This list includes sketches & a few Weekend Update segments that were, in my own opinion, 15 of the strongest highlights of the the first half SNL’s strong 40th season. I’m not going in any particular order this time around – after much toiling, here are 15 things that made me laugh, got me interested in the construction of the writing, or made me laugh really hard.
So, here we go!
1. Puppet Class (Bill Hader, Killam, Strong, Moynihan)
Anthony Peter Coleman may be one of Bill Hader’s best characters ever to air (or one of the best characters, period). I hope he hosts again sometimes and gives us a third installment. https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/puppet-class-071109449.html
2. Back Home Ballers (Diaz, Zamata, McKinnon, Strong, Diaz, Jones, Bayer)
Everything about this is pure genius. I’d be okay with a Mooney/Bennett early 90s sitcom knock-off every week in 2015. A little kid peer-pressures Chris Pratt into stealing Beck Bennett’s ball with a gun so they can play in the house for 4 seconds…what’s not to like about this? https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/bad-boys-081547652.html
5. Match’d (Harrelson, Strong, Bennett, Mooney, Killam) Great sketch writing example #1. I will laugh at this every time I see it. Also, everything about these executions are perfect. Cecily Strong is a perfect MTV voice/personality, and the reactions of each guy when Woody Harrelson’s host drops the bomb is solid. https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/match-39-d-091104169.html
Great example of good sketch writing #2. (I believe Michael Che wrote this?) I should’ve scored it higher on my scorecard, but it makes such a good point…why 39 cents? Seriously? Anyway, this is a good ‘evergreen sketch’ in that it brings an original idea to the table and could be enjoyed later on as a classic. https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/39-cents-070921029.html
8. Weekend Update: Leslie Jones (Jones, Jost)
Literally any time Leslie Jones is on Update is a true gift. I’m posting this one because Harriet Tubman. But seriously, she brings such life to the Update desk (and the show in general) and has been such a breath of fresh air in the world of comedy. It’s only a matter of time before she’s a big star. Finally, I’d watch a half-hour comedy show of Leslie flirting with Colin Jost. https://screen.yahoo.com/snl-current-season-skits/weekend-leslie-jones-085157061.html
10. Grow-a-Guy (O’Brien, Franco, Bennett, Zamata, Bayer, Davidson)
Mike O’Brien is without a doubt the most interesting SNL writer right now. He has this unique gift for making a mini-story that combines genuine sincerity & meekness with comedy and “what in God’s name am I looking at???” This is a prime example, as well as Monster Pals & Dragon Babies from last spring. Also, He and James Franco make a nice duo in these. https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/grow-guy-085157033.html
11. Wedding Objections (Freeman, Jones, Bennett, Bryant, Bayer, Thompson, Killam, Strong, McKinnon)
Another great piece of sketch writing that could have aired whenever. Everyone delivering their objections is great in this, immediately jumping to the absurdity of this couple being together (especially Vanessa Bayer). The sketch nearly jumps into 3rd gear when Kate McKinnon’s Evelyn stops by to SHUT IT DOWN. https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/wedding-objections-091746876.html
Pete Davidson has done a few ‘Resident Young Person’ appearances, and I believe his first one may have been the best so far. It didn’t even really matter what he was talking about – his charm and grin won over the crowd so quickly that everyone just wanted to see more of this guy. This could be why we started seeing him star shortly thereafter in a few pre-taped segments. But this has been some of his best stuff this fall. https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/weekend-pete-davidson-063116630.html
15. High School Theater Show (Diaz, Bryant, Killam, Bennett, Mooney, McKinnon, Thompson, Bayer)
Truly one of the best pieces of sketch writing this fall – maybe the best. This sketch was also entirely dependent on timing with each line, movement of boxes, choreography, etc. and it hit everything dead on. It’s so great when a live sketch can be this succinct and funny and great to look at. Plus, everything is true about this. I’ve been Kenan Thompson/Vanessa Bayer in the audience looking at these. 100%. https://screen.yahoo.com/snl-current-season-skits/high-school-theater-show-074944587.html
Jim Carrey returned to host SNL for his 3rd time, this time doing the Halloween show. Carrey, having a sketch comedy background from his In Living Color days, is definitely one of the best kinds of hosts SNL can have, and with Chris Rock scheduled for next week’s show, we truly have yet not had a dud “I’m just here because ratings” kind of host (which is great!). His first show back in the 90s took place while his movie stardom was very much on the rise, as he portrayed highly-quotable characters such as in The Mask or Ace Ventura. His 2011-hosted show brought about the Swan Lake parody sketch that most fans will remember with Nasim Pedrad and Bill Hader.
And hey – Leslie Jones was just promoted to featured player this week!! That’s just plain amazing. I personally didn’t want anymore additions to this cast at the current size…but honestly, if they were to add anyone, this is a great decision I fully support. She has the voice, presence and energy that the show needs to capitalize on, and she’s basically been like another featured player thus far this season, having a weekend update segment and appearing in two sketches. My question is, what will that mean for people like Sasheer Zamata, who are also funny but haven’t had much of a chance to truly break out and show us their abilities? Will she get lost in the sauce as Leslie Jones climbs the ladder? Interestingly, she and Jones were hired at the same time, but Zamata was put in the cast while Jones was hired as a writer (in response to the show’s 2013 controversy over a lack of casting diversity). Well…only time will tell. My point: I love Leslie Jones. But I also want to see more of/get to love Sasheer Zamata!
BUT ANYWAY! On to the Jim Carrey SNL recap!
COLD OPEN: EBOLA CZAR (Pharaoh, Killam, Strong, Moynihan, Bryant, Thompson)
This was…okay. I didn’t laugh much, I didn’t dislike it…for me, it was there. Politicians are corrupt. Yup. Then Kenan’s Al Sharpton showed up, and although it felt like “how do we end this thing?…hmm…Al Sharpton says something eccentric.” Then I chuckled. Kenan must really like playing this guy. But yeah, this didn’t seem to really go anywhere other than feeling like 3 different sketches. https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/ebola-czar-cold-open-070817045.html Blackometer: 4.5/10
JIM CARREY MONOLOGUE (Carrey, Killam, Zamata, Strong, Thompson)
Walking on stage in that costume shouldn’t have threw me off as much as it did. He really could have said anything in this song, and it would have been just so much fun because of his energy. But, yes – the devil impersonating Elvis singing about pecan pie. Sounds like classic Carrey to me. Weird can be fun! (Which would become a theme of the night.) And hey, a choir! https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/carrey-monologue-071016870.html Blackometer: 6.8/10
LINCOLN ADS (Carrey, Thompson)
This was funny. And interesting – because I always figured Matthew McConaughey was Taran Killam’s best impression. Then…it became a 3-part recurring commercial ad! Spot-on stuff here, right up to the random kids being concerned from the backseat. Then out of nowhere…well, I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it. Just watch and have a good laugh at the 3rd one. https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/lincoln-ads-071111377.html Blackometer: 7.8/10
CARREY FAMILY REUNION (Carrey, Jones, Killam, Mooney, Bennett, Bayer, Pharaoh, Strong, Moynihan, Daniels)
A returning concept from the Christopher Walken family reuinion, but this time with everyone doing their Jim Carrey impression – right down to Jay Pharoah resurrecting the Repairman, Bobby Moynihan’s hilarious Mask, and even Jeff Daniels showing up! (Because Dumb and Dumber Too.) Anyway, it’s always great when you can draw from a comedy well that was once funny years ago, and still make it funny again with nuance. (Oh hey, Riddler!) https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/carrey-family-reunion-070817024.html Blackometer: 8/10
GRAVEYARD SONG (Davidson, Zamata, Pharaoh, Moynihan, McKinnon, Thompson, Carrey, Killam)
When Paul & Phil interrupted the first time as “casual ghosts”, you knew where the sketch was going. I didn’t think I would like this sketch at first due to being kind of predictable…but something about Paul and Phil’s naive but friendly personalities genuinely got to me. But mostly, I’m a sucker for anytime Kenan yells “NO!!!” on the show. https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/graveyard-song-071017253.html Blackometer: 6.2/10
WEEKEND UPDATE (Jost, Che, Bayer, Moynihan)
Hey, we got both Jost and Che going on mini-rants tonight! Jost seemed to really be in the zone with each of his jokes tonight…actually, just about every joke was spot-on tonight, honestly. Bayer’s Daisy Rose character quickly reminded me of Kristen Wiig’s Rebecca Larue character, flirting on Update with Seth Meyers some years back. However, Bayer became distracted by a crush on Che, going into a desperate romcom “just run away with me, right now!” character. With Che quickly crushing every idea she had (‘stop reading the cue cards out there, and start reading the one in here!’), this turned into something more interactive than the typical Update segment.
And Bobby Moynihan…man oh man, was this guy having a great night. He was everywhere! Drunk Uncle refusing to talk to Che…yikes. But man, to imagine the conversation the two of them would have! https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/weekend-part-1-071017715.html https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/weekend-part-2-070911094.html Blackometer: 8.3/10
SECRET BILLIONAIRE (Killam, Strong, Moynihan, Bennett, Carrey, Pharaoh)
First of all, Beck Bennett’s voice is perfect for a dating show. Just saying. Second of all, Jay Pharoah has one of the best “wtf” faces in the entire cast. Third, this was, of course, an excuse for Jim Carrey to sit there and be eccentric. It really could have been done with just Carrey in the sketch by himself. Did it work? Upon rewatching it…that monologue at the end is actually pretty darn interesting. But poor Brian. Surrounded by 250 Dennis’s. https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/secret-billionaire-070710000.html Blackometer: 6/10
HIGH SCHOOL (Carrey, Bennett, Mooney, Strong, Thompson, Davidson, Pharaoh)
They did a very similar Walking Dead sketch with Kevin Hart back in 2012, except this time it was about a guy trying to bring his zombie son in the group. The strongest part was Carrey’s goodbye to his son, even if you foresaw the ending. https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/high-school-071017081.html Blackometer: 5/10
HALLOWEEN PARTY (Bayer, Mooney, Zamata, Bryant, McKinnon, Bennett, Carrey, Michaels, Azalea)
Just before this sketch started, Taran Killam tweeted “Calling it now, Kate McKinnon is about to steal the show!!!” I completely agree with him – this was a delight. I don’t know if that audience was expecting them to come offstage (they did have preset props out there, and a reluctant Lorne Michaels), but between the energy Carrey and McKinnon had during these goofy dances and Aidy Bryant’s poor “I didn’t dress up, I forgot…I’m just a woman trying her best!” Joanne character, this might just end up as an iconic SNL sketch. https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/halloween-party-070710575.html Blackometer: 8.7/10
GEOFF’S HALLOWEEN EMPORIUM (Bayer, Strong, Carrey)
So, it looks like Bayer’s & Strong’s porn star characters have Halloween store jobs now? This was so interesting – so similar to that recurring sketch with similar characters, but they spoke much quicker and cleaner than usual, except they’re in a store instead of the usual spot…but then the sketch turned into Jim Carrey’s demon-possessed boss who continually distracted them…? I was confused…but I want to award this thing points for mixing it up in an unexpected way. And for the vortex on the clipboard. (I won’t remember any of this sketch in a few hours, but still.) https://screen.yahoo.com/snl/geoff-39-halloween-emporium-070818355.html Blackometer: 6/10
Best Sketch of the Night: Halloween Party Worst Sketch of the Night: Ebola Czar Cold Open Joke of the Night: Jost’s Honey-Boo-Boo show joke Observations: As soon as Carrey hit the stage, there was a liveliness and energy that carried throughout the entire episode, even for sketches that weren’t as strong or memorable. Carrey was a great host, and gave his natural ‘all’ into everything, no matter how weird it was – which somehow made it not seem as weird, in a sense. We got to see much more of cast members who don’t usually get as much airtime (Moynihan, Pharaoh and Bayer especially had a great night) and Leslie Jones was in a very fitting (and funny!) sketch on her first official show as a cast member. It’s hard to ask for the energy and spirit that the show has had every week so far to continue for the next 7 months (and for continually great hosts), but boy, it this season’s first 4 weeks are any indicator, we still have plenty to look forward to.