Feelings of excitement and anticipation did not accompany this weekend’s edition of Saturday Night Live — neither the inclusion of host Jeremy Renner nor musical guest Maroon 5 could induce such emotions. Something real and unexpected could, though. For the second consecutive week, SNL provoked deep, true hearty laughs out of me and other comedy fans by producing an unexpected — yet entirely logical — moment in live and/or taped television. Such is comedy.
To the recap!
We open cold with Paul Broadwell reading from her biography about Gen. David Petraeus — whom, until we learned a week earlier had had an affair with Broadwell — also served as CIA director. Aidy Bryant plays the bookstore employee introducing Broadwell (Cecily Strong). Turns out “All In” reads differently in retrospect, doesn’t it? Is it just the speed of our society’s consumption of gossip now, or does this sketch already feel old? Symbolically, the extras walk the room. A long way to go for Fred Armisen’s silent reaction.
Even the oh-so-understated throw to “Live From New York, it’s Saturday Night.” I mean, c’mon.
Jeremy Renner is hosting. He notes that his acting experience comes through brooding action films. He plays the piano, he tells us, and has written songs for all of his movies. Not that the studios have used them. Nor will we see/hear them online, until the music licensing gets taken care of. Or that we’d hear the first few seconds of it, even! The piano wasn’t producing sound at first?!? Renner sincerely confused, asks around. LIVE TV! “Good way to start the show, right?” he asks.
Seriously, though. We’re off to a sloppy start. As much fun as it is to see the SNL hosts turn their monologues into their “Talent Show” moment. This is foreshadowing…
This, on the other hand, is a fake ad slot in the fake ad slot! A tourism ad spun homeward bound for Thanksgiving. On point. Timely. Well done. Not the turkey — don’t overcook the turkey. Or the comedy.
Dear “The Californians” sketch: If the only thing you have going for you at this point is Fred Armisen’s breaking character to laugh, please just substitute a Debbie Downer sketch. Earn your laughs next time. This isn’t The Carol Burnett Show, is it? If it is, then let’s have Bill Hader and Fred Armisen in a sketch with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway already! Oh, what’s that? Korman died. “Oh no, this really complicates my life.” That’s a line Armisen is saying about a photo of a baby, but we’ll just apply it here.
After a break, we’re back.
Jason Sudeikis takes on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer for more on Petraeus — this time stalking “Tampa socialite” Jill Kelley (Cecily Strong), with first-time reporter played by Bobby Moynihan. Renner is there, too, as who know? I forget. But this already has more laughs than the cold open, while at least tackling the issue in a new way. Plus: Tim Robinson as Jill Kelley in a further re-enactment dramatization! Although, truth be told, putting this as the cold open only would have given Wolf Blitzer a bigger head and made CNN think he should remain on air for even more hours.
What’s this? “The Stand Off.” Another short film which isn’t called an SNL Digital Short, because why give it a name that’s only going to make you compare it to something it’s not, when you simply can sit back and enjoy this for what it is. Which is funny, executed cleanly, heightened hilariously. Nice job by Renner, Moynihan, Taran Killam and the supporting players of this sketch.
Ladies and gentlemen, Maroon 5. “One More Night.” This song won’t sway you one way or the other about liking the band Adam Levine fronts. Although it must be said: Red and maroon are different colors. Get it right, fellas!
Weekend Update time.
Seth Meyers runs down the “Winners and Losers” in the Petraeus mess. They really do say “Tampa socialite” because they don’t know what else to say about what it is Jill Kelley and others like her actually do for a living! And, again, my sympathies to my parents for being residents of Florida.
Pretty certain nobody outside of comedy follows the comings and goings of Katt Williams these days, no matter what TMZ tries to tell us. But it was funny to see Jay Pharoah impersonate Katt Williams. Of course, I say that as someone in comedy who follows the comings and goings of Katt Williams and thoroughly enjoys watching a comedian impersonate another comedian. So there.
Pretty much everybody, however, could appreciate seeing the real life New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appear on the Weekend Update desk. Not Bobby Moynihan as Christie, but Christie himself! And this, a day after the governor jokingly used a press conference to say he wouldn’t comment on Twinkies or the closing of Hostess plants because he was being set up for more jokes at his expense. Politicians are performers, too, public speakers who know how to handle live televised moments. But they’re not necessarily funny. Christie is, however. Good for him! Good for us. And of course — OF COURSE — Christie quoted Bruce Springsteen.
As for this final half-hour…ooof.
We shouldn’t be surprised to see an Avengers sketch, particularly one poking fun at how Jeremy Renner’s character, Hawkeye, has no superhero powers. He’s just an archer. But “Hunger Games” crack aside, this sketch fell as flat as the budget that went into buying the costumes. J-Suds as Iron Man, Hader as Thor, Killam as Captain America, Kate McKinnon as Black Widow and Moynihan as Hulk. This felt like a Halloween sketch. In mid-November.
Something something Jeremy Renner movie extras Wes Underballs Dick Juice? Again they give Tim Robinson a thankless role in which he recognizes on live TV that he has but a thankless role. Don’t worry, Tim. Keep coming back!
Once again, Maroon 5. “Daylight.”
Who says liberals can’t be unfunny? This animated cartoon about “Cool Drones” may have made a point about the Pentagon’s use of drones to kill terrorists (and civilians) from afar, therefore changing the very way we think about war — or don’t think about war, as the case very well may be. But laughs? Where were the laughs? Satire still should make you laugh. This merely puts you to sleep and/or makes you change the channel to stay awake. It arrived with a “Midnight Snack” tag on it. So are there more to come under this banner?
This five-minutes-to-one sketch in a coroner’s office is even more of a head-scratcher than most SNL show-enders. It’s almost relentlessly stupid, as Renner cannot identify his own brother despite both Sudeikis and Hader’s characters knowing it’s Renner’s brother. And then. The ending. Just. Yikes. I mean, I get it. We get it. Relentlessly stupid. Sometimes you can make these funny despite themselves. And if you don’t pay any attention to the dialogue, but instead just focus on Bill Hader’s facial expressions and his hands all over the mouth and face of Taran Killam, then it adds another layer for you. Maybe try that.
New trend? SNL Season 38 is a mix of sloppy live sketches, fabulous pre-taped bits and a moment or two of unexpected joy.
Like watching the good-nights and imagining that’s DC Pierson right behind Jeremy Renner and Adam Levine.
On Dec. 8, 2012, it’s host Jamie Foxx with musical guest Ne-Yo. See you then!