You probably didn’t remember that Sarah Silverman was on the cast of SNL for one season during her young adulthood. But NBC let us all know throughout the week. Come Saturday, the show’s cast and writers proved they had seemed to find their stride the second week through the motions, slightly better and more efficient than the season debut.
My notes, as will be customary this season, are in italics.
Obama 60 Minutes Cold Open: During his interview with Steve Kroft (Beck Bennett), President Obama (Jay Pharoah) explains how ISIS is winning the war on social media. Decent premise, but execution isn’t tight — Zach Braff Kickstarter money going to terrorists is a nice dig, but the follow-up joke about LinkedIn didn’t land with the studio audience, who probably have never used LinkedIn.
Roll the credits! Darrell Hammond we can hear you, but now that we can, we can tell you’re not excited to be announcing a live TV show on network TV?!
Sarah Silverman Monologue: The comedienne reminisces about her time as a featured player on SNL, dispenses life advice to the audience and fields questions from a younger version of herself. Silverman’s monologue immediately jokes about how hosts joke at how it’s “crazy to be here,” which is something many hosts say, when in reality, “it makes all the sense in the world.” As a Jew with a rabbit in her immediate family, Silverman also is quick to mock herself for working on Yom Kippur, then spins it out toward all the Hasidic Jews, “a nice cotton blend in the summer…you are being ridiculous.” This is great. As she then comments on her own notoriety, with a joke about Lorne Michaels censoring one of her jokes after dress rehearsal — cut to the cue card guy, showing all that’s left are “black guy” and “God’s mouth.” That’s funny. And then she does something that she has done on tour, but feels even more real, because: “Let’s get real. This is live television.” Which puts an unsuspecting audience member — and not an audience plant — in the literal hot seat. “Your turn.” This is an amazing moment, that somehow would seem so much less amazing if, say, Ellen DeGeneres were doing it during the Oscars, because we’ve come to expect that kind of “unscripted” moment out of her there. “Am I sitting on your phone?” No. “Oh!” But wait. That’s not all! She ends with a nice meta moment calling back to her featured player roles as an audience plant in monologues.
Fault In Our Stars Trailer: In a sequel to the heartbreaking teen romance, a high school student (Sarah Silverman) tries to find love despite her Ebola diagnosis. Fake movie trailer in the fake ad slot! The Fault In Our Stars 2, with Silverman and Killam in The Ebola in Our Everything. “If doctors know so much, then why is my doctor dead from ebola?” Kenan Thompson cameos as Terence Howard, so we can have this diversionary dialogue: “Just the tip?” “Maybe.”
Joan Rivers: After arriving in heaven, Joan Rivers (Sarah Silverman) roasts fellow residents Richard Pryor (Jay Pharoah), Steve Jobs (Kyle Mooney), Ava Gardner (Cecily Strong), Benjamin Franklin (Bobby Moynihan), Freddie Mercury (Adam Levine) and Lucille Ball (Kate McKinnon). Sasheer Zamata as Eartha Kitt, welcoming Joan Rivers (Silverman) to the first Roast in Heaven. It’s heart is in the right place, and Moynihan on the end gives it an absurdist bent with which one of these people is not in the same century as the others, laughing and not knowing why. The live studio audience squeals for all the wrong reasons, realizing only halfway through that Adam Levine has made a cameo when he’s shown in close-up. But the biggest problem is Silverman stumbling over lines, which since they’re punchlines, and meant in loving jest, just come off awkward. Perhaps the dress rehearsal version is better, and better for us to remember?
Whites: Resourceful, goofy and naughty are just some of the words that describe the world’s dominant race.
Fake ad! For WHITES. Hi, Mike O’Brien. I get it. You get it.
Forgotten Television Gems: Reese De’what (Kenan Thompson) intros clips from a forgotten soap opera, “Supportive Women,” in which women are nice to each other. The soap’s supposed to play off of our cliched stereotyped notion of catty women, and Thompson’s reactions reinforce that, just in case we didn’t get the premise. “Isn’t that weird? Women being nice and not hurtful to each other.” Speaking of weird, Kenan’s affectations and line delivery makes him the focal point of the sketch. This had to have made the show solely on how they sold it on each other at the table read.
Ladies and gentlemen, Maroon 5. Yes. There are 7 of them. New math? This song is “Animals!”
Weekend Update: Reverend Al Sharpton: Reverend Al Sharpton (Kenan Thompson) explains how the Secret Service can better protect President Obama. MSNBC’s The Rev. Al Sharpton (Kenan) doesn’t understand line readings, and Colin Jost doesn’t seem to understand how to handle him. Laughs. But not effective or for the right reasons. Reading the piece on Kenan by SNL co-head writer Bryan Tucker in Slate, you see more clearly him trying to sell weak material.
Meanwhile, Michael Che delivered some killer punchlines to the headlines. Jost just reminds us that smarmy Harvard grads are in a lot of writers rooms. I don’t know if that’s what he’s going for, but that’s what’s showing up on camera. Then again, watching “vintage” SNL episodes, you’re reminded that Chevy Chase once was a smarmy young man manning the Update desk. So Lorne is going back to the roots?
Weekend Update: What You Can Say: Cray-cray, too-da-loo, bae – Colin Jost and Michael Che explain which phrases they can and can’t get away with. This setpiece with Che and Jost, however, is a nice bit of chemistry that only reminds us that the rest of it doesn’t work as well. More of this, less of the other stuff, please!
Weekend Update: Garage and Her: Feminist music duo Garage (Kate McKinnon) and Her (Sarah Silverman) reveal how anyone and anything from cereal to Italians is a woman. Silverman likes to sing, so it makes sense they’d give her chances to do so. This needed something, though, but what? More women?
Proud Mary: The River Sisters (Sarah Silverman, Cecily Strong, Sasheer Zamata) reveal life’s not all its cracked up to be living on a boat. And here’s more singing — which is initially why you didn’t see this sketch online, with Cecily, Sasheer and Sarah singing Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.” They’ve all shown singing prowess. So it’s a good idea, and yet…
Car Ride: A car ride becomes incredibly awkward after Rachel (Sarah Silverman) admits to cheating on her boyfriend (Bobby Moynihan), who is hiding in the backseat waiting to propose. Guest appearance from Adam Levine.
We presumably don’t see this sketch online because of the songs on the car radio. Like the premise, especially putting Moynihan in a tux and then escalating it with everyone else popping up (McKinnon and Bennett play Rachel’s parents; Adam Levine plays himself), making the scene more and more awkward. And this interchange alone is money: “Why is Adam Levine in here?” “To sing ‘She Will Be Loved’ to you!” “Don’t you yell at Adam Levine! He did nothing wrong! He did not cheat!” At least he found a way to change the subject, though. The only problem with this sketch is recycling a classic bit in which every song on the car radio is about love and the relationship status. Or do you think they’ll claim they’ve never seen Better Off Dead?
This sketch was sponsored by Pizza Hut.
Poem: Two strangers (Sarah Silverman, Kyle Mooney) connect over their love of poetry … until her boyfriend (Beck Bennett) interjects. Lots of close-ups. Small talk meet cute meets weird meets her boyfriend meets your worst nightmare. A little odd, even in an odd moment, to have a second straight sketch buttoned up by someone getting hit by a car.
Once again, Maroon 7. This song is “Maps.”
Vitamix: What’s the true cost of a Vitamix? Sometimes, friendship. Five to one. Vanessa Bayer is finally here. “Vitamix” ad infomercial with Sarah, as they return to a kitchen from a supposed workout. But how much does it cost? “It’s up there.” $650?!? “it’s a great blender.” “You should get one! If you can.” And so the scene turns to what’s really going on in their lives. The kind of thing that wouldn’t play at 11:30 but might connect with audience members who stick around to 1 a.m.
Good night, everybody! No Pete Davidson. Barely any Bobby or Vanessa. Did you notice?
Next week: Bill Hader returns!