SNL: Emma Stone, Shawn Mendes and Sticking It to Trump (Review)

Saturday Night Live - Season 42

Emma Stone hosted her third SNL and Alec Baldwin managed to stick to president elect Donald Trump yet again. Shawn Mendes provided the musical talent on the night and Stone did very well despite the uneven pacing of the show’s skits.

The cold open, with Kate McKinnon playing Trump’s mouthpiece again, was spot on. The Twitter lambasting upset Donald who took to Twitter for real to complain…yet again.

The open was nearly the highlight of the episode. However, Weekend Update was on top form with their skewering of Trump. Each joke drove the nail home with a sledgehammer.

Picking on the man’s tweets as well as his Taiwan faux pas was the run up to taking on the political debacle that is Standing Rock.  Leslie Jones came on to talk sexual inadequacies for all those women in long term relationships while Vanessa Bayer give great Rachel Green from “Friends.”

Sadly, the skits were uneven. The pre-recorded Christmas  candle advert was amusing but not actually that funny. The “Hunt for Hil” however was more on point with the documentary feel of the search for a Clinton in hiding.

Jennifer Anniston joined the fun for the McKinnon laugh riot that was “Women in Film.” Anniston worked perfectly with Kate’s old “battle-axe” with the non-PC memories and the sexual innuendoes as well as outright saucy sexual jokes.

The other fake advert, “Wells for Boys” was funny and a tad pithy.  Stone played off the young actor who “starred” in the advert.

This episode was better in terms of overall skits, although the improve section felt off. Emma Stone killed it as the grumpy virgin Mary who spends the entire skit moaning about her lot in life.

Stone is an old hand by now and she managed to make the most of her third stint as host.  The best bits of the show by far though were the jibs aimed at Donald Trump, made all the more sweet by his almost predictable reaction on Twitter the day after.

 

Maya & Marty: NBC SNL Summer Replacement – Yawn (Review)

 Maya & Marty - Season 1

For those who adore SNL it appears that NBC have allowed producer Lorne Michaels the chance to do a summer replacement version. Titled “Maya & Marty” it stars SNL alumni Maya Rudolph and Martin Short. This miniature variety type show is, apart from being a yawn fest, a three “T” experience.

Tedious, tepid and torturous.

The problem is that, despite the “name” guest-stars, the show is  just  not funny. It feels like ’70s leftovers served up as ’90s pastiche and it is stale, forced and  a waste of effort.  (Even Keenan Thompson seemed embarrassed to be a part of this SNL wannabe.)

“Maya & Marty” could work. Rudolph is an adept performer and does spot on impressions and was a SNL regular for an impressive 16 years (2000 – 2016). (On a sidenote, her appearance on “Saturday Night Live” toward the end of last season now makes a bit more sense.)

Martin Short worked on SNL from 1984 to 2015.  His pairings with Steve Martin (who was a guest on episode two of M&M) were funny – a couple of wild and crazy guys – and his other characters were equally amusing.

In essence the show should be funnier than it is.  Sadly, the episode goes from being lackadaisical to trying too hard. It also missed the mark a bit, especially in the faux English etiquette for kids skit.

Maya & Marty - Season 1
Trying too hard and missing the mark..

Maya got to do a ’70s type singalong with Tina Fey, the comic genius who could be seen as “Ms SNL” that was okay, but not overly funny or overly impressive.  Like the rest of the show it was, for all intents and purposes, a waste of time. So Fey and Rudolph can sing, cue applause and let us get back to the comedy.

Short reprised his Jiminy Glick character to interview Drake which, like the rest of the show, felt almost desperate in its forced attempt to garner laughs.

The funniest skit did include Short with  Steve Martin, plucking on his banjo, and the two  did a little ditty all about their  30 year friendship.   It was amusing and fun but it ended flat.  Martin is an old pro at comedy, and the banjo, and the sketch could have used more of both.

Maya did her Oprah “I love bread, y’all” at the start of the show and then beat that dead horse later on in the episode.  Too much may not be enough for The Bellamy Brothers, but for this skit, the second visit to the Oprah gag was more than enough.

Maya & Marty - Season 1
Steve and that banjo, easily one of the best bits of the show.

The pseudo Anna Wintour documentary was amusing but not overly so, despite Maya killing it with her Anna Winter impression and that Vogue magazine.  The “Apollo” skit where Steve Martin appears with his Martin Short wooden-head ventriloquist doll was interesting but it too felt slightly off. Short’s attempts to grab Rudolph’s boobs were funny the first three times, less so after that.

(Once again, Thompson looked embarrassed to be there.)

Maya & Marty - Season 1
Amusing but nothing to write home about,

This show may yet find its feet. Episode two could have used more Tina Fey (like more “cowbell,” I’ve got a fever) and less awkward SNL wannabe skits and gags that just did not work.

“Maya & Marty” appears on television at that in-between time. There is less competition than usual and that may have made it seem like a good idea.  However, almost comedy is not comedy. Just like a SNL knockoff is not SNL (which has its own problems).  The variety show airs Tuesdays on NBC.

Stop by if you really have nothing better to do…like wash your hair.

SNL: Ariana Grande Double Duty Best of 2016 (Review/Video)

SNL made a wise choice in inviting Ariana Grande to host and be the musical guest. Grande’s double duty stint  was on top form, making this the best episode of 2016 hands down.

 Saturday Night Live - Season 41
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Ariana Grande” Episode 1698 — Pictured: (l-r) Taran Killam and Ariana Grande on March 8, 2016 — (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC)

SNL made a wise choice in inviting Ariana Grande to host and be the musical guest. Grande’s double duty stint  was on top form, making this the best episode of 2016 hands down. While most of the Internet went stupid over the one-arm jacket wardrobe malfunction during her first number,none of the site gave credit to Ariana for knocking it out of the park. Apart from a funny open and a great first number, the rest of the show was clever, funny, and (in terms of the feminist song) catchy as hell.

Despite Larry David messing up Ariana’s name when introducing her first musical spot, the former Nickelodeon star and singer proved that despite a dangling jacket the girl’s got singing chops for days son. Grande also manages to kill it in the sketches and let’s face it; girl’s got comedy, yo. (Sorry could not resist that one after re-watching the Maria sketch.)

Leaving the Scream Queens actress for a moment, Weekend Update totally rocked it out. On point political gags, Cecily Strong killed it as “The Drunkest Contestant on the Bachelor” (and Jost was no slouch during the skit with his warning about Leslie Jones) and the crazed smile, and Jost’s corpsing at it was a priceless finish.

Kate McKinnon continued as the comedy pin-up gal for SNL with her Hilary/Bern morph and her blob-maid bit (a real OMG too funny moment, that almost outshone “Weekend Update”) was beyond hysterical and proved that this woman is the definition of funny.

The big surprise was Ariana’s impression skills, not only doing a pitch-perfect Jennifer Lawrence, but killing Britney Spears, Rihanna, Whitney Houston, Shakira, and Celine Dion before being sent for coffee by Jay Pharaoh’s “Jay Z.”

Grande has done her crowd pleasing party trick before on the Jimmy Fallon show, but SNL took her talents and amped the heck out of them. Where the surprise comes in is that she was just as spot on the second time around, proving her gig on Fallon’s show was no fluke.

Sidenote: Ariana’s Whitney brought both goosebumps and a huge lump to this reviewers throat…Wow.

The SNL opening monologue, where Keenan Thompson came to crack a joke with his fellow Nickelodeon alumnus, was brilliant. The song was pithy, funny and a great nod and wink to the naughty Miley and Justin, et al.

Keenan and Ariana shared the stage again on the “Family Feud” skit where Thompson did his Steve Harvey and Grande did her Jennifer Lawrence. While she killed it, the rest of the SNL players did their caricatures of famous people. It should be noted that Pharaoh did pretty decent gangster Brit, blood.

This was Saturday Night Live on fire. A return to the days when the episode was so well paced and spot on that it ended far too quickly. It has been some time since the show really finished on a “leave em wanting more” note.

It seems that allowing the tiny (five feet nothing) talented dynamo to do double duty gave the writers a much needed shot of comic adrenaline. For the first time in a while, the show outdid the political “cold open” and it was like old times.

Ariana Grande should be allowed to host, and sing, repeatedly. Which brings us back to “Bye, bye, bye, bye, Maria out.”

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.