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This is Jonah Hill’s third time hosting Saturday Night Live and, while the writing in his past two shows hasn’t been stellar, Hill always has a knack for trying his best to elevate mediocre material. His last episode ranged from the good (his Adam Grossman is one of my favorite reoccurring characters of the last ten years by a cast member or host), to the bad (an entire digital short where Hill gets hit in the crotch by various items in slo-mo), to the bizarre (remember that sketch where an almost-unrecognizable Fred Armison dressed up like a monkey in a sketch that revolved around a bestiality joke?), but through it all Hill proved up to whatever SNL threw at him.
Like always, I’ll be writing the recaps “live,” meaning I’ll watch the sketch and immediately write a short blurb reviewing and recapping it. For each segment, I’ll rate it on a scale of 0-5 stars. At the end of the piece, I’ll share some quick overall thoughts and the best/worst sketch of the night.
U.S. Men’s Heterosexual Figure Skating Championship: ½
I’m sorry. I know it’s only six minutes into the broadcast but I really don’t want to write about this lazy, borderline offensive skit that seems about 20 years too late. Besides a terrified Jay Pharaoh’s terrible skating, which admittedly was some pretty great physical comedy, the entire thing just didn’t work. OK, we get it: most figure skaters are gay and most straight guys are idiots. Wow. Original.
Opening Monologue: * * * *
Poor Jonah. All he wants to talk about is The Wolf of Wall Street and his second Oscar nomination but the audience keeps interrupting him to ask about Leonardo DiCaprio. While this section has that familiar ask-the-audience-monologue flow, it’s capped off really nicely with a cameo from Leo himself. Besides, their Titanic moment is worth four stars alone and the countless gifs it’ll surely produce.
Benihana: * * * *
On one hand, I can see that the third Benihana sketch didn’t live up to the first two. It dragged, failed to have any purpose and was basically just a monologue for Hill’s 6-year-old Borsht Belt kid. His jokes, too, seemed flatter and safer than last time (I missed the material about Grossman’s irrational fear of black people, for instance). But that being said, I just have a personal love for Grossman as a character. I don’t know if it’s the Jewishy, Catskillian humor or what but he just makes me laugh more than most SNL characters. So yeah, I have to go with my gut here and give this one a higher rating than it probably deserves.
The Hit: * * ½
In a crowded car one snowy night, three gunmen wait to kill somebody but instead of making strategies they wax poetic about the falling snow. “[If I wasn’t in this car] I would be running barefoot like a baby deer in a winter wonderland,” Killam’s character says. It’s an OK premise but goes on way too long and features an ending that doesn’t quite live up to the long build.
Couples Quiz: *
I have a feeling a lot of people will like this sketch; the audience seemed to be having a grand old time. But it just isn’t my cup of tea. I said a few paragraphs ago that I have to go with my gut and my gut hated this sketch, the literal expression of potty humor.
Weekend Update: * * * * *
You know, it was worth sitting through the dire cold open and “who stuffed up that toilet?” for this stellar Weekend Update, by far the best all season. Just about everything landed spectacularly, from that hilarious birth control joke to Thompson’s police officer to McKinnon’s Russian peasant woman. Thompson, playing the officer that arrested Justin Bieber in Miami (“the only city in America where basketball players are the best behaved,” according to him), is really funny and has such glee performing the skit that the laughter becomes infectious. The same goes for McKinnon’s Olya Povlatsky, the best new WU creation since Jebidiah Atkinson. Her delivery and mannerisms are perfect on just about every joke (“What was the other options, Haiti or middle of ocean?”). She will surely make another appearance at the desk before the Olympics is over.
Sweetland Ranch: ½
What is going on tonight? Every time there’s a great sketch and strong writing it is followed by a scarily unfunny one. The premise of this skit is simple: a horse puppet kicks the crap out of its two owners. Yup, that’s about it.
'Me' Trailer: * * ½
I really enjoyed Her, so I can say with some authority that SNL’s parody had a funny premise and fantastic production design. But I can also say that the initial joke – What if Theo’s OS was Theo’s voice instead of Scarlett Johansson’s sexy rasp – wore thin even in this short trailer. Having Michael Cera show up as the OS’ surrogate was a nice touch, though.
Dinner Party: * * * ½
Here, Jonah Hill plays a guy at a work dinner party who keeps making social faux pas and then leaving for the bathroom where he yells at himself. It’s essentially a one-joke sketch, and a loud one at that, but Hill’s delivery made me laugh and cringe in equal measure. I’m not sure we needed the “infant penis” joke and the sketch never quite found the footing it deserved, but to me it was more of a hit than a miss.
Inside SoCal: * ½
Remember when Bennett and Mooney made funny, original shorts like Beer Pong? Inside SoCal felt so weirdly meandering, lethargic and pointless that it left me scratching my head. What exactly was the joke here?
Not Porn Stars Anymore: * * * * ½
While the last version of the Not Porn Stars Anymore sketch faltered, the first three made my list of the best sketches of last year. I’m happy to announce that Brookie and her still unnamed friend is back to form. The rhyme of the sketch is still exactly the same, except that this time the girls are repping Lamborghinis (pronounced “Lam-borg-tinis”) and almost every joke is pretty subversive and hilarious. It’s rare that an SNL sketch contained jokes I didn’t feel comfortable printing here, so congrats to SNL for that. I know this is one I’ll want to rewatch in the morning.
Best Sketch: Weekend Update was pretty flawless, but boy Brookie and [Insert Name Here] made me laugh.
Worst Sketch: Although the cold was pretty bad, I found the sketch with the horse the most insufferable.
Musical Guest: Bastille Hmm, an English band named after a French fortress and performing a song named after the Roman Pompeii ruins. The song is actually pretty good, think Coldplay meets Fun meets Imagine Dragons and, while I’m not sure it distinguishes itself from sounding like a B-side to any of those acts I just mentioned, it’s definitely worth a listen. Their second number “Oblivion” was quiet and softer, a string-laden power ballad. I’m not sure lead singer Dan Smith has quite the vocal power to pull it off, especially in the falsetto sections, but the song is moody and pretty and worth sitting through despite a few bum notes. I might even download it tomorrow.
Overall Thoughts: While SNL contained a fantastic Weekend Update, most of the other sketches were dumb, tired and very broad. Gay jokes, potty humor, a violent horse puppet? What was going on in 8H this week? When Hill was allowed some decent material he (mostly) did well but I’m not sure SNL is a medium where Hill really shines. Oh well, better luck with Melissa McCarthy next week…
Next Week: Speak of the devil! Melissa McCarthy, one of the best SNL hosts in recent memory is coming back for her third outing along with Imagine Dragons.