Roberto Benigni SNL Skit

Sometimes I gain the need to purchase or just to simply engage with VHS tapes in some way. I watch someone's VHS tape collection video on YouTube and my appreciation and love for tapes just rekindles so I think to myself "I must go to Goodwill soon or I will explode." Sometimes you find some gems there, but mostly it's just more well known films like Titanic and Forrest Gump. There was one day I had found a copy of La vita è bella and thought about how I had tried to watch it many years ago, but never got past the first few minutes because I was around thirteen years old and was not at the age where I could properly appreciate films so I bought it. At the time when I bought that tape and watched it, I hadn't seen an actual film in such a long time that it made me feel so much better. I'm not so sure if you'd understand, but just imagine that you've been forced to watch all of these Marvel movies and all of these blockbuster films that lack any type of substance to it and were only made to shill out a ton of money as possible that your brain is completely fried. You can't take anything away from these films. There is no heart in any of it, there is no soul in any of it. Then you watch something completely random that gives your brain a break. You can finally rest your shoulders and sigh. You've got something now that can make you think about the film for days after the initial watch. It's something that makes you want to watch it again and tell all of your friends about it. It's something that initiates a conversation and influences you to research more about the film and makes you think about life differently, but all in a good way. It's something that can actually hold your attention for two hours or more. That's how I felt when I watched this film besides the fact that I haven't been forced to watch a horrid Disney film in a few years which I am so grateful for. For me, I was just watching a lot of Jackass and Blue's Clues which I love both very deeply, but I needed something different where I actually had to use my brain in order to watch it properly.

I very much enjoyed La vita è bella and wanted to purchase more tapes so I remembered about WHAMMY! and the one time they promoted their store underneath a random tweet of mine. I had decided to finally purchase something from them and while I was looking through their store I saw him. It was Signor Roberto Benigni on the cover of a tape. I fell so much in love with La vita è bella so I had to get this tape. I must see the other films that he is in. What I saw was a copy of Chiedo asilo and the cover intrigued me. The main character was a kindergarten teacher (quite a plus for Seymour since he adores children and any man who respects children and treats them like human beings) and he also was pregnant. At some point in time I also watched that compilation of his American interviews which made me fall even more in love with this man. I somewhat dislike him with Leno and O'Brien because they try to join him on his jokes, but Letterman seems afraid of him which is something that I adore. I have a profound hatred for late night talk show hosts so seeing one in fear was very exciting for me. This is besides the point and I should get to what I mainly want to talk about, but I had to explain how I became slightly obsessed with Roberto Benigni first.

We have to get into the reason why we're here. When Benigni won some Oscars in 1999, naturally, our beloved friends at Saturday Night Live had to parody him. He is bit of an odd character and isn't someone that Americans would truly understand besides just being some kooky foreigner so that is how SNL decided to take his character in their skit. They incorporated some of Benigni's quirks into it like him being rather overexcited about everything, hugging and kissing people, and being quite loud, but they took it in a direction that I don't think worked. I can tell that all they watched to parody him were his Oscar acceptance speeches and nothing else.

This was the fifteenth episode of the twenty fourth season and the host was Ray Romano. This skit features Ray Romano, Chris Kattan, Ana Gasteyer, Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon, Cheri Oteri, and Horatio Sanz. With Romano being the host, they had him play as Benigni. This was their first mistake. It felt quite odd seeing a tall Benigni and him being small is an important part of him if you ever plan on trying to parody him. Everything is completely ruined if he's large. This became a problem when they wanted to parody how affectionate he is. They had him pick up Kattan and Gasteyer when in reality he would have most likely jumped into their arms like how he did with the one guy, but he only did that because he was unable to pick him up. I do understand why he picked them up instead because I don't think either of them would have been able to carry Romano. At least he kissed that one guy on the head. He should have been hugging and kissing more people. Let's reel back a bit and talk about the first joke, "I'm Italian. This phone has no connection to the wall." I think this joke was created to add to his excitedness and possibly the kooky foreigner stereotype because Americans thought Italy lacked mobile phones in the late 1990's... I'm trying to think of something here, man. It doesn't make any sense pertaining to Benigni.

Let's get onto the other jokes. They continued parodying the affectionate nature of him by having him touch this woman inappriopriately through touching her ass and motorboating her. It's not entirely funny, but I get why they went with this. It's too simple of an idea and quite a boring way to make fun of how handsy he can be by making him sexually assualt a woman. I think they should have done something similar to his 1986 interview with David Letterman where Letterman seemed afraid of Benigni whenever he tried to touch him instead of everyone being excited and laughing at what he's doing because I doubt any American would be that excited to see him unless they were some Benigni enthusiast. Perhaps it would be too cruel to go that route that would give off the message that Americans dislike him. Although, the rest of the joke is quite cruel in some way because he spills hot soup on Ferrell and takes his money, pepper sprays Oteri, places a cake on top of someone's head, chops off Sanz's hand, and then moons everyone in the end. Maybe my idea isn't that bad after all.

At the end of the skit, he stands up on top of a chair to give some sort of speech and says, "please excuse my revolting English." Yeah, it's quite hilarious to make fun of people who can't speak fluently in your language. If I'm correct about them just going off of his Oscar speeches then it wouldn't seem right to comment on his English like that when other people have had odd acceptance speeches and especially when the entire event has really terrible writing and awful jokes. When you're so excited and over joyed like that your words may not come out correctly and it's not easy to have to translate your words for a stupid American audience anyways. It's also obvious that Benigni puts on a performance especially in his interviews. His goal is to make everyone laugh so he's going to say something weird.

They did have him mention love a few times which is good, but they missed out on so much. This whole skit lacks his favorite English words: discombobulated, flabbergasted, tumultuous, turmoiling, and whatever else. I'm trying to stick to interviews of his that were from 1999 and before so we wouldn't have known about how he also likes the words galavanting, cantankerous, preposterous, and revolting. Benigni didn't even say much in this skit. Half of his dialogue was him saying "I don't know." It's only four minutes long so there's not much dialogue you can really incoporate into it, but I felt like it was really lacking especially when the main point of the skit is to parody him. They even forgot about his hand gestures. The most well known stereotype about Italians is that they talk with their hands and somehow they completely forgot about that. They had him say only one Italian word in the entire skit which was "la luna." More Italian words would have been great to hear! He also needed to recite a poem. If you don't know which poem to choose then just do something from the Divine Comedy and you're good. He also needs to be shouting at some points. He also needs to be walking on chairs since he literally did that at the Oscars. Why did they not include that part into the skit? It's the most memorable part of his acceptance speech. He also needs to be intentionally tripping since he likes to do that to make people laugh. He should have been hugging and kissing people more, too. He didn't feel affectionate enough for my liking.

I don't think you can actually improve this skit besides just scrapping the entire thing. I'm not so sure about the idea of him entering a restaurant and fucking the place up with his quirkiness is interesting. I really can not think of anything that would be remotely funny to parody this man. Benigni is already an over-the-top man that you can't really exaggerate anything about him since he already exaggerates himself to put on an interesting performance. All I can think of is having him tell a story and there are people around him who are listening, but his story is a bit incohorent and they're all just like, "yeah, uh huh. Of course, Mr. Benigni. That makes total sense." I'm not so sure what his story should be about, but I think it would really help with the dialogue aspect of it and also his hand gestures. They could also have him get off track a lot which is something that he likes to do in interviews where he would just stop what he's saying and ask someone, "how are you?" and would say some other stuff and just never get back to what he was saying before. I don't think SNL would be able to make that funny, though. They're not very funny in general.

After talking to my brother about this he gave me some interesting ideas that SNL could have done. This conversation made me realize that they interpretated his character as being somewhat clumsy which isn't a Benigni thing at all. We went more with trying to parody how affectionate he is by having him kiss everyone and the women mainly love him, but the men are uncomfortable by it and are being rather homophobic. With that idea they could do more things with him jumping into people's arms and saying, "I love you," to everyone he sees. We had another idea of bad things happening to him, but he's still happy. This idea would also be incorporating La vita è bella into it without it actually being the same situation. It continues Benigni's idea of putting a comedian in a stressful situation, but more lighthearted. We came up with a burglar that has a gun up to him and demanding him to give him his wallet. Benigni is being rather silly to him and he's like, "oh, I love you," which makes the burglar confused. Benigni also does try to touch him a lot, but the burglar would get angry at that idea and would yell at him to put his hands back up. Of course, Benigni would get to touch him a few times and would get at least one kiss in. Then he would end up annoying him so much and creeping him out that the burglar would say to him, "just keep it, bro. I don't need it," in order to get away from him. At this part Benigni would try to continue talking to him and follow him. We also had the idea of the burglar shooting him, but Benigni still tells him that he loves him and loves America. My brother came up with the joke of him saying, "oh, it's okay. I get shot all the time going to the doctor," after he gets shot. These ideas could be too cruel, but they're much better than the restaurant thing that SNL ended up with.

I have so many problems with Saturday Night Live. I do wish it was more of a variety show and I feel like the writing on the show might benefit from it being biweekly instead of weekly and if the time slot was cut down a bit. Having to do so much in one week doesn't seem like an ideal way to put on a good performance. This is why most of their skits are absolute garbage. Another problem with the show is how the actors deliver their lines. They're always just standing there and staring off into the distance while they say something that is supposed to be hilarious. Sometimes they'll put on a silly voice when they say their lines. They never look at the other actor that they're supposed to be speaking to. Even if they didn't want to do that, I wish they would at least move around. It's so odd how they just stand there and say something. It must be hell for an actor. So boring, so restricting, why would anyone want to be on the show? It is rare for a skit to have as much movement that the skit above did.

All of this made me think about how it would be if Benigni were to host the show. Somehow they would make him so incredibly unfunny despite the fact that he is literally the most hilarious man on the planet. His opening monologue would contain his typical kooky foreigner schtick that he does for American audiences instead of something interesting like Mario Cioni or TuttoBenigni. I don't want him to perform those things for his opening monologue, I just want him to do something that he would bring to Italian audiences because I feel like it's a lot different than what he does for Americans. Maybe I'm completely wrong, but I want him to do something more avant-garde. He'd probably just talk about the differences between Italy and America. For the skits, I just know they'd do a Pinocchio one with him. My brother had the idea of having Benigni be Pinocchio again and the other cast members would comment on his age since he's really too old to play as Pinocchio. This skit would have fit for if he was the host many years ago or if he were to host the show now since he was literally in his late 40's when he played as Pinocchio in his production from 2002. I imagine that they would also have him imitate some Italian political figure since they always need at least one political sketch in the episode. I would hope that Benigni would be able to get to write something for the show. I know his ideas would be funny, but they'd be completely ruined by how SNL is ran which is quite unfortunate.

These are all my criticisms on this forsaken SNL sketch. I could have been more nitpicky, but this episode is from 1999 so it does not matter what I say about it. I doubt Benigni would ever agree to be on this show especially since he doesn't act that much on screen anymore and the fact that he most likely won't perform in an American production again, but if he were to ever perform on an American television show, it has to be Sesame Street. These kids could be learning Italian words from him and he could be talking to Cookie Monster about biscotti.