January 18, 2014

*** Stooge's Look-Back Sketch Review of the Week ***

Since this is my final year of doing SNL reviews after 14 long consecutive seasons, I'll be starting each of my reviews this season with a special "look back" on one of my all-time favorite sketches from the seasons that I've reviewed, by re-posting the original review I wrote for the selected sketch back when it originally aired.


Tonight's look back will be at a special partly-live-action TV Funhouse from the Ed Helms/Paul Simon episode (May 14, 2011). Here's the original review I wrote for the segment:


TV Funhouse - The Ambiguously Gay Duo

• Wow, I still can’t believe this is back!

• The contrast between the stock Ambiguously Gay Duo opening credits and the animation in the rest of the cartoon is very noticeable, and shows just how far animation has come along since Smigel’s first AGD cartoon in 1996. I’m almost surprised they didn’t just re-animate the opening credits.

• So far, this is what we’ve come to expect from Ace and Gary, but still very funny and a welcome return.

• Whoa, live-action twist. What’s going on?

• Is... is that Jon Hamm??? Yes, HAMM!! And Jimmy Fallon?!?!? Holy crap, this is amazing! And... Stephen Colbert!!! OMG!!! And tell me that’s not Steve Carell as Big Head! Wow, no way. He looks barely recognizable with all that makeup. Carell, Colbert, and Helms reunited at last! It don’t get no better than this!

• Overall, this was amazing and made me realize how much I miss Smigel’s humor on the show these last few years. I doubt that means TV Funhouse is back to being a regular thing again, though; this just seemed like a special one-time thing.

Stars: *****





***** = Excellent, a possible future classic

**** = Great

*** = Average

** = Meh

* = How'd this get past dress?


PIERS MORGAN LIVE: These Piers Morgan sketches have been pretty forgettable lately, and tonight's was no exception. I wish SNL would stop relying on this sketch so much. As for tonight's installment, Bobby's Chris Christie interview contained nothing noteworthy, Drake's A-Rod interview had a few decent parts like the examples he showed of auto-corrected texts he sent, and Kate's Justin Bieber interview was easily the best part; she was a natural for the role and she absolutely nailed Bieber's mannerisms. What was with the abrupt "Live from New York..." that came out of nowhere, though? **½


SKETCHOLOGUE: Nice energetic entrance from Drake at the beginning, and I always like when the hosts acknowledge the SNL Band. The sketch-within-a-monologue approach here was certainly an interesting change of pace. When's the last time they did that? The most recent one I can think of is Matt Damon's 2002 episode where his monologue featured that Britney/Justin Dance-Off sketch. Anyway, I liked the idea behind Drake's "sketchologue", but I was a bit underwhelmed by the result. There wasn't much to laugh at here, and Drake's rap at the end went on too long. What was up with Kyle Mooney? Shortly after he said his line, it looked like he was about to walk off-stage way too early before he realized he was supposed to stay there. I remember he made a similar mistake in a couple of other sketches before ("New Cast Member or Arcade Fire", "VMAs Backstage"). Plus, I also remember reading from a blogger who was in the audience for the season premiere that right before Kyle's Bruce Chandling commentary on Weekend Update began, Kyle almost walked on-camera too early multiple times and the stage manager had to keep stopping him. **½


HIP HOP CLASSICS - BEFORE THEY WERE STARS: This was a fun and slightly different approach to SNL's traditional "impression showcase" sketch. I enjoyed most of the clips, especially Taran as Eminem appearing on "Felicity" and Drake as Lil Wayne appearing on "Family Matters". And speaking of the Family Matters scene, Kenan's Carl Winslow impression actually made me laugh out loud, I have to admit. Can't say the same for his Flavor Flav impression, though; the bit with him doing the "Wonder Years" voice-over went on way too long and it brought back too many bad memories of a terrible Update commentary Kenan did as Flavor Flav years ago. ***½


NANCY GRACE: I was happy to see Noel finally get her very first lead role. I never realized until tonight's episode that Noel is so babyfaced. She looks much younger than she actually is. I especially felt this way during that Disney Channel scene in the preceding "Before They Were Stars" sketch, where Noel truly could've passed for a real child. Anyway, after watching this Nancy Grace sketch, I have to say I actually prefer Amy Poehler's Nancy Grace to Noel's, to be honest. I can definitely see what Noel was going for, but this wasn't really one of her funnier impressions. It also didn't help that the sketch itself was mostly weak, featured subpar writing, and the repeated "WHAT ABOUT THE BABIES?!?" line fell completely flat each time and was met with total silence from the studio audience. Ouch. The only saving "grace" (no pun intended) of the whole sketch was Drake's Katt Williams, which was a dead-on impression and he had several funny lines to back it up. **


RESOLUTION REVOLUTION: This was just okay, but nothing outstanding or memorable. As far as this season's music videos go, this Resolution one ranks somewhere in the middle: it wasn't exactly weak like the H&M video, but it wasn't strong or inspired like Twin Bed or Boy Dance Party. This still had its moments - the montage of Taran slobbishly stuffing his face with donuts, Jay excitedly humping a blow-up doll, and how this whole video took an unexpected turn with the random cosplay scene. However, the bit with Drake's character having a drinking addiction was weak; they should've given him a funnier out-of-left-field addiction like Taran and Jay got. Also, this whole video noticeably died down during the last minute or so where they seemed to run out of funny things for the guys to do/say. ***


SLUMBER PARTY: A decent sketch and another nice showcase for Aidy Bryant, continuing what has been a strong year for her in general. While her character in this sketch did feel like a variation of something she's already done before if we're being honest, she still did a good job in what was an overall enjoyable sketch. This was also a nice way to pair together the entire female cast (minus Vanessa), which is an impressive feat in itself considering we now have SEVEN female cast members! The female cast is so huge now that it took me forever to figure out which one of the ladies was missing from the slumber party, before Vanessa showed up as the mom. I have to give credit to Drake for surprisingly pulling off the role of a typical cheesy middle-aged dad with total ease, which I definitely wouldn't have expected him to do. ***


WEEKEND UPDATE: Best jokes - Lands at wrong airport, Man arrested/parrot. I'm probably the only one who noticed this, but Seth's Sigmund Freud/penis freudian slip joke was actually a rehash of a VERY similar joke he did on Update way back in 2007. Anyway, I really liked the interspersed segments with Vanessa as Jacqueline Bisset getting lost in the studio audience. It was a fun change of pace not only for Update, but also for Vanessa as we don't usually see her playing this type of role. She did a good job, and I got a laugh from the hair-combing bit. The Arianna Huffington commentary with Nasim was completely ho-hum, nothing noteworthy here at all. I'm officially tired of seeing this impression, especially how she always has to flirt with Seth. Speaking of which, I'm pleasantly surprised they didn't have her mention Seth's upcoming departure like I was expecting her to, considering the recent trend of recurring Update guests (Jacob, Drunk Uncle) getting teary-eyed over the fact that they're not going to see Seth anymore. **½


I AM RAHAT: So, when does Mulaney's sitcom start filming again? In all seriousness, this sketch of Nasim's was simply dreadful. Within the first few seconds of Nasim's character showing up and repeating "I am Rahat!" three times to increasingly-less laughs from the studio audience on each repetition, I sighed and said to myself "Oh, this is gonna be a loooooong sketch, isn't it?" Then we got her constant repetitions of "Dis is my rice", and then I knew for sure there was absolutely no hope for this sketch. Nasim's been having a terrible track record of original characters lately, between this Rahat "gem", her repetitive one-note Shallon, her forgettable Heshi, and that god-awful Tippy thing from the second half of last season. Throw in her stale Arianna Huffington impression and that unbearable voice she uses for her Kim Kardashian impression, and let's just say I won't be shedding any tears when Nasim (supposedly) leaves the show in a few months. Honestly, the only bright spot of this whole Rahat mess was Drake, who gave a strong performance and sold his role of a chipper amusement park guide like a pro. I especially liked his line about a video of the show being put up on Youtube. The ending of this sketch was strange; why did Nasim fall down long before the boulder even ran into her? And why'd she get up afterwards and fall on top of the boulder again?


POETRY TEACHER: I knew this would eventually get brought back. Last time they did this sketch, I said in my review that I can definitely see why other people would find Vanessa's character annoying, but I personally didn't mind her and I actually found her endearing and cute in a weird way, if not exactly laugh-out-loud funny. However, that certainly didn't mean I was going to be okay with the sketch being made recurring, because I found the first installment to be pretty weak. And surprise-surprise, this second installment ended up being a typical lazy rehash of the first, with almost no differences at all. There's so many different settings and scenes that Vanessa's character can be put in, but of course, they didn't even try that. Why can't these current writers figure out the PROPER way to write a recurring sketch without resorting to doing a rewrite of everything that happened in the first installment? Anyway, this was Mike O'Brien's first meaty role in a live sketch since the Edward Norton episode way back in October, and he STILL couldn't get through this without cracking up at the end. My god. Brooks Wheelan also didn't fare too well during his delivery of the only line he had here. Between Mike's laughing and Brooks' line flub in this sketch, John Milhiser seemingly blanking on his line during a recent Shallon sketch, and Kyle Mooney's frequent habit of almost walking on/off the stage at the wrong times in various sketches, I think I'm slowly starting to see why the newbies haven't been getting much airtime this season. I can't remember the last group of new cast members that came off as green as these guys have. And getting back to Mike O'Brien, this wasn't even the first time he broke character in a sketch; if you noticed in that Edward Norton Rain Man sketch, Mike cracked up in response to Kenan screwing up a line. Please don't tell me Mike's going to be one of those cast members who easily breaks character at the drop of a hat, ala Fallon, Sanz, Molly Shannon (in her later seasons), and even the great Bill Hader. However, the thing about those four former cast members is that they didn't start frequently breaking character until a few seasons into their respective tenures. Mike O'Brien, on the other hand, has ALREADY been frequently breaking character during his first season. Not a good sign at all. BTW, I apologize for my review of this sketch turning out to be so insanely long. For some reason, I've been feeling particularly "tangent-y" throughout my review of tonight's overall episode... and looking back on it, I was kinda like this in my review of the Fallon/Timberlake episode, too. I'm starting to wonder if I should go back to using a bulleted-list format that I always used to do for my review of each sketch; at least my tangents would look more organized and less sloppy/cluttered that way. Starting next week, you guys might see me returning to the bulleted-list format for the remainder of the season. Anyway, getting back on-topic (finally), here's my rating for this sketch:


MORNIN' MIAMI: I'm sorry, is tonight's episode a rerun of the Miley Cyrus episode? It's sure starting to feel that way. What was with having two back-to-back sketches that were brought back from Miley's episode, where they also aired back-to-back (albeit in the opposite order) in the exact same time slot? Anyway, I think I'm in the minority, but I wasn't all that crazy about the first installment of this sketch and find it a bit overrated. I'm surprised so many people here felt it should've been included in this season's "Best of" that recently aired. Sure, the promos within the first installment of the sketch had several funny lines from Bobby, Kate, and Miley, but the repeated gag with the three of them slamming their coffee mugs down and sitting in angry silence when the cameras weren't rolling got way too redundant and predictable after a while for my likes. I don't get how that gag was supposed to still remain funny when they kept repeating it with no escalation to the humor. So imagine how I felt when tonight's installment also kept repeating that exact same gag, and once again, with no escalation to the humor. It's like I said earlier in this review "Why can't these current writers figure out the PROPER way to write a recurring sketch without resorting to doing a rewrite of everything that happened in the first installment?" The only things salvaging this installment was some of the funny promos, and the fact that they at least came up with a different ending from last time. **


I KNOW: I'm happy to finally see another Good Neighbor short, because it feels like its been quite a long time since the last one ("dancing") aired, and honestly, that "dancing" one was kinda subpar for Good Neighbor standards so I was eager to see them redeem themselves with the next short. It sucks that we'll probably never see the cut Will Forte one, especially since it sounds like that one had an interesting turning-of-the-tables by having Beck in the comedic role and Kyle in the straight role for once. Anyway, tonight's short was certainly... bizarre, which is something I always welcome on SNL. However, this one was so bizarre that I had no idea what to make of it after initially watching it. It took me several more viewings until I was able to form any kind of overall opinion on it. Ultimately, I feel this short was quite different from Good Neighbor's other four SNL shorts in that this one wasn't trying to be laugh-out-loud funny; it was entertaining in a more quiet, low-key way, and this held my interest for the entire duration. Even when these Good Neighbor shorts aren't at their funniest, they're still always a nice breath of fresh air from SNL's usual humor nowadays. And the dynamic between Beck and Kyle is always fun to watch; those two make such a good team and play off of each other so well. Anyway, in this short, I liked the intentional cheesiness and low-budgetness of the floor-slipping and ghost effects. And I loved Kyle's strange mumbly delivery (or as some describe, "semi-retarded delivery") all throughout this short; it kept cracking me up. I wish Kyle would get to showcase his natural oddball humor more often on SNL outside of these shorts (Lord knows SNL could currently use an injection of bizarre creative weird humor in this bore of a season), but like I said earlier, he seems way too green and unprepared as a live performer, which is probably why SNL hasn't been giving him any REAL roles in actual sketches yet. Anyway, at the end of this short when Kyle got up from the floor, is it just me or were his pants hanging so low that you could literally see his... well, let's just say a certain bodypart of his that I NEVER wanted to see (no, I don't mean THAT bodypart; it's the other, slightly-less X-rated one). Seriously, watch it for yourself and let me know if I was correct or if I was just seeing things. ***




Episode Highlights:

• Kate's Justin Bieber impression

• Hip Hop Classics - Before They Were Stars

• the Jacqueline Bisset parts on Weekend Update


Episode Lowlights:

• I Am Rahat

• Poetry Teacher

• Nancy Grace

• The Arianna Huffington commentary on Weekend Update


Best Performer of the Night:

• Drake



BAYER: 6 sketches (Sketchologue, Before They Were Stars, Slumber Party, Update, Poetry Teacher, Mornin' Miami)

BRYANT: 2 sketches (Slumber Party, Poetry Teacher)

KILLAM: 3 sketches (Piers Morgan, Before They Were Stars, Resolution)

MCKINNON: 5 sketches (Piers Morgan, Before They Were Stars, Nancy Grace, Slumber Party, Mornin' Miami)

MEYERS: 1 sketch (Update)

MOYNIHAN: 2 sketches (Piers Morgan, Mornin' Miami)

PEDRAD: 4 sketches (Before They Were Stars, Slumber Party, Update, Rahat)

PHAROAH: 3 sketches (Sketchologue, Before They Were Stars, Resolution)

STRONG: 2 sketches (Slumber Party, Update)

THOMPSON: 4 sketches (Sketchologue, Before They Were Stars, Rahat, Poetry Teacher)


BENNETT: 3 sketches (Before They Were Stars, Rahat, i know)

MILHISER: 1 sketch (Poetry Teacher)

MOONEY: 3 sketches (Sketchologue, Before They Were Stars, i know)

O'BRIEN: 2 sketches (Rahat, Poetry Teacher)

WELLS: 3 sketches (Before They Were Stars, Nancy Grace, Slumber Party)

WHEELAN: 3 sketches (Before They Were Stars, Rahat, Poetry Teacher)

ZAMATA: 5 sketches (Sketchologue, Before They Were Stars, Resolution, Slumber Party, Poetry Teacher)


DRAKE: 9 sketches (Piers Morgan, Sketchologue, Before They Were Stars, Nancy Grace, Resolution, Slumber Party, Rahat, Poetry Teacher, Mornin' Miami)