SNL #38.5 RECAP: Host and musical guest Bruno Mars

Saturday Night Live hosts who double as the musical guest often fall into one of two sub-groups: 1) Superstars asked to do comedy on live TV for the sheer novelty of it, or 2) musicians with such starpower as performers that there’s more than a hint that they may be just talented enough to pull off comedy with as much shazam as they do in song and dance. Anyone watching SNL in the past couple of years has noticed, too, that the show’s writers have been more than willing to find a way to squeeze a musical guest into at least one sketch (see: Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Michael Bublé). So where would Bruno Mars fit into this equation?

Bruno Mars has earned 11 Grammy nominations (with one win) in the past two years. If you’ve ever seen him live, you’d know the guy not only can sing, but do so with a bit of the old-fashioned razzle dazzle. You’d think that would serve him well in his first go-around as host of SNL. Justin Timberlake good, though?


To the surprise of no one, another presidential debate IRL means another SNL cold open to parrot it. Who had 11 minutes in their cold-open run-on length pool? In more of a happy surprise, having CNN’s Candy Crowley moderate the actual debate gave new cast member Aidy Bryant her first leading role in a sketch on the show.

With a town hall format giving “undecided” voters at Hofstra the spotlight to ask President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney the questions, SNL zeroed in on them and their Long Island accents, the snippy give-and-take between the candidates, and Tagg Romney’s penchant for violence toward the president (which only became known publicly after the debate). I’m starting to fear that Americans may elect Romney president merely because they want to see Jason Sudeikis stick around on the show for four more years. They know that’s not how this works, right? Right??? Now if Tom Hanks pops up in a cameo, do you think the “undecided” voters will be confused enough to vote for him instead? Or does such confusion only exist in Palm Beach, Fla., in 2000? Senior citizens know what I’m talking about!

At the top of his monologue, Bruno Mars reminds us he has stepped onto the SNL stage before, but only as the musical guest a couple of years ago, then to lower our expectations by admitting he has “zero” acting experience. Unless you count saying prepared dialogue that’s set to music in front of thousands of people as acting. In custom verse, Mars croons about this newfangled experience, drops a Timberlake reference, and draws a walk-on from Kenan Thompson. Good move for a rookie host, though, to play to his strengths with a song to get the crowd (in the building and at home) on his side, rooting for him to do well.

Fake ad slot!

If you’re old enough to still watch commercials on TV — heck, you’re still watching TV on TV? what are you, 50?! — then you likely saw the new ad Brad Pitt has done for Chanel No. 5. If you’re not as old as you think you are, then your meme-happy friend clued you into this last week. And if you’re living under Iraq, then laissez le bon temps rouler with this clippy:

So now that you’ve seen that, you’re ready to see Taran Killam take it even farther off the beaten-up path.

After our first actual commercial break…

Alrighty now. Three things about this “Haters” talk show sketch with “Sunny Taylor Tompkins” must be said before even seeing the rest of it. I feel so sorry about the hate on Detroit I might have to move there. Cecily Strong already has so much face-time on the show this season that I’ve already forgotten who the other women in the cast are, other than Kate McKinnon. There was a Vanessa something-or-other and a Nasim person? And I’m developing a huge comedy crush on Cecily Strong. Full disclosure, people. Now having taken a full inventory of my emotions, I believe we’re ready to proceed. If you had a nickel for every American woman in 2012 who looks like Bobby Moynihan, you’d have enough nickels to think about trading them in so you can get that paper! If you’re drunk enough on the subway late at night, you’ll let Bruno Mars work his magic on you even if he’s a she in this sketch. The audience gets into the act with a lot of unnecessary booing, and even a slow chair to the solar plexus, which despite everything you’re thinking, is not a body part that runs on power from the sun. Now that I’ve had a few minutes to think about this, I’m not sure this sketch was worth all of this. A long way to go for a little bit of booty shake.

For Killam’s second “Brad Pitt ad,” they take the Chanel premise and let Pitt ramble on about Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos tacos. Don’t watch this if you’re on the munchies.

Why is the audience already laughing before the next sketch begins? What do they know that we’re about to know in two seconds? Sudeikis has a mustache. No. That couldn’t be it. Or is the mere concept of an office full of workers devoted to maintaining the Pandora online radio/app hilarious on its own as a premise? The power is out, and they’re losing the vocals on the Green Day channel. Someone give Devin a microphone. And with that, Bruno Mars does his best Billie Jo Armstrong impersonation, then his Steven Tyler for the Aerosmith channel for another jump-start, and also a Katy Perry, and a Justin Bieber. How about Louis Armstrong? Mr. Mars cracks up (on cue?). The audience laps all of this up, so by the time he does an MJ medley, look out. But don’t look for official video online yet, because all of this music licensing is going to cost someone some overtime.

And now, a short film. “Sad Mouse” immediately takes us to a new setting with J-Suds and B-Mars. Have you walked through Times Square — or Hollywood, Calif., for that matter — and wondered about the people who spend their days in costume, hoping you’ll want to have your picture taken with them, and for that “privilege,” tip the sad men and women in their every-day-is-Halloween outfits? Then this short will change your life. For a few minutes, anyhow.

THanks for sticking around to say, “Ladies and gentleman, Bruno Mars.” The song: “Locked Out of Heaven.” And no, Hanks doesn’t get to add this to his SNL hosting count.

Weekend Update.

The final presidential debate of 2012 happens on Monday, so Seth Meyers presented some “Do’s and Don’ts” advice for both Obama and Romney. My advice: Do watch the debate if you’re a political junkie and get off on these debates. Don’t watch it if you’re looking to hear anything honest or unusual. Don’t worry if you miss something honest or unusual anyhow, because you’ll hear and see all about it on TV and in YouTube parodies for the 24 hours afterward, anyhow.

The moment you’ve been waiting since May for finally arrives in mid-October. Now that John Mulaney is back on the writing staff after a hiatus (writing for Nick Kroll’s Comedy Central show is everyone’s best bet among those who don’t yet have gambling addictions), so he can supply Stefon (Bill Hader) with new tips for anyone looking for the new New York City hotspot. “Hi, I’m Stefon.” Yes. We know who you are. Better to have said: “Trick or treat!” Treat! Especially since we finally gain some insight into a “day” in the life of Stefon. And tonight’s winning powerball crack-em-up phrases are…Sidney Applebaum, and Fun Size.

Speaking of Vanessa Bayer, there she is! And she’s in the “Amusement Park” animatronic barbershop freak-show sketch, too. Jay Pharoah plays her date who’s not so easily scared. Or is he? Mars joins Killam and Hader as the creepy creepersons. Look out: Hanks is right behind you!

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s two sketches and an intro “hosting” role for non-host Tom Hanks, and one speaking and dancing, two singing, two songs and one non-speaking robot-dancing for Bruno Mars. In case you forgot who’s hosting this episode.

For the third “Brad Pitt ad,” you know the rule of three requires a complete misdirect. They give us dog condoms. Because spaying and neutering is so Bob Barker.

Have you been to Yeti Point? Sounds scary, based on the musical score to this sketch alone. Mars wears an eye-patch and makes dramatic chipmunk faces whenever J-Suds and Bayer, as the Johnsons, mention a day trip up to Yeti Point. Roger (Bill Hader, looking like Christopher Lloyd but sounding like a Native American) has some horror stories to tell. But there’s no joke there. The joke, if there is one, depends upon how you feel about bestiality rape. What if it’s only implied — funnier? Someone start a Tumblr and express your outrage so I can see if that matters still.

The fourth “Brad Pitt ad” zeroes in on Zizmor. Dr. Zizmor. Only in New York. Seriously. Unless you ride the NYC subways on a regular basis, don’t even bother trying to make sense out of this.

“Once again, Bruno Mars.” Except this time, it’s Stefon introducing the musical guest. That’s a first?

Has the “Underground Festival” idea, inspired by the Insane Clown Posse’s annual Gathering of the Juggalos, finally run its course? Does Ass Dan come back from the dead each time, only to die again, as if he were SNL and ICP’s version of Kenny from South Park? Unusual that they’d save a recurring sketch for the five-to-one final slot of the evening.

I feel like this episode of SNL entertained everybody out there, but immediately began losing interest in the final half-hour of the show. Definitely enter this into evidence for the prosecution in its case that you can turn SNL off after Weekend Update.

See you Nov. 3, when your host is…wait a second…Louis CK? Louis CK! Sounds like Fun. No. I mean it. The sounds will come from Fun. You get it.

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 #38.5 RECAP: Host and musical guest Bruno Mars

  1. Bruno is strangely good at all of his impersonations. He plays a girl and Michael Jackson so well on SNL. Bruno Mars is one of my favorite artists, and he did great. I couldn’t see the show live the other night since I was working late at DISH. I set up my Hopper to automatically record the show so I could watch it the next morning. It’s nice that I can have the entire season on my DVR, and still have plenty of recording space left over. I hope that Bruno hosts again soon.

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