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The Episodes of 'SNL' Season 39, Ranked

With SNL's 39th season coming to a close, we're taking a look at the past season with a series of posts examining the highs, lows, and other memorable moments from the past eight months. Here, we look at each episode as a whole, ranking them in order of overall success and positive resonance with viewers.

Obviously comedy is subjective, and everyone watches SNL looking for different things — this list is just one of many you can find online. As far as we're concerned, things like musical guests, surprise cameos, and drama surrounding the show are less important than the plain-and-simple comedy aspects of an episode: How many sketches had [...]

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'SNL's Leslie Jones and the Problem with Misplaced Outrage

Forty years ago, Saturday Night Live aired a sketch wherein Chevy Chase interviewed Richard Pryor for a job. It became instantly infamous because of a word association game the two comedians engaged in that culminated with Richard Pryor calling Chase a "dead honkey" after Chase offered up the word "nigger." Paul Mooney, the legendary comedian who penned the sketch, said he based it on his experience being overly interviewed by network executives as to whether or not he was qualified to be one of Pryor's writers for the episode. Forty years later, it is arguably one of the greatest sketches the show has ever aired.

This past Saturday, newcomer Leslie [...]

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A Video Introduction To Michael Che

In case you missed the big news, standup and SNL writer Michael Che has joined The Daily Show as its newest correspondent and is set to make his first appearance in June. In addition to his writing gig at SNL, Che has appeared on Bunk, John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show, Late Show with David Letterman, Best Week Ever, @midnight, and most recently Late Night with Seth Meyers, where he served as the show's very first featured standup during its premiere episode. He also has a half-hour Comedy Central special set to premiere on June 6th. Ahead of Che's Daily Show debut a little over a [...]

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Talking To Brett Gelman About His New Adult Swim Special

Tomorrow night, Adult Swim is airing Dinner with Friends with Brett Gelman and Friends, a new half-hour special starring comedian Brett Gelman and directed by Jason Woliner, who co-wrote the script with Gelman. Beginning as a talk show Gelman hosts over a meal with six Hollywood actors a la Jon Favreau's Dinner for Five, Dinner with Friends with Brett Gelman and Friends quickly takes a turn and descends into an evening of psychological torture. Like Eagleheart, the Adult Swim show Gelman acts on and Woliner is a writer, director, and producer on, Dinner with Friends is fast-paced, funny, and unlike anything else on TV.

I recently talked with Brett Gelman [...]

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Talking to Dave Attell About His New Comedy Central Standup Show and Special

You said dirty comics are sort of a rare breed these days. Do you feel like that’s made comedy worse? Do you ever find yourself hesitating on stage, like ‘if I say something, there might be someone recording it and they might put it on a blog?’ Or do you not even give a shit?

Every comic gives a shit. Everything they say in the clubs could offend someone or somebody could take it the wrong way. The days of the late night show of just winging it and having a good time, they’re coming to an end. The crowds are pretty PC. A lot of them are [...]

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Talking To Paul F. Tompkins

2014 has been a busy year for Paul F. Tompkins so far. He's starring in an ABC sitcom pilot opposite Molly Shannon and hosting the web chat series Speakeasy, Fusion's political puppet show No, You Shut Up!, the podcast/live show Dead Authors, and his Largo live show Varietopia. I recently caught up with Tompkins on the set of Speakeasy to talk about the plethora of projects he has going, being hoodwinked by an Ice-T impersonator, and Mr. Show's upcoming 20th anniversary.

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The Beginner's Guide To 'Trailer Park Boys'

Last month, Netflix announced that the Canadian comedy series Trailer Park Boys is returning for an eighth and ninth season on the streaming network after a seven-year hiatus. While the show became a big hit in Canada, it has yet to gain the same level of superfandom down in the States, but that might be about to change with the arrival of new seasons and, as of yesterday, the availability seasons 1-7 on Netflix Instant. Whether you're unfamiliar with the series or a diehard TPB fan, here's a brief guide to Mike Clattenburg's misfit Canadian world of the ex-cons, weed-growers, and kitty lovers of Sunnyvale.

For the uninitiated, [...]

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The 24 Best Sketches of 'SNL' Season 39

With SNL's 39th season coming to a close, we're taking a look at the past season with a series of posts examining the highs, lows, and other memorable moments from the past eight months. Here we recall some of our favorite sketches from the season — both live sketches and videos.

Season 39 of SNL certainly hasn't been the most popular among viewers, with its first half bogged down with criticism over the lack of diversity in the cast, and its second half attacked (often unfairly) for uneven writing under new head writer Colin Jost. Even though the show hired Sasheer Zamata (along with two black female writers), and the script [...]

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Talking To Hilary Winston

Comedy writer and producer Hilary Winston has been building quite the impressive resume these last few years, jumping from critically-acclaimed show to critically-acclaimed show. After spending four years on staff for My Name Is Earl's entire original run, she did two seasons at Community and then two seasons at Happy Endings. Now, after years of writing on other people's shows, Winston has one of her own with Bad Teacher, a half-hour sitcom based on the film of the same name that premiered on CBS last week. Winston adapted the Bad Teacher to TV, serving as the show's creator and showrunner.

Starring Ari Graynor, Sara Gilbert, Ryan Hansen, Sara Rodler, [...]

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Improv As Practical Life Advice

When you ask people to think of reasons why someone took an improv class for the first time you get answers like “I wanted to do something fun” or “I’m a huge comedy fan” or “I wanted to be able to think on my feet more for my job.”

(Side note: people often say “wanted to get better at public speaking” but only when they’re guessing why OTHER people might be taking improv classes.)

Improv classes aren’t as silly as you expect. Yes, they’re fun but they’re more like acting classes.  Many big comedy fans don’t know what long-form improv is, and they take a class because they’ve memorized [...]

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Talking To Chris Gethard

Chris Gethard has an exciting few months coming up. His debut standup album, entitled My Comedy Album, comes out today, his Comedy Central half-hour special is airing this summer, and he'll soon hear back on whether Comedy Central will be ordering his pilot of The Chris Gethard Show to series or not. He also recently returned to doing weekly episodes of the public access version of The Chris Gethard Show, which will soon be ending whether the Comedy Central version gets picked up or not.

I had the chance to talk with Gethard a few weeks ago about how focus groups reacted to The Chris Gethard Show's [...]

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Talking to Nick Frost About Dance, Passion, and 'Cuban Fury'

Nick Frost is putting himself out there. Just as his Cornetto Trilogy collaborators Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg are working on their own individual projects, Frost stars in his first solo lead role in the new romantic comedy Cuban Fury, a warm underdog story emphasizing the importance of passion and the value of challenging oneself.

Frost also lives the movie's message by taking on a technically-demanding role: Cuban Fury is a dance movie, and Frost plays Bruce Garrett, a former child salsa prodigy bullied into giving up his dream now living a safe adult life working for an industrial manufacturing company. Dance is a painful memory pushed firmly out [...]

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Talking To Thomas Middleditch About 'Silicon Valley'

You're about to see a lot more of Thomas Middleditch in movies and TV. Middleditch got his start as an improviser and sketch actor in Chicago, where he performed at iO, Second City, and was a founding member of The Improvised Shakespeare Company, before moving to New York and then Los Angeles, where he's performed frequently at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. This year, he has both his first lead TV role  (Mike Judge's new HBO series Silicon Valley, which premiered last night) and his first lead role in a major movie (the upcoming Search Party, which he stars in alongside T.J. Miller and Adam Pally).

I recently had [...]

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The Science Of How Comedy Works

Writing about comedy has become a cottage industry in recent years as the swelling popularity of live and online humor has birthed a new audience for comedy journalism, whether it's Jason Zinoman's New York Times pieces or Splitsider's own blow-by-blow reporting on the industry.

But outside of the standup, sketch, and podcast worlds, there's also been a larger, centuries-long search to understand the fundamental nature of humor. It's the sort of quest that electrifies certain comedy nerds while making others wince at the idea of slicing open something as mysterious and subjective as laughter. It also begat E.B. White's famous 1941 quote: "Humor can be dissected, as a frog [...]

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Dating Tips For Twentysomethings In a Nuclear Apocalypse, by Jon Wolper

Dating in your twenties isn't easy. Your friends are coupling up and moving far away. The best guys and girls all seem to be taken. And the nuclear holocaust that has annihilated 97 percent of humanity has also annihilated that cute guy a few miles down the highway. It’s tough!

But your age—and, of course, the ever-present spectre of death—shouldn’t dissuade you from getting out there, meeting new people, and maybe even settling down. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Be assertive It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and no one’s going to wait for you if you’re too shy to strike up a conversation. So [...]

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How Baby Boomers Killed The Modern Romantic Comedy

We are in a confoundingly complex point in gender relations, as evidenced by the number of books, NPR stories and articles on the subject. But while everyone is talking about the problem, no one has focused on the root of the problem, which is actually quite simple. From the late 1960s on, girls (for the first time in history) were raised to play sports, go to college and become independent, career-focused adults (more like boys). Baby Boomer parents changed the way they raised their daughters, but they did not change the way they raised their sons. As a result women now act more like men, but men are behaving as [...]

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Inside The Most Popular Local TV Comedy In America

The seeds of the most popular local TV comedy in the country were planted 25 years ago, outside a Seattle restaurant when two strangers walked up to Chris Cashman’s dad, Pat, and thanked him for his work on Almost Live, a local sketch comedy show similar to Saturday Night Live.

“They didn't even know him,” Chris, now 36, recalls. "That was the neatest thing I'd ever heard of, and I thought, if I could just do that some day…”

But Almost Live was cancelled in 1999, just as Chris became old enough to join it. The show didn’t generate enough profits for the Texas company that bought the station and the [...]

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Maya Rudolph's Finest Musical Moments

NBC announced that The Maya Rudolph Show, a new variety show special from the comedic actress of the same name, will premiere on May 19th. The Lorne Michaels-produced one-off special, which features guests like Craig Robinson, Andy Samberg, and Janelle Monáe, will serve as a pilot for a Rudolph-fronted variety show for the network.

Rudolph hosting a variety show is no surprise as she's had dual passions for music and comedy for decades now. The daughter of soul singer Minnie Ripperton, Rudolph worked as a keyboardist and backup singer for the band The Rentals before landing at SNL. On SNL and Up All Night, Rudolph sang frequently, goofing on [...]

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Talking To W. Kamau Bell

Long established on the San Francisco comedy scene, W. Kamau Bell was relatively unknown nationally when he began hosting Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell on FX in 2012. But following the internet outrage over the show’s cancellation this past November, Bell and Totally Biased received more critical attention, posthumously praising the show for its unique blend of humor and socio-political commentary.

Now, Bell is full steam ahead with his "Oh Everything!" tour, which will include doing standup at the second Atlantic Ocean Comedy Festival July 25-28, a comedy cruise put on by Jesse Thorn’s podcast and radio organization Maximum Fun. Before that, he’ll be in New [...]

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Talking To Amy Schumer About Season Two Of 'Inside Amy Schumer'

There were a lot of changes on the writing staff this year. How did that influence the upcoming season? 

We lost two and we gained three and a half-ish. So we still have the same head writer and we did have a bunch of returning writers so it’s one of those things that we have the same energy but with new brains in the room. But everything has to pass through through my sensibility and what makes sense for our show. I don’t think that anyone will notice a drastic shift but I think it’s really strong.

I’ve seen the first three episodes that were screened for critics, [...]