SNL #36.1 RECAP: Host Amy Poehler, musical guest Katy Perry, and many cameos from SNLs past

Thirty-six seasons, and despite any number of people who say "Saturday Night Live hasn't been funny since _____ ______ left the show," the show goes on and on and continues to be an iconic television program that not only generates talk in offices and schools the following Monday, but also continues to contribute to the national discussion on political and social issues.

I'm not sure anyone knew quite what to expect for the start of SNL's 36th season, considering its four new hires constituted the biggest addition to the cast since 2001, as well as what effect the departures (planned or unplanned) of veteran wild card Will Forte and newcomer Jenny Slate might have on the show's pre-existing recurring sketches. Perhaps knowing all of this — as well as the lackluster starts offered in seasons 34 and 35 by world-famous but not necessarily funny hosts Michael Phelps and Megan Fox, respectively — Lorne Michaels turned to a trusted former star of SNL in Amy Poehler to host the premiere. Of course, as we quickly learned, Michaels looked to ensure the premiere was even more of a sure thing by inviting back several of SNL's other recent bright stars for cameos both brief and extended. So. Let's get to recapping!

The cold open is a dish best served not political, at least on my comedy plate, because in the past few years, the sketch has not been able to surpass the surreal reality of the current political situation. Such was the case with this look inside the Republican National Committee headquarters for a sit-down meeting with Delaware GOP U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell. We have so much recorded quotes of O'Donnell already to speak to her craziness (and visuals to show how she even at times has modeled herself directly as a Sarah Palin lookalike (!)), so much so that even casting Kristen Wiig as O'Donnell cannot heighten this. In fact, Wiig's mugging detracts from the satire here. But. Fun fact: We get our first glimpse of newbie Vanessa Bayer, who utters a line to introduce O'Donnell. Jason Sudeikis and Bill Hader play the hapless GOP party-line guys.

Now for the monologue. Amy Poehler introduces all four of the new kids to the SNL block, then has a dream sequence in which Nasim Pedrad takes over one of her characters, Justin Timberlake kisses her, Rachel Dratch comes back only to get carried away — "Avenge me! Avenge me!" — and Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon take back Weekend Update, and Kenan Thompson plays Lorne Michaels with a nod to Inception. It's all for show, and for anyone who thinks it's too much of a gimmick, just remember that the season premiere is a big to-do each year, so why not go big!

Before we can get to the new kids, however, we're treated to more old-school SNL — viewers of the Betty White and the all-star SNL women episode this spring will remember that putting on "greatest-hits" sketches generally leads to a well-liked evening — so Maya Rudolph rejoined Poehler for another round of Bronx Beat. Of course, this time around, the focus is on musical guest Katy Perry and her "controversy" because she showed her cleavage in a Sesame Street video with Elmo. When is Katy Perry not showing cleavage? Wait, wait, don't tell me. I don't want to know. Poehler gets a good line guessing that Perry's bra size is 3D. Notice how Perry bounces up and down in her seat. Oh, wait. You probably already noticed that.

Time for our first fake ad of the season…

Now I know and you know that pubic hair jokes aren't new. In fact, I made one myself on Twitter just recently. But boy, oh, boy, can they be funny. Like the joke I made about losing my public hair. Typos FTW. Back to the actual SNL spoof, though. Why is the audience laughing at Wiig for saying she is balding? Are bald women inherently funny? Nope. Nice call having Sudeikis and his hair act as the spokesman. Perms for everyone, then?

"Maternity Matters" is a returning recurring sketch in which the bald, heavyset producer (played by Armisen) fills in to answer audience questions when the host (depicted by Bayer) is away. Of course, all of the questions are from women about women's issues. And he's an old guy with bad hearing and misguided advice. Hader's on the mic, Wiig, Poehler, Andy Samberg and Abby Elliott have the questions, Armisen is rude to them. Eh. OK. Whatever. 

When SNL goes to gay humor, and they sure seem to do so recently, it's often weirdly out-of-place for whatever else is going on in the scene. This time, however, it's used to play up the mockery of the debate over the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" in lower Manhattan. If you're going to go to extremes, go to the RNC, right? They know how to make Islam seem scarier: Make it a haven for gay marriages. Which, of course, is something that Muslims condone. Nope. Not really. Who needs facts?

I didn't get to hear Katy Perry sing "California Gurls" live on Saturday, but I hear that Auto-Tune is a handy device for the modern singer. Also: Why isn't she bouncing?

Weekend Update returned, not with Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon, but with Seth Meyers with host and former Update co-host Amy Poehler. Just like not-so-old times.

They also did Really. Really? Really?!? Seth and Amy's target: Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who said Americans may have been behind 9/11. Not fun fact: Seth and Amy started in 2001, debuting on the first SNL episode after 9/11.

New York Gov. David Paterson showed up to confront SNL's portrayal of him by Fred Armisen. That was a nice surprise. "Just classic Paterson." Remember that Paterson could not rely on cue cards. He delivered his lines with his own timing. You know. Cause of the blind thing. Say what you want about his ability to govern the state. But he knows how to deliver his lines. A nice farewell for him.

Jay Pharoah made his debut on the show as Will Smith, which is one of his better impersonations. The people in the studio audience loved it. Would you agree? Woo!

Amy Poehler then appeared as one-legged Amber to promote her Showtime series, "The Lean Years." But first, Wiig as Mary-Louise Parker in Weeds, Nasim Pedrad as Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie, and Abby Elliott as Laura Linney in The Big C. One leg. That's her secret. It's ridiculous. There's a scene with Samberg as Stanley Tucci. And, hey look: It's Paul Brittain as a blood-bank worker. Playing it straight. Even with fart jokes.

What can I say about the SNL Digital Short, "Boogerman"? At an awards show, Katy Perry sings the theme to the film of that name, as Samberg dances around with ballerina and has stuff stuck up his nose, while clips from the "film" play featuring just about all of the cast members in some sort of action-drama-thriller, and also Peter Sarsgaard? Blink and you miss newbie Taran Killam, too.

As for Ladies Who Lunch, or Tiny Hats get tinier, see what I wrote previously about any comparisons to something else. This is a page out of the UCB heightening playbook.

The last half-hour of SNL is always built for riskier bits. Actor II Actor, with Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake is short but sweet. I mean, as long as he al
ready was in the building, right? Or do you think they could have played it longer. Perhaps they did but just had to cut for time. We'll never know (until someone tells us).

Oh, look. More Katy Perry. This time in a collared shirt and short skirt. "Teenage Dreams" are still valid in your 30s. Just in case anyone asked. Did anyone ask? Did Katy Perry ask? Well, did she?

Since I'm out on assignment, I couldn't watch this on a TV like normal old people do. So I didn't see the
"Even More Expendables" spoof that supposedly closed the show, nor did I see the good-nights nor even the new opening title credits. Darn it all.

I'll fix this when I'm back. Until then, see you SNL recap readers next week!

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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One thought on “SNL #36.1 RECAP: Host Amy Poehler, musical guest Katy Perry, and many cameos from SNLs past

  1. I don’t think the opening credits changed–other than moving Bobby to the main cast, adding the four new people and taking out Will & Jenny.
    The “Even More Expendables” was a flash impression parade–you know the drill.

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