Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Horatio Show-Blower

I read on Wikipedia today that Horatio Sanz will probably not be returning to Saturday Night Live this year. And I have to say, I am thrilled.

A lot of people think SNL sucks, and I can kind of see why sometimes. A lot of the skits are less than hilarious, and some entire shows are just subpar beyond belief. There are too many recurring characters, too many impressions of famous people. I've heard it all. But I have always had a bit of a soft spot in my heart for Saturday Night Live. Just when you think it's past its prime, it will reinvent itself, usually with a massive talent like Eddie Murphy, Dana Carvey (and yes, he was amazing on that show) or Will Ferrell.

It's still hit or miss; any 90-minute live show is going to be. But they will evenutally pull something hilarious out like "Lazy Sunday" [Note: sorry for the link, NBC took it off the internet, greedy bastards] or "Bill Brasky" that will be really great and transcendent. Remember, the history of SNL writers includes Conan O'Brien, Bob Odenkirk, Robert Smigel (aka Triumph the Insult Comic Dog), Stephen Colbert and Adam McKay (writer/director of Anchorman). So the show is still a breeding ground for talent.

Also, I think they have really upgraded the talent (if not the writing) over the last few years. I think that the four newbies from last year (Jason Sudeikis, Andy Samberg, Bill Hader and Rochester native Kristen Wiig) are all very talented performers. The writing was definitely not up to snuff last year overall, but there were really funny moments here and there.

But for the life of me I have never understood why they kept Horatio Sanz around. I don't know if it was a diversity thing, being that Horatio was the first Latino cast member of the show, or that he's just such a nice guy and they couldn't bear to let him go. Those are the only two options I can think of.

Horatio -- and how can I put this lightly -- is the single unfunniest comic actor I have ever seen. And I have seen a lot of bad comedy. I have a very high threshold for comedy, because I know how hard it could be. But Horatio took bad comedy to a high art form. His performances are so one-note, with very little actual humor accompanying his acting. There are so many elements that contribute to his startling mediocrity.

Firstly, he is always laughing at himself and his own jokes. This is not like The Carol Burnett Show where the cast members were genuinely trying not to crack up; this is a case of Horatio mugging for the camera and trying to act extra "wacky" to get the other cast members -- notably the since-disappeared Jimmy Fallon -- to just laugh it up during the skits. This became such an epidemic that it ruined nearly any skit that Sanz and his tittering monkey-boy Fallon were in together. It even seemed to me (with no confirmation) that exec-producer Lorne Michaels even separated the two of them, or moved their skits to the end of the night (when they are usually sub par anyway). But it was such a predictable and forced diversion that it smacked of desperation. Whenever Jimmy Fallon and Horatio were the two main players in a skit, you could bet that there would be some unplanned giggling. Oh how amusing! To see people crack each other up by smiling at each other!

Horatio's diversity as a comic actor is also limited. He typically plays one of two characters: a waddling fat stone-faced (or stoner) type (Chubb Hotty, Frankie) or the over-the-top screamer who would often laugh at himself in character (Carol, Gobi). He rarely deviates from these types. If they wanted a fat guy to basically play two characters, they could have hired me. I could use the money.

In addition, Horatio is a mediocre-to-poor impressionist. The main reason for this is that he is so fat. Not that I am against fat folks, I count myself among them. But how can you do an impression of Elton John or Ozzy Osbourne or Saddam Hussein or (one of his worst) Billy Joel when you are 300+ lbs? You can't exactly disappear into character when you have five chins. When SNL had Chris Farley, they at least gave him characters of fat guys and limited his impressions. Chris Farley was a bit limited too in his comedy, but he had a lot more authenticity.

Horatio to me is like the guy or gal at work who is lazy and generally incompetent, yet keeps getting promoted. In the course of the show, they let go much more compelling talents than Horatio (notably Robert Riggle and Jeff Richards) and yet made Horatio a featured performer. But the guy single-handedly ruined more skits than I can even count.

There are lots of rumors saying that Horatio may or may not be gone. Lorne Michaels has confirmed that he is firing four cast members, and I swear to all that is holy that if he gets rid of Fred Armisen or Will Forte and keeps Horatio Sanz I will boycott the show for at least like five episodes. (I'll catch them in reruns.)


d. dunford said...

Horatio Sanz: great guy, but I pretty much agree. He's hilarious at improv, but that honestly doesn't translate at all to television.

Quick note: the Bill Brasky character wasn't developed at SNL. It was done at ImprovOlympic and Second City in Chicago before it saw the light of day on tv. A lot of bits (Chris Farley's motivational speaker bit comes to mind) were developed this way and then plundered by Lorne Michael's television machine.

Bill said...

Praise sweet Jesus, he is gone. Good bye Horatio, enjoy your obscurity.

tonypounds said...

i think i had a conversation about something like this once....