SNL: Octavia Spencer, Forrest “Jeff Sessions” Gump – On Fire (Review)

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

SNL has been rather “up and down” of late, with more shows missing than hitting, but last night’s 15th episode of the 42nd season was on fire. Guest host Octavia Spencer rocked it in her monologue and also appeared in what may be the best topical cold open in SNL history.

Kate McKinnon as Jeff Sessions a’la Forrest Gump had the MVP SNL player knocking it out of the ballpark as “he” slowly confessed to a number of naughty acts. Michael Beck appeared in a “Putin cameo” and the two fist bumped before Spencer showed up as her character from The Help.

As “Minny” from the 2011 film, Spencer offers Forrest Sessions her special pie, the one she serves Hilly Holbrook in that film. (In a splendid bit of fourth wall breakage, “Minny” admits that she is from “another film.” Sessions/Gump asks, “Is this what I think it is?”

Minny replies in the affirmative and with a huge grin, Sessions declares this to be his favorite pie before taking a huge bite. Teeth streaked with “chocolate” McKinnon then makes the “live from New York” announcement. This was classic SNL served up fresh and hot and while Alec Baldwin was absent from the proceedings, Lorne Michaels and his crew of merry men and women socked it to the current cabinet with gusto.

Later in the episode the “Weekend Update” roasted the Trump brothers thoroughly. Eric and “Donnie Junior” were both mocked brilliantly during a “Colin” segment and once again, SNL was on top form.

To be honest, the “Update” segment was also on fire this week with several on point gags and Vanessa Bayer came back  as Laura Parsons. The precocious “youngster” covered the Oscar ceremony and, as usual, Bayer killed it as the outspoken and slightly naughty kid newscaster.

Father John Misty (aka Joshua Michael Tillman) provided some eclectic musical moments where he sang about Taylor Swift and Oculus Rift in the same song, and lyric, and broached things ecclesiastical in his second song.

Eclectic also describes the “Chuckie the Chocolate Man”  skit where Bayer and Bobby Moynihan had difficulty keeping straight faces while Michael Beck played a sort of post meltdown postal worker type banned from the office.

His character brought in a gun, before the sketch began, and threatened all his co-workers. It was an odd bit of business where “Chuckie” appears to be overly influenced by Pee Wee Herman and Willy Wonka.

The episode ended on a somewhat lame note with Octavia sporting glasses with “lizard eyes” as the president of “Spencer Gifts” who fires all her employees bar one and then goes on vacation.

Despite the one rather humdrum sketch, this particular episode burned with an old intensity seldom seen on SNL these days. Michaels crew managed to hit new heights with the collective scorn bestowed on the new cabinet.

New player Melissa Villaseñor proved once again that she is a dab hand at impressions, although guest host Octavia did a superb job with her Oprah Winfrey and Alex Moffat did an impressive job with his “Hugh Grant.” The segment, which was about a rip off of Zoo-topia, really showcased Melissa rather than Spencer but it was a funny sketch regardless.

The pre-recorded “TBD” republican trailer was amusing but the joke wore off about mid-way through the segment.

Despite the high quality of the Trump skewering that went on in this episode, it was neophyte Octavia Spencer who impressed mightily with her first guest hosting gig.  She was allowed to do her monologue alone; without the requisite add-ons of SNL players who usually accompany the “noobie” host.

Spencer was funny, on point and did so well that she will surely be invited back. We leave you with her monologue:

SNL: Dave Chappelle Sends a Message and Kate McKinnon Kills It

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

SNL went for Dave Chappelle as guest host and A Tribe Called Quest as the show’s musical guests for its post election episode. Chappelle was given an incredible 11 plus minutes for his monologue and he made the most of it. Addressing how things have changed and at the end Dave even wished Donald Trump good luck in his new job.

Kate McKinnon set the tone for the show with a tear inducing tribute to the late Leonard Cohen and a message from her Hillary Clinton.

Chappelle did a brilliant parody of that episode of TWD. Dave played all the characters and his Negan faced creations from his show. It was a crowd pleaser that still managed to insert a political message.

SNL mixed in some pertinent viewpoints about the election and the fact that Donald Trump was chosen to be the 45th president of the United States.  A Tribe Called Quest performed a political song, no surprise there, but it did zero in on the fears of everyone who did not vote for Trump.

The first skit of the evening had Dave as the lone voice of reason as white Clinton supporters have their election ruined by each result update. Chris Rock joined Chappelle at the midway point of the sketch and they then made fun of Clinton supporters in general.

Their point? That the majority of folks who were “With Her” were looking through white-tinged rose-colored glasses.

Colin Yost summed it up on Weekend Update with his gag. Yost pointed out that a 70 year old with no experience could not get hired at Target but was elected to run the country.

Another valid point, made by Michael Che, was that neither candidate was likable.  All in the name of comedy the update was focused on the election and was a highlight.

Kate McKinnon managed to shine with her Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg bit on Update. The comic highpoint was the vitamin C powder although the end bit, “Getting Ginsberned”  was hysterically funny.

“The Last Call” sketch with McKinnon and Chappelle managed to reach heights of poor taste never before seen on this favorite segment.  It was, however, very funny. Even Kenan Thompson  broke character a little bit.

Perhaps the funniest sketch is not available on YouTube. The breastfeeding bit was the clear winner. Dave as a 43 year old football fan who is still “on the breast.” Pete Davidson trying to hide his laughter behind a cookie was brilliant.

The “Inside SNL” skit was a definite middle finger salute to critics who analyze the sketches on the show. Bringing up cue card mistakes and jokes that misfire the sketch was not as funny as it was an angry diatribe against those who “do not get it.”

Vanessa Bayer, with a little help from Dave Chappelle, slammed the misogyny of the new president-elect with their “Kids Talk Politics.”

The pre-recorded “Love and Leslie Jones” with Kyle Mooney was spot on.

In many ways, this episode of SNL felt like so much bravado.  An attempt at whistling past the graveyard while witnessing the madness and failure of American politics. A kind of gallows humor where even Chappelle got to rub it into the faces of liberal Americans.

SNL airs Saturdays on NBC.  All those young at heart who still enjoy a comedy show that stretches the boundaries of good taste should tune in.

SNL: Season 42 Premiere – Margot Robbie Blasting Out of the Gate (Review)

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

Welcome back Saturday Night Live. All is forgiven. After a previous season that had more misses than hits the premiere of SNL season 42 was an epic win. Guest host Margot Robbie, who clearly has arrived,  did a fine job with her monologue and was hysterically funny in “The Librarian” (a pre-recorded bit of ’80s nostalgia.)

The  show blasted out of the gate with special guest Alec Baldwin doing his Donald Trump impression.  Alongside Emmy winning  performer Kate McKinnon (who showed just why she earned that award in the “Actress Round Table” skit) Baldwin and Kate killed  it in the show’s open.

(The Willy Wonka gag got less laughs than it should have for some reason…)

Robbie, still red-hot after her Harley Quinn performance in Suicide Squad,  appeared in a number of skits. She even got to portray Darlene in the Mr. Robot parody at the end.

The highpoint for Margot had to be The Librarian. The ’80’s pastiche  that combined the “Oh Yeah” song from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with a brilliant dose of bizarre science fiction.

After the monologue, where Margot “fact checked” everything she said, the show started off with a “live news report” where a sinkhole had just swallowed up seven cars.

Robbie, who is an incredible 11 out of 10 marks for stunning, and her bespectacled husband (played by Neil McNabb) are the eyewitness couple that Kenan Thompson’s reporter speaks to.  The gag in the skit is how on earth this mild mannered chap wound up with such a beautiful wife. This was brilliantly funny and it felt like SNL had gotten their mojo back.

Saturday Night Live - Season 42

Other skits included the Family Feud political lineup with Thompson once again donning his Steve Harvey persona.  Robbie played Ivanka  Trump, Larry David reprised his Bernie Sanders and new kid on the block Melissa Villaseñor did a pretty decent Sarah Silverman.

(The Silverman inclusion had to be an in-joke since the performer was briefly part of the the SNL stable.)

There was a “homage” skit called “The Hunch Bunch” that was a parody of Scooby-Doo without the animated mutt.  Kudos, by the way to Kyle Mooney for doing a very funny “Shaggy.”

Saturday Night Live - Season 42

The Hunch Bunch featured a mystery solving gang who are all pretty PC.  Robbie, channeling her inner Harley Quinn is the odd one out and her boyfriend Tad is mortified at her verbal gaffes.

As the gang come in contact with the old man haunting the place, Becca Ashley (Robbie) shoots him in the back.  One of the group tells the rest that the old chap is still alive and Becca Ashley cocks her pistol and aims down at the prone figure.

“Oh no, I’m not going back to jail…”

While not hysterically funny the skit was amusing and, once again, was more like SNL used to be. A bit silly overall but it allowed a vague Harley Quinn reference in.

The clear winner, in terms of skits (versus pre-recorded sequences like The Librarian) was the Actress Round Table discussion. McKinnon ruled this one. Her anciently old performer was truly hysterical and had guest host Margot Robbie corpsing throughout the skit.

One other notable thing about the roundtable skit was that it featured Sasheer Zamata, the more silent cast member of SNL. The performer actually got more than the usual one line spot.

The Weekend Update was a staggering 14 minutes long, easily taking up the lions-share of the episode.  It was the usual Jost and Che double-act treat. Topics covered were the Colin Kaepernick national anthem issue and of course politics.

Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson gave performances and musical guest The Weeknd did a cameo spot.

Saturday Night Live - Season 42
The Weeknd

The Mr. Robot sketch (with Pete Davidson as Elliot Alderson) did a riff on the Leslie Jones computer hack that was funny. It was also a sign that the Sam Esmail series has “arrived.”

Saturday Night Live - Season 42
Mr Robot – Elliot and Leslie

This was a brilliant start to season 42.  Robbie did very well for her first time. And there were moments where the comedy was so spot on that tears of laughter were spilled.

SNL airs Saturdays on NBC. May the comedy seen thus far continue. Stop by and check this newest season out and keep an eye on Melissa Villaseñor.

SNL: Jonah Hill and Future – Solid Miss (Review) [video]

SNL episode 14 of season 41 drew Jonah Hill as host, his fourth time to do so, and with an solid miss on the comedy front, Hill probably felt that he should have stopped after number three.

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
SNL episode 14 of season 41 drew Jonah Hill as host, his fourth time to do so, and with an solid miss on the comedy front, Hill probably felt that he should have stopped after number three. The music guest was Future; the hip-hop artist responsible for DS2 who did the obligatory two songs and come out to join Hill’s opening monologue and took part in a quick gag for Weekend Update.

Speaking of “Weekend Update,” this portion of the show was the highlight with a strong comic presence that kept the episode from going completely down the toilet. (Since two of Hill’s skits dealt with his characters soiling themselves, pun intended.) Without Jost and Che, along with the Vanessa Bayer/Kate McKinnon who trumped the Cecily Strong skit where she, once again, presents a pale version of the late great Gilda Radner‘s character “Roseanne Roseannadanna.”

Strong is a performer, however, it is not her fault that Radner got here first…

The real star performance of the episode belonged to the vastly underused Jay Pharaoh who ran through rapid fire impressions of the creme de la creme of black comics. With speed and apparent ease, Pharaoh did Eddie Murphy, Kat Williams, Chris Rock (who was so spot on it was eerie), Chris Tucker and even the late Bernie Mac before admitting that the “secret” meeting he was reporting on was all made up.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Jay Pharaoh killing it…

Pharaoh was the best bit of the show and only the Bayer and McKinnon skit with Kate as 115 year-old Flossie Dickie as a most unwilling interviewee came close. Although that was mainly because of Bayer’s character trying to shove the microphone in “Flossie’s” mouth and Kate came dangerously close to corpsing as her grimace fought valiantly against an amused grin.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Vanessa Bayer and Kate McKinnon

The pre-taped Donald Trump advertisement was a glimpse back to SNL days of yore, where their “face” commercials were pithy, satirically perfect and, sometimes, with a hidden truth that was so funny it hurt. A great throwback to those pertinent ads of the 70s.

All of the sketches felt forced, un-funny and a little desperate. There were two “local” news skits; the first “Fond du Lac News” was a Wisconsin news program from, Fond du Lac…Where apparently the people who live in the “That ’70s Show state” all sound like they live in Fargo. The second was a “YouTube” type channel that felt completely flat as Jonah Hill played a “roving reporter” who visits a local “crush” who is having a breast reduction.

“The Champ” where Jonah Hill plays a high school wrestler who “wins” against a champion who has never lost before was interesting more than funny. The entire exercise felt like a very, not-so, sly dig at the MTV show Made, where
kids from high schools were “made” into “winning” versions of themselves.

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
The Champ sketch could have been called “Un-Made.”

While the entire gag was clever, sly and poked fun at the concept that all the “players” in the MTV show were sincerely helping the high school wannabes it was not necessarily funny. It was, however, a great idea.

The Oakridge High student auction was, once again, a fine idea but it did just miss the mark. In a time when Google’s YouTube is more about subscribing to new channels and less about teenagers finding fame through “raw talent” the whole thing felt a bit, for lack of a better word, dated. Even Vine, which was the platform of the two “lads” in the skit, is being overtaken by Periscope.

Even Future made more of a splash than poor Hill who just missed the mark all the way around. It is not often that the musical guest does “double duty” and while the hip-hop artist was not overly involved, his brief comic bit, on the Weekend Update section, was funny.

McKinnon got three homers from her appearances as Flossie, Hilary and the cook with the odd and quirky (Northern?) English accent in the Clue, aka Cluedo scene. As another reviewer stated, “we are perfectly happy to sit and watch McKinnon mug for the camera and do what she does best.”

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Kate McKinnon (Maid in the middle) easily the best thing about this sketch…

And speaking of the “middle,” McKinnon got the highpoint of the political open where, as Hillary Clinton, she did the “stuck in the middle with you” gag. A close second to Kate’s win, was the reappearance of SNL alumnus Jason Sudeikis  as Mitt Romney.

Sadly, even though there were some comic moments in the show, Jonah Hill’s fourth time up was a clear miss. Mad props to Jay Pharaoh and Kate McKinnon for totally knocking it out of the park and kudos to Che and Jost for becoming such a consistent double act.

SNL is doing back-to-back airings , hopefully the second episode, aka number 15 does a better job of delivering the laughs.

 

SNL Review: Melissa McCarthy & Kanye West – Leslie Jones Rocks

SNL: Melissa McCarthy and Kanye West (musical guest and participant in one skit with Kyle Mooney) were the honorees on the February 13, and 13th episode of the 41st season of the long running comedy show.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41

SNL: Melissa McCarthy and Kanye West (musical guest and participant in one skit with Kyle Mooney) were the honorees on February 13, and, coincidentally,  the 13th episode of the 41st season of the long running comedy show. The opening sequence where an invisible Hilary Clinton (Kate McKinnon) tries her best to woo some voters away from Bernie Sanders, set the tone of the evening.

This open was oddly eclectic but spot-on as Clinton was in the news for earning as much as Bernie in the polls after he won New Hampshire by a landslide.

McCarthy was the host, obviously, because the new gender-changed Ghostbusters is out this year; premiering in July and just as obviously, Leslie Jones was given a bit more to do since she is a co-star in the upcoming re-imagining of the 80s classic.

Jones was on fire in this episode. Ruling Weekend Update with her diatribe about her perfect man for Valentine’s Day.  Possibly the best bit had to be wanting a man who can:

“cook a steak but not have to cut into it and see if it’s cooked like a little b*tch.”

This said while looking pointedly at Colin Jost…

Keeping on the Jones “fan train” a bit longer, the entire sketch about Pick Up Lines, was funny with McCarthy playing a psychotic single. As great as Melissa was with her “my uncle is a serial killer” she was not nearly as funny as Jones who kept losing it throughout the skit.

Leslie Jones specializes in playing over the top and in your face type characters that are hysterically funny. The performer’s demeanor always seems to be focussed on the performance at hand, yet McCarthy had her Ghostbusters co-star almost continuously corpsing.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Leslie Jones corpsing added a lot to the sketch…

Before any of the show’s skits started, Melissa came out and did a “glove under the seat” gag and then began celebrating her “fifth” time hosting until Keenan Thompson, dressed as a number 5, tells her that she has only hosted 4 and 1/16th time.

The highlight of Lorne Michaels and his writers continuing the show’s black awareness crusade, that began with the Oscars tempest in an award’s program (started by the Smiths…), was the fake film trailer for “The Day Beyonce Turned Black.”

This was hysterically funny and Keenan Thompson gets the best verbal joke out of the entire skit,  with Aidy Bryant  getting the best visual (a take-off on The Others),  when telling Kate McKinnon’s character that in the Pink Panther movie:

“Okay, yeah, she (Beyonce)  was white in that…”

Although McKinnon goes on to get the best “homage” moment when she replicates the “pillow” moment in The Babadook.

Up next was an excellent parody of those audience reaction promos for horror films, in this case “The Cul-De-Sac” (a horror film, obviously) and the audience have a chance to view their reactions to the movie before signing their release forms. McCarthy is beyond funny with her character’s OTT reactions that get more extreme with each event.

For the record: McCarthy vomits, pees herself, attacks other audience members and rushes out the emergency exit.

Peter Davidson was funny in the “watching a sex scene with your parents” gag.  McCarthy played the “hand’s on” mom and Bobby Moynihan the father and all three gave great “voice-over” as their character’s inner thoughts got increasingly desperate.

Next up was Kanye West’s first performance, obviously West was on to promote his new album The Life of Pablo that dropped on Saturday.

Weekend Update featured not just a winning performance from Jones but allowed Vanessa Bayer to rock it with her Rachel from Friends impression.  The next sketch was the Pick Up Lines one with McCarthy just killing Jones through the entire routine.

Not content with just singing twice on SNL. Kanye appears in a pre-taped segment where Kyle Mooney does a “mockumentary” about his true ambition; to be a hip-hop artist and rapper who will beat out Kanye West in a battle.

Interestingly shot and crafted well, the moment that Mooney meets with Kanye backstage and begins to awkwardly “bring it,” the whole thing comes together with the snap of a bear trap springing shut. West leaps into the “we miss the old Kanye” and slaughter’s Mooney and the wannabe rapper ends the sequence convinced that he won.

In honor of Jones and McCarthy’s teaming in the upcoming Ghostbusters film, they get to work together in a bus sketch where Melissa’s character rambles on about Roots and increasingly annoys Jones’ character.  As the type of person one wishes to avoid on public transport, McCarthy does her bit to help race relations…not.

The skit ends on a “Speed” note. Afterward the second, overly-long, Kanye number is performed; backed by Young Thugs. The final skit had McKinnon as the cat-lady with McCarthy as her partner.  Line of the night, which is the second reference to O.J. Simpson since the Weekend Update segment, goes to McKinnon:

“We call this cat O.J. because he’s orange like the juice and a murderer like the athlete.”

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
O.J. in the Valentine’s Cat Giveaway.

All in all a good show but not one where McCarthy actually killed it her fourth (and one sixteenth) time hosting.  The performer still seems to be channelling her inner Tammyalbeit a more svelte version.

SNL with its 13th episode of season 41 had a few outstanding moments and allowed Leslie Jones to rock it.  There was at least one mystery in the show and that was the T-Shirt that Kanye was sporting at the end of the show.