Hosting his third SNL in five years (as well as guesting on another three episodes), Paul Rudd is now firmly in pro territory for this show. In pretty much every sketch he appeared in tonight, he blended right into the cast, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Its not like Rudd played a background character every time, but he doesn’t really need to distinguish himself anymore either. We all know he’s the greatest! So he slips very nicely into the ensemble, has his fun, and helps produce a solid but mostly unmemorable episode.
I say mostly unmemorable. Because the advantage of a team player like Rudd is that it means lots of fun guest stars drop by! The party started with the cold open, a gentle spoofing of The Sound Of Music Live that seemed to be going nowhere when Kristen Wiig showed up as Dooneese. Fred Armisen also dropped by as Lawrence Welk (certainly not his most memorable creation, but I admire his commitment). And I shocked myself by actually laughing and liking the whole thing.
Who knew I would miss Dooneese! Every time she showed up in a cold open, I’d bemoan the missed opportunity and the strict formula of every one of her sketches. But with Wiig no longer dominating the show every week, it’s easy to just enjoy what a singular comic talent she is and what a strange, strange concept Dooneese is. It’s funny that I was justifiably bored by her every appearance. And if she started showing up every few weeks, I’d be bored again. But I think I am going to be alone among the internet’s SNL critics in saying I dug that sketch.
Then, for Rudd’s monologue, we had some gags about how he’s always overshadowed by the musical guest (Beyoncé, Paul McCartney, and now One Direction) followed by more overshadowing from his Anchorman 2 co-stars Will Ferrell, Steve Carell (bearded and so handsome!) and David Koechner. Ferrell and Koechner are, of course, SNL alums (Koechner’s time was far too short) and Carell is one of those “what could have been?” stars. He would have been an amazing SNL cast member.
Things took a sharp and immediate nosedive with PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, talking about national healthcare. Was this supposed to be the political cold open, and shuffled down the schedule because it was too awful? I love watching Kenan Thompson pronounce “www” as “woo woo woo” and “Rockefeller” as “Rockford Files,” but as a vehicle for actual political commentary, this is an awful sketch. Luckily it was short.
Making Paul Rudd a creepy One Direction fan was a pretty obvious way to go for the only sketch that involved the band, but I liked that amid the weird jokes and bullying of children (were they actual fans? That would be awesome) it was reinforced that Rudd’s character actually sincerely loved the band. The button to the sketch, his awed reaction to them signing his photo, was the best part.
The first actual original no-kidding live sketch of the night (Welk and PoliticsNation are old hat) was the divorce mediation, which probably could have used a punchier ending, but was charming all the same. This set the tone for most of the night’s original sketches. I didn’t hate any of them but I also laughed gently through most of them. The divorce sketch had some fantastic individual lines (the silver mine thing, or Kenan saying “I am never gonna get that couch delivered!”) but I’ll never watch it again and be totally fine with that.
Weekend Update was a cavalcade of hits. Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy always does it for me even though he follows such a strict routine every time (although his acknowledgement that Seth was leaving, got me a little emotionally worked up). The return of Jebediah Atkinson was quick even for this show—“Run things into the ground much?” he snarked at Seth—but, I have to admit, pretty welcome. There wasn’t the exciting moment of him flubbing a line like last time (I almost want them to work that in again somehow) but his surreal complaint that the story of Christ ripped off Vacation, followed by the explanation “Time is not linear for me!” was the joke of the night.
The Michelangelo sketch was straight down the middle. Michelangelo’s David has a small penis, did you guys know? It’s the oldest gag in the book and every joke about it was as obvious as they get, but I still laughed a bunch, especially with the late entrance of Leonardo Da Vinci and Nasim Pedrad as the Mona Lisa. The Santa’s workshop thing didn’t work for me at all, mostly because Rudd’s Santa was a bit of a nothing character, although Kate McKinnon tried to save it right at the end as Santa’s new friend who taught him about hip hop dances.
“White Christmas,” which was sandwiched in between, was probably SNL making fun of itself for being such a fucking snowstorm? Jay Pharoah’s beleaguered look was supposed to suggest that, I think. Which is fine? The joke in and of itself was nothing special. Paul Rudd is a white Madea! Mike O’Brien was the guy wearing a necklace over a turtleneck! Yes, these movies have tropes that are easily spoofed! But they can’t be spoofed by this show very well since there’s only two black cast members! Eh, if it had been funnier, I’d be more forgiving, but it wasn’t that great.
Cecily Strong (who really dominated tonight, with little sign of Aidy Bryant and not a ton of McKinnon) was the center of the final middle-of-the-road sketch of the night, with a bunch of handsome old flames dominating her memory, and then Rudd as a pizza guy who she banged in a bathroom once. The gag was fine, Rudd was as animated as you’d like him to be, but only Moynihan’s late entrance as his now-dead friend (“I just wouldn’t go to the doctor!”) who walked in on them really did anything for me.
Luckily the night ended about as perfectly as this kid, who grew up on late 90s Adam McKay/Ferrell SNL, could imagine. A Bill Brasky sketch! One of their greatest ever recurring sketches. Do I need to say more? Ferrell and Koechner were in the damn thing, as they should be, with Rudd and Killam (who did their jobs nicely) and Kenan (who subbed in for the usual Tim Meadows part). Go watch it online. It’s what’s for breakfast. Bill Brasky is a son of a bitch.
- Captain Von Trapp admires Maria despite her fashion sense. “You’re so beautiful in that terracotta disaster of a dress.”
- Carell goes too far. “Why don’t you kids sit on Santa’s lap and ask for a pair of balls?”
- Bayer calls Rudd Pooh Bear. “I defecate in the woods once and you won’t let it go!”
- “If you’re watching from Staten Island, obese means fat. It’s a fancy word for fat.”
- I love Jebediah hating on the crowd. “If you ask me, Family Guy killed the wrong dog. Oh what, he’s a cartoon! If you care so much, learn how to draw!”
- The crowd was, sadly, unusually quiet. Very common for episodes featuring a musical act like One Direction, whose fans might not be as interested in the whole SNL experience.
- “I love that the figure is so contemplative, like he’s thinking, where’s my penis? How am I ever going to get laid?”
- “He once date-raped Karl Malone on a dare!” “I actively worship the devil.”