SNL #35.3 with Drew Barrymore, Regina Spektor

How can a comedy show manage to be intriguing and also vaguely disappointing? Let's find out, shall we? Drew Barrymore celebrated her sixth time hosting Saturday Night Live, more than any other woman, as she told the audience last night. And yet, or perhaps, because of that fact, we had ourselves a more indulgent show — for it has been said that the guest hosts can have enough influence to shape what gets in and stays off the air, and Barrymore certainly felt like she knew what she wanted to do this time around. Would it be funny?

Well. Can we just pretend the cold open didn't happen? When President Barack Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize on a Friday, SNL had a day and a half to slap something together. Which they did. They slapped something together. It will not win a Nobel, nor an Emmy. Nor more commentary from me. Congrats:

Drew Barrymore's monologue, however, deserves a few words. Still difficult to comprehend that SNL (not the Lorne Michaels edition) actually invited Barrymore to host the show in 1982 when she was only 7! But, still, also, props to her for doing this six times. Furthermore, nice of her to include most of the cast in a bit about her ancestors and their rich tradition of stage acting. The bit — having them mimic Drew's mannerisms — is cute, but not quite as over-the-top as the sketch that sent Christopher Walken to his family reunion. Didn't Abby Elliott already have a Barrymore impersonation in her arsenal? Yes. Yes, she did. Also: Kristen Wiig as Ethel, Bill Hader as cousin Vincent Price Malkovich Barrymore, Andy Samberg, Kenan Thompson. Present but not mimicking: Bobby Moynihan, Nasim Pedrad and Jenny Slate.

OK. Now what? Gilly. Wait. Who asked for Gilly?

Guessing 'twas Barrymore, for in this version of this tired premise, Barrymore plays an exchange student from Italy named Gigli, so we get twice the cringeworthy in one sketch. Just great. I suppose there's some interesting things to note in the other background parts that recur in Gilly, such as the fact that Thompson's character usually has some horrible injury or condition preventing him from causing trouble, or Moynihan's character being silly. But the repartee between Will Forte's teacher (and I usually love his work) and Wiig's Gilly is mind-numbingly blah. Then again, perhaps each edition of the SNL crew decides that they have to have one recurring character that gets driven into the ground because somewhere, a focus group has responded well to its utter simplicity (It's Pat, anyone?!). And Gilly has been deemed it. Hopefully a new focus group will be convened to render a second opinion.

And now it's time for a celebrity parody on the Biography channel, with "ghost" stories, from among others: Billy Bob Thornton (Samberg, good!); Anna Faris (Elliott, good!); Sharon Osbourne (Barrymore, um, nice try?); Matthew McConaughey (Barrymore's boyfriend, Justin Long, meh); Roy Parker, Jr. (Thompson, we get it); Charlyne Yi (Pedrad, ?!). Let's stop right there for a second. Yes, Pedrad squinted her eyes. More weirdly in comedy nerd alerts: Charlyne Yi! Yi had exchanged YouTube videos with Armisen about wanting to be on SNL, and this is how they repay her? Curious. I don't think anyone outside of comedy nerds know who Yi is, and now they know her from this impersonation by Pedrad. I'll let the nerds fight about this, while I keep on keeping on with the recap.

We get a pre-taped commercial parody. How do I know? Well, it's on tape. Plus, Forte still had his crew cut from filming MacGruber over the summer. Armisen, Pedrad, Thompson and Slate delivered funny lines about their Internet college degree, particularly Slate's closing line.

Two Italian sketches in one show? Well, it is Vinny Vedecci (Hader) and his Italian talk show, interviewing Barrymore as Barrymore. It's E.T., not "et." They do get in some decent stuff flirting around the edges of David Letterman's affairs, Barrymore's alcoholic youth (courtesy of Moynihan's sailor suit baby boy), and well, there's always the sideshow of Armisen and Forte eating spaghetti.

Regina Spektor sang songs on the piano. I took this time to look at the Internets. Please don't be too offended, Regina. It's not you. It's me.

Weekend Update brought James Carville (Hader) back for a second time in a month, ostensibly to defend Obama's Nobel prize, but more to attack Rush Limbaugh.

Scrooge McDuck (Samberg) on the economy? Really?!?

Maya Angelou (Thompson) takes on TMZ? Really?!?

Ladies Billiards with Wiig and Barrymore "playing" pool, but the real action coming via the play-by-play and color commentary provided by the tag-team mustachioed partners of Sudeikis and Forte. "Tampax to the Max" on ESPN Classic…it's a classic! Tampax! I hope they didn't have too pull too many strings. Hey-O!

Cooking Al Fresco with Phil and Fran (Samberg and Barrymore)? Not so hot. You even catch Barrymore on camera mussing up her own hair. Although it was interesting to see Moynihan get a second opportunity to portray Guy Fieri, and I'd like to see him given more of an opportunity with try number three.

The Larry King sketch, with Armisen as King talking with panelists (Barrymore, Sudeikis and Wiig) about men in sex scandals, just kind of sat there like a cold weiner. Although if you like hearing people say weiner, well, this sketch is for you!

Oooh. An SNL Digital Short in the "Tim & Eric" vein, as Brenda & Shaun (Barrymore and Armisen) sell us their entertainment services, via their life story. Funny, yes. But, too little too late to save this episode? That depends, did you stay up this late? If you did, you said a little hooray to yourself just now for making it to here.

Regina Spektor played her second song at the piano. And then there was the "Hamilton" sketch, with Barrymore reading her romantic novel at a bookstore, with Sudeikis presiding over the reading, Pedrad as a fan, and Forte as Barrymore's scorned boyfriend, who not only wins her back, but everyone else in the process. This is out of left field, which I suppose is appropriate for the final sketch of the evening. Forte's blond wig and shades FTW?!

As Barrymore said during the good-nights, Lorne Michaels and Marci Klein made her dream come true. See you next Saturday, everybody!

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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