SNL #37.17 RECAP: Host Jonah Hill, musical guest The Shins

After the previous week’s Lindsay Lohan Zombie Apocalypse Experience, some armchair critics speculated that the SNL writing staff held back on their good ideas for this weekend’s episode with Jonah Hill.

Well. Let’s see how that theory played out…

We open cold not with Mitt Romney (hooray!!!) but with Rush Limbaugh, as played quite well by Taran Killam. The premise is that Limbaugh has to dig deep to find new sponsors after biggies such as AOL pulled out. That’s it. Funny for a second. But you kind of wished the sketch went somewhere after that. Killam was really good, though, on his first starring cold open!

Jonah Hill is back for his second time hosting SNL, and he’s so slim! Oh, wait. No. That’s an all-black suit that makes him look so slim. But why focus on someone’s looks, when we can focus on his monologue. Jokes about the Oscars lead to a video documenting his week on set (already with the video?). I could see a Captain Black Jack Sparrow sketch working, however, as a nice touch for Jay Pharoah. Hey, look! It’s Tom Hanks! The show has been on a run with celebrity cameos in its monologues this season, eh?

No fake ad in the fake ad slot. Fake out!

Hill’s first sketch of the night finds him returning to one of his more successful ideas from before in Adam Grossman, six-year-old smart aleck who jokes as if he’s playing the Catskills and eats at Benihana with his father (Bill Hader). Grossman is trying to impress the female diners (Abby Elliott, Nasim Pedrad) sitting next to them. It starts slow, but after about a minute, Grossman’s wisecracks begin to heighten when the chef (Fred Armisen) enters the picture. Rim shot! “If you think that joke is immature, so am I! I’m six!”

An SNL Digital Short lampoons the sport science videos that have become a regular fixture on ESPN. This one, however — “Science Finders: The Human Heart” — goes below the belt. Literally. It’s one of the oldest gags in the video jokebook. Hit him in the balls. With balls! Tennis balls. Fired at him at 60 mph. The use of repetition will win over even the most jaded viewer. Andy Samberg plays the host. Hill plays the victim. Bobby Moynihan is working the ball launcher. Special cameo from John McEnroe. And a nice SNL Digital Short tangent to lampoon TV ghost-finding shows as Kenan Thompson reveals a ghost (Hader) also got into the act. Armisen plays the on-set doctor. The results will surprise you.

Hey! Sofia Vergara is hosting April 7, 2012. Should be fun

This season’s most successful recurring sketch is the J-Pop America Fun Time Now show from Michigan State students played by Taran Killam and Vanessa Bayer, and advised by a reluctant Japanese Studies professor (Jason Sudeikis). Killam and Bayer are shaping up to be the new stars of SNL once the veteran cast members bolt over the summer. Hill plays their guest, a samurai warrior who sounds a lot like Cartman from South Park, doesn’t he? For his second straight live sketch, Hill has difficulty resisting the urge to break into laughter.

The Shins are this week’s musical guest. Their first song is a “Simple Song.” Indeed. Will this song change your life?

Weekend Update!

Paula Deen is being sued by a former restaurant employee for, among other things, being racist. Yikes! Deen (Kristen Wiig) wheels in with a chicken leg in one hand and a stick of butter in the other. Her joke about diabetes being “the sugars” is a Lavell Crawford joke, btw. Just keep your eyes on the stick of butter and you’ll be just fine.

In response to HBO’s movie, Game Change, they have Sarah Palin. Only it’s not Palin. Nor is it Tina Fey. It’s Andy Samberg all dragged up. This is a big pile of moose dookie.

In brighter news, Bill Hader’s Stefon is back to offer us something other than nightclub tips. He actually mixes it up with spots for watching March Madness and partying “Irish” for St. Patrick’s Day. Kiss me, I’m Irish! Joke’s on you, Seth Meyers. C’mon down to the dance floor and find out what a humba is! Even you’d crack up trying to read that explanation.

Et tu, Brutus? Scientist Jonah Hill has taught an ape to speak. “Prepare to be amazed.” And amazed we are. Not just by how Fred Armisen disappeared so much into the role and the makeup that you’d be hard-pressed to know it was him in there. Although if you told me it was Andy Samberg, I’d believe that, too. Both of them are taller than Hill, but Brutus is crouching a bit. And. Well. The whole bestiality thing.

Liza Minelli Tries to Turn Off a Lamp is one of those silly, one-premise sketches — remember earlier this season when Andre The Giant ordered ice cream? This sketch is decidedly longer than that, but Wiig commits so fully to it that you willingly go along with it. Her false stops along with the jazz music are priceless.

Once again, The Shins. For their second song, “It’s Only Life.” Is that life-changing enough for ya?

Time for one final sketch. It’s an anniversary romance sketch between Hill and Wiig, with an orchestra playing in their living room. They open with Pachabel’s “Canon,” then segue into some rapping by Hill. “Is that a Coolio song?” Wiig’s character asks. Is that why this isn’t online? you ask. Most of the cast is either in the orchestra or dancing alongside Hill. After a short break from the song, Wiig picks up a mic to join Hill and the gang, and in an odd turn that’s usually only reserved for the final sketch of the season, they all get up and walk out into the audience signing along with each other. OK.

And that’s that. See you next time, or should I say, C U when U get there!

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.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →