I ran into Charles Barkley at a bar in Orlando on my 30th birthday a few years back, as he was in town for the NBA playoffs, and I had two of my
paid escorts attractive lady friends approach him and ask if he’d take a picture with me for my birthday and he said no. Two seconds later, I saw a flash go off and there was the Round Mound of Poon Hound taking a picture with four random girls. Naturally, I was a little pissed, but “Cool story, bro” aside, this is my way of saying that because Barkley is a dick, a lot of us have grown quite fond of him as a TNT analyst for the NBA. His honesty is simply fresh and funny.
But that doesn’t mean that he is a comedian. Barkley hosted “Saturday Night Live” for the third time this past Saturday, marking the second year in a row that he’s hosted the first show of the new year. And just like his first appearance in 1993 and his second appearance last year, Barkley’s third go as host was filled with terrible delivery, poor timing and the most excruciating cue card reading this side of an infomercial for The Perfect Meatloaf.
Normally, I’d leave the SNL breakdowns to Dustin over at Warming Glow/Pajiba, as he almost always hits the nail on the head, but Barkley’s uninspired effort and most notably this NBA on TNT sketch give me the permission to dip my pen in the TV ink:
(Apologies to our Canadian and foreign readers for Hulu’s discrimination.)
I understand the comedy (or rather the theory) of the old routine of a cast member impersonating a celebrity while interacting with that same celebrity (Dana Carvey doing George H.W. Bush and Norm MacDonald doing Bob Dole come to mind), but Kenan Thompson’s “all of my impressions are the same” schtick, combined with Jay Pharaoh’s decent enough Kenny Smith impression and Bill Hader’s Ernie Johnson – which I assume both went over the average SNL viewer’s head – and Barkley as Shaquille O’Neal was just a mess. The funnier alternative would have been Barkley as Shaq with Shaq as Barkley. At least the idea makes more sense.
As I wrote on the mother site, UPROXX, last year, SNL has a tendency to recycle hosts each year, and some of them – Jon Hamm, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, Justin Timberlake, among others – work, while others just don’t. But hosts like Barkley keep coming back while there are other people who deserve a first shot, and in this case, with it being his first season as an analyst instead of a player, I’d think that both SNL and TNT would agree that Shaq would be a better fit as a host, since he’s never done it.
I don’t want to crap all over Barkley’s efforts, though. While I like the big lug and he definitely has his moments – like his impression of Alicia Keys last year – he’s better suited to make cameo appearances than he is to stare blankly at a camera for an hour. Imagine if the classic “Daily Affirmations” sketch with Muggsy Bogues had been a standalone in an episode hosted by Bill Murray or Tom Hanks, instead of buried by 8 average to “turrble” sketches during Barkley’s entire hosting gig. It’s the difference between a memorable sketch and an afterthought.
Athletes in general make terrible SNL hosts, but I’ll place my overall criticism with the show’s producers and writers than with Barkley, because at least he is trying.