NBC sports reporter Mary Carillo filed a report Saturday night during Winter Olympics coverage that purported to talk up the Canadian heritage in comedy, but ended up falling short of whatever mark it was aiming for — what was it aiming for, anyhow? Carillo went all the way to 30 Rock to talk to Lorne Michaels, after all, and also apparently all the way to Montreal to cover Just For Laughs, although just for B-roll and a couple of minutes of interviews with Martin Short and Caroline Rhea? Hmmm. Carillo put more effort into her puff piece on trying to be a Mountie than she did for this slam-dunk assignment. At least it gave Bob Costas two chances to remind viewers that SNL was on tonight with a fresh episode. Well, a new episode. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's hope instead that the SNL team wasn't too distracted by the Olympics themselves…
Quincy Jones (Kenan Thompson) opened this episode, introducing the all-star song "We Are The World 3" to address the disaster which is and was the 2010 remake of "We Are The World," which featured "randos" such as Nipsy Hustle. Nice reference! Jennifer Lopez herself opened the song as Rihanna (or some variation of her), Kristen Wiig showed off her singing chops as Gwen Stefani, and a collection of characters soon followed. I have to say, seeing the dazed and confused look on Bobby Moynihan's face in the chorus scenes was Precious! Nasim Pedrad played hot crazy Shakira, Bill Hader used a Joker-like perma-grin to utter Eddie Vedder, Will Forte as Willie Nelson, Jason Sudeikis as Adam Lambert (?), with Jenny Slate as Lady Gaga, Abby Elliott as Melissa Etheridge, and Moynihan played David Crosby. There weren't a lot of jokes, however, in the song, save for a nice play on the observation that Fonzworth Bentley was in the chorus — lettting J.Lo confirm he was the "Umbrella" man for Sean Combs (when she was dating him?!). Oh, Andy Samberg was there as Josh Groban, with Fred Armisen as Carlos Santana, to apologize for being in the remake. Yep. Still lacking in real funny punchlines. Which could portend awful things ahead. Until. They cut back to Kenan/Quincy to say "Hmmm. Well, that was pretty bad, too." Good cover!
Jennifer Lopez looks hot, and in her monologue, she talks about how much she has grown up — married with kids — since the last time she hosted SNL. Thompson shows up in the audience as Dante, the guy in her former entourage who used to hold her orange juice, and cannot get a new job because of his past job experience. "You can't live in the past," Lopez says. But her drag queens (played by Hader and Sudeikis) begged to differ. But. Butt! Did you see her turn her back on us at the end to show us her back end? She's putting on the hard sell tonight, if you know what I mean. You know what I mean.
They found a quick way into the almost-obligatory Olympic curling sketch by going back in time to 1987 so they could have their "ESPN Classic" broadcast team of Pete Twinkle and Greg Stink (Sudeikis and Forte) cover the Ladies World Cup of Curling from the Tacoma Dome, sponsored by Gyne-Lotrimin. As with previous installments of this sketch, the lady athletes (such as Finland's Helga Birkenstock (Wiig) and Paraguay's Maria Shakira Prinze Jr. (Lopez)) were secondary to the broadcast patter between Sudeikis and Forte and their sponsorship mentions. As were the actual rules of curling. Elliott, Pedrad and Slate held the brushes for their skips. I'll be so pleased when one of these feminine hygiene products decides to embrace Sudeikis' Twinkle taglines into an actual commercial, just for the sheer audacity of it. Until then…
An SNL Digital Short on Flags of the World. I guess this could be inspired by the Olympics, but you can file this in the random pile. Oh, and of course you saw the "We Love Betty White Flag," right? It's before the random "Moz Flag" and the jab at John Mayer by calling his flag the "Jag Flag."
Jennifer Lopez then appears on the parody of Hollywood tabloid shows called "Hollywood Dish" with co-hosts played by Wiig and Hader, and the point of this sketch is having the celebrity deal with all of the mugging by the co-hosts (which is supposed to be off-camera). They convince Lopez to talk in Spanish. Ay ay ay! And a gratuitous spit-take. Physical comedy! Satire!
More fun in Spanish, as we get Telemundo's take on the Winter Olympics, with Lopez and Fred Armisen anchoring the coverage. "We keep asking ourselves the same question: Why does anyone like the Winter Olympics?" All of the sports are silly and on snow or ice. "These are bad, slippery surfaces," Armisen quips. But they are part of the NBC family, so they telecast "this nonsense." Slate plays Rosa, roving correspondent at the ski jump hill, who underdressed and got frostbitten. They don't seem to understand the jumping part of the ski jump. "Did they forget to complete the ramp?" Samberg shows up in the studio as a Canadian representative to defend his nation and climate. Hader as Hector covers curling, and hoped it'd be like shuffleboard, which he likes and understands. So. More curling jokes. Maybe "Little Jefferson" (Moynihan) and a pie in the face would cheer him up? Nope.
Now time for SNL to spoof CBS' Undercover Boss with Undercover Celebrity Boss. Because in some companies, everyone — I mean EVERYONE — knows who the boss is. There is no undercover when you're Apple's Steve Jobs (Armisen), trying to turn janitorial work into iTrash. Or Virgin's Richard Branson (Hader), who shows up to work in a space shuttle. Or Mary-Kate and Ashley (Pedrad and Slate). Or Martha Stewart (Wiig). Good job. Ooooh, one more dig on CBS calling it Celebrity Boss Station. Take that, CBS! And your #1 ratings.
Lopez was not only hosting, but also musically performing. No dancing, though! She wanted us to know she can sing, this baby mama can sing. "There ain't no doubt about it." No. That's the title. I think. She's casting the oddest of spells on me. Is it the heels, or those pants? Probably the pants.
Weekend Update opens with jokes about the seven-hour health-care summit, then Toyota. OK. I guess. Had to happen. Some weeks I sit through the Weekend Update headline jokes just trying to guess who the celebrity guests will be at the anchor desk, which is not supposed to slight whatever jokes Seth Meyers and his gang of writers have composed, but how often do we remember those quips, compared to whomever shows up as an Update guest? Point made.
Although this week, we have "new media correspondent" Bobby Moynihan with a joke about buffering on YouTube. In 2010. A joke about buffering? Really?!?
And a "surprise attack" from embattled New York Gov. David Paterson (Armisen). Even in defeat, as Paterson brought his "re-election" campaign to an abrupt halt, he had plenty of zingers at the ready, even still, for NEW JERSEY!
And into the final half-hour we go! It begins anew with the "other" Spanish-language North American network, Univision, and a spoof on telenovelas called "Besos Y Lagrimas." Armisen is an old man in a wheelchair, and Lopez is his nun. Or is she more than that? She is! Wiig's Senora Gomez catches them in lip-lock. And there's a funny sight gag when she poisons his salad (spoiler alert?). Sudeikis, Elliott and Hader show up during the reading of the will.
Here's something different. A sketch in an office copy room? Oh, wait. It's a sketch that's going to be interrupted by a Barry White type (Thompson) who provides sultry narration interludes as Sudeikis introduces himself to Lopez by the copy machine. Wait. What? She's a ventriloquist? Look out, Jeff Dunham. Nice response from Thompson's sliding character. "C'mon Jimmy!" And here comes Pedrad. "Aw yeah. So much better." You could say that again.
Lopez is back for her second song, and sitting on a stool now, so even farther away from the dancing part of her career which launched her into show business in the first place, as a "Fly Girl" on In Living Color. Fun facts! So these are new songs, right? So new that they're on the record that her record company didn't want to release? I wonder if another record company watched and listened and liked what they saw and heard? Hmmm.
We pick it back up with Lopez and Pedrad, but now they're mother and daughter as Lopez puts Pedrad to bed. She's scared. Monsters under the bed? No, in the closet! Specifically, Smash Mouth. HA! Smash Mouth! Smash Mouth! They came out and sang that song again! This is the delightfully weird stuff that comes out at the end of an SNL episode. Moynihan, Hader and Armisen play the band. "I can see their soul patches!" Sudeikis plays the dad, who confused them for the Third Eye Blind guys. Skate punk? Beach rock? How did this become a defense of Smash Mouth? Even better, comedy-wise.
We're at the "five-to-one" hour, and look, it's Moynihan making fun of Pedrad for her car horn…which means…bring back the Doorbell Saleswoman, Tina Tina (Slate)! She sells car horns, too! Even international ones. "Honk honk, Bonjour, Grey Poupon, crash." With help from her cousin, Kiki (Lopez). She looked so happy to be there, too! Nice.
But wait. There's still time for one more thing! It's the return of the "Closet Organizer" ad with Will Forte (and Sudeikis on the voiceover), originally seen on the Jon Hamm/Michael Buble episode. This is a slightly shorter version? Comedy nerds, which 17 seconds got cut?
You know how there are plenty of people who only watch SNL until Weekend Update, then turn off their TVs to go to bed? This was one night when I'd say you should've done the reverse. Sure, there were a couple of mildly interesting things in the first hour, but in terms of moments that might make you laugh out loud? I'd say the final half-hour had much more going for it this week. Next week? Zach Galifianakis hosts with musical guests Vampire Weekend, and I can assure you that all 90 minutes will be must-see TV!