by Brendan Wahl
It’s a wonderful thing when SNL finds a host that they enjoy working with and one slowly sees them morph into a go-to host and one that is invited back almost every season to command the reigns of the show. One of these hosts is Jon Hamm. After making his hosting debut two seasons ago on another Halloween episode, Hamm solidified a good reputation as a host who was more than willing to go the distance in his performances and also to step aside and not have to be the center of attention in a sketch at all times. It is nice to see a host worshipped every now and then, but it is an absolute delight when the host becomes an honourary castmember for the night.
Joining Hamm is a two-time musical guest, Rihanna. While her first appearance was mid-way through the last season, she was fairly entertaining in that particular underrated Blake Lively/Rihanna episode (I know, I’m in the minority of people who liked it). This time, she promotes her upcoming album “Loud” and brings her usual strong-willed, Chris Brown-dumping self to the stage. Rihanna is an odd one for me; at times, I really dig her stuff but then sometimes I just want to turn off the TV and be sure she is done singing before turning it back on.
1. A Message from the Vice President (3:25)
The beloved Joe Biden (Sudeikis) makes one last-ditch attempt to save the Democrats during the mid-term elections, but declares it “dead in the water” anyway. What really makes this work though is Biden comparing the state of the economy to the Chilean miners and declares since they dealt with that fine, no one else should have any right to complain about the economy. Biden’s test related to this is funny and whenever Sudeikis does the impression, it’s almost always gold. B+
2. Monologue (3:46)
After doing Mad Men for four seasons so far, the “Hammer” thinks himself a master at developing ad campaigns on the spot. To test this newfound talent, Hamm takes product suggestions from the audience including one near-stumper from a particularly weird gentleman (Samberg) of 9-volt batteries. Jon is such a relaxed and laid-back host that this whole thing just works very naturally for him. B+
3. Digital Short: Ronnie & Clyde (2:53)
It’s the return of Shy Ronnie (Samberg)! This time, Rihanna refers to her “Bonnie & Clyde ’03″ hit and initiates a bank heist with her very unhelpful accomplice. This time it’s even better than their first digital short together even though a lot of it was fairly predictable after having seen the original. Oh and our host? He plays a customer who is probably getting lucky with our musical guest. Another fun piece. B+
4. Vincent Price’s Halloween Special (5:32)
One of my favourite recurring sketches makes its return as Vincent Price (Hader) welcomes the usual technical difficulties and difficult-to-deal-with guests. This time, he welcomes a pilled-up Judy Garland (Wiig) and Senator John F. Kennedy (Hamm) and his campaign manager/prostitute, Candy (Pedrad). Liberace (Armisen) is introduced in a terrific way and this time, the gay jokes are even more plentiful than usual. All the same, it’s more good fun from Vincent and the gang. A-
5. Back To The Future 25th Anniversary DVD (2:31)
With the release of the new BTTF DVD, some auditions for the major roles in the movie are shown. This sketch is mainly here to highlight the impressions from the cast and there are tons of good ones from Al Pacino (Hader) auditioning for Doc to Robin Williams (fun impression by Hamm) vying for the same role as well but getting carried away by his wacky improv. We also get another bang-on impression by Jay Pharaoh, this time of Eddie Murphy. A
6. Audition (4:40)
During an audition for a local play, the director grants time for actress Lizette Barnes (Wiig), who basically spends her time explaining what she will show and do and what she will absolutely not do. What starts as a seemingly gross-out sketch develops into much more than that when her husband (Hamm) enters the room and evokes an impassioned speech about his wife’s talent, dating back to a dog commercial. The performances of Hamm and Wiig are what really carry this well-written sketch, but Sudeikis provides terrific straight-man foil as well. A-
7. Back To The Future 25th Anniversary DVD (2:46)
More auditions! Much like the Star Wars Auditions sketch from Kevin Spacey/Beck back in 1997, they make this one a two-parter. This time, Samberg shows off his Nicolas Cage impression but once again Bill Hader dominates the sketch, this time with a wonderful impression of Alan Alda. We see a few that we’ve already seen before like Bill Cosby (Thompson), Joan Cusack (Elliott), and Prince (Armisen), but it turns out that Killam does a funny impression of Gilbert Gottfried and Pee Wee Herman as well. A
8. Rihanna sings “What’s My Name?” (3:50)
Taking a page out of Kanye’s playbook, Rihanna revamps the stage and douses it in a beautiful red glow second only to the beauty of Rihanna herself. With low-to-no expectations, Rihanna does a pretty decent job with this first song and her outfit is nothing to sneeze at either. B
9. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (11:02)
Seth’s guests this week are James Carville (more fun with Bill Hader!), who comments on the mid-term elections with the usual clever metaphors that he likes to throw out, and Garth & Kat who come by to sing some “planned” Halloween songs from their new concert tour. Of course, it’s just as slapped together as their songs usually are and that only adds to the charm. Seth’s jokes are just as consistently good as usual like a funny bit involving a new Trick or Treat app on the iPhone and also one involving China’s wonderful air quality saving a boy’s life. The one involving the miners was pretty slick too. A-
10. I Didn’t Ask For This (5:38)
A talk-show featuring an unwilling Youtube celebrity (Moynihan) talking to fellow Youtubians as they all try to figure out why people make fun of their unfortunate mishaps that just so happened to be captured on camera and posted to the eponymous website. One guest (Wiig) was accidentally hit with a hammer, while the other (Hamm) was caught crying as his son finally confessed his love for him. Hamm actually sends the host and Wiig into a fit of laughter because, well, his crying noise is too much not to make fun of. This sketch was a pretty clever commentary on the media, actually. A
11. Highway Cops (5:11)
A 70s show on NBC features two cops, Randy (Hamm) and Cutter (Sudeikis) drive their boss crazy with their constant distractions preventing them from doing drug busts or catching criminals in general. The distraction involves their bike rides together which eventually develops into a, you guessed it, a man-on-man kiss. However, it’s not played for gross-out quality and the whole thing is a pretty funny throwback to cheesy cop shows. B+
12. Darlique & Barney (4:54)
Lounge act Darlique (Wiig) & Barney (Hamm) start their show off with a little joke and a fake fight. This is one of those sketches much like the “Bjelland Brothers” one from Cranston/West that features some terrible lounge singers and an even worse act. However, unlike the aforementioned sketch, this one is not nearly as good and it really drags for most of its duration. Hamm really tries though and he and Wiig have good chemistry. C+
13. Rihanna sings “Only Girl (In The World)” (3:44)
The umbrella girl’s second number has a lot more flash than the first but in the rare instance that this happens, style actually creates more substance with this performance. B+
14. Cartoon: Dog in Purse (1:30)
A cartoon from former writer Fred Wolf! Simplistic animation aside, Dog in Purse features David Spade doing the voice of a dog making snide remarks about celebrities and the media in general. It works perfectly because of Spade’s voice perfectly fitting the cartoon character, but overall its a pretty quick sketch. B
Jon thanks everyone and wishes everyone a happy Halloweeeeeeeeeen!
Jon Hamm is the new Steve Martin. There, I said it. In terms of new SNL hosts in the past ten years, no one has stepped up to the plate quite like Don Draper himself. He can easily carry a show like he did during his first gig but then he can also step aside and sometimes he blends in so well that you’d think he was a castmember. If Hamm doesn’t become a five-timer in the next two years, there is no justice in the world.
Rihanna was surprisingly entertaining as the musical guest and her contribution to the digital short was appreciated as well.
The main highlights in the cast this week were Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, who actually got to anchor a number of sketches more than he is usually allowed.
Constantly referring to Bill Hader as “ma’am” in the monologue was hilarious.
“1.21 Jigawatts? Great, Scott!”
Sudeikis jumping out the ground floor window was a great sight gag.
Alda: “I want in. Who do I have to f*ck?”
Not to sound perverted or anything, but holy god has Rihanna got some nice gams or what?!
Hader sure has fun playing James Carville. I’m glad he brings it back so often… (“I look like a mean peanut!”)
I think I heard Jason cracking up off-screen at Kenan answering the phone really quickly.
Kenan’s subplot with his wife in that “Highway Cops” sketch almost stole the entire scene.
Host Rating: A+
Musical Guest Rating: B+
Show Rating: B+/A-