SNL #38.7 RECAP: Host Anne Hathaway, musical guest Rihanna

Anne Hathaway and Rihanna both have performed on Saturday Night Live a couple of times, so putting them together in one show should be twice the three times the charm, right? Right?

To the recap!

But first, one more mocking of Mitt Romney — and most likely for the last time by the show and by Jason Sudeikis, whom already has semi-unofficially declared his intentions that his own tenure may not last long into 2013 and beyond. Kate McKinnon plays the first wife who won’t be, while Taran Killam interrupts Mitt’s private pity party as his son, Tagg. And his other sons, too. That’s a nice little running joke. The rest of it; even Bobby Moynihan’s Karl Rove, not so much. Or about as funny as using the phrase “not so much” in 2012. Rove might have worked better as an apologist/irrationalizer on Weekend Update. Did you really want to be reminded of how bland the Romneys were?

A new movie trailer popped up this month for the upcoming film adaptation of the long-running Broadway musical smash, Les Miserables, in which Hathaway has a starring role. No surprise, then, to see Hathaway take a crack and making cracks about it. Which she does with a little bit of help from Sudeikis, Killam, Cecily Strong, Kenan Thompson, Aidy Bryant and Tim Robinson on a parody of the Les Mis song “One Day More,” with lyrics more appropriate to one day more of work on SNL. Thompson’s verse about the election is a complete miss. Bryant and Robinson sing about their lack of screen time, works on the meta level. Eventually the rest of the cast — Moynihan, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Jay Pharoah, Vanessa Bayer and Nasim Pedrad — join them onstage to wrap up the song.

Wait. Stop. FULL STOP.

Are we being punked by SNL and Aaron Sorkin? This isn’t a new episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, or is it???

Bring us the jokes.

No fake ad in the fake ad slot, although we do see Will Arnett in a real ad for a Nokia phone, unless you thought it was an ad for a tiger-striped sports car. Or an ad for AT&T. Or an ad to work for Will? TV commercials in 2012 are so often for so many products all in the same 30 seconds, it’s difficult to know who’s paying for your attention anymore.

The “talk show” sketch is a mainstay at SNL, because it’s just that easy to structure, both in terms of sets, set-ups and roles for the host and cast members to visit said show in celebrity impersonator roles. It’s also one of the easiest way to incorporate new cast members into the show — in the case of “Girlfriends Talk Show,” it’s newbies Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong. Hathaway’s here, too, as Strong’s new best friend. Girl conflict! Who’s who’s BFF?!

Time for the brave new world of post-Digital-Shorts to continue…a world in which pre-taped sketches are seen as just another “New Normal” (obligatory cross-promotional NBC plug reference) facet of SNL’s “live” television. Although, just typing that also forces me to remind me and you that one of the show’s best-ever sketches — the male synchronized swimming duo played by Harry Shearer and Martin Short — was pre-taped. So, there is that.

Taran Killam’s “The Legend of Mokiki and The Sloppy Swish” might not rise to that level just yet. Although. Although. Two things. 1) We miss Anne Hathway’s long hair. 2) Kudos for fairly obviously (or not so fairly, depending upon your placement on the idealist-to-cynic dial) incorporating the civilians in the streets of NYC during filming for their reactions and dance-a-longs.

SNL really has the hots for Homeland, doesn’t it. So much time and effort put into putting Anne Hathaway and Taran Killam into their own version of the Emmy-winning Showtime series’ opening credits, and for what pay-off? For one thing, Bill Hader as Saul. Killam is Brody. Hathaway plays Carrie. Pedrad plays Dana. If you understood what those things mean, then you can understand the humor in this sketch.

Next week: Jeremy Renner and Maroon 5. And somewhere on Twitter, nobody I follow bothered to mention this. Apparently, they only go into live-Tweeting shock when Louis CK is involved.

Or when Rihanna performs a new song while low-budget graphics swirl about behind her on a giant green screen.

But I’m getting ahead of ourselves. Hey, look! It’s the McDonald’s on West 34th Street and 10th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan! How do I know this? Check my resume for the brief time I spent working at the New York Daily News around the corner, before they decided to leave me behind and move their HQ to the now waterlogged and unusable office space they have at 4 New York Plaza at the lowest point, literally in Lower Manhattan. Smart thinking.

Hathaway calls her Mickey D’s employees together for a meeting in the store, which obviously has so few customers for this fast-food franchise giant that she has to fire someone. Moynihan and Strong launch a pre-emptive attack on their co-workers, thinking they’re getting fired. Concept could be placed anywhere, so why Mc’Ds? Moving on.

We were talking about Rihanna, right? We were definitely thinking about her. Is she back with Chris Brown? Why would she do that? Why would anyone? It’d be like performing in front of a green screen and then making it look like a cable access talent show production. Even Tim & Eric are denying any involvement in this. “Diamonds” never looked so cheap. More like cubic zirconia, am I right, ladies? Hey, if Rihanna doesn’t have time to come up with a better concept for her live TV gig, then I don’t have to dig deeper for a joke reference. That there is the deal. Plus, her new album is titled “Unapologetic,” so don’t expect any apologies for any of this.

NBC now is promoting Whitney and Guys With Kids, touting the fact that they’re both filmed in front of live studio audiences (retro!) as a reason to love them. Just letting you know. If it works for CBS, and worked for all of the networks in the days before you were born, then it can work for NBC in 2012/2013. That’s the subliminal message not being delivered by Kevin Nealon.

Election Day was on Tuesday, so we’re treated to (have to endure) an election-heavy edition of Weekend Update. No Stefon, despite Hathaway’s pleas in her monologue. Instead…a mention of more women in Congress leads to a joke on fashion. #TheMoreYouKnow

Jay Pharoah’s President Obama shows up to gloat? As one of my Internet friends observed, would have been funnier and more useful to see Bill Hader’s James Carville in crazy gleeful mode.

Maine voters provided a first by making gay marriage legal through popular vote — and a couple of fishermen played by Hader and Armisen have their sweaters and bibs on as they deliver euphemisms a-plenty in their best or worst New England Yankee accents. Turns out you really can’t get there, from here. Their interplay is better than any of the dialogue, however.

They saved Drunk Uncle’s take for last. Was Bobby the best? Certainly sounded the most like the people I saw and heard on line with me on Election Day, and definitely online on Election Day. How many people do you think watch Moynihan’s “Drunk Uncle” character not realizing he’s joking? That’s the 47 percent we need to worry about. Yeah. I typed it.

And we’re back.

Kate McKinnon’s Ellen DeGeneres impersonation gets a full workout in a sketch parody of Ellen’s daytime talk show. What do you mean it’s not online yet? What are you, MONSTERS??!?!?!? I know you say it’s because they play an actual Beyonce song during the sketch, but really, it’s because you don’t want us to enjoy nice things. We see right through you. Vanessa Bryant and Nasim Pedrad play two of the girls whom Ellen loves to steal off of YouTube and turn into stars. Anne Hathaway shows up as already star Katie Holmes.

And now we’re in Chicago at The Art Institute to look at the famous painting, “American Gothic.” Side note: Hulu/NBC plays ads for Microsoft’s Windows 8 before showing you video clips, and SNL places random jokes and product placement of Windows 8 into tonight’s episode. Coincidence? Anyhow. This sketch is about the making of the painting, but tour guide Kenan Thompson opens it with scripted stereotype jokes first. Ummm. Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis portray the painted couple in a flashback, who weren’t a couple and hadn’t met beforehand, according to this backstory. Also, see how the kids pose these days! Prop comedy. Alive and well, my friends! Prop comedy is alive and well! Don’t trust what you read in the papers. And don’t make me have to explain to you what the papers are.

Why is this recap so personal? Someone stay on message.

Once again, Rihanna. “Stay.”

It took long enough, but we’re short on time — just short enough for a fake ad. This is SNL’s take on “Fake Claritin.” Or rather, all of our new “made-up” food allergies and diseases. Cue the conspiracy theorists in 3…2…1…

Extended thank-yous. Higgins gets thanked! Claire Danes and Katie Holmes get thanked! Rihanna’s mom gets a shout-out! That Anne Hathaway is a trooper, so of course the show would invite her back for a third time as host. Game for anything is a key trait in a solid SNL host. If only there were more solid sketches this week. Better luck next week. That’s how this game is played. See you then!

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 #38.7 RECAP: Host Anne Hathaway, musical guest Rihanna

  1. Thanks for the post, Sean. I couldn’t watch the show last night, because I was stuck working late in my office at DISH. I really wanted to see Anne Hathaway’s third appearance, but I wasn’t worried about missing the show because it’s available at the next day. I just got finished with the episode, and I was a little disappointed by the lack of election wrap up. Sure the cold open was about Mitt and his hidden milk addiction, but that wasn’t the funny sketch I was hoping for. Anne did a great job on her third visit. I especially liked the Ellen Show skit. Kate McKinnon does a nearly spot on impression of Ellen, and Anne gets better at impersonating Katie Holmes each time she does it. As for Rihanna, you are right about the Diamond’s green screen. Was that shot in 1995?

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