SNL with Christopher Walken, Panic at the Disco

Anyone want to guess how we open the show? Did you guess Hillary Clinton? Of course you did. The SNL Clinton trail continues unabated with a cold open featuring Bill and Hillary (Darrell Hammond and Amy Poehler) talking about the news that "broke" just a day or two earlier about their post-presidential tax returns revealing they’d earned $109 million. Who knew? Especially since both Bill and Hillary had written best-selling memoirs. Who knew? That was the obvious joke. And just as in prior political sketches from this SNL crew, that was the only joke they went for here. How about a little misdirection, eh? Reveal something hidden or absurd in the Clinton income stream. Anyhow. Let’s get on with it. Live from New York…it’s Saturday night!

Christopher Walken gets a kinda clever monologue, in which he invites audience members to ask him questions Walken has prepared and written on cards, only to castigate the audience for their lack of inspiring questions. A special boo goes out to the couple in the audience who’d rather let us know that they know they’re on camera. Boo. Boo on you both. By the way, having Walken back on the program reminds me of what’s so great and what’s not so great about this guy in comedy. On the plus side, he has a comic sensibility, even when he’s seemingly frozen by the cue cards and cannot look the SNL cast in the eyes. There’s something funny about putting Walken out of his element. On the other hand, he’s responsible for all of the "more cowbell" meatheads and an entire swath of stand-up comedians with Walken impersonations (although I’ll be forced to like it later on this program).

The ad for Annuale appears again? The audience acts more favorably upon this repeat viewing. But I get the sense that SNL only repeats a fake ad because they tried a new ad in the dress rehearsal and Lorne Michaels wasn’t completely convinced in the new ad yet, so they trot out an old one. Am I right or am I…

Walken leads the next scene of an all-male high school musical production of Grease, except they’re forced to change most of the lyrics to Greased Lightning because they’re too sexually explicit. How so? Walken has the cast (Andy Samberg, Bill Hader, Kenan Thompson, Jason Sudeikis) explain the lyrics to him and to each other. All the while, the organist (Amy Poehler) trudges through. An OK idea, but they didn’t take this premise far enough. Walken hairdo #2!

Ads, ads, ads. And we’re back! An office party farewell gets awkward! (Sudeikis, Walken, Hader, Kristen Wiig, Casey Wilson) Walken expresses his stalkerish affection for Sudeikis, even though he cannot stop staring off at an angle to read the cue cards. Walken hairdo #3!

An SNL Digital Short. Samberg and Hader present an idea to Michaels while he’s lunching with Sen. Christopher Dodd. Why Dodd? No time to find out. It’s Laser Cats! 3D* *Not all scenes in 3-D. Walken and Thompson appear in the video, and it’s laser cats to the rescue. Look out for that laser puppy. Aw, so cute. This is supposed to be funnier and goofier for being low-tech and stupid and if you try to tell me this is funny like Tim and Eric, I’ll tell you not quite. Walken hairdo #4!

Ads, ads, ads. And we’re back! Walken gathers a family together (Wiig, Poehler, Hader, Will Forte) to plan a surprise party for Wilson. Wiig plays a woman who gets way too excited about all of this, playing it as the Target Lady, only she’s not the Target Lady, and then with a bit of Mary Catherine Gallagher, only she’s not her, either. She’s really excited. Get it? OK, because if you’ve got it, we can go to commercial. Walken hairdo #5! Plus, it’s Forte’s only appearance on this program. Sorry if you missed it.

Ads, ads, ads. And it’s Panic at the Disco. Where’s the panic? Where’s the disco? Where’s the !? The violins are nice, though, none of this makes me run out to buy a CD. Instead, I think of how I kinda liked Vampire Weekend.

Ads, ads, ads. And we’re back. With Weekend Update. Opening joke same topic as the cold open. Really? And no, I don’t mean the Really? bit with Seth and Amy here. Seth had a good line about how Hillary’s "Rocky" comparison doesn’t fit with the final Rocky movie’s plot. Samberg appeared as that pregnant man who’s not all man. Amy had a good line about Madonna’s crack against New York City. "It doesn’t feel alive, crackling with that synergy it had in the 1980s. Said New York City, ‘Right back atcha!’" And Seth closed with a joke about Roger Clemens and deer penis as an illegal drug.

Ads, ads, ads. And we’re back. With the Walken family reunion. By the way, if you missed the first hour of this SNL, you’re OK, because you just tuned in for the best sketch of the night. And yes, I’m saying this about a sketch that’s focused on having almost the entire cast impersonating Walken to his face. It works, though, because it keeps going and going. First up is Hader with a straight-on go as Stanley Walken. It’s about what you’d expect. Sudeikis as gray-haired John Walken, who has the pattern down OK, but brings his kids Maxine (Poehler) and Scott (Samberg). Poehler sounds Eastern European but gets big laughs because she sells it so well. Samberg talks about having trouble fitting in at school, so we get a life lesson from Walken about being a Walken. "Wow. It’s like you’re looking right into my noggin!" And then there’s Nathan Walken, who recently came out of the closet (first appearance of the night for Fred Armisen). But wait. Here’s Hammond and Wiig as another Walken couple, who only recently saw The Deer Hunter, and have a Nigerian foreign exchange student (Thompson) who learned all of his English from the Walkens.

Ads, ads, ads. And we’re back. Walken gets a solo sketch for "Indoor Gardening Tips from a man who’s very scared of plants." That’s the joke. No, wait. The joke is this: Googly eyes! Walken hairdo #6! UPDATED! Video located and posted here.

Ads, ads, ads. And we’re back. It’s a Top Chef spoof, with Wiig as Padma (thinking this is when they could’ve used Maya Rudolph?) and Poehler, Samberg, Thompson and Walken as chefs. "It wouldn’t be Top Chef without faux-hawks." Armisen appears as that weird guy who owns a restaurant you’re supposed to know about. And Walken plays his role as the hesitant contestant who asks everyone questions and fails miserably. This sketch needed more focus. Or a different focus. This is why the Project Runway sketch worked and this one didn’t. Either parody a specific character or go after the silliness of the challenge. They established the latter in the set-up but never really came back to it effectively. Anyhow. We’re almost out of time. Walken hairdo #7!

Our second treatment of Panic at the Disco. This song is more upbeat, at least. I’m still not buying the CD. Sorry, fellas.

Ads, ads, ads, and we’re back! Last sketch, always a wild card, goes to Larry King Live (Armisen) with guest Jimmy Carter (Hammond), and Carter has yet another new book out that no one will ever read.

Walken hairdo total: 7. Roll the credits!

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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