The first new SNL of 2011 arrived just hours after a tragic shooting that dominated the national conversation. It also happened to be the week that the GOP regained control of the House of Representatives in Congress, which normally would be fodder for a sketch on SNL, potentially even the cold open. Would the show need to scrap any jokes it had planned about Congress? With Jim Carrey hosting, that's kind of a silly question. It has merit. But let's get physical. C'mon and get physical. Let me hear Jim Carrey's body talk.
First, though, the cold open. They went political, though borrowing the famous Tip O'Neill mantra of all politics being local, kept within the five boroughs of New York City with a message from Mayor Mike Bloomberg about the city's poor response to the post-Christmas blizzard. Featuring Fred Armisen as Bloomberg. I bet you didn't know Bloomberg was black. Wait. Armisen isn't black! He does, however, impersonate both biracial President Barack Obama and now former New York Gov. David Paterson. It's all very confusing times in 2011, where anyone of any race can impersonate anyone of any other racial identity. Let's focus on the important points, shall we? For one thing, can people who don't live in NYC relate to this blizzard issue? Though I live in the city, I wasn't anywhere near it when the blizzard happened, and the shutdown of New York (and particularly its airports) impacted everyone's local news. OK. That's one thing. But was it funny? More like hit-and-miss, as it landed some solid laughs on the more absurdist takes (questions about snow, putting boroughs in their place) than on the specific political take on the city's Sanitation Department.
As host, Jim Carrey was great. Of course he was. You knew he would be. Even if you had forgotten about him, you remembered that he was a real pro in both stand-up and sketch comedy. And he took a monologue that could have been completely cold and stiff — as it involved audience plants — and made it seem both real and ad-libbed. I know that the object of his proposal was related to an NBC employee, and yet, it seemed quite real, didn't it?
Then SNL pulled out its multi-played ad parody of Bosley Hair Restoration. Hmmm. Interesting. But then again, how many times did they repeat that "Taco Town" ad parody in Season 31, right? Or is our collective memory being Incepted? Moving on.
Now that everyone in America is within driving distance of a cinema playing "Black Swan," it's time to tackle one of the year's most talked-about movies. Especially since Carrey can channel a former In Living Color character to inhabit the black swan herself. Oh, yes. There were SNL cast members in this sketch, too. Nasim Pedrad played Swan Lake's Queen. Bill Hader took on the creepy ballet master, Kristen Wiig was there as a decoy, and newbie Taran Killam provided featured-player color as a foil for Carrey. Good god. You really get the idea that Carrey still has enough in the tank to jump back into a weekly sketch show, don't you?
In the fake talk show, "Finding Your Power," Jason Sudeikis played host Zach Weinfeld, who helped expose the insecurities of his guests (played by Andy Samberg, Vanessa Bayer and Carrey) by calling their bluffs. Nice job on the third beat.
Grady Wilson (Kenan Thompson) revealed in his ad for his new sex-position tape, "Tantric N Tasty," that he learned his moves from a spiritual guru played by Carrey.
And then there's the "Soul Train" full collection infomercial, hosted by Coughy Robinson (half-brother of Smokey, played by Bobby Moynihan). This is no Deep House Dish. Nope. Hey, look, it's Jay Pharoah as some random black singer dude. Samberg isn't rapping, but pretending to disco. Thompson gets a bunch of extras to join him in The Maxwell Family. Wiig plays Triangle Sally. Killam and Paul Brittain get to play a parody of Devo called Bro-Botix. And Ocean Billy is no Jon Bovi. Sorry, Sudeikis. Oh, Carrey had a role in this one, too.
The Black Keys played a song that sounded like a song I've heard a bunch in TV or movies, or maybe both. Having just watched Tuesday night's edition of The Colbert Report, I realize it was a song in three different national TV campaigns. That explains that.
On Weekend Update, head writer/anchor Seth Meyers didn't shy away from political jokes, opening with the change in House leadership and a joke that even hinted at violence. "Look out Nancy, he's got a hammer!" The desk also welcomed Wiig and Hader to play out the House Speakership transition from Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner. And Hader managed a fake-cry, or was it his take on Bobby Moynihan's Snagglepuss impersonation?
Speaking of Moynihan, here he was again as Second-Hand News correspondent Anthony Crispino. I hear second-hand news and I cannot help but think of SNL writer John Mulaney's routines about the New York Post. I also cannot help but laugh when Moynihan looks to the side as if someone might catch him telling stories out of turn.
You hear about the birds falling out of the sky? How about hearing the story from Cameron the Red-Winged Blackbird, aka Andy Samberg? Notice how Samberg's lips don't move when he squawks about the A-flock-alypse. And Taran Killam gets to jump in with an alternate theory about the Apoca-fish. And they're a couple. Sure. OK. Why not. It's almost 2012.
As for the amusement park ride gone awry sketch, The Merryville Brothers. It featured Carrey, Killam and Hader as animatronic characters who spook out riders Thompson and Wiig for good reason. Great physical comedy on the part of Carrey, Killam and Hader. But something seemed off on the live broadcast. Did they skip over something? Did I skip over something? Trusted sources tell me it went over beyond great during the live dress rehearsal.
Weirdly, people who don't know each other are all visiting a tarot card psychic who claims to speak to the dead. Bayer, Pedrad and Sudeikis are the clients. Carrey is the psychic. Who also was a former celebrity impersonator in the 1980s! Makes sense. Makes total sense. Cue the impersonations! Jimmy Stewart. Billie Holiday. Alan Thicke. Surprisingly, the audience recognizes the voice of Alan Thicke more than Jimmy Stewart. Miss Piggy. Kermit. Charles Bronson. Sudeikis' character loves it. Pedrad doesn't. Fun twist when Bayer's character wants to talk to her dead relative, Marlon Brando. Oh, and Sammy Davis Jr. Look out, Billy Crystal.
For the second song from The Black Keys, they played something that hasn't been in three TV commercials yet. But it's still early in 2011.
And in another of a series of sketches that pits tourist views of New York City with the "real" NYC, Hader welcomed the band "Taste of New York" to an audience that had a front row of Bayer, Samberg, Brittain and Elliott wondering what they were hearing from the band consisting of Armisen, Carrey and Wiig. Can they stay with you? They claim to be homeless and poor in Alphabet City. Was this sketch written in 1994? Funny to see the real audience members laughing behind the extras in the second row.
Hey, never lose your boing! I heard Carrey say that during the good-nights, and well, I'd be hard-pressed to name anyone else who was in sketch comedy in 1991 who'd also be killing it in televised sketch comedy in 2011, so kudos to you, Jim Carrey. Yes, some of it still bordered on shameless mugging, but oh my, so much talent this guy still has in the tank. It must be acknowledged. It must be appreciated. I acknowledge and appreciate you, Jim Carrey.