekend, and here I am writing about it. Unlike most weekends, when I’m in New York, not writing about it. Sorry.

Maybe because DC’s got an already familiar cast of crazy characters I’m used to dealing with here.

Unfortunately, I just lost one of those characters to Wisconsin (yes another one).

This weekend, I went back to DC to say goodbye to the best guy I know: a one William P. Sebern. Will is returning to his homeland, where I am convinced there is nothing to do but watch Brewers games, drink Miller Lite and eat cheese. (OK, when I actually type that out and read it back to myself, it doesn’t sound half bad). NO! No! it’s terrible! Wisconsin stole Ted, now it’s taking Will, it snows, like, every day there (I’m pretty sure) and it’s only a matter of time before the Badger State sucks Mike and Tristan back in.

It’s like a black hole for all the people I love. Rachel, do not fall prey to Wisconsin’s trickery/sorcery/brainwash-ery/incredible cheese!

Will’s going-away party started at 7:30pm on Friday night at Duffy’s, an Irish Pub across the street from the 9:30 Club. I had taken the Megabus from NYC to DC after work and arrived around 10:30pm to a round of pink shots, a very intoxicated, loud and unfiltered Jessica, a very intoxicated, loud and hug-happy Will, and Will’s cousin, who I had decided after seeing a Facebook photo of, that I was totally gonna lay whatever little game I have on.

Like Will, the cousin seemed like a totally friendly and funny guy, who would pretty much talk to anything with a pulse and no adam’s apple. Score!

So I went over to chat him up (which is completely out of character for me to begin with, but I’d had a bit to drink and some very encouraging friends and I’ll probably never see this guy again anyway. What the hell?)

Not only was he completely not interested; he seemed to have some sort of hatred for my very existence. Inexplicably, he looked for every possible excuse to get out of talking to me. How do I know this? I applied the scientific method. It’s a fact.

Humor my logic for just a moment here:

HYPOTHESIS: Will’s cousin hates me.

MATERIALS: Leslie, low-cut shirt, beer, cousin, stopwatch, witnesses.

1. Check boobs, make sure they look OK.

2. Get confirmation from witnesses that boobs look OK; tell them to start stopwatch when Leslie begins talking to the cousin.

3. Leslie asks cousin a totally non-threatening question, i.e. “Lovely weather we’re having for this time of year, huh?”

4. See how long it takes for cousin to make up a completely non-legit excuse to get away, i.e. “Um, I forgot something somewhere, I have to go get it. Bye.”

5. Repeat. (Note: the more trials you execute, the funnier and more predictable this becomes for the witnesses/baffling and fun-game-like for Leslie)

TRIAL 1: Less than 2 minutes.
TRIAL 2: Less than 2 minutes.
TRIAL 3: Less than 2 minutes.
TRIAL 4: Less than 1 minute.
TRIAL 5: Less than 1 minute.
SUBSEQUENT TRIALS: Average--less than 1 minute.


There are 3 possible explanations for the phenomena that is "Hating Leslie":

1. I got pre-emptively cock-blocked. Will can be a bit territorial with and/or protective of me, which, I must secretly admit, is one of the things I love about him. I guess I could accept this reasoning.

2. Cousin was pissed off because he was trying so hard to find a girl for Will to hook-up with for his last night in DC, but every time he tried introducing him to a perspective lady, Will would say “Oh, hey, have you met my best friend Leslie? She’s the coolest girl I know.” Ennnnnnd scene.

3. (Theory provided by Rachel): There is a Generalissimo Leslie out there. This is probably the most likely scenario.

Interestingly enough, Rachel and I had been planning to go see “He’s Just Not That Into You” the following day. But, by Saturday morning, I kinda felt like I had been there, done that, wrote the scientific procedure for determining that.

Actually, the real reason we skipped the movie was that we were indeed having lovely weather for this time of year and decided to spend the day outside. We went to Will’s apartment for a final goodbye Smoothie. There’s a long-running joke about Will making passion fruit smoothies for all the ladies he brings back to his “lair” but none of us had actually ever tried one of his much-talked about breakfast of choice.

I, for one, was impressed:

LESLIE: “Will, this smoothie is delicious. It’s better than Jamba Juice.”

WILL: “That’s because it’s Sebern juice. HAAAAA.”

EVERYONE: [groan].

We left Will to pack for his afternoon flight and Rachel, Peter, Mike, Tristan and I headed to Georgetown to walk around and enjoy the 60-degree February weather.

I’ll miss Will, that self-described “sandbaggin’ son of a bitch.” But, it’s not like we’ll never see each other again. In my drunken stupor I’m pretty sure I promised to visit Milwaukee during baseball season.

I’ll go for the cheese. I’ll stay for the Will.