Saturday Night Live kicked off its 36th season Sept. 25, co-hosted by alumnus Amy Poehler. As musical guest, the show pulled in Katy Perry and, since Perry made headlines for showing Elmo of Sesame Street her cleavage in a reworked video version of her song “Hot N Cold,” the 25-year-old singer appeared in a sketch that, appropriately enough, lampooned the controversy over the video and also the banning of said Elmo video from an upcoming episode of Sesame Street. And, as Popeater pointed out, the saucy Katy Perry did it by noticeably bouncing onto the SNL set in a skin-tight Elmo look-alike t-shirt, the face stretched by Perry’s Breasts.
The sketch — not to mention the eye-grabbing shirt — probably gave Sesame Street producers a splitting headache.
Not a show to shy away from controversy and often able to show social standards as antiquated and/or hypocritical, Saturday Night Live has often take political and pop culture issues and caricatured them. In the very first sketch after the monologue, “Bronx Beat with Betty and Jodi,” Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler reprised their roles as local cable talk show mavens who wanted to chat with the latest neighborhood sensation, a teen library volunteer who had caused a stir at the library by wearing revealing clothing while she read books to children.
Katy Perry not only bounced onto the SNL set, she also bounced on the sofa opposite her hosts, drawing cheers from the live audience. The only thing that could have made the movement more noticeable would have been movable eyes on the faux Elmo shirt (but they moved enough, regardless). Poehler and Rudolph then spent about a half-minute talking about how the character had “developed” over the summer, firing off breast one-liners while Perry smiled vapidly, smacked her gum, and bounced.
Maya Rudolph asked, “What the hell happened to your shirt?”
At that point, Amy Poehler leaned toward the camera and played on an old Sesame Street standby, knowingly commenting, “Looks like today’s show is brought to you by the number ’38’ and the letter ‘double D.'”
And when Maureen DiChico (Perry’s character) began to look self-conscious and suggested that she did “develop” over the summer, Jodi (Maya Rudolph) then said, “You guess? Look at Elmo. His head’s all stretched out.”
Betty (Amy Poehler) then added to Maureen’s growing anguish, comparing the breast-stuffed head of Elmo with Jerry Lewis when he took steroids “… and his head blew up? That’s what Elmo’s head looks like.”
They then suggest that Maureen buy a bra.
A troubled Maureen then admits that the librarians suggested she wear looser fitting clothes.
After showing how society makes a big deal out of breasts in microcosm, Betty and Jodi then switched gears, telling the young girl to “never be ashamed” of her body. Amy Poehler said that everybody runs around with no shirt on in France (“boobies as far as the eye can see”) and that she would move there — except for the language and she hated the people.
Maya Rudolph then supports Maureen’s right to dress the way she does: “Boobs feed babies.” She noted that television shows outlandish things, but made a spectacle out of viewing the tops of breasts. She later added, speaking toward the library issue, “They come for the boobs, they stay for the books. It’s a win-win.”
The SNL sketch exemplified why the show has been on for 36 years, taking a current cultural issue and dissecting it through farce and/or humor to open the issue to various perspectives. Well-written, the “Bronx Beat” sketch parodied the Sesame Street scandal where Katy Perry and her Elmo video were banned simply because a few became outraged and complained over a girl playing dress up who showed a little cleavage. The sketch brought to the fore the manner in which breasts are seen by society as something to marvel at, ogle, and draw attention to, but also — at the same time — anatomical parts that need to be hidden from the world. This double standard was then replaced by the outrage against a young girl being forced into a mentality of poor self-image while at the same time her right to freedom of expression and feelings of self-worth were trumpeted.
Double standards and social hypocrisy. And laughter. What more could a viewer want from the season-opener of Saturday Night Live?
Perry was also the Saturday Night Live musical guest. She performed “California Gurls” and “Teenage Dream.”
The SNL “Bronx Beat” sketch starring Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Katy Perry follows.
“Saturday Night Live,” NBC Television
“Bronx Beat” SNL sketch via Hulu.com