Last time Anne Hathaway hosted Saturday Night Live in 2008, I remember her being a pleasant surprise, if somewhat underused. That impression continues after this episode, which wasn’t terrific and saw Hathaway stuck in a lot of straight-man parts despite her obvious talent and enthusiasm for comedy. The episode itself had a couple of standouts but was largely recycled material of varying levels of humor, just sort of petering out as it went on.
In a refreshing change, the political cold open was actually one of the funniest bits of the night—possibly because it didn’t include Obama, which tends to make things so dreadfully serious. John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and Charles Rangel are much easier targets, and Abby Elliott managed to get in a halfway-decent Rachel Maddow as well. Kristen Wiig did her typical impression of everybody (vacant, staring eyes, weirdly clipped speech) as Pelosi, who she’s done before, but it worked well. Kenan Thompson’s Rangel was about halfway there (he’s a man with a unique, Sesame Street-like voice that’s tough to nail) but some of his lines were gold—“I am somewhat innocent!” Bill Hader as Boehner didn’t really work as an imitation, but the writers (usually it’s Jim Downey for the political stuff) just nailed his faux-sincerity and super-vague delusions of populism.
Hathaway’s monologue was cute, and you could tell she was pumped to be on the show beyond just plugging her new movie, but it was sad to see her so under-served for the rest of the night. The two best sketches for me were the TSA ad and the Black Friday ad, both of which were pretty short, built up the joke well and just made me laugh. Uncomplicated stuff, but that’s often why things like the ads and digital shorts work better than the main sketches; they aren’t dragged out and they can pack in a lot more jokes. The Black Friday announcer (I assume it was Hader) was especially good in his increasingly terrifying invocations, culminating with what would likely be the death of Kirk Douglas by people tearing him to pieces.
Hathaway herself had one good role—her breathy Katie Holmes impression on The Miley Cyrus Show, which I assume she did because she was good at it, as I don’t know what Katie Holmes has been in the news for recently. The return of Vanessa Bayer’s Miley Cyrus was no surprise (Jason Sudeikis was a major step down from Bryan Cranston as Billy Ray), although maybe they could have waited a few more episodes to repeat it, because you know she’ll be back a couple more times this season now. Still, she is pretty funny as Miley and her “sexy pictures” segment (Miley doing bunny ears on male models and the like) was a good way of spoofing the media’s obsession with her “scandalous” behavior because really, who on earth thinks Miley Cyrus is sexy?
Along with Miley there were a lot of other repeated bits. Wiig’s Penelope, the consummate one-upper, returned with a bevy of new props. Penelope has always been one of the better Wiig characters in my opinion (I’m sure others don’t agree), but as usual, the whole thing went on way too long after a couple funny lines (“my relatives came over on the Aprilflower, so they got here one month before yours did”). I did like that the end of the sketch showed us Wiig lying on a bluescreen mat to represent the soup she was chilling in, a nice little reveal for the audience at home.
There was also the return of Bobby Moynihan’s overdone Guy Fieri impression and a re-do of last year’s bunny movie sketch (from the Taylor Swift episode) with a movie about horses playing baseball. Fred Armisen returned as Randy Newman, Anne Hathaway was Alanis Morrisette, Kristen Wiig was Dolores whatshername from The Cranberries, and we all partied like it was 1995. I mean, really.
This was also an Armisen-heavy episode, with two sketches devoted to his impressions of Queen Elizabeth (doing a terrible version of what I assume was supposed to be a cockney wideboy accent) and something about a whiny Jewish actor playing a weather-vane in The Wizard of Oz. The royals sketch (he and Hader, as Prince Phillip, drop the act for Prince William’s fiancée, once she leaves the room) was funny for a minute, but the Oz sketch didn’t make me laugh once. Armisen, I think, is probably the most love-hate member of the cast, and I assume a lot of guys over there love him because he’s usually given free rein to do his stuff, but it doesn’t usually work for me.
At least he didn’t play the part of Herb Welch, an octogenarian reporter who whacks people in the face with his microphone on the local news and angrily shakes his fist at the “haircut” anchorman asking him simple questions. That went to Hader instead, which made the sketch tolerable; while Armisen would have played it big, Hader shrunk his voice to a whisper and made Herb more of a walking corpse. The sketch wasn’t that funny, but Hader carried it off for me.
No show next week, because of Thanksgiving, but let’s all look forward to December 4th where Robert De Niro will solemly introduce “Dirty-Diddy Money” as the musical guest. See you then!
- Nancy Pelosi “always looks like she’s watching somebody not use a coaster.”
- If he lived in the Old West, Charles Rangel would be the bartender (he’s got the mustache and suspenders).
- I liked naked Anne Hathaway on the cover of Highlights (a stick figure with boobs).
- I also liked the Queen’s lines as she reverted to talking like a royal. “… and that’s when I first met Winston Churchill.” “… and that’s why we ride in a carriage.”
- Weekend Update was pretty slow, but Meyers acquitted himself well in the “Come on, Dictionary” sketch. Not laugh-out-loud funny but well-written.
- Quite a few Four Loko jokes, as it’s about to be banned in New York. I liked the Black Friday ad calling it “America’s premiere hillbilly and cholo fuel!”
- Oh, and Jay Pharoah was given another impressions showcase, and as usual, he was good (Jay-Z, Drake and Biggie) but I'd like to see him in more sketches.