How important was Amy Poehler to the current success of Saturday Night Live? Poehler said she wouldn’t leave the show until she gave birth, and even though she clearly was ready to have her baby already, the show continued this past week to operate under the assumption she’d be there — so when Poehler gave birth to Archie Arnett on Saturday night (though not on the show!), SNL had to make last-minute changes, which shortchanged returning cast member Maya Rudolph and gave Coldplay four songs. Four songs?! Rudolph to get to sing about Poehler’s baby during Weekend Update, though. That was a nice touch. I also got home last night just in time to see Jon Hamm’s John Ham sketch, which was simple yet absurd enough to work. But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we? Recap! (For readers outside the U.S. who cannot watch videos on Hulu, you can see them on NBC’s SNL site.)
The cold open found potential VP Joe Biden (Jason Sudeikis) and Pennsylvania Congressman Jack Murtha (Darrell Hammond) putting their feet in their mouths together at a campaign rally. I suppose this is SNL’s attempt at being fair and balanced in their political parodies. Although I’m not sure how many people really followed Murtha’s news about trying to honestly categorize Southwest Pennsylvanians (full disclosure: my cousins live there, so I paid close attention to it), nor even know what Murtha looks or sounds like, so Hammond’s impersonation comes off more like Chris Matthews, who, coincidentally, is from the other side of the state. Anyhow. Sudeikis with fake Biden teeth says even crazier things. It’s ok, but not gangbusters.
Jon Hamm’s monologue marks another solidly sincere effort! Hamm notes how really, not that many people know about Mad Men even though it’s critically acclaimed, so he tries to sell it to the masses. The second season finale is at 10 p.m. Sunday on AMC and you should watch it! Actually you should watch the other episodes first. But you know what I mean?
This was odd. The ad following Hamm’s monologue looked so much like an SNL ad spoof, filmed on the Lower East Side, with a weird white guy getting into a rap battle, that seeing it was a Holiday Inn Express ad made me go, wow. Nice job, Holiday Inn Express. Ad hits target. Shazam! (The Burger King shroom and swiss ad, though, just reminded me that those guys sing like Tenacious D, but less rock; Role Models, meanwhile, looks like it could be funny) Hold on. Off tangent. Back on track…
Will Forte nails creepy characters. Forte plays a 43-year-old who trick-or-treats at Bob’s (Jon Hamm’s) house, but the real trick is how Forte’s character, Jeff Montgomery, uses Halloween as his way to notify the neighbors that he is a sex offender. "Bob, lighten up, it’s Halloween!" "What?!" I guess NBC feels this is too risque to put on the Internet? Not really. Lighten up!
And yet, the SNL Digital Short having Andy Samberg play Rasta Man is available for embedding. Right in Samberg’s silly wheelhouse. These guys who pretend to be Jamaican do deserve their mockery. Best part is when Samberg’s Rasta Man gets quiet.
Crowd goes wild for the Mad Men sketch because "Peggy" (Elisabeth Moss) and "Roger" (John Slattery) make cameos, Casey Wilson gets a nice slot portraying curvy Joan, and it’s the return of the A-Holes (Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig), and people in the early 1960s may have acted like a-holes themselves, but they probably never encountered this kind of a-hole d-baggery. The A-Holes do get to some actual talking. A subtle nod to the TV show’s closeted gay guy, and a play off of Don Draper’s penchant for soliloquy.
Maya Rudolph returned to play a light-skinned version of Michelle Obama, appearing alongside Fred Armisen’s Barack Obama. They’ve made a slight tweak to their planned primetime half-hour TV message next week. It’ll now be a variety show! Not quite the same magic as when they’re doing duets as Prince and Beyonce, but it’ll have to do. And it’s another attempt to joke about the Democrats. Maybe this also doubles as a chance to balance out the planned two-hour primetime SNL that airs the night before Election Day. Hamm gets to slip in a quick JFK impression from the shadows, too.
Don Draper’s Guide to Picking Up Women. Another digital short. Very straightforward if you watch Mad Men, which makes it funnier. It’s Poehler’s only appearance on tonight’s program, people! Running just shy of two minutes, this short is just short enough to work.
Coldplay’s Chris Martin sings about ruling the world, with an Obama band around his arm. "Viva La Vida"
Weekend Update. "I’m Seth Meyers. Amy Poehler’s not here tonight, because she is having a baby." Applause. "Now here are tonight’s other top stories." Forte plays "Robo-Call." Ha! Really digging how Forte has stepped up in the past few weeks and gotten more airtime to show off his humor. Bill Hader gets airtime as independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Yeah, Nader’s running again. His philosophy about how corporations are running America may have proven even more true than ever with the recent financial crisis, but his campaign has just been dreadful this time around, hasn’t it? More fodder for the election special, I gather. Oh, and we get another version of "political comedian" Nicholas Fein (Armisen), and in this version, Fein can barely get a word or two out about the headlines. Fein is growing on me, I must acknowledge. Update ends with a musical shout-out to Poehler, with Rudolph and Kenan Thompson singing "We love you, Amy!"
Vincent Price’s Halloween Special. Hader again plays Price. And there’s a glitch with the lift. His guests: Gloria Swanson (Wiig) and James Mason (Hamm). Swanson didn’t put much effort into her pirate costume. But Hamm gets the voice of Mason down, am I right, people? I’m right. Armisen plays Liberace. All dated camp that may go over the heads of the kids, but I like it. The kids have the Internet. They can look up James Mason or Liberace or even Vincent Price.
Jon Hamm’s John Ham needs to be a viral video. Let’s make this happen! "The ham you can eat in the bathroom." That they built a men’s bathroom set. That they installed a ham dispenser in the toilet. That they somehow managed to stick a valid slice of ham onto whatever that roll was. That Hamm ate the ham and kept a straight face. That they included mustard soap "with no soap properties." It’s so simple, so absurd. It’s his name. Imagine that Monday morning SNL gathering where they go around the room pitching sketch ideas, and the person who says, "Jon Hamm’s John Ham: The ham you can eat in the bathroom." Bravo. Now let’s get this thing on the Internet so everyone can watch it and forward to their friends. I’m talking to you, NBC. (Thank you, Videogum, for an extra push) Update: Finally, NBC, thanks!
Coldplay’s second song of the evening: "Lost."
Hamm then plays Pat Finger, city council candidate in Butts, N.Y. The sort of juvenile thing you see in the final half-hour of SNL sometimes. What makes this segment work, however, is that they do is an instant trilogy of ads, with Finger trying to explain the previous ad and overcompensating for it. Do you want to put a Finger in Butts? Then watch this:
Coldplay gets a third song because they likely threw out the planned "Bronx Beat" reunion sketch for Poehler and Rudolph. And Coldplay plays "Yellow" to round out the show. So there’s no 12:55 a.m. last-sketch mayhem. Bullocks. At the end, Martin asks the audience if they should play one more? In fact, when we return from the final ad to see Hamm, his Mad Men colleagues, Rudolph and the rest of the cast, we don’t even get to roll the credits, as Hamm throws it over to Coldplay to play us out with the start of a fourth song.
See you next Saturday with another new episode, featuring Ben Affleck and David Cook.