The Rundown: It’s Time To Make Vanessa Bayer A Superstar

the-rundown:-it’s-time-to-make-vanessa-bayer-a-superstar

The Rundown is a weekly column that highlights some of the biggest, weirdest, and most notable events of the week in entertainment. The number of items could vary, as could the subject matter. It will not always make a ton of sense. Some items might not even be about entertainment, to be honest, or from this week. The important thing is that it’s Friday, and we are here to have some fun.

ITEM NUMBER ONE — Listen to me

You know how sometimes you can be aware of something for years, maybe even decades, without it really moving to the front of your brain, into the bright lights where it becomes more than just a passing thought? Or is that just me? It does happen to me a lot. I was almost 30 before I realized I actually liked mushrooms. It’s not like I had been picking them off my food or anything. I had been eating them for years. But one day I was suddenly like, “Whoa, I really like mushrooms.” I’ll get them on anything now. I’m a maniac.

This type of thing happened again recently when I saw the news about Vanessa Bayer getting a new series on Showtime. Her own series. A semi-autobiographical one that she writes and stars in. From Deadline:

Co-created and executive produced by Bayer and Jeremy Beiler (Saturday Night Live), I Love This for You is a grounded comedy in which Bayer plays a character, inspired by her own past, who overcame childhood leukemia to achieve her lifelong dream of landing a job as a successful home-shopping channel host. Bayer’s fellow SNL alum Molly Shannon also leads the cast as Jackie, the charismatic host at the network.

As I was reading that, I stopped and I thought for a second and I realized that Vanessa Bayer has been making me — you too, hopefully — laugh for over 10 years now, usually as a small piece of a larger project. She’s the greatest. And yet, as far as I can tell, this will be her first crack at a legitimate starring role in something. That’s… crazy. That’s crazy! Vanessa Bayer is so good. And so many other SNL-types get shots at showcase projects. Hell, so many have gotten shots at them since she’s been there. And it’s not like she wasn’t carrying sketches or chunks of sketches on her own in that period. Even just her Weekend Update characters like Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy or Laura Parsons or her note-perfect take on Jennifer Aniston. That’s not easy, sliding in there on live television and being expected to hit straight dingers for a few minutes. She did it every time.

Need more evidence? Need to see some acting, not just talking into the camera? Cool. No problem. Because here’s the Totino’s sketch.

Look how good she is in that. Really look. The switch from stereotypical sitcom mom worried about her hungry guys eating snacks during the game to a woman in the throes of forbidden passion. This sketch is such a classic that we probably don’t think about it enough in any sort of critical way anymore, but we should. Same goes for this next one.

This was the first sketch I ever saw from I Think You Should Leave. I caught it floating around on YouTube right around the premiere of the first season. It’s what hooked me. I still watch it a few times a year. It’s the hopefulness in her face, I think, where she thinks she’s finally getting it right before going into another dark place about hogs and pigs. I honestly do not think this sketch works nearly as well with anyone else.

It’s not just sketch shows, either. There’s also the weirdo surprise appearances, too. Like this one, which I’ve posted in this column maybe a dozen times and will probably post a dozen more, in which Bill Hader’s appearance as a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers takes a hard left turn into a one-woman showcase. I won’t spoil the twist for you if I have somehow not forced you to watch it already, but please know that I think about the phrase “we all put our pants on one pants a time” about three times a week while getting dressed.

What I’m saying here — what I have proven with video evidence — is that all Vanessa Bayer has done over the last decade or so is make cool stuff better by adding little touches. Hell, she just did it again in Barb and Stat Go to Vista Del Mar, a delightfully bonkers movie that she is delightfully bonkers in for about 10 minutes. And that’s great. It’s awesome that she’s just out here popping up in all the things we like and improving them around the edges. But it’s also way beyond time for her to get that crack at the bright lights. She has earned it in a few different ways by now. Watch all those videos again and tell me I’m wrong. I dare you.

Let Vanessa Bayer shine, dammit.

ITEM NUMBER TWO — Jonathan Majors: Good at acting

Disney

I am something we in the blogging community call “A Big Stupid Marvel Idiot,” thanks to the powerful combination of not reading the comics in my youth and not being able to remember what happened in what order in the movies. Real double threat, this guy. Remarkable stuff. That said, I still watch most of the Marvel offerings and find I enjoy them quite a bit. This should not surprise me as much as it does. Part of it is because there’s good story there, and story usually triumphs over everything else for me when I’m watching something. Another part is that, well, one does not become a multibillion-dollar juggernaut by not catering to idiots a little. Idiots like me.

Which brings me to Loki, the Disney series based on Tom Hiddleston’s character that wrapped up its first season this week. I watched every episode and was relentlessly confused by a lot of it and enjoyed it all quite a bit. A great example of this feeling was the stuff in the finale with Jonathan Majors. I had a blast watching it all and did not have any clue until hours later that it was teasing important events for both the future of the show and possibly the entire Cinematic Universe. Most of the credit for this goes to Majors and his extremely big performance.

I mean, Lord in heaven, did Jonathan Majors do a lot of acting in his scene. So much acting. He spent the whole time chewing on an apple and the scenery and it was all just a blast. Every line delivery was the most. Every shrug and chuckle was somehow more than that. This can be a bad thing when the performance calls for subtle notes of grace or quiet gravitas, but here, man, in a show about a time-traveling god who makes out with the female version of himself from another timeline, it was exactly what the situation called for. He gave it the Full Giamatti. I respect it so much.

Disney
Disney

But this is what I mean. I found the scene and performance captivating on a number of levels while being completely ignorant to its ongoing significance. (If you want to know more about its ongoing significance, don’t worry, Uproxx dot com has you covered.) That’s a credit to the writers and director and everyone else who had a part in putting it together, but mostly it was a credit to Majors. It looked like he was having so much fun the whole time. I’ve gone back and watched the scene two more times since Wednesday morning. You should go watch it, too. Even if you didn’t watch the rest of the show. Or the Marvel movies. Again, this is coming from me, a staggering Marvel idiot. You can trust me on this. I would not lie to you.


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ITEM NUMBER THREE — I suspect this Nicolas Cage story will be rattling around my brain for many, many years

Getty Image

Nicolas Cage has a new movie coming out. It’s called Pig. It is, as far as I can tell, about a man going on a bloody rampage after someone steals and/or harms his prized pig. It is something that, on paper, is both a hilarious sibling of John Wick and the perfect plot of a Nicolas Cage movie. It is also allegedly very good. This is all quite thrilling for me. As is the thing where Nicolas Cage is doing interviews to promote the movie. Because Nicolas Cage interviews are always a ride.

Case in point: This interview with GQ. There’s lots to unpack in there and you are welcome to attempt to unpack it all if you like, but I am now and might always be stuck on this part, which came as a response to a line of questioning about culinary inspiration and how it plays out on film. Read this two or three times in a row. Really let it marinate. I’ll meet you after the blockquote.

Even weirder still, this is one of my earliest memories: my father had taken all of us to Italy and I was about four. For whatever the reason, he had left me with all these nuns. The rest of the family had gone out. They’d given me this very spicy kind of stew and this very fermented drink that tasted like licorice. I remember having that and then the nuns rocking me on a bed to get me to sleep. Later my father said to me, “that was fox stew and they were giving you anisette drink to help you sleep.” So those were my earliest memories and you can see how profound the culinary element brings me right back.

So, a few questions here…

What?

What?

His dad left him with some Italian nuns while the family bounced around on vacation?

Is… is this a thing?

Do nuns just babysit strange American children?

It feels like there is more going on here, somehow, despite so much already going on here, right?

Did… did he say the nuns gave him spicy fox stew and liquor and had him sleep both off?

When he was four?

What the hell?

What kind of nuns are these?

Did Nicolas Cage grow up inside an episode of The Young Pope?

Did you ever, in a million years, think you would hear a stranger Nicolas Cage story than “Nicolas Cage had to return a stolen dinosaur skull to the Mongolian government”?

What are the odds these weren’t nuns and were just some weirdo hippies in black hats that his dad told him were nuns?

Should I stop asking questions now, before I spin myself into a manic state where it is all I can talk about for the next 48 hours?

Yeah, probably. I have to finish this column. But still. I feel like this story does a better job of explaining why Nicolas Cage is the way he is better than any full-length documentary ever could. Although I would definitely watch that documentary. And a season of The Young Pope where this is a major plot point. Which could absolutely happen. That show introduced and killed off a kangaroo in its first season and neither of those things were the wildest thing that happened. Then it brought in John Malkovich for season two and changed its title to The New Pope. And it had John Malkovich play the harp. A show that does all that could easily incorporate Nicolas Cage’s childhood tale of stew and booze. I really need to move on here. Please just know that if you see me in public at any point over the next month, I will probably be thinking about this. Even if I’m driving. So maybe give me some space on the highway.

ITEM NUMBER FOUR — Give this to me at once

Saban Films

I’m not sure if you have seen the two Cocaine Cowboys documentaries made by Billy Corben and his team. I hope you have. They’re great. Just informative and fascinating and terrifying. All you could ask for out of a documentary. And now there’s a third one coming to Netflix. This one is called Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami and will be a six-episode docuseries and has a wonderful little description, which I will paste into this empty box riiiiiiiiight now.

Alleged to be the chief U.S. distributors for two of Colombia’s biggest cartels, Cuban exiles Augusto “Willy” Falcon and Salvador “Sal” Magluta were accused of smuggling over 75 tons of cocaine into the U.S. in the 1980s. The high school friends built a reputed $2 billion empire that made Willy and Sal, aka “Los Muchachos,” two of Miami’s biggest celebrities. While law enforcement plotted their takedown, the world champion powerboat racers managed to skillfully outrun and outmaneuver prosecution for decades before the chase finally came to an end. Featuring colorful interviews with those closest to them, their defense team, and the Feds tasked with taking them down, the series paints a vivid portrait of the last of Miami’s “cocaine cowboys.”

Perfect, all of it. It sounds almost exactly like a docuseries I would like to watch. But I’m sure some of you are still stuck on the image I used at the top of the section. The one where a very content John Travolta is gliding across the open seas. That’s understandable, I suppose, if you are not familiar with the film Speed Kills.

I wrote about Speed Kills a few years ago, when it rocketed past theaters and straight to VOD. It’s a magnificent piece of cinema. By which I mean it is awful. A real Money Plane situation. Travolta plays a world champion speedboat racer who starts running drugs for the mob. Do you see now? Do you see why I used that picture up there? I don’t know if I’ll ever have a better excuse to use it. Or to post a picture of the poster for the movie. The poster might be even better. Look at all of it.

Saban Films

So thank you to Billy Corben and John Travolta and cocaine-smuggling champion speedboat racers everywhere. I had a lot of fun writing this section and posting those images. I couldn’t have done it without any of you.

ITEM NUMBER FIVE — LASSO TIME

I have fantastic news: Ted Lasso is back. I mean, not yet. It’s back next Friday. But that’s soon. And it’s not like it was a secret that I’m giving you the scoop on. It’s all over the internet. But that’s kind of the point. Ted Lasso is coming back so soon that Ted Lasso stuff is everywhere, which is good, because I love Ted Lasso stuff. Like, for example, this article from our own Mike Ryan in which he shares an email Ted Lasso star Jason Sudeikis sent him during a difficult time. I read that yesterday and started crying at, like, noon. It felt great. And there’s so much more out there. Let’s take a quick tour.

There’s this profile of Sudeikis by GQ’s Zach Baron. It is a wonderful profile for a lot of reasons, with my favorite being this section about Sudeikis and his wife Olivia Wilde breaking up in a way that didn’t exactly not mirror the way Ted Lasso and his wife split in the show, despite the show being written and shot before his real life caught up to it.

The end of their relationship was chronicled in a painful, public way in the tabloids after photos of Wilde holding hands with Harry Styles surfaced in January, setting off a flurry of conflicting timelines and explanations. Sudeikis said that even he didn’t have total clarity about the end of the relationship just yet. “I’ll have a better understanding of why in a year,” he said, “and an even better one in two, and an even greater one in five, and it’ll go from being, you know, a book of my life to becoming a chapter to a paragraph to a line to a word to a doodle.” Right now he was just trying to figure out what he was supposed to take away, about himself, from what had happened. “That’s an experience that you either learn from or make excuses about,” he said. “You take some responsibility for it, hold yourself accountable for what you do, but then also endeavor to learn something beyond the obvious from it.”

God, that’s deep. And kind of beautiful. And speaking of beautiful things, there’s also this: Caroline Framke at Variety wrote a feature about the on- and off-screen friendship of the show’s female leads, Hannah Waddingham and Juno Temple. A sample.

Keeley and Rebecca were always going to become friends on “Ted Lasso,” but at first glance, that might not have held true for the actors playing them. As with their characters, there are 15 years between Waddingham (46) and Temple (31), not to mention they’re both Leos (“Usually Leos don’t get on!” Waddingham notes with considerable delight). And yet, whether hanging out in a hotel room for Waddingham’s Critics Choice Award win for “Ted Lasso” or a cozy pub for their Variety shoot, the two are so comfortable that they tend to get tangled in each other’s arms, cackling with laughter.

“In the same way we often say that if the chemistry is there in a romantic comedy, it’s going to work, the same is true for friendship chemistry,” says co-creator Lawrence, who’s seen that truism bear out while working on “Friends” and “Scrubs.” For “Ted Lasso,” he continues, “it was palpable and recognizable on camera between Juno and Hannah from the start. Part of that friendship was created by the performers themselves.”

And then there’s the thing where the show got nominated for an — industry term coming here — absolute crapton of Emmys this week, including one for Brett Goldstein, who plays my beloved Roy Kent and responded to his nomination thusly via email.

Holy f***ing s***. What an incredible honor. Proper dream come true s***.

Every part of this show has felt like magic to me. To have the privilege to work on it, to get to make something with this incredible team and now for us to be nominated as a team is just too lovely. Extra special tahnks to Jason and Bill for inviting me to be part of this. What a thing…

As a cynical English guy I’m struggling to deal with all this wonderfulness. I’m not crying, you’re crying. F*** off! You’re crying. You ****.

All of that and I got to post the video of Ted giving a lovingly tweaked rendition of the legendary Allen Iverson practice rant. Very little to complain about anywhere here. So… let’s not!

READER MAIL

If you have questions about television, movies, food, local news, weather, or whatever you want, shoot them to me on Twitter or at [email protected] (put “RUNDOWN” in the subject line). I am the first writer to ever answer reader mail in a column. Do not look up this last part.

From Sam, who technically sent this as a direct message on Twitter, which you are welcome to do as well if you do not feel like bringing email into all of this:

Thank you so much for informing me that Sheryl Crow is a Milwaukee Bucks fan. I had no clue how much I needed this information until today.

This is true, for the record. Sheryl Crow, pop music legend, noted haver of fun and soaker-up of sun, is apparently a huge fan of the Milwaukee Bucks, who as of this writing are tied with the Phoenix Suns at 2-2 in the NBA Finals. I don’t remember how I learned this or exactly when, but it is currently my favorite thing on the internet. She’s been live-tweeting the games, too, or at least posting two or three tweets per game. Look at these.

And this one.

Tough loss tonite. Shake it off, @Bucks ! You’ll be back!

Praying for Giannis. 🙏🏻💚

— Sheryl Crow (@SherylCrow) June 30, 2021

And this one, which is my favorite by a whole mile, maybe two.

I feel like I should clarify here that I am not doing this ironically to make fun of Sheryl Crow. My adoration of it all is genuine. It’s one of the things that’s good about social media, seeing people’s personalities and learning what they’re like. Lord knows about 30-40 percent of my tweets are panicky reactions to things the Philadelphia 76ers did or did not do. Sheryl Crow loves the Bucks so much she’s cussing out the referees in a public forum. That’s cool to me.

AND NOW, THE NEWS

To Utah!

FISH DROP: Thousands of fish were dropped from a plane into lakes near Bicknell, Utah July 6. The goal is to restock the lakes, which are only accessible by plane. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says, “survival of aerial-stocked fish is incredibly high.” pic.twitter.com/7Q3RFPHLsE

— KCTV5 News (@KCTV5) July 13, 2021

This section usually features blockquotes from a text-version local news story interspersed with some snarky little jabs from me, but we are breaking the form this week. I am just posting this tweet. Watch that video if you have not. It’s nuts. They’re just dropping thousands of fish out of an airplane. For nature! I can’t stop looking at it. Imagine you’re fishing or hiking out there and you see this happen without the benefit of a voiceover that explains it. You hear a plane and look up and BLAMMO thousands of fish are falling out of the sky. You’d be telling people about it for the rest of your life. Most of them would not believe you. Until now. Until you show them this tweet.

That’s my favorite part of it all. My second favorite part is the thing where they say a high percentage of the fish survive because, like, what do you even consider to be a high survival rate for fish that have been heaved out of an airplane? You could tell me 10 percent was a high number and I would believe you. I would go as low as five. It’s much higher than that, though. I have so much respect for whoever brought this idea up for the first time in a meeting. I bet he — and I don’t think I’m out of line in assuming “let’s just drop them out of a plane and see what happens” was an idea from some dude, probably named Derek — had been thinking about it for weeks before he finally had the courage to suggest it. I hope he runs the whole agency now.

And then, after I retweeted this, I got this reply from the one and only Action Cookbook, which makes the I Think You Should Leave reference I was immediately furious I didn’t make myself.

I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO TELL YA, CHIEF, WE JUST FILM PLANES AND SHOW THE ONES WHERE FISH FALL OUT

— actioncookbook (@actioncookbook) July 13, 2021

A flawless news story. Congratulations to everyone involved. Especially Derek.