Put one in the win column for "Saturday Night Live." Host Gwyneth Paltrow and music guest Cee Lo Green enthusiastically contributed to the mayhem, and the funny sketches outweighed the not-so-funny. Weekend Update upped its game after a few slower weeks, and the newer cast members brought out their A-games.
The cold open wasn't the strongest showing this week. Making fun of conservative pundits is always fun for "Saturday Night Live," but if most of your audience doesn't watch those pundits or know who they are, some of the satire falls flat. Though if you watch "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," you should recognize a few familiar faces. Kristin Wiig did an amusing send-up of TV show host Greta Van Sustern; the highlight was when she switched which side of her mouth she talked out of to represent "left" and "right" politics. Bobby Moynihan, Nasim Pedrad, and Jason Sudeikis played guests Sean Hannity, Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck respectively. Bill Hader dropped by as liberal guest James Carville.
Hader gave his all to Carville's spunky, crazy-eyed enthusiasm. The crux of the joke was conservatives trying to calm down their rhetoric and have kinder, gentler discussions. It was mildly amusing to see Carville riling them up and provoking them with left-leaning ideas, and the biggest laugh of the sketch came when a reaction shot to Sean Hannity showed him foaming at the mouth. Mildly amusing, but definitely not as funny as last week's jab at New York's response to snowfall.
Next up was Gwyneth Paltrow's monologue. She was a good sport and made fun of the whole idea of "immersing" herself in country music an becoming an expert for her role in "Country Strong." Gwyneth was put on the spot when "Kenny Rogers" (Jason Sudeikis) showed up and she introduced him as "Garth Brooks." Her feigned confusion continued when he asked her to join him for his most famous duet, leading to a few verses of Gwyneth mumbling her way through "Islands in the Stream." She was relieved when Cee Lo Green hit the stage to help her out, possibly by singing a song she actually did know--but he wanted to sing "Islands in the Stream." The duet became a trio, and the three harmonized nicely to give us a crazy but awesome tribute to the country hit.
One of the funniest sketches of the night came from a commercial for spin-offs of NBC's new superhero series "The Cape." Various cast members turned up as "The Scarf," "The Smock," "The Bolo-Tie," "The Water Bottle Holder." The commercial was shot with perfect comic book quality and slow-motion action effects that made the ridiculousness of the heroes even more apparent. Andy Samberg was a naked martial-arts expert with a "warmed-up calf," making him "The Legwarmer." We also got a leather clad crime-fighter passed out on the job: "The Sleep Mask." Next was "The Scrunchy." As the camera zoomed in on the swinging pony tail, the new hero turned around to reveal Jason Sudeikis: "And it's a dude!" The sketch ended on an explosive note when Bobby Moynihan appeared in full spandex as "The Spanx." "My secret identity is someone slightly fatter than this." He then snapped his waistband and a fireball erupted behind him. Good stuff.
Next up was one of those "Saturday Night Live" sketches that goes on too far. It was a spoof on 1960s game shows. Gwyneth Paltrow played a snooty, mildly racist society gal and Kristin Wiig played a melodramatic, ditzy Broadway star. Keenan Thompson and Taran Killam were their disgruntled game partners. It was a mildly amusing bit of silliness, but then they gave Wiig too much free reign to go off on a tangent of insanity and the sketch wore out its welcome.
Another highlight of the night followed, with more of Andy Samberg's creatively wacky mind. His digital short included wild nights with his best pal--Pee-wee Herman--which included lots of drinking and smashing people over the head with chairs--including Anderson Cooper. Later their friends, including animated furniture from Pee-wee's Playhouse turned up for an intervention. Pure crack, pure awesomeness. Judging by audience reaction, the proposed 2011 Pee-wee movie could do very well.
The hits kept coming on "Saturday Night Live," this time with a bar mitzvah ceremony. It was funny enough to see Vanessa Bayer as the young boy entering manhood, particularly her sheepish reaction when the boy's father asked what he was doing locked in his bedroom for hours every day. The hilarity of the sketch arrived with the blockbuster stars booked for the event, and the way they changed their lyrics to celebrate the Jewish ceremony.
Gwyneth Paltrow did a perfect send-up of Taylor Swift, "I'm a foot taller than the tallest man her!" Then she sang an altered "Love Story" that got huge laughs from the crowd: "She's in Synagogue, with her new clear braces on, sittin' shiva with no mirrors to put make-up on, She doesn't get your Mel Brooks humor like I do...She wears Macy's, I wear Loehmann's, She wears Filene's and I wear Filene's Basement, Can't you see, She's a J-A-P, not like Japanese..." This was followed by Jay Pharoah as Jay-Z and Nasim Pedrad as Alicia Keys with hilarious new lyrics to "Empire State of Mind" about bar mitzvahs and the Torah, ending on Jay-Z saying "Mazel tov." We also got Katy Perry, and once again Cee Lo took his turn on the "Saturday Night Live" stage, turning his song "F-you" into "Hebrew." Dressed in a full-length fur coat, Cee Lo informed the misbehaving kids were "straight-up meshuggeneh." Sublime.
Next up were "Saturday Night Live" host Gwyneth Paltrow, Andy Samberg and Jason Sudeikis, record company execs talking about their new hit "Forget You," and how the FCC says it's too "profane" and they have to change the lyrics. The three then proceed to swear repeatedly, of course using "forget" instead of the f-word we're expecting. They also throw in a few other alterations, as when Jason Sudeikis uses "Nintendo," and is chastised because it's not "cool" when he says that n-word. The sketch was funny, and also showed how tough it is to substitute other words in when you're really wanting to swear. The sketch also led right into Cee Lo's actual performance of "Forget You," the version he's allowed to sing on TV.
Cee Lo Green did his own version of Robert Palmer on the "Saturday Night Live" stage, singing his hit while being backed up by a girl band dressed in tight, hot pink mini-dresses. The difference between Palmer's models and these sexy gals, however, was that Cee Lo's band "Scarlet Fever" is the real deal, rocking out on their instruments with sass and true talent. Cee Lo had a few off notes later in the performance, but over all it was a great set. With the cool girls, rapidly changing projected images on screens behind Cee
Lo and at the back of the stage, it was visually as well as musically entertaining.
Seth Myers was back on his game tonight on the "Saturday Night Live" Weekend Update. Following a joke about the soon-to-be-rare French fry becoming the "prison cigarette of public schools," Seth led into a rant about the tired argument by gun lobbyists that the founding fathers would back them up about 2nd amendment rights "if they were here." Seth insisted that any founding fathers transplanted to 2011 would be more interested in figuring out cars and airplanes, than discussions of militias. They'd also ask "Why are all the slaves out?" At the audience reaction, Seth insisted, "You can groan all you want, but they would think that!"
Seth then went into a hilarious discussion of how 18th century guns and modern weaponry differ. "The guys who wrote [the 2nd amendment] would pee through all eight layers of their pants if they saw what guns are now. In 1787, shooting a bullet was slightly faster than throwing one. If you wanted to be bulletproof in 1787, you put on a heavy coat." Seth said he'd be happy to support gun laws, if everyone used an old style musket to settle altercations--where the victim would have a chance to drive off before the gun even got loaded.
Seth had more hits with the Weekend Update news, including an update about an app that allows you to get IRS forms on your smart phone. "Finally, the headache and stress of doing your own taxes comes to a much smaller screen." There was also a jab at Switzerland's insane new policy to euthanize the dogs of anyone who doesn't pay the yearly pet tax. "Switzerland: neutral on Nazis, tough on dogs."
As for "Saturday Night Live" Weekend Update guests, Keenan Thompson brought out his Jimmy McMillan bat sh-t crazy goodness for a discussion about running for "president of New York in 3012." Less successful were the Golden Globes interviews, and the trio of Gwyneth Paltrow, Fred Armisen and Kristin Wiig as unprepared vocalists who make up the lyrics to all of their songs.
The next sketch, about how "movie" previews and theater audiences looked in Shakespeare's time. The stage players acted out segments of upcoming plays, and there were a few golden moments, including the rabble complaining about the previews giving the whole plot away, and Jay Pharoah yelling out "Hey, watch out Hamlet, it's a ghost!" before getting angry looks and shushes from the white audience.
After the commercial break, "Saturday Night Live" gave us behind the scenes extras on the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" DVD set. Jay Pharoah did a pretty funny impression of Will Smith and talking about his early struggle with dramatic acting--including using Scooby-Doo as a guide for reacting to "heavy" subjects: "Aroo?" Not a laugh riot, but pretty amusing for what is often the dregs of the "Saturday Night Live" home stretch.
"Saturday Night Live" wrapped up with one of their slow burn sketches, about the Spanish version of Sports Centers. At first you're wondering how you're going to get any jokes when Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Brittain are speaking Spanish, when suddenly they start interjecting American slang phrases and nasal American accents each time they say a US player's name. The sketch goes on an on, which makes it funnier, including an interview with Kevin Garnett (Jay Pharoah), who looks utterly perplexed as the Spanish newscaster (Fred Armisen) shouts foreign phrases and nonsense American idioms at him. They even throw in a crazy Spanish style commercial at the end, and it's another solid entry in a clever night of "Saturday Night Live" sketch comedy.
Cee Lo Green took to the stage for his second performance, "Bright Lights, Bigger City." It was a rousing performance, the hot girl band rocked out, and Cee Lo sounded great. Maybe the "Saturday Night Live" sound crew has finally gotten a handle on making the performers sound better on live TV. Of course the performer having talent is a big help as well.
The final sketch of the night was about Kathleen Parker leaving her CNN show with Eliot Spitzer. The sketch involved trying out replacements, including Heidi Klum (Gwyneth Paltrow) who had trouble reading the cue cards and was of course insulted by Spitzer's innuendos. He finally ended up with the only person "out of a job" who could get along with him--David Paterson. It offered a mild chuckle or two, but it was definitely the throwaway of the night.
"Saturday Night Live" put on one of its strongest episodes to date. Andy Samberg continues to dazzle with his digital shorts. Even when they're not that funny, they're entertaining just for sheer idiocy, non sequiturs and strange celebrity cameos. The newer cast members, Nasim Pedrad, Vanessa Bayer, Paul Brittain, Jay Pharoah and Taran Killam show a lot of promise--it seems the more we see them, the funnier the show gets.
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