Saturday Night Live: "Jesse Eisenberg/Nicki Minaj"
B+

Saturday Night Live: "Jesse Eisenberg/Nicki Minaj"

B+

Saturday Night Live

"Jesse Eisenberg/Nicki Minaj"

Season 36, Episode 13
B+

Saturday Night Live

"Jesse Eisenberg/Nicki Minaj"

Season 36, Episode 13

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This was the usual collection of Saturday Night Live juvenilia, adding a cameo by Mark Zuckerberg that will make the whole thing very newsy, but this episode went over quite well for me anyway, possibly because of Jesse Eisenberg's strong hosting job, possibly just because I had had a few drinks before I watched the thing.  I was worried after the Michelle Bachmann sketch, which picked the easiest gag (looking into the wrong camera) and just ran with it, way past the point of anyone caring. I hate it when SNL's political sketches are this lazy, and I thought we might be in for a terrible night.

But I was swayed back by Eisenberg's monologue, which followed the usual routine—"Hi, I was just in this movie or TV show, [pause for applause], and now I'm going to mock a well-known character attribute!"—but highlighted his nervous energy very well. "I'm a freight train of confidence… or not, that would be presumptive." Throwing in the joke about his knowledge of women's uterine linings was appreciably weird. And then Zuckerberg's appearance went about as well as anyone could hope. I was amused at just how dorky he sounded when he said "Those guys are such nerds, I invented poking!" in a high-pitched voice, and I liked Samberg sharing his secret on spoofing the Zuck to Eisenberg. "I wear this sweatshirt, and I say, I'M MARK ZUCKERBERG!" I was sad that we didn't get a Social Network spoof (I liked the movie a lot, but it's begging to be spoofed!) but I suppose that'll have to do.

After that, we had a nice coterie of dirty gags, first with the pre-op transsexual ad (which fell pretty flat, I thought) and then the Mr. Wizard balloon-rubbing skit, which was about as one-joke as the Bachmann bit I hated so much but won me over with Eisenberg and Nasim Pedrad's furious rubbings. And I thought Kenan and Abby Elliott's chaste rubbings on the other side of the room were just as funny (Kenan had on a particularly sexless sweater). Bill Hader probably should have broken out the fire extinguisher before he brought out the penis-shaped Van de Graff generator; the sketch didn't entirely wear out its welcome with me.

The "Don’t Forget the Lyrics" sketch was sort of a pleasant surprise, less for the material itself and more for the fact that I didn't know Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray had been reduced to hosting a syndicated version of some gameshow Wayne Brady won't even touch with a ten-foot pole anymore. I appreciated Sudeikis making McGrath just that pathetic, so your sympathies lay with the loser contestant played by Eisenberg. This was, happily, a TWO-joke sketch, mocking both the pathetic nature of the show and Eisenberg flubbing lyrics in an increasingly ridiculous fashion. "Celebrate Saddam Hussein! No, I don't believe that. Can I just go home?" Things built rather well to suggest that the show was some kind of prison or purgatorial torture-zone for McGrath, closing with his line "I make notches in my wall like it's a prison; this is VH1, good afternoon!" I know SNL basically had their job done for them by McGrath's re-appearance on TV, but still, well played.

The return of Herb Welch probably gave me more pleasure than it should have, but I am a sucker for Hader's recurring characters, and this one is no exception. His whacking the microphone onto people's faces is funny, but I'm really just waiting for him to erupt in elderly frustration at the "can of hairspray" reading the news and his demented digressions into other parts of history: "Are you sad that they're tearing down Ebbets Field?" he asks Eisenberg's Columbia student. The detail that he had been fired from the anchor job for "praying the rosary on the air" was a nice touch.

Following that we had "The Creep" from the Lonely Island boys that featured a cute cameo from Nicki Minaj but didn't really rate among their best efforts for me. I expect wild escalation over the course of three minutes from them, and while Minaj fondling a corpse in a coffin is along those lines, the rest of it wasn't. Nice cameo from John Waters, though. Weekend Update was more solid than usual; even most of Seth Meyers' jokes landed, and Armisen tried a different voice to play Mubarak and Kenan… well, he didn't do much except cover himself in money to do Tyler Perry (come on, the guy has a distinct voice, try to nail it!). But there were some well-written gags about him nonetheless. "I do have 28 Essence Awards. That's three more than Holly Robinson Peete!"

The following "Bride of Blackenstein" was something that could go either way but saved itself by just turning the ridiculous-ometer up to 11 and giving us not one, not two, but three shots of Nicki Minaj's comically enlarged butt. Minaj stumbled a couple times at the start but was pretty good as the center of the sketch, with Eisenberg sublimating himself well as Igor and keeping a straight face through lines like "I got the mouth from a ho who didn't know her place." I was getting bored by the time Hader came up with his angry mob and behaved oddly (what was that character supposed to be?). But the dancing and Robert Osborne's closing line, "That was the whole movie!" saved it.

"Blackenstein" was such a shot of energy for a late-in-the-show sketch, so it's too bad everything after that just petered out. Samberg as the MTV exec was funny ("impressed much?"), but the Skins spoof was very flat and lifeless, Wiig's weirdo spa therapy thing was a bunch of recycled "ethnic" performances from Bayer and Moynihan, who basically did nothing else this week (and the show was weirdly good without them…hmm…), and the penis-shrinking thing was fine for a closing sketch, but nothing much really.

Still, I'm giving this one a fat B+ for effort. I feel like on another week, a lot of these sketches wouldn't have flown so well with me, but Eisenberg was a good host, goofy when he needed to be and very energetic, which was probably the decisive factor. Next week, Dana Carvey is back! Did you miss him?

Stray observations:

  • "Believe it or not, my makeup was done by a child."
  • "It felt like a good headache!"
  • "As always, our audience has been force-fed Mountain Dew and diet pills from 5 this morning!"
  • "This one's for all the doctors, male or female."
  • "Why don't you sit on your jacket, and I'll do the news."
  • Looked like Hader almost lost it interviewing Kenan in the Herb Welch sketch. "There you have it, the city college, now fully integrated."
  • Mubarak: "They love me; they're upset because the internet is down!"
  • People seeing Charlie Sheen with a briefcase full of cocaine would definitely think, "Yeah, there goes Charlie Sheen with some paperwork!"
  • Igor's just been with Jewish girls. "Oh, then you kinda understand!"
  • "Some people are upset or whatever, because we showed a bunch of fourth graders having sex and doing heroin or whatever, I haven't seen it, cause I'm BAD AT MY JOB."
  • "That sounds excellent for young vaginas!"

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