by Brendan Wahl
Can you believe there’s only five more episodes after this one until the end of the season? This has been one of the strongest seasons in quite some time (comparable to the 2000/2001 season) and unless the train falls completely off the tracks by season’s end, this will shape up to be one of the more memorable ones as well.
After last week’s gamble (but ultimately, success) with Miley Cyrus taking the realms of host, SNL relies on a returning host this time in Zach Galifianakis, who delivered a slew of fun performances in an above-average episode from last season. The biggest note about his last stint was the shaving of his beard merely so he could do the last sketch of the night as his alter-ego, Seth Galifianakis. However, Zach also proved himself to be a team player and was very clutch during that episode. Obviously, the cast enjoyed having him around and hence, he is back once again and this time he is promoting The Hangover 2 and also his new stand-up DVD.
Joining Galifianakis is a young lady making her American television debut, Jessie J. I really don’t know too much about this woman but something tells me I’ve heard at least one of her songs before. She is supremely popular in the United Kingdom, so hopefully we will see some examples of why she is so well-liked over there and it will translate over to the US.
1. Selection Sunday (5:01)
-Hader, Samberg, Sudeikis, Thompson, Wiig, Pedrad
I will be the first one to admit that I do not watch sports on television. At all. So when this opener started with Greg Gumbel (Thompson) and Jim Nantz (Sudeikis) opening a sports-related sketch, I thought here is something that will go way over my head. However, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that this would in fact not be related to March Madness, but rather just Madness, the tournament to decide the craziest person in the world. The interviews with Kaddafi (Armisen) and the Melissa Leo (Wiig) bit were funny, but Charlie Sheen (Hader) popping up again, this time on Sheen’s Corner, was the highlight. I would like to add that Two and a Half Men performed with popsicle sticks would probably be a better show than the real thing. The acting would be better, anyway. Hi-yo! …oh yeah, the sketch. It gets a solid B.
2. Monologue (7:01)
For the second time this season, we get a sampling of the host’s stand-up material. Even though Brand’s monologue was funny, this one blows it right out of the water with multiple highlights found throughout. I personally enjoyed his “Worst Bragger” character (“So, I was french-kissin’ my brother last night”) and the guy who really likes cargo shorts. These segments then lead into Zach getting into a dress ala Annie and while “Tomorrow” starts playing, he does his bit where he rips sheets of paper off a big display. A top-notch monologue here; it was easily the best one so far this season. A+
3. The Talk (6:24)
-Galifianakis, Elliott, Hader, Thompson, Wiig, Bayer, Pedrad
As soon as this started, I thought it was just another way for SNL to take a stab at “The View” and I thought… why wouldn’t they just do another View sketch instead? Alas, this is an actual morning show that airs with Leah Remini (Elliott), Sara Gilbert (Bayer), Julie Chen (Wiig), and Sharon Osbourne (Pedrad) discussing banal topics that no one really cares to hear about from a group of third-rate actresses. I used to like Leah, but damn she has lowered herself with this show. Anyway, this sketch is not exactly first-sketch-of-the-night material, but is still a pretty funny condemning of the terrible program, particularly one The View-obsessed fan (Zach) who is disappointed at being taken to the wrong show on his birthday. Although Bayer shines as Gilbert, who just wants to hide in her sweater from the embarrassment and the Steven Tyler (Hader) segment goes nowhere. B
4. The Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy (2:47)
-Armisen, Elliott, Hader, Meyers, Moynihan, Samberg, Sudeikis, Thompson, Bayer, Brittain, Killam, Pharoah
I’m not sure why not a lot of people understood what they were making fun of with this one. Stupid one-joke comedians like Larry the Cable Guy (who, for the love of God, should never host) and Jeff Dunham are skewered here as an this piece advertises a show with catchphrase comedians. There are way too many to list here, but suffice to say there are a few highlights like Pete “Airhorn” Schultz (Galifianakis), White Bernie Mac (Sudeikis), Barry the Plumbing Gentleman (Killam), and finally Boston Powers (SETH MEYERS!). Very clever parody. A
5. Scared Straight (5:48)
-Galifianakis, Hader, Moynihan, Samberg, Sudeikis, Thompson
Marking his first appearance since Betty White/Jay-Z from last year, Lorenzo McIntosh (Thompson) shows up again to teach a number of kids and send them on the straight and narrow. This time, he brings along a Hannibal Lecter-like criminal in Larry Bernstein (Galifianakis), a former accountant who now eats people. Zach’s insane criminal was the cherry on the sundae as he basically stood there and unleashed some truly great lines (“And also, Helena Bonham-Carter is there ’cause this is real!”). It should be noted that Hader didn’t crack up this time, which is truly an accomplishment for this sketch. Solid. B+
6. Digital Short: Zach Looks For An Assistant (2:59)
As a companion piece to last season’s piece where Zach showed up on various TV show sets, this time our host begins his search for an assistant, but he only interviews awkward children. What follows is some Between Two Ferns-like banter between Zach and some cute kids, which alone makes for a solid and humourous digital short. B+
7. Jessie J (feat. B.o.B.) sings “Price Tag” (3:56)
And the verdict is… Jessie J’s debut is a very successful one. This song sounded familiar and I’ve definitely heard it before, but just didn’t know who actually sang it. B.o.B. (who?) comes out at one point to rap with her, but that’s really the only downside to this otherwise electric number. A-
8. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (9:12)
-Also: Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig
There’s no possible way they could’ve followed up last week’s amazing edition of Update, but Seth did an admirable job this week. The bit about the NFL lockout was pretty good as well as the International Women’s Day/Mardi Gras piece. I also enjoyed the piece about men who cheat on their wives. Guests this week include Julie Taymor (Wiig), the director of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, who is in the midst of a certain kind of madness after being fired from the production. After constantly bringing up her other successes (i.e. The Lion King), Taymor keeps defending her Spider-Man knowledge and takes credit for writing “Hakuna Matata.” Her constant bits of advice were funny too, resulting in a great commentary from Kristen. The other guest this week is Liam (Samberg), the teenager who just woke up. Well, I didn’t think his first appearance was particularly amazing, but this time it fares a little better and Andy’s performance is a lot of fun even though he barely comments at all on the topic at hand. All in all, a pretty good edition of Update but not as outstanding as last week. Classy ending with the mention of Red Cross. B+
9. Noodles (4:48)
-Galifianakis, Elliott, Hader, Moynihan, Thompson (voice), Wiig, Pedrad
After an unfortunate event involving the family dog, a mother (Wiig) and father (Galifianakis) are forced to explain to the children what had happened without getting into any grisly details or leading them to believe that the dog has perished. What starts off as a sketch that looked like one of the kids (Pedrad) was just going to challenge the parents’ logic the whole time developed into something much more than that. The ending felt a little tacked-on but the dark territory that this sketch reached at times was pretty funny. A-
10. Celebrity Scoop (4:00)
-Galifianakis, Armisen, Hader, Wiig
Well, it’s been a long while since SNL has taken a swipe at their neighbour up north. I, myself, am Canadian so I felt a special attachment to this sketch, which would’ve been all the more special if this bit were funnier. To be fair, they hit all the Canadian stereotypes with pinpoint accuracy but it was run into the ground a bit too much and the sketch ran long. Zach’s bit as the guy who enunciated his words for far too long was pretty funny, but my favourite part was the moose as the producer. If they really wanted to go for broke though, it would have been a beaver. C
11. Jessie J sings “Mamma Knows Best” (3:15)
This time, Jessie gets to sing solo without the unnecessary B.o.B. in there ruining things. She really gets to showcase her voice with this one as she reaches levels that Christina Aguilera only wishes she could get to. She’s not too hard on the eyes, either. Yowsers. A
12. Corn Syrup Producers of America (1:25)
-Moynihan, Wiig, Pedrad
What starts as some vague criticism regarding the excessive use of corn syrup from a fellow housewife (Wiig), a woman (Pedrad) suddenly becomes quite scornful at these allegations and dresses down her friend. The ending packed the punch and I enjoyed the banter between the two ladies. B+
13. Titanic (2:35)
-Galifianakis, Elliott, Hader, Moynihan, Wiig, Bayer, Pedrad
Moments after the infamous ship sunk, one “woman” (Zach) sneaks “her” way aboard a lifeboat with the women and children, but they quickly discover that it is obviously a man. It feels like I’ve been saying this ad nauseum, but Zach was delightful here (“Mrs. … Boat”) and Hader showing up as an imposter baby was also amusing. B
And for the goodnights, Zach shaved his head to get a Mr. T look (“Unfortunately, we did not get to the Mr. T sketch”) and then thanks everyone before closing out the show.
And this would be known as the night of the B grades. There was nothing outstanding or amazing this week (aside from the monologue and the catchphrase comedians bit), but there was nothing truly terrible either. The “Canadian Scoop” sketch may not have been that good, but it certainly wasn’t awful and didn’t drag anything else down.
Zach was a willing host once again and it seemed like he got to do a lot more this time out. Despite being thrust in the background of a few sketches (albeit, very hilariously) Zach was one of the major highlights of a solid episode of SNL, thus continuing the awesomeness that is Season 36. Jessie J, as well, was outstanding and if not for B.o.B. interjecting himself, her first performance would have been near-perfect.
Good stuff this week, although I find it amusing that after praising Taran Killam last week and declaring him a big player, he was only in one sketch tonight.
Host Rating: A-
Musical Guest Rating: A
Show Rating: B+