Saving the best for last is not the phrase you want associated with Saturday Night Live. Alas, such was the case on the Sept. 30 32nd season-opener, hosted by Dane Cook. The final sketch of the night was a parody of the current Geico TV ads, with Andy Samberg playing the real-life customer and Maya Rudolph as Whitney Houston, his celebrity helper. It’s not on YouTube yet (despite what Cook said in his monologue) but NBC has featured it online.
But back to the recap…
Season 32 begins with a "cold open" of an unwanted President Bush at a campaign for comptroller in South Carolina. I couldn’t help but immediately think to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the Aaron Sorkin un-SNL show, and the scene in which Matthew Perry’s character challenges the writers to come up with something fresher than a Bush-mocking "cold open" skit. But there you have it. I’m smelling a theme. That theme smells like stale (fill in the blank with anything you want, including the word stale).
Roll opening credits. They look nice and big and pretty.
What about your host Dane Cook? Does he look nice and big and pretty?
Well, he does jump into a crouching position. Then he grabs a mike to remind himself that he’s a stand-up comic, not a TV host, and begins his monologue by defending himself against negative people. "Don’t you try to bring me down, naughty people." Except isn’t this negativity essentially the premise of EVERY Debbie Downer skit? Rachel Dratch isn’t in the cast anymore, so who’ll remember that? Oh. Right. Dane also uses a Danism (one of his words that sounds funny because he changes the word around) by saying, "N-U-T-O-matic" to describe the facial tells of women vs. men when they’re lying. He also has a bit about when you hear someone committed suicide, you always think about happy memories of them, but want to know how they did it, and that leads to how everything you’ve ever wanted to see is on YouTube, with an obligatory miming of him punching a keyboard, and look, it’s A:F6. (NOTE: As of Monday afternoon, there were 328 videos on YouTube claiming to be the A:F6 video! What lengths people will go to grab onto the gravy train!) Dane closes with a bit about a 217-car pileup, and how everyone is happy they’re not at fault except for the last driver. Somehow, this joke sounds very familiar. But I digress.
Department of Homeland Security TSA skit. More absurd than funny. The cast makes this funnier than the material. This won’t be the last time this happens.
"Hugo Chavez Political Roundup" on Venezuelan TV, with the leaders of Iran, Pakistan and North Korea (and a cameo from Saddam Hussein). Fred Armisen as Chavez and Amy Poehler as Kim Jong-Il are very funny and keep this skit afloat.
An SNL Digital Short — "Cubicle Fight" — Sorry. Better luck next week.
"Al Pacino checks his bank balance" — Um, why?
Weekend Update. A pre-Update skit with actual NBC anchor Brian Williams comes off well. The actual Update, with new co-anchor Seth Meyers, clocks in at about 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes?! With several sideshows, including Darrell Hammond as Clinton, Maya Rudolph as Condi Rice, Jason Sudeikis as Sen. George Allen and Andy Samberg as Dustin Diamond. They’re all competent enough, but the material just doesn’t support this loooooooong routine.
Dumb water guys. Even Dane Cook and Will Forte know how dumb this is, acknowledging it at the end of the skit in meta fashion. The only funny thing in the scene isn’t even spoken. It’s the offscreen antics, pushing more and more water bottles into the scene.
Farah Fawcett (Amy Poehler) is loose and funny, and having her stumble into the next skit is really kinda funny. But that next skit, about mean bouncers, just doesn’t have a single laugh in it. Oh well. The Geico ad spoof with Samberg and Rudolph. Again, it’s probably the funniest skit just on its own. So why didn’t this open the show? Who knows.