Saturday Night Live: "Jim Carrey/The Black Keys"
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Saturday Night Live: "Jim Carrey/The Black Keys"

B-

Saturday Night Live

"Jim Carrey/The Black Keys"

Season 36, Episode 11
B-

Saturday Night Live

"Jim Carrey/The Black Keys"

Season 36, Episode 11

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I was kind of excited at the idea of Jim Carrey as host, but with all the necessary caveats that come with Jim Carrey these days. His recent career choices aside, I do remember that this guy can be funny; hell, he has a lot of sketch comedy experience from In Living Color. But on the other hand, his comedy style is often go-big-or-go-home, he's been kind of off his game in a lot of his recent movies, and, well, he's been growing a reputation for being fucking weird.

He did an alright job, though, in an episode that started out pretty horrendously but built to some appreciably weird and clever sketches by the end of it. He definitely went big in most of the sketches he appeared in, but I found he actually blended in quite well with the other performers (going big is a pretty common phenomenon on this show, after all) and didn't negatively dominate proceedings like some hosts do.

The Mayor Bloomberg cold open seemed like a risky move because New York's snow troubles hardly affected the rest of the country, but the sketch was more mocking the horrified, apocalyptic reaction to the 25 inches of snow while many other cities routinely deal with such troubles. Armisen had Bloomberg's cadence down pretty well (he threw a little too much Liberace in there, maybe) but everything was on-target, although by the time they were ragging on the sanitation workers the whole thing had just gone on too long. But, for one of SNL's patented "one guy addresses the camera from a chair" cold opens, it could have been a lot worse.

Carrey's monologue had what I was expecting: boundless, terrifying intensity, but he sent himself up pretty well, especially in his proposal to an audience member (who seemed appropriately terrified that this sweaty stick man was inches from her face). "I'm Jim Carrey, and you know what that means, mucho dinero." But following that little jolt of energy with the third, yes, the THIRD airing of the lame Bosley commercial with pubic hair transplants was a baffling decision. I don't know if they put it on because they ran late cause of the Jets-Colts game (go Jets!) or something, but considering they already re-ran this commercial and it is fucking lame, they could at least re-run another of their less lame commercials. I would love to know what is up with that one.

That sucked all the energy out of the show, and the energy didn't really return for a good half hour. The Black Swan sketch had some good observations, mostly about Vincent Cassel's character, "the world's only straight French choreographer," played here by Bill Hader, unnecessarily repeating the rote comparison of Nina's technically perfect white swan vs. sexually inert black swan (the movie's great, but even there, you're like, we get it!). But 90% of proceedings were dominated by Carrey flopping around maniacally as the black swan, and while I liked him baying for crumbs, the joke was tired almost immediately.

The "Feeding Your Power" TV show where the same joke was repeated three times with almost no escalation (besides the camera in the mouth, which was sort of funny) really didn't work at all. Jason Sudeikis must be mad that he has to play characters like this, hosts who just sit on couches and deliver information without a hint of character. And when Kenan Thompson rolled around as sex therapist Grady Wilson for an interminably long bit , if I wasn't reviewing this shit, that would have been where I turned it off.

But then things got weirder, as they often do in the latter half of SNL, and that always makes for better viewing, even if the quality remains scattershot. The Soul Train spoof was out of left field but had a couple good bits -- I liked Samberg's "Gary St. Marvelous" and Sudeikis screaming at a girl to get in his trunk. Weekend Update had a cute bit mocking the tearful John Boehner ("An old man saluting a parade. A son coming home, and making Folger's") with the clever sting that "millions without healthcare" provokes a shrug from him. The reverse sting of Nancy Pelosi admitting Democrats hadn't defended healthcare because of "basic cowardice" nicely evened out the humor, too, always a good approach. And forgive me, but I laughed at Samberg and Taren Killam in bird and fish suits bemoaning the "aflockalypse" and the "apocafish," mostly for the sound effects.

Then, nestled right there in the "nobody's watching" area, three sketches before the end, was that amusement park ride bit, one of the best-crafted sketches I've seen on SNL since I started reviewing it. It told a little story, it progressed really well from joke to joke, and it gave Taren Killam (who did a lot this week!) and Carrey the chance to do some fantastic physical comedy as the animatronic barbershop duo, and they knocked it out of the park. I thought Carrey particularly nailed the weird way those things play their guitars (in this case, a ukulele) with their hands two inches in front of the strings. And I liked the slightly scary racial undertone to it all, intentional or not, in their beheading of Kenan. They should be giving lots of material to whoever wrote that one.

The last two skits were interesting in that they both had Carrey in starring roles, and in the first one, he went as big as it gets as an impressionist psychic doing Jimmy Stewart, Billie Holiday, Miss Piggy and Alan Thicke. In the second, he was amusingly understated as a wasted, bearded member of an underground (possibly homeless?) band playing to a crowd of confused tourists. The first sketch wrung some cheap laughs out of a lame premise, and the second didn't really get many laughs at all, despite a much smarter concept, because it went for the ol' SNL trick of repeating the same joke over and over until your four minutes are up, like the sparkling apple juice song from Bryan Cranston's episode.

As a start to the New Year, though, it wasn't too bad. Next week we've got Gwyneth Paltrow and Cee-Lo, likely dueting on "Fuck You" but having to say "Forget You" because you can't say fuck at midnight on network TV in this country. Can Gwyneth's likely-terrible voice stand up to the awful acoustics of the SNL soundstage? Check in next week to find out!

Stray observations:

"Don't be a hero! Simply call a restaurant that delivers, and the Mexicans will bring you food."

"But, I would wear a condom. It is blood, after all."

"Reruns of Touched By An Angel. Reruns of Magnum P.I."

I liked the sound effect for the Oprahcolypse. "You-you-yougetacar!"

"No one does a Thicke!"

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