SNL #38.6 RECAP: Host Louis C.K., musical guest fun

Watching a nation embrace a comedian who has been performing for 25 years is fascinating to absorb in real time. Witness the audience reaction to Louis C.K. when he steps onstage inside 30 Rock for his monologue as host of Saturday Night Live, for instance.

Heck. Witness the reactions online and in print to anything Louis CK does at this point. It’s as if they guy can do no wrong. He’s not spiritually perfect, and he’ll be just as likely the first to remind you that in his act. And yet. And. Yet. On Saturday afternoon, Louis CK wrote a heartfelt message to his fans via email talking about the city and how grateful he felt, and you couldn’t help but love the guy for it.

But on to the recap!

SNL revealed last month that it’s paying attention to what you want to see on the show, and in the past week, New Yorkers — particularly among the reporters and comedians whom I follow in social media — became smitten immediately with the sign-language interpreter for NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They demanded to see a sketch with her on SNL. And the show did not disappoint. Mostly.

We opened cold, in fact, right on a daily Bloomberg press conference, with SNL rookie Cecily Strong proving she’s already just as capable as anyone in the cast by nabbing the translator role next to Bloomberg (portrayed in his classic monotone aptly by Fred Armisen). Of course, Strong probably bore the closest physical resemblance to pull off the feat, which allowed her to exaggerate the facial expressions and hand gestures that amused you so much from the real NYC ASL lady. The other potential candidate to play her, Nasim Pedrad, shows up not much later — as the writers wisely turned this into high comedy with a counter-point presser from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (Bobby Moynihan), and Pedrad giving his speech the Jersey flair. The other interesting thing to note about any Mayor Bloomberg press conference is his insistence on delivering his own speech also in Spanish (with some dubbing his Espanol version as El Bloombito). YAY: Having Bloomberg tell the Spanish-speaking citizens a different story, warning them about white people problems during the storm. OOPS: Playing up the “white” peoples’ love of Homeland would have been funnier, if not for the very factual fact that Homeland airs on Showtime on Sunday nights — when everyone still had power. Nobody missed an episode. Pet peeve alert! It’s one thing to write a ridiculous joke that’s absurd, surreal and doesn’t obey the laws of science or even law. But when you write a joke that’s relies on facts, you need to get your facts straight.

So, yes, the live studio audience loved seeing Louis CK. And, no offense to the SNL writing staff, but it’s always a bit more interesting to see a host deliver his/her own monologue when you clearly know he/she wrote it. Which is what you get when a stand-up comedian hosts. It’s not as unusual as you may think. The very first SNL episode back in 1975, George Carlin hosted and delivered a monologue that began with his routine about football and baseball. Dane Cook, Zach Galifianakis both told their jokes in the monologue. Steve Martin even used SNL to launch his hit single, “King Tut.” Louis CK mixed a bit from his current touring act, along with hotly topical jokes about NYC in the aftermath of Sandy.

No fake ad in the traditional fake ad slot.

Unless you count the horribly off-putting ad that the Republicans decided to air on the weekend before the presidential election — an ad targeting the richest one percent, of all people. How else to explain this wealthy white country club lady in her nicely-decorated kitchen so spacious you could fit 20 people just behind her, as she watches politicians on her shiny new iPad, when she laments about Obama: “But your spending hasn’t done a thing for my family.” Spending on her family?!?!?!?!? What spending does her family need, anyhow? If the GOP had rolled out an impoverished redneck in a mobile home park, wondering why the economy isn’t fixed, then sure, maybe that’d convince some undecided voter. But rich white lady has a problem with not getting enough money? Puh-leaze. This isn’t even funny. But they advertised during SNL in the fake ad break, so they get the bidness here. Moving on dot com.

Speaking of another Fox and Friends parody…

SNL trotted out the three dumbest people in morning TV — which is saying something, considering the intelligence of morning TV “news” — with another Fox and Friends parody, this time responding to the hurricane. Which they try to pin on Obama. Naturally. As played by Taran Killam, Vanessa Bayer and Bobby Moynihan, the three Fox faux-information specialists welcomed Donald Trump (Jason Sudeikis, in yet another instance of claiming an impersonation from the administration of Darrell Hammond). Is there any question now that Lorne Michaels is doing whatever it takes to keep J-Suds within the fold? Louis CK, meanwhile, shows up as a FEMA employee with safety tips, trying to combat the disinformation from the talking heads. As the show has done in the past, the writers throw in a bunch of corrections at the end of the sketch that fly past the screen to fact-check the record. It’s a way to prompt comedy nerds to hit the pause button. Here are this week’s corrections. Which one was your favorite?

Seth Meyers wrote this short — filmed Friday night with the help of generators in the West Village — that imagined Louis CK as Abraham Lincoln in this mash-up parody of the comedian’s semi-autobiographical FX series, Louie, and the upcoming movie, Lincoln. Nice! You can watch the extended director’s cut that aired during the dress rehearsal to see more — specifically more about the frustrating sex life between Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln.

Australians talk funny, yeah? The jokes in this “Australian Screen Legends” bit, introduced by Armisen, takes a traditional SNL recurring sketch — going back to old movies — and spins it to make fun of Aussies. They don’t share emotions very well, apparently. And did I mention they talk funny? Kate McKinnon and Bill Hader play out scenes of true love, heartbreak and death. If you have a specific opinion or emotional reaction reading the word “Australia,” then you’ll react here. Otherwise, you’ll tilt your head like a dog hearing a high-pitched whistle. Wha?

So, this band fun. The dude who looks like John Mulaney before he got sober, but while he was dating Lena Dunham (what do you mean he’s not dating Dunham? it’s the guitarist? that’s not as much fun), is the lead singer. And they’ve got some things to shout about. This is “Some Nights.”

Weekend Update time. Good jokes, Seth!

Interestingly, Seth Meyers says this weekend is a chance for candidates to make their final arguments, but there’s nothing equal about this equal time. Only Mitt Romney (as played by Jason Sudeikis) makes his case at the Update desk, hoping to remind viewers about way back when a month ago when Romney dominated the first debate. But what about Romney’s desire to cut FEMA? “Well, it was sunny.”

Aidy Bryant gets something to do on her own this week during Update. She plays Kourtney Barnes, a social media expert, to tell us how meaningless social media is when it comes to deciphering how “ordinary” Americans feel about important issues. In the Middle East, the citizens used social media to topple dictators. In America, we peddle in trivial, misspelled gutter jokes. We’re #1! We’re #1! Or, perhaps, we “suck forever ass.”

Cecily Strong is back with another new character. Or, rather, a new spin on a previous SNL character, as she plays: “Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party.” Not quite drunk uncle. Not quite the political comedian who rambles from headline to headline. But close. That counts for something.

The only thing saving this mountaintop sketch from the Ice Ages is Louis CK’s bad acting. Intentional or not, it’s funny. “Which of you is Zog?” Zog knows who he is. New York comedians know who Zog is. That is all.

For their next trick, SNL takes on the seemingly inconsequential life experience of checking out at a hotel. Like pressing “I Agree” on the latest iteration of Apple iTunes, allowing your credit card to be charged during hotel check-out is one of those things you never really think about because you just want to get moving to the next task. In this sketch, Bobby Moynihan is a traveler facing the questions of the hotel clerk, played by Louis CK. “Yeah, I didn’t get any argon.” They play it so straight, that it’s refreshing to see them both break out into giggles at the very end while the audience applauds.

Once again, fun. “Carry On.”

Last Call. SNL has gone to this particular well more than once before for the five minutes to 1 a.m. sketch, putting weird characters in a bar late at night and letting them interact. This time, Louis CK and Kate McKinnon swap spit and more. They’re two lonely hearts with their own significant issues, which is why they haven’t found their soul mates on this night in this particular bar — and which is also why, at this late hour, they’re willing to go for it with each other. And go for it, they do! Which any live audience usually laps up as gleefully as the performers will do. Oh, plus Kenan Thompson reaction faces!

Well, that’s it. Not the greatest episode in the world ever, but still a lot to love. Which is where both Louis CK and SNL are at in November 2012. Particularly in a week in which much of NYC struggled to operate at 100 percent, just seeing this much comedy pulled together and produced for live TV on this Saturday is something worth applauding.

See you next 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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3 thoughts on “SNL #38.6 RECAP: Host Louis C.K., musical guest fun

  1. *Lena Dunham is dating the guitarist, not the lead singer.

    *Cecily Strong has done this character already on SNL, so it is not a new character.

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