Saturday Night Live: “Christoph Waltz/Alabama Shakes”
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Saturday Night Live: “Christoph Waltz/Alabama Shakes”

I was perhaps predisposed to like this episode of SNL, as I find Christoph Waltz to be basically the most delightful person alive. The show has been on such a mediocre run recently it was bound for a win sometime, and Waltz’s extraordinary charm and mellifluence seemed weirdly suited to Studio 8H, even though his guest-host casting still felt like a welcome surprise. This wasn’t a total knockout of an episode, but no sketch was an outright dud (okay, maybe Regine) and at no point did The Californians show up, which right now is enough to bump the whole thing up one letter grade.

We began, unsurprisingly, with the Carnival Triumph cruise ship, and credit for taking more than a minute to get to the first poop joke (which I liked, since it was actually about poop being the death of humor for Jay Pharoah’s cruise comedian). This sketch felt very long, although I guess the cod open usually runs a while. A lot of different gags that didn’t really run together just came one after the other—the comedian who’s sick of doing jokes, the end-of-the-world headlines, the animal man with a monkey skeleton, Fred Armisen acting weird, etc. Some hit better than others, but there wasn’t a ton of coherence.

Waltz’s monologue was largely forgettable outside of Taran Killam’s casual Hitler (who exits the scene with “Beil!”) and quickly segued to a half-assed musical number, but Waltz immediately gave the impression that he was thrilled to be there and game for anything.

So I felt a little bad when his first sketch was as the game show host in something called “What Have You Become?” Slot Hader or Sudeikis in there, let Waltz freak out as one of the pathetic guests being asked what’s become of him. But I will admit, Waltz brought some serious panache to the role of host (smiling through some weird technical difficulties) and the ultimate reveal that he just wanted to dance was the highlight of the bit. The whole thing went on a little too long maybe, but for an SNL game-show sketch it was pretty solid.

Then, after a brief Pope abdication video that missed the mark (especially when you have the lucky coincidence of a German-speaking host! Come on, guys) we had the introduction of a Nasim Pedrad character called Tippy, who’s one of those SNL characters it’s hard to sum up. She’s everyone’s dog walker at a party and she keeps butting into the middle of conversations and annoying everyone…and also, she inserts her own weird suggestions for where the conversation is going? There isn’t really a core concept. I imagine this one didn’t go over that well (it didn’t seem to be huge with the audience) but I actually kinda liked it. Not a very quotable sketch but Pedrad has a great weird energy to these weirdo characters she cooks up. One will eventually land and turn into a recurring hit, I just know it. I dunno if Tippy is the one, though.

Our digital short this week was Djesus Uncrossed, which was a pretty unqualified success—strong concept, very well executed (nice Tarantino-esque over the top gore), a couple good impressions—Killam as Brad Pitt hunting “Ro-Mans” and Kenan Thompson doing an excellent Ving Rhames—and a final line that landed a little softly but really made me laugh, with critics calling it “a less violent Passion Of The Christ.”

Continuing the strong run was the Jamarcus Brothers, two sexy soul singers (Thompson and Pharoah) with the usual nonsense about treating booty right, joined by their adopted virgin brother Englebert (Waltz) who has composed songs like “Where Does My Penis Go? Point To Where.” Again, there was something about Waltz’s joyful energy that just sold this already-decent sketch.

Weekend Update had three guests, the first time in a while that’s happened (this section of the show has gotten short shrift lately, probably just through circumstance). Taran Killam’s work as a desperately thirsty Marco Rubio was fantastic, classic Killam—just the perfect amount of physical comedy, especially when he maniacally tried to set the bottle of water as far away from himself as possible. Kate McKinnon as a sad Russian lady who wished the meteor had struck her was even better—the joke of her misery was simple, but since it was so over-the-top, they could go everywhere with it, and McKinnon just has such phenomenal crazy energy for roles like this. The return of Pharoah’s Stephen A. Smith wasn’t quite as strong but I do like how intense he gets screaming at Kobe Bryant through the TV (this time Seth Meyers just had a concurrent monologue about how he was making it all up).

Regine is someone we never need to see again. I think that’s clear at this point. Yes, Armisen does a funny face when he’s touched in certain places. And yes, it’s a little funny how pretentious she is—in terms of presentation, it’s a pretty funny character. But there’s absolutely nowhere to go with it, so I hope (against hope) that we never see her again.

Fox & Friends was also a little slow this week (and lacking Waltz for some reason), and largely reliant on ridiculous non sequiturs from Bobby Moynihan, but the final sketch of the night was a pretty decent one. Again, it really succeeded because of Waltz’s performance as a weird, nervous office guy who wrote a psychotic love letter to Cecily Strong and is quickly realizing his  mistake. The joke was pretty funny anyway—his garbled love note being read aloud provided most of the gags. But I loved how sad and regretful Waltz was about the whole thing.

Stray observations:

“I can’t tell no more jokes. There’s dookies on the wall, man. How does dookies get on the wall!? How?!”

Waltz tells Tippy stories are like shooting stars and she has to wait for the next one. “Because if you don’t-“ “-like a piano’s going to fall on you or something?”

Another Englebert classic: “Please Explain What We Do Now That We’re Naked.”

The Russian lady’s milkshake brings all the boys to the haunted mine. And that’s a current reference for her.

“I once let Pau Gasol and his entire family vacation on my forehead.”

Brian couldn’t watch the State of the Union speech. “There was a bee in my apartment, and it just turned into this whole thing.”

“I watch you and it makes me mad. There is something I can’t say, but we eat dish of milk and bananas together?”

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