Recapping SNL #35.5 with Taylor Swift

Whenever someone young hosts Saturday Night Live, I wonder if the show's sense of humor is going to get shaken up to appeal to the host's demographic. Of course, every host has an influence on what sketches make it to air. And 19-year-old Taylor Swift is a hard person to dislike — has been ever since she serenaded Tim McGraw at an awards show with the song she named for him. Swift is talented and endearing. What would she do with her turn as both SNL's host and musical guest? Let's get to recapping!

Our COLD OPEN goes to FOX News Channel's Election Night coverage, with Kristen Wiig anchoring the anchor desk as the Botoxed Greta slurring words out of the corner of her mouth, Bill Hader as Shep Smith, Will Forte as Brit Hume, Kenan Thompson as Juan Williams, and Bobby Moynihan as Karl Rove. With Fred Armisen as the overlooked Democrat, Joe Trippi. Hader gave Shep some sass. But Jason Sudeikis as Glenn Beck is sublime and ridiculous. And Wiig may not be a ventriloquist, but did you see how her lips moved? Nice. Ended the sketch just in time.

TAYLOR SWIFT'S MONOLOGUE: Swift jokes about being just a kid, and how when she gets emotional, she writes a song. Would you like to hear it? La. La. La. Hahaha, Joe Jonas. "We have a great show. Kanye West is not here." Did you see what I meant about Swift being talented and endearing?

FAKE AD: Carter 'N Sons just wanted to get people excited about their pulled pork BBQ, so why not tell your customers they're going to come down with a severe case of "Swine Fever!" Oh, right. Did I mention that the introduction to our fake ad, and ensuing credits, note that this ad was produced in 2002 before the swine flu outbreak. So no worries when Moynihan's BBQ pitmaster sells Armisen on it, same with Nasim Pedrad, and Andy Samberg, and even Sudeikis in an Elvis impersonator get-up. Why 2002, you ask? Probably because Moynihan also was pushing the Sausage and Ribs Sampler. SARS!

THE VIEW is back with Hot Topics. Oh, those ladies and their hot topics. Watching the show itself is slightly unbearable most weekday mornings. Here, in SNL land, it's a bit easier to digest, what with Thompson and Armisen returning to send up Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar. They handle the lack of a Sherri Shepherd by saying she's not there, replaced by guest host Kate Gosselin (Swift), who is looking for more press. Who takes over as Barbara Walters (Michaela Watkins played her last year)? It's newcomer Nasim Pedrad. Wiig is Elisabeth Hasselbeck, off the rails talking about Gosselin's hairdo. As their official guest, here comes Nicolas Cage (Samberg), adequately creepy. Well, maybe he could have been creepier. You tell me. BTW, I see what you did there with the teases for next week's guests in Kristen Stewart and Wanda Sykes. Did SNL ever acknowledge MADtv in its many years on the air? Curious….

Our SNL DIGITAL SHORT is a film trailer, with Swift sitting at a lunch table with Pedrad and Jenny Slate in a high-school play off of Twilight — this time, it's Firelight, where we've got humans and a whole mess of green Franks. Yep. It's Frankenstein. Hader, Moynihan, Sudeikis, Elliott, Thompson are among those playing Franks. Swift plays the Kristen Stewart role. Man, it ain't easy being green. I'm surprised they didn't get Swift's new boyfriend, werewolf-playing Taylor Lautner, to make a cameo!

HOLLYWOOD DISH is a spoof on the wave of entertainment tabloid-vision television programs, with Brady Trunk (Hader) and Anastasia Stix (Wiig) interviewing Swift as herself, but they cannot stop nodding and making faces — that's how you know they're listening! Only their faces aren't exactly encouraging. Wait for it. Wait for it. Gratuitous spit-take alert! The pay-off is frighteningly accurate.

DRIVING WHILE TEXTING One of my favorite sketches of the night. Swift appears as a teen-ager in a full retainer to talk about the dangers of DWT, or driving while texting. Elliott appears on screen as one such culprit. But Swift's character has set up her own organization, T.R.A.A.A.P.D., or Teens Raising Awareness About Awful Parent Drivers. To combat crimes such as Driving While Lecturing (Sudeikis as Swift's dad!), Driving While Trying to Get Something Out of Your Purse (Wiig as her mom!), Driving While Trying to Balance Hot Coffee, Driving While Racing to Nordstrom for a Sweater Sale, Driving While Giving the "Birds and the Bees" Talk, Driving While Arguing with the GPS, Driving While Revealing Family Secrets, Driving While Trying to Find A Cellphone You Dropped, Driving While Having a Sarcastic Conversation with the Car in Front of You, Driving While Singing Along to a Song You Don't Know the Lyrics To. If you thought you loved Wiig and Sudeikis when they broke out on the show a few years ago as two A-holes, then you really should see what they do here in short vignettes as two P-rents. Putting the retainer on Swift was a great touch, too, giving her speech just the right amount of teen angst. Nicely done.

SONG #1 Taylor Swift performed "You Belong With Me"

WEEKEND UPDATE with Seth Meyers…and Amy Poehler! Nice job on the opening joke, Seth: "New Yorkers started buying big-ticket items again, like elections, and championships." Also kudos for getting in a joke about the vote on the health-care bill an hour after it happened — putting the L in SNL! Meyers showed his political bent with multiple jokes targeting Republicans, while also scolding "political comedian" Nicholas Fein (Armisen), for seemingly not having a joke. I'd just as soon let Fein dig his own hole out there. The misplaced look of joy he had delivering his first "punchline" was just precious.

Sarah McLachlan (Elliott) talks and sings about the return of Lilith Fair, but Meyers gets in a huff about showing the ASPCA dogs, because the ads creep him out. But there will be dogs. Elliott really is making herself a mainstay at the Update desk. Keep 'em coming!

And there was another installment of Really!?! with Seth and Amy, taking on Goldman Sachs for getting swine flu vaccine before kids and pregnant women. No need for me to go about how the Update desk works better with the Seth-and-Amy tandem than with Seth solo, so instead I'll just roll the clip:

WEDDING RECEPTION with PENELOPE. This is one of those sketches that seemed host-driven, as it looked like Swift is a fan of Wiig's Penelope one-upper character and wanted to showcase her own mocking impersonation. Or did the writers want to see if Swift could handle it? Either way, there's something structurally off about this sketch. And it's not having Forte play the DJ, or Hader and Elliott as the bride and groom. It's why do these people want Penelope at their wedding reception? She's not family. And why would Samberg's character, knowing full who who Penelope is, take her side over that of his date in Swift? There's no explanation, plausible or implausible, for why Penelope gets to run roughshod over this wedding reception.

SCARED STRAIGHT: The whole point of this sketch seems to be making the juvenile delinquents of Hader, Samberg and Moynihan break character and giggle. This time, Sudeikis' cop and convict Thompson are joined by Swift as another male convict in corn rows and goatee. This time, their movie plotline stories are followed by threats about anal sex. So graphic! 1.21 jizza-watts?!? Really!?! Did you guess who would break character at the end? That actually saved it for me.

BFFS: Pedrad and Samberg are at home on a date — except Pedrad would rather spend every single second with Swift's character. OMG, I miss you! Single White Female much? Barack Obama: Did you get it?

SONG #2 Taylor Swift performed her new song, "Untouchable"

FIVE MINUTES LEFT….Time for a big ol' hootenanny of celebrity impersonations. Buy the soundtrack to the new movie, "Bunny Business," with tracks from Randy Newman (Armisen), Natalie Merchant (Wiig), Shakira (Swift), Adam Duritz (Samberg), Eddie Vedder (Hader) and Christina Aguilera (Elliott), Jennifer Hudson (Thompson). Silly. Loved it! Of course it's not on Hulu yet, but as soon as it is, I'll post it. And here it is!

OK, people. See you next week when January Jones (Mad Men) hosts, with musical guest Black Eyed Peas.

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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