SNL: Scarlett Johansson – Season Highlight (Review)

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

It is a clear sign of near perfection when one watches SNL in a crowded Starbucks, full of university students working their collective butts off, and tries unsuccessfully to keep the laughter down as tears of mirth stream helplessly out of both eyes. Scarlett Johansson, in her fifth stint as guest host of the show, killed it with a little help from some SNL friends.

Episode 16, which also featured Kiwi singer/songwriter Lorde, was a season highlight without one real misstep in any of the sketches on offer. (Although the Ivanka Trump advert was a tad…eclectic till the end…) Each skit was spot on and while the previous episode allowed Weekend Update to take a rest from its usual topical hilarity, it picked right up with McKinnon’s Sessions stint and Pete Davidson’s little rant.

The cold open, which opted for a “War of the Worlds” type scenario featuring Baldwin’s Trump, set the tone for the rest of the show. It was pithy, funny and perhaps a tie with the brilliant Jeff Session’s “Forrest Gump” cold open of episode 15.

The entire show was rib-tickling funny. “Zoo Pornographer'” and “Olive Garden” were flatly funny. The latter sketch relying upon broad comedy along with the brilliant reactions from the characters in the skit.

“Translator” was the perfect vehicle to make fun of the POTUS as Scarlett Johansson’s character’s dog revealed that he loved President Trump. He also tells the assorted members of the skit that his owner “masturbates out of boredom.”

The other political skit was the pre-recorded Trump perfume advert which shifts gears midway through to point an accusing finger at Ivanka as a “new” feminist who is anything but. The highlight of this skit is that Ivanka sees her husband in the mirror instead of her own reflection. A superb and somewhat spot on indication of how the world sees the woman who is definitely behind the man in the white house.

“Shud the Mermaid,” with McKinnon’s blob fish mermaid with her pal Conk, the angler fish mermaid, was funny and, like the other sketches with Johansson, proved that the four-time Golden Globe nominated actress is damned funny when given the chance. It is easy to see why Scarlett was been invited back to host SNL for a fifth time.

Musical guest Lorde, who managed to knock it out of the park with both her numbers, especially the second song “Liability” also got to make a cameo appearance in the “Woman’s Day” sketch later in the episode.

SNL has managed to make this episode stand almost head and shoulders above the rest of this season’s offerings. Clearly, the writers stepped up their game with Johansson’s talents setting the boundaries of what could be done with this incredibly talented woman.

This episode of SNL was a “win/win” as every single sketch elicited barely pent-up howls of laughter in a public place. The writers and the performances of all were spot on.

Kenan Thompson was allowed a huge nod, in the monologue, towards his being the senior cast member of the show. Leslie Jones managed to, once again, shine on brilliantly with Scarlett in the “Ninja” skit and perhaps the only downside in the entire episode were those dodgy English accents on offer (a recurring theme in SNL this year).

If you missed this latest SNL offering head over to Hulu and check it out or watch the YouTube highlights of the episode. This was a good one.

SNL: Alec Baldwin and Ed Sheeran – Ladies Against Trump (Review)

Saturday Night Live - Season 42

Alec Baldwin broke the record for the number of times anyone has hosted the show since its inception. (This last time made Baldwin’s time number 17.) The monologue was brilliant, made all the more so because Pete Davidson came on to comically mock the host. “Tell me, does everyone’s head expand after a certain age?”

The host reprised his role as Trump not for the cold open but he did show up later in a gag. Once again it was Melissa McCarthy who stole the show with her impression of Sean Spicer.  Everything about the cold open was spot on, the doll show – showing how vetting would work and Kate McKinnon’s cameo as Jeff Sessions was priceless.

McCarthy’s Spicer is nigh on perfect. Her aggression and OTT reactions to the press’s questions were brilliantly funny. The cameo by McKinnon as Sessions was also a comedic highlight.

The Spicer cold open was hilarious but the show’s comic highlight was a toss up between the Kellyanne Conway “Fatal Attraction” and “Ring” style gag with Jake Tapper being stalked and hunted by the publicity mad Conway.

This was comedy of the sublime and sadly, it seemed that the younger “hip” audience missed some of the punch lines. McKinnon quoting Alex Forrest’s lines seemed to go over the heads of the audience. They did eventually catch-up and get the joke but it took a little time.

The final bit, where Kellyanne falls out of the window and falls to the street below, only to get back up and readjust her broken and misshapen limbs, was evocative of a J Horror “moment” and was simply perfect.

SNL made the most of Baldwin but the episode belonged to the ladies. In an apparent answer to Trump’s displeasure at women portraying men in his cabinet, a lot of the female players took potshots at the POTUS.

Leslie Jones with her dream of playing Trump when Alec Baldwin takes off the wig was brilliant.  The confrontation between Jones and SNL creator Lorne Michaels was funny, with all the physical comedy taking place in front of the cast.

It was the Vanessa Bayer punchline that killed it however. With a blond coiffed Bayer wearing the POTUS costume to stab Jones in the back at the last moment. This was just priceless.

It was not just the impressions by the female SNL members who socked it to Trump and his cabinet.  Another skit, which built on an earlier sketch with Baldwin as Trump, had the president taking the three judges to “People’s Court” to challenge their ruling and their right to stop his ban.

Once again, a female slammed the POTUS, the judge was played by Cecily Strong as a younger version of a Judge Judy type. Trump’s appeal is squashed yet again this time by a “TV” court. “That’s okay,”  Baldwin’s Trump replies, ” I’m a TV president.”

The skit ends with Trump going on to another People’s Court case.

Other skits on the night that were spot on was the Russell Stover gag about Black History Month chocolates, the Cheetos pitches for new adverts (both these were brilliant) and the drill sergeant sketch.

Weekend Update was, as usual, topical and amusing but this week it was not the comic highlight of the show. Ed Sheeran killed it. The lad from Framlingham, Suffolk in England proved again just how talented he really is.

SNL continues to hammer away at the latest POTUS and his swamp filled cabinet. Congrats to all the ladies of SNL, and Melissa McCarthy, for ripping it up on the night. Since this was Alec Baldwin’s big night, we will leave you with his opening monologue.

SNL: Melissa McCarthy Rules as Sean Spicer (Review)

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

You have to love SNL for trying so hard to be “un-pc” on everything. They do have a reputation to protect and this last episode, with Kristen Stewart hosting, did its best to keep the show on its rebellious path. Although it does seem that smoking on stage, something that Kate McKinnon did during Stewart’s monologue, is their standard go to move to indicate cocking the snook at convention.

This week, however, on top of Alec Baldwin’s Trump cold open (which was brilliant and topical) there was the presentation of Melissa McCarthy with her scarily accurate mickey-take of Sean Spicer – the malignant and mentally challenged press secretary of POTUS Bannon Trump.

This was beyond perfect. Had the episode begun and ended with Baldwin and McCarthy, it would have been a 42 season highlight. These two segments were not only hysterically funny but so spot on that it hurt. This was comedy with a purpose.

SNL do have a reputation to making fun of whoever is in the white house and this cabinet of Trump’s (Kellyanne Conway, Spicer, Bannon et, al) are such easy targets it is like shooting fish in a barrel. (If the violent allusion is too much feel free to replace it with “taking candy from a baby…”)

With an open that had Trump “prank” calling world leaders, at the instigation of Bannon’s grim reaper SNL could have stopped there and still won in terms of comedic genius. (That final shot of Trump sitting at his little presidential desk was perfection.)

However, opting to follow this up with the Sean Spicer sketch was a bold and brilliant move. The easy target would have been Conway with her “Bowling Green” fictional massacre. The Internet got there first and it would have been difficult to pull off a comic coup after all those memes.

Taking a shot at Spicer, who comes across as some sort of vicious and addle brained Jack in the Box who pops up at press conferences to take pot shots at the press, was SNL magic.

The episode was, overall, a hit. Stewart’s monologue dredging up old @realDonaldTrump tweets from 2012, back when she and Robert Pattinson were an item, was a good move.  Her finish, where she declares that Trump obviously had a thing for her then boyfriend and that she was now, “so gay,” was on the nose.

Stewart should have hosted SNL years ago. The actress has always come across as a grumpy, taciturn and moody performer. This spot on SNL proved that Kristen has a sense of humour and is not afraid to use it.

The rest of the show fared pretty well. “Meet Cute” was pretty cute and funny. So too was the Willy Wonka riff where Charlie gets the hump when he realizes that his grandparents have always been able to walk was funny.

The pre-recorded Totinos advert with Kristen Stewart and Vanessa Bayer (reprising her housewife huckster role) was funny, well-timed (the Super Bowl is today) and allowed Stewart to “label” herself a little.

Coming in as another one of the husband’s friend’s date, Stewart zeroes in on Bayer and the two have a sort of Bergman-esque interlude in the kitchen while the men shout at the match and query about those missing Totinos.

This gag worked on so many levels and it was pure, unadulterated SNL.

The MVP award of the episode went to Leslie Jones for her portrayal of Samuel L. Jackson on Celebrity Family Feud. The moment where she has to fight corpsing, and almost loses the battle was brilliant. We love Leslie and she never ceases to make any sketch that bit more fun. She is even more lovable when she gets caught up in the hilarity of the moment.

Weekend Update, while funny, was not the winner of this episode. Although Michael Che came a close second to Jones when he had issues with his segment. “Shut up Colin.”

Musical guest Alessia Cara was entertaining but apparently a bit of an acquired taste.

The clear winners in this episode were Baldwin and McCarthy with their “dueling sketches.” Both were very funny but Melissa won in this competition with her podium attack on the press. Just brilliant.

SNL: Felicity Jones, Sturgill Simpson and Alec Baldwin – Trumping Again

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

With President-Elect Trump due to be inaugurated in a mere five days, SNL will, as they have thus far, have enough Donald Trump material from the orange one himself to keep Alec Baldwin gainfully employed and off the streets for the next for years. (Or until the new president is booted off the world stage courtesy of the quickest impeachment in history.)

First time SNL host Felicity Jones, who made the world fall in love with her in The Theory of Everything and then became the geek world’s pin up in Rogue One, did a pretty good job. As usual SNL drafted in its biggest gun, Tina Fey, to come on and help the new kid out.

(Perhaps the funniest line in the entire episode was Tina’s assertion that SNL is needlessly and endlessly “over” reviewed. Sounded a bit “Trump-like” but that could have been from over-thinking the gag.)

Keeping in mind that Jones had to follow what may well be the funniest cold open on SNL ever the Star Wars star came across very well.  She also managed to do at least as well as all the other British actors who have hosted the show this season.

SNL, like Hollywood, seems to be in danger of being taken over by the English actors who are in practically everything at the moment.  (Followed closely by the Aussies and the Kiwis…just saying.) Lorne Michaels and his writers could have subtitled this season “The Brits are Coming.”

The real focus though, especially in this latter part of the season, will obviously be on Donald Trump. Simply put, by “Trumping again” this episode and the ones following will be funniest when picking on Donald’s latest behavior.

Baldwin’s interpretation may not be to Trump’s liking but to be fair, he comes across better than the real deal. Donald Trump, as witnessed in his latest conference, came across as an odious bully; angry, aggressive and not the least bit presidential.

SNL had some good skits, but once again, Weekend Update was the real winner on this episode. Pete Davidson with his segment on “first impressions” was funny and spot on. Sadly, Michael Che, who rocks these segments with his on point social observations is not included in the YouTube videos on offer for viewing.

For those who want to check out Michael and Colin, head over to Hulu or On Demand streaming.

The Susan B. Anthony sketch was funny and felt like another example of showing how fair we have come just to slide back once more into mediocrity.  The film review skit, “Sex Robot 3 and the escape to Boobs Mountain” was amusing but it felt a little too like the Emily Blunt sketch as a Quesadilla promoting robot earlier in the season.

Sturgill Simpson managed to rock out on both of his sessions. This “country” entertainer has managed to leave rock-a-billy so far behind that he has, seemingly, invented a whole new category of rock, country and jazz.  Entertainer extraordinaire, Simpson was brilliant and exciting.

The pharmaceutical sketch was good mainly for allowing the beautiful and talented Sasheer Samata yet another chance to be more than a background performer.

Sadly, apart from the “Update” portion, the cold open and the presence, however brief, of that comic goddess Tina Fey, this episode was not overly noteworthy.  The continuing mickey take of The Bachelor is beyond old but, at least this time the writers did not feature the SNL cast all doing their best “cor blimey” accents.

SNL airs Saturdays on NBC.

 

Alec Baldwin Too Little Too Late

Alec Baldwin Too Little Too Late

Alec Baldwin, after first denying it, admitted to using a homophobic slur; unfortunately for the actor, it is too little too late. His “fessing up” of the anti-gay comment has not stopped MSNBC from yanking his show Up Late on Friday this week and it has been cancelled for next Friday as well.