Remember last spring, when not-quite spring chicken Betty White was going to host Saturday Night Live, and some people loved seeing the elderly actress do it, while others thought, isn't she a bit old to be hosting a 90-minute live TV show? Well, SNL figured out how to ease Betty White's burden by surrounding her with additional talent.
Now remember last week, when aging queen Elton John was going to host SNL and be its musical guest, and some people loved the idea, while others thought What Up With That? Well, SNL used the same formula for Sir Elton John, bringing in veteran SNL host Tom Hanks, bringing back Will Forte, and bringing in new New York Knick Carmelo Anthony just because, and also Jake Gyllenhaal because he had a new movie to promote, but that wasn't enough to give him the hosting gig. So. How did that all work out?
About as well as you might have expected. Meaning: Sort of. Sir Elton John did a really great job of standing in one spot and looking at his cue cards. The show made use of his personal and professional life to find plenty of jokes about gay people, rich people, the Royal Family, and Broadway. Yay?
But any good recap begins at the beginning, so let's get to it.
We open with The Lawrence Welk Show, or rather, the Judice show, in which Kristen Wiig plays the fourth sister (other three sisters may vary due to cast changes) with tiny hands, a big forehead, and an isolated personality. Fred Armisen as Welk does much better in this cold open than he ever does as President Barack Obama. Elton John is on the piano. Abby Elliott, Vanessa Bayer and Nasim Pedrad are the "normal" singers. And as Judice…wait a second. Hold on now. What's this? I'm just receiving word from the NBC.com description of the video that Wiig's character name is Dooneesee? When did this happen? Nevermind. Because it's not really all that important. All that matters is that Wiig's fourth sister is supposed to be a freak we laugh at. Got it? Good. Now forget about it.
Elton John's monologue. He's rich. He's gay. He's chubby. He has gay sex! And he made that same crack about getting rich off of royalties earlier last week when he was a guest on Fallon. I do wonder, though, who he keeps glancing over at during the monologue.
It's been awhile since they did a fake ad after the monologue, and they skipped it here, too.
Hey, they brought back ESPN Classic team of Twinkle and Stink! You know what that means…Will Forte is back alongside Jason Sudeikis! And the audience reaction was…nothing? Nada. Zip. Not enough a recognition laugh. It's like they didn't know that Forte had left the cast this season. What gives, audience? Don't you realize that this season of SNL has been missing Will Forte? But there was more, much more, in this sketch. The audience did clap and hoot for Carmela St. Knix, aka Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks as Wiig's shot-put competition. This week's ESPN Classic sponsor, K-Y Jelly, gives Suds and Forte plenty of chances to make sex jokes, and lookie here, it's Tom Hanks as Forte's brother, Greg Stink. The sex jokes are easy, of course. But it was something to watch as Suds and Hanx held that pause after Suds went for the taco rhyme. And then the audience applauded before the end of the sketch when Hanks exited offstage (an exit unseen on camera)!?! You've got to work on your live audience skills, live audience.
OK. So this hackneyed cockney opening with the British TV show about jars (accompanied by Seth's voiceover that it's the most popular show in the history of Britain) somehow manages to have a laugh despite itself, thanks to Moynihan and Wiig's delivery, and then it's cut to a BBC report with newbie Paul Brittain as the anchor "filling in for Fat Danny." All of this is merely a double set-up for the "Knights of the Realm," in which Sir Elton John as himself hosts the other knighted Brits to wonder how to defeat a dragon? Yes. A dragon. Hader is Sir Richard Branson, Andy Samberg is Bono, Tom Hanks keeps it going as Sir Michael Caine (and that's a reason to keep watching), Taran Killam does Sir Ian McKellan as Gandalf (which somehow makes sense since they're fighting a dragon), and they throw in Kenan Thompson for the misdirect points as Sir Mix-A-Lot. Elton makes a sex joke about Sting taking a long time to come, which gets a rimshot from Ringo Starr (Armisen). This sketch has a lot going on, including chances for Elton to take a swipe at Bono over the failing Spider-Man musical on Broadway — which is ironic since Julie Taymor also worked on Elton's adaptation of The Lion King. And just before midnight, we get a second joke about ejaculation. Perfect.
This week's SNL Digital Short brings Tom Hanks in for his third role of the night. Who is hosting this week, again? No matter. It has been a long time since we last endured a Laser Cats pitch from Samberg and Hader. There are additionally gratuitous cameos by Carmelo Anthony again, as well as a flailing Spider-Man. Weren't these jokes already done tonight? With Laser Cats, does it really matter?
If you thought Elton John was the musical guest, well, you're only half-right. Because Leon Russell was right there onstage with Elton, playing piano and singing, too. "Hey, Ahab."
Weekend Update: Seth Meyers got in some good jokes at Donald Trump's expense, tagging it with jokes comparing each of the GOP presidential candidates to contestants on Celebrity Apprentice.
And yet, how did they decide upon this spelling for Gaddafi? Or should I say, these spellings. Onscreen, they go with "Khadafy." The online clip goes with "Ghadafi." Either way, Armisen sounds like a Budweiser frog as the embattled Libyan leader. And he's going every which way with the jokes. What's his shtick? Shtick to one.
Next up: Thompson as the Bronx Zoo worker who caught the cobra. Ah, remember that week, in which a deadly snake escaped from the zoo, and someone created a Twitter account for it that everyone followed and chuckled about, even as it turned out the snake never left its portion of the zoo?
So why does Jake Gyllenhaal get his own applause break, when Will Forte got nothing? And Samberg is sitting in on the Update desk as Nicolas Cage, wondering why he doesn't have a role in Jake's new movie, Source Code? "It combines time traveling with screaming…and two, I heard the actors were paid." He does make good points.
With the next British Royal Wedding this month, it makes sense both to have Brits hosting like Elton John and Helen Mirren, and also to cram in some more sketches featuring the "unknown" sides to the Queen and her husband (as played by Armisen and Hader). Samberg has a small role as Prince William, with Killam as someone working for them. They jab nicely at Elton, since he performed at Lady Diana's funeral, and his song catalogue. As for Elton's performance: He's still standing. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Some funny jokes uttered nevertheless. But that impromptu punk song tacked onto the sketch? Um. I don't know why.
Uh oh. Time for the gay men are funny portion of the show. In "The Silver Screen," a LOGO show, Killam and Sir Elton play gay film buffs Dale Eberheart and Eric Sandrews. Not quite as over-the-top as In Living Color's gay movie critic duo. But they do share a kiss. Lots of kisses. And Nasim Pedrad appears as Vanessa Hudgens to talk up Sucker Punch. Killam's facial reaction to the clip reminds me of Dana Carvey's Church Lady. It's promising to see him in more than a few sketches in one week. There needed to be something funny about this one sketch, though, instead of just the kissing. Couldn't they think of one thing?
Proving they couldn't think of one other funny thing, their Wild West sketch about Elton John being gay is about the fact that the lady (Wiig) and everyone else cannot figure out that he's gay. Even though he rides in on a unicorn. And he stands in one spot and makes homosexual innuendos. And he loses his hat. That's pretty much the funniest thing happening in these few minutes. Despite the twist at the end. Again with the kissing for a laugh. Ugh.
Carmelo Anthony has not left the building. Because he's in the balcony to introduce the second song from Elton John and Leon Russell. "Monkey Suit."
At least Will Forte got a nice ovation during the good-nights.