SNL: Laser Cats #4 with Steve Martin (KING LEAR)

pew pew pew! Willfully retro-crappy SNL short by Andy Samberg and Bill Hader that sort-of retells King Lear. They've done 3 of these before, but this one's by far my favorite. Note the camera guy in the mirror at 2:20. (nb: I hate that I can't find a version of this short without 30 SECONDS OF ADS preceding the content. NBC still doesn't get it. Also, if you try to watch this from outside the US, I understand you'll be region-blocked.)


  1. God, SNL sucks so bad now.

    I think it’ll be funny again once Lorne Michaels retires (odds are he’ll die before that happens, no way he’s leaving that sweet gig)

  2. There were some pretty great moments last night, but a lot of SNL was painful to watch. Steve Martin should take over like Steve Austin took over WWF (and that pretty much sums up my pro-wrestling knowledge).

  3. I look forward to all of the “SNL was so much better when I was in the target demographic” comments.

  4. “30 seconds of ads?” I think I had to sit through 2 or 3 minutes of ads when I watched it last night on television. This stuff isn’t free, you know.

  5. I don’t think Xeni was suggesting anything is free, to make or host.

    Just that NBC has the power to serve these clips free, which they do (NBC =/= Hulu), look at Comedy Central (they are still ad free, right? I haven’t looked in a while). And also her consternation at not being able to find the clip on YouTube or somewhere else without ads, for the sake of a better flow of entertainment.

    It’s not a crazy idea.

  6. Comedy Central doesn’t show them ad-free, but they do sprinkle the ads around and you can avoid them by manually clicking on the clips you want.

    That said, I watched some really great sealab clips last night with, if I recall, no ads. Maybe it depends on the content.

    For boingboing’s ads, I just use a basic firefox filter.

  7. We international users can’t see the video and are also spared from seeing the ads. Something good about that, don’t you think?

  8. i will point out that BB itself puts ads in their productions that you can’t get past, either, so it seems that BB itself “doesn’t get it.”

    but back to the topic at hand: sigh, besides steve martin, this just underscores how bad SNL is these days. even cats can’t save this skit. but i did like the pew-pew-pew!

  9. The issue isn’t simply the existence of ads. For starters, NBC has an income stream from SNL’s primary medium, which is television. One major point of allowing clips is to drive viewers to watch it in its native medium.

    The thing that NBC really, really doesn’t get is that front-loading a clip with a thirty second ad guarantees that many viewers (including me) will click off after a couple of seconds. A typical BBTV episode gives you a few seconds of content so that you can decide if it looks worth your while, followed by a seven second ad (which is a good opportunity to adjust the volume). After the main content has played, there’s another ad before the credits. My attention span is measured in nanoseconds and I honestly don’t find the ads annoying in BBTV segments.

    Because Xeni and the crew produces for the web, they come at it from a web perspective. NBC is still treating their clips as if viewers were splatted in front of the television. Thus a 30 second ad for a four and a half minute video.

  10. @10 I went to school in the UK and SNL was virtually unknown over there at the time, despite it’s importance to the careers of so many beloved US and (disproportionately many…) Canadian comedians. Laughter may be international but comedy is very linked to culture so even two places with the same language appreciate very different flavors of it.

  11. I just want to make sure, for those who haven’t actually read or seen King Lear, that they know that this clip does not even remotely, or “sort-of” retell King Lear in any sense and this is why it’s funny when Steve Martin says that it does.

  12. Franko,

    To compliment what Antinous just said, BB TV ads can be fast-forwarded (should I be saying this) if it really does annoy you. Not so Hulu.

  13. I don’t have a problem with Hulu using ads. These videos don’t post themselves, there are people under employ at Hulu who are paid to do their jobs. Not to mention they allow you to embed videos on sites, such as BoingBoing, that profit from NBC’s content by using it to make up content on BB. Makes sense to me. Not to mention, doesn’t the oft-linked to Xeni Jardin articles/videos on Fancast do the same thing as Hulu?

    NBC’s biggest sin is their horrible programming, I mean Howie Mandel has 2 shows for cripes’ sake.

  14. Can’t see it (I’m not in the US of A). :(

    Why do they impose this restrictions? Is kinda absurd have internet content that is not worldwide available.

  15. #17 They also have three of the funiest shows on TV as well (The Ofice, 30 Rock, and My Name is Earl). They just happen to cram all of them into one night.

  16. Wow. Region-blocked. Whatever happened to the global thingy everyone was talking about? This is *region blocked* *region blocked*

  17. The region blocking exists because the content isn’t licencesed for outside the US. Someone else has the distrobution righs for SNL in different regions. This is the same reason US internet users can’t watch the BBC online stuff. It sucks but that’s how the market works, especially with older shows.

  18. XENI said:

    I hate that I can’t find a version of this short without 30 SECONDS OF ADS preceding the content. NBC still doesn’t get it.

    Xeni, please expand on this, because I must be missing something. This is a work-product of a commercial enterprise, everyone involved are likely union workers (writer, camera, makeup, props, actors, etc.), none worked for free, and NBC is for-profit.

    I, honestly, would be very surprised to see them give away two or three minutes of video for free, especially the “best two or three minutes from last night’s show.

    I’m not really trying to argumentative, but but why would NBC be motivated to give it away without commercials?

  19. ANTINIOUS said:

    One major point of allowing clips is to drive viewers to watch it in its native medium.

    I understand that theory, but if the “best bits” are available for free, without commercial, what is the motivation to invest about 90 minutes of your life watching the show.

    If they teased with bits from an up-coming show, that would be one thing – I could see that driving viewers to the show, but with clips available after the fact, you learn to wait till Sunday.

    I feel the need to add a link, so here are the Superbowl Ads on – I looked, but I couldn’t find any linksto the ads without ads ;^)

  20. One thing I’ve noticed on the internet over the last several years is the increasing usage of the phrase “doesn’t get it”.

    I am grateful for this phrase, because generally it lets me filter the rest of whatever is being said as completely ignorant.

  21. Folks I know in the UK use ‘Hotspot Shield’ to get around Hulu IP blocking.

    + I agree with a lot of the comments re: ads. While it would be better for shorter ads, 5 seconds like the Onion, these things have to be paid for. Would love to have a look at the books of NBC to see what they’re getting from Hulu.

    + the ‘ad’ before the sketch, (at least when I watched it), was a Public Service Announcement – the ad spot couldn’t be sold; PSAs are the majority of ‘ads’ running before the content I’ve seen in Hulu – tough times – industries are collapsing and it’s understandable that ‘they don’t get it’ type of comment comes across as asinine.

  22. I would love it if someone could find a link to this video that works for all us international readers (Canada here).

    I really don’t understand the restrictions they place on this content.

  23. Who noticed that in the first 20 secs, the narrator says “Nucular” (our favorite Bush-ism) instead of nuclear?

  24. “We’re sorry, currently our video library can only be streamed within the United States.”

    If they have no interest in sorting out their legal issues so that the rest of the world can use their service, then I hope they fail, because this kind of thing really kills the the web.

  25. #12 (Antinous) and #15 (Arkizzle):

    i stand corrected. clearly *i* was the one who didn’t get it. apologies all around.

  26. If I hadn’t watched the whole episode on digital satellite TV (I’m in Canada) and still wanted to watch the show, I would have just downloaded the torrent.

    Ads, when abused, are like DRM. If it becomes too much of a hassle, “piracy” becomes the best way to get at the content.

  27. Actually, this is quite clever. With the addition of a short commercial and some region blocking they dodged most of the predicted “SNL sucks now” comments.

  28. To the people complaining about the lack of international access, this might be a) due to different distribution owners and b) the targeted nature of the adverts. No company is going to want to pay for an advert which is going to be shown to an audience unable to act upon it and without advertising who is paying for the bandwidth? An international advertising department would be quite an undertaking – perhaps give Hulu a chance to get its feet in the US before attacking them for their limited access?

  29. To all the crankypants in this thread:

    So, I think forcing your audience to sit through a 30 second commercial at the very top of a 4 minute piece of web content, without any teaser, is ridiculous. You can’t skip the 30 second ad, you have to watch it all over again if you reload the page or want to return to it, and each time, you’re guaranteed you’ll have to watch 30 seconds of ad at the top. Lame. I don’t think NBC understands how to present ad-supported content on the internet in a way that really works. I think other entities do. NBC’s failures in this area are particularly easy to poke fun at — I wrote about Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island guys’ addition to SNL when it first happened, and covered their first SNL digital shorts, and remember very clearly how NBC tried to block all distribution of that content online when it first came out.

    The duration and specific method of presentation with these ads is not very smart, either.

  30. “The region blocking exists because the content isn’t licencesed for outside the US.[..] It sucks but that’s how the market works, especially with older show…”

    Yeah, well bollocks to that. What we want is region free online and offline programing where distribution rights are held by the originating copyright holder and a system to pay back proportional royalties to regional copyright holders is cooked up. Or just abolish this entire antiquated “you can see but you can’t” system. It’s madness.

  31. Yeah, the ads are bad. My roommate would watch shows on the FOX player and it would show the same ad three times during each episode for weeks at a time. It is a strange way to build brand loyalty.

    I would note that I do not watch bbtv because of the intro and ads.
    Having a teaser tease me to watch something I have already read described and seen a still from doesn’t seem like the best presentation either. If I can make it through that then the ads are usually my limit.

    To be fair, I have a slooow erratic internet connection and hardly spend more than 20-30 minutes online a day. Some days I forget all together, so I very well might not be part of the target demographic… and for the record I wear crankytrousers.

  32. I think region-locked video links have no place on BB. I’m not interested in lame excuses for why sites do this – it’s 2009. As a practical consideration, Hulu links are absolutely useless to those of us outside the Homeland. And as a geek, I find content filtering by region offensive to the whole concept of a global network. OK, Hulu’s not exactly a big deal to get worked up about, sure, but the principle applies. Until Hulu gets its act together, they’re unworthy of BB in my eyes.

  33. It’s not Hulu I care about. How is region-locking so different from content filtering? We’re going to talk about the Chinese firewall, Australian content filters, Peacefire, and so on, but region-locking gets a shrug and a pass? No, it’s not evil like content filtering is evil, but it’s still an absurd attempt by old media to control the flow of information online. So most of the planet can’t get Hulu’s bits because their lawyers haven’t figured out how the bits can cross an imaginary line in the sand? This isn’t progress.

    Like I say, it’s a small thing, but I feel like Hulu vids, and anything else region-locked, just don’t fit with the BB philosophy.

  34. The first three were great. This one – not so much. I never thought I’d say it, but Laser Cats is starting to force it.

  35. They should have said ‘put on your 3-D glasses now’ with the obligatory eye-popping prop zooms in-camera.. only it’s not being filmed in 3-D. Which Lorne informs them mid-shoot.

    As for Hulu ‘getting it’..
    I think they’re sneaky basterds.. Legally host a group of popular shows that are usually torrented..

    ..make the viewers watch 1 ad per commercial break,
    and they just sold ads for a show that the internet-savvy would have downloaded ad-free and probably burned to DVD later, so there’s the bonus of boosting DVD sales..

    Um, back on topic. How is it even quantumly possible to criticize Lazer Cats? It’s designed to be something awful that Lorne won’t put on the air..

    Maybe the shark will be jumped when they get J.J. Abrams or someone like that to help them produce a slick, professional grade Laser Cats episode.

    pew pew

  36. #44 “Hulu vids, and anything else region-locked, just don’t fit with the BB philosophy”


    #28 “I really don’t understand the restrictions they place on this content.”

    Not all the restrictions are placed by the content creators; some arise from things like Canadian Content laws.

  37. @Antonius (#43) – No, we’re complaining to you, because BB makes a great deal of noise about open content models, freedom, openness, breaking down content restriction systems and so on. If that is all just lip-service, fine. But we thought Cory and the others actually meant what they were saying.

    Please do not post Hulu links on BoingBoing – for those of us outside the US, including at least two of your contributors, they are a total waste of bandwidth.

    – HC

  38. Not a huge waste of my bandwidth: since I can’t stream it!

    But yeah, agree with most comments. Sad to be region blocked; wouldn’t watch it anyway because of the ad. Maybe they’re region blocking it to the only country people are willing to put up with about 20% ads?

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