Last night Jon Hamm returned to host SNL for the second time, and I think most of us had fairly high expectations. He's a charming and handsome dude who obviously enjoys doing comedy, and his last time hosting was received favorably. I have to admit though that last night I wasn't exactly peeing my pants with laughter and hence wasn't feeling the episode, but this morning, as I look back at the individual sketches, I think it was a stronger episode than I first judged it to be. Something about a whole and sum of its parts and the forest and the trees and shitting in the woods. Anyway, point being, I'm not exactly sure what grade to slap on the episode--do I grade it against the other episodes of the season (in which case it would be in A territory) or how it made me feel at the time (C-ish)? I'll split the difference.
The cold open began with promise, utilizing the State of the Union camerawork and cuts to the audience. I laughed when, shaming Martha Coakley for losing the Massachusetts election, Fred Armisen's Obama said "You stunk up the joint" and the crowd sprung to its feet. The piece meandered too much for me, though, next with Obama claiming the White House was a (literal) mess when he moved in, what jobs were available, and regarding health care, "I really don't care anymore." With all the reaction shots to the crowd I thought "I wonder if they'll show that Brendan Fraser clip from the Golden Globes," and they totally did.
Most of the sketches traded either on Hamm's Mad Men character or his handsomeness, or both. In his monologue he talked about prior acting jobs wherein he essentially played Don Draper, both on QVC and a Saved by the Bell type show, showing up in a suit, looking grim, telling everyone to calm down and have a little respect. I think the whole monologue might have been written, however, for the sole purpose of having Jon Hamm say, deadpan (from his Def Comedy Jam days), "They need to wash they ass." In another homage to Hamm's face, he played a charming Scott Brown illicitly entering the fantasies of the stalwarts of the Democratic party. The sketch was basically just an excuse to have Hamm dancing around in underwear and a lab coat, a shirtless Evel Knievel getup, and Village People construction garb. My favorite part was Robert Byrd dreaming of Brown dancing in a flapper outfit--even the cartoon hearts were black and white.
Weekend Update was pretty strong last night: I got a kick out of the "Incompetent Ali" picture and the mini-monologue-type jokes about Osama Bin Laden's opinion on global warming and a shoplifting priest. I didn't really dig Nasim Pedrad's Sonya Sotomayor impression (she's from the Bronx; everyone on the Supreme Court is a white male, yes, even Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas--now you know all you need to know). I don't care what any of you say; I enjoy Bobby Moynihan's Jersey Shore Snooki. First of all, if you watch SNL on a nice big TV like I do, the brightness of his orangeness was the equivalent of five minutes in direct sunlight. I guess I like that, as his character says, she's stupid but she's not friggin' stupid. Then we met The Predicament, AKA the Situation's mom, who has Mom abs.
Michael Bublé is a talented singer, but not my style. I think I've seen too many guys on American Idol try to be him to enjoy him. And it seemed like he had some issues with singing directly into the mic last night or something. However I did appreciate that he did a duet with Sharon Jones for his second song. She is awesome so I can't help but feel slightly more favorable towards him for bringing her up there.
There were a few stinkers for me last night, including the inevitable Kristen Wiig-driven sketch. Basically, she played a lady at a fancy party who kept insisting, "Don't ask me to sing.” I thought the next joke was cute, that she didn't know where to jump in to the piano accompaniment, and then she missed the whole song, but this stretched on for way too long. I hope we don't see this character again. Same thing with Fred Armisen's stenographer. I also didn't love the Digital Short. Andy Samberg played a callous businessman who is cursed by a mystic and the "curse" is that a guy named Sergio (Jon Hamm basically playing Tim Capello, the muscle-bound saxophone-player from Lost Boys and various and sundry other film and music projects) pops up all the time. That's about it.
One of the things that's charming about Hamm (other than his face and body and hair) is how much he obviously enjoys doing comedy, and so was game for a few silly bits. "Game Time with Randy and Greg" came back, the sketch where Bill Hader plays an alien who happens to be one-half of a sports call-in show. This didn't really get taken in a new direction tonight except that Greg began multiplying, and for some reason I have a fondness for SNL sketches where people clone themselves (see: Dennis Miller, the Falconer). There was a bizarre commercial for a "closet organizer" (Will Forte in a blue jumpsuit having a bunch of crap thrown at him, including water and dirt), with a "testimonial" from a Jon Hamm character that had absolutely nothing to do with the product. This was all called back in the final sketch, always a promising repository for weirdness, where Jon Hamm's character recognized Will Forte's from the closet commercials. I mostly dug it for the line "Goodbye Rezton; I hope you die tonight."
And if you were hoping we'd see a reprise of "Jon Hamm's john ham", you’re in luck. This time it was "Hamm & Bublé," only in this case "Bublé" was pronounced "bubbly," as the two promoted a pork and champagne restaurant, although Bublé was strong-armed into it by Hamm: "His eyes went black and he slapped my face."
I think I'm going to have to re-watch this episode, because last night I ended it thinking it wasn't that great but looking back over it, it was much stronger than most of the stuff we've seen this season, and even if the sketches weren't all home runs, most of them had at least one or two little nuggets of goodness in them. Next week: Ashton Kutcher/Them Crooked Vultures.
--Will Forte looked very handsome in the New York cocktail party sketch
--Also, he was wearing a Book It! t-shirt in the last sketch. Reading + pizza = kids who grow up to blog about TV for a living.
--If you can think of a better place to get pork and champagne, keep it to yourself.