He’s a star in the making. Saturday Night Live’s fastest rising featured player since Will Ferrell. I wish I could have called this four years ago. If I had, I would’ve looked like a goddamn Nostradamus. Instead, I’m just one of the many people hopping on the Andy Samberg bandwagon.
A few years back, Tom Hanks was hosting SNL. I hadn’t watched the show in years, mainly since Ferrell and a host of others left, and the sole reason I turned it on was because of Hanks. After all, Hanks is my favorite actor and I miss him in nothing.
Anyway, there was one skit that stood out to me. It sounds stupid, but I remember it making me laugh harder than anything else. It was a song called "Testicles" and it featured Hanks and some other dude, dressed as gay German pop singers called Ariel and Efram.
The bit was kind of stupid, but the way Hanks and the other dude got into it was what made it work. The other dude was of course Andy Samberg.
Here’s the thing about SNL: it’s a show that has to be carried by one or two stalwarts in order for it to be successful. Think back on its history. Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Phil Hartman, Will Ferrell. These are the people who’ve carried the torch.
In its bad years, it’s been carried by no one. The show needs a leader. What’s the reason it has fallen off in the past few years? The lack of a true stalwart. (The only memorable ratings stretch over the past five years was the Tina Fey as Sarah Palin show — more of a lucky coincidence for creator Lorne Michaels).
Actresses like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are great. Jimmy Fallon is a funny dude. Horatio Sanz — eh I could go without him. None of them could carry a show ala Ferrell. Until Samberg arrived in 2005, the show really didn’t have anyone in that realm. They didn’t have the go-to guy.
Samberg is that guy. If Michaels and company were smart, they’d make him the star. They’d continue to showcase him in the always funny Lonely Island skits. They’d also continue to let him flex his muscles as a great impressionist (his Mark Wahlberg is dead on). They’d give him meaningful characters like Myers’ Wayne Campbell or Linda Richman.
In an SNL skit from two weeks ago, I watched Samberg perform as "Shy Ronnie" alongside Rihanna. Typically, Samberg’s musical performances are met with high energy. This one was met with dead silence. After all, the guy’s name is Shy Ronnie. It worked beautifully. Even in silence, Samberg brought it.
It’s been said that Phil Hartman was the glue that held the late 1980s, early 1990s cast together. Undoubtedly without Hartman, names like Adam Sandler and Chris Farley would likely have as much meaning to us today as Gary Kroeger. Not that those guys weren’t talented. Obviously they were. However, with thriving SNL behind them (thanks to Hartman and also Mike Myers), they were able to showcase their talents to a wide audience and eventually leverage that into a movie career.
Hell, freaking Rob Schneider launched a successful movie career and I know he’s not talented.
If Lorne Michaels is smart, he’ll give Samberg a chance to carry the show (alongside the immensely talented Bill Hader) and the magic might just happen again.