What was Robert DeNiro trying to prove by going on Saturday Night Live this past weekend? Anyone who knows DeNiro’s career knows that he has basically avoided live television of any kind for 30+ years. His most recent SNL appearance was when he played himself (along with Joe Pesci) on Jim Breuer’s skit “The Joe Pesci Show” back in the 90's. But this past Saturday he hosted the program for the third time (the first two: really bad). In a nutshell: It wasn’t good this time either.
In case you missed Bobby D’s hosting stint, let me fill you in. The monologue was pretty formulaic. He talked about knowing NYC as “his city” then dropping references like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Atlanta Braves to feign like he didn’t actually know the City. It was one of those monologues where SNL cast members sit in the audience and interrupt the monologue. It was just OK. As for the skits, DeNiro basically played himself all night long. I don’t mean “with type” as opposed to “against type,” I mean he just played himself: Robert DeNiro, except for a few skits, one in which he played an old Italian produce man with his own TV show and a bratty son (I don’t know if that character is based on someone in real life). Either way, it wasn’t even remotely funny. As for the guest of honor, DeNiro, all night long he was old, slow on the uptake, obviously reading off cue cards, and flubbed lines in basically EVERY SINGLE sketch. Don’t get me wrong, Bobby D is an all-time legend on the big screen, but this night in NYC was a Raging Bull sized swing and miss.
The musical act: Puffy Daddy, who I guess calls himself Diddy Dirty Money now. I don’t mind Puff as an actor (see Made) and I don’t mind him as a spokesman, but my God he is a horrible musical performer, always has been, always will be. He is literally like a cartoon character on the musical stage. And this whole shtick of his, with that dumb dance and those sunglasses all the time, and the way he tells you the date that his new album is "dropping" at the end of the song was completely corny even in 1995. I never understand what the heck is going on in any of his songs as he hops around that stage like a circus act with so much nonsense going on all around him, like dozens of dancers and backup singers, anything to distract from the crappy product. I just thanked God when it mercifully ended each time.
Highlight of the night: A sketch called “What Up With That,” starring Kenan Thompson. It’s a running sketch where Thompson plays a talk show host who brings on big guests (This time: Deniro and Robin Williams, both playing themselves) then he just sings the whole time and ignores them. The sketch was almost ten minutes long and Thompson was performing the whole time. No easy thing, I assure you. Quick Sidebar:I think Thompson is one of the greatest SNL talents ever, if not THE greatest. Who’s better? Chevy Chase? John Belushi? Are you crazy? Adam Sandler? Chris Farley? Better? More talented than Thompson? No chance. Tina Fey? Smarter not funnier or more talented. Will Ferrell? I don’t think so. Anyway it was a brilliant sketch and Thompson never misses a beat. It was DeNiro’s best ten minutes of the night too. He was basically allowed to sit in the shadows looking like the classic pissed off DeNiro while Thompson stole the show. At the end of it, Robin Williams said something completely unfunny about Tweeting on his cell phone, and that was it.
OK, there was one other good skit. It was a take on Weekend at Bernie's. Why was DeNiro good you ask: He played a dead guy the whole sketch.
I love DeNiro but it wasn’t a good 1.5 hours for him. He was there, of course, to promote the upcoming Little Fockers, which will make boatloads of dough over Christmas, but honestly looks really, really bad. I thought the original Meet the Parents was a comic masterpiece, maybe the best comedy ever, and one of DeNiro’s best, but I thought Meet the Fockers, a few years back, was unwatchable, and actually hurt the original’s legacy a little bit. It was stupid, unfunny, way too forced, and Hoffman and Babs were both so damn dumb in it. I’m afraid the bar is only going lower for the third installment. Give up the live stuff, Bobby D, please, for all of us.
Watch Kenan Thompson (the best ever) go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSGKOap6iWw