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: 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: 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: 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.