12 May 2010

Betty White Shows She's Ready for 'Not Prime Time'

NY Daily News
Betty White, the oddest comet in our crowded celebrity sky, did nothing to diminish her stature last night as she hosted "Saturday Night Live."

In fact, there was probably more at stake for the show, which has suffered this season from postelection ratings and creative depression.

That may help explain why it put the 88-1/2-year-old White into every skit, whether there was a joke waiting there for her or not.

The return of former "SNL" stars like Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey gave White a posse that formed the core of several sketches, including one in which White played the blunt-talking Grandma in a 1904 family parlor scene.

All the sisters are dressed in prim white dresses except Poehler, who enters with overalls and a basket out of which she pulls a fish.

As the others try to make Poehler more of a proper girl, White declares, "She's a lesbian." She declares this again, with slight variations, another dozen times.

She got to stretch more in a spoof on a National Public Radio talk show, where she played a guest invited to talk about her muffins for National Dietary Fiber Day.

"A baker of your age might tend to have a drier, more crusty muffin," said one of the hosts, setting the stage for an exchange of double entendres that, like most "SNL" sketches, lasted a little longer than the humor.

The show made a running gag out of White playing the grandmother of spoof movie hero "MacGruber," engaging him in absurd discussions that distracted him long enough that the explosives he was trying to diffuse all went off.

The writers seemed to make their own running gag out of finding a way to insert White's age in virtually every skit. They did upsize her from 88-1/2 to 90 for her "Weekend Update" commentary sketch.

The audience generally seemed to applaud as much for White's presence as for her jokes and seemed less surprised by the ongoing old-lady-talks-salty gags than her monologue, whose funniest lines had her trashing the Facebook culture that propelled her into the host gig in the first place.

She admitted she had never heard of Facebook before the campaign to put her on the show.

"And now that I know what it is," she said, "it seems like a huge waste of time. ... At my age, if I want to connect with my old friends, I need a Ouija board."

It's possible that putting White in every sketch was a subtle commentary on the bizarre way in which she seems to have saturated popular culture over the last few months.

As she suggested in her monologue, however, overexposure isn't a bad problem to have at the age of 88 - and a half.

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