Chris Hemsworth was an electric host, who was completely committed in everything SNL threw his way. He was so committed, in fact, that even less-than-great sketches with him were at least interesting to watch because of his engagement with the cast. He almost reminds me of Andrew Garfield’s first hosting gig last season, in terms of his charm, energy, and readiness to just throw himself into making anything work. Even the few things that I didn’t think totally worked at least had something interesting to glean from them – which is much more than we could say in recent weeks surrounding the anniversary show.
COLD OPEN: A MESSAGE FROM HILLARY CLINTON (McKinnon)
Kate McKinnon wins the role of Hillary Clinton, most recently played twice last season by Vanessa Bayer. Here, she deconstructs her emails and even Netflix accounts to prove she has nothing to hide except covetousness for the presidency – if she chooses to run. Kate McKinnon brings her own thing to her Hillary Clinton, and she is just a thrill to watch, making this work more than it probably should have.
CHRIS HEMSWORTH MONOLOGUE (Hemsworth, Liam Hemsworth, Luke Hemsworth, Thompson, Strong, Mooney, Moynihan, McKinnon)
This monologue had two gears: a nice moment with Hemsworth and his brothers (even the black one) on stage, and then fake questions. The material wasn’t great here, but it was at least better than last week’s. I wish more had been done with the Hemsworth family on stage instead of the questions we got, because Hemsworth showed that he really does have some pretty good charm with the cast. While there’s not much here, I will say that Kenan’s monologue appearances are pretty great.
AMERICAN EXPRESS (Hemsworth, Zamata)
Somehow, I was waiting for McConaughey to show up here with Hemsworth. He does a pretty great job of capturing his “how did this happen?” fame.
BROTHER 2 BROTHER (Hemsworth, Killam, Strong, Mooney, Bryant)
Incessant deconstruction at its’ finest. Growing up and seeing Disney Channel shows, I was always thinking, “this is what should be happening right now.” Taran Killam was a committed in this as he’s ever been in anything. The piling on of his character might have been a bit much at some point, but it did lead up to a better-than-average payoff. Finally, Cecily Strong’s teacher here more than makes up for last week’s retread of her Cathy Anne troll.
EMPIRE PROMO (Thompson, Zamata, Hemsworth, Pharoah, Jones, Che)
I’ve seen some Empire. I don’t know that Taraji P. Henson is quite that violent. This reminded me of last season’s Scandal parody, taking a similar angle, except toning down Hemsworth’s happy-go-lucky-khakis-pants-wearing role to “so this is how you guys operate? Okay…I better stay out of the way…” Everyone is great here; I do wish, though, that there was more going on to Hemsworth’s newbie character to observe than just the characters being upset with each other. The show is actually pretty brilliant with great performances from what I’ve seen – yes, they have plenty of discrepancies, but I don’t get the feeling that they’re known just for being angry. Anyway, this is still good.
SPACESHIP (Hemsworth, Strong, Thompson, Zamata, a chicken)
Okay – when I watched this live for the first time, I thought it was dead on arrival with the entrance of a live chicken. Then, something magical happened – Hemsworth sold it. His interaction with this live chicken proved how good of a host he can be, and single-handedly pulled the sketch into a stronger gear than it deserved. This is one that would only work with a versatile, engaging host, and having a solid actor here really made it work. The individual lines weren’t that amazing (until Kenan’s “she’s done!” towards the end), but the commitment everyone had here (especially Hemsworth) made it work. Also: How bizarre. I’m beyond curious to know who dreamt this up mid-week, running on no sleep before the table-read.
THE IGGY AZALEA SHOW (McKinnon, Pharoah, Zamata, Hemsworth)
Kate McKinnon went from playing Hillary Clinton to Iggy Azalea in half an hour. Meanwhile, there wasn’t a lot going on here other than a few fairly accurate impressions, but not memorable enough to be much more than that. It felt like just another branch of Vanessa Bayer’s Miley Cyrus Show sketches, despite how good everyone was here.
WEEKEND UPDATE (Jost, Che, Jones, Strong)
There truly are few greater things than the chemistry between Leslie Jones and Colin Jost. I’ve never laughed as hard at the two of them as I did at the very end of their segment here. Cecily Strong’s Girl at a Party character was as solid as always, which is no surprise.
Meanwhile, I think this Update features Che and Jost having the most fun we’ve ever seen them have behind the desk to date. Jost’s big flub on the joke he took from Che turned out to be the funniest moment of the entire night, and showed just how great and comfortable he can be! And man, the chemistry between the two of them just took off with that whole bit in a way we haven’t seen too much on air yet. If Che wants to punk Jost every week and it’s at least as funny as what we saw last night, I’m totally on board. Update has been pretty solid all season long, but this was definitely the best one yet.
AVENGERS (Strong, Moynihan, Hemsworth, Killam, Davidson, Pharoah, Bennett)
Hemsworth was having a blast jumping around the stage in this one, which makes the entire sketch quite the joy to watch. I wish there was more going on here, but it was fun watching him bounce around.
MOVIE SET (McKinnon, Hemsworth, Thompson, Zamata)
Kenan Thompson’s acting coach worked on The Jefferson’s for one day. This is pretty one-note and stupid, but I admit that Kenan Thompson sells it with each crazy sound he makes. Not an amazing sketch, but I can’t help it that I still laughed.
REALITY HOUSE (Bennett, Hemsworth, Mooney, Killam)
This may be one of my favorite Kyle Mooney-Beck Bennett sketch of the season since “Bad Boys” from the season premiere. It was funny upon exposure of what it was mocking, it shifted into second gear and kept the hilarity going, and ended perfectly. Their reactions to each other in each sarcastically underrated situation (and that flashback) were the best parts. Sans Update, sketch of the night right here.
DOLCE & GABBANA (Bayer, Strong)
By now, this has become one of the most reliable current sketches in SNL’s cannon. Bayer and Strong’s repartee and deliveries are fantastic, and I get the feeling that this is one of their favorite things to perform. Also Chris Hemsworth looked like he’s been doing these with them for 5 years now.
Best Sketch of the Night: Weekend Update & Reality House
Worst Sketch of the Night: The Iggy Azalea Show
Joke of the Night: Leslie Jones yelling “SHUT UP!!!” at Colin Jost
Observations: As I had hoped (and anticipated), Chris Hemsworth brought a stronger episode to revival the previous episodes the show has had recently. He truly added a vitality to sketches to make some of them better than they might have deserved to be. The cast also didn’t look like they had to work overtime to compensate for a not-that-great host. Can this momentum sustain the rest of the season now that they’ve recaptured it? I definitely think so!
BLACKOMETER AVERAGE: 6.81*
*Please Note: I did my scoring math incorrectly prior to the initial post of this review, and it has since been corrected.
Martin Freeman: 6.98
Bill Hader: 6.91
Kevin Hart: 6.86
Chris Hemsworth: 6.81
James Franco: 6.81
Woody Harrelson: 6.80
Jim Carrey: 6.80
Cameron Diaz: 6.78
Sarah Silverman: 6.78
J.K. Simmons: 6.70
Chris Pratt: 6.54
Amy Adams: 6.18
Chris Rock: 5.75
Dakota Johnson: 5.62
Blake Shelton: 5