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An Open Letter to Robert De Niro: Please Don't Stink On 'SNL' This Time Around

by Joel Keller, posted Dec 3rd 2010 5:00PM
Robert De Niro hosts 'SNL' this week. Let's hope he doesn't stink like the last time he hosted.Dear Bob,

(I can call you Bob, right? I mean, we've never met, but I feel like we can be chummy enough for me to do that... no? Well, Ok, let me try again...)

Dear Mr. De Niro,

Despite the fact that I haven't seen a movie with you in it since the bitter and boring disappointment that was 'Showtime,' I'm still a huge fan of yours. Sure, you haven't exactly made the smartest career decisions over the last ten years; your most memorable roles lately seem to be in the endless stream of 'Fockers' movies that inflict themselves on the public every few years. But you built up plenty of goodwill with me over the decades, through movies as diverse as 'Taxi Driver' and 'Midnight Run' (still one of my favorites), for me to forgive the 21st century portion of your IMDb profile.

So, as a big fan of yours, I'm here, on my virtual knees. I don't usually beg anyone for anything, as I have my pride. But, pride be damned; I'm begging you right here and now:

Please don't suck on 'SNL' this weekend like you did the last time you hosted. I just can't go through that again.

Come on, Bob... I mean, Mr. De Niro. You know what I'm talking about. When you hosted 'SNL' six years ago, you looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Except for the cold open -- a memorable sketch where you played a Homeland Security official who gave an announcement warning about "terrorist" tips called in by high schoolers, who gave you childish-sounding names like "Haid D'Salaami" -- where you were able to look at the cue cards straight ahead, all your performances were distracting because you were so dependent on reading your lines off cue cards. After that opening sketch, I don't think you looked any of the cast members straight in the eye for the entire episode.

Yes, I know that 'SNL' is a trying environment, with sketches flying around like snowflakes and things added and cut at the very last minute. A sketch you nailed at dress rehearsal may not make it to the live broadcast. And I'm not expecting you to memorize your lines; it's impossible to do that in such an environment.

But, for heaven's sake, Mr. De Niro... you've won two Oscars! You're one of the most acclaimed actors of all time! You played young Don Corleone, Jake La Matta, Travis Bickle and Rupert Pupkin! Surely you can't be that thrown by some last-minute changes and having to read from cue cards.

Sure, you're not a stage actor. But neither is Justin Timberlake, Derek Jeter, Taylor Swift or Peyton Manning. And all four of them did a much more credible job as host than you did. Do you really want to have "Not as good on 'SNL' as Peyton Manning" as a black mark on your otherwise stellar career?

Maybe you don't care. You probably don't. It's a week out of your life. You're 67 and in the twilight phase of your career, able to pick and choose projects while busying yourself with your restaurants and hotels in Tribeca, the annual Tribeca Film Festival, and I'm sure a whole bunch of other projects.

But if you really didn't care, you would have just chalked up the last hosting gig off your bucket list and just moved on. But here you are, ready to go through the craziness all over again. Lorne Michaels wanted you back, of course; who wouldn't want the reclusive Robert De Niro hosting their show? But I get the feeling you think this 'SNL' thing is a bit of unfinished business. You wanted to come back, too.

Earlier today, when I saw the promos you did for tomorrow's episode, I had some hope. You delivered the lines with gusto, and you looked directly at Kristen Wiig when you talked to her. I'm hoping you learned from your mistakes last time around and look like you want to be there this time. Even if the sketches suck, fans appreciate a guest host who throws him or herself into sketches as if they were still in the auditioning phase of their careers. People are still talking about Anne Hathaway's kooky impression of Katie Holmes a couple of weeks ago. Surely you can outperform Anne Hathaway.... right?

So, for one last time, Bob (screw it, I'm just going for the "Bob" thing), I'm begging you to treat 'SNL' seriously, don't get flustered, and hit it out of the park. Or at least hit a double off the wall. Maybe a good performance will make people forget that you're there to promote 'Little Fockers.'

Your "buddy,"


(Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.)

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Everybody knows that DeNiro is a terrible guest on talk shows. You can tell that he hates promotion, which is the primary reason he ever does TV.

December 05 2010 at 3:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You can't just blame DeNiro. Lets face it, SNL is horrible. Not funny at all. That Whats up with that sketch that they do is the same thing every week and is sooooo stupid. They need some new writers.

December 05 2010 at 12:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Lucy's comment

As good as the Anne Hathaway episode was, you can't say the writers are always bad.

I think the issue with De Niro is that he is something of a method actor and needs to know the full life story his characters and have lots of time to develop his ideas about them. That just doesn't happen on this show.

December 05 2010 at 1:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, Joel, I guess De Niro didn't read your message. His performance last night could hardly be called a major improvement from the previous one, right down to obvious difficulties finding and reading the cue cards.

December 05 2010 at 9:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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