by Brendan Wahl
In Year 34, SNL had another huge breakthrough and became even more culturally relevant. This was due (in part) to the 2008 Presidential Election that had everyone stirring over Sarah Palin, John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton to name the four biggest political players. This comedic institution took over and reigned supreme like they usually do when they’re in the midst of election season. That season also was one of the more cameo-heavy years in the history of the show and featured a large number of good to great episodes that far exceeded Years 29 and 30 (two of the worst recent years in my opinion).
One of the most effective hosts during that season was Anne Hathaway. Her hosting stint was a wonderful first-timer appearance with Anne appearing in a number of different roles, most memorably her ode to Julie Andrews in the delightfully cruel Mary Poppins sketch about the true meaning of supercalifragelisticespialidocious. Anne also served as the “straight” character in a bunch of sketches and was never a host that tried to hog the spotlight for herself. She was also accompanied by a willing and energetic cast so both of those qualities melded together to create one of the more entertaining shows that year. It also seemed like pretty much everyone had a moment in the sun.
Hathaway returning was a gimmie and it was just a matter of how long it would be before her second hosting appearance. Joining Anne is Florence + The Machine, a band I am fairly unfamiliar with but a lot of people seem to be stoked about seeing so I’ll leave my judgment until I watch her perform. The cast is also in a really good position this season so let’s see what they’re able to cook up.
1. The Rachel Maddow Show (5:13)
It’s the second appearance of Abby’s spot-on Rachel Maddow impression as she interviews John Boehner (Hader), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Wiig), and Charles Rangel (Thompson). Boehner makes vague allusions to what “the American people” want, Pelosi makes the same vain expression of muted anger like “someone forgot to use a coaster,” and Charles Rangel mentions that he is an unethical person but not a criminal. Kenan’s Rangle impression is humourous as are the others which, combined with the smart writing, makes this an amusing cold open. B+
2. Monologue (3:11)
Anne talks about her newest movie in which she gets naked (why haven’t I bought my ticket yet?) and is then interrupted by several male castmembers (Moynihan, Samberg, & Thompson specifically) who inform her that being naked in their respective sketches would make it funnier. She is only too willing to participate but the trick is on them once Kristen shows up. Cute monologue, but nothing special. B-
3. Transportation Security Administration (1:11)
Due to the new regulations for airport security, the TSA now operate a late-night steamy commercial advertising their sexy pat-downs. They also poke fun at the way in which sex line commercials advertise extremely attractive young girls but deliver something far from that. Pretty hilarious piece. A
4. The Miley Cyrus Show (5:32)
Yay, it’s back! This time, Miley (Bayer) introduces her puppet Smiley in her “comedy monologue” and Billy Ray (Sudeikis) ups the creepy level this time with hilarious payoff. Miley’s guest this time is Katie Holmes (an unexpectedly great impression from our host) and it results in another great clip featuring Hannah Montana herself auditioning to be in the new Batman film. This sketch had so many funny lines and a great moment featuring Miley showing so-called “sexy pictures” of herself that people have deemed controversial, which just points out how ridiculous they are in real life. Another home-run for Bayer with this sketch. A
5. Free Thanksgiving Dinner (4:59)
It’s time for a long-awaited appearance from Penelope (Wiig), who this time helps out at a soup kitchen making thanksgiving dinner for homeless people. Anne plays the counterpart to Penelope’s madcap one-upsmanship and this recurring character gets a bit of a jump-start. The visual gags in this Penelope sketch are top-notch and I would actually say this is my favourite bit of hers. Hathaway even gets more of a character to work with than most hosts who play off Penelope and shows off her wonderful hosting talent. A-
6. Royal Engagement (4:30)
The marriage of Prince William (Samberg) and Kate Middleton (Anne) is the subject here as the soon-to-wed couple meet with the Queen (Armisen) and Philip (Hader) to announce their wedding plans. Once William steps out of the room though, the real voices of the royal couple come out as disgusting-sounding cockney. It sounds one-note, but it was a very amusing sketch from the humourous “real accents” to the threats to the fight at the conclusion of the sketch between Liz and Phil. B+
7. Florence + The Machine sing “Dog Days Are Over” (3:56)
Flo and the band sing a melodious tune that really proves how wonderful her voice is and the amazing heights it can reach. The song itself seems to be split in two distinct parts and it results in one of the top performances so far this season. A+
8. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (14:10)
The highlight of Update this week is a segment called “C’mon, Dictionary!” in which Seth attacks Oxford for naming “refutiate” the word of the year. Meyers is relentless in his attack on the English language for whoring itself out to this terrible mash-up of reputiate with an ‘f’ instead of a ‘p’ and it results in one of the funnier commentaries in recent memory. The guests this week include Guy Fieri (Moynihan), who introduces some alcohol-heavy recipes while obnoxiously making a fool of himself. Moynihan is usually funny, but I’m not a huge fan of this impression and the segment was pretty much the same joke over and over again. Also joining Seth is the creator of the alcoholic caffeinated drink, Four Loko, Chris Hunter (Sudeikis). This segment works a lot better as Jason often works well with these spokesman-type characters. Finally, Jay Pharaoh stops by to show what Thanksiving songs would sound like from people like Jay-Z, Drake, and Biggie Smalls. The only one I really know is Jay-Z but it works anyway due to Pharaoh’s charisma. Solid Update. A-
9. The Essentials (4:40)
Robert Osbourne (Sudeikis) introduces some “lost scenes” from The Wizard of Oz, which include the introduction of a new character in the form of a weather vane (Armisen). The actor playing him is very stereotypically Jewish though and often complains about some miniscule problems they encounter. There’s not much to say here. Anne plays the Dorothy role while Killam, Hader, and Samberg are the Tin Man, Lion, and the Scarecrow respectively but they don’t get much of an opportunity to do stuff. It was a pretty one-note sketch and while Armisen put forth a lot of effort, this didn’t really work. C+
10. WXPD News New York (3:53)
After a grisly shootout, veteran reporter Herb Welch (Hader) goes to the scene and interviews the family about what they witnessed. This is a revelation for Bill as he plays a great senile old man who has clearly waited way too long for retirement. Jason Sudeikis as the in-studio news anchor plays off him well also as the perplexed youngster. Welch eventually starts using the microphone as an unintentional weapon and Hader’s physical comedy really gets to shine here. This sketch had me laughing out loud during its entire duration. I think it was a combination of Hader’s ridiculous old man, Hathaway’s amusing Brooklyn housewife character, and Sudeikis’ deadpan performance. A
11. Mega-Mart (2:07)
Featuring a ridiculous sale by a Wal-Mart knockoff gets more and more ludicrous with the removal of security guards, a lineup to the store sponsored by Four Loko (along with ANOTHER hilarious performance by Hathaway), and Kirk Douglas being hid somewhere in the store for people to find and get an autographed copy of his book. Bobby Moynihan works wonders as the crazed spokesman and the announcer is also a high point of this piece. A
12. Camel Tame (1:14)
Camel toe got you down? One friend (Pedrad) tells another (Wiig) about a great new product known as Camel Tame that will easily get rid of your unsightly groinal shape. Instead, it juts out like a big groin pouch. Another humourous commercial parody. B+
13. Florence + The Machine sing “You’ve Got The Love” (2:54)
The second song features some great violin work and, of course, some more tremendous vocals from Florence. Is that a giant harp in the background? Either way, this is another exercise in voice work as Florence stretches her vocal muscles to the extreme. A
14. Horse Play (2:47)
Much like the “Bunny Business” sketch from last season, this time it’s an advertisement for the soundtrack for a cartoon movie about horse baseball players. Joining the fun here is Randy Newman (Armisen) once again, the lead singer (Wiig) of the Cranberries, Alanis Morisette (Anne), Robert Smith (Samberg) of The Cure, Cee Lo (Thompson), and Adam Lambert (Sudeikis) in a hilariously brief bit. I loved this just as much as the aforementioned “Bunny Business” bit. A-
Anne looks absolutely elated to be on-stage and thanks absolutely everybody that she can before delivering hugs en masse.
Well that was a step up from last week’s slightly-above-average broadcast. If you thought Scarlett was fun, Anne was a revelation in that she delivered on an even grander scale than her last hosting stint and was seemingly up for anything. From donning a British accent and playing Kate Middleton to doing a spot-on impression of Mrs. Tom Cruise, Anne was on top of her game and looked like she was having a ball at the same time without getting too giddy and appearing unprofessional or anything. I sincerely hope she becomes a five-timer.
Florence + The Machine were very welcome in the musical department of things tonight. Flo proved that she has a heckuva voice and a terrific live presence with a mere two performances on the show. They were both full of heart and determination. It’s so nice to see a host/musical guest combo where both parties are so willing and excited to be there.
The cast was also great this week and just like Anne’s last episode, it seemed like everyone was well-represented outside of maybe Paul Brittain (of whom I’m anxious to see repeat his Ed Vincent character). It’s hard to pick the best sketch of the night but I am really loving the Miley Cyrus Show as a recurring bit so I would probably go with that one. It’s also a good example of Vanessa Bayer’s strong comedic talent.
“And that’s what Thanksgiving is all about…”
“Dad, shnock it off.”
That dig at The Princess Diaries was cute.
“Oxford Dictionary, please stop RAFING the English language.”
“Keep that away from Guy Fieri.”
I also have to wonder why Jay was wearing a “Jay Pharaoh” shirt…
Host Rating: A+
Musical Guest Rating: A
Show Rating: A