by Brendan Wahl

(Season 36, Episode 21)

1. The Situation Room (5:01)

Wolf Blitzer (Sudeikis) and Jennifer Kates (Bayer) comment on the bin Laden story while President Obama’s (Armisen) victory speech gradually gets more and more cocky, eventually delving into a sort of stand-up act.

- This was easily one of my favourite cold opens that they’ve done thus far this season. I really didn’t know what to expect at first, but when Jason’s amusing Wolf Blitzer impression then cut to Obama, I started to worry a bit.
– Thankfully, this was the best thing Fred has done as Obama. What starts off as a somber patriotic speech soon turns into a rally in El Paso as Obama even begins smoking again in front of everyone.
– There were a lot of great moments here from Barack’s carefree attitude to his acquiring of a new catchphrase (“killll bin laden!”) and his two assistants (Killam & Pedrad) with shirt guns beside him.
– It also sounded like actual audience members were getting shirts launched at them. That’s a nice touch.
– Also, this sketch reminded me of one they did back in the late 80s called “Bushwacked,” where Dubya Sr. was hosting a talk show and trying to prove he wasn’t a wimp by smoking and shoving his guests around.
*****

MONTAGE: I just need to add this… A CARTOON BY ROBERT SMIGEL?! When’s the last time you remember seeing this announced? I nearly jumped off my chair when I saw that!

2. Monologue (4:31)

Ed tells the story of when he first found out that being a comedian was his future.

- It’s nice to see a standard monologue. They seem to be kind of rare these days.
– Ed starts out the night on a good, albeit long-winded, foot. It’s also rare to see this type of monologue where the funny part is really only at the end but it was worth the wait.
– When Ed got into his outfit, I nearly spit out my drink. The baton-twirling was funny too.
*** 1/2

3. Corn Syrup Producers of America (1:25)

What starts as some vague criticism from a fellow housewife (Wiig) regarding the excessive use of corn syrup, a woman (Pedrad) suddenly becomes quite scornful at these allegations and dresses down her friend.

- Repeat from Zach Galifianakis/Jessie J (3/12/11).
*** 1/2

4. what up with that? (8:15)

Diondre Cole (Thompson) welcomes his guests Paul Simon, Chris Colfer, and of course Lindsey Buckingham (Hader) and doesn’t let any of them get too many words in before delving off into musical interludes like usual.

- This may have been the ultimate edition of this sketch. There were already rumors that this is Kenan’s last year on the show and this edition of “what up with that?” may have solidified them. That having been said, it was probably also one of the best editions.
– I liked the direction they went with this by having it be a sort of “music past and future” edition with legendary Paul Simon and Glee castmember Chris Colfer.
– So many things to like about this sketch from the usual dancing by Jason Sudeikis to the fun characters played by Ed Helms and Kristen Wiig to the insane cameo from the real Lindsey Buckingham (complete with a mean guitar riff).
– I liked a lot of the smaller bits too like Paul Simon being very familiar with the format and thus feeling bad for Buckingham (Hader) and trying to get a word in edgewise and the fact that all the singers and dancers on the show have names now.
****

5. The Ambiguously Gay Duo: The Dark, Clenched Hole of Evil (6:51)

It’s business as usual for the queersome twosome, but when Dr. Brainiac invents a flesh-ray gun and turns them into real live, people (Jon Hamm & Jimmy Fallon), the device goes haywire and also transforms Dr. Brainiac (Stephen Colbert), Bighead (Steve Carell), Two-Face (Helms), and Lizard Man (Armisen).

- This was simply fantastic. What started off as a typical episode of the Ambiguously Gay Duo soon evolved into something much more than that with the fantastic live-action portion.
– Everyone was perfectly cast here. Jon Hamm and Jimmy Fallon (who I thought was Mark Hamill at first) were absolutely hilarious as Ace and Gary and it was super-awesome to see Steve Carell AND Stephen Colbert in the flesh.
– I was really surprised to see Ed Helms make an appearance and he had a few funny lines as well.
– There were some great moments like when it was alluded that the villains also had some skeletons in the closet as well.
– How did they get away with that visual of Ace and Gary’s penis-car having a headlight?
– It is also amazing how they filmed this in less than a week as the production values were pretty terrific.
– This got a MONSTER ovation when it was done. I know the audience always cheers when a sketch is done, but they went absolutely nuts.
*****

6. Paul Simon sings “Rewrite” (4:08)

- Paul looks really, really old now but he hasn’t lost a step. His performance was very good and his backing band was pretty spectacular too.
– He did look elated to be back on SNL as well and the studio audience was greatful to have him.

7. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (14:22)
Guests: Anthony Crispino (Moynihan); Will Smith (Pharoah); Garth & Kat (Armisen & Wiig)

Best Jokes: Newt Gingrich on Facebook/Twitter; pet alligator; Spider-Man musical; Lonesome George; Oreos/sweatpants

- Say what you want, but I do enjoy Bobby’s second-hand news correspondent, Anthony Crispino. It’s a fairly one-note character, but Bobby makes it entertaining with his likeable performance as he comments on will.i.am’s big wedding to Kate Gosselin, a condom wrapper at the White House, and the world ending in 2012 according to Maya Rudolph’s calendar.
– The second commentary is a great impression in a somewhat-pointless segment. Will Smith (Pharoah) comments on his huge trailer causing residents to complain. Will talks about positivity and talks about how he can do anything now with his method of thinking. It wasn’t terrible, but Jay’s Will Smith is somewhat wasted here.
– Lastly, Garth & Kat (Armisen & Wiig) stop by to belt out some songs just in time for summer. It’s the same ol’ thing from these two characters, but they always have fun with it and despite what some people think of them, I still find them amusing most of the time. They’re also getting remarkably better at keeping straight faces. This edition was decent enough.
– Like last week, this wasn’t the greatest week for Seth’s jokes but he still had some good ones thrown in there.
***

8. Song Memories (4:28)

Four friends (Helms, Hader, Samberg, & Sudeikis) reminisce about long-standing memories while “Wild World” by Cat Stevens plays on the stereo.

- I haven’t seen this sketch since Ryan Phillippe/Ke$ha. It was a pleasant surprise.
– This sketch’s quality really depends on how funny the stories are from each guy and this sketch definitely succeeded there, as I found all of them pretty funny.
– Sudeikis’ placement of his grandfather’s ashes in a Jamba Juice cup followed by Ed Helms accidentally drinking it and spitting it out almost made me spit out MY drink.
– It was odd to see Samberg there instead of Forte, but his doctor story was pretty funny especially after the second punchline when it was revealed that he is a dentist.
– Ed’s story was funny too, but the drinking of the ashes was the best part of it.
– Another nonsensical ending and I think this one was the best yet.
****

9. One-Take Tony (3:36)

It is circa 1941 and master thespian, Tony Toluca (Samberg) arrives on the set much to the director’s (Helms) delight and bestowment of the nickname, One-Take Tony. However, Tony’s actions seem to prove otherwise.

- It’s rare to see a new character for Andy these days, but this was a fun bit.
– Ed was delightful as the director too and his old-timey voice and inflection was pretty accurate.
– It also feels like it’s been a while since we’ve seen a sketch like this where someone is filming something and an actor/situation keeps breaking up the proceedings.
– I loved Tony breaking character just because there was a dog wearing a hat (“It’s wearing a hat! That would never happen in the wild!”)
– The non-sequitor ending with Louis Armstrong was a great capper to this sketch.
*** 1/2

10. Paul Simon sings “So Beautiful Or So What” (4:58)

- The second song from Simon features another terrific performance by the 69-year old crooner.
– Unlike some musical guests, Simon’s second number is also a lot different in sound from his first one. Take note, Elton John.

11. Ann-Margret Tries To Throw Away A Wad Of Paper In The Trashcan (2:00)

The Swedish-born actress, Ann-Margret (Wiig), attempts to throw a wad of paper out while doing her crazy dancing moves and has some issues with this mundane task despite her husband’s attempts to help out.

- I had to go find what they were parodying before I watched this because I had NO idea.
– After watching the infamous dancing scene from Viva Las Vegas, I was able to fully appreciate this short, absurd piece.
– Wiig had the dancing down perfectly and Ed was a good straight man to the festivities.
****

12. Republican Candidate (1:16)

One Republican candidate (Helms), who represents all the bland faceless GOP nominees, makes some very general comments in his address to the nation.

- This was a very quick piece and gave Ed a lead role, but he seemed to stumble over his lines a bit. He was still pretty funny though in a deadpan sort of way.
– I like how Helms just said things like “my dad, the military, dogs, church stuff” and said how he was one of the lesser-known candidates, but he doesn’t know who.
***

13. Goodnights


OVERALL: This show was already going to be at least a good episode after Paul Simon’s first song. The first half of the show was tremendous with THREE knockout sketches (the cold open, what up with that?, and the Smigeltoon) and a fun monologue. After Update, Mr. Helms got a few more meaty roles than earlier and managed to do a pretty good job overall despite a couple of missed cues. This episode may have been just as good or very close to last week’s, but this time there wasn’t really a bad sketch. Sure, Update was not as great as usual but that’s only a small complaint in an episode with two serious candidates for best sketch of the season.

BREAKDOWN:

HOST: ED HELMS – 7 segments (Monologue; what up with that?; The Ambiguously Gay Duo; Song Memories; One-Take Tony; Ann-Margret Tries To Throw A Wad Of Paper Into A Trashcan; Republican Candidate)
CAMEOS: LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM – 1 segment (what up with that?)
CHRIS COLFER – 1 segment (what up with that?)
FILMED CAMEOS: STEVE CARELL – 1 segment (The Ambiguously Gay Duo)
STEPHEN COLBERT – 1 segment (The Ambiguously Gay Duo)
JIMMY FALLON – 1 segment (The Ambiguously Gay Duo)
JON HAMM – 1 segment (The Ambiguously Gay Duo)

CAST:

FRED ARMISEN – 4 segments (The Situation Room; what up with that?; The Ambiguously Gay Duo; Weekend Update)
ABBY ELLIOTT – none
BILL HADER – 3 segments (what up with that?; Song Memories; One-Take Tony)
SETH MEYERS – 1 segment (Weekend Update)
BOBBY MOYNIHAN – 3 segments (Corn Syrup Producers of America; Weekend Update; One-Take Tony)
ANDY SAMBERG – 2 segments (Song Memories; One-Take Tony)
JASON SUDEIKIS – 3 segments (The Situation Room; what up with that?; Song Memories)
KENAN THOMPSON – 2 segments (what up with that?; One-Take Tony)
KRISTEN WIIG – 5 segments (Corn Syrup Producers of America; what up with that?; Weekend Update; One-Take Tony; Ann-Margret Tries To Throw A Wad Of Paper Into A Trashcan)

FEATURING:

VANESSA BAYER – 2 segments (The Situation Room; what up with that?)
PAUL BRITTAIN – 1 segment (Song Memories)
TARAN KILLAM – 2 segments (The Situation Room; what up with that?)
NASIM PEDRAD – 3 segments (The Situation Room; Corn Syrup Producers of America; what up with that?)
JAY PHAROAH – 1 segment (Weekend Update)

EPISODE MVPs: Fred Armisen/Bill Hader/Andy Samberg/Kristen Wiig

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Comments
  1. Geoff says:

    The Ann-Margret sketch gets more hilarious the more reviews I read. I immediately thought of her role in “Tommy”; another review cited “Bye Bye Birdie”, and now you cited “Viva Las Vegas”. Apparently she manically danced a lot more than I ever thought!

    I wish they had used Ed Helms more, but it was a solid show all around. It will no doubt long be remembered for the return of the Ambiguously Gay Duo and nothing else though… except perhaps being the final nail in the coffin for Abby Elliott.

    • James says:

      Abby Elliott is really talented and is being wasted by SNL—crazy!! Don’t think it was Ed Helms fault–just weak writing ’cause this episode stunk, the AG Duo is one joke, really base. I was impressed by Armisen’s Obama, and i will NEVER tire of What’s Up with That?

  2. Jeff says:

    Out of all the reviews for this episode I have read, I find this one the most agreeable. It’s a real shame the host wasn’t in enough sketches, because I personally feel that this show should better appreciate thost who have not already established themselves as an SNL all-star favorite, like three of our hosts that I felt were overkill this season (Hamm, Fey, Timberlake). Nonetheless, it was still a good episode with some pretty solid sketches. I think the AGD sketch was the best this season!

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