Happy 40th birthday, ‘Saturday Night Live’

SNL40It was Saturday night, May 21, 2005.

The host was Lindsey Lohan and the musical guest was Coldplay.

My then-girlfriend, now-wife, and I were living in New York City for almost two years, and we finally got tickets to “Saturday Night Live.” I was excited. Fan-boy excited. I started watching SNL as a kid — a little too young to be up that late on a Saturday night. Back then, I learned comedy 101 from Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey and Phil Hartman.

Fast forward to today. This Saturday is the premiere of SNL, in its 40th season. The show was created in 1975 by a Canadian, Lorne Lipowitz (better known as Lorne Michaels). At its best, SNL was a revolutionary, star-making show that mirrored the times. At its worst, it was simply unfunny. But no show has a better batting average and when it bombed, it always went down swinging.

SNLwristbandBack to 2005. I remember bits and pieces of that night. Chris Kattan crossing the street in front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza by taxi light. Tom Hanks waiting with his family in the lobby (Tom Hanks!?). Walking down the hallway to Studio 8H like cattle and seeing the photos of legends lining the walls. Inside, the set was smaller than I imagined and the low-hanging stage lights on the balcony were practically in our laps.

That year was a murderer’s row of a cast including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, Will Forte, Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph, Jason Sudeikis and a young Keenan Thompson. This was pre-Facebook. Pre-Twitter. Pre-iPhone. Believe me, I would have blown up newsfeeds with photos that night.

The cold open started. Then came the seven magic words that released the genie from the bottle:

“Live from New York, it’s SATURDAY NIGHT!”

Opening credits rolled on TV screens above us, the ones I loved as a kid and still do now. The sax. The city lights. The photos of New York weirdos. I never thought I’d live in New York and here I was. It was electric. For a little while at least.

It was a good show. Not great. Lohan was trying hard to prove she wasn’t a train wreck. There was Fey and Poehler on Weekend Update. “The Prince Show” with Armisen as Prince and Rudolph as Beyonce. The most memorable moment was Coldplay’s performance of “Fix You.” It was intimate and powerful, and when the song ramped to a climax, everyone in the audience had goosebumps.


But it was less about the show and more about the buzz. The energy. The fear. This was live television. Without a net. It was a thrill watching the frantic rolling and unfolding of sets during commercial breaks. The cast members dashing off after the applause signs turned off, shedding their clothes as they prepped for the next sketch. It was a great night.

It’s been 40 years of great nights.

Birthdays at this age tend to suck (believe me, I know), but happy birthday anyway, SNL. Here are my top 40 quotes and sketches from 40 years of “Saturday Night Live.” Test your SNL fandom and see how many references you can get.

35-40: You’re a true comedy nerd and we may be soul mates.
25-34: You’re an SNL fan, but on Saturday nights you probably have a life.
15-24: You have much to learn, young Paduan. Hit the Youtubes.
0-14: You read this far and that’s cool. High five. But we can’t be friends.

40. “Superstar!”
39. The Chanukah Song
38. Massive Headwound Harry
37. “Well, isn’t that special?”
36. Donnie and Marie on a Gumby Christmas
35. “That’s the news and I’m outta here”
34. “It was my understanding that there would be no math”
33. Season’s Greetings from Tarzan, Tonto & Frankenstein
32. Lord and Lady Douchebag
31. “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger…”
30. “Schwing!”
29.. “Get a life!”
28. The Ambiguously Gay Duo
27. “Candygram”
26. “We’re here to pump, you up”
25. “Strategery”
24. Stefon
23. Oops I Crapped My Pants
22. “I hate it when that happens”
21. Ronald Reagan Mastermind
20. “Chocolate Babies”
19. Synchronized Swimming
18. Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey
17. Samurai Delicatessen
16. All Steroid Olympics
15. Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood
14. Choppin Brocolli
13. The Blues Brothers, Soul Man
12. “Livin in a van down by the river!”
11. Little Powdered Donuts
10. Buh-weet Sings
9. Hot Tub
8. Therapists/The Rapists
7. More Cowbell
6. Dick in a box
5. Schmitts Gay Beer
4. Sarah Palin
3. Chippendales Auditions
2. Lazy Sunday
1. Shweddy Balls (still makes me laugh, every time I see it)SchweddyBalls

What are you favorite sketches and moments from SNL?

 
 

My summer in baby jail

Summer Entertainment 2014When I told my wife I had an idea for a column called, “My summer in baby jail,” this was her reply…

“Oh, you’re in baby jail?

Oh, YOU’RE in baby jail?

OH, YOU’RE IN BABY JAIL?”

Then she threw her breast pump at me. I’m sure she would’ve jump-kicked me in the throat, but she was in the middle of nursing our 3-month-old baby boy. Again.

So, let me caveat. The guy’s version of baby jail is like white-collar prison, compared to women’s supermax version. Either way, keeping a baby alive for its first three months can feel like you’re trapped in a bubble. It’s a blur of zombie-like sleeplessness, eating standing up in the kitchen, and a whole lot of laundry.

But as an intrepid Frolicker, I have a job to do. So here are my picks for the best entertainment of the summer 2014 — from a guy who honestly didn’t get out that much — with a few tips for parents-to-be who have yet to experience the joys of baby incarceration.

“American Ninja Warrior”
I remember watching the Japanese “Ninja Warrior” during baby jail with our first child years ago. The American version on NBC was perfect background noise for burping, bottle-feeding and eating left over Chinese food. Plus, it showcased Kacy Catanzaro’s viral Ninja Warrior run:

In contrast, here’s the first Japanese Ninja Warrior, women’s champion, Ayako Miyake. Women have come a long way. Perhaps there’s an “American Ninja Warrior Women” show in our future?

Baby jail survival tip: Drink wine.
You’re an adult now. Beer is for barbecues. Wine is for cosmopolitan parents with painful mortgages who need to unwind after wrestling their kids to sleep. Plus, wine is good for you. I think I read on the Internet there’s antioxidants and vitamins and stuff in it. Babyhood efficiency tip: drink straight from the bottle so you don’t have to wash a glass.

“Veronica Mars”
This spring, the “Veronica Mars” movie, based on the CW TV show, hit theaters. I backed this crowd-funded film on Kickstarter last year without watching a single episode. Stuck in baby jail, I decided to binge-watch the entire first season of the show. I don’t know how I did it — it’s all a blur of sleepless nights and burp cloths — but I managed to watch all 22 episodes in two weeks of paternity leave. And I instantly became a fan.

Part “Nancy Drew” mysteries, part “The O.C” drama, and with a lot of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” snark, the season revolved around teenage detective Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell, or as my daughter knows her, Anna from “Frozen”) solving the mystery of her best friend’s death. Here’s the trailer to the film, which I’ll see someday… I think…

Baby jail survival tip: Sleep is earned
One thing you learn in the first months of babyhood is you can successfully operate on about 75 percent less sleep than you thought. One of the highlights of my summer was moderating a panel with screenwriter Adam Braff for his film “Wish I was Here.” You can read my interview with Adam here. That night, I was running on coffee fumes and had dried breast milk stained on my shoulder. Lindsey Chun-Hori, promotions manager at Consolidated Theatres, saw me prepping for the interview and said, “Dude, you look tired.” If you only knew, Lindsey. If you only knew.

“Snowpiercer”
“Snowpiercer,” starring Chris Evans (“Captain America”) and directed by Boon Jong-Ho (“The Host”), is an apocalyptic sci-fi thriller that feels like a throwback to old John Carpenter movies like “Escape From New York.” You can read Myong Choi’s review here. Reportedly, it’s one of the most successful Video On Demand movies ever, after a limited theatrical run this summer. While I’m pro-theatre experience, I can say I was thrilled to watch the film on VOD together with the rest of the world, unshowered and in my underwear, while I changed the diaper genie.

BBaby jail survival tip: Don’t click on the gallery.
All those Frolic summer party pictures. All the restaurant photos. All the pool parties. Stop looking at them. There are no answers here. Only questions. “They can’t really be having that much fun, right?” “Will I ever eat a meal better than CPK take-out?” “Isn’t she cold?” On behalf of parents everywhere, I’ll tell all of you party-people where you can stick your selfie-sticks.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Boyhood”
For me, one of the best movies of the summer was “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and it’s not because it was one of the few films I got to see in a theatre (okay, maybe it was). It was the perfect popcorn flick. “Star Wars” meets the freak-and-geek, “Avengers.”

But “Boyhood” was probably/maybe/really the best movie of the summer. But I couldn’t tell you for sure because baby jail prevented me from watching it. I desperately wanted to see this ambitious Richard Linklater movie filmed over 12 years, capturing the growth of a boy to adulthood. I was even planning to write a column about my newborn son and how it related to “Boyhood.” It would have been poignant and funny and late (as usual). But here’s the rub: the movie is 2 HOURS and 45 MINUTES long! My baby grew out of his newborn diapers in less time. Someday I’ll see it, when I have time… which ironically could be 12 years from now.

Baby Jail Survival Tip: There are TWO secrets
After a few weeks in baby jail, he started smiling. A crooked smile with a big dimple. Then his eyebrows started growing in. For some weird reason, that was key. And for me, that’s when I knew my baby jail sentence was getting reduced for good behavior. But here’s the first big secret:

You never really get out of baby jail.

Raising a child is the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life, and it’s easily the most rewarding. The highs are higher and the lows lower. It’s that roller coaster of highs and lows that’s the most exhausting. But when you see your child’s eyes light up every time they see you, you know exactly why it’s all worth it. Which leads us to the second big secret:

Turns out, baby jail isn’t such a bad place to be.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a big Friday night ahead of me.

‘Indiana Jones’ and the inappropriate PG movies

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Poster“The story ended up being a lot darker than we intended it to be. Part of it is that I was going through a divorce at the time, and I wasn’t in a good mood; and part of it was just that we wanted to do something a little bit more edgy.” ~ George Lucas, from the book, “The Complete Making of Indiana Jones.”

Well, Lucas and director Steven Spielberg certainly achieved edgy. Tonight, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” is back on the big screen at Consolidated Theatres Ward. And as the Hawaii International Film Festival’s Anderson Le noted in our “Movies That Mean Summer” post, “Temple of Doom” may not have been the best Indy film, but it did have the distinction of helping to change the way we watch movies.

I’m old enough to remember movies before PG-13. And it was kind of a terrifying place for a kid still sporting a chawan cut. With human sacrifices and bloody, still-beating hearts being ripped out of screaming men, “Temple of Doom” influenced the Motion Picture Association of America to establish the PG-13 rating in 1984. But “Temple of Doom” wasn’t alone. Here are five not-so PG films that freaked me out, gave me nightmares, and even gave me a full-blown phobia as a kid.

Gremlins
This subversive, 1984 tale of a cute and cuddly Mogwai who multiplies into a pack of murderous monsters was another film that influenced the PG-13 rating. It famously turned a microwave into a lethal weapon. I never looked at heating up a Hot Pocket the same way again.

The Black Hole
It was supposed to be a “Disney” movie. I mean it kinda looked like “Star Wars,” with the cartoonish R2-D2-like V.I.N.CENT. But this dark and tonally uneven tale of a crew who find an abandoned spaceship by a black hole was no “Star Wars.” For a child under 10 it brought up age-appropriate questions like, “What’s a lobotomy?” “Why is that nice man being eviscerated by that killer robot?” “How many films has Earnest Borgnine died in?” Actually the film would make for an interesting reboot. A PG-13 reboot.

Raiders of the Lost Ark
“Raiders” is not only the best Indy movie, it’s probably the greatest action-adventure movie of all-time. What it isn’t is a PG movie. Guy gets impaled through the face. Guy gets shot in the face. Guy gets liquefied by an airplane propeller. Guy’s face melts. Guy’s face explodes. Oh, yeah, and a monkey dies. Parental guidance suggested indeed.

Poltergeist
Things “Poltergeist” made me fear and that I still fear today: Clowns. Tree branches by my window. Accidentally peeling my face off. Maggots. Peeling my face off and finding maggots. Real estate.

Jaws
I live in Hawaii and I don’t surf. I don’t fish. I’m not particularly a strong swimmer. I blame it all on “Jaws.” This movie made me fear the ocean. I didn’t even want to get in a pool. The thought of a severed leg floating by or being chomped in half and doing a spit-take with my own blood was not appealing to me. For creating one of my favorite films and a bonafide masterpiece, thank you, Mr. Spielberg. For all those times other kids were playing in the clear, blue Hawaiian waters while I was quietly digging a hole in sand, thanks a lot, Mr. Spielberg.

“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” screens at Consolidated Theatres Ward on Wednesday, August 20 at 7 and 10 p.m. as part of the Hana Hou Picture Show.

“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” nerd trivia (from the book, “The Complete Making of Indiana Jones):

• The original title of the film was “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death.”

• “Temple of Doom” is a sequel that’s actually a prequel. The story takes place in 1935, one year before the events or “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

• “Short Round” was named after screenwriters Gloria Katz and William Huyck’s dog. “Willie” was named after Spielberg’s cocker spaniel.

• Spielberg wanted to bring back Marion Ravenwood from “Raiders” but Lucas and Spielberg eventually agreed that there should be a different “Indiana Jones lady” in each film.

• Ke Huy Quan (“The Goonies”) was born in Saigon. In an open casting call at his elementary school in LA, Quan was helping his brother audition. After seeing him direct his brother, the casting directors made Quan audition too. The search stopped as soon as Spielberg saw his tape. Quan said, “At the time, I just wanted to learn English and be a doctor.”

• The original screenplay for Indiana Jones 3 was “Indiana Jones and the Monkey King” which I wrote about here: “Why the Last Crusade was almost the Monkey King.”

Movie poster courtesy of MVNP

“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” Trailer

The night Gecko Books bought out “Batman”

BatmanWaikiki3There’s a black and white photo hanging near the doorway in Gecko Books. It’s of a crowd in front of the Waikiki 3. “Batman” is on the marquee. It looks timeless, which seems antithetical for the ’80s. I always wondered what the story behind that photo was.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Tomorrow has been officially named “Batman Day” by DC Comics to celebrate 75 years of the Dark Knight. Consolidated Theatres will be joining in the celebration with a screening of the Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson classic, “Batman,” for its monthly Hana Hou Picture Show.

I remember seeing “Batman” in high school. A gang of us went to Sizzler Waikiki before the show. Two of my friends challenged each other to an “All You Can Eat Shrimp” battle. One ended up barfing in the bushes outside, the other groaned through the entire film like he was giving birth. When I think of “Batman,” I’ll always think of that night. Which brings us back to that photo.

Ted Mays opened Gecko Books on Waialae Avenue in 1986. Originally, it was a used bookstore, but today, at its new location on 12th, it’s a geek treasure trove. It’s a place to get your hands dirty and unearth graphic novels, action figures and all sorts of fanboy magic. Now I’ve been going to Gecko’s since I was sporting fuschia and neon HIC slippers, so I felt comfortable asking Ted about the photo.

Sometimes movies have backstories that are even better than the films themselves. I talked with Ted and we took a ride on the DeLorean back to 1989…

Ted Mays, owner of Gecko Books.

Ted Mays, owner of Gecko Books.

It’s the summer of 1989. Paint the picture.
We were kinda riding high in ‘89. We opened a second store in Kailua. Comics were booming. Cards were doing pretty well. So it was a big event and I was a big Tim Burton fan. I loved “Beetlejuice.” I thought he’d bring something cool and original to the movie.

Tell us about that photo and what you did that night at the “Batman” premiere.
The logic was, this was a big event and this is the first time they’ve devoted an element of respect towards the medium. And there were a few indicators that this thing was going to explode. There were kiosks in Kahala Mall that just had Batman merchandise.

Everybody was wearing that black corduroy Batman hat.
It was all just selling really well. The excitement level was insane.

How many tickets did you buy?
I can’t remember. I had $2,000 cash. Back then you couldn’t just reserve one screening like you can nowadays. You could only buy tickets the day it showed. I figured I’d just go buy out one of the shows. I could afford it – not that I could afford to buy all the tickets and give them away (laughs).

I think ticket were $3.50 or $4. I remember getting something like 25 kids tickets and 500 or so adult tickets. It was more than half of the theater, but I don’t know what the capacity was. I went down in the morning. And that was kind of surreal too. When I got there about a half an hour before the box office opened, there’s like one person in line. The guy in front of me wanted one ticket for the very first show. Then I step up and ask for over 500 tickets.

CONS-23499_BATMAN-5What was the ticket person’s reaction?
(Laughs) It wasn’t anything comical. So I went back to the store. I gave each of my employees 10 as a gift then we just sold the rest at face value at the counter. The tickets were long gone. I sent everyone down ahead of time, locked the door at 8 o’clock, had a cab waiting and bolted down to Waikiki for the 8:15 show.

Some of our younger readers may not even remember the Waikiki 3. What was it like?
It was gigantic. It had 1,000 seats at least. It was built in the ’30s. It was THE showpiece theater. It had a beautiful entryway with stairs that you can barely see in the picture. Very ostentatious kind of vibe to it. On the weekends it had an organist that would come in a half hour before.

What was the energy like with the place packed with fanboys?
It was exactly what you’d hoped. There was no context. There was absolutely nothing to compare it to. That’s one of the reasons why I forgive it – it’s not one of my favorite movies. But I did understand, Batman is different things to different generations and they’re constantly revitalizing him in some way. They went from science fiction, detective Batman in the ’50s, to campy, silly, anything-can-happen Batman because of Adam West. What’s been proven, I guess, is that Batman can withstand even nipples on the Bat Suit (referring to the “Batman and Robin” film).

What was it like at the end of the movie?
Very much enthusiastic. I remember having a good time, enjoying myself. I was swept up by the good things. Not agonizing over the silliness. It obviously captured the cultural zeitgeist of the moment. I definitely felt like the king of the castle or whatever. More than half of the audience was our crew, our friends, probably quite a few more because the word was out that we were targeting that one show.

BatmanPoster-Bat1Many believe “Batman” was the beginning of the modern superhero tentpole film. Did it feel significant?
Oh, for sure. I would rate it as world-altering. In comic history there’s basically before Batman ‘66 and after. Before Tim Burton, Batman ’89 and after.

Favorite Batman: West, Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney or Bale?
I would say – since I met Adam West. It was humbling. I made a point to tell him I had a comic store in Hawaii and I said that I could’ve been a doctor or a lawyer, probably, but because of you I sell comics for a living (laughs).

So what did he say?
(Adam West voice) I will take that as a compliment.

When you look at that photo what do you think of?
Intense nostalgia for Waikiki. It’s sad, I don’t ever go there anymore. When I first came to Hawaii, I had very fond memories of being down there. It’s a lost era in so many ways. The big marquee. Classic theaters. I grew up in the Bay Area and I’ve seen lots of them go away over the years. That was a boom year for us. I guess, bitter sweet in so many ways.

“Batman” screens at Consolidated Theatres Ward on Wednesday, July 23 at 7 and 10 p.m. as part of the Hana Hou Picture Show.

Also, celebrate “Batman Day” on July 23 at Gecko Books. They’ll be giving away Batman masks, comic books and they’ll have special Batman merchandise on sale. Visit the store at 1151 12th Avenue or call 732-1292.

Movie poster courtesy of MVNP

“Batman” Trailer

12½ questions: Adam Braff, ‘Wish I Was Here.’

WishIWasHereDesktopIt was a good night for Adam Braff.

Last night at Consolidated Theatres Kahala, a packed house was treated to the Hawaii premiere of “Wish I Was Here.” Braff co-wrote and produced the film with his brother, Zach Braff, who also directs and stars in the film.

It’s been a little more than a year since the movie was funded on Kickstarter by 46,520 backers, raising 3.1 million dollars of the film’s budget. Then there was an ambitious 25-day shoot, a selection at the Sundance Film Festival, and numerous Kickstarter screenings. Finally, Braff—who lives here on Oahu—was home. And last night, he sat with his friends, family and hometown crowd to see his first feature on the big screen.

There were laughs (Zach Braff delivers on the quirky humor that made “Garden State” so unique), tears (Kate Hudson and Mandy Patinkin give moving performances), and full-blown weeping (the guy in front of me really needed a tissue). For Adam Braff, it was a fitting end to a remarkable journey.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Braff to ask him 12 random questions (and one, clumsy attempt at a joke) about writing “Wish I Was Here,” Kickstarter and sibling rivalry.

AdamBraffHow does a Hollywood writer wind up living in Honolulu?
My wife grew up here and always dreamed of moving back. We met at UCLA and lived and worked in LA for 25 years. We needed a change. What we didn’t know was how much I would love it here.

Where did the idea for “Wish I Was Here” come from?
Zach pitched an idea about a struggling actor, who is forced to home school his kids when he can no longer afford private school and who’s wife works full time to support the family. That situation was dangerously familiar to my own.

It’s a great title. How did you come up with it?
Years ago, spitballing on the old, postcard cliche. I always thought it would have been a good title for “Garden State.” I pitched it to Zach for this and it stuck.

Music is practically a character in “Garden State.” With “Wish I Was Here,” did you or Zach have specific songs in your heads that set the tone for your writing?
Zach has a gift for finding great music and he won a Grammy for “Garden State.” I stuck to the writing (the “tone” usually “set” by screaming kids).

What do you love most about living in Hawaii?
A lot of things. After living in LA for so long, Oahu has a small-town atmosphere for me. I actually see people I know walking around. There is something about island living that gives me a “we’re all in this together” feeling. I love how the whole “Uncle and Auntie” system keeps us one big family. And let’s face it; if I have to drive somewhere to pick up my kids, I’d rather it be Manoa than Culver City.

What do you miss most about LA?
Trader Joes.

“Wish I Was Here” and “Veronica Mars” were pioneers in using Kickstarter to fund major motion pictures. Tell us about your Kickstarter experience.
The Kickstarter experiment and windfall has been remarkable, but I had very little to do with it. It was about my brother putting his hard won brand on the line. I was concerned for him, but when I saw that contribution number grow – I knew we were making a movie. The Kickstarter backers made this movie happen. All of us are deeply grateful and indebted to them.

AdamandZachBraffWhat are some of your creative influences?
Linklater, Peter Weir, Terry Gilliam… it’s a never ending list.

What’s on your DVR?
Homeland, True Detective.

How often do you get asked “What’s it like working with your brother?”
A lot. By my Dad.

What’s it like working with your brother?
Writing together can be a conflict of egos, but I think Zach and I have reached an age where we were both able to trust each other more and do what was best for the story. On set, we worked very comfortably together and I always felt it was nice for him to have a trusted voice in the chair next to him.

Give aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers a piece of advice.
If possible, always have a celebrity brother with international recognition and a broad Internet presence.

Tenacity.

What are you writing next?
I’m working on a couple of new movie ideas, but features are a hard sell these days. I’m planning to pitch a cable show; my contribution to the apocalypse genre. I just hope they don’t make me move back to LA.

“Wish I Was Here” is now playing at Consolidated Theatres Ward Stadium 16.

“Wish I Was Here” Trailer