SNL: Kristen Wiig, The XX – More SMH Than SNL

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

The Dave Chappelle guest host show was going to be a hard act to follow and Kristen Wiig, with musical guest The XX, were tasked to deliver. Sadly this episode was more SMH than SNL. It says a lot when one of the funnier sketches was cut for time…

Alec Baldwin came back for what will obviously be a standard act for SNL throughout Trump’s presidency.  Or at least as long as the president elect can still be found funny…

The cold open was amusing but, like the rest of the skits this week, felt a tad flat. Perhaps having Trump on his own, without McKinnon’s Hillary is not as entertaining.  It could also be that the stark reality of the recent election results caught the writers off guard.

The theme of a delusional Trump and McKinnon’s distressed Kellyanne Conway and Trump Googling ISIS was funny, but perhaps a bit too close to the mark.

It was a crowd pleaser (Jason Sudeikis popped in as Mitt Romney for some topical humor) and the punch line for the skit was Trump’s backing away from all his campaign pledges. The open does end on a scary note; Trump asks for reassurance that Pence will “do everything.”

Wiig’s monologue was fairly humorous and included the usual cameo appearances that seem to be included with every SNL alumni hosting. Steve Martin and Will Forte slid in for a bar or two of Kristen’s Thanksgiving song.

The punchline was Kristen getting everything muddled up about the upcoming holiday. Once again, the opening monologue was amusing – especially the ukulele, “personal” guitar  and stool schtick – but otherwise it was merely functional.

(H0wever there was one highpoint. The 10 kinds of meat “like they’d murdered a zoo” was brilliant.)

The most relevant and spot on skit was a pre-recorded segment. “The Bubble” may well be taking the mickey out of all the horrified liberals who still cannot believe the election results, but it also pointed out the huge disparity between the left and the right.

“Secret Word” was the first live skit and featured an audio cameo by Bill Hader, another SNL alumni and Wiig’s co-star from The Skeleton Twins. Wiig definitely ruled in this one. Although she never quite surpassed the “warm up” exercises her character recited.

Next up was a sketch that was more clever than funny.  “Anderson Cooper 360” was amusing but then hit sublime when the punchline was delivered…The panel and Anderson Cooper are all “Westworld” robots.

The pre-recorded Target commercial was a return to the old days of SNL when their fake adverts seemed so real. It was, though, not that amusing. A bit of a misfire that was followed by the “QVC Audition” skit which was was more annoying than funny. It says something when the most noticeable part of the sketch is the fluttering backdrop of the house next door.

Even the pairing of McKinnon and Wiig for another standard SNL feature “Whiskers R We” was not up to its usual standard of belly laughs.  Although Kate struggling  to remain in character was funny when  Kristen’s character struggled to find that nipple.

And while referencing a SNL cast member working overtime to hold back those unwelcome laughs…The funniest bit of the “Surprise Lady: Thanksgiving” was Leslie Jones struggling to stop laughing at Wiig’s antics in the sketch.

“Weekend Update” was spot on this week. It was all politics and very on point. Michael Che and Colin Yost were spot on and Pete Davidson was brilliant.  Davidson’s Staten Island as the herpes of boroughs was hysterical. Although his best bit was the Kanye West crack…

“If it isn’t over a sick beat, we don’t wanna listen to anything Kanye West has to say…Every again”

Keenan Thompson earned huge yucks with the cockroach pie gag.

“Macy’s Parade Balloons” sketch was, along with Surprise Lady, the best sketch of the show.  The balloons terrorizing the family watching the parade from a brilliant vantage point was hysterical.  (Bobby Moynihan’s clown, however was terrifying.)

The best bit of the sketch was Madeline (Wiig) dropping Kristen Chenoweth and Woody riding Pennywise the clown across the screen.

All in all this episode was a hard sell. Dave Chappelle killing it the  previous week left Wiig with a tough act to follow. Each skit  did have at least one thing that stood out, rather than an entire sketch that tickled the funny bone.

Major kudos to Kristen Wiig for her closing remarks:

“Please stand with Standing Rock”

Amen, Kristen, amen.

 

SNL: Larry David, Bernie Sanders and Zoolander Too (Recap/Review)

SNL with guest/host (see the monologue) Larry David whose monologue was, perhaps the best of this season, where he spoke of being both a schmuck and a prick, also featured two brilliant cameos; Bernie Sanders and Zoolander 2 stars Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41

SNL with guest/host (see the monologue) Larry David whose open was perhaps the best of this season, where he spoke of being both a schmuck and  a prick, also featured two brilliant cameos; Bernie Sanders and Zoolander 2 stars Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. This particular episode was top notch in terms of comedy and could, like David’s monologue, be a season best.

Granted the Quantico sketch was fairly middle of the road.  When then title appeared it seemed that the SNL gang could have made fun of the NBC glamor-fest of a series that airs on Sundays. Sadly, the writers opted to ignore this chance and instead offered Larry David a chance to have fun.

The Bernie Sanders set was funny, with its theme of a cranky Sanders and 2 percent (see what they did there)and could have been called the “Bleep” sketch. Keeping with the Bernie theme, the “Titanic” skit was topped off with a “not so surprise” cameo by the man himself.  The build up to Sanders’ arrival was funny however.

For example, David’s character called a kid a midget and was told off by Keenan’s character:

“Not cool sir!”

“I can say that, it’s olden times!”

This shipwreck gag was followed by what must be the best sketch ever in SNL history, combining the old comic commercial format with a brilliant television show tie-in.  Vanessa Bayer plays the snack advertising wife who provides her husband and his friends with endless munchies while watching the big game.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
The X Files sketch..

As she brings the pizza snacks into the room, where the men have all been cheering and shouting out phrases in unison, she sees a blank television screen. Starting to freak out, the woman calls for her daughter and grabs a pair of scissors as the men, with their pupils all black and taking up the whole  eye, face her.

Cue the advertisement for The X Files.  Just brilliant.

Next up was The 1975 with their first number.

Kate McKinnon absolutely killed it in this episode.  First knocking it out of the park in the Weekend Update feature as Sturdy Barbie:

“Almost all nipple”

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Sturdy Barbie, Kate McKinnon

McKinnon came on after the real-life footage of the Republican Debate stage debacle  and while the entire sketch was very funny, Sturdy Barbie and the appearance of Stiller and Wilson in a brilliantly shameless plug for Zoolander 2, were the highlights of Update full stop.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Zoolander and Hansel, aka Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller.

Standout Moments in Weekend Update (apart from Zoolander and Sturdy Barbie):

Michael Che’s Vaginal pot suppository and the munchies punchline

Jon Rudnitsky and the entire Dirty Dancing skit, and his response to Colin Jost’s “you’re a SNL regular:

“Literally nobody knows that Colin.”

After the update, Pete Davidson and Larry David butt heads in one of the weaker, yet still funny, sketches about song writing class.

The ebony and ivory skit where “Cam Newton and Peyton Manning” do a duet in honor of tonight’s Super Bowl was clever and funny.

Cue the second number of The 1975 which one site felt sounded like a David Bowie “Fame” homage (or rip-off…).

The second McKinnon moment, that proved Kate really did rule SNL episode 1695, was also  the  last comedy skit of the night.   In the barfly sketch she matched, and over-took, guest Larry David, throughout the skit.  Final proof of this was when her character pulled up his toupee and started planting sloppy lipstick kisses on his bald pate. David could not keep  straight face.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
McKinnon rules…

Perhaps there is hope for this long running comedy program after all. Despite season 41 having a few misses and rehashing old gags from yesteryear, this episode absolutely rocked it. McKinnon literally ran with the ball and the writers all come up with stunning set pieces. Although not every sketch was comedy gold, the ones that worked literally evoked tears of laughter.

SNL with Larry David was a win.  A clear-cut Kate McKinnon, The X Files, Bernie Sanders and Zoolander 2 win.

 

 

 

SNL: Ronda Rousey, Selena Gomez & Justin Bieber

Saturday Night Live, aka SNL, featured Ronda Rousey and muical guest Selena Gomez (who also took part in the “Bland Guy” skit), along with Kate McKinnon doing her brilliant Justin Bieber, and Tina Fey reprised her spot on impression of Sarah Palin.

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41

Saturday Night Live, aka SNL, featured Ronda Rousey and muical guest Selena Gomez (who also took part in the “Bland Guy” skit), along with Kate McKinnon doing her  brilliant Justin Bieber, and Tina Fey reprised her spot on impression of Sarah Palin. Despite a fairly good open, with the Palin/Trumbo double act, episode 1694 had more misses than hits.  Even the studio audience, who braved a blizzard to attend, seemed more bemused than amused.

Once the political mickey-take was over, Rousey began her monologue which needed all the help it could get. While Ronda is a personal favorite, her open was almost painful to watch as the cast worked overtime to make it funny.

Missed Opportunity:

So. Selena Gomez is the musical guest on SNL.  Kate McKinnon does a wicked good impression of Gomez’s old flame Justin Bieber.  During Rousey’s painful to watch open, Bieber is trotted out (and slapped making this bit the best part of the monologue, hands down) and then exits before Gomez is introduced for a mini-musical number. Why, oh why, could there not have been a McKinnon/Bieber and Gomez moment during the open?  Too soon? Too late? Answers on a postcard please, or in comments below…

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Best bit of Ronda’s monologue; The Bieber smackdown…

The monologue was followed by a brilliant satirical sketch where the “White-Oscars” and the “Black Boycott” took “best in show” for comedy.  A number of African-American themed films were trotted out for nominations and in each case it was the white performer in each film that got the nod.

As the film’s were listed, each caucasian actor’s role got smaller, and more insignificant, for each “movie” (One actor being nominated for “unknown male voice on phone.”) By the end of the skit, all of the non-African-American nominees had won.  SNL at it’s topical best. Sadly, the rest of the episode was not as funny, or spot on.

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
The Color White…Or possibly a Reservoir Dogs reunion…

The next skit was the BAMM (Bullies Against Mixed Martial Arts, which should have been BAMMA surely?) and the whole thing had a Carrie-ish slant. While Ronda was “Carrie” there was no pig’s blood moment and the only destruction was that of the main bully’s face (Vanessa Bayer). It was amusing in a very limited way.

Next up was “Bland Guy” (a spoof on The Bachelor) another “miss” for all intents and purposes. While a number of female cast members, and Rousey, plopped on a bench next to “Bland Guy” Beck Bennett, the gags ran from okay to tepid.  One of  the best gags of the set utilized the very much underused and stunning Sasheer Zamata,  and made what seemed to be another reference to the Oscars. Zamata sits down and Beck’s character asks who she is:

“I’m the black one…”

The best part of the whole sketch had musical guest Selena Gomez showing up and making a  joke about being conceived during the second season of the 25 year-old show.  “Bland Guy” immediately choses the young woman after she reveals who she is.

Saturday Night Live - Season 41
I’ll take this one…

This sketch served as an intro to Gomez’ first musical number and armed with a slit dress and sexy demeanor, the singer proved, beyond a shadow of doubt, that she is all grown up.  Sultry and sexy, the singer has easily moved from teen performer to impress those old enough that acne is no longer an issue.

Other comedic misfires included the party invitation skit which felt completely off and a bit like an attempt to recreate the “Wild and Crazy Guys” persona of Steve Martin and Martin Short, but without the “European”  or comic flair.

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Clear comedic miss…

The last three skits; a superhero one, where each “hero” demands their introduction time while the city is destroyed and each character’s superpowers diminish in importance/relevance, and a teen boy whose sexual exploits with two teachers has his day in court, were fairly tame and also misses. The town hall meeting sketch also felt flat and uninspired.

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Close but no cigar…

Perhaps the one skit that made the audience, who braved the winter storm to attend the live show, fairly uncomfortable was the one with Pete Davidson as the teenager who was “seduced” by two teachers.  The jokes took a long time to reach the audience and in terms of taste, this one was quite probably a bit too close to the bone for the studio viewers.

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
Questionable skit…

Selena Gomez ended  the show with another sexy number, both costume-wise and song-wise.  Sadly, Tina Fey turning up and doing her “Palen” was not enough to save this episode.  Kudos for the Oscar sketch though and major points for having Gomez sing. It is a shame that they did not allow for a McKinnon “Bieber” face-off with Selena though…

“Update” kudos to Colin Jost for his Sarah Palin dig:

“Either that or she saw an open microphone and decided to say all  the words she knew in random order…”

Further kudos to “co-host” Michael Che with his Oscar joke:

“Boycott is a very strong word for not attending a party you were never invited to…”

Guest host Ronda Rousey lost something in translation, as the guest of SNL,  but mad props to the world’s most beautiful fighter who gave it her best shot.

 

 

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.

 

 

Saturday Night Live Christmas Show Amy Adams and Dr Evil (Recap/Review)

Saturday Night Live Christmas Show Amy Adams and Dr Evil (Recap/Review)

Saturday Night Live and its Christmas show featured Amy Adams and opened with surprise guest Dr. Evil, aka Mike Myers, yet another SNL alumni stepping in for the show’s 40th. Although this cold open was reminiscent of the good old days when this “out of the box” comedy series really was funny and did not have to try so hard to get laughs. Apart from the waves of nostalgia that washed over older viewers of the show, while humming the “theme tune” to Wayne’s World, it was nice to see Myers could still milk his Dr. Evil persona even without Mini Me by his character’s side.