by Brendan Wahl
Have we ever been this far into a season without a truly bad episode? The last season I remember being this good was Year 26 (2000-2001) and the difference there is that the cast during that year was not nearly as strong and cohesive as the one that has been present on the show for the last few years. The year-end awards are going to be very difficult for this season as there are some real strong contenders for best host and best episode, specifically, that will be a chore to sift through and choose the strongest candidate.
This week we get British stand-up comedian/actor Russell Brand aka Mr. Katy Perry aka I’m Jealous. Brand exploded onto the acting scene in 2008 with Forgetting Sarah Marshall and his hilarious ex-junkie rock star character, Aldous Snow. Soon after, Russell became almost as popular in America than he is in England with starring roles in Get Him to the Greek and supporting roles in Bedtime Stories and The Tempest. Before that bit of success, he was eternally popular in England to the point of an actual rock star and he actually IS an ex-junkie.
Joining Brand is musician/Rihanna-beater Chris Brown. Talk about controversial choices. Not only has Chris Brown been convicted of beating his ex-girlfriend, Rihanna, but the aforementioned songstress is also good friends with Katy Perry, who is Russell’s wife of course. This would make for a pretty interesting dichotomy and whether to see if Brand would put up with having to share the stage with this loathsome personality.
Show show here we go!
1. The O’Reilly Factor (5:09)
-Armisen, Sudeikis, Pedrad
Well, with Darrell Hammond no longer on the show, Jason Sudeikis takes over the impression of conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly, who highlights his pre-Superbowl interview with President Obama (Armisen). The satire is pretty close t the mark, as they mock O’Reilly’s obvious factual errors, his constant interrupting of the president’s answers, and his undermining of the whole segment. The sketch takes things a little further though as Bill turns the proceedings into a gameshow-like affair with Obama being forced to hold up letters to answer the various pop-culture questions. My favourite little aside was O’Reilly remarking that, combined with the Superbowl, his interview was viewed by a record TV audience. Overall, despite Jason’s impression that was lacking, this was a well-rounded satire of the big interview. A-
2. Monologue (7:46)
For the first time since Dane Cook (I might be wrong), the monologue consists of no goofiness with the cast or writers-as-audience-members, but rather just a good sampling of our host’s stand-up comedy material. Russell riffs on many different subjects from his English patriotism to his marriage to Katy Perry having lots of “ordinary moments.” It ran a little long in the tooth (much like Dane Cook a couple of years ago), but it was still good to see the host let loose and he clearly had a lot of fun with the crowd. B+
3. Gublin & Green (1:42)
-Armisen, Moynihan, Samberg, Bayer, Brittain, Killam, Pedrad, Pharoah
Due to the problems with one of the latest broadway productions, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, a lawyer (Armisen) presents his firm that specializes first and foremost in re-imbursing various folks for their Spider-Man-related woes. The best bit comes from an actor who is “not Bono” (Samberg) talking about how his soundtrack was used for this play and in turn, it makes him depressed. B+
4. Ultimate Vacation Giveaway (5:00)
-Brand, Elliott, Moynihan, Thompson, Wiig, Killam
Kristen Wiig makes her third appearance as sweepstakes congratulator (I guess that would be a good job description) Cheryl Bryant, who proceeds to inform the latest winner (Brand) that he’s won a $50,000 cruise. Of course, like the other two sketches they’ve done with this premise, the winner is none too impressed and instead just remains stone-faced throughout the whole ordeal. These sketches really depend on two things: the host’s performance and the reactions of past winners (Elliott, Thompson, Killam in this case) that they always show. It succeeds mostly based on Brand’s portrayal of a redneck-type individual and his ability not to crack during Wiig’s crazed performance. B
5. Don’ You Go Rounin’ Roun To Re Ro (2:42)
-Brand, Armisen, Hader, Wiig, Pedrad
In a brilliant parody of those British gangster flicks that all seem to be the same now, ex-con Terry Donovan (Hader) is on the prowl for a big-time gangster (Armisen) in order to save his young daughter. The little details in this trailer are exquisite like the look of Russell’s dreadlocked villain and Armisen’s angry dog companion that every British gangster villain seems to have by his side. The performances by everyone are superb and it’s so well-done that if one told me this was a real film, I might believe them. A+
6. Royal Taster (4:31)
-Brand, Hader, Killam, Wiig (Voice)
King Reginald (Brand) employs his new royal taster (Killam), who couldn’t be more nervous due to the intense hatred between his Highness and his tortured chef (Hader). The majority of the sketch is Russell and Hader screaming at each other much to the utter horror of Taran, but it’s a sketch that relies heavily on Russell’s large amount of charisma. Bill was a delight as the chef though and Killam was game as the unfortunate soul in the middle of this scuffle. Aces. A-
7. Chris Brown sings “Yeah 3x” (2:43)
I’m surprised he didn’t get booed out of the building upon his appearance on the stage. With regards to the actual performance though, this wasn’t as bad as I thought it might end up being. It was actually pretty short too. B
8. Weekend Update with Seth Meyers (15:12)
-Also: Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Taran Killam, and Jay Pharoah
The highlight of Update this week has to be Seth’s comments revolving around a recent senator’s retirement due to a Craigslist picture of him being leaked on the website, Gawker. After commenting on what could be the Egyptian President’s next job (replacing Regis), Hosni Mubarak himself (Armisen) stops by to comment on his recent resignation. Mubarak cracks some cheap jokes in between the discussion of his regime and his bit is well-written and very funny. Seth’s AOL bit is cute but a little cheap, but his joke regarding Al Gore’s new TV channel that no one but Al Gore knows about was exquisite. His bit on the superpower poll was delightfully nerdy and so it was great as well. Lil Wayne (Pharoah) and Eminem (Killam) stop by to present a Valentine’s Day song that they recently wrote and promise that the song contains no misogynistic lyrics. The two crooners censor themselves at the most opportune moments, but it still doesn’t hide the fact that the song is much like their other offensive songs. Despite Pharoah’s good impression of Lil Wayne, he is upstaged by Killam’s phenomenal wailing impression of Eminem, the best I’ve ever seen. Finally, the last guest to join Seth is city correspondent Stefon (Hader), who offers some terrible romantic hot spots (“Booooooooof… with 9 o’s.”) for New York couples. That is funny in itself but the interplay between Bill and Seth is terrific and the unwanted flirting is also a delight. And of course, Bill loses it again. One of the better Updates of the entire season. A+
9. Livin’ Single (5:08)
-Brand, Elliott, Wiig, Bayer, Killam
A strong independant woman (Bayer) hosts a show in which she boasts about the joys of the single life to her studio audience (including Elliott and Wiig) and her DJ (Killam), who harbours an unrequited love for her. Taran gets another one for the highlight reel here and Bayer is a delight as well. Bayer brings out a pastry chef (Brand), who gets her motor runnin’ in more ways than one, which also upsets the DJ as well of course. The side-story between Bayer and Killam was very well-written and it is the highlight of this amusing sketch. B+
10. A Spot of Tea (3:52)
-Brand, Hader, Samberg, Brittain
Three gossipy old coots (Brand, Hader, Samberg) host a British panel-discussion show from a low-rent house built directly on the fault line where earthquakes are a-plenty. The inclusion of a seismograph and the strange juxtaposition of the constant earthquakes with a dry show hosted by old ladies make this one of the more odd sketches in recent memory. It kind of reminds one of Monty Python and that’s definitely not a bad thing. The sponsor bit was definitely the best part of the sketch and Brittain’s walk-on at the end was also amusing. A-
11. Chris Brown sings “No Bullshit” (3:46)
The intro to this song was pretty funny, as Brand remembered at the last second to take off his earring from the previous sketch. Why does Brown decide to start his songs up before he’s even introduced? Nevertheless, Brown takes it down a notch for this song but it’s hard to buy this sentiment with the obvious nature of his character looming overhead. It’s also not as good as the first song. C
12. Time Machine (2:45)
-Brand, Hader, Sudeikis, Wiig, Killam
To finally settle the forefathers debate once and for all, a general (Sudeikis) unleashes a super-secret time machine much to the surprise of Nancy Pelosi (Wiig), House Speaker John Boehner (Hader), and Rand Paul (Killam). Out comes George Washington (Brand), but instead of educating everyone on what he truly thinks of today’s politics, he goes mad with the devices of today and attempts to murder the people before him. It’s a fast-paced sketch to close out the night’s festivities and it’s quite amusing. The ending was fittingly dark as well. B
Russell doesn’t look too enamoured by Chris Brown but thanks him nonetheless as well as the cast, crew, Lorne Michaels, and even lighting director Phil Hymes. Brand even shows everyone that he injured his finger during the proceedings.
Another show in the can, another positive episode. This is the season that WILL NOT DIE. Russell helmed a very funny episode and was a really fun host as well, participating in sketches where he didn’t always have to be the center of attention. Whereas Chris Brown was an alright musical guest, Brand was a burst of energy and looked to be having a ball during the night. I can only hope that he will be invited back at least once more to show more of what he can do in 90 minutes.
It should be noted again that this was another highlight show for Taran Killam, who continues to impress ever since his great showing in Carrey/Black Keys. So far, Bayer and Killam have been the two featured players who have impressed me the most while Brittain has had some isolated pockets of comedy and Pharoah has relied a bit too much on his impressions.
Host Rating: A-
Musical Guest Rating: C+
Show Rating: B+