SNL: Aziz Ansari and Big Sean – Five Stars (Review)

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

This episode of SNL was firing on all cylinders from the cold Putin open to to the ending scene where Cecily Strong and Sasheer Zamata sing “To Sir With Love” to former President Barrack Obama, this was, like the Uber sketch, a full five star effort. 

Clearly Aziz Ansari was a good influence on the writing staff this week. Although to be fair, Weekend Update managed to knock it out of the park as usual. Leslie Jones nailed it with a  bit of topical humor so spot on it made your teeth hurt.

Beck Bennett gave Alec Baldwin a rest this week as his Putin, with a little help from Kate McKinnon, ripped the new president and his “cabinet” to shreds. Best gag of the open was the “Afraid because Trump is in charge. Don’t worry, he isn’t.”

This brilliant open then moved onto one of the best monologues ever, on SNL. Aziz was funny, clever and on point with sharp humor that poked fun, and holes, in all the right places.

The first sketch, which starred Ansari, was a brilliant, but sly, lambasting of all those Golden Globes given out to La La Land. Aziz played a man who did not think the film, with its seven wins at the “Globes” was all that good.

Strong and Beck are both “bad cops” who are there to make Aziz’s character see the error of his ways. This one was a crowd pleaser and was very funny. The big finish had Kenan Thompson brought into the precinct for not liking the HBO series Westworld.

“I didn’t like the finale,” Thompson’s character says, “it could have been the premiere.” He is immediately shouted down by the two cops in charge. The highlight of the sketch, above the chair thought the two-way mirror bit, was Aziz’s character confessing that he fell asleep for a moment during the film and missed the few black characters in the movie.

Opting to leave the new president alone this week, the writers took aim and Trump’s “mouthpiece” instead, Kellyanne Conway, played, as usual, by the brilliant Kate McKinnon. As she and The Lead’s Jack Tapper bandy words, the sketch segways into a musical number.

Kellyanne sings about her fame, that she will, if Googled, appear before Kanye and the entire sequence looks like a Marilyn Monroe “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” riff. Although this is not a direct pastiche of that number at all.

“Weekend Update” featured Michael Che at his best and the segment with Leslie Jones was beyond brilliant. Ostensibly about the new film Hidden Figures (A film about the heretofore unrecognized contribution by three black women who ensured that the astronauts in NASA made it to space.) and she then goes on a riff about other black people overlooked in history.

Complaining that all Black History month ever covered was George Washington Carver and his peanuts, Jones’ rant was a comic highlight of the episode. The best bit had to be the invention of the mailbox by a black man. Her line about white people seeing all their letter on the ground was classic Jones.

The Aziz and Bobby Moynihan sketch, Five Stars; about the rating system associated with Uber,  was funny. The driver in the skit, Moynihan, is a Russian and it allowed both the passenger, Indian, and the driver to indulge in a little stereotyping.

The two men wind up bonding over their love of “Black Mirror” and their favorite episode. Both the passenger and the driver earn a five star rating and as Aziz reluctantly leaves the Uber, his new Russian pal runs him down.

Was this sketch cocking a snook at Russian relations, or just Vladimir Putin? Regardless of whether there were any underlying themes in this skit, it was brilliant.

The show finished with a touching tribute to the former president that, sadly, is not available for viewing via YouTube.

Big Sean was the musical talent this week and he was a crowd pleaser both times he performed. Aziz did not appear in all the sketches but he did well in all of the ones he took part in.  One of the highpoint’s had to be that pizza band sketch. The Bookworm sketch was spot on but in spite of the humor felt tacked on.

SNL this week almost felt like a “retro” episode. Harking back to its early days with equal measures of irreverence, gut busting humor and pithy observations the writers knocked it out of the park with this one.

 

Maya & Marty: Episode 4 – Faltering (Review)

Maya & Marty - Season 1

The guest list was shortened, Ricky Gervais and Cecily Strong , but Maya & Marty still faltered in the comedy department.  This is a show I desperately want to like but thus far the show’s output is outdated, forced, too long and only occasionally funny. Do not let the audience reaction fool you. The  poor folks trapped in the studio setting are prompted and cajoled into laughing hysterically.

Granted there were a few standout moments. The Gervais and Jiminy Glick segment was amusing only in that “The Office” writer and star was good value for money.  Cecily Strong always manages to get a laugh  or two in and she featured in the only other passable skit in the episode.

Maya’s Sophia Loren commercial started out well but soon fell into that show biz trap where the writers assume the audience know far too much.  The introduction of Short as Leonardo who sounds like Cary Grant would be lost on anyone under the age of 40.  It would even be questionable whether those over the cut-off age would know of Grant’s obsession with Loren,or even care who Loren was.

The two stars made a couple of films together and on “Houseboat,” Cary became besotted with the Italian star. The Oscar winning  Italian sex symbol told of  the “affair” in her autobiography. A book that was most likely read by your grandmother, and not your mum.

Maya & Marty - Season 1
Sophia Loren and Leonardo (Martin Short doing Cary Grant)

The opening monologue was a let down. Shrieking like  a pair of Mancunian fishwives Short and Rudolph did their best Dick Van Dyke cockney impressions.  Apart from being annoying the slang thrown into the sketch was inaccurate.  (Note: Knackered is slang for being tired not being pissed (drunk) and the quote “Lovely Jubblees” – which was used constantly in  Only Fools and Horses  – is “lovely jubbly” a cockney saying it is the singular and not the plural.)

Cecily Strong appeared in three sketches, the Mexican morning television parody, Mario Bros and the air traffic controller segment.  To be honest the latter skit felt like it was influenced by the old Carol Burnett long running sketch “Momma.” Regardless the three skits  were amusing if not actually overly funny.

Maya & Marty - Season 1
Don’t you hate Stacy?

Out of all the sketches the air traffic one was the best and Gervais meeting with Click (Short) came a close second. The latter skit worked because Ricky seemed to be having so much fun. The Mexican morning show came in third, mainly because of the Trump and Hilary gags and the Mario Bros sketch was nostalgic but not laugh out loud funny.

So far the variety show is limping into its first season and missing the comedic mark. Four episodes in and the series is still faltering in terms of pacing and comedy that tends to go on too long. (Or completely misses the mark.)

The  episode highlight was the Broadway for Orlando number midway through the show. Just released via iTunes the song, performed by a number of well known actors who tread the boards, was a heart warming segment.  The proceeds of this song go toward the families of those killed in Orlando.

Maya & Marty - Season 1
What The World Needs Now

The feel good moment made up for the usual ho-hum comedic offerings and it would be nice to  see Maya & Martin actually performing a higher type of comedy. Leave aside the pale imitations and reliance upon outdated gags.

Both Short and Rudolph are talented and funny people and regular Kenan Thompson does not look embarrassed to be on the show.  This SNL summer replacement may still find its feet and start delivering.

Maya & Marty airs Tuesdays on NBC.  Hopefully it will get funnier, until then it is #faltering.

 

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.

SNL: Adam Driver, Chris Stapleton & Liev Schreiber (Review)

On SNL Adam Driver has proven that he can, and did, follow up the Christmas pairing of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (who also had Bruce Springsteen as their musical guest) with a first guest-hosting gig that rocked.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41

On SNL Adam Driver has proven that he can, and did, follow up the Christmas pairing of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (who also had Bruce Springsteen as their musical guest) with a first guest-hosting gig  that rocked.  Even without Chris Stapleton (who rocked the show in a different way) and the hysterical cameo by Liev Schreiber, (and a somewhat uneven pitch in terms of comedy sketches) Driver killed it.

At least one other site (Vulture) has gone on record stating that the “Kylo Ren” actor is the new Jeff Goldblum.  That may be a bit overstating Driver’s skills, the man does lack that Goldblum patented art of delivery, but in all honesty the Star Wars: The Force Awakens star has his own modus operandi for comedy.

Lorne Michaels, and his staff of writers, must have been doing cartwheels when they realized that Driver possesses some impressive comedy chops. Unlike most guest hosts, the actor did “back-to-back” skits where he literally knocked the humor ball out of the SNL park. (Admittedly, some of the skits were not “killer” but Driver did well in all of them, with the exception of the last one in the episode, Dr. Rockhard.)

Considering that some of the gags were a bit like the show’s open (tepid) Driver managed to do very well.  The only skit that was a clear “fail” was the Dr. Rockhard sketch.  Another thing that may actually “grow into something” is the SNL writing staff still attempting to find modern versions of  Jane Curtin and Gilda Radner to guest anchor on Update.

Speaking of the writers,  this episode  worked even when Driver was not the focus of the skits. (Even Michael Che and Colin Jost were cracking up more than usual during the Weekend Update segment.)

While the start of this episode, number 1693, was a bit tepid with the usual suspects trotting out impressions of the political candidates and Driver’s opening monologue.  Since the new star is a “Noob” on the show, his spiel was kept very short and featured a picture where he does indeed look like a 12 year-old marine.

After the monologue, where Driver congratulates the Arizona Cardinals, to a less than enthusiastic reception, and mentions that this is the first SNL of 2016, the first skit, a riff on the NFL and Pete Davidson’s “Schlepp” receiving a horrific injury, gave an example of that uneven quality of the evening.

While the repeated viewings of the injury was amusing, it was essentially a reworking of the Eddie Murphy gag, way back when, where Buckwheat  is shot in front of a nightclub. To be fair that particular bit of comedy has the footage shown throughout the episode and each time more gunshots are heard. Essentially, however, the two gags (the NFL injury and Buckwheat has been shot) are the same.

“Weekend Update,” despite the fact that Michael Che found it very funny, felt a bit forced.

The skit about “social puppeteering” was good with some creative ideas, like “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” and “Vampired…” Kudos  to whoever came up with the “21 Jump Street” gag…

In this sketch, the whole “Vampire” bit was brilliant, especially the opening premise where Driver’s character says.

“I got this weird albino dude to bite him and then fed him Molly.”

Before the best sketch of the evening, musical guest Chris Stapleton performed Parachute and proved just why he has all those awards. If there was any doubt he sang again later on and his performance was still top notch.

Fred Armisen presented the episode’s memorial to the late David Bowie that really could have been longer but time constraints being what they are on television was cut short.

The Golden Globes sketch, where Liev Schreiber has a hysterically funny cameo, and driver dangles his Golden Globe award between his legs, drunkenly proclaiming:

“Look, I’m Liev Schreiber!”

was brilliantly done. A “pre-recorded” skit, the husband and wife team who have left their kid’s home alone, to attend and receive their writing awards was funny and the ending, where Schreiber comes out wearing only an apron and starts cracking eggs, in front of the kids was almost perfection.

Adam Driver was let down a little with the doctor’s sketch, sort of a “gay” tribute to Vaudeville perhaps (?) but over all, the actor did extremely well on his first SNL gig.  In some ways, despite Vulture attempting to force Driver into the Goldblum slot, the performer feels like a tall Justin Long. (look at the below picture, it is there…)

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Adam Driver” Episode 1693 — Pictured: (l-r) Kate McKinnon and Adam Driver on January 12, 2016 — (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC)

The two standout sketches of the show were the Golden Globes and the “social puppeteering” bits and the “GG” came in first place mainly  because of Schreiber.

It could not be an enviable position, coming after the powerhouse duo Fey and Poehler, but Driver does a great job despite the up and down quality of the sketches.  SNL continues to keep the aim high and Lorne Michaels still has that touch, although he should crack down on those “repetitive” writers a little.

 

 

SNL Still Crazy After All These Years

SNL Still Crazy After All These Years

Watching Canadian singer/songwriter and actor Drake on season 39 episode 11, it becomes clear that SNL is still crazy after all these years. Despite its longevity the show feels the same. After the obligatory introductory skit, which ends with the excited delivery of “It’s Saturday Night,” followed by the dulcet tones of 95 year-old Don Pardo calling off the names of this episode’s players; it almost feels like the viewer has stepped into a time machine and gone back to 1975 when the show first started.