Intermission rant: Saturday Night Live 25th anniversary

Since my thoughts on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the other two films in the trilogy are not yet worked out enough to post (Lisbeth Salander opened a can of worms and I’m still fishing), here’s a little intermission. Should be light-hearted, but I’m annoyed.

Last night watched the 25 year anniversary show of Saturday Night Live. Disappointing. I watched SNL religiously during its first years, but never afterwards, so I’m biased. But even accounting for tastes, and granting that humor is a subjective thing, why didn’t the women get equal time?


Gilda Radner as Roseanne Roseannadanna

Most of the skits had men in them, but many of the skits had no women; the longest skits were men only; as emcees the men got to do at least a little stand-up comedy, while the women were used as announcers. Billy Crystal did a long, involved, unusually unfunny routine where he pointed out (some of) the celebrities in the star-studded audience; Tom Hanks did something similar, I’m not sure why; but when Lili Tomlin finally took the stage, she only got to co-announce the next act with Candice Bergen, and then do one little joke with Bergen that fell flat. Waste! Waste!

Maybe part of the problem was the script. And maybe it was an off night — a lot of the jokes just didn’t work. Even the musicians — Elvis Costello, the Beastie Boys, and Al Green — had a hard time working the audience, which never seemed to warm up, despite good intentions. Maybe because the celebrity audience couldn’t get past being part of the show — the lights were always ‘up’ and the camera panning to this one or that one, doing the ‘look who’s here!’ Only the Eurythmics managed the musical part, with Annie Lennox singing a medley of their hits, backed up by some amazing women vocalists and a tight band. The Eurythmics didn’t ask the audience to do anything but listen, and Lennox raised the temperature in the room (at last).

But overall women were not much in evidence, and neither were people of color; interestingly, three black men noted that SNL was mostly for white guys as part of the ‘joke’ script. There was one very funny (and very short) skit of Danitra Vance reading nursery rhymes. As for white women: Gilda Radner did get profiled in some skits of her own, as well as some extra blips (because she’s so funny she makes you cry? Or because she’s dead? As is Danitra Vance.). But as a Radner junkie I wanted MORE; meanwhile Jane Curtain and Laraine Newman were barely visible. Newman was the most self-effacing or overlooked of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players from the original SNL, but what about that skit where she’s a 200 pound TV cook, eating all the batter before she can put her ‘kuchen’ in the oven, or her role as the teenage Conehead daughter…and what about Jane Curtain’s deadpan news anchor persona ripping her shirt open, or her Midwestern Mom offering Bill Murray “a nice egg salad sandwich”? The show left me wondering: Why is it only men who get to be funny?

P.S. Completely off topic, but since I’m complaining — why was there only one leetle teensy blip of Father Guido Sarducci???? (He wears a skirt; does that make it okay to include him in the not-enough-women rant? No?) And why oh why did they leave out the scene of him chasing Richard Nixon across the street, followed by his cameraman (this as the SNL credits are rolling for the end of the show), waving a microphone at the ex-president and yelling, “Iffa you were any kind of an animal, what woulda you be?”

Thanks to Licia Sky for pointing out that people of color were also underrepresented on SNL.


Word rant, part II: the describing-conversation rant

images‘Dialoguing’ is not a word. ‘Talking’ is a word. If you don’t want to ‘talk’, you can converse, discuss, natter, gossip, argue, wrangle, whisper, squabble, speak, squeak, say, etc. But you can’t ‘dialogue’.

And please don’t ‘share’. Sharing needs an object, it’s concrete, not ethereal (to misquote Chrissie Hynde when she was feeling precious). If you are going to ‘share’ something, say exactly what you’re sharing: a story, a feeling, an STD, an umbrella, your last crust of bread. If you’re telling someone (your brother, a stranger on a train, your AA group) about something that happened in your life or how you feel, and you don’t want to talk or tell or say because that feels too simple and plain, you still do not have to share, you can confess, admit, acknowledge, disclose, state, narrate, inform, or rant. Just for starters.

On the other hand, when writing dialogue – a conversation between characters – you won’t need more of a verb than said, as in: he said this, and she said that. Fancier verbs can distract the reader from the actual conversation; but said is unobtrusive. In dialogue the emphasis  should be on what the characters are saying, and the reader should be able to hear how they’re saying it from the way their dialogue is written. (So far I have already found an exception to this rule in Mikhail Bulgaghov’s The Master & Margarita. See comments section after word rant part I. Better yet, read the book. But in most cases, a simple ‘said’ works best.)

Chat – why do I hate this word? (Because isn’t a reason, as the 2-year olds say.) Okay, then: ‘chat’ seems to denigrate the verbal interaction. It is perfunctory. I’d prefer to get the specifics of their brief conversation, as in: We spoke of the weather, his new shoes, and my passion for unripe fruit.

And I want to know what the interaction meant or didn’t mean. For instance, instead of saying, they ‘chatted’, why not say: They passed in the hall, exchanged pleasantries, and kept going. But if that sentence isn’t about people ignoring each other purposely, if they are only and simply unimportant to each other, why not leave their ‘chatting’ out entirely? If the talk was meaningless and they have no relationship, why include it at all? Why are you wasting my time????

I may as well admit here that I have trouble with the greeting: Hi, how are you? Especially when the person asking continues to walk past me, intent on their own business, with no discernible interest whatsofuckingever in how I am. I would much rather be ignored; if that doesn’t accord with the person’s idea of manners, a nod will do. This is probably related to hating the word ‘chat’.

But I have no problem with ‘natter’, as in, ‘we nattered all night long’. Because it says: we had fun and were absorbed in our conversation, even though it would not be interesting to anyone else. ‘Natter’ implies a cozy, frayed, wandering in all directions sort of talk, full of interruptions and/or bad puns. (Although I admit the ‘all night long’ is adding to that picture in my head.)

Word rant part I

typewriterThis is a rant — my take on William Strunk, Jr.’s dictum to “Omit needless words”. The following list is of words that are problematic for me but not for everyone. Most editors have their own little issues. I think mine are perfectly justified; so do we all.

utilize – why can’t you say ‘use’? (the verb)
utilization – why can’t you say ‘use’? (the noun)
somehow – as in, somehow Poopsie managed to drive a car even though it was out of gas/he was a hamster/etc. Either describe how Poopsie managed to do whatever it was, or don’t, but delete the ‘somehow’ unless what you really mean by somehow is ‘there is no way this could happen’ (deadpan humor or a signal to the reader that the speaker or narrator is lying); or ‘this wasn’t really that difficult to accomplish’ (irony, sarcasm); or you mean ‘there is no way that this could happen except in a perfect world’ (poignant idealism), like the somewhere/somehow song from West Side Story.
lovely – I just don’t like this word. I especially dislike it when it’s used to describe the way someone looks. I think it’s a froofy word. (Now there’s a word that says it all. Describes something so frivolous and fluffy you feel: oof.) ‘Lovely’ is only okay if used in conversation, where “Oooh, lovely” can be sincere, or wry, or gushing, in each case telling the reader something about a character.
deftly – whenever I read this I think: oh for god’s sake (OFGS). If you can describe what the character is doing you do not need this word. As in: she caught the flying knives deftly. (It would only be of interest if she didn’t.)
tartly – to describe a tone of voice, as in: “Eat shit and die,” she said tartly. Another OFGS. If you can’t hear the character’s tone of voice in the dialogue, then rewrite the dialogue.