SNL #38.17 RECAP: Host Melissa McCarthy, musical guest Phoenix

In only her second time hosting Saturday Night Live, Melissa McCarthy already has established herself as one of the elites. It’s only a matter of time: Give it a few years, and she’ll be joining the “five-timers club,” too.

The differences are both subtle — delivering lines with confidence, and with the knowledge of where the funny is in a scene — or explicitly in your face, throwing herself into a premise that calls for her to ham it up in a sketch about hams.

In the hands of another actor, actress, athlete or celebrity famous enough to host SNL, you may see the celeb gamely put on a wig, try an accent and go along with the flow of the cue cards for the sake of a potential laugh. But the laughs aren’t always there. Sometimes the premise that sounded funny enough at Wednesday’s table read falls flat when presented before the live audiences on Saturday night. Perhaps the jokes were there on the cards but the host failed to land the punches in the lines. Not with McCarthy. She sells the hell out of the material. Watch and learn.

We open cold with a press conference via C-SPAN regarding North Korea’s threats of a nuclear missile launch (or attack?). But first, Kim Jong Un (Bobby Moynihan) also has some evolved thoughts on gay marriage, thanks to one of his nephews. See: North Koreans, they’re just like us! Or as Dennis Rodman might say, “Live in New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

For her monologue, Melissa McCarthy knows how to make an entrance, and a dismount, in heels. Taran Killam, her old Groundlings pal, showed up to turn it into a song and dance and offer other more literal support.

Instead of a fake ad in the fake ad slot, we’re treated to a hybrid taped/live sketch that uses ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” show to present a case much similar to last week’s Rutgers basketball videotapes that ousted its mens’ hoops coach, Mike Rice. Here, McCarthy is the coach who torments the lady hoopsters of Middle Delaware State with taunts, toasters and a golf cart.

This parody of NBC hit singing competition, The Voice, hits home for me on multiple levels. Don’t mess with “My Toot Toot.” Fais pas ca! My college girlfriend put that on a mixtape. Say no more. Also, Kate McKinnon as Shakira, muy hilarante! With Jay Pharoah as Usher, Jason Sudeikis as Blake Shelton, Bill Hader as Adam Levine and Taran Killam as Carson Daly.

The best sketch has so many hit songs in it, that even if you replace the lyrics with ham, it’s still tricky to get the licensing issues together to put the whole thing online. But you have Melissa McCarthy entering a ham cook-off multiple times, and this time vowing to win over the judges with “presentation.” Cue the megamix!

Here is the fake ad for the Bathroom Businessman, featuring Kenan Thompson as the businessman.

Ladies and gentlemen, Phoenix. That’s “Entertainment.”

Weekend Update.

Vanessa Bayer returns as the precocious 13-year-old Jewish boy who thinks he’s a comedian when delivering life lessons about Judaism. This time, he describes Passover. It beats doing homework!

Kenan Thompson returns as Charles Barkley since it’s down to the Final Four in the NCAA basketball tournaments.

Bobby Moynihan’s “Drunk Uncle” doesn’t like the fact that it’s tax season. But it’s all going to be OK once he introduces Drunklage — er, I mean, Peter Drinklage — as his close relative. Marco! Rubio!

Game show sketch. “Million Dollar Wheel” isn’t Wheel of Fortune, so Bill Hader isn’t trying to be Pat Sajak, and dear God, Melissa McCarthy hasn’t got a handle on the letter-turning business.

McCarthy wants a business loan for her pizza-removal company. Bright idea? Doesn’t sound like it. And yet. McCarthy sells it. Elevates it. Keeps you watching and interested in seeing where it’s going.

Once again, Phoenix. This is “Trying To Be Cool/Drakkar Noir.”

For the five-to-one sketch, we’re transported back into the 1990s with this infomercial sales pitch for dating with “The Art of the Encounter.” Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon serve as our guides. Melissa McCarthy tries to put the moves on Taran Killam in the re-enactments, but being forward seems a little desperate. Doing the splits on your face, however? Sure. Go for it.

Barely enough time to thank everyone in the goodnights!

The monologue, pizza and game show sketches could have been blah or barely ordinary, but McCarthy turned all three into comedy worth watching and enjoying. See you next week!

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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