At the end of this week’s SNL, Josh Brolin seemed so overjoyed to have hosted for a second time, and was jumping up and down enthusiastically and giving everyone big bear hugs. I’m glad he had a good time, since I spent most of the episode wondering why he was being relegated to bit parts in almost every sketch. This was, overall, a solid episode that lacked sketches where one character particularly dominated. Brolin just slotted into the ensemble with everyone else, and did a perfectly capable job in his second time hosting. But it’s too bad he didn’t really get a chance to show off.
Things started slow with a political cold open that used Green Day’s “Time Of Your Life” as a recurring device—one last farewell to Bachmann, Cain, Perry and Santorum (with Newt Gingrich stealing nuts in the background) from a still-boring but triumphant Mitt Romney. But I hate that song so much that I can’t even appreciate its use for humor purposes, so I was pretty much fated to hate the sketch. I’m also not going to miss any of these impressions—Samberg’s Santorum was funny when he just looked nervous, but never worked as an imitation. Kenan Thompson really missed out with his Herman Cain—he was handed one of the craziest people to dominate the news last year and approximated none of his strange mannerisms. And I dunno why Josh Brolin didn’t just play Rick Perry, considering that Alec Baldwin did at one point. I know it’s unusual for the host to show up in the cold open, but it probably would have been worth it.
Brolin’s presence, for some reason, activated Jay Pharoah this week, who was in pretty much every sketch save the digital shorts. But I don’t know why Brolin’s killer Tommy Lee Jones impression was reduced to one word. I mean, I do know—the idea is that he’s a taciturn dude, but come on! Give him a sentence at least before you say “Gotye is here!”
Things hit a high point early on with a spot-on spoof of those “HBO First Look” features to make fun of how many boobs there are in Game of Thrones. Taran Killam was funny on sight as Kit Harrington, and the same went for Bobby Moynihan as George R. R. Martin. Andy Samberg’s nervous, masturbating 13-year-old character is a well-worn sight on this show by now, but it fit in nicely here. And just showing the peephole scene from last week’s episode (with strategic blurring, of course) was a pretty funny sight. “All of that aired on television, right after Rango!”
“The Californians” was a cute idea for a soap opera spoof, with a bunch of weird recurring jokes just hit over and over again until we got tired of it. I liked it (the constant references to driving directions in L.A. was a funny, pointed bit of East Coast-West Coast rivalry from the SNL writers) but Bill Hader seemed to love it, breaking down to near tears at the beginning of the sketch. I wish he had held it together a bit longer, because the sight of him breaking is always fun, but it’s good to have some build-up.
It was a pretty consistent show, with every sketch provoking a similar reaction to “The Californians.” A few laughs, nothing really memorable, and the growing realization that Josh Brolin was getting next to nothing to do. America’s Next Empire State of Mind Parody Artist stood out mostly for being such a specific idea for a sketch, also for having Andy Samberg imitate Weird Al (and kind of approximating the voice) to lead off an SNL skit in 2012. That’s what I call staying power, Al!
The return of Laser Cats is always pretty welcome, although the formula is well-worn at this point. But Steven Spielberg is pretty adept at sending himself up, and Josh Brolin looked like he was having a lot of fun as the Space Nazi. I think I might also be feeling nostalgic because I’m worried Samberg is leaving the show. What will we do with only seven installments of Laser Cats to remember, guys?
Weekend Update was a serious bummer this week because Seth did a segment called “What Are You Doing?” that reminded me of how badly he needs a partner behind the desk with him (or should just be replaced with John Mulaney, not that that’s going to happen). Then…Garth & Kim, which I can safely say is my least favorite recurring SNL bit, worse than Gilly. Just when I think they’re done with that shtick, there it is again. The real problem is that it seems entirely geared towards the two of them amusing each other, which would be okay if it was at all funny for the rest of us.
But after that nadir, things stabilized back to pretty good. The return of Piers Morgan was an excuse for some left-field impressions like Fred Armisen as Ice-T (“What’s up. Looks like you’re talking to Ice-T” is a great intro line) and Brolin doing Ozzie Guillen. I started to get bored when Kim Kardashian (Nasim Pedrad) showed up to make some hacky jokes about having black men inside her (I can’t even remember the setup for the line, but it was horrible), but Samberg weird-leg tightrope guy kinda brought it back for me. For some reason, that stupid bit keeps making me laugh. Maybe it’s just how enthusiastically he juggles those legs, with no attention given to realism.
Things just agreeably petered off after that. The slow-motion high school hallway was cute, but it didn’t really go anywhere, and the sight gags got less and less amusing. The digital short with Gotye was creepy in all the right ways (I think they nailed how lamely eerie that video is). The Booker T Washington High School prom was pretty chaotic, but had the rare sight of one of Pharoah’s non-impression characters. Not the greatest, but maybe with some practice he’ll get better.
Aside from Garth and Kat and “Time Of Your Life,” I didn’t really hate anything, but I’m not gonna tell anyone to catch up with any of these sketches on Hulu either. Well, I’d recommend Game of Thrones, but that’ll never make the internet, sadly. Ah, SNL—viral video is both a blessing and a curse for you!
- Rick Santorum orders a chocolate milk at a bar. Mitt: “And I’ll have a napkin.”
- Herman Cain knows why he didn't win the primary. “This country just isn’t ready for an African-American president.”
- “Be honest, what did you think?” “I hated it.” “OK, now, don’t be honest.” “That was great!”
- “We had just played a baseball game against St. Louis, so I figured everyone was wondering, hey Ozzie, what are your opinions on Fidel Castro.”