You ever go on vacation and think, when I get back to work, I'm going to be relaxed, refreshed, ready and rarin' to go with even more gusto then before, but then you get back to work and find a week's worth of emails and junk mail and meetings to plow through, and by Monday afternoon, you think, well, maybe I'll just try to endure? Do you suppose the folks at Saturday Night Live felt that way this post-Thanksgiving week? The most prevailing news of the week was, if you read the media, about media layoffs and unemployment generally and the financial markets still in crisis, and the Big Three automaking CEOs trying again in asking for billions in bailout money. That's not the recap for this week's SNL, mind you. In fact, I got the sense watching the show that this was the week for pitching all of the oddball ideas that couldn't make the cut earlier in the year — and having John Malkovich host only gave the performers and writers a wider berth for pitching. That said…
Amy Poehler's back! "You thought I was gone, didn't you!" Poehler swiveled around her chair for the cold open, as potential Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and reminded us that "just like the South, vampires, and Britney Spears, we will rise again." Her jokes were about the Clintons. But twas nice seeing Poehler back, too, all the same. She never really did say goodbye, did she? No, alas, she did not. Although press reports said she had left for good, we've already witnessed plenty of episodes this season in which past cast members (Tina Fey, Chris Parnell, Maya Rudolph) came back home to roost when called upon. And, after giving birth to little Archie, Amy Poehler's next gig doesn't appear to be filming anytime soon. NBC announced its midseason schedule earlier in the week, and not only was The Office spinoff not given a debut date, but it also had a new name as The Untitled Amy Poehler Project. Shows you how important Poehler is, doesn't it? Darrell Hammond, meanwhile, made his first and only brief appearance of the night in the open as Bill Clinton. And away we go!
The writers gave John Malkovich a lengthier than usual monologue, welcoming some kids onstage for a special reading of Twas The Night Before Christmas. What an interesting outfit?! Malkovich has gotten old! But nonetheless still creepy in a funny way.
Ad spoof alert. Fred Armisen pretends to be the guy who invented Breathe Right strips to prevent snoring, adapting his invention for sleeping farts with larger Gas Right strips! Ah, fart jokes. The kids (and kids in all of us) still like fart jokes, right? That must be the thinking here.
Casey Wilson opens an office birthday sketch, in which the guys in the office (Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Kenan Thompson and Malkovich) just hope the sexy new gal shows up. She's played by…wait for it…Kristen Wiig. So not one of the actual sexy new gals in the cast. Instead, Wiig vamps it up in her best Marilyn Monroe voice and miracle bra (just saying Wiig hasn't shown that much cleavage in a sketch that I can recall), but the joke is in how unsexy Wiig's character is whenever attempting sexy things, such as blowing out candles, bending over to pick something up, singing, etc., etc., etc.
First of a few videos in this evening's production presents a jazzy cool riff of a message from President-elect Barack Obama (Armisen). His impersonation is getting there, but neither he nor the writers have figured out how to make any of it particularly funny. Which makes me wonder. As I mentioned to a friend earlier today, does SNL need to make fun of the president to remain relevant? You can be a funny, buzzworthy sketch comedy show without mocking the leader, or at least you'd think. I don't say this as a Democrat (always registered outside of the party system). I think it's just something we have become accustomed to seeing as viewers, because our recent presidents have provided us with so many follies to make funny about. If Obama isn't putting himself in awkward positions, must we find a reason in comedy for a pre-emptive strike? Just throwing the idea out there.
This week's show also saw the return of a couple of past characters, including Bill Hader's Italian talk show host, Vinny Vedecci. Vedecci interviews Malkovich in Italian, but breaks into English for a funny moment in which he impersonates Malkovich. Armisen again plays the producer/stage manager, as Forte, as near as I can tell, just sits there each time and eats spaghetti throughout the sketch! Inside joke alert! Bobby Moynihan plays Vedecci's son in a sailor suit (what era is this supposed to be, again?), while Thompson and Samberg get a nanosecond of air time as…Chef Boyardees?
Virgania Horsen, last seen last season offering hot air balloon rides, returns this season offering to deliver your mail with Virgania Horsen's Pony Express. Wiig plays Horsen. This very much reminds me of the professionally-done unprofessional slapdash work of Tim & Eric. Not that that's a bad thing.
Then there's a family Christmas gathering, with Hader and Wilson as the parents, Samberg as one child, and Armisen and Malkovich as twins excited about getting…a calculator. Really. That's the sketch.
T.I. sings "Whatever You Like" as cash comes slipping out of his front pocket! I much prefer the take on this song by the Atlanta schoolkids who sang it as a debate between voting for Obama and McCain. But, whatever you like works, too.
Weekend Update also welcomes Poehler back to the anchor desk. Back from a quick month of maternity leave, Poehler didn't get asked to do too much this week — just sit for the cold open, then sit later to read the headline punchlines. Ripped from the headlines, three guest bits featuring Thompson as New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress, who shot himself in the leg last weekend, Armisen as Boy George, and Samberg as a 9-year-old who wrote a book about how to talk to girls. Too bad Michaela Watkins couldn't bring her Arianna Huffington back for another round to mock the Huff's TV explanations of blogging on The Daily Show and Charlie Rose, eh? Am I right? I don't know. I just blogged it. Cheese! I'll let the video evidence speak for itself here.
We're already nearing the end, and it's time for another out of left field sketch, exploring the lost works of popular children's book author Judy Blume. This is a scene from "Gertie," which casts Malkovich as a girl who hits puberty by growing a tail and foaming at the mouth. Setting it in a Truth or Dare game at a sleepover allows the writers to put lines in for newbies Abby Elliott and Michaela Watkins, as well as Wilson and Wiig. And that's about it. One of those sketches designed to make the host stretch and make fun of themselves.
An SNL Digital Short that again breaks ground, but not for the reason you initially suspected. "Jizz in My Pants" is a music video that shouts, we're trying to duplicate the early December success we had two years ago with "Dick in a Box," and Justin Timberlake is there, again, in a cameo role as a supermarket janitor. Cameos, too, for Molly Sims and Jamie Lynn Sigler. But the real news here is that this is a music video for an upcoming album by The Lonely Island, aka the comedy trio of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer. Andy and Jorma sing the ode to premature ejaculation. The album, Incredibad, comes out Feb. 10, 2009, on Universal Republic. If you cannot see it on Hulu, The Lonely Island guys already had it up yesterday on YouTube. SNL hired all three guys, yes, but this is interesting enough to wonder if and when they'll try to get more of their songs on the air to promote the record, and how those pitches will fly in future meetings.
T.I. returns for a song with Swizz Beatz to "Swing Your Rag." Yes, they did.
And finally, it's five minutes til we close up shop on another SNL, so time for the final sketch of the evening, which can be a winner as much as a loser. It's a winner. Malkovich stars in the Broadway adaptation of "Dangerous Liasions" in a hot tub, aka "J'acuzzi." With Wiig, Watkins and Samberg. And more importantly, perhaps, cutaways to Malkovich talking smack about the production. That's it, people. Malkovich calls SNL "the greatest gig in show business," and that makes Armisen gasp in delight. We'll just say, see you next week! We missed you, Jason Sudeikis, wherever you were!