This past Saturday, April 10, Janet Jackson (yes, of superbowl wardrobe fame) was the host on Saturday Night Live. Naturally, there were the expected puns and references regarding her and her family. But I thought the show found its historical stride when Lorne Michaels, his writers, and the cast decided to stick it to the FCC and this current administration's Puritan sense of decorum. While I'll be the first to admit (having watched the show non-stop since its inception in 1975) that most of it has been abysmally stupid for years, I hope you were able to catch this one skit because I think it was a diamond in the rough, especially in today's context of 7-second delays and media CEO's falling over each other in fawning apologies to Congress. SNL is one of the few shows remaining that still airs live, without delay. The set was a winery in Italy; all the players sported thick Italian accents as winery employees. Janet and a few others were part of a tour group that had just entered the last room in the winery where the corks are inserted into the bottles of wine. When she asks the obligatory question, what's the most important part of the process of getting the cork into the bottle, the focus of the skit soon became clear--and got pounded into the ground with some very clever writing (and accents). SNL has always been masterful at beating the proverbial dead horse, most of the time into boredom, but occasionally with brilliance. Here's a synopsis. The actual skit ran nearly 10 minutes. The examples below are only a few of the many they explored. We learn that the most important part of this last process is to get the corks to fit into the bottles just right. And that involves soaking the corks so that they expand and fit well. We see that all of the employees in this room are men, except for a couple of women, one of whom is "grandma" who has no teeth. All are very happy with their work. And all of these employees are expert at "soaking cork" (said with a thick Italian accent where the "r" in cork articulates from the back of the throat and is nearly silent). They are expert "cork soakers." Some like to soak the big thick corks; others, the long thin corks. One prefers to soak the dark corks. The younger of the two women claims that ever since she started soaking cork, she's the most popular girl at school. Grandma remarks that ever since she lost her teeth, people have commented about how much her cork soaking ability has improved. One employee ruefully relates that his wife had been a terrific cork soaker when they were dating, but that now that they're married she's doesn't do it that often. On one occasion, when it seemed to two of the male employees that the other needed some help in soaking his cork, they both relate how on a whim they decided to soak each other's corks. As one told the tale, "Wasn't that back in the late sixties, maybe '68?" to which the other replied, "I thought it was a bit later, perhaps '70." To which they then both agree that they once soaked each other's corks probably between '68 and '70. And on and on... I laughed so hard my eyes teared; I'm glad I taped it because I'd missed a few of the follow-up lines--they just kept them coming. It was on par with the writing of the skit "Colonel Lingus" from a year or two ago. It was near perfect in execution, and doubly so with Janet Jackson playing the naive tourist asking these normal questions and getting back in every instance a new and more hilarious and (to the John Ashcrofts and Michael Powells of the world) more outrageous answer. She even lost it a couple times and had to catch herself at the last second. Kudos to the regulars on SNL who didn't miss a beat. They were very good. In this age of governmental interference, where adult standards are routinely set by what children should see, where body parts must be covered on Justice Department statues (while a movie of incredible violence such as "The Passion" is lauded by the very same people who so obviously hate sexuality), I found this past episode of Saturday Night Live to be refreshing, hilarious, and (despite their successive years of mediocrity) a very welcomed testament to the irreverent SNL of the 1970's when the show first began.