*** 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 sketch from the Seth MacFarlane/Frank Ocean episode (September 15, 2012). Here's the original review I wrote for the sketch:
Sketch - Puppetry Class
• As soon as I saw Bill's grizzled-looking military character sitting there right at the start, I immediately knew we were in for a good time.
• Bill, of course, owned this sketch and just about everything he said and did got a great reaction. Are ya payin' attention, Lorne? THIS is the backbone of your show right here.
• My favorite parts were Bill having his puppet smoke a cigarette and blow out actual smoke from its mouth, Bill's puppet strangling Kenan's puppet, and of course, Bill practically having sex with Vanessa's puppet.
• The other performers here did fine in their roles, too, and each got their share of laughs.
• The ending came off a little abrupt.
***** = Excellent, a possible future classic
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Meh
* = How'd this get past dress?
Cold Opening - Ellen
• This was decent, and Kate did her usual solid job as Ellen, though her constant leg-stretching/gyrations on the chair started reminding me too much of Molly Shannon's Helen Madden after a while.
• Some of the jokes seemed to be recycled from the cut Ellen sketch from the John Goodman dress rehearsal. In FeaturingEmilyPrager's dress rehearsal report, he went into detail about some of the jokes from the Ellen sketch - some of which ended up being used in tonight's installment (i.e. Ellen saying she wishes she never danced on her first show, “Hey Ya” being the "hardest rap song" that the DJ knows, Ellen's writing staff consisting of just Aidy and a couple of dogs, etc.).
• Jay was pretty funny, especially his creepy facial expression at the end as well as Ellen's reaction to that.
• Nasim Pedrad continues to earn her SNL paycheck with her non-speaking bit role in this sketch, which ended up being the only thing she did all night. How unsurprising that her only appearance of the episode was playing a little kid and having no lines, which is basically a symbolism for the "impact" that Nasim's been making on SNL this season. She's become so invisible and forgettable that at the end of every episode when I'm thinking back on that night's sketches and what the cast did, I can never remember ANYTHING that Nasim was in - the only recent exception is the Drake episode, and that's only because she did a lot of stuff that annoyed me in that episode. As a side note, was she even onstage at the goodnights tonight? I watched the goodnights twice and didn't spot her at all.
• Jim Parsons appearing in this sketch made me wonder if this wasn't the original cold opening in dress rehearsal. Though I'm starting to notice lately that it seems to be becoming a regular thing now for hosts to appear in cold openings. If you exclude the Jonah Hill episode, then tonight was the fourth consecutive episode where the host showed up in the cold opening.
• Parsons being cast in a flamboyant gay role right off the bat made me worried about the type of roles he'd play tonight, but thankfully, he strayed away from gay roles for the remainder of the episode.
Monologue - Jim Parsons
• This got off to a weak start with Jim flubbing several jokes, and I couldn't help but groan as soon as I realized this was going to turn into yet another song-and-danceologue. You can always tell in advance when they're going to do a song-and-danceologue just by watching the SNL Band in the background while the host is still speaking, because about a minute before the song-and-dance routine starts, you can always see the SNL Band members getting their instruments ready ahead of time.
• Despite all of that, tonight's song-and-danceologue actually got a little better with the inclusion of the cast members, as they were playing funny TV characters instead of just playing mere backup dancers like they usually do.
• The guys all acting comically out-of-breath at the end of the song was already done before at the end of Bryan Cranston's song-and-danceologue a few seasons ago.
Sketch - Peter Pan
• This wasn't really bad, but there isn't much to say about it either. Kinda forgettable, despite a decent performance from Aidy.
• When this first started and I saw Kyle and John, I was hoping this would turn out to be a big role for them, but it just ended up being the usual forgettable nothing role that they're constantly stuck with - John, especially; I can't even remember the last semi-big thing he's done.
Commercial - The Bird Bible
• Hmm, I see that the brilliant comedy writing team of Anderson & Sublette have moved on from specializing in hackneyed gay humor to now ripping off past SNL material. Wow, what a step up! Seriously, this was way too similar to an obscure commercial SNL did back in the 1986-87 season called "Myowling Bible" - too similar to be just a coincidence. Why do I get the feeling either Anderson or Sublette recently watched that commercial and said to themselves "Cute skit. Wait, I know; let's use the same idea on the show now, only with birds instead of cats - that way, no one can say that the sketches are too similar! Genius idea!"
• Even looking past the ripoff aspect, I still wasn't all that entertained by this commercial, which is odd because I usually like this type of humor where a silly idea is played completely serious and low-key. But this particular commercial just came off too boring to me and I didn't find the concept funny. The only two things I laughed at were the picture of the bird with its head cut off and the unhappy look that Mike gave his son at the end.
Sketch - The Killer Files
• A pretty funny sketch, and one of the better ones of the night. Jim Parsons was a natural for a role like this and SNL got some good mileage out of his naturally-creepy appearance.
• All of the various dance show clips were good, especially the one with Jim inventing the Moonwalk.
• The ending felt kinda rushed and should've had more to it. I wasn't expecting it to end so early.
Short - Auditions for 12 Years A Slave
• At first, I almost thought this was going to be yet another "celebrity screen tests" piece, but I was glad to see that this went a different route.
• A well-done short and there were plenty of things to laugh at here. My favorite part, though, was definitely the bit with Bobby as the racist mechanic guy.
• Brooks actually did a surprisingly good job here (which makes sense, seeing as how he co-wrote this), and for some reason, I loved the low, gravelly way he said "Nooooo..." after initially looking over the script.
Weekend Update - Strong & Jost, featuring Shaquille O'Neal & Charles Barkley, Jebidiah Atkinson
• Best jokes: Piers Morgan Live show ending, Paula Deen controversial comments, Pay it forward/Chris Christie
• What was with the serious, non-comedic intro that Colin Jost gave himself at the beginning? I get that SNL had to do some kind of "let's welcome the new guy" bit at the top of tonight's Update because Jost is the first Update anchor that the audience is completely unfamiliar with since 2000 when Fey started out. But couldn't they have, you know, thrown in a JOKE or two during Jost's intro? A little bit of humor? Having him just seriously talk about how happy he is to join Update and how it's a dream come true for him came off strange and a little too "Please like me, guys".
• Remember when I pointed out in a recent review how Cecily seems to do a lot of anti-Bush jokes? Yeah, her "Obama/warns of mistakes" joke tonight just further proved my point.
• The Barkley & Shaq commentary already had me laughing right from the beginning with that accidental brief cut to Cecily, then Kenan asking "What just happened?" Anyway, the overall commentary gave me a couple of good laughs and Kenan and Jay each had several good lines.
• When Cecily was introducing the second commentary, as soon as she said the name "Jebidiah Atkinson", I actually cheered out loud. I cannot remember the last time I had that type of a response to a current-era recurring character. Even when Stefon would appear during Bill Hader's later seasons, my initial response to him showing up was more of a smile or a laugh rather than cheering. Jebidiah Atkinson has got to be my favorite recurring character in AGES.
• As usual, Taran killed in tonight's Jebidiah commentary, with plenty of hilarious insults and brilliant ad-libs. I especially loved his response when one of the index cards he threw unexpectedly landed neatly on top of the stack of cards in his hand.
Sketch - Murder Mystery Experience
• Much like the Peter Pan sketch earlier, I can't think of much to say about this one. This sketch was not all that bad, but nothing special either. The idea behind this had promise, but I was expecting the result to be funnier than it turned out.
• I got an unintentional laugh from Taran's line flub and the look on his face afterwards as he tried to stay in-character.
Sketch - Spotlightz!
• The concept of these child actor sketches is already getting old, especially Vanessa's character, Laura Parsons - we've already seen everything she can do. I hope they don't continue doing this sketch much longer in the future.
• Some of the non-Vanessa characters brought a laugh or two, especially Taran with that sour look on his face after he kissed Aidy.
Sketch - Unpleasant Elevator Scent
• Didn't care for this at all, especially the weak ending. And I certainly could've done without Kenan coming in the elevator as the janitor and loudly saying "It smells like dookie in here!"
• This season is starting to rely a little too much on embarrassing bathroom humor lately, which shouldn't surprise me because overreliance on bathroom humor seems to be a staple of subpar seasons. I'd almost bet this sketch was brought to us by the same writer who gave us that "clogged toilet" gameshow thing from the Jonah Hill episode.
Sketch - Birthday Surprise
• I have a feeling I'm in the minority, but I liked this sketch. Something about the silly absurd premise felt like something the show would've done during the late 80s era. Especially the gag at the end with a brown-painted naked dummy of Parsons being thrown in the air with an accompanying cartoonish "BOING" sound effect, which felt like something you'd see in a Jack Handey or Conan O'Brien-written sketch. I can easily picture this whole sketch being done back in that era as a 10-to-1 sketch, with Phil Hartman playing Beck Bennett's role, and Nealon, Lovitz, and Carvey playing the Brooks, Kenan, and Kyle roles.
• The writing here could've been a little stronger, but I got enough laughs out of this, I really appreciated the idea behind it all, and the acting from everyone involved helped give the sketch a likeable vibe. I'll take an odd-and-creative-if-a-bit-underwritten effort like this over the dull material that dominated most of the night. The fact that I have so much stuff to say about this sketch while I had so little to say about the last few sketches is very telling.
• Aside from the main joke of the sketch, there were some other funny little jokes thrown in as well, such as Kyle wanting to take a "closer look" at the turtle picture.
• Brooks looked and sounded like he was playing a variation of his Critter Control character. BTW, it's nice to see Brooks actually getting stuff to DO in tonight's episode. I had almost forgotten what it's like to hear him speak.
• I actually got a chuckle from the out-of-place transitional music that played during the "The next day" title screen that The Doc mentioned in his review. Regarding Doc's gripe about how "un-western" the music was, I'm pretty sure that was intentional because it fit with the whole kooky, oddball nature of this sketch.
• I wouldn't be surprised if we find out that Tim Robinson was the one that wrote this. He seems to be the one in this current writing staff that specializes the most in crazy "out there" material.
• the Jebidiah Atkinson commentary on Weekend Update
• Auditions for 12 Years A Slave
• The Killer Files
• Unpleasant Elevator Scent
• the first half of the monologue
• some portions of Spotlightz
Best Performer of the Night:
• Kate McKinnon
CAST MEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
BAYER: 5 sketches (Ellen, Killer Files, 12 Years A Slave, Spotlightz, Elevator)
BRYANT: 4 sketches (Ellen, Peter Pan, Spotlightz, Elevator)
KILLAM: 5 sketches (Monologue, Killer Files, Update, Murder Mystery, Spotlightz)
MCKINNON: 6 sketches (Ellen, Monologue, Peter Pan, Bird Bible, Killer Files, Murder Mystery)
MOYNIHAN: 4 sketches (Monologue, Peter Pan, 12 Years A Slave, Elevator)
PEDRAD: 1 sketch (Ellen)
PHAROAH: 5 sketches (Ellen, Monologue, Killer Files, 12 Years A Slave, Update)
STRONG: 3 sketches (12 Years A Slave, Update, Murder Mystery)
THOMPSON: 7 sketches (Ellen, Monologue, Killer Files, 12 Years A Slave, Update, Elevator, Surprise)
BENNETT: 3 sketches (Killer Files, Murder Mystery, Surprise)
JOST: 1 sketch (Update)
MILHISER: 2 sketches (Peter Pan, Elevator)
MOONEY: 2 sketches (Peter Pan, Surprise)
O'BRIEN: 3 sketches (Bird Bible, 12 Years A Slave, Elevator)
WELLS: 3 sketches (Killer Files, Spotlightz, Elevator)
WHEELAN: 2 sketches (12 Years A Slave, Surprise)
ZAMATA: 4 sketches (12 Years A Slave, Murder Mystery, Spotlightz, Elevator)
JIM PARSONS: 9 sketches (Ellen, Monologue, Peter Pan, Killer Files, 12 Years A Slave, Murder Mystery, Spotlightz, Elevator, Surprise)