SNL #34.15 Steve Martin’s 15th show as host

This should have been so much better, shouldn't it? I'm sure more than a few people out there had high hopes for Steve Martin's 15th turn as host of Saturday Night Live, and yet, this morning, the only things I feel like talking about in this episode don't really have anything to do with him. Did SNL really agree to produce three real Pepsi ads? Looks that way. Did SNL really go after New York Gov. David Paterson's blindness? Yes, and also more on that front. Did Kristen Wiig have another "wacky" character? Sort of, yes. Where oh where is Darrell Hammond? You'll find out in a bit. Let's cleanse our comedy palates before digging into this week's recap. So what better way than with this classic Steve Martin SNL clip that just now became available on Hulu: King Tut!

Now. Onto the recap…

We open with a message from President Barack Obama (Fred Armisen). The premise: Things may be bad, but remember all of the fun we had on the campaign trail? There's a minor joke about the letter Bush left for him in the oval office. Armisen's Obama impersonation here is all over the place, and the jokes aren't much better, but…"Biden alert!" Jason Sudeikis enters the scene and gives it some needed punch.

Steve Martin's monologue has jokes aplenty, even opening with a nod to an oldie-but-goodie bit of his, and he shrewdly acknowledges that his appearance is not coincidentally related to his upcoming Pink Panther 2 movie.

Kristen Wiig introduces our fake ad for "Chewable Pampers." Another in a long line of SNL commercial spoofs. Gross-out fun. Wiig: "You can smell when it's working!" Sudeikis: "What's that smell?" Wiig: "Dinner!"

Here's where things get weird. We fade out to an obvious ad block, but it's the first of three MacGruber shorts. Only this isn't like any other MacGrubers we have seen before. For one thing, MacGyver! Richard Dean Anderson appears as MacGyver! But he gets upstaged by a Pepsi can. That's right. Pepsi.

After some actual ads, it's the stuffy couple Neil (Will Forte) and Jean (Kristen Wiig), with their friend played by Martin (and fun fact: he's using the voice from his "Ruprecht" performance in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels!). They intrude upon a sports bar crowd watching the Super Bowl. Abby Elliott plays the waitress, Bill Hader and Kenan Thompson play Steelers fans. But this sketch is about the stiff trio with no sense of humor. And that's always funny, right? No. So they mistake a bag of ecstasy pills for mints, take a bunch, and absurd chitter-chatter ensues. What I noticed here, though, was how the rest of the bar had cleared out. Good call.

Your SNL Digital Short has Steve Martin visiting Lorne Michaels to show him…Laser Cats! The running bit from Andy Samberg and Bill Hader also features Forte, Thompson as "Cyberface," and a plot that borrows heavily from Return of the Jedi. Also, look closely for the Three Amigos poster!

"Issues" is a talk show hosted by Thompson, and the premise here: Each guest has a more prominent issue that needs fixing over the one they want to address on the program. Casey Wilson has issues with her mother, but a face full of pimples. Steve Martin has man-boobs.

Our second MacGruber/Pepsi ad follows the rule of three by getting progressively more Pepsi. It's PepSuber!

Bernie Madoff (Armisen) returns for a sketch of his own. No, really. He's all alone onstage in this one (his first appearance came on the Weekend Update desk), on the phone leaving messages for people he bilked, hoping they'll come over and visit him for a Super Bowl party. The audience isn't exactly playing along, and I wonder how Armisen got through that sketch, knowing halfway in that it wasn't going to get funnier? But he made it to the end.

In the hallway, we have a new entry into the showgirls-and-llama background sketch annals, as Wilson, Wiig, Elliott and Michaela Watkins all end up crushing big-time on Martin, and breaking into song. Cute.

And for our third entry in the MacGruber/Pepsi ad trilogy, all MacGruber can say is: "Pepsi!"

Jason Mraz is our scheduled musical guest, and he plays that easy-going hit of his, "I'm Yours." I don't know how you cannot like that song, but I'm sure someone somewhere is a hater.

Weekend Update, again, is notable more for the guest appearances than for the Update headlines. Sudeikis as impeached Rod Blagojevich realizes he's still in the game.

Abby Elliott surprises us with a brief look at Angelina Jolie.

And Fred Armisen dares to bring back New York Gov. David Peterson. Wait. Wasn't all of the hubbub that Lorne Michaels had talked Carolyn Kennedy into coming onto the show? Not this night. I'll have to say this much: Armisen's Peterson is far funnier than his Obama, and it's not even the blind jokes. Although. Did you catch the fact that on each one of his New Jersey jabs, he momentarily rights his eyes!!! Pay attention, and you shall be rewarded with extra funnies.

You're thinking at this point, we're more than an hour into the show, and no crazy-faced, arm-flailing characters from Wiig? Oh, here she is, playing "Trina" or wife to Steve Martin's "Thomas" makeup counter guy, who's trying to help a customer (Wilson). Wiig doesn't fall completely into the traps that some of her other characters have put her into, but avid fans will see similarities.

Our second song comes from…Steve Martin. He has a new banjo album out, so, OK. But at this hour, "Late for School," a children's song?! Really?

It's getting late, and if you're thinking like I'm thinking, you start wondering who from the cast hasn't been in any sketches yet, and a short "ESPN Classic" spoof allows Darrell Hammond and Bobby Moynihan to talk about a fellow football player from the 1930s named Billy "the Gun" (Martin), so named because he was the only player in the league who carried a gun on the field. Sudeikis, Hader, Forte and Samberg also appear in snippets. It's nicely done. If you waited this long to see it.

We end with a third song, this time Jason Mraz dueting with Colbie Callait on "Lucky." And that's your ballgame.

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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