SNL with Steve Carell, Usher

The season finale closed the door on another edition of Saturday Night Live without any big cast announcements and the biggest surprise giving the Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, not one but two segments during the show. Almost as surprising? Opening the show with a sketch revolving around a school graduation ceremony for students with "funny" names — funny defined as sexual innuendos, with more than a few Harrys, Naylors, Orals, and "classics" such as Mike Hunt, Heywood Jablome and Craven Moorehead. This resulted in a wide casting net for extras! And all for a school named for "war hero" Major Dildo Pounder. Really. This is how they opened the show. Don’t blame me.

Host Steve Carell delivered a funny monologue that spun into improvised crowd work based on the premise that Carell drank Red Bull for the first time to make sure his energy was up, but drank six of them, and they just started to kick in now. His wife, actress/comedian Nancy Walls, got a cameo.

A fake ad followed playing off the NBA Playoffs ad with players facing off, only SNL made it about Barack Obama (Fred Armisen) and Hillary Clinton (Amy Poehler). Predictable but nevertheless humorous, helped out in part due to the idea we wouldn’t have to see these characters in yet another sketch until the fall.

After the first commercial break, a spoof on NBC’s own Deal or No Deal, the game show that everyone knows would only take about two minutes to play out if it weren’t on TV, and therefore easy to spoof. Armisen played the Howie Mandel role, with Carell as the contestant, Will Forte as his dad, and Kristen Wiig, Poehler and Casey Wilson as the models. A running subplot in the sketch had Forte and Carell exploring their own personal father-son issues, while Wiig got to steal the sketch with her performance with the suitcase.

Another break, and here’s a surprise of sorts. A sketch at a karaoke bar with Kenan Thompson singing and Carell playing host turns out to be the welcoming return of Two A-Holes. Wiig and Jason Sudeikis seem much more focused on their A-Holeness in this sketch from past seasons, though, which actually allows the sketch to show some forward momentum, with Sudeikis cracking plenty of jokes and declaring he and Wiig want to perform stand-up instead of karaoke.

Anyone who saw the next words, An SNL Digital Short, and worried that it’d be as clueless as the previous two shorts, need not have worried. First, we see Ricky Gervais! Hooray! Gervais is talking smack about the NBC version of The Office in comparison to his own BBC version. Hooray still! Then we learn that the original inspiration came from a Japanese TV program, which turns out to be…The Office! With Carell in his same NBC character of Michael Scott, Bill Hader as Dwight, Sudeikis as Jim and Wiig as Pam. And they’re all speaking Japanese! And surrounded by a Japanese cast! Except for a brief cameo by Thompson. They’re nailing it, particularly with the facial expressions. There’s even a Japanese ad inserted into the short with Darrell Hammond as Regis Philbin selling tampons!? At the end, the camera cuts back to Gervais, who, laughing, exclaims: "It’s funny, because it’s racist!"

So now we go back to the live programming and McCain delivering a speech about how he’s so old and how he’s against earmarks such as $160 million for gaydar jamming equipment. Um, ok?

Usher’s first musical segment has him showing off his Michael Jackson dance moves and singing about how when he has sex, it’s more than just sex. Or something like that.

Weekend Update has jokes, and McCain again? This is the better of the two McCain spots, however, as the Arizona senator makes fun of how the Democrats keep fighting each other, going so far as to suggest they put both Obama and Clinton on the ballot in November. Another guest segment goes to Thompson and Hammond as the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, with advice for Obama that includes: "Embrace your race, because you cannot erase your face!"

Everything after Weekend Update always gets spotty, and they schedule it that way because they know more than a few viewers decide that Weekend Update is the end of the show for them. It’s one of those odd self-fulfilling quirks of the show. First up, Carell appears as host of The Charlie Flitt Show as a guy who has lost more than 200 pounds, and keeps reminding us by saying so as well as by walking through large paper displays of his former, fatter self. Poehler and Hader play his guests (Amy’s character lost the weight, but Bill’s gained his back) with Wiig as Poehler’s mom. Armisen has a bit part as the show’s resident DJ. And that’s really more words in describing this sketch than it deserves. So I won’t even get into the other characters who played audience members. Argh. More words.

Another break, and then Carell is leading a CPR training class for lifeguards (students played by Sudeikis, Thompson and Wiig) but it’s really just a showcase for Andy Samberg (remember him? he’s in this cast, too) to play the demonstration victim who gets his chest compressed just a little bit too much. Much fake blood involved. Usher gets to walk in and deliver the closing line.

The second Usher musical segment has him and Young Jeezy making love in the club. Not together. You know what I mean. We’re almost home.

The final wildcard sketch is a musical number, letting Wiig and Carell sing "Bless This Child." It’s silly but effective.

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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