Since my earliest memories, Saturday Night Live has been a part of my life. When I was a child, it was the creepy, dangerous-feeling, and yet still somehow hilarious show that I’d catch on re-runs after school. I remember being terrified of John Belushi, in that way that children are terrified of things they know are “bad”, or “too adult”.
As I grew, so did my affinity for the show. I was a teenager during the “new golden age” of Ferrell, Sandler, Mike Myers, and company. While I didn’t watch the shows live, again, after-school pre-homework reruns became the order of the day.
Once I hit the age of 15 or so, I was a full-fledged comedy nerd. Mr Show, UCB, Monty Python, and… SNL. I became a voracious watcher of the show (I haven’t missed a single episode since about 1999), and many Saturday nights during my “formative years” were spent by myself, in my bedroom, with the folks at 30 Rock.
In recent years SNL has morphed from a funny show I like to watch, to something I treat as more of a spectator sport. I watch SNL like other people watch baseball, in the sense that I watch it with the history of the show in mind. In my not so humble opinion, SNL isn’t just a tv sketch show, but, more importantly, an American comedy institution that is pretty peerless.
With all that being said, I thought it’d be fun to share my love/fascination of SNL with you fine folks.
I won’t be “grading” the sketches, but rather, presenting them to you in a “box-score” type manner; it’s up to you to decide what you find funny. So without further ado, here’s a recap of the season 39 premiere, hosted by Tina Fey with musical guest Arcade Fire.
Live from my apartment… it’s Sunday Morning!
Cold Open- Obamacare
The Sketch: In the continuing trend of SNL castmembers saying things that genuinely shock me, right off the bat we get “whackin’ it.” SNL; always pushing boundaries. This was your basic C-SPAN/Obama “let’s have a string of people say funny stuff that is framed with a political message”. Pharoah (whose Obama is pretty great by this point) is left with not much to do other than play the straight man to a series of “whacky Americans”, all of whom really don’t know what Obamacare is. SNL will always be a politically leaning show, so even if this type of sketch isn’t quite your thing, it’s totally harmless. Also, did I mention Jesse Pinkman?
Highlight: Kate McKinnon. Always.
Monologue- Tina Fey introduces the gang.
The Sketch: In her fourth time as host since leaving the show, Tina starts things off very confidently (natch). It’s always refreshing to see a host that isn’t immediately intimated by the live format, and Tina is as pro as it gets. After a pretty funny run-through of some of Tina’s “famous” characters, she switches gears to introduce the 6 new fresh-faced (hint: they look 14) cast-members, and the whole thing devolves into a dance number. Fun, silly, and nice way to start of the season/the careers of these new casties.
Highlight: Queef Latina
The Sketch: Fairly one note, this trailer of the new season of HBO’s Girls is funny enough, but really only if you are a watcher of Girls (only the show counts, weirdos). Basically, Tina Fey plays a new addition to the cast, an Albanian refugee. How will her third-world ways mesh with the Brooklyn hipster lifestyle? The impressions are pretty spot-on, especially our hero Kate McKinnon. If anything, it kind of makes me want to watch Girls (which I find very decent, bordering on cute)
Highlight: Old Cow Disease/Taran Killam being “strong like ox”
The Sketch: Tina and Taran play two airport gate attendants in the process of announcing who can board the plane. It’s clear from about 10 seconds in that the game of this sketch is, “a couple wants to board. EVERYONE is allowed to board before them. Heighten for hilarity,” and it’s the first winner of the night. Sure, it’s a “wacky list” sketch, but I love me a good wacky list sketch (see Stefon). A real funny one-off concept, something that I hope the writers remember to sprinkle throughout the season. It can’t all be catch-phrases and C-SPAN sketches. I laughed out loud A LOT.
Highlight: X-Men Business Class/Bobby Moynihan’s Farter.
New Cast Member or Arcade Fire
The Sketch: Kenan hosts a game show, and a fairly “meh” sketch. We get it; you hired youngish hispter looking folks for the show. You’re pretty cool, SNL. If anything, it’s a nice chance to see our new cast members some more.
Highlight: I really like Arcade Fire, and screaming Kenan is always fun.
The Sketch: You know those kind of annoying E-Cigarette commercials that extoll the virtues of vaping? Add meth. A quick and sweet commercial parody that totally works and one of the better parody commercials in the past few seasons. Also… Jesse Pinkman; you’re welcome, America.
Highlight: Kate F’ing McKinnon. This is becoming a trend.
The Sketch: Ummm… isn’t Seth Meyers not supposed to be here? Maybe I was confused. This first Update of the season welcomes Cecily Strong as Seth’s co-anchor, a move of which I am very much in favor. Cecily is a daring and hilarious addition to SNL, and probably the best suited for this new Update chair. Two anchors always work better than one (save Dennis Miller), and I like this new dynamic. New addition Kyle Mooney (of Good Neighbor fame, and the second troupe member on the cast, with Beck Bennett) debuts a character, and while not a clear winner, it’s good to see that the dude has a good amount of presence on his first run out. Bringing it home is our friend and yours, Bobby Moynihan, with drunk uncle… and of course, Jesse Pinkman, bitch.
Highlight: Drunk Uncle (and Bobby Moynihan in general). The most I’ve laughed so far at this episode. Meth Nephew, you the best.
The Sketch: Your fairly typical “at the movies” sketch, made “watchable” by Taran Killam and Tina Fey. Taran really has become one of the most solid workers on SNL, even though this sketch is too silly to really even describe (a period romantic film that involves too many close up shots of animals who have met a taxidermist recently). The weakest sketch of the episode so far.
Highlight: Squirrel holding a basketball.
Cars for Sale
The Sketch: Tina and new castmember Mike O’Brien in a black and white commercial parody, a used car-lot spot, set in the Great Depression. Short and harmless, but definitely in that weird “right before the second musical performance” burn-off slot. Competent work by the newbie, but a sketch that doesn’t really hit any high points, in my humble opinion.
Highlight: “They’ve got everything! Seats!”
The Sketch: The first recurring sketch of the season, and it’s one that I really love. Cecily Strong and Vanessa Bayer play two former porn stars turned pitchwomen, Brekkie and Brekkie. This sketch hit a home-run last season with Justin Timberlake and “Dom Perignon,” and though this episode’s incarnation isn’t as strong as that one, it’s still a ridiculous sketch that should make you laugh out loud quite a few times. It’s basically a “silly list sketch,” but Bayer and Strong crush these characters, and it’s one of the few sketches that still genuinely shocks me, content wise. Ever hear the word “blumpkin” on TV? Thanks, SNL!
Highlight: “See you later, Ali Larter”.
A pretty fun episode that may have erred by relying SO much on the 6 new cast members. That being said, I really like where the current cast stands (highlights, in my opinion, are Kate McKinnon, Taran Killam, and Bobby Moynihan, though Kenan ALWAYS does great work as well). Nothing game-changing, nothing viral, but a fine episode to start the season off, and with this many new cast members it should take some time for this new crew to really gel into the tightly honed comedy unit they can (and hopefully will be).
See you all next week!