SNL #35.20 with Gabourey Sidibe and MGMT, recapped

We open cold with President Obama (Fred Armisen) blabbing away something about financial reform, and yes, I know Obama gave a speech to Wall Street on Thursday, but that doesn't mean we can go a couple of minutes into the show without a single joke or laugh line. Not a one. I started to fall asleep. Granted, I'm working on very little sleep over the weekend, but still. You know how some political comedians say the jokes sometimes write themselves? It's also nice when comedians write something funny, too, just in case the real-life joke isn't so funny.

Gabourey Sidibe is hosting. You know that famous comedic actress? Well, she's young, right? That's all that counts, right? I don't know what counts. She's not going to be one of those sassy young big black women, is she? One thing's for certain. She's not Precious. But she is singing with the SNL cast in the background as part of the doo-wop phase that reminds us how great black people had it in the 1950s. So great. Fun fact: The last time I was in the Pacific time zone and missed SNL when it aired live, January Jones was the host. That turned out great. So great. Lowering expectations now. Even knowing what I know a full day later.

Oh, look, it's the return of SNL's Suze Orman parody, starring Kristen Wiig as Orman, dispensing financial advice on the TV. Sidibe plays a Jamaican nurse guest who wrote a book. Orman has some jokes about her lesbian cat and such, but they're not big laughs, and Sidibe is focused too much on reading her cue cards on the first take. I'll say this: Wiig is good at channeling Orman. This sketch falling somewhat flat is not her fault.

For some reason, that reason most likely being Kenan Thompson developing his Steve Harvey impersonation, we get a spoof of game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire, with guest host Steve Harvey (Kenan Thompson), and contestants played by Abby Elliott, Bobby Moynihan and Sidibe. Bill Hader provides the voiceover. They also use this sketch as an excuse for Harvey to stumble over the pronunciation of Iceland's volcano and cities. There's a throwaway line at the end suggesting Larry the Cable Guy would guest host Wheel of Fortune. So, that means this sketch is suggesting that comedians should not be game show hosts? If that's the underlying message, then why, SNL, why?

We're on a stoop with Armisen and Thompson, being told to quiet down by an old lady (Sidibe), old Mrs. Johnson. Sidibe is messing up her lines again. And yet, you see, the point is she's not an old crazy lady, but an old lady who knows a lot about a lot of the things she is yelling.

SNL Digital Short: Cherry Battle. Does it make sense? Should it? Is it referencing something none of us know? Is it a technical marvel to show Samberg and Sidibe spitting several cherries from one mouth to the other? That last question is a surefire yes. Weird, but proudly so.

The Danish Repertory Theater presents its version of Frank Sinatra's life. This is a follow-up from when the Scandinavians tried doing an English-language version of a TV cop show. Armisen and Forte know Broadway just as well. Jenny Slate and Jason Sudeikis are in the background. The reviews are in! And they're not good. But even the reviews are somewhat off. And now Sidibe is scatting. I feel like I'm not getting whatever SNL is trying to sell me this week. Is there something wrong with me? No. Nothing wrong with me. How about you?

MGMT is real people. According to my friends, they were among the toasts of Coachella last weekend in Southern California. Here a few floors up inside 30 Rock, it's harder to tell. Could just be a case of Flash Delirium.

Weekend Update opened with a "Grease 2" joke, so I know some of my friends were pleased as punch and broke into song for the rest of the segment.

As far as travel plans impacted by the Icelandic volcano, here is travel writer Subliminal Woman, er, I mean, Judy Grimes (Wiig). Just kidding. I like to imagine the guys holding the cue cards trying to keep pace with Wiig as she barrels through her lines. There's also a sight gag with a glass of water. Not kidding.

Stefon (Hader) has tips for tourists looking for a good time in NYC, and the hottest nightclubs. It's weird, because Seth Meyers starts losing it first, which makes Hader break into giggles, and then when they swivel and look at each other, that makes it even more difficult for Hader to explain what a "Human Fire Hydrant" is.

And here, Meyers says, is one of our writers, John Mulaney, to talk about Girl Scout cookies. Is this his Weekend Update screen test? Works for me. (I heard SNL writer Hannibal Buress also delivered stand-up commentary in a recent SNL dress rehearsal — that'd work for me, too, as a recurring feature. In case you were asking. You were asking, right?)

So SNL takes us to Atlantic City for the fifth annual "Public Employee of the Year Awards" hosted by Desmond McCoy (Thompson), and as soon as it starts, I'm wondering about the premise and trying to figure out which SNL writer or cast member had a run-in with a government agency last week. Oh, look. It's mocking government workers, unions. Sidibe is Markeesha, Missouri's "surliest employee" at the DMV; Sudeikis is Dennis the school custodian from Queens who racks up overtime; Moynihan has multiple jobs while on full disability in New Jersey. Oh, wait. They're still going with the sketch. Not just interviews? A talent portion, too? I hope someone gave Sidibe a long monologue. They did? They did! If you watched long enough, at least you got a random cutaway to Brendan Fraser's Golden Globes clap-face. Let's move on.

Tina Tina (Slate) has moved on from doorbells and car horns to customized alarm clocks. Buzz buzz. "Wake up, you got a boner about nothing." Sidibe joins in with her own clocks, too. She's moving up from last sketch. Progress!

MGMT is back to sing about Brian Eno. Do you know who that is? If you do, then you remember the 80s, and maybe even the 70s. Good for you!

We're closing with a New York Times-sponsored talk with Sidibe as herself, and after Nasim Pedrad (where has she been tonight?) asks if she has any boyfriends, or something like that, Sidibe recognizes Hamilton (Will Forte), the creepy guy in the sunglasses who previously won over Drew Barrymore, and here promises he is less racist by saying racist things. This guy's a real pick-up artist.

Roll the credits! Wait. No credits. I guess no one is taking credit for this week. See you again on Mother's Day eve with Betty White, many of the former SNL ladies from the 2000s and Jay-Z, who loves his mama.

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 #35.20 with Gabourey Sidibe and MGMT, recapped

  1. > SNL #35.20 with Gabourey Sidibe and MGMT
    Or, as I call it, another round of “Why the hell do I even bother watching this show? What is wrong with me?”
    Lazy, stupid writing, poorly performed. It’s SNL’s golden age!

  2. Mulaney on Update was the best part of the show. Cherry Battle was weirdly cool. Sidibe was absolutely awful overall! Hopefully, she won’t get a big head over hosting…oh, wait.
    Prolly was an awkward after-party.

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