Jason Segel has brought the Muppets back into our pop culture discussion with the new movie he wrote for them that premieres this Thanksgiving, and he seems like a nice enough guy in his own TV and film performances.
But is he the kind of guy who shines in live sketch comedy? Let’s get to the recap…
We open cold with an ad or PSA from the Mitt Romney campaign, designed to show that the GOP’s frontrunner who never seems to be seen as the frontrunner is just as entertaining as his more, well, headline-making candidates — even if they’re making headlines for all of the wrong reasons. Jason Sudeikis serves well enough as Romney, but he’s given a difficult task here. If the point here is that Romney is not exciting and lacks a sense of humor, how do we make this funny? We end up with a sketch that passes for typical office humor.
Fun fact: The Muppets appeared on the very first episode of Saturday Night Live back in 1975. Not the Muppets you have come to know and love, but other versions of Jim Henson’s creations. As host Jason Segel walks out onstage, you can see someone hiding behind the piano. So. Not even much of a surprise, considering Segel’s predilection for piano playing and singing about the Muppets. That doesn’t mean their appearance doesn’t pull at our collective nostalgia strings, though. Kermit. Miss Piggy. Fozzie. Gonzo. Gang’s all here. Immediately thought back to the SNL in which the human cast portrayed the Muppets and hoped to see them face-off in a sketch tonight. Something tells me on Sunday as I write this that I will be disappointed if I keep those hopes up. Also, most importantly, someone needs to let me know who was sitting with SNL writer Sarah Schneider behind Muppets Waldorf and Statler during their end-of-monologue heckle. Just curious. Asking for a friend. You know.
Our fake ad in the early slot is a repeat of Kristen Wiig’s “Red Flag” perfume spot (as seen first in episode #37.1). Still most enjoy the moment in which voiceover reveals Wiig lived in Las Vegas for years, which makes Sudeikis (who actually did live in Vegas) spit out his cocktail.
Regis Philbin retired from his longtime morning TV gig this weekend, which gave the show an obvious chance to trot out several celebrity impersonations as Philbin’s potential replacement. As Nasim Pedrad played Kelly Ripa and Paul Brittain played Gelman the producer, we sat back and watched auditions by Ricky Gervais (Sudeikis), Charles Barkley (Kenan Thompson), George Lopez (Fred Armisen), Garrison Keillor (Bill Hader), Rosie O’Donnell (Bobby Moynihan), Zooey Deschanel (Abby Elliott), Ashton Kutcher (Taran Killam), Denzel Washington (Jay Pharoah, who received an applause break), Antonio Banderas (Segel) and one obvious audition. Did Vanessa Bayer and Andy Samberg not offer up celebs, or did they get cut from dress? Hader’s Keillor made me long for his Alan Alda. Best: Killam’s Kutcher. Least obvious take: Armisen’s Lopez. Most obvious: Wiig closing it out with her Kathie Lee.
Speaking of Bayer, she shows up next in a fake ad with Segel for their “Kemper-Pedic” mattress. It’s one long physical gag double-entendre masturbation joke. Sex jokes are easy. Coming up with activities that could be construed as naughty that aren’t naughty at all? That does take some work.
Bayer and Segel team up again for this next sketch, which turns out to be Segel bringing her to meet his family, the Vogelchecks. I had the most unusual feeling this time, as I went from, “Oh no, not this bit again,” to literally laughing out loud a couple of minutes later. That’s because they finally advanced the family from merely kissing each other to all sorts of odd behaviors to show affection for one another. Bill Hader and the gravy FTW. Oh, and Paul Rudd made a “surprise” cameo so he and Segel could re-enact a deleted scene from their film, I Love You, Man. But how did Andy Samberg end up leaving the family and becoming a homeless guy?
When they said Florence and The Machine was this week’s musical guest, I thought they meant Bert Kreischer was going to be there. Kreischer, aka “The Machine,” was performing in NYC this weekend, by the way. The more you know. This gal and a backing chorus sang “Shake it Out” instead.
Weekend Update was short on new characters but did bring a couple of high-profile guests next to Seth Meyers on the anchor desk. While several GOP presidential candidates were alternating between crying and condescending in Iowa, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was in NYC to get some free airtime courtesy of SNL. And some ribbing from Meyers, a New Hampshire native, about how much attention Huntsman is paying to his state (historically site of the first-in-the-nation primary election). Although this is perhaps the most attention anyone has paid to Huntsman. So there’s that.
Kermit the Frog also joined Seth Meyers for a special edition of Really!?! to address the Congressional labeling of school cafeteria pizza as a vegetable. Just watching Kermit when he wasn’t speaking seemed to be entertaining on its own.
The retirement party for Mitch (Armisen) isn’t much of party, even though Marilyn from payroll (Bayer) is the DJ. Despite his frequent egging, Thompson’s character cannot get Mitch’s secretary (Wiig) to say anything about her boss. “I am not Robin William!” Segel’s character, Louis, teases that he has some “very bad” things to say. Your enjoyment of this sketch depends almost entirely upon your desire to hear Wiig scream the same things over and over. And the same faux-thriller soap opera motif the show used earlier this season for Susan Lucci’s retirement party.
We’re almost at Thanksgiving, so this Time/Life ad spoof for “New Jack Thanksgiving” DVD collection, hosted by Little Richard’s half-white brother, Medium Richard (Moynihan), is off the chain. Gives the cast a chance to bust their collective moves in a series of fake bands and fake songs. Substitute BLT for TLC, Sweaty Keith for Keith Sweat. You get it. Who knew there were so many hip-hop Thanksgiving songs? Samberg’s “Cross Chris” voice is the same as his other bad white rapper character. They’ve given Pharoah much more screen time this week than in the past, too. Also, I wish Toni Tone Tony Shaloub was a real thing.
An SNL Digital Short has Samberg playing a variation on the late great Carl Sagan, but he’s telling you how to seduce women through chess?!? I’m not buying it. And neither are these ladies. Not even…Olivia Wilde? Now that was a surprising cameo that went largely unnoticed by the live studio audience. They did notice Segel in drag as a prostitute. Not nearly absurd enough for my taste. The video, I mean.
Andre the Giant chooses an ice cream flavor is one of those silly throwaway sketches that someone came up with, but nobody felt like it deserved more than just seeing the premise played out. I bet someone asked Segel what his oddest impersonation was and he delivered this to the writers in the late Tuesday night writing session, speaking as Andre over and over into the early morning. Not putting money on that bet, mind you. But still. Sounds like it could’ve happened that way.
Florence and the Machine performed a second song. It’s not on Hulu.
Final sketch of the evening comes to us from Northhampton, Mass., where the local bar is celebrating the local band done good. “Massachusetts Afternoon” sounds vaguely like that other song Fred Armisen sang with Bryan Cranston about “A Bottle of Sparkling Apple Juice.” Doesn’t it? It does. Except instead of an empty arena, this little band is loved by the bar patrons, who include the Muppets.
A quick goodnight from Segel and the gang, but what’s this? The humans are holding their arms aloft with their Muppets?! This. Cannot. Stand. We need to take a week off and try to forget that just happened.