YouTube Hall of Fame: Tom Hanks on Late Night, Pandas on a Slide, and Helen Hunt on Crank

Bill Simmons: In Friday’s mailbag, I wrote an extended section comparing Tom Hanks’ career to Michael Jordan’s (mainly for the “multiple apexes” and “you’ll never see another one” wrinkles), also mentioning how Hanks distinguished himself beyond acting by being one of Letterman’s best NBC guests in the 1980s (during Letterman’s own apex) AND one of the three best Saturday Night Live hosts ever. Sadly, Hulu has embargoed all the SNL sketches (like the “Mr. Belvedere Fan Club,” one of the greatest skits of all time), but some of the Letterman appearances live on. Our first clip is an early Hanks appearance from 1984 when he made Splash. (Important note: I loved Hanks from Bosom Buddies and Family Ties, and I loved Letterman’s show, obviously, so I specifically remember rooting for Hanks to crush this 1984 appearance so he’d become a regular à la Jay Leno, Eddie Murphy, George Miller, Marv Albert, Richard Lewis and the others who passed through. I don’t remember if it was Hanks’ first Late Night appearance, but he couldn’t have been on more than once or twice.) Our second clip comes four years later, after he’d achieved “regular guest” status and came on to discuss his recent European trip to promote Big. You can see the difference between 1984 Hanks (funny, slightly uncomfortable, doesn’t totally have chemistry with Letterman yet) to 1988 Hanks (full command, knows exactly how to hit Letterman’s funny bone).

Chuck Klosterman: “Sunrise doesn’t last all morning,” the mustachioed man explained. “A cloud burst doesn’t last all day.” These statements are both true. They’re also examples of how George Harrison managed to slip into the best possible class of celebrity: Like Bob Dylan, Lil’ Wayne, and Thich Nhat Hahn, Harrison was able to seem super-profound by simply stating banal truisms about life. Obviously, this doesn’t work for everyone (can you imagine how much people would ridicule Darius Rucker if he built a song around the sentiment “I dig love”?). Yet — for certain special individuals — saying what’s obviously true makes the rest of us recognize the depth of everything we already know. You’ll notice this effortless quality throughout Martin Scorsese’s upcoming two-part Harrison documentary on HBO (Living in the Material World), the best film ever made about the third-most famous member of a rock band. My wife got a preview copy and I’ve already watched the whole thing twice. In the meantime, here’s a clip of the Beatles doing a demo version of “All Things Must Pass,” a song they mysteriously elected to leave off Let It Be.

David Jacoby: Ever have a panic attack? They are terrifying, paralyzing experiences. They’re the worst and there is no cure for them — until now. Meet Val Silver. She’s discovered a cure that includes running to the bathroom, focusing on your feet, and holding a pose that is most often seen while doing a dance known as “The Sprinkler.” Immediately after they stopped recording, the parrot in the background blurted, “Or you could just pop a Xanax.”

Molly Lambert: Sometimes the end of summer feels like trying to push a pile of pandas up a slide. You can try all you want to impose order, but you’ll still end up covered in fuzzy chaos.

Amos Barshad: This is seven straight minutes of Mos Def — who, just to make things absolutely clear, is himself an obsessively beloved MC — in the studio rolling a blunt while utterly, gushingly geeking out over DOOM, the enigmatic masked rapper behind multiple underground rap classics. For the most part, it’s Mos rattling off whole chunks of verse off the top of his head (“Rappers is stripping males / out of work jerks since they shut down Chippendales”), then breaking out into awed hysterics. But really priceless are the asides: “When I saw that Madvillain record, I bought it on vinyl … I ain’t have a record player. I bought it on vinyl just to stare at the album. I stared at it and I just kept going ‘I understand you.’” The purity of his fandom is inspirational.

Katie Baker: Do they still make after-school specials? The answer doesn’t really matter, because none (with the possible exception of the roid-ragey Ben Affleck one, which I actually watched in real time) has been quite as memorable as Desperate Lives, or, as you may colloquially know it, “the one where Helen Hunt on PCP hurls herself out the window.” (Note to would-be eBayers wordwide: The made-for-TV movie called Angel Dusted is actually a different Helen Hunt say-no-to-drugs vehicle.) There are so many great things about Desperate Lives, one being that it has its own catchphrase — “no biggie” — and another being everyone’s hair. Also, since when does pot make you get all extra-sassy toward teachers? I’d more so expect those bathroom-toking girls to scatter like roaches in a fit of extreme paranoia, or so I’ve been told by a friend. (Related.)

Lane Brown: This week I’d hoped to write about crazed personal-injury lawyer Jim “The Hammer” Shapiro, famous in my hometown of Rochester, New York, for loud TV commercials in which he apologizes for not being able to “rip out the hearts of those that hurt you” or “hand you their severed heads.” Unfortunately, none of those ads are embeddable (though you can watch them here, here, here, here, and here). But luckily, a YouTube search turned up plenty of TV spots for other identically nicknamed, similarly impassioned personal-injury attorneys, my favorite of which is Lowell “The Hammer” Stanley, whose expert use of stock footage here should make him your first call if you’re ever injured by a Transformer.

Chris Ryan: For a couple of years there, the best part of the BET Awards was watching these promo videos of Cyphers. DJ drops a recognizable break and rappers get about a minute in the spotlight, filmed in black and white. Do it simple, do it right.
I’m not sure if they still produce these, but this clip, from the 2009 show, is as good a reason as any to stop; nobody is gonna top this. With Gang Starr’s DJ Premier on the cut, Mos Def (who absolutely blacks out), Black Thought, and Eminem get a little live at the BBQ. It’s always fun to watch Shady just rap, especially over non-Dre beats (for a change), but I really love this clip because it reminds me that Mos can basically be as bad (meaning good) as anyone, when he feels like it.

Previously: YouTube Hall of Fame: Howard Cosell, R.E.M., and Two Men Hit With Footballs
YouTube Hall of Fame: Stevie Nicks Combs Her Hair, a Comedy Film From Nigeria, and the Least Sexy Video on the Internet
YouTube Hall of Fame: George Michael, a Knife-Throwing Mom, and a Space Armadillo
YouTube Hall of Fame: Sheep, Kurt Loder on the Internet, and Dating Advice From Dr. Paul
YouTube Hall of Fame: Tales From the NBA Lockout, an Angry Keith Richards, and Shark Week Memories From January Jones
YouTube Hall of Fame: Brawling Bruins, Marshmallow Tests, and the Latest Jamaican Dance Craze

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