As silly as it sounds, I did feel a slight whiff of excitement to the idea of Lindsay Lohan hosting SNL simply because she’s barely been onscreen in years and the show is ostensibly live, so anything can happen, right? But really, I knew what I should expect—she’d do something between a bad and competent job, and as long as the material was OK, she’d clear the very low bar set for her, like Sarah Palin at a vice presidential debate. That’s exactly what happened—Lohan was barely a presence in the episode, and her energy definitely wasn’t that high, but the sketches were by and large pretty decent, so it felt like an alright show.
Honestly, I think the star this week was Bill Hader. He hasn’t been a consistently dominant presence this season, but some episode he just runs away with multiple sketches. I’m really thinking of the political cold open, which stuck to the same theme of Mitt Romney being very boring, but worked because of the weirdness going on around Mitt. I liked his five robotic sons (“We like the same thing as young people, like sport, cinema and doo-wop”) and Mitt’s baffled reaction to Kid Rock, but Hader’s Shep Smith impression was the star of the show. He’s been doing it for a while and dropping lines that hint at how bonkers he is, but this time the writers went whole hog and threw in a Psycho mom-skeleton for him to talk to. There’s definitely a reason Hader was the one saying “live at New York” this time.
I had read some rumor that Lohan was going to sing for her monologue, which probably would have been a body blow her performance couldn’t recover from. Instead, we got what I expected—some winking jokes about her troubles with the law (she sets off an alarm, Kenan checks her eyes, Kristen Wiig frisks her) plus a couple of celeb cameos. I’m always happy to see Jon Hamm on that stage—when is he hosting again? This was Lohan’s biggest bit of the night. She was in everything else except for Weekend Update and the Digital Short, which is normal for a host, but shunted into a lot of secondary roles. I don’t even know that that’s a comment on her performance, since that’s happened to other hosts this year as well.
Still, I largely enjoyed the episode. There wasn’t a stand-out killer sketch, but there was also only one stinker (Rude Buddha, which I’m mentioning now because I won’t be mentioning it again). I liked the attention to detail in The Real Housewives of Disney—SNL is very good at lampooning Bravo shows, down to the background music and the sudden register shifts in the announcer’s voice. Everyone was on point, but Taran Killam got the biggest laugh from me as the flamboyant Prince Charming, mostly because of his “a ha ha ha ha!” laugh.
The Psychic Awards was just a solid, well-written sketch that had nothing to do with anything—just a funny, silly concept that was fairly well-executed. Lohan had nothing to do except stand onstage next to Samberg, but otherwise it was a lot of fun. Surprisingly, almost all the skits that weren’t a parody or celebrity impression worked this week—that’s where SNL lives or dies, and I liked almost everything.
The Delinquent Teen Girl Gang went on a little too long but successfully wove that into the joke, and although it was a little silly that Armisen ended up dominating the sketch, I don’t know that anyone else would have played that part as well. The thing with Wiig answering the phone and saying “WHO IS THIS!?” also went on too long, but Wiig managed to carry it off without it becoming too annoying, which is a miracle for her. Lohan was capable in both of these skits, but nothing more than that.
The one sketch where Lohan’s presence was a problem was the return of Lorenzo Mackintosh and his scared straight seminars, which was too bad, because that has to be my favorite recurring Kenan Thompson sketch and I was glad to see its return. Lohan seemed out of her depth, maybe because it’s a pretty fast-paced sketch, but really, she didn’t have too much to do even though the whole thing was structured as a spoof of her past misdeeds (she was playing herself, to the audience’s delight). Lorenzo had a couple of great non sequiturs (“What are they in here for, Chief? Let me guess, Darfur?”) and things fell apart by the end for some reason—Sudeikis jumps onto a desk weird and suddenly everyone’s breaking, which is always a welcome surprise at the end of the sketch when it can’t ruin anything.
Weekend Update was a rare standout because (once again) Hader came on and took his James Carville impression to exceptionally weird places. The problem with most SNL bits is length, but Hader is the performer where you actually want him to go on and on, especially when he’s doing an impression of what his penis looks like by taking off his glasses and squinting at the camera, or saying things like “it doesn’t matter why, but I’m friends with some alligators.” Some of his bits, like the thing about Cops, were just pure observational humor that anyone could have done, and still it was funny. He was so good, he overshadowed a serviceable appearance by Bobby Moynihan as Snooki and a welcome cameo from Jon Hamm.
The other big sketch was B108FM in Minnesota, run by two chilly, tired bros (Killam and Moynihan) that felt like a tryout for a recurring bit. It wasn’t that good, but there were kernels of really funny stuff there, like their interaction with the mousey news lady (Vanessa Bayer, who’s great at playing mousey ladies) and the bro-y energy with which they said lines like “It’s 5:04 in the morning. Constellations are still discernible.”
Plus, this was the first week with a Digital Short in I don’t know how long. Unfortunately, it was one of those digital shorts that’s just one ridiculous visual joke (Wiig and Samberg sharing a giant afro). I tend to prefer the ones that take advantage of the medium to cram in a ton of weird jokes, but that’s alright. I’m happy to have the shorts back at all. Sudeikis’ 12:55 sketch by the fire also got a couple chuckles out of me.
So, any Lohan controversy we might have hoped for failed to materialize, but when you ignore the weird vibe of her hosting, this was a pretty solid episode. No sketch stood out as something you’d watch again and again, but there was a strong performance or funny angle in almost all of them. Jonah Hill is back next week for the first time since his post-Superbad stint in 2008; my expectations are obviously higher, but are thus more easily crushed.
“Don’t give me that look. I ate all my lima beans. Fib.”
Kenan had a great comeback for Lindsay in her monologue. “I’ll save you the trouble. I’ve been stoned since Good Burger.”
“At least I didn’t marry a beast.” “His name is Kelsey Grammer!”
“In prison, life is like a box of chocolate wieners, and you know what you’re gonna get. AIDS!”
Romney looks Presidential, but we don’t always get the job we look right for, Carville reminds us. “If we did, I’d be king of the snakes!”