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Lessons For The New Ladies Of Saturday Night Live

Illustration for article titled Lessons For The New Ladies Of iSaturday Night Live/i

The women of Saturday Night Live fall into two categories; there are those who breakout and become beloved fan favorites, often stealing the show from their male co-stars, and, as we saw with the rise of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, carrying the entire show with their sharp writing and wacky characters. And then there are the others, the displaced, the women who, in theory, should be able to hold their own with the Will Ferrells and Dana Carveys of the world: Sarah Silverman, Janeane Garofalo, and perhaps the best comic actress of our time, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Yet for some reason, these actresses fizzled out quickly on SNL, their best work coming years later, in environments that allowed them to showcase their skills. Tonight, two more women will be added to the SNL cast list; 21 year old Abby Elliott, daughter of legendary paperboy Chris Elliott, and Michaela Watkins, who is currently starring alongside Louis-Dreyfus on The New Adventures of Old Christine. So will these ladies sink or swim? It's anyone's guess, really. But perhaps we could help by pointing out the moves that made the SNL Ladies of the past 10 years so memorable.

  • Don't Be Afraid To Look Stupid The funniest women in comedy have the ability to be as graceless as humanly possible. Lucille Ball, perhaps the Queen of Physical Comedy, was able to get around her glamour girl looks and transform herself into a humor machine, unafraid to appear awkward or silly or unattractive if it meant that the laughs were coming in. Lucy's humor comes from her humanity; she's a mess, like the rest of us, she's a goof, like everyone else. Molly Shannon embraced this and created some of SNL's best female characters; Mary Catherine Gallagher, the nervous schoolgirl with a tendency to crash through folding tables, and my personal favorite, Sally O'Malley, a 50-year-old woman who loves herself and her age beyond all things. Click to view
  • Don't Get Stuck In The Mom/Girlfriend Zone The women of SNL are often relegated to playing the bewildered girlfriend, confused waitress, or stunned mother to a male lead's wackadoo character. Playing the straight man isn't the curse it might seem to be; there's a way to play it incredibly straight while still being completely hilarious. The trick is to find a balance, as Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon did with their "Delicious Dish" NPR characters:Click to view
  • Have At Least One Good Impression In Your Arsenal If you can mock just ONE celebrity, and mock them well, you're pretty much guaranteed some screen time on SNL. Of course, it helps if the celebrity is all over the news; dusting off your Monica Lewinsky impression in 2008 isn't going to get you anywhere. Maya Rudolph was able to create insane, overblown versions of popular celebrities, including Donatella Versace, Beyonce, and of course, Whitney Houston:Click to view
  • Create Your Signature Character The men of SNL are often remembered fondly for their signature characters; Mike Myers as Linda Richman, Dana Carvey as the Church Lady, and Phil Hartman as Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. But the ladies of SNL have also created some legendary characters over the years, including Gilda Radner's Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella, Julia Sweeney's Pat, and Cheri Oteri's Collette Reardon. Kristin Wiig is currently taking up this challenge by creating such characters as the Target Lady and Penelope, while Rachel Dratch added her own character to this list with the introduction of Debbie Downer, a character that has transcended SNL and has now become a standard pop-culture reference. Click to view
  • When In Doubt, Think Of Tina There is perhaps no better role model for the incoming women of SNL then Tina Fey, the woman who added to the show in every possible way, leading the writing team, anchoring Weekend Update, participating in several sketches, and creating a female-friendly environment that allowed women like Poehler, Dratch, and Rudolph to display their skills alongside their male co-stars. Also? Without Tina, there'd be no tribute to Mom Jeans:Click to view
  • Work Together For a final burst of inspiration, here's a clip of some of your past and present castmates, working together to create one of the most insane, awesome SNL commercial parodies of all time. Good luck, ladies. We will all be rooting for you. Click to view

Two New Comedians Join The Cast Of 'SNL' [MSNBC]

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i'm completely torn by Kristen Wiig. I *want* to like her, and sometimes she's really, really funny. but it seems like 90% of her characters are her twitching and trailing off as she speaks...which might be funny once (as in her McCain rally lady) but gets old after a while. do i just lack a sense of humor?