Saturday Night Live is back, and this week, we got first-time host Kerry Washington doing the honors over at good ole’ 30 Rock. While her star has certainly been rising in the last few years (Django Unchained and Scandal, anyone?), she’s not really known best for her comedy chops; was she able to do that of which many established comedic actors seem incapable, leading a quality episode of a show that I can’t stop watching, regardless of quality? Also – Eminem.
I watched this week’s SNL. I am now going to write about this week’s SNL. This is my weekly SNL Recap. That is how math works!
Cold Open: Barack and Michelle
The Sketch: The Pres (Jay Pharoah) and his lady love Michelle (Washington) are about to receive an important guest at the Oval Office, none other than Oprah Winfrey. However, there’s a snag… Kenan won’t do it. If you weren’t aware, Kenan Thompson has recently made some controversial statements about the lack of diversity at SNL, and how he would refuse to don a female character until the show cast an African-American woman. Kerry is a team player, and the sketch has her doing the classic “sitcom switcheroo”, playing both the First Lady and the First Lady of daytime TV (as well as a slew of other African-American women); also, Al Sharpton for the win. Well done, SNL. A surprisingly smart sketch that handled the show’s current lack of diversity in a playful and yet “we know we messed up” kind of way. Not hilarious, but pretty brave.
Highlight: All those McConaugheys
The Sketch: Kerry tells us what Scandal is about. Lots of Scandal related content, with the always fun Bobby Moynihan and Vanessa Bayer/Kenan Thompson thrown into the mix for good measure. The SNL cast needs Kerry’s help “fixing” things, which I’m assuming is a Scandal reference. If you like Scandal…
Highlight: “Okay, I can afford that”/”Da Club”.
The Sketch: Professional career consultant Nasim Pedrad comes from the “City of Sewage Fires” to give a motivational speech to a graduation high school class while host Kerry plays her animal-print-covered assistant. Lots of pelvis thrusting and strange sound effects make for a pretty weird but unfortunately humorless sketch that is basically a “look how weird a character is!” type of piece, which SNL seems to be favoring lately. Not the worst, and it made me smile, but far from “high art”. I like any Pedrad I can get, but this one was just a bit too “zany” for me. Pass.
Highlight: OKCupid account approval/hail of gunfire.
The Sketch: You remember that video that was popular two months ago, “What does the fox say”? Well… this is a parody of that song. Visually right on, comedically flat. A shame, because one of my favorite sketches from this season was the “We Did Stop” Miley parody. Let’s try a bit harder, gang. C’mon! Most of you went to Harvard!
Highlight: It looks cool?
How’s He Doing
The Sketch: Kenan hosts a talk show, “How’s He Doing,” in which average black Americans give their assessment on the president’s tenure . Pharoah and Kerry play the guests, who despite Obama’s “troubles,” love everything the president does. A real “white people do this, black people do that” type of sketch. Look, I get you’re all shook about the diversity issue, but there is A LOT of race related content in this episode (it may be the most Pharoah has ever worked) that feels kind of mean, in my opinion. Meh.
Highlight: “I like The Wire… they LOVE The Wire.”
The Sketch: European beauty contestants hit the stage and are all “European and stuff”. Kerry Washington plays a hilarious Miss Uganda contestant who nets my first laughs of the night. Oh, and Kate McKinnon, our hero, as a coked up Ms. Bolivia. Heavy on the stereotypes tonight, aren’t we, SNL? I hate to get all “high falutin’,” but where are the “games” in these sketches? Typically, there’s a decent mix of character based stuff and traditional game-based sketches, but this week seems to be all wacky, wacky, wacky.
Highlight: “How are they? Who is she? Why is what?”
The Sketch: Myers and Strong are back, and making a really good team. However “?” SNL gets, Update remains a “strong” point of the show, and I’m not saying that because Cecily Strong is killing it as an anchor (because she is); it’s just quality comedy writing. I wish a bit of the Update sentiment could be shared with the rest of the show. Alas. We get our weekly news run down, Kate McKinnon as German chancellor Angela Merkel (McKinnon crushes the accent, as always. It should be expected, as she is our hero), and Kenan and Pharoah as Charles Barkley and Shaq (which is SUPER funny). Once again, Update is the funniest part of the show.
Highlight: “Nickleback; Tour schedule”.
The Sketch: A game show in which contestants try and recognize cartoon catchphrases, with a lot more difficulty than anticipated. A phone-a-friend reveals a husband’s infidelity, with Aidy Bryant really selling it in a funny way. As you can guess, the phone-a-friends progressively get crazier and funnier. I like this sketch, and in a world where I don’t like many current sketches, I’ll take what I can get.
Highlight: “Diamond, you damn hussy”
The Sketch: Jay Pharoah’s recurring Principal Frye character is inexplicably back, for like the 40th time, to intro a sketch that is hard to even sum up, other than it’s a big miss. The usual “school stage rotating weird character” format is back, and as usual… it’s a whiff, in my opinion. Also, I really do think that Jay and Kenan are in every sketch in this episode, which is definitely a first.
Highlight: It ended.
Date or Diss
The Sketch: MTV’s “Date or Diss,” a parody of those MTV dating shows, featuring women the producers found at Ross Dress 4 Less. It’s that weird second to last slot, so don’t expect much other than more wacky characters and ridiculous one-liners, and while these are sometimes great, tonight, alas, they have not been.
Highlight: “Oh, my God…”
The sketch: FINALLY, a Good Neighbor sketch, which have been the best of this season so far (and the heir apparent to Andy Samberg’s Digital Shorts). Kyle Mooney is an ice cream server who can’t grasp humor. It’s weird, and different, and awesome, and just watch it.
Highlight: Taran’s smile at the joke.
Final Thoughts: Kerry Washington was great. The writing and sketches overall? Not so much. What will go down as the “diversity reaction” episode was a big miss, and frankly, shaking my faith in the current crop of writers a bit. That being said, I’m in for the long-haul on this weird and wonderful show, so we’ll just have to tune in next week to see what happens!