SNL #35.8 with Blake Lively, Rihanna

I had my hopes up this weekend, not because Saturday Night Live featured two of the hottest young talents around (normally, that spells a formula for disaster rather than high comedy), but because, well, I don't know. That's not true. We saw such crazy real-life antics play out over the Thanksgiving break, plus the cast & crew that I know publicly acknowledged anticipating the broadcast, so perhaps they were ready to deliver a winner?

Of course, SNL opened with politics and before you get your panties up in a bunch about Fred Armisen's impersonation of President Barack Obama, know that this cold open wasn't even about him. It was about the Salahis, the D.C.-area White House party crashers who we all know we'll have to deal with on our TVs in 2010 as part of Bravo's "Real Housewives of D.C." SNL's take wisely played out mostly silently behind Obama as he tried to deliver a speech with the couple (Bobby Moynihan and Kristen Wiig, weirdly using some of her mannerisms for Kathie Lee Gifford in her miming to a Secret Service agent) conning the Secret Service (Bill Hader, Will Forte, Nasim Pedrad) and Vice President Joe Biden (Jason Sudeikis) into posing for snapshots. It helps if you focus as little as possible on whatever Armisen's Obama is saying. BTW, they had a couple of live ones in the audience tonight, didn't they? You can hear some big laughers on the microphones. Hot mics!

Now, don't feel bad if you don't know who guest host Blake Lively is because if you're not in her sisterhood of traveling blue jeans, nor watch "Gossip Girl," then you wouldn't know her. But as she walks out for her monologue, you get caught up pretty quickly. She's young, blonde and has a magically gravity-defying chest. Now. OK. The cast appears as the Muppets. Some think this is playing off of a recent new video of the Muppets singing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." And while that is brilliant, I'm reminded more of John Denver and the Muppets, who created one of the best Christmas specials ever. Still. Ever! With Andy Samberg as the Swedish chef, Sudeikis as Fozzie Bear, Moynihan as Gonzo, Hader as Animal, Wiig as Beaker, and Jenny Slate as Janice and Fred Armisen as Zoot, they kick off the holiday season with a carol. Maybe won't get circulated as much as the actual Muppet video, but a worthy effort.

They replayed last month's "Carters N Sons BBQ" fake ad that poked fun at a "swine fever" ad campaign. Eh. I'm not usually a fan of when the show repeats fake ads, but I see why they do it sometimes. Swine fever is still timely. Plus, who knows. Maybe they had a new video air during dress rehearsal that didn't quite make the cut, and they needed to sub this in. Why am I making excuses for you kids?!

Here's a newly recurring sketch. It's ESPN Classic goes bowling, this time to the Vagisil Superstars of Bowling Tournament from 1989, with commentators (Sudeikis and Forte) showing off their ability to incorporate the feminine hygiene sponsors (Sudeikis) and lack of knowledge on bowling (Forte) into joke after joke after joke. Lively plays one of the female pro bowlers, Michelle "The Jackhammer" Rayburn-Gene (nice shout-out to Match Game!), competing with Wiig's Donna St. Louis. Forte's creepy smile and mustache, plus Sudeikis' delivery of his sponsor jokes, is worth the price of admission on this sketch. Also, I know this sketch isn't about Lively, but she really does put forward some good effort for her role. Did I mention the hot mics on the audience?

On the ad front, I do appreciate Luke Wilson making me feel better about switching to AT&T for my iPhone, even if I don't know why he's the spokesman for their ad campaign. OK. Moving on.

CNN gives us Wolf Blitzer (Sudeikis) to introduce a series of increasingly silly press conferences for Tiger Woods (Kenan Thompson) alongside his scorned wife, Elin (Blake Lively). She gets a lot of use out of that golf club! I know, you know, we all know that they had to do something about Tiger. But don't you feel they could have done more? Or is it just me? Obviously, a guy in the audience disagreed because I could hear him loving every second of this. Sidebar: As much as I sometimes want to scream at the dumb acting in "Gossip Girl," I'm already a full believer in Lively as she's showing some solid chops on live TV here. And, also: What would Rihanna do? Wait. What did Rihanna do?!? She was there to see this. Awkward!

Rihanna makes her first appearance tonight in the SNL Digital Short duing a duet in a school classroom with "Shy Ronnie" (Samberg). Why? Why ask why. It was funny to see Samberg play the shy role in a rap (of course, as soon as Rihanna leaves the room, he resumes his usual SNL Digital Short rap style). Not the best ever, but solidly executed.

Is the "Gossip Girl Staten Island" sketch a joke on Staten Island, on MTV's new "Jersey Shore" or a little bit of both? Either way, kudos to Lively and company (Hader, Armisen, Pedrad, Slate, Wiig, Moynihan). Anyone notice the subtle return of the "what the frig?" lines from that one sketch in the fall debut??? I'm going to build tiny tanning rooms for babies and dogs. Hey, no homo, but I liked this sketch despite itself.

Now for the "kickspit Underground Rock Festival," which obvious eyes knew better than I was a dig at the Juggalos (the rabid fans of the idiot awful rock band Insane Clown Posse). Sudeikis and Pedrad sell the fest on y'all. That facial hair and attitude on Sudeikis is reminding me of that one southern-fried-gangsta finalist from American Idol a few seasons ago. And Pedrad is quietly emerging as a go-to female cast member for all of your straight-line needs. Hmmm.

Rihanna's first song takes place in King Arthur's court. Am I right? I'm right, right? Chain mail FTW.

Fun facts? Rihanna is 21; Blake Lively is 22. I'm closer to their ages combined than to either one of them. Egads. When did that happen? Also, when did a show skew this young with both the host and musical guest? (Other than when Britney Spears appeared as both on one show)

It's Weekend Update with Seth Meyers. He's more my age. OK. Feel more comfortable now. Hey, look, it's Bill Cosby (Thompson) to talk about his hip-hop album.

Abby Elliott shows up as Brittany Murphy, who's not hosting SNL, or doing much, apparently. Random!

Lively is trying on clothes at Saks in a swimsuit? Oh, it's the return of Virginiaca (Kenan Thompson). No idea why this sketch exists, but it does. Forte plays the sales clerk. Abby Elliott plays another customer. Give this an E for Effort!

Oh, look a fake ad for UPS with Hader as that guy in the lady wig "that can air eight times in a football game." Short and sweet. Good call on that. That's it brought to us by FedEx is a bonus joke!?!?

Chris Hansen is no longer catching predators for Dateline NBC but hosting a late-night show? OK. Armisen plays the bandleader. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Sudeikis) plays the first guest, coming out before Hansen (Hader). "Did you come here to plug a movie?" Keanu Reeves is played by Samberg. And Lively is Cher. It must be the final half-hour because that made little sense.

Oooh. UPS parody ad #2. Which in NBC's eyes, is #3? Where's the first one? Mysteries. There's only rule in his kingdom. "Everyone wears lady wigs." If only they could put this online?

And after Rihanna performs with Young Jeezy…

It's time for this. A NASA sketch with Forte welcoming Sudeikis as a potential astronaut who has to pass a potato chip test?! Lively is Forte's assistant. How are these people astronauts? What is happening? My walls are crumbling down, like little potato chips. How can we make things right in the world? Microphone's still hot, fellas! This is not how I imagined this "in my undry dreams."

And that's our ballgame. Could this have been my favorite SNL of the season? Quite possibly, very maybe, definitely yes. I know next week with Taylor Lautner can only be a letdown now.

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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2 thoughts on “SNL #35.8 with Blake Lively, Rihanna

  1. I tried to leave this comment before, but I think it evaporated into the internet. Whatever! It happens…
    ANYWAY: Blake Lively surprised me with how committed she was to her characters. Even when a sketch wasn’t going well, she didn’t betray that AT ALL.
    Good on her.
    And Nasim Pedrad is becoming a favorite. Maybe it’s the blonde wig and the petite stature, but I’m sensing some Amy Poehler (especially her role in Baby Mama) in her timing.
    Solid episode!

  2. Blake Lively really impressed me. Her dedication sold a few sketches for me, most notably the last NASA sketch. At first I got a Monty Python vibe from it, then I just didn’t know what in the hell they were going for, and eventually I gave in. It was a real change in timing for the show, because a lot of it was a slow burn. Especially the potato chip regurgitation. I mean, they really went for that. If you’re going to go there, you gotta go all the way.

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