SNL #36.21 RECAP: Host Ed Helms, musical guest Paul Simon

This was the big weekend openings for the lady movie comedy, Bridesmaids, and I know this because every single comedian with ladyparts who I follow on Twitter couldn't stop Tweeting about it. Which is why, certainly, Kristen Wiig would be hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend! Right?

Oh, wait. That's right. Wiig is still a regular cast member. Let's think ahead, then, to The Hangover sequel on Memorial Day weekend, or The Office finale this coming Thursday, or how about both, and get Ed Helms to host the show! Done deal. If last week's episode was focused mainly on the two tracks of bin Laden's death and Tina Fey's baby belly, then what would this week hold?


We open cold on CNN's The Situation Room, with Jason Sudeikis as Wolf Blitzer, a guy who seems to care more about letting you know that he knows things than actually revealing any proof of acquired intelligence. Our live audience gives him a big round of applause up top. Maybe they're happy not to see Fred Armisen's Obama. Oops. Typed too soon. We cut to Armisen as Obama giving a celebratory speech about killing bin Laden. Vanessa Bayer is playing some political analyst I don't know about because I don't watch enough CNN, but it's all about Obama reveling in the fact that he's the guy who ordered the hit on bin Laden. Plenty of canned cheers for Obama's "crowd" covers for the audience. And now he's a stand-up comic? Nasim Pedrad and Taran Killam come out in flag-desecrating outfits to shoot T-shirts into the crowd.

And now for our host, Ed Helms. If you follow Helms, then you know 1) that he's very musically inclined, so you know he'd try to get something on the show to showcase this, and 2) he's a veteran of the Upright Citizens Brigade stages, so he's got the chops to go with whatever Lorne and the kids throw at him. Helms begins his monologue by acknowledging he looks like a married guy and that despite his past gig on The Daily Show and current gig on The Office, you probably know him from The Hangover. There's an extended story about his childhood and wanting to become a baton twirler, and how that led him instead into comedy. He ripped off his clothes to reveal a spandex unitard, but because the band played Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger," it's not online as of yet.

We do get the traditional ad immediately thereafter, and it's a repeat of the corn syrup PSA from SNL episode #36.17 on March 12, 2011.

That's followed, of course, by an actual ad for the movie Helms is co-starring in this summer, The Hangover Part II.


OK. Slow but OK start. But up next is the return of fan favorite sketch, What Up With That? And this time, our real celebrity cameos are played by musical guest Paul Simon and Glee's Chris Colfer. I still find it amusing that Kenan Thompson sings "What's Up With That?" when the sketch title is What, not What's. Just a little meta WUWT. This time he starts singing again before even getting to his guests. Simon points out the recurring theme of the sketch fails to give Lindsay Buckingham a chance to talk. Which the show then acknowledges by giving everyone a chance to talk. Here comes Helms singing and playing the banjo as a sexy banjo man. Musical showcase for the host fulfilled before the musical guest's first song. And as you already can see by the screengab: The real Lindsay Buckingham shows up! Hader's look is pretty good, come to think of it. I think they chose poorly for what they did with the real Buckingham, though. Shoulda stuck to what was working, I say.

Ooh. Next week is the season finale with Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga. That should be predictably great.


But now is the time for something unpredictably great. The return of TV Funhouse's "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" cartoon, except this time, it jumps out of the screen and instead of the voices of Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell, we see the bodies of Jon Hamm and Jimmy Fallon! Still plenty of not-in-the-least-bit-ambiguous gay jokes. It's not live, so there's no raucous reaction from the audience when the flesh ray turns on Hamm and Fallon, nor even when the ray gun reveals the villains to be Colbert, Helms and Carell? Oh, and this is seven minutes long.


More ads. And then Paul Simon's first song, which when followed by ads, gives the whole cast and crew a lot of time to prepare for Weekend Update characters and anything that might come in the final half-hour. But did you like Simon's first song, "Rewrite"? Pretty good for new old Simon stuff, right?


Weekend Update. Here are selected highlights from Seth Meyers. As news keeps dripping out with updates on what happened with Osama bin Laden, we get more bin Laden jokes.


Bobby Moynihan's second-hand news correspondent Anthony Crispino is back with his misunderstood "telephone game" take on current events. "We finally killed Oksana Baiul!"


Will Smith was in the news last week for having a gigantic trailer blocking Soho traffic for the filming of Men In Black III, which gave Jay Pharoah a chance to break out one of his impersonations. Apparently everything Will Smith does is supersized when he's done with it. This was, well, a'ight.


Garth and Kat, the only Lorne-approved improvised comedy on SNL, is back with Fred Armisen making up lyrics and forcing Kristen Wiig to try to follow along so it sounds like they had written the songs in advance. Something about this seemed not up to snuff compared to past efforts. Right?

Hey they remembered to play an ad for Bridesmaids, after all.

The guys are playing poker. Andy Samberg makes his first appearance of the night, at the table with Bill Hader, Sudeikis and Helms. Oh, it's the crazy song sketch, as they each tell a crazy story before jumping into the chorus of a classic rock song. Usually good for an outrageous laugh or two. This time it's "Wild World" by Cat Stevens. Which means not only does Helms get to sing, but also that we don't get to see it online. Oh, music clearance fees. Paul Brittain walks downstairs in an odd finish to turn them into the Human Centipede. Um. OK. Feels like Helms hasn't done too much, even though he has played a banjo solo and appeared in that animated digital short.


Oh, here is Helms to start off a sketch on the set of a Hollywood movie studio in 1941, but it's only as the director to introduce "One-Take Tony" (Andy Samberg) into a scene with Hader and Wiig. But there's a catch. One really big catch. Bit parts for Moynihan and Thompson.


Once again, Paul Simon. This song is called "So Beautiful or So What."


Now about this Ann-Margret sketch, with Helms serving as Wiig's foil. You'd think they would have gotten Abby Elliott to do this sketch. She seems more suited for it. And it'd give her a chance to lead a sketch. But we haven't seen her at all tonight, have we? What gives?


Time for one last thing, and it's another ad, a political spoof for the GOP, with Helms sitting in for any of three Republican presidential candidates, since they all look the same.

Huh. So that's it, eh? Really felt like the show was pulling its punches for the most part this week. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and suggest it's all because the writers were saving their more elaborate and absurd stuff for next week's season finale. Except with JT returning once more to host, you're sure to see some of his recurring bits from his previous turns on SNL. Oh, and Lady Gaga will wear something nutty and perform something magically delicious. So. Yeah. We'll be tuning in on Saturday.

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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