Saturday Night Live: “Melissa McCarthy/Imagine Dragons”
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Saturday Night Live: “Melissa McCarthy/Imagine Dragons”

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Saturday Night Live

"Melissa McCarthy/Imagine Dragons" 

Season 39, Episode 13

I think none of us know just how much we’re going to miss Seth Meyers. When the history of SNL is written (or re-written, since people keep doing that already) his era in charge may not stand out as the most daring or insane chapter, but it’s arguably been one of the most consistent. Even as the show enters shakier ground as it changes its cast over, it’s amazing how steady things have been under the stewardship of Meyers as head writer (a post he has held, either alone or with others, since 2005). His work as Update anchor is not to be ignored (his pairing with Amy Poehler was both at their strongest) but his impact as a writer is probably more significant and more subtly-felt.

All due respect to Colin Jost, a very funny man who will likely prove an able replacement, and I’m excited for the new era, but I was certainly sad to see Meyers go and appreciated his sendoff, which was brief, lovely and understated, with just a hint of a choke from Seth as he delivered his final goodbye. Of course Stefon showed up, and (happily) Poehler, Fred Armisen (as former Governor Paterson, a throwback joke I’m sure Meyers demanded) and Andy Samberg were there too. But I was worried there’d be some frantic effort to top Bill Hader’s goodbye as Stefon last season, an entirely impossible feat. With Meyers gearing up to be on our screens every night in just a few weeks, SNL knew there was no reason for that.

Meyers picked a strong episode to go out on, but it was also a Melissa McCarthy episode, and whether you like it or not (I like it) that means it’s pretty much going to be “The Melissa McCarthy Show featuring the cast of SNL!” She was the star of almost every sketch outside of the Update bits and a couple pre-taped segments, but I’d say her third hosting gig in three years was her most impressive yet.

The cold open Super Bowl musical number was very well-executed, but even a Broadway nerd like me could only work up a few chuckles at it (Ben Vereen playing Richard Sherman was a nice touch). Surprised at the lack of a Chris Christie sketch, but maybe the show is waiting for more concrete evidence before taking a torch to him? Or they don’t want to kick him while he’s down? I don’t get it, I’m just trying to make sense of it. McCarthy appeared in the cold open (always a good sign that the host is going to dominate) and then had an amusing monologue involving wire-work kung-fu with Bobby Moynihan. Look, I’m generally happy with opening monologues as long as there isn’t some dumb musical number.

McCarthy’s first real showcase was as imaginary Delaware congresswoman Sheila Kelly, who outdoes Staten Island’s Michael Grimm in terms of total retribution against any reporter asking the wrong questions. McCarthy’s characters are usually aggressive or obnoxious in some way, and this was all of that dialed up to the most extreme, but it’s a shtick I’m happy with in small doses. Plus, she made an Untouchables reference revolving around Andy Garcia. Who says SNL isn’t topical!?

The women’s group could have seen McCarthy being super over-the-top again—as everyone else talks about their ideal kitchens or getting their husbands to love them more, her character plots the elaborate death of the crime lord that murdered her father. But McCarthy stayed hilariously calm throughout, even when a laser sight was trained on her body, and that really made the sketch for me. It should be a problem that two sketches in a row ended with guns being produced (okay, in this one, McCarthy just asked her host how she felt about gunfire) because that can be a hacky conclusion when you don’t know how to wrap things up. Here, it worked both times, even with the sketches airing back to back.

After playing two badasses in a row, McCarthy turned to her other oft-used type for Guess That Phrase—a colossal alien weirdo loser. There’s always at least one of these people in her SNL appearances (the ranch dressing woman, or the pizza lady), but Kathleen was maybe my favorite yet. She has coined the imaginary phrase “pass the mash,” can’t wait to win that boat (the prize is a vacuum cleaner), and asks to “approach the bench” to speak to a befuddled Beck Bennett (doing A+ unflappable if baffled host work here, Bill Hader would be proud). A similar character emerged a few sketches later—the lady eating ribs on the park bench as Moynihan eulogized her in his mind. Less funny, and briefer, but still oddly captivating.

The pre-taped Black History Month song sadly didn’t give Sasheer Zamata anything to do except dance quietly while Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah rapped, but its overall message was hilarious and Moynihan’s attempt at a rebuttal rap (quickly silenced) was fantastic. I know it’s only three weeks in for Zamata, but I want to see her contribute more, especially to a sketch like this one where she isn’t just playing a background character.

The other pre-taped segments were similarly strong. The CVS Valentine’s Day ad ended strong (“You have hurt me today”) while Kyle Mooney just going out and talking to weirdoes in Times Square should be a regular thing. The man isn’t super-famous yet so he can get away with things, and he gets the strangest answers out of the strangest people.

The return of Girlfriends Talk Show confirmed for me that I am sick of that formula—Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant always nail their parts, but the sketch has the same format every time and for some reason it just doesn’t do it for me anymore. Oh well, I’m resigned to it popping up two or three times a year, and I don’t hate it (Strong and Bryant are funny enough to drag it along) so it’s not a Californians-level complaint.

Finally, I really enjoyed the dispute between McCarthy and the Frida Kahlo model (or “Latino Bert from Sesame Street”) but there was something up with that sketch. I don’t know if there was some technical snafu or I’m just stupid, but some of the lines seemed to fall flat in weird ways and the ending was kinda nothing. But I liked the sketch anyway. That’s how much I enjoy McCarthy on the show these days! She can even rescue a confusing mess like that!

Stray observations:

  • “You ever been thrown out a window, bro? Cause you know what, when I do it, I don’t open it first. So you go down with the glass.”  
  • Melissa has a box filled with trophies from individuals she’s erased. “The contents, once seen, cannot be unseen.” It’s ears and a penis.
  • “It is not your turn, and my name is not Don.”
  • Oh, add Burfod Calloway to the list of unnecessarily outraged folks Taran Killam just kills playing on Update.
  • Stefon Meyers wants Cecily to shut up. “Keep my man’s name out the mouth!”
  • “I want to apologize to you for saying dongs. Because I think you’re a real boy.”

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