Over the weekend I emailed Lainey all excited about Maya Rudolph and Martin Short’s new variety show. Does this make me deeply uncool? Yes, but in a week being dominated by Taylor and Kanye’s mutual f-ckery, I’d like to take a break from all-cap tweets and haughty publicists to talk about two really talented people. Genuinely talented people who seem as lovely in person as they do on screen, is that so bad?
A variety show feels quite old fashioned, doesn’t it? But in an era when Grease: Live made people lose their collective sh-t on Twitter (and who would ever think Grease would be a part of the pop culture landscape again?), there is a strong case to be made for belting out a song on television (also: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend).
As the The Hollywood Reporter notes, NBC is committed to finding a jazz hands/piano/song and dance variety show. This desire is either genuinely earnest or completely tone-deaf, because they tried (and failed) with Best Time Ever, which couldn’t even be saved by Neil Patrick Harris.
In creating a duo that is not “ duo”, there are so many amazing things that come together: SNL history, Maya’s “hip” factor (she imitated Oprah and lived to talk about it), uncanny imitations, broad comedic range, Martin’s decades of experience doing literally everything (movies, TV, Broadway, writing and voice work), and two people seasoned at improv and live performing. And they must have met and really liked each other, right? I mean I’m guessing you don’t commit to a variety show with someone you think might be just OK. She must think he’s funny as hell, and vice versa.
And the show will be live from 30 Rock. Live! So of all the choices they had (and in development of this show, I believe that Marty and Maya had many choices), they chose live. They chose New York. They chose Lorne, someone extremely comfortable in that setting, but who can let a show (like 30 Rock) breathe and find its rhythm. Lorne is a patient man.
But are audiences? We consume media so quickly that “sharable” bits (like Inside Amy Schumer sketches, James Cordon Carpool Karaoke, Between Two Ferns, Billy on the Street, Lip Sync Battle, Jimmy Kimmel’s Lie Witness News) are the goal. It has to be funny enough to be worth your time but safe enough that you can watch it at work and not be worried about your co-workers seeing. How many network execs have nightmares about the phrase “going viral”? The unpredictability must be maddening.
So what will it take to make some noise? A few good guest stars right off the hop. Martin can consult his Christmas party guest list. Have you heard of about this? Every year he throws an amazing Christmas party with Goldie and Kurt, Rita and Tom – skits are mandatory. (He even chided Conan for mowing his lawn.) Vanity Fair called him one of the last great talk show guests in history. He calls Larry David, “Lawrence”. He has a reputation for being honest-to-goodness nice.
And then there’s Maya. She could call her old childhood friend Gwyneth. Anyone from SNL. Bonus points for Bill Murray (she was lovely in his Netflix Christmas special). Jon Hamm. I don’t know who wouldn’t pick up her phone call.
I want to see Maya doing Oprah’s Weight Watchers commercial. I want Jiminy Glick to call Ryan Reynolds “the boy from Titanic” because Marty knows the Blake/Leo history (again go back to Marty’s talk show appearances, he knows good dish), and he knows that mixing Ryan up for Leonardo DiCaprio is basically insulting everyone in that scenario, but in a way no one can quite put their finger on. I want them to half crack-up while they are doing it. Like Fallon, Maya and Martin both have that ability to tease someone and bring them in on the joke. Oprah will send a fruit basket and Blake will send homemade cupcakes.
Those would be good, but Beyoncé would be great. Beyoncé showing up in a skit about Beyoncé? If she showed up on Lip Sync Battle for Channing, she could certainly turn up for Maya. Or Prince. Prince smirking next to Beyoncé as played by Maya. Just thinking about it makes me giggle.