When we last saw SNL, the material left much to be desired. This time around…it was pretty good! There was a consistent energy last week didn’t retain very long, and the sketch material was nearly solid. I laughed far more than I think I was prepared too. I’m not sure if this ends up being the best show of the season or does anything for the ratings (though, some of the cameos might certainly help…) but it definitely made me feel better about Chris Rock’s less-than-stellar show.
On to a re-enthused SNL Recap…
COLD OPEN: DRINK AT THE WHITE HOUSE (Pharaoh, Killam, Zamata)
Okay, as far as all the political cold opens go so far this season, this was the first one to make me laugh a good few times. Something about Taran Killan’s Mitch McConnell belting “YOU’RE BLACK” just hit my funny bone. This was simple, and set a fun tone for the night. Far more solid than most previous season 40 political cold opens.
WOODY HARRELSON MONOLOGUE (Harrelson, Hutcherson, Hemsworth, Lawrence)
Woody Harrelson is just so much fun with a crowd, and I get the impression that he’s really fun to be around in real life. We also got his Hunger Games stars to appear, first to reveal how much younger they are than him, and also to lead up to a Jennifer Lawrence line flub that ended up being rather endearing. Because that’s just how Jennifer Lawrence works. I could watch an entire half hour talk show of just Woody singing about 1989 and Jennifer giving him snarky sideye comments.
THE DUDLEYS (Bennett, McKinnon, Harrelson, Thompson, Aduba)
Here’s the thing: I feel like this Dudley’s sketch was SNL openly reacting to their own twitter complainers about their ‘SNL stinks’ commentary – “we heard your complaints LOUD AND CLEAR.” Maybe I’m right, maybe not. But I don’t know…something about a show that tries to start out simple, then continually accomodate their audience’s gripes with the hope of pleasing everyone. But doing just the opposite…I don’t know. There was a certain bite to it, even in the voice-over narration. Maybe that’s not it at all. Maybe they’re just trying to cover a couple topical shows out right now. Either way, this sketch gave us Uzo Aduba licking Woody and visions of Woody being intimate with Kenan, so…there’s that.
MATCH’D (Harrelson, Strong, Bennett, Mooney, Killam)
First of all, Mooney’s “from head to butt” made me laugh. Then, Harrelson’s host character rips the rug right under these guys with the twist…and I just kept laughing and laughing. Good grief, this was funny. Easily the funniest thing of the night – good premise, good comedy, good execution…and good grief. I would watch this show every week on MTV. (And I hate MTV. Cecily definitely sounded like an MTV personality.)
A NEW DAY (Davidson, Killam, Bryant, Moynihan, Jones, Harrelson, Bayer, Thompson, Bennett)
I’m thinking this may be everyone’s favorite sketch of the night. Maybe, maybe not for me, but it was just so passionately put together. Pete Davidson continues to have that one thing a week that he just “owns” – I can’t wait to see how much SNL real estate he’s allowed to have in, say, two years. (I’m sure he spends his Sunday mornings watching Rugrats after an almost-deep thought.)
FOOTBALL HALFTIME SPEECH (Harrelson, Killam, Pharaoh, Bennett, Davidson, Thompson, Mooney)
This was another example of a simple premise carried out well. Football players trying to play safely to avoid concussions (a growing paranoia these days) was pretty funny, I happily admit. Harrelson’s delivery of ‘cup the nape of the neck…’ got me. Kenan’s obviously-been-a-victim-of-a-concussion-before guy just about threw me off with how distractible he was…but all-in-all, the best of this was how into it Harrelson was. The sketch should have just been him giving a pseudo-uplifting halftime speech about being safe.
YOUNG TARTS & OLD FARTS (Thompson, Strong, Killam, Lamar, Mooney, Zamata, Bryant, Bennett, Blue Ivy, McKinnon, Jones, Moynihan, Harrelson, Pharaoh, Bayer)
Good lord, they got Blue Ivy! I just…I don’t even know what to do with this. That’s incredible. It’s always fun to see everyone shell out some impressions once in a while in something like this…and while this wasn’t the best rendition of these, some of the pairings still made me laugh. And it’s worth noting that Sasheer Zamata is still slowly getting herself out there in bits and pieces. Not this show so much, but I hope she leads another sketch again soon.
This sketch not online likely due to copyright issues.
WEEKEND UPDATE (Jost, Che, Jones, Harrelson, Killam)
Man, I just love it when Leslie Jones comes on Update. And good grief, I missed Taran Killam’s Matthew McConaughey – even if he wasn’t in the white tux this time. The segments were great this week! Moments of Leslie’s material had show-stopping greatness in them. And hey, there were quite a few good jokes from Jost & Che this week too! All in all, a good week for Update. By this point, it was a pretty good night. It’s worth noting that Jost had another pretty solid week with his deliveries & interactions w/Leslie. (Finally: our favorite tall glass of almond milk said the word ‘gangsta’ and it sounded just as nerdy as I always thought it would. That is all.)
Not sure why Part 1 isn’t online…there’s some good jokes missing from the first half.
OLD NEW YORK (Thompson, Killam, Moynihan, Harrelson)
In the midst of this quartet’s nostalgia for the olden NY days, Harrelson’s character really misses crack. That’s really all there is to it – and then he shows a ‘Vote for Nader’ button. I feel like this sketch was written for people like me. (In terms of my line of humor…not because I like crack. ‘Cause I’m anti-crack. Moving on…)
CAMPFIRE SONG (Harrelson, Bayer, Mooney, Jones, Moynihan)
Well, they couldn’t all be great. Not the best material, but despite Todd’s friends making the same faces I was making when he just kept singing his song, Woody just kept on trying to sell it. I didn’t think much of this one, but I could see it working as a 30-second passing background thing within a sitcom scene…not a 3-minute sketch so much. But whatever. I think I’m the only one who didn’t laugh at this…alas, the song is darn catchy. (I have a personal thing for when people fake playing instruments, and Woody & Vanessa didn’t do a great job of hiding how one of the SNL band members was really playing…but I digress.)
LAST CALL (Harrelson, McKinnon, Thompson)
This was a good sketch to do with this host. It was weird, but I’m not sure yet if it’s any better than the others yet. It was up there, through. Kenan holding the Bible in innocence and then prepping to burn the bar down were my favorite parts. Kate & Woody were fully committed in this (she always is), but if the jokes in these sketches aren’t for you, the Kenan reactions are the next best part for you. (I’d have a Bible and gasoline ready too if I were him.)
Best Sketch of the Night: Match’d
Worst Sketch of the Night: Apples
Jokes of the Night:
“I’d you the ride of your life…from head to butt.” – Kyle Mooney
Leslie Jones: “Look at my breasts, Colin!” Colin Jost: “I feel like I’d have to talk to HR first.”
“…All while Jimmy Carter spent his week plowing through Tinder.” – Michael Che
Observations: This was a pretty consistent show, and Woody was a fine host who had a blast, meshing in with the cast rather well. With the given material, he didn’t really have to work too hard to seek anything other than just be his fun self at times – and at times he went beyond just enough to really push it to the top. The battles with the cue cards continue for everyone. It is interesting that similar to last year’s Bruce Willis-hosted show, we saw mostly the guys this week, and the most notable female leads this week were Kate in the final sketch & Leslie on Update. (Cecily was seen twice tonight, both times just doing “a voice”, and Sasheer did a brief Michelle Obama & Diana Ross.) I know this isn’t the point and likely doesn’t mean much, but I do miss having Aidy Bryant being the over-the-top put-upon character. But anyway – yeah, this was a fun show! I hope things will continue to be as consistent as possible in the next week for SNL.
Also, Kendrick Lamar was on fire last night! (Here’s his first song…I didn’t like the female singer from his second song, who sounded like she pre-gamed with sandpaper down he throat…but that’s just me.)
BLACKOMETER AVERAGE: 6.80
Next time: Cameron Diaz for the pre-Thanksgiving show! Also, I’m sure Bruno Mars shows up in a sketch. (I hope he comes back as host sometime as well.)
Bill Hader: 6.91
Jim Carrey: 6.80
Woody Harrelson: 6.80
Sarah Silverman: 6.78
Chris Pratt: 6.54
Chris Rock: 5.75
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
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.
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!
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.
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!)
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.
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!
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.
GHOST CHASERS (Jones, Killam, Bayer, Zamata, Mooney)
This was the perfect use of Leslie Jones. Also, this was very accurate – and I’m leaving it at that.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
BLACKOMETER AVERAGE: 6.80
Next time: Chris Rock! And Prince!
Bill Hader: 6.91
Sarah Silverman: 6.78
Chris Pratt: 6.54
Bill Hader was definitely one of the most memorable recent cast members to grace the Studio 8H stage. Whether he was doing one of his spot-on impressions (Alan Alda never disappointed), hosting an eccentric game show, being silenced as Lindsey Buckingham, or perplexing Seth Meyers as Stefon, he was just brilliant and always dedicated to his roles…no matter how insane.
With SNL being in their 40th season, would tonight get nostalgic, bringing back other other cameos that celebrate the show’s [recent] past? Well let’s head through the third SNL Recap to find out!
COLD OPEN: KIM JONG-UN (Moynihan, Strong, Killam, Mooney, Bennett)
Welp, didn’t think I’d see Moynihan’s Kim Jong-Un tonight. Not gonna lie, other than seeing him climb down the stairs and whining the first time, this wasn’t all that funny. Moynihan is funny. Kim Jong-Un isn’t that funny…especially in a one-note sketch. This brought the show to a halt before it started.
BILL HADER MONOLOGUE (Hader, Wiig, Fierstein)
Hader is such a pro. And I knew we could expect Hader’s Skeleton Twins partner, Kristen Wiig, to show up. And then, out of nowhere, Harvey Fierstein showed up! This was just a great, fun time. Bill Hader really is just fantastic. And genuine!
HERB WELCH (Killam, Hader, Davidson, Strong)
“I know you’re smooth down there” – Herb Welch just has no chill whatsoever. Putting him on screen with Pete Davidson (who eventually had a very big night!) was a fine move. It was weird not seeing Jason Sudeikis as the news anchor (Killam even said something about the last guy ‘ailing’), but otherwise, this was HILARIOUS. Good to know Herb is just as ornery, violent and racist as he always was. (Poor Cecily Strong.)
YA TRAILER (Davidson, Mooney, Bennett, Zamata, Hader)
This was just plain brilliant. Period. SNL is really banking on these movie trailers so far this season. And hey, we got all our featured players front and center! Mazel tov.
HOLLYWOOD GAME NIGHT (McKinnon, Bayer, Strong, Killam, Pharoah, Bryant, Bennett, Hader, Wiig)
I knew we’d get a sketch like this tonight, with everyone’s impressions being featured. With Bill Hader being here, that’s totally fine. Many of these impressions were dead on, too – good LORD Beck Bennett’s Nick Offerman, who knew? And Jay Pharoah’s Morgan Freeman – I just can’t. I simply can’t. But then, Kristen Wiig kind of forgot she wasn’t hosting, bringing back a one-note impression no one really asked to see again & taking over. This almost canned the sketch for me…but thankfully, Hader’s Al Pacino just barely cancelled out all that rot.
39 CENTS (Hader, Pharoah, Thompson, Zamata, Jones, Bayer)
This was hilarious. It went just about where I thought it would go, and then went a tad further. (I’ve always wondered if the starving folk in the background commercial actually wonder the things they say in this sketch.) Every time Leslie Jones shows up, the action always seems to escalate in such a great way. It’s so great to have this diversity on the show.
WEEKEND UPDATE (Jost, Che, Davidson, Hader)
I’ve decided that Michael Che’s brief standup spiels are the best parts of Update, truly. We got Pete Davidson once again, who seemed to be having a nice night. This wasn’t as memorable as his first appearance, but the confidence his rapper chains gives him to finish his dinner makes me happy for him, and such. Then, as many people expected (and John Mulaney kind of gave away via tweet), Stefon came back. Now, I have two sides to this. On one hand, Wiig and Stefon were given such great sendoffs that it feels weird to have had them back a few times since then. (Wiig was basically Vice-Host last night, from sketches to introducing Hozier’s second performance.) On the other hand, I will say that with Mulaney writing Stefon’s material, even without Seth Meyers’ presence (he was doing stand up in Vegas last night, so…), they did a pretty fine job of having him there without letting the fact that he was there be too out of place. And even if some feel like Stefon’s been overused over the years, the material here was hi-LA-rious. It was painfully obvious that some lines were changed after dress, just like classic Stefon writing. (Who in the writers’ room likes Dan Cortese so much?!)
PUPPET CLASS (Killam, Moynihan, Strong, Hader, Thompson)
I was NOT expecting this to be a returning sketch! When Seth MacFarlane hosted in 2012, this one the funniest sketch of the night – an estranged war veteran re-living his war flashbacks in Grenada via a puppet. At first, this was just as great as the first one, right up to his cigarette smoke coming out of the puppet’s mouth. Then, suddenly and without warning…we got a brilliant puppet Vietnam flashback. I can’t even talk about how great saying that out loud is. Just brilliant.
INSIDE SOCAL 2 (Mooney, Bennett, Davidson, McKinnon, Killam, Strong, Hader, Moynihan)
I might be in the minority on this, but this wasn’t as fun as the first Inside SoCal they did last season. I wasn’t really into it once everyone started doing the gravely voice…then Bill Hader showed up as a disoriented teen who tried to compare artwork to his Madden playing, and I chuckled.
CAT (Hader, Strong, Bryant, Davidson)
An interesting twist: the Cat in the Hat knows the children’s mother, and things get awkward when we learn that they have a past. Things escalate when the man she remarried was Thing 2. You know what’s great about this sketch? It’s better than Mike Myers’ Cat in the Hat movie.
LOVE IS A DREAM (Jan Hooks, Phil Hartman) – Hader and Wiig introduced this mid-show to honor the passing of SNL alum, Jan Hook this week. I admittedly had never seen this performance before, but it was wonderful and touching all the same. Rather than simply showing her photo on screen during the show, this was a great and tasteful way to honor two of SNL’s strongest performers in the show’s history.
(By the way, here’s a funny little sketch that got cut at dress with Bill Hader playing a gossiping coal miner.)
Best Sketch of the Night: Puppet Class
Worst Sketch of the Night: Cold Open: Kim Jong-Un Cold Open
Joke of the Night: TIE: Puppet Class’ war flashback AND “I know you’re smooth down there.”
Observations: Bill Hader is still a fantastic performer, Pete Davidson had a big night, puppets can smoke and have vietnam flashbacks, Leslie Jones is never not funny, and Stefon is pregnant. Even with a couple duds, this was a pretty great show with tons of energy. It was a great night for our featured players, while we didn’t see as much of our repertory players (Aidy Bryant and Vanessa Bayer for example didn’t get to say much). While it was fun to have a nostalgic kind of episode with the return of past Hader characters and Kristen Wiig, it will be nice to see if Jim Carrey’s show in a couple weeks calls back attention to the sketches and the cast. Either way, this was a fun show and Bill Hader looked so thrilled to be back. I hope he hosts again soon!
BLACKOMETER AVERAGE: 6.91
Next time: Jim Carrey on Oct. 25th!
Bill Hader: 6.91
Sarah Silverman: 6.78
Chris Pratt: 6.54
Sarah Silverman was formerly a writer on the show in the 90s, as pointed out in her promos with Taran Killam earlier this week. She’s also known for her comedic stylings, acting, and zingers. (And apparently, she hasn’t been back on the show since stabbing Al Franken at a table read with a pencil…so there’s that.) So the fact that she made funny sketches will mean that she can be a funny cast member this week, right?
Let’s find out – on to our second recap of the SNL 40th season!
COLD OPEN: OBAMA 60 MINUTES (Bennett, Pharoah, Killam)
We get the return of Jay Pharoah’s Obama to talk about ISIS-related situations, which leads to two words I never thought I’d hear together: terrorist tweets. Interesting way to approach this situation, right down to LinkedIn being a terrorist organization. I laughed out loud at “One day the Black Flag of ISIS will fly over the White House. #TheVoiceisBack.”
SARAH SILVERMAN MONOLOGUE (Silverman)
Silverman comfortable riffs for a while, and then ends up sitting on the lap of a real, live audience member. This just fantastic because of Silverman’s electric energy – right down to mentioning her former, brief cast member days and even using her frequent fake-monologue-question appearances in the 90s (why did they make her do so many? Good lawd). This kind of reminded me of Vince Vaughn’s monologue back in 2012 when he riffed with live audience members, but Silverman had her own kind of energy that really worked for her and set a great tone for the episode. (It’s still funny that her featured player questions were treated as being “iconic” since those are usually the least remembered thing on any show.)
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS TRAILER (Silverman, Killam, Thompson)
Well, we all knew this was coming. But this had a point – don’t date someone with ebola. With quotes like “I laughed. I panicked. I mostly panicked.” and especially “you can’t quarantine your heart”, this was a good send up to both ebola and The Fault in Our Stars. BTW…Taran Killam does such a great crying “I have to kiss you but you have ebola, this is terrible but I can’t escape” face.
JOAN RIVERS (Zamata, Silverman, Pharoah, Mooney, Strong, Moynihan, Levine, McKinnon)
This…didn’t seem quite fleshed out. First of all, I was falsely excited to see Sasheer Zamata in a lead role for a second! Nope. It was focused on Silverman’s Joan Rivers in heaven with other great figures (Richard Pryor, Ben Franklin, Lucille Ball, etc.) firing off brief zingers to each of them. This felt unrehearsed overall – Silverman flubs every other line and seems very nervous for some reason, and whether or not the lines were funny, the audience didn’t seem to react much until Moynihan’s Ben Franklin started laughing hysterically (which, I now want to see a sketch about Moynihan’s Ben Franklin). Look, I’m genuinely glad that they did something to honor Joan Rivers, who certainly does deserve it. However, this just felt under-rehearsed and not fully prepared for air. Finally, Adam Levine was in this for absolutely no reason.
WHITES (Bryant, Bayer, O’Brien, Bennett, Killam, Silverman)
I had to rewatch this one, but I admit it is pretty clever. Who knows, maybe we do get a white female president next…or a different demographic altogether. Hey look, it’s Mike O’Brien!
FORGOTTEN TV GEMS (Thompson, Strong, Silverman, Killam, Bryant, McKinnon)
“Isn’t that weird? Women being nice and not hurtful to each other!” I was on board with this as a running joke for a TCM movie of all things. Along with past iterations of these TCM movie sketches (I do miss Melissa McCarthy falling down the stairs after charming cat calls), what sells it is that Kenan Thompson’s host is such a delight, being overly into the film every piece of commentary. (Finally: Aidy Bryant’s maybe-evil grin wins.)
WEEKEND UPDATE (Jost, Che, Thompson, Silverman, McKinnon)
I didn’t expect to see Al Sharpton on Update. I never expect to see Thompson’s Al Sharpton because he’s such an example of the real life personality being a completely different person from the SNL impersonation – but I admit, I laughed at his KKK acronym and “I support Obama everyday on MSNBC – even when he personally asked me to stop!” (He’s definitely better used as an Update segment than having those less-than-stellar Politics Nation sketches.)
Che and Jost were, once again, great tonight! The ebola jokes were great, between Jost’s Facebook quiz “How ebola are you?” and Che’s rant, ending brilliantly with “who goes to Texas and Africa?!” But most importantly was their brilliant exchange about what words they’re allowed to say is fantastic. It’s the kind of cohesive bite Weekend Update has been missing for a while.
Lastly, my favorite things about Silverman and McKinnon’s feminist singing duo is McKinnon turning her speech into the countoff to start singing.
CRUISE SHIP (Thompson, Strong, Zamata, Silverman)
Thompson and three showgirls are stuck on a cruise ship in on a river in Nebraska…and they tell us why with mini-monologues in the middle of their verses for Rollin’ on the River. There’s not much more to it than that. The jokes here are…okay. Not bad, not amazing. Just okay. The lack of laughter on a few meant that a couple (mainly Silverman’s lines) went over the audiences heads. At least they’re all having fun dancing around.
This song not online due to song copyright issues.
CAR RIDE (Silverman, Killam, Moynihan, Bennett, McKinnon, Levine)
What an interesting piece of writing this was. I’m not 100% sure what to do with it since nothing can be resolved for this couple…I mean, Adam Levine is there and gets hit by oncoming traffic. I feel like some other ending could have occurred here to give it somewhere else to go, but I give it credit for just how interesting the setup was. (Best part: the song on Killam’s radio “You cheated on me…and then you gave me fudge.”
This song is also not online due to song copyright issues.
POEM (Mooney, Silverman, Bennett)
Another very interesting piece of writing – this time, mocking how people fall in love with each others’ words while finishing their sentences. However, in this case, the situation carries out as it would anyway as the three people come together: however, the endearing poetic feel never stops no matter how malicious Bennett’s butt whoopin’ is. Mooney & Bennett must really like the 90s, because I havcen’t seen swirlies then…or heard “sayonora, sucker” since Nickelodeon’s Doug.
VITAMIX (Bayer, Silverman)
Contrary to “Supportive Women” from earlier, we get Vanessa Bayer (for the first time tonight!) trying to advertise an apparently very expensive blender to Silverman without good reason, and the two go into a funny exchange that splits them against each other. This is simple and works on execution alone. I slightly wish it would have gone a tad farther…but it was still fun.
Best Sketch of the Night: Sarah Silverman Monologue
Worst Sketch of the Night: Cruise Ship
Joke of the Night: “There’s plenty of things I can’t say because I’m black, like ‘toodle-oo’…or ‘skinny machiato’…or, ‘thank you for your help, officer!’” (Che)
(Runner Up: “Jimmy Carter celebrated his 90th birthday as usual by snorting peanut dust off a hooker’s butt.” (Che))
Observations: Sarah Silverman should come back and host sometime. She had great energy that seemed to last all night, and gave the impression that she’s someone fun to be around. Again, we didn’t get Vanessa Bayer until the end of the night…is she the new 10-to-1 slot holder? Anyway, Weekend Update continued to be great once again, and we did get a couple of sketches deemed interesting solely on the concept of their writing. The show, all in all, was darn good, with the monologue & Weekend Update being the biggest highlights. (Oh yeah, and Adam Levine likes being in sketches.)
BLACKOMETER AVERAGE: 6.78
Next week: Bill Hader! (PLEASE let us get another “Vincent Price” sketch! *fingers crossed*)
Sarah Silverman: 6.78
Chris Pratt: 6.54
I am admittedly, a huge fan of Saturday Night Live. I love both the comedy that’s come from it throughout its’ 40 years in existence as well as the intricate framework of how this show operates. When all cylinders are firing, it’s a well-oiled machine that gives us some of the greatest laughs and most interesting fascinations in entertainment. Does it always work? Of course not – but I went into this exciting season premiere excited that all involved would put their best foot forward to open up with a bang.
The stars were literally aligned here – we have a first-time host, Chris Pratt, who is at the top of his game right now with his recent fame in Guardians of the Galaxy and of course, NBC’s Parks and Recreation. Ariana Grande is also at the top of her game, doing very well for herself and her music in 2014. After a season of “experimenting to see what sticks” with a very large cast of 17 and the departure of Seth Meyers for Late Night, the recent cast shake-ups bring us some changes I’m pretty psyched about. Cecily Strong has departed from the Weekend Update desk to appear in sketches more, now bringing in Michael Che, to be paired with head writer Colin Jost. So we have our first pair of men and our first African-American Update anchor. How cool! We also have added 21-year-old Pete Davidson, NY stand-up comedian as a featured player to the cast. The esoteric Mike O’Brien has returned to the writers room away from the cast, Nasim Pedrad departed to work on Fox’s Mulaney, and we also lost featured players Noel Wells, John Milheiser, and Brooks Wheelan, who didn’t get too much time to prove themselves last year.
So with a solid cast now assembled, how did last night’s premiere go? Is this a bit much to assess a simple comedy show? Well, I have a website, I review movies, and I like SNL – so I’m gonna do it anyway. (You all have your Thursday night ABC shows, so let me have this.) On we go to the SNL 40th Season premiere!
COLD OPEN: RAY RICE (Bryant, Pratt, Thompson, Pharoah)
First, it was great to see how excited Aidy Bryant must have been to be opening up this season of SNL. Then, out of nowhere, we got Jay Pharoah’s Shannon Sharpe! It’s been too long.Of course, we had to have an opening addressing some of the recent news in the NFL. This wasn’t the most memorable cold open to address a major sports news story, and there’s no way they weren’t going to do this one with as much coverage as its’ been getting. While it did have just enough comedy and material to parody the situation (i.e. Kenan and that doggone bus to avert the issue), it didn’t completely dig its’ teeth into the issue either. But for what it had to be, it was fine.
CHRIS PRATT MONOLOGUE (Pratt, Faris)
Pratt is pretty charming here! He pulled out his guitar to sing a nice little song to share how excited he is to be here. I always enjoy that kind of fresh energy in a first-time host. You can tell this was a long-time dream of his, because he was both ecstatic and nervous. That’s okay! I look forward to the confidence he’ll have when he comes back. And hey, there’s Anna Faris!
CIALIS TURNT (Killam, Strong, Bryant, Bennett)
I feel like this sketch was written for the hyperactive playa in me who loves Turn Down For What. This definitely feels like something I would have thought of, found funny, and been ridiculed for – and I mean that in the best of ways. It’s good that this didn’t go on too long, because the joke is really over after Turn Down for What hits. Not the most memorable thing ever, but we got to see some bling hanging from Taran Killam’s crotch, so…there’s that.
HE-MAN AND LION-O (Mooney, Bryant, Killam, Pratt, Strong, Grande)
At first, when He-Man & Lion-O showed up, I was so excited to see what might happen. So many chances for good comedy, and – nope. Just a missed opportunity in which they slapped their crotches & ran with that as a running gag instead. Then, suddenly, the sketch just up and ended. If you change the material between the toys becoming real and Aidy Bryant’s mom character returning, you might have had something better here – including better use of Ariana Grande dressed as She-Ra.
VET OFFICE (Strong, McKinnon, Pratt, Bayer, Moynihan, Mooney)
At least this was…short? Look, I didn’t like this sketch the first time it aired on Josh Hutcherson’s show last fall, and I never expected to see it again. This one seemed less memorable than the first one, especially not having actual live animals or my favorite forgettable cast member around (Brooks Wheelan) this time. However, the one thing I remember is the pun “birdered.” (I’m a sucker for puns.)
MARVEL TRAILER (Pratt, Bryant, Pharoah, Moynihan, Killam, Bennett, Mooney)
Best parts of this: Marvel’s Star Wars, Bobby Moynihan’s long hair as a stormtrooper, A Harlem Globetrotter, a guy dressed as Grimace, and especially Marvel’s Pam 2: The Winter Pam.” As a sendup to Marvel superhero movies, this was pretty good. It’s notable that Aidy Bryant was having a great night. (I would totally watch “Marvel’s Pam 2: The Winter Pam.”
WEEKEND UPDATE (Jost, Che, Strong, Jones, Davidson, Thompson)
Che was nervous at first (to be expected!) but not only did he bounce back fast, he bounced back like a pro who’s been behind the chair for a good few weeks. Jost even looked a little glassy-eyed at first, but that also seemed to go away quickly. Their jokes about “hiding your nudes in this U2 album” and the Orange is the New Black realizing she’s gay from working on the women’s prison scenes “but this reminded me that I definitely am not” were my favorites from them. And hey, it sure didn’t take Cecily Strong long to show up to Update! She reprised her old character as the first walk-on, which was smart of SNL to do to show the audience “see, it’s all good.”
We even got the return of writer Leslie Jones! She talked about being single, flirted with Colin (her marshmallow) and basically reminded America why she’s good at what she does. Then, as I predicted, new cast member Pete Davidson came on as himself to introduce himself to America. And boy did he nail this – I liked when Brooks Wheelan did this last year, but man, I have to admit how much more memorable this was. The subject matter takes a major left turn FAST, for sure – but his relaxed delivery & confidence just sells the whole thing. It’s obvious that SNL wants this guy to be their next big thing, and he enjoyed every second behind that desk with Che.
Finally, Jost and Che’s “Cheer Up, President Obama!” with Kenan singing “Ooh, Child” clinched it for me. Not only was it fun, original, and hilarious – it was the first sign of “these two anchors have great cohesion together” that we’ve seen behind the Update desk in quite some time. (I’d love to see a sign for “Barack OGanges” on a billboard in Colorado one day.) Weekend Update was clearly the best part of the night.
BOOTY RAP (Bryant, Pratt, Strong, Bayer, Zamata, McKinnon, Mooney, Moynihan, Bennett)
Oh look, Vanessa Bayer and Sasheer! Good to finally see them. Anyway, the sketch right after Update always worries me because most of last year (maybe always?) this spot would go to something one-note, forgettable, and underwhelming. I’m not 100% sure what to do with this one, just based on concept. The execution was fine (Bryant sells it, and for all I know, she wrote this sketch), but I don’t know…something about flirting with someone simply with the use of one horny song doesn’t show clever material, it reminds me of how much today’s music sucks.
BAD BOYS (Mooney, Bennett, Pratt)
Beck Bennett & Kyle Mooney get another shot at getting last year’s Wing sketch that didn’t make it to air on the Andrew Garfield show. Also set in the 90s, except this time Chris Pratt allows himself to make new friends with some young, punk kids. They’re the wrong crowd, but Pratt goes with it to find his place until a kid pulls a gun on Pratt until he steals Beck Bennett’s ball to play with. Just writing that out makes me laugh. I mean – this is probably the ONLY time seeing a kid pull a gun on someone will be funny. And I appreciate that the Mooney/Bennett pre-recorded sketches get a little better than the 10-to-1 slot this time. It’s great to have these guys and their brand of comedy back in both live and pre-recorded sketches – and finally, thanks for the random cutaway shot of the castle.
NFL INTROS (Bennett, Killam, Thompson, Moynihan, Pharoah, Pratt, Mooney, Che, Davidson, Jost, Jones)
Hey, we even got to see Che and Jost in a sketch! This was a fine sketch with pretty good, well-written jokes. First, I laughed when Jost confesses to tax fraud, looking like the innocent do-gooder of the NFL. Then Kenan admits to hitting his wife, and no one laughed. So I was nervous…until Leslie Jones showed up as the wife who hit him back. That alone launched things into a whole new era of great.
VIDEO GAME (Bayer, Pratt, Killam, Zamata, Davidson, Moynihan, Thompson)
3 people must help field test a simple puzzle solving game that consistently resolves in the couple taking you through the game making out & making the testers uncomfortable. This is that special brand of weird that only Vanessa Bayer can bring to the table – and it works purely on execution.
Best Sketch of the Night: Weekend Update
Worst Sketch of the Night: Animal Hospital
Joke of the Night: TIE between:
Pete Davidson: “I’m not gay, I’m just a businessman…If you don’t go down on a guy for a million dollars, you obviously don’t care about your family.”
Kenan Thompson: [NFL Intro] I hit my wife. …
Leslie Jones: And I’m his wife – I hit him BACK!!!
(Runner Up: “Marvel’s Pam 2: The Winter Pam”)
Conclusion: A few standouts, a few good-but-forgettable sketches, and a couple “how did this make it to air?” sketches. Weekend Update is off to a great start this year with Che & Jost. Pete Davidson is going to be a breakout star pretty soon. Aidy Bryant continues to climb the ladder of stardom. The show remains consistent in one way, and I think Quagmire on Family Guy said it best: “Some women are like SNL sketches. Most are all right…some are just awful…then there’s that one…that special one…” However, things feel like they’re off to a much more solid start than last year! It’ll be interesting to see where this continues to go.
BLACKOMETER AVERAGE: 6.54
Next week: Sarah Silverman!