SNL #34.21 with Zac Efron, Yeah Yeah Yeahs

So Zac Efron hosted this week's edition of Saturday Night Live, and we knew there would be at least one if not more High School Musical references to be satirized, but what else could we look forward to? And yes, I ended my first question with a preposition. What of it? Let's get to the recap. By the way, if you're expecting Efron to distinguish himself or extinguish himself, then please do not place your bets. That's not to say all will be lost. Alrighty then!

We opened with Vice President Biden (Jason Sudeikis) acting all too comfy in the oval office. Sure, of course. Biden has been in the news. Why not give Biden an open. President Obama (Fred Armisen) returns from his European trip, but no gifts for Biden. I get what they're going for here, but, well, whatevs.

The monologue poked fun at Zac Efron's limited demographic appeal. First, his tween fangirls wouldn't be up this late. Second, a couple of his fans (Abby Elliott, Kristen Wiig) are in the crowd, along with a non-tween (Armisen), and they all want to show how much they lurve him. OK. Well. Yeah.

No fake ad. But there is a fake ad. P.J. Bland's is really Ch-ch-ch-chili's. Yes. I noticed. So did many, I believe. (P.J. Blands has set up a fake site and Twitter, really).

We get another look at the fourth hour of The Today Show on NBC, aka the crazy hour with Hoda Kotb (Michaela Watkins) and Kathie Lee Gifford (Wiig). Gifford had her first anniversary on the show this past week, so SNL skewers that, with Gifford and Kotb drinking (again), and a musical performance by Gifford's son, Cody (Efron). If you have watched this in real life, then you know that almost every segment is worth mocking. This effort is not quite as crazy, although it does give SNL a chance to offer up impersonations of celebs sending well-wishes to Gifford, including Penny Marshall (Armisen). OK. Just Marshall.

It's the return of Gilly, one of Kristen Wiig's funny-faced oddball characters. What do you mean that's not enough specifics? Gilly is the one who inflicts physical harm on her fellow school students. "Sorry." The audience laughed a lot at this scene, which took place at a science fair, with much of the humor coming this time from the other students (Bobby Moynihan as a kid who toots, Kenan Thompson as a kid with two broken arms who couldn't hurt anyone, and Efron as a German exchange student, plus Forte as the teacher who is totally clueless). The Gilly character seems to be one of those recurring sketches that recurs despite itself. Much like Rachel Dratch's Debbie Downer or Julia Sweeney's Pat before her, it's a character that shouldn't be able to withstand multiple viewings, and yet, here she is. Get used to her.

Now it's time for a fake ad of sorts, with Jason Sudeikis playing David Pappas, president of the alliance of direct mail marketers, explaining exactly how much a tree is worth in terms of all of that "junk mail" that shows up in your box. Wiig provides the voiceover. Take that, trees! Sudeikis really does play everymen with such panache.

Things continue to pick up the pace with this sketch in a "cool bar" that does not card underage patrons (Andy Samberg and Efron). Sudeikis is the bartender. But wait. What's this? The joint is packed with kids! They really do not card here. Watching all of the kids is curious enough. But it's the little things, so to speak, that sells this. "Gerbils" = opposite of cougars. Thompson as a bouncer scolding an infant. Moynihan as a cop pointing out the undercover officer! Bill Hader showing up as disgraced former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer. Chuckles abound. I have learned this sketch came from the mind of Dan Mintz, who has been contributing some writing to SNL this season! Hooray:

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are on, and they continue a recent trend of hip bands that open with a new single, "Zero," only to return later in the program with one of their first hits that never became a hit because you weren't hip to them years ago.

Weekend Update with Seth Meyers trotted out plenty of familiar characters, all to good effect. Commenting on Iowa's acceptance of gay marriage, the gay guys from New Jersey (Hader and Armisen), mixing their stereotypes. You see, they had to whack a guy.

Angie Tempura (Watkins), the blogger behind celebrity snarkfest, returns, this time not as a straw man to mock celebrity bloggers, but rather, to deliver zingers about current movies, only to drop her facade and become a superfan when Efron comes onstage to confront her. Wait, isn't that the premise of Weekend Update or SNL to begin with? Who zings the zingers?

Bon Jovi opposite band Jon Bovi (Forte and Sudeikis) is back to comment on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame selections. They are such morons who commit to a moronic premise. Their proficiency makes it funny.

SNL has taken on High School Musical before, so no surprise with Efron as host to see this take on High School Musical 4. Efron's character Troy returns to school to deliver an important address to the students (Samberg, Abby Elliott, Wiig, Thompson, Moynihan) and teacher (Casey Wilson). That is this: This school does not teach basic education. Singing? Dancing? Check and check. Education? Not so much. Are you ready for this dose of reality? Oh, and Darrell Hammond makes his one-and-done appearance randomly as a thawed Walt Disney.

In the final half-hour, we finally get to see Casey Wilson carry a sketch of her own again. It's 1917 in Connecticut, and Wilson is seeing off her man (Efron) as he gets on a train to join the World War I front lines. As the train pulls away, Emily (Wilson) remembers things she needs to say. And she is somehow fast enough to keep up with train. Emily's mom (Moynihan) also is fast enough to keep up. Sudeikis plays another trooper on the train. Did you miss her?

Now it's time for an ad shoot. Sudeikis is directing, with Samberg and Efron as kids back from school and looking for a snack, but, uh-oh, Armisen plays their mom with just a wee bit too much honesty. The Geno's Pizza Rolls are better than what mom usually makes? Uh. Oh. "Hey! I. Am Your. Mother!" Moynihan's also on the set. Efron really wants to make sure his hair is in place. Just saying.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs remind us that they also sang "Maps."

The final sketch has Sudeikis playing the big brother character, living in a loft over the garage like he's the Fonz, offering sex advice to Efron. He's got Guitar Hero without the video game console. The euphemisms fly. And now, my friends, it's time for the foot rub. "Don't worry about it, don't worry about it."

Efron played the straight man tonight, allowing the cast to be crazy around him. SNL gets a long break before the next new show. Let's all try to enjoy ourselves.

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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