I can’t believe this is the last Saturday Night Live episode for the show’s 39th season. It’s just flown by! Thank you for sticking with The Celebrity Café and thank you for reading my recaps. It’s been a pleasure to write about SNL for you all. While this is my last official recap for the season, I’ll be publishing (at least) two subsequent articles next Saturday and the Saturday after that: a Best Of and Worst Of lists for the season. I’m also tempted to put together a list of great cut sketches that were uploaded on Hulu, so perhaps that’ll come to fruition too. Comment below with your favorite/least favorite sketch of the year and perhaps it’ll persuade my voting.
Tonight, we have Andy Samberg returning to SNL for his first outing as host. He’s an interesting choice as season finale host for two reasons. One is that, although he changed SNL forever with his wacky, viral-able Lonely Island digital shorts, Andy wasn’t really known for being a terrific sketch player. I mean, can you remember a single character he played in a live sketch? Yeah, me neither. OK, fine. His Nick Cage was all kinds of wonderful. But it’ll be interesting to see how he meshes with the new cast and how well he shines in the live bits. My guess is the transition from silly sidekick to sketch star won’t be flawless, but my SNL senses tell me they’ll be plenty of celebrity cameos to help smooth the transition. Whether that’s a good thing or not, is yet to be determined.
Samberg is also an interesting choice of host for the 39th season host because this season has also been dominated with digital shorts. Sure, The Mooney/Becket and O’Brien shorts are very, very different from the Lonely Island ones – Samberg’s were all bombastic, surreal and highly shareable while the current SNL videos have been quieter, sweeter and decidedly less musical – but the connecting thread is that these shorts have been the highlights of their respective seasons.
For the last time (at least until the fall), I’ll be writing the recaps “live,” meaning I’ll watch a 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.
A Message from Solange and Jay-Z: * * ½
I just adore Jay Pharaoh’s Jay-Z. He really is a master impressionist. This sketch – a reaction to the Solange/Jay-Z elevator fight – thankfully didn’t feature a “99 Problems” joke and did start off strong thanks to Pharaoh’s impression. But it quickly sagged when they got to talking about a breakdancing cop who was also filmed in the elevator. And less than five minutes into the show we already have a cameo from an SNL alum: Maya Rudolph, who’s about to launch her own NBC variety show. Her energy is always fantastic but the material written for her didn’t add too many laughs. It’s a fine, if not tepid cold open.
Opening Monologue: * * * ½
Holy guest stars, Batman! I knew we’d get cameos galore and boy was I right. Before any other stars emerge, Samberg reminds the audience of his starring role in “100 digital shorts and 6 live sketches.” After that, he tries to break Bill Hader’s record for most impressions and, with help from pal Seth Meyers, launches into rapid-fire celebrity impressions. Most are not great, but that shaggy, throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks style that Samberg has mastered makes them funny nonetheless. Did we really need the cameo from Hader and Martin Short, not really, but they are two of my favorite comedians, so who cares?
Camp Wicawabe: * * ½
First of all, it’s really nice to see an original sketch lead the show since I was worried all we’d get tonight is celebrity cameos and returning characters. Problem is, there wasn’t much humor to be found in the lackadaisical sketch starring Bryant and McKinnon as two preteen camp counselors. Yes, it was nice to see Bryant out of Girlfriends Talk Show mode and I think there’s promise in the Camp Wicawabe premise, but Samberg just wasn’t that funny as the camp’s biggest prankster and the whole thing didn’t really go anywhere.
Digital Short – When Will The Bass Drop?: * * *
Let’s talk digital shorts for a moment. Some were great, D*ck In A Box and I Just Had Sex will always be a big part of SNL history, but most of them were forgettable at best. When Will The Bass Drop, about a club DJ who will just not let the bass drop, isn’t an instant classic from the Lonely Island team. It’s no “I’m On A Boat.” It’s barely a “Creep.” But it made laugh, especially all the surreal touches Mr. Samberg has made his trademark. Besides, it reminded me of a 2014 update on one of my favorite SNL skits: where Maya Rudolph played Oprah giving away gifts to a crowd that eventually turned to cannibalism and went crazy due to excitement.
Confident Hunchback: ½
Last week SNL turned to Charles Dickens with disastrous results. This week, they turned to Victor Hugo with even worse results. I think SNL should stay away from the classics for a while.
Weekend Update: * * * ½
I was worried when the first WU guest was Bruce Chandling, a bad stand-up comic who’s the brainchild of SNL’s resident mumblecore master Kyle Mooney. Back in his first appearance, in the season premiere, I called Chandling a “retread of the failed stand-up comic character we’ve seen over and over again on SNL.” In his second outing, Mooney added a wonderful dark side to the character that made the proceedings work so much better. Up next, surprising no one, is Get In The Cage with Nick Cage and Paul Rudd. Samberg’s crazy Cage is, as always, a delight as is Rudd. Sure, it’s a fill-in-the-blanks style sketch with some jokes repeated verbatim, but it’s super quotable and super fun.
The Vogelchecks: * ½
Last year, I voted The Californians as my least favorite sketch of the year and, while some agreed with me, a lot of you didn’t. The Vogelcheck Family sketches are a lot like The Californians in that you either love them or you hate them. To me, they are not as deadly as Californians, but, by this point, are tired, predictable and lazy. These are sketches built on shock and when the shock is gone, what’s the point? OK, we got a whose-who of celebs – Armison, Paul Rudd, Rudolph, Hader, Wiig – and I’m sure a lot of viewers will be amused. I’m just not one of them. I will add, though, that the Michael Sam commentary almost made this bit worth repeating. Almost. It was a brilliant touch in an otherwise lame sketch.
Waking Up With Kimye: * * ½
The first Kimye sketch (from the Lady Gaga episode) was a modest success. The last two have been lukewarm. Granted, Killam’s Bruce Jenner was a wonderful addition to the proceedings. But I’m confused as to why they didn’t include more current cast members. Did Moynihan, Bayer, Milheiser, Wells, Wheelen and O’Brien come down with pneumonia this week? While the third Kimye sketch wasn’t revolutionary (or even that memorable), at least they have a great energy about them and it’s clear how much Pharaoh and Pedrad enjoys doing them.
Digital Short - Hugs: * * ½
This was a paint-by-numbers digital short that I have very little to say about. It was fine. It’s won’t be remembered come morning. I’m just slightly confused that the Lonely Island team had two years to come up with new material and this is what they produce?
Legolas from “The Hobbit” Tries To Order At Taco Bell: * * * ½
This modest sketch had a funny, surreal premise and thankfully didn’t overstay its welcome at under a minute. On a better night of SNL this may have been a throwaway, but this episode’s pretty dire so it’s actually one of the better things I’ve seen tonight.
The Blizzard: *
Remember how I said Samberg didn’t have any memorable SNL characters? Well, I guess there was The Blizzard, a super white rapper who has “the same swagger as A$AP Rocky and the street cred of Katherine Heigl.” Despite the game 2 Chainz, who seemed to really enjoy his SNL in-sketch debut, there was almost nothing to like here.
Not Porn Stars Anymore: * ½
I used to love the Not Porn Stars Anymore sketches. They were one of my favorite reoccurring sketches last year and the last version of this sketch, in the Jonah Hill episode, absolutely killed. But I think it’s officially time to say goodbye to Brookie and Not Brookie. This version was so lame, so dull and so toothless its hard to believe it was written by the same people. The Not Porn Stars sketch should be the perfect 12:50 sketch, it’s weird and subversive and, when done right, so freakin’ funny. But tonight’s was none of those things.
Best Sketch: The strongest thing all night was probably Weekend Update but that’s not saying much.
Worst Sketch: Hunchback or Blizzard, pick your poison.
Musical Guest: St. Vincent
To quote some lady in the first digital short tonight, ““This is music?” There three choices about St. Vincent: A) I have problems with my hearing, B) Once I hit 23 I just became too old for music like this or C) It’s just terrible. I’m sure the ladies of St. Vincent are perfectly lovely, but their music is what my grandfather called “a lot of noise.” It’s just not for me.
Season finale or not, this was a pretty bad episode of SNL. The sketches were lazy and boring, the reoccurring bits felt shoehorned, the SNL alumni outshined the current cast members and even the digital shorts, Mr. Samberg’s specialty, were forgettable. It’s a sad way to end the season for sure.