Saturday Night Live: Zach Galifianakis/Jessie J (3/12/11)

Posted: March 13, 2011 by Brendan Wahl in SNL Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

by Brendan Wahl

(Season 36, Episode 17)

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.


The Show:

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+

  1. Denise says:

    Thanks Brendan! I snored thru this episode too, just like last week. Not because it was boring, but because I was really sleepy 😉

  2. Daniel Martin says:

    ok. Zach came back to snl. tons of hype. I thought the cold open was great. Despite poor impressions from both Jason and Kenan they still managed to anchor the skit well. Wiig was pretty good as Melissa Leo (who im suprised they had not taken a swpie at until now). Armisen was awesome as Kadaffi. However the real highlight was, as you said, Hader as Sheen. The monologue was just perfect. I loved the it all. Then came “the talk”. Mixed feelings here. Wiig actually did a good job as Julie Chen. Abby was ok. she flubbed a few lines though. Pedrad’s Sharron was dreadful. SAVE US AMY POEHLER!!! Bayer was great as sarah gilbert, even though I have never heard of her. As someone who watches American Idol, I enjoyed Hader’s impression of Steven Tyler. Even if the bit I enjoyed his high pitched screams. The kings of Catchphraise comedy skit was great. Everyone in it did an awesome job. Moynihan was probably my fave of the 4 main stand up guys. But Kenan, Brittain, and Zack were all good too. Out of the smaller bits I thought the best ones were Sudeikis as White Bernie Mack, Taran as Barry the plumbling gentleman, and SEHT MEYERS AS BOSTON POWERS. SETH WAS IN A SKIT!!! Scared straight was pretty good. Kenan brings so much energy to that character. The skit worked and it doesn’t always work. The Assistant interviews were cute but not as good as “Zack drops by the set”. Weekend update was decent. The Julie Traymor had its moments. Loved when wiig came out singing the lion king with the lion puppet. Liam the teen who just woke up was cute i guess but I really just found it annoying. Seth’s jokes were ok and loved the red cross thing. The noodles skit was enjoyable. The canada skit worked for me in some ways but overall did not. However it was not as bad as the awful Titanic skit. Possibly the worst skit of the season. The high fructose corn syrup skit seemed pointless. The only good part was Moynihan. Where was Taran Killam. Totally with you that he has so much talent and has showed it so for him to have an episode like this, tisk tisk lorne. Especially considering the downword plummet the show took after the noodles skit they should have thrown killam in as Eminem or Michael Cera to get some easy laughs. Anyway, please respond.

    • Brendan Wahl says:

      Well I mean, it’s not unlikely for featured players to barely appear or not appear at all in an episode, so it’s not a huge crime. Plus, I know Killam will be on for multiple years.

      My prediction is that Bayer gets a promotion next season to the repertory cast.

  3. Geoff says:

    A decent episode…strong showings for the female cast especially. I loved the Noodles sketch, despite the awkward tacked-on ending. The Canadian sketch was really irritating though – I’m tired of those stereotypes and awful accents run into the ground. Wiig sounded like she was trying to channel Tina Fey channeling Sarah Palin.

    • Geoff says:

      …never mind, just rewatched it and she’s definitely exaggerated way beyond that level. But it still wasn’t Canadian…we DO have an accent but that ain’t it. 😉

  4. SNLrocks says:

    Best cold open of the season. The ‘I’m just going to hide in my sweater’ bit was awesome, even though Bayer didn’t sound like her, it was exactly like her Roseanne character. The surpise ending of the Corn Syrup sketch was hilarious.

  5. […] Zach Galifianakis/Jessie J […]

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