So yeah, Chris Rock and Prince! This show was hyped up to be ‘legendary!’ With these two dynamos and a great cast, it certainly had that potential. Was it?
Well…sadly no. Unfortunately, Rock and Prince had to be the duo booked when we got our first ‘off’ episode of the season. The 40th season of SNL has been very solid so far, but last night’s show definitely had a weird, ‘not yet ready for air’ vibe to it, or something. There was an amount of line flubbing, some questionable staging, and at times a near-silent audience. Chris Rock was great and gave it his best, but not always being used in the best of ways in sketches, even he couldn’t salvage the given material. Of course, these things happen, and even when they flop, it’s still amazing how much comedy they have to put together in a very short week. Still, a lot of things were tried that sadly did not work. The good news: Prince was phenomenal! (The bad news: this show really needed a second Prince song.)
On to a distraught SNL Recap…
COLD OPEN: CHRISTIE (Strong, Moynihan, McKinnon)
Bobby Moynihan is a fun Chris Christie, I’ll give him that….a.k.a. a “likeable Kevin James-type.” I’m sure Kaci Hickox didn’t expect to be an SNL parody (eh, who are we kidding…) but then, I really thought the two of them would get into an interesting fight of sorts, and the sketch just stopped. That would have been so great! Alas, this is just another safe topical cold open in which the characters (esp. Moynihan & McKinnon) give it their all, but despite a few laughs, this doesn’t make an impact.
CHRIS ROCK MONOLOGUE (Rock)
No one should be surprised with how much Chris Rock’s stand-up here was running the gauntlet, even mentioning terrorism and getting to the Freedom Tower (by then, the crowd felt safe enough to react). Because, if you’ve ever heard his material, yeah, this is about right. But it was so true- and hilarious! Chris Rock is good at his job. Period. I would have been fine with Rock doing standup in every other sketch.
VLOG (Zamata, Mooney, Rock, Pharaoh)
This was so interesting…I finally get Sasheer as the lead in a sketch, Chris Rock is old enough to play the old out-of-touch dad, and a funny, desperate Kyle Mooney youth character. This was idealistically too awkward to be laugh-out-loud funny, but it was identifiable enough to be a decent sketch. Who else had that dad who made up fake chores and compares all music to 70s soul classics? (I do wish there was a little more of Pharaoh’s embarrassed big brother…and that I could have actually seen him the first time.)
GO-PROBE (Killam, Mooney, Bennett, McKinnon, Thompson)
Well no, I didn’t see that twist coming. Best part was easily the flashback to “your grandpa’s colonoscopy.” Second best part: “Those are polyps, son…worst I’ve ever seen.” “Sick!” “…yes.”
HOW’S HE DOING? (Thompson, Pharaoh, Zamata, Jones, Rock)
Hey, a sketch with five African-Americans all on together! That’s super remarkable for SNL right now. That alone should have brought enough energy for a great sketch. Sadly…the material just wasn’t there this time. The best installment was one year ago on Kerry Washington’s show. Sadly, the material here was just waiting until that final joke, which was funny…but the entire thing was a waste for what could have been way funnier. Anyway, poor Sasha & Malia.
WEEKEND UPDATE (Jost, Che, Davidson, Pharaoh, Thompson)
Pete Davidson, back again! He basically lives on Update now, legit. We’ve seen him as the “resident young person” 3 times in 5 episodes – that’s amazing. And yes, his material here is great. However, when he was fighting the character-breaking laughter, it was endearing for some reason. Che stumbled pretty tough over some lines tonight too…and never seemed to fully recover, even after gaining applause. It wasn’t hard to watch, it was just a little odd. But whatever, I laughed at another Jost ebola joke that I felt bad about, so there you go. Pharaoh & Thompson as Katt Williams & Suge Knight was fun, but nothing new or anything. Not the best Update thus far, but Davidson was great.
SHARK TANK (Rock, Mooney, Bennett, McKinnon, Thompson, Killam, Bryant, Davidson, Pharaoh)
I don’t think the audience knew what to do with this any more than I did. It’s a great example of ‘interesting idea that sounds edgy’ but doesn’t go as far as it needs to go. Throwing ISIS in this already drew me in, but there was a bite to this that seemed to be missing. Plus, Chris Rock doesn’t really know how to act Middle-Eastern, going in and out of character and using his ‘Chris Rock telling a story’ hands. (To be fair, while Chris Rock is versatile, I don’t know if this was the right route for his versatility, all due respect.) Also, people on twitter noticed that he seemed to look like he realized the sketch/show wasn’t going so well by now…
SWIFTAMINE (Killam, Rock, Strong, Bennett, Thompson, Bayer, Jones, Bryant)
So, is this a defense of people who listen to/like Taylor Swift’s music? I had to watch this again to fully appreciate it, but I’m sure it’s what Swift’s version of The Beygency would have you take. Out of a few good jokes, the best part was Leslie Jones in that tutu, worth the price of admission.
THE COUPLE (Rock, Jones, Moynihan, Zamata)
…ooookay. At first this felt like a sitcom couple argument from the 70s/80s and I was into the dialogue. Then, Leslie Jones had a major flub (as far as we know), walking out, then walking back in, looking confused for what felt like forever in live show time. I’m not sure what happened (maybe a last-minute writing or directing change threw things off) but matched with the lack of laughter, it really threw things off. The entire thing felt underrehearsed, and I wasn’t even sure what the point was until Sasheer Zamata walked in. The result is, I’m not sure what this sketch was really supposed to be, but man, I wish I knew.
I’m pretty sure the online version here is not the live version that aired, but likely the dress rehearsal version, or at least an edit without Jones stumbling back onstage. However, my grade is based on what I saw live:
ROBBERS (Bennett, Mooney, Moynihan, McKinnon, Zamata, Bryant, Thompson, Killam)
I appreciate the weirdness of this sketch more so than anything that aired post-Update. It didn’t even make me laugh all that much – I just appreciated it more. However, it was pointed out on twitter that this sketch was recorded another week and has been in waiting from that dress rehearsal. In other words…there was some last-minute change. (Like, the second Prince song that we unfortunately didn’t get?) Anyway, this was fine. At least Beck Bennett & Kyle Mooney had a nice night.
WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE (McKinnon, Strong, Bayer, Rock, Bryant, Killam, Pharaoh, Bennett)
By now, it felt like the cast was just trying to get through this odd, odd night. However, this was still funny. Good lord, Kate McKinnon was good in this. Vanessa Bayer, even flubbing her line (like many of her fellow cast members tonight), was also great. She now owns the final esoteric sketch of the night slot this season.
Best Sketch of the Night: Chris Rock Monologue
Worst Sketch of the Night: The Couple
Joke of the Night: “We had a horrible Jesus’ birthday this year; hopefully business will pick up by His crucifixion.” – Chris Rock, as an economist on the Christmas season
Runner Up: “I sent a picture of my penis to my mom because she’s a nurse…she said ‘there’s definitely something wrong – you’re sending me pictures of your penis, what’s wrong with you? I’m a school nurse!” – Pete Davidson
Observations: At the end of the night, all of us took to twitter, upset about how ‘off’ tonight’s episode was. However, I’m more disappointed than upset, just because the stars that seemed to be aligned fell through the same trap any lackluster episode falls through: lacking (albeit forgettable) material, under-rehearsed moments, last-minute changes, and so on. In other words, these things happen. It wouldn’t been the same live show if changes weren’t made. (And there’s been FAR worse shows w/terrible hosts.) So while I could live without much of what I saw last night, they still had a good host, I still think what these talented people do every week is amazing (even to see something flop) and I’m holding out high hopes for the next show.
Again, Prince was fantastic: https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/prince-clouds-marz-another-love-080041842.html
BLACKOMETER AVERAGE: 5.75
Next time: Woody Harrelson & Kendrick Lamar (oddest pairing yet this season to be sure, but I’m holding out for a better overall show.)
Bill Hader: 6.91
Jim Carrey: 6.80
Sarah Silverman: 6.78
Chris Pratt: 6.54
Chris Rock: 5.75