Saturday Night Live: “Zach Galifianakis; Of Monsters And Men”
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Saturday Night Live: “Zach Galifianakis; Of Monsters And Men”

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Saturday Night Live

“Zach Galifianakis; Of Monsters And Men”

Season 38, Episode 19

Zach Galifanakis has always been an excellent SNL host in search of a good episode. He always kills with the monologue, he’s always gamely employed in sketches, he’s one of the funniest and most talented to host every year he’s invited, but as if often the case on this show, that’s not enough to make for a memorable week. Last night’s batch is easily the best he’s ever had, though, and this was one of the best episodes of what’s been a weak season—consistent laughs, only a few high spots, but one sketch that I found so brilliant in conception and execution to bump this up to A- range.

Opening with Fox & Friends is probably the most reliable political cold open—it’ll at least be funny, and have a bunch of different people talking instead of just Obama talking right to the camera. There’s also a very low ceiling on just how funny it can be, of course. The formula’s so rigid and it’s designed to blast through all the news SNL has missed on a long break. But I always like Bobby Moynihan’s village idiot thing and Fred Armisen’s fey, bored Bloomberg, and the list of corrections (“Zach Braff is not the sound a trumpet makes” was my favorite this week).

Galifanakis always slays with his monologue, partially because anytime a standup does material, it blows away the canned shit they give to the other hosts, but mostly because Zach Galifanakis is a really funny standup. His style is quiet and involving enough to always has the crowd in the palm of his hand (“I haven’t really done anything, guys” he deadpanned to the giggling audience at the beginning) so even though he’s just doing a bunch of silly one-liner material, you’re hanging on your seat to hear it.

Game Of Game Of Thrones was a hacky quiz show concept poorly bonded to Game Of Thrones, which SNL did a much better job parodying last season with that behind-the-scenes documentary with Andy Samberg as the teenage nudity consultant. This time, Bill Hader had as much fun as possible in the host role (OJ Sampson, “And yes, it’s been a long, hard life”) and Zach Galifanakis did a good job in the “nerd in a dumb costume” role. I liked that he was flustered by being asked real-world questions rather than just being stupid. But still, even with the presence of the dashing Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau, this was a pretty ordinary take.

Galifanakis was the difference-maker in almost every sketch he starred in, which is a rare feat. The Jennifer Aniston lookalike competition would have been fine without him—a bunch of competing Aniston impressions (Vanessa Bayer did it best), a dumb drop-in from other celebs (Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper, in case you forgot the new Hangover movie comes out this month), a dull host role for Jason Sudeikis. But Galifanakis’ angry, outsized fury about coming eighth and his repeated Helen Keller jokes (funnier every time) made it laugh-out-loud funny. Plus, I liked that he had some legit beef with coming eighth, since one of the people who beat him was just Kenan dressed as “Whoopi Goldstein” but only some. Eventually the whole thing descended into surreal chaos, with Galifanakis demanding to know who the hell Ross is, and the cast of The Hangover singing “That’s What Friends Are For,” a better sketch ending than you usually get on SNL.

Everything else aside from Darrell’s House (which I’ll get to at the end) was fine, just fine. Weekend Update pulled in some reliable characters: James Carville, Cecily Strong’s girl at a party (looking forward to being mostly bored by her five times a year from now on) and Fred Armisen wearing Google Glass and jerking his head around like an idiot. Nothing special or surprising, but nothing horrible. The pre-taped Match.com and New Balance ads were both cute (Kate McKinnon’s Martha Stewart wasn’t really accurate, but it was in her wheelhouse) and the Michael Jordan party was saved by Jay Pharoah’s surprisingly necessary Dikembe Mutombo impression. I hope the show can work that back in somehow. I didn’t know I still needed Dikembe Mutombo in my life, but I do.

The M&M greeter thing was just an excuse for Zach Galifanakis to reel off a bunch of the hackiest racist jokes imaginable that you could squeeze onto NBC, and even his expert timing and bright red M&M suit couldn’t make that enjoyable for more than a minute.

But then we had Darrell’s House, which I was so thrilled by. It was the sketch that felt the most inspired by Galifanakis’ comic persona—I got a bit of a Between Two Ferns vibe from it, that mix of amateur filmmaking, some mysterious, slightly disturbing backstory (who was Vanessa Bayer, who came down the stairs and got a glass thrown at her?) and Galifanakis’ forced up-tempo energy in the face of whatever depressing reality he’s avoiding. The initial sketch was funny enough—he keeps giving orders to someone off-camera to edit things in, with increasing technical difficulty, and we’re told Jon Hamm is going to replace Kenan Thompson somehow.

I spent the rest of the night waiting to see the finished sketch. I assumed we would, but still, I sat there hoping, and to close out the night, there it was, in all its painful, somewhat accomplished glory, Jon Hamm cameo and all. Galifanakis’ maniacal laugh worked even better the second time; the cut to the crowd of the Apollo was the biggest surprise (I had already forgotten about that line). I wonder how well that sketch will play on the internet today, but watching it live was an absolute delight.

Stray observations:

  • “If there’s one person America’s gun owners will listen to, it’s a Northeastern Jewish billionaire,” Bloomberg simpers.
  • “I once got urinated on in a parking lot at a Cracker Barrel. Craigslist!”
  • “You guys are on fire!” “And ice! Ice and fire! That’s a Game of Thrones joke!”
  • When asked to name Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Galifanakis ventures, “I don’t know, some old pilgrim?”
  • Galifanakis is asked why Jennifer Aniston would wear a Friends t-shirt. “Because she got it free at work!”
  • “No rage, no rage.” God, I loved Darrell’s House. Even the theme song was perfect.

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