Saturday Night Live: “Jonah Hill/Bastille”
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Saturday Night Live: “Jonah Hill/Bastille”

Jonah Hill, with his third appearance, is now one of those Saturday Night Live hosts who has hit “reliable” territory, and I don’t know if that’s a particularly good thing. Hill gave his all in a bunch of sketches that required him to be pretty high-intensity, but this was an often grueling episode saved only by a fantastic Weekend Update and a monologue drop-in from Leonardo DiCaprio. Would it surprise you to learn he’s never hosted the show? Time to address that, Lorne! Do whatever it is you need to do!

Until then, we have Jonah Hill on our hands, who, as I said, did a perfectly competent job. We started with a cold open that (I think) was attempting to mock the homophobia of the Russian government ahead of the Sochi Olympics, but essentially misfired. The joke of a bunch of “hetero” guys clomping around on the ice and trying to nab upskirt shots was funny for about no seconds to begin with, and the sketch really went nowhere with it. There’s so much to mock about Russia’s gay panic, but this was a very tired direction to go down, I felt.

After Hill’s sparkling monologue, replete with Titanic joke and Leo looking like the scary handsome wizard he is, the first sketch out of the gates was Adam Grossman. It’s definitely the only bit I remember from Hill’s last two appearances, but I don’t know if he’s worthy of such prestige. This sketch, like so many others tonight, was just exhausting. Adam Grossman is a 6-year-old who makes tons of hacky jokes while holding up his fingers and yelling “I’m 6!” Vanessa Bayer frankly killed it as the nice boring lady who sat silently next to him and Sasheer Zamata got the first of many prime “I’m just here to read boring dialogue” roles but the only joke I really laughed at was Adam’s turtle being called Shell Silverstein.

The video “The Hit” lacked Hill’s manic energy but was a nicely quiet little thing about three hitmen marveling at the snow around them. Kenan Thompson maybe should have been the whole sketch (honestly, he and Kate McKinnon should have been the whole night). I almost didn’t want it to go anywhere, just get hung up on Kenan’s dumb observations about snow. But no, Jay Pharoah goes to pet a bunny and gets shot. I guess there’s worse ways to end sweet little sketches like this one.

“Couples Quiz” was a nice upending of the SNL quiz-show format. Kenan (who really had an excellent night) is killing it as the new default host in the wake of Bill Hader’s departure. But despite the set and the happy couples, this show deliberately never went anywhere and got hung up on making Hill admit he had clogged the studio toilet. In an episode that hinged on Hill’s characters sweating profusely, this was probably the best use of that, and I liked the twist to the quiz show format. The one joke, however, got tired quickly, a common problem for the episode.

Weekend Update was a pretty flawless affair. Seth and Cecily are really starting to build up some chemistry, which is just swell considering he has one more week behind the desk left. Of course, the news has hit that Colin Jost will replace him on Update, which is exciting because Colin Jost is very funny, but certainly a sign that the show doesn’t think Strong can handle the gig solo. A few years ago, this gig would be going to John Mulaney, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles.

Anyway, the Update panelists were the best thing about the show. Kenan as the bemused cop who arrested Justin Bieber, describing Miami as a Grand Theft Auto-esque hellscape, was just tremendous. McKinnon as the returning Russian lady with comical complaints about a post-apocalyptic country was even better. This is one of those cases where McKinnon would be good no matter what she’s saying. She doesn’t even really need material. The character is automatically funny and her enthusiasm is infectious.

The episode didn’t ride the Update bounce, unfortunately, since sometimes the latter half is when things really start cooking. Instead, we had a drawn-out thing with a horse kicking Hill and Strong in the face over and over again (exhausting one-joke sketches were really the name of the game this week). That was followed by a perfectly acceptable but largely ordinary-feeling take on Her called Me with a welcome Michael Cera drop-in. Then a dinner party scene where Hill would excuse himself to a bathroom just off the dining room (what a great place for a bathroom!) and scream horrible things loudly so everyone could hear. Hill was sweaty and intense again, but the material just got dull after 30 seconds.

“Inside SoCal” was probably the worst Beck Bennett/Kyle Mooney video piece so far. It’s so, so difficult to nail the “hilariously amateur video” vibe without just being boring. Everything felt too loose and disconnected for the jokes to really land, although the coda with Hill being screamed at by his dad (Bobby Moynihan, you were missed from this episode) worked. Luckily, we closed out with the reliable ol’ former porn stars, this time selling Lamborghinis. This sketch never changes and that’s fine—just shove it on at 12:55 a couple times a year and have fun with saying the worst things you can imagine on network TV.

Stray observations:

  • Taran Killam’s Brad Pitt is one of his few impressions that needs a little work, although I get what he’s trying to do.
  • “I’m writing a book about my father and Debbie’s sex life. It’s called One Shade Of Grey! How do I even get that reference, I’m 6!”
  • The hitmen love Carole King. “Tapestry is my shit!”
  • Bieber resisting arrest was “like being barked at by a puppy who smelled like Smirnoff Ice.”
  • “They tried to make me go to rehab, and I said ‘Is it warm?’”
  • “Future’s weird.” “Yeah, it’s super-weird.” 

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