SNL Fred Armisen, Courtney Barnett – Saving the Best for Last (Review)

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41

SNL saved the best for last with a golden hosting job by alumnus Fred Armisen and Aussie singer, songwriter Courtney Barnett. The cold open was not bad either with a Hilary/Bernie tete a tete that turned into to a Fred and Ginger moment. While not overly amusing there were some moments that stood out and the entire cast (with Pete Davidson leaping up, using Lesley Jones as a push off point) gathering for the final dance and all shouting “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

Armisen killed it with his opening monologue. His “one man show” about being accepting into the SNL world was truly funny and could be one of the best monologues ever on the series. To show how good Fred was, over and above the video below, it has to be noted that not one current member of the cast came out during the monologue. (There was no need.)

“Is this a dream? Is this a dream? Is this a d…”

The first sketch has Aidy Bryant as a teacher inviting the local acting troupe who reenact the Lewis Clark expedition. All about the sexual urges of the trio (including Cecily Strong’s Sacagawea) and the class’s reaction to it. Pete Davidson is excellent at the end of the skit, all bulging eyes and tremors as he states he is finally engaged in education.

The music video, was performed by @Connor4Real (Andy Samberg) and Lonely Island. The song was an extended parody of ‘Finest Girl’ and this slated to go stupid viral. Catchy, funny, clever and toe-tapping this is an example of what comedy should do.

The next memorable sketch was the “New Girlfriend” (a ‘la where Armisen is the new girlfriend; all jet black hair, glasses and snotty attitude, whom turns her nose up at everything her fella’s friends have to offer. Throughout the entire sketch the boyfriend “show’s off” his new gal’s reactions to things like neck kissing, ear blowing and so on.

This was hysterical, all the more so because of the cast’s reactions. Aidy Bryant kept corpsing and then using every bit of willpower she had to control her laughter. Vanessa Bayer trying to control her laughter while saying her line and Bryant’s (and Armisen’s) reaction to it. Just brilliant, as was the guacamole bit.

While the SNL digital short has the award for best SNL music video parody ever, the dead poet sketch was a 41 episode high. Not even back in the halcyon days of Chase, Ackroyd, Belushi, et al, has there been a moment so unexpected and funny that it never gets old. Repeated viewing still results in the same level of reaction; laughing wildly.

Pete Davidson (again) standing up in the scene was done brilliantly. Evoking enough “real” emotion that what happens next is truly a surprise (The best “Never saw that coming” moment in the history of SNL.) and hysterically funny.

Next up was Weekend Update with Jost and Che and for once it was not the highlight of the episode. The Theatre student sketch, a regular motif on the show was next and was easily the least funny thing about the finale.

Kudos to the two other SNL alumni who appeared in the finale: Jason Sudeikis for great turn in the “new girlfriend” sketch and Maya Rudolph who was the best bit of the update.

The final sketch, musical in nature, was headed by Armisen and was a song about Fayetteville, Arkansas. In keeping with the topical nature of SNL this can only mean the writers caught the “best place” to live in America title given the southern city in polls this year.

SNL had a season that was very uneven and had some of the worst choices of hosts in the history of the show. This season’s finale was SNL as it should be. Shocked and surprised laughter, skits that do not quite work but are still darned amusing (The Theatre skit, for example.) and each sketch being better than the one before (except, once again, the theatre skit).

The reality seems to be that, to paraphrase guest star Christopher Walken, the show needs more Fred Armisen. Courtney Barnett was raw, real rock and a delightful discovery, more please.

The season finale of SNL was an all time high of comedy and bringing it to the audience. Like the old days but better. Armisen was the key here and perhaps should become a part of the next season? (Come back Fred, come back…) The quality was top notch, for the first time in ages, and everyone loves comedy that cracks up the comics.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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