SNL #36.19 RECAP: Host Helen Mirren, musical guest Foo Fighters

This weekend's episode of Saturday Night Live had a couple of things going for it, and I'm not talking about those things. Not that SNL could avoid the temptation of sexually-charged humor at the expense of host Helen Mirren's breasts. Although I suppose it's the smallest of victories that the show went that route and didn't point out Mirren's age? Like I said. Small victories. Take 'em where you can get 'em.

So. How many small victories did we win as audience members this time around? Let's recap!


We began auspiciously, then, when Fred Armisen opened the show cold once again as President Barack Obama. Sure. The government shutdown was supposed to take effect Saturday, and Congress reached an agreement with Obama just before the deadline. It's topical. It's unavoidable. And yet. I know, I know. They probably had to rewrite this at the last minute, too. And yet. The joke is that everybody is unhappy? Around halfway through, it just loses steam. Maybe it was the joke about the Congressman unhappy about being in a loveless marriage? If not then, then definitely with the penultimate dig at SNL. Yikes.

Helen Mirren's monologue went straight from a Queen joke to her sexy photos, to a musical number featuring all of the men in the cast in sailor suits. Light, upbeat, costume changes. All-around nice. But I guess they couldn't get the licensing figured out for South Pacific's "There's Nothing Like A Dame" to get this clip up online.

The streak of no fake ad continued.


This was the final SNL of the season before the federal tax deadline, so yeah, we get the return of Andy Samberg's Mort Mort Feingold, accountant to the stars. Lots of quick-hit celebrity impersonations, with jingles for Feingold separating them. Paul Brittain as James Franco: He laughed more at his fake jobs than the audience did. Oh. The Kardashian sisters are back (Nasim Pedrad as Kim, Vanessa Bayer as the other one and Abby Elliott as the other other one): Joke's on us. Taran Killam as Ricky Martin. Jay Pharoah as Will Smith. Both solid impersonations. Bill Hader as Tim Burton with Helen Mirren as Helena Bonham Carter, with a dream spider? OK. Bonus points for Brittain hustling back into the scene as Johnny Depp! And Armisen continues a streak of Gaddafi impersonations. Won't that guy ever leave? I'm talking about Gaddafi. What were you talking about?


The SNL Digital Short: Well. Um. Nasim Pedrad touches Helen Mirren's bosom and it's magic. And Kristen Wiig makes her first appearance of the night memorable, too.


Morning "news" shows have their problems, mostly concerning their definition of news, which is why I put the word in quotes earlier in this sentence. But you probably figured that out. FOX News' Fox & Friends is an especially problematic program, and the show took it to them. Killam did great as Steve Doocy, with Bayer as Gretchen Carlson and Bobby Moynihan squinting as Brian Kilmeade. Who needs to worry about facts, right? And their defense of fat kids? This seemed like this might have been a word-for-word recreation of an actual morning on that show. They squeezed in Mirren as a woman who lives near the Mexican border. Unnecessary, and yet necessary. And that list of corrections at the end either should have been longer and/or allowed to scroll a bit slower so viewers could read and therefore get those jokes. Happy Fun Ball.


This Mary Shelley sketch with Mirren as the author of "Frankenstein," with Armisen as her landlord Frank Stein, and Brittain as his son Igor — just felt a bit too one-note. Hit the joke early. Stuck with it. That was it. Hader, Moynihan, Wiig and Jason Sudeikis played supporting civilian roles.


This first new Foo Fighters song, "Rope," grew on me by the end. Plus, I once saw Dave Grohl and Pat Smear walking by my house in Seattle in 1996. Good times.


Weekend Update: Hey, Seth, that's how I pay my cable bill! Wait. Did they not include that joke here. Alrighty then…


Bill Hader as James Carville is always great. Just like his Stefon is great. Hey. You know what? I think we all think Hader is pretty much great. Great!


They went with Update to deal with the Southwest flight that lost its roof, and Wiig to deal with it by playing a flight attendant. She doesn't seem to have fully recovered, if her hair is to be believed. As Meyers pointed out the next day, this was one of the widest two-shots he's been in, just to fit her character into the frame.


Not as always great: Kenan Thompson as French guy Jean K. Jean. Zut alors! Sometimes it works. Sometimes it's just OK. OK?

Not sure why this Hugh Jackman talk show was happening this week, with Jackman combining his "Wolverine" character with his Broadway musical character to exhibit "The Best of Both Worlds." Why did Killam as Gerard Butler walk onto set in the outfit from the movie 300? I mean why now? In 2011? And Thompson is Ice Cube. "I already hate this." You're not alone, brother. You're not alone. Mirren plays Julie Andrews. At least Killam is getting more consistent screen time, so kudos to the newbie on that. Looks like we've been spared an online clip for this.


The Underground Festival videos seem to lose a little something with each pass at it. It's nice that they've carved out a space again for Pharoah as DJ George Castanza, and they incorporate Ass Dan into the Easter motif. Mirren makes a brief appearance, too. Of course, if this were only the first time I'd seen this bit, I'd probably feel differently about it. And isn't that the magical mystique of SNL? Built for people who've never seen it all a million times before?


So to make fun of the failed miniseries, "The Kennedys," SNL goes after "The Roosevelts," with Armisen as showrunner Joel Surnow, and Mirren playing Eleanor as the mastermind of everything, telling Hader as FDR and Killam as Hitler what to do. Brittain played an on-set historian who everyone mocked. And Thompson plays Teddy Roosevelt as a spy for the Russians? But you'll probably only remember the part where Abby Elliott time-travels her way into the picture as Marilyn Monroe to make out with Mirren's Eleanor Roosevelt.


OK. We're in the homestretch. And here's the fake ad, in which Perspectives Photo Studios teaches men how to get better photos of their penises to send creepy pics to women. Because you can't always give her your dick in a box. With a cameo by Seth Meyers as himself. Funny, but you're giving fellas the wrong idea. You all really need to stop taking photos of your junk and sending it to unsuspecting ladies. Because your junk is garbage. Stop it, fellas.


Once again, Foo Fighters. This is their new song, "Walk."


They saved room at the end of the night for this sketch at strip club Bongo's Clown Room, which seemed about six minutes too long. Sudeikis plays the club DJ on his last work shift. Too much with the DJ, not enough with the strippers. Just as I remember from the last time I was in a strip club.

See you in May with Tina Fey!

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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