*** 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 something special. You see, Charlize Theron hosting tonight's new episode is significant to me as an about-to-retire reviewer. The last time Charlize hosted was actually the VERY FIRST episode I ever reviewed, and as an eerie coincidence, she's now hosting my second-to-last episode as a reviewer. How funny is that? Man, if she was hosting next week's season finale instead, everything would come full-circle for me. Anyway, because of all of this, my "look back" tonight will be an excerpt from my first episode review ever - here's my review of Charlize's monologue from that episode (November 4, 2000):
MONOLOGUE: Charlize Theron
This was funny, but I think it would've made more sense to put this on later in the show or after a sketch like they did with Tracy's talk with Garth Brooks and Jamie Foxx. The only thing missing would be Tracy calling Lorne a "bitch" but that could get old after a while so I'm not complaining. Anyway, Tracy was right about a lot of stuff in this monologue, like the part about him being in so little sketches in tonight's episode (oh, wait, that's every episode, ain't it?), and there not being enough sistas to host the show. There was only 2 black female hosts, and that was over 10 years ago. Only 2 black female hosts in SNL's 26 years on the air? Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Tracy was also right about racism and people being treated badly because of their race. But you know, I hate it when the host doesn't do a real monologue, and instead either takes questions from the audience, goes backstage, and I especially don't like it when a cast member interrupts the monlogue, because it takes the attention away from the host. All monologues should just be about the host, whether it be stand up, or talking about their recent movies or TV shows, or maybe just something about them. Last year, only 3 out of 20 hosts did real monologues (Jerry Seinfeld, Norm MacDonald, and Joshua Jackson), so I guess it's not a common thing anymore.
***** = Excellent, a possible future classic
**** = Great
*** = Average
** = Meh
* = How'd this get past dress?
Cold Opening - A Mother's Day Message from Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton
• It was inevitable that we'd eventually see Sasheer playing Michelle Obama. Her impression was decent; better than I expected.
• I keep forgetting that Vanessa is the current Hillary Clinton impersonator in this cast, because she plays her so infrequently. And the more I see this impression, the less I like it. Honestly, it's not even an attempt at an impression as much as it is just Vanessa being Vanessa. I'm starting to wonder if SNL should re-cast the Hillary role to one of the other ladies who would hopefully go for a more accurate take on Hillary.
• The opening itself was fine and featured pretty good writing. The icyness between Michelle and Hillary contained some good laughs, and there were a couple of clever lines from both ladies. There were some funny little gags thrown in as well like Vanessa quickly throwing the cookie off-camera right before she spoke at one part.
Monologue - Charlize Theron
• Words cannot express how much I cringed at that "waited 14 years to come back" line. I thought SNL had officially stopped doing that tired joke a couple of years ago; the last time I remember them using it was Jeff Bridges' monologue back in 2010.
• Despite the fact that I never liked those Gemini's Twin sketches, I did like how tonight's monologue showed a clip from Charlize's Gemini's Twin appearance (which was the very first installment of that sketch), if only because 1) seeing a clip from my first reviewed episode made me feel VERY nostalgic, 2) I remember thinking back when that sketch originally aired that Charlize and Maya both looked very sexy in the outfit they had on in that sketch (keep in mind that I was a teenager back then), and 3) I always find it interesting when SNL shows a clip from an older sketch during a new episode, like in Tina Fey's monologue earlier this season when she showed clips of various monologues from the early 00s.
• As for tonight's monologue - blah. It cannot be said enough how sick I am of the show's overreliance on song-and-dancelogues in recent years. While there still can be decent ones every now and then (i.e. Anna Kendrick), more often than not, they come off as formulaic, tired, by-the-numbers, and feel way too similar to each other, which is the where tonight's monologue fell under. Despite the seemingly-unique premise of Charlize acknowledging her inability to sing, and despite one or two funny jokes (i.e. the height gag with Beck), I wasn't entertained for the most part and just wanted this monologue to end. But on a somewhat-bright note, I guess this is my last time ever reviewing a song-and-dancelogue, assuming Andy Samberg doesn't do one for his monologue next week.
• Funny how I complained in my old review of Charlize's 2000 monologue about how the then-recent 1999-2000 season only had 3 solo monologues (4, actually; I had forgotten at the time that Britney Spears did a solo monologue that season as well). Well, this current season has only had a grand total of ONE (Louis C.K.). That's just sad, and may be an all-time low for number of solo monologues in a single season. But again, there's still next week's season finale where I SUPPOSE there's a chance that Samberg might do a solo monologue, but we'll see. On a similar note, someone on this board should do a thread listing the percentage of solo monologues from each individual season, similar to how Casey Killingsworth did a thread listing the number of stand-up comedy monologues from each season. Obviously, the 70s and 80s seasons would have a much-higher percentage of solo monologues than the 90s, 00s, and 10s, because it wasn't until the early 90s when monologues started regularly having stuff like a cast member coming onstage and interrupting the host, questions from the audience, going backstage, etc. on an almost-weekly basis.
Sketch - Mother's Day Game Show
• This is probably going to sound strange, but when they showed this sketch being set-up during the preceding commercial break, I thought it was going to be the return of that strange "What’s Wrong with Tanya" game show sketch from Anna Faris' 2011 episode. I know that would've been a very random sketch to bring back and some of you probably don't even remember that one, but the set for tonight's Mom Game Show sketch looked the same at first glance.
• This Mom Game Show sketch was just okay. Nothing outstanding or too memorable, but fine for what it was. Kate did her usual solid job.
• Most of my laughs came from Kyle as the smug laid-back son, in what was easily his best live performance so far. This is also the closest he's come to having a comedic lead role in a regular live sketch (this doesn't include Update).
• Aidy and especially Bobby did fine in their smaller supporting roles as well.
• It's probably just me, but Charlize looked a little miscast playing the daughter to Kate.
Sketch - Girlfriends Talk Show
• I knew SNL wouldn't be able to resist doing this sketch either tonight or next week. Predictable choice. In fact, during the commercial break before this sketch, someone on the Voy SNL board made a joke about this sketch possibly appearing next, literally seconds before we actually saw this sketch being set-up. Hilarious.
• Similar to a comment I made in the monologue, I'm glad this is my last time ever having to review a Girlfriends Talk Show, because I never know what to say about these sketches in my reviews. "Blah blah blah don't like the overall sketch but Aidy was good and gave me a few laughs blah blah blah"... I feel like I say the same basic thing every time I review this sketch. The only exception is the one with Melissa McCarthy, in which I had quite a bit to say for once.
• One positive thing I'll say about tonight's installment (aside from Aidy once again providing my only laughs) is that Charlize's drama teacher character actually took the sketch into a somewhat-different direction. Still not a particularly funny direction, but at least it distinguished this one from previous installments, which all felt the exact same.
Short - HBO First Look: Dragon Babies
• The usual entertaining and well-done pre-taped short from this season, and this offered further proof that Mike O'Brien is really only in his element when he's on tape.
• It took me a while to even recognize Mike at first in that costume and with that voice. This has to be the most "in character" we've seen him so far. His voice was great.
• Stuff like this and Monster Pals ALMOST makes me want Mike to stay next season, although I still view him as being very expendable. If there's a way they can have him be both a writer AND just an occasionally-credited featured player in the same vein of A. Whitney Brown/Al Franken/Robert Smigel (like bjdwsm recently suggested) while only appearing in pre-taped shorts like this, I think that might work out. Well, either that, or just put Tim Robinson back into the cast and have Mike write material for him. Tim and Mike seem to collaborate very well together on scripts.
• I seem to say less and less positive things about Cecily as this season progresses, but I actually liked her performance in this as the wife of Mike's character.
• The shooting/gun incident that Mike's character talked about towards the end was an unexpected turn that was actually funny in a dark way.
Sketch - Heshy
• I had a feeling this would eventually come back. Blah. ("blah" seems to have unintentionally become my new go-to response whenever SNL does something I don't care for) Since next week might possibly be Nasim's last show, that means we thankfully won't have to see this sketch anymore.
• Why did they change the last name of Nasim's character? In the first installment, the full name of Nasim's character was Heshy Al-Fahi, whereas tonight, Vanessa introduced her as "Heshy Farahat". Strange. Unless Vanessa pulled a "John Travolta" and read the name incorrectly off the cue card.
• At least they didn't have Charlize doing the same things that Kerry Washington's character did like I was expecting. Speaking of Charlize, something about her in this sketch reminded me of Mo Collins from Mad TV for some reason. I have no idea why.
• Didn't care for the "They're towing everyone's cars" ending, with Vanessa doing her usual cheery/chipper/smiley schtick.
• I'll give a bonus point for the use of the "Hadouken!" sound effect from Street Fighter... or is it from Mortal Kombat? I always get those two games mixed up.
Weekend Update - Strong & Jost, featuring Barbara Walters, Drunk Uncle
• Best jokes: New ice cream/Donald Trump
• As I said in my review of the monologue, I always like when a new episode shows a clip from an older sketch, so I enjoyed the Barbara Walters montage with Gilda Radner, Rachel Dratch, Nasim, and Cheri Oteri's impressions. Couldn't help but notice that they left out Michaela Watkins' impression. No surprise there, especially since SNL probably knew the general audience wouldn't have recognized her, except for hardcore SNL nerds like us.
• Anyway, the commentary from the real Barbara Walters was okay. There weren't any jokes that were outstanding or anything (aside from the View exchange between her and Cecily) and I was able to predict some of the lines beforehand, but this was fine for what it was.
• No idea what to make of the "Breaking Nudes" bit, as it's probably the most random thing SNL's done in quite some time. At least it broke up the monotony of the typical Update formula from the last few years.
• It feels like it's been a while since we last saw Drunk Uncle. I think SNL is toning down the number of his appearances because they realize that Jebidiah Atkinson has taken over Drunk Uncle's place as the most popular current recurring character. By the way, anyone find it interesting that the three most popular recurring characters of the last few seasons (Stefon, Drunk Uncle, and Jebidiah Atkinson) are all Update characters?
• Drunk Uncle had a few funny lines tonight (I especially liked the random fish joke at the end), but this installment felt too standard and by-the-numbers. They didn't do anything special with him this time. Where was the walk-on from his friend/relative? Drunk Uncle's last few commentaries had special appearances from "Peter Drunklage" (Peter Dinklage), "Meth Nephew" (Aaron Paul), and "Drunker Uncle" (John Goodman). Yet tonight, we got nothin'. It could've been interesting to see Charlize Theron attempting a Drunk Uncle-type character, like maybe his wife or something?
• Also, I didn't care for the throwaway bit with Drunk Uncle calling Jost "Seth", because 1) I saw it coming from a mile away the second he started talking to Jost, and 2) it came off as a cheap imitation of when Will Ferrell's Harry Caray referred to Colin Quinn as "Norm" in Quinn's very first Update. That one came off like it could've been a natural ad-lib from Ferrell (though it probably wasn't), whereas the "Seth" thing from Drunk Uncle came off forced.
• Oh, and did they really have to have Jost saying the EXACT same lines that Seth always said to Drunk Uncle, like "I think you're a little TOO drunk", or responding "That's not anyone" after Drunk Uncle says "That's not me" (BTW, why does SNL think that last exchange is still funny?)?
Sketch - Bikini Beach Party
• The ladies all looked very nice, especially Nasim's overall look and Vanessa's legs.
• When this started, I was worried it would turn out to be another Cheer Squad Abduction/Nascarettes-type disastrous sketch, as those two sketches also had the female host & entire female cast teamed together wearing sexy matching outfits. Thankfully, this sketch went in a (very) different direction after a while.
• Right before the first whale blood/guts explosion, I could tell that SOMETHING odd was about to happen, but I definitely couldn't have predicted it would be that. The first explosion caught me completely off-guard and had me laughing out loud a lot. But then afterwards, Taran said "Let's go over by the other dead whale" and I unfortunately saw where the rest of this was going. There was no need to repeat that gag at all, and you're not going to get anywhere near the reaction the second time that you got from the first one. Plus, the second explosion didn't even have nearly as much blood & guts as the first one. If you're going to repeat that gag, at least have the second one be an even more over-the-top explosion than the first.
• I also didn't care for Kenan's little walk-on at the end there, where he came off even more annoying and hammier than usual (and that's saying something). This felt like his first appearance of the whole night, before I remembered he was one of the cast members in the monologue.
• And the "ending" with Kenan getting hit on the side with one of the guts... what was that???
• Overall, I'm very torn on this sketch. It featured something that gave me one of the biggest laughs that SNL has given me in a while, but the sketch fizzled out very badly afterwards with unnecessary repetition and a terrible "ending". I almost wonder if it would've been better if the sketch just abruptly ended immediately after the first explosion. Sure that would've made the sketch unusually short and feel "unfinished", but an ending like that would certainly get people talking, would've gone down as one of the darkest, disturbing, most-twisted endings to a sketch in SNL history, and it's always better to end a sketch with a big laugh than with a whimper.
• The way this sketch carried over into the following musical guest intro with Charlize still dressed in-character & still covered in blood reminded me of when they did the same thing in last season's Kristen Wiig episode, where she and Aidy introduced the musical guest while still wearing their blood-drenched outfits from the preceding Acupuncture sketch. Coincidentally, that was the second-to-last episode from last season, just like tonight is the second-to-last episode. I wonder if this whole "do a sketch featuring lots of blood, followed by the host introducing the second MG performance while still covered in blood" thing is going to be a new annual tradition in every penultimate episode.
Sketch - Whiskers R' We
• Odd sketch, but a decent one with several funny random lines throughout and Charlize doing an unexpectedly convincing job as a creepy woman.
• Something about the structure of this sketch reminded me of something SNL did in recent years, though I can't figure out what. Maybe I'm thinking of that used cars sketch from the season premiere, where Tina Fey had lots of random one-liners like Charlize's character did here.
• Hmm, Kate got to have Charlize Theron rubbing her arm, getting very close to her, and giving her naughty sexual looks all throughout this... Did Kate write this sketch herself? ;)
Short - Tourists
• At first, I thought this was going to be some kind of foreigner variation of Kyle Mooney's mumbly man-on-the-street routine featuring just Kyle and no other cast members, but I was wrong. Though I did enjoy how in Kyle's portions of this short, he showcased yet another display of Andy Kaufman-esque "confusing innocent people" humor that he excels at.
• This short was pretty funny overall with all of the performers each getting their own laughs. I especially liked the Arbalato Street gag with Bobby, Charlize giving her camera to others and just walking away, and Beck's reaction when he found out he wasn't in Chicago.
• The subtitles on the bottom of the screen just made this even funnier to me for some reason.
• Charlize looked almost completely unrecognizable in this. They seem to be going out of their way to make her look as unattractive as possible in half of tonight's sketches.
• This may be the longest the goodnights went in a live episode since the Kirstie Alley episode way back in 1991.
• I liked the close-up of Kyle's Mother's Day shirt (as well as Beck excitedly pointing it out at the beginning). Kyle always seems to wear interesting or funny shirts during the goodnights every week.
• I'm almost amazed at how John Milhiser can always look so happy and smiley during the goodnights when he knows he gets completely screwed out of airtime week-after-week. And by this point, the writing is clearly on the wall for the poor guy; his chances of coming back next season are looking pretty much hopeless. I always hate saying stuff like that about any newbies, but in this case, I just HAD to state it. I really cannot understand why SNL never uses this guy; from what I've seen of his pre-SNL work, he's loaded with talent and potential, and seems like he would be a really fun performer if the show gave him any REAL roles. You know, after what happened with Paul Brittain unfairly getting shafted a few years ago and what's likely to happen with Milhiser after this season ends, I'm starting to think that SNL needs to put up a sign outside their studio that says "Short Guys Need Not Apply".
• HBO First Look: Dragon Babies
• the first whale blood/guts explosion in Bikini Beach Party
• a few lines in the Cold Opening
• Girlfriends Talk Show
• the rest of Bikini Beach Party after the first explosion
Best Performer of the Night:
• Kate McKinnon
CAST MEMBER / HOST COUNT DOWN
BAYER: 3 sketches (Michelle/Hillary, Heshy, Beach Party)
BRYANT: 3 sketches (Game Show, Girlfriends, Beach Party)
KILLAM: 3 sketches (Monologue, Dragon Babies, Beach Party)
MCKINNON: 5 sketches (Monologue, Game Show, Beach Party, Whiskers R' We, Tourists)
MOYNIHAN: 3 sketches (Game Show, Update, Tourists)
PEDRAD: 3 sketches (Dragon Babies, Heshy, Beach Party)
PHAROAH: 1 sketch (Tourists)
STRONG: 5 sketches (Monologue, Girlfriends, Dragon Babies, Update, Beach Party)
THOMPSON: 2 sketches (Monologue, Beach Party)
BENNETT: 2 sketches (Monologue, Tourists)
JOST: 1 sketch (Update)
MILHISER: 0 sketches
MOONEY: 2 sketches (Game Show, Tourists)
O'BRIEN: 2 sketches (Dragon Babies, Heshy)
WELLS: 2 sketches (Dragon Babies, Beach Party)
WHEELAN: 1 sketch (Game Show)
ZAMATA: 3 sketches (Michelle/Hillary, Monologue, Beach Party)
CHARLIZE THERON: 8 sketches (Monologue, Game Show, Girlfriends, Dragon Babies, Heshy, Beach Party, Whiskers R' We, Tourists)
Only one review left, folks.