C O L D O P E N :
ZOË RICE: Lesson learned here: sarcasm through a translator will pretty much always be funny. And I continue to look forward to Fred Armisen’s Obama.
STEVE MURPHY: Hilarious! The new girl really made it happen here, and that’s not easy in the role of ‘emotionless translator.’ “Do sex to me” is also a hilarious phrase and worth shouting again and again. I haven’t really enjoyed a cold open in I think over a year. Shaping up to be a great episode!
HOWARD MEGDAL: Leaving aside that many of the jokes reinforce the misguided notions of the misinformed, this captured the zeitgeist of the US-China visit well, and humorously.
M O N O L O G U E :
ZOË RICE: Sigh. I saw Joseph Gordon-Levitt (whose name is too long, so now it’s JGL) on Jimmy Fallon the other night, and I gotta say I didn’t like him. I thought he came across as affected, and what’s with his twinge of fake New York-ish accent? But he mentioned his monologue on the show, said it was his idea, and that he’d been working on it for weeks. But what makes the monologue songs on SNL funny is that the writers rework the lyrics (or write original ones) to be biting and clever. Doing a second-rate version of the great Danny Kaye just didn’t move me. JGL’s jumps at the end were impressive, and I enjoyed watching Bobby Moynihan punch him, but overall this number struck me as JGL indulging in himself.
STEVE MURPHY: Joseph Gordon-Levitt…. talk about a guy who doesn’t have any brand recognition with me. I had no idea who was hosting this show until the kid from 3rd Rock From the Sun walked out on stage. But… hot damn! I mean… that was incredible! He wasn’t specifically funny, but that was a completely legitimate Broadway performance, and I was solidly entertained. Great dancing, solid singing… let’s see those auto-tuned Glee kids do that! Bobby Moynihan was perfect, and actually did make ‘em laugh. I’m loving this kid and this episode so far. Fantastic.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Agree with Zoë that normally it is the parody that makes this work, but I love the source material enough, combined with JGL’s performance of it, that I didn’t mind at all.
C O M M E R C I A L : PALIN 2012
ZOË RICE: Nicely done, SNL. This trailer re-cut was perfectly edited to turn 2012 into a real disaster movie.
STEVE MURPHY: Did they hire all new writers this week? This was amazing. Glenn Beck as Vice President was legitimately frightening. Just a great idea, which is something SNL struggles with sometimes. Also see this awesome non-SNL 2012 trailer recut.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Perfect.
S E C R E T W O R D :
ZOË RICE: Unfortunately neither JGL nor Kristen Wiig particularly impressed me here–both seemed to be trying too hard–and without them the skit doesn’t have much to offer. But Kristen did have some funny moments, especially her “Drape.” I think these retro game show send ups work better when the cast impersonates the real personalities who did them. I didn’t hate the sketch, but I didn’t love it.
STEVE MURPHY: Another terrific sketch! That’s four in a row! Kristen Wiig creates yet another hilarious character from nowhere, and completely steals the show. She’s the new Will Ferrell of this show. Everything she says makes me laugh. Seems like Zoe and I are having very, very different SNL experiences so far.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Nice and quick- a big fan of the Game Show Network parodies in general.
D I G I T A L S H O R T : I’M REBA!
ZOË RICE: Okay, I totally laughed at this. And finally–finally!–I enjoyed watching Kenan Thompson. His pantomime of “hanging like my…” (fill in the blank) made me giggle out loud. Andy Samberg’s raps rarely disappoint. Add a dude in a Reba McEntire wig, and it’s absurd and freaky (in a good way).
STEVE MURPHY: This was funny, but amazingly not as funny as the previous four sketches, which really says something about how good this episode has been before. Not a Samberg classic, but pretty funny. And Kenan manages not to ruin it, which is hard for him.
HOWARD MEGDAL: So that wasn’t really Reba? So far, so good!
M E L L O W S H O W W I T H J A C K J O H N S O N :
ZOË RICE: JGL does a good Jason Mraz impression, but does he have to sing in every single sketch? Bill Hader’s turn as Dave Matthews doesn’t hit the mark, and Andy Samberg’s kind of annoying here. But the sketch is worth it for Dave Matthews’ awesome impression of Ozzy Osbourne.
STEVE MURPHY: A great idea that makes fun of some people I’m pretty familiar with… but somehow didn’t include any actual jokes. Why does Jack Johnson keep losing his pets? Even the impressions were pretty terrible (worst Dave Matthews impression of all time?) until Dave Matthews himself lit it up as Ozzy.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Liked Mraz and Ozzy, but I really don’t know Johnson or Matthews enough to appreciate even a good impression.
W H A T U P W I T H T H A T ?
ZOË RICE: I thought the 2nd go at this (I guess) recurring sketch was better than the first, but it’s still too much Kenan for me. Al Gore is great, though! I loved watching his expression as he’s hit by the keyboard and then at the end by confetti. Bobby Moynihan’s tap dancing snake-bedecked wrestler made me laugh, and Mindy Kailing’s always refreshing to see. But I still had to fast forward through some of the “What up with that” choruses.
STEVE MURPHY: Oh this just keeps getting better and better. If I could pick any sketch from this season to repeat, it would be this one. Two real and very famous celebrities this time! Even before it started I was excited. Kenan’s best character ever, plus it’s my favorite kind of sketch, where the whole cast ends up on stage in absurd outfits dancing like crazy people. Interrupting Al Gore while he’s talking about the environment is hilarious. Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts? Andy Samberg as the budget clown? Jason Sudeikis breaking it down the whole time in a track suit? Sign me up for this one every time.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Clearly, they’ve found a comfort zone for Thompson. And I’m not sure there’s anything better than Sudeikis in a track suit. Gore’s ability to laugh at himself- both here and in 30 Rock- makes me like him that much more. The oddities don’t seem out of place here- SNL gives them proper context.
D A V E M A T T H E W S B A N D 1 :
ZOË RICE: If it weren’t for college, I don’t think I’d ever have heard a Dave Matthews Band song. I didn’t love him then, and I don’t love him now. But this song was pleasant enough. It sounded very commercial-friendly to me, and I have a feeling it’s just a matter of time before an advertiser snatches up the rights. I’m picturing hearing “You and me together” while a man lovingly drives his Volkswagen.
STEVE MURPHY: I am a huge Dave Matthews Band fan… says 15 year old me. Twice-that-age me hates them. What the hell is this crap, Dave? Do you think the Dave of “What Would You Say” and “Jimi Thing” would have any respect for whatever this is? Pathetic.
HOWARD MEGDAL: What can I say? Dave Matthews songs bore the crap out of me.
W E E K E N D U P D A T E :
ZOË RICE: Seth Meyers’ jokes felt biting and on point tonight, and again Al Gore made me laugh. It’s true, politicians are getting crazy! I say go for it Al Gore. Out crazy the crazy, and make it seem like the forest is out for its revenge.
STEVE MURPHY: Al Gore’s does an amazing job here with his alternate ways to persuade lawmakers to save the environment. “I’m like Punxsutawney Phil, but when I see my shadow… it means the Earth is dying.” Update was incredibly short this week, with only one special guest… but I’m absolutely fine with that. It’s a great system: as the episode gets less funny, Update gets longer. This episode’s hilarious, hence a short Update. I can get behind that.
HOWARD MEGDAL: And the special guest was a funny Al Gore, not an unfunny parody of a C-list celeb. Kudos!
A N G R Y F A M I L Y T H A N K S G I V I N G :
ZOË RICE: The clunker of the evening. This sketch dragged on forever, largely because of the one-note gag (angry family on Thanksgiving) that wasn’t funny to begin with. Wilson Phillips didn’t help.
STEVE MURPHY: Intensely weird, but only moderately amusing. Kristen Wiig is almost too good at being the angry aunt, to the point it was more sad than funny. Not the best of the night, but ok.
HOWARD MEGDAL: If you create a largely-unfunny pattern, then repeat it, I don’t really see where the humor comes in.
W O M A N T O W O M A N :
ZOË RICE: I feel like this was a decent idea for a sketch that should have been funnier. Fred Armisen has to fill in on a woman’s advice show–what will he say?? But the pay-off,
“Apologize to your husband,” fails to live up to the potential. And if he said “I can’t hear you” one more time, I might have fast forwarded.
STEVE MURPHY: This was the first really meh sketch of the night for me. And I completely agree with Zoe. The concept wasn’t bad but it was done simply and without a lot of thought. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character added nothing. Maybe the girls could have been falling for him or something because he’s so sensitive? I don’t know. But Fred Armisen having trouble hearing the women until they have to shout something embarrassing didn’t do it for me. There were a million jokes to be had here, so leaning on ‘please speak up’ and ‘say you’re sorry’ felt way too easy.
HOWARD MEGDAL: The best part of the sketch was the visual of the ill doctor in the title sequence.
D A V E M A T T H E W S B A N D 2 :
ZOË RICE: Forgive me, do, but I could picture this song as background music for an 80′s cop show.
STEVE MURPHY: Booooo. I miss Lady Gaga. This makes me look back and laugh at myself for thinking Dave’s music hit rock bottom with “I Did It.”
HOWARD MEGDAL: Exactly, Zoë. They’d be opposites, but somehow get along.
S A Y A N Y T H I N G :
ZOË RICE: I admit, I don’t get it. It’s Say Anything on TBS…but a version where the neighbors interrupt the Peter Gabriel boom box scene. I just found this to be a strange concept for a skit. Head scratching instead of laughing.
STEVE MURPHY: This just wasn’t that funny. The audience wasn’t even laughing. Maybe if this sketch happened in the 80s when this movie was released instead of now when it has absolutely nothing to do with anything…
HOWARD MEGDAL: Disagree- got a kick out of this re-imagining of an iconic 80s scene. This entire episode didn’t once make me feel like it was dragging on.
STEVE MURPHY: In collecting the videos for this review I stumbled upon one of my very favorite SNL sketches which I’m guess was performed at Dress Rehearsal but didn’t make it to air! So here it is for you beautiful people to enjoy!