I mostly know Kevin Hart from movie trailers, some talk show appearances and his lackluster freshman outing as Saturday Night Live whose only memorable moment was the wonderfully surreal Z Shirts sketch. But will we see a repeat of that show or will he get better material this time around?
Like I always do, 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.
Martin Luther King Cold Open: * * * *
While trying to write a paper on MLK’s legacy, a teen is visited by the ghost of Dr. King who is horrified by what’s happened to his legacy. After always complaining about toothless political cold opens, it feels wrong to overly criticize this skit too much as it actually includes a few moments hard-hitting satire such as MLK’s reaction to twitter protests. Do I wish they had pushed that stuff further? Yes. And I think that, if they had, it would have been the best Cold Open of the season. But as it is, the sketch was pretty great.
Opening Monologue: * * * ½
I too live in the country and am surrounded by pesky, scary wildlife, so I feel your pain Mr. Hart. While I appreciate when stand up comedians do their routine in the monologue instead of phony “let’s talk to the audience” shtick, this specific routine was just all right. Like the long road to his woodsy house, his story felt meandering and too much set up for too little payoff. That being said, maybe this is great Kevin Hart stand up and he’s just not my comedy cup of tea.
Calvin Klein Commercial: * * * ½
Yes, this is low hanging fruit for SNL (if you pardon the expression), but any excuse for Kate McKinnon’s Bieber is just fine by me. And “fine” is really the key word there.
Why’d You Post That: * *
This is an Instagram sketch that felt like it was written by people who have never used Instagram but have heard their friends complain about it. It didn’t really have anything new to say about social media that hasn’t been complained about online for years and went on so long I was almost hoping for more technical problems so that this would be over.
Bushwick Brooklyn: * * * *
So here’s the thing. Comedy is subjective, we all know that, and I can’t help but think that this very funny and very well executed sketch would be a hell of a lot funnier if I lived in or around Brooklyn. Truth is, I’ve never even been to Brooklyn. So while I can appreciate the theme of gentrification, it didn’t hit home in the way I think it will for New Yorkers.
James Brown: * *
Hart does a good James Brown impression. The entire cast wearing sparkly red suits and afro wigs was a funny visual. Too bad all they did with it was have the cast yell about chicken parm over a funky guitar riff. The thing about changing the first name after marriage was amusing, but…I’m worried we’re off to a rough start tonight.
Sigh. Dumpy, farty music. This is what we’re resorting to?
Calvin Klein Commercial 2 : * * * ½
“This underwear is making me tired” might be my favorite line of the night so far.
Weekend Update: * * * *
A strange and quick Weekend Update tonight with one big takeaway (OK, besides that great “Let It Go” joke and that Kate McKinnon is a national treasure): perhaps the way to make the Jost/Che era of Update work best is to allow Che is break free of the typical format and let him tell longer form jokes. When he does, it’s always well worth it.
Dragon Attack: * ½
This feels like a parody of something but yet it just exists in its own unfunny universe. This was well performed and I’m glad Leslie Jones got a moment on screen but there just wasn’t a laugh to be found.
Backstage with Kevin Hart: * * * ½
It’s always fun when SNL hosts do sketches alongside a cast member doing an impression of them. No, this isn’t Jagger/Jagger or Seinfeld/Seinfeld but, after tonight’s mostly dire line up, Pharaoh’s infectious energy and spot on impression alongside Jones’…ahem…intimidating presence won be over.
Listening Party: * * * *
In his best outing tonight, Hart puts every last bit of energy in his “rap” where he exposes the secrets of his entourage. It didn’t overstay its welcome and landed some really funny punch lines.
Best Sketch: The Bushwick sketch is probably on paper the best of the night, but I’m going out of left field with the MLK cold open as it took the most risks and was solidly executed.
Worst Sketch: That Nancy farting music will haunt my dreams.
Musical Guest: Sia
I really like Sia. She’s strange and quirky, yes, but in a way that feels genuine and meaningful rather than weird for weird sake (I’m looking at you Gaga!). Her voice too is so raw and real. It’s not perfect but it’s real and rough and surprisingly emotional. Also, I kinda dug the weird leotarded dancers and deaf mimes. They were bold visual statements but actually made you listen to the song even harder.
Kevin Hart had an ungodly amount of energy but it mostly fell flat do to poor writing. Oh well, at least there were a few stand out moments.