SNL #39.12 RECAP: Host Jonah Hill, musical guest Bastille

Third-time Saturday Night Live host Jonah Hill also celebrates becoming a second-time Academy Award nominee, so how much goodness would that manifest on this particular Saturday night?

Wait. Hold that thought. In fact, hold all of your thoughts. Don’t think. It’ll be better this way. There’s still hope for you yet.

To the recap!

We open cold in full-on Winter Olympics mode. Even though there’s one SNL and almost two weeks to go, it’s never too early for NBC to cross-promote, right? So here we are with a hybrid sketch — taped bits directed by Matt & Oz, but first, live in the 30 Rock studios with Taran Killam as Scott Hamilton and Cecily Strong as Tara Lipinski,
covering the heterosexual figure skating championships. Because the Winter Olympics are in Sochi, Russia, where they’ve got laws against being homosexual. Let’s not get into the foolishness of that; instead, spin that into funny. Such as straight guys on skates. Which has been done before. By SNL guys. Most notably Chris Farley on the show; and on the big-screen by Will Ferrell in Blades of Glory. But even those attempts played it straight, so to speak. Here, the joke is that hetero guys don’t even skate, period. Which is weird if you think about it for more than a second and the word “hockey” doesn’t conjure up an image. So don’t think about it. Instead, here’s Bobby Moynihan in Jets jersey, taking a tumble. “I think he might have fallen on his keys.” There’s a gratuitous “baba booey!” reference, which somehow might make more sense in another 89 minutes. Our other skaters: Malcolm (Jay Pharoah) is very cautious; while Dino McMillan (Beck Bennett) is paired with his favorite Applebee’s waitress, Shannon (Kate McKinnon). Weird choice to make upskirting a go-to hetero move. But hey, this is an odd duck of a sketch that could have committed more. Or maybe it just needed more Chris Farley.

For what it’s worth: NBC considers the 1994 footage of Chris Farley figure skating with Nancy Kerrigan…priceless.

Speaking of priceless, though, how about this monologue cameo?!

Jonah Hill’s monologue wasn’t open for questions from the audience, but this is going to be that kind of monologue, in which Noël Wells and John Milhiser pose as audience members asking about how Hill enjoyed working with Leonardo DiCaprio. Even Brad Pitt (Killam) gets in on the action, and before we know it, HERE IS LEO! “I have a question. What the hell are you doing?” Fun fact minus the fun: DiCaprio has never hosted SNL. So his cameo is a start, right? Right??? At least he got the Titanic re-enactment out of the way, too. As much as we all would have enjoyed seeing a younger Leo host SNL with his “pussy posse,” this is what we have to work with now, and maybe, as seen here, he’ll be able to laugh at himself and host the show.

No fake ad in the fake ad slot.

And if any sketch was a sure thing, it’s Adam Grossman, Hill’s 6-year-old Benihana lover, who appeared both previous times Hill hosted SNL. Adam shows up to dinner this time with his stepmother, Dr. Debbie Wasserstein (Vanessa Bayer). Their dining companions are played by Wells and Sasheer Zamata, their waitress is played by McKinnon, and Katsuko (Nasim Pedrad) is their table-side chef. “Relax, it’s flirty, it’s fun, I’m six!” The sketch relies so much on Hill’s line delivery.

Side note: Hill’s most popular sketch is him making adult jokes as a six-year-old Jewish boy. He’s paired with Vanessa Bayer, whose most popular recurring character is a 13-year-old Jewish boy who won’t be derailed from his jokes.

And now for a video. SNL has abandoned even calling them “SNL Digital Shorts” now, almost as if telling you the difference between live and tape will interfere with your Memorex memories of the episode.

In this short directed by Matt and Oz, Kenan Thompson drives Jay Pharoah and Taran Killam to a stakeout for a gang hit of some sort, only to be stopped short by a snowstorm. Oh, look at the snow. Oh, look at the white bunny rabbit. Appealing to their warm and fuzzy side might not have resulted in the happy happy joy joy moment they were looking for, however.

And now, after an ad break, it’s Couples Quiz. And now, even more so official than ever, it’s truly fixed in the minds and hearts of SNL that Kenan Thompson has assumed the game-show-sketch-host role left behind by Bill Hader. Thompson hosts Couples Quiz as Jerome Planchett — our couples are Dan & Cheryl (Jonah Hill and Cecily Strong) vs. Sheila & Craig (Sasheer Zamata and Taran Killam). Before you have a chance to think about these couplings, though, that’s not even the point of this sketch. Point is, someone broke the toilet. So let’s settle that first. Cheryl: “Oh, honey, did you go on top of the clog???” Dan just wants to play the game. But this broken toilet will not stand. Sheila and Craig win. Why? “Dan, you know why.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Bastille. “Pompeii.”

Weekend Update.

And here is, nope, not Justin Bieber. But the cop who arrested him, played by Kenan Thompson. WHERE IS OUR KATE MCKINNON? WHY ARE YOU DEPRIVING US OF HER GENIUS? Really, Seth? The cop who arrested Biebs, but no Biebs? Really?!?

It’s because they wanted us to see McKinnon do her Olya Povlatsky character again, who lives in a small Russian village. Because Sochi. But still. They could have saved this for next Saturday. Bieber this weekend, Olya next. Did they think that was too obvious? Did they not want to appeal to the masses? Lorne, you gave us Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, and yet you deprive us on McKinnon as Biebs. Perhaps this came down from NBC. An internal memo: If we allow America to see McKinnon’s Biebs, they’ll force us to hire her as Peter Pan. That must be it. So for now, she’s talking about dating in Russia. Which yields lines such as: “I wish I was gay. I’d have more option.” Last guy she dated was a real dog. She also tried Timber. It’s like Tinder, but the stakes are higher.

So this sketch in the horse stables. Not online? Perhaps for the best. Nasim Pedrad is Danielle, another teen-aged loner who wanders away from her schoolmates. But what to make of the rest of this, with Hill and Strong as stable hands and Willow as a horse with some mighty furious hooves. I suppose it’s the Joni Mitchell song that saves this from being online immediately. But it doesn’t soothe the horse. That’s one angry horse.

If you stuck with the episode this long, you’re richly rewarded by what happens next.

For a brief second, it sounds like the resurrection of Deep Thoughts. But it’s a HER parody. With Jonah Hill in the lead — and as the voice of the operating system. It’s “ME.” With Vanessa Bayer in the Amy Adams neighbor friend role. AND MICHAEL CERA as the surrogate. Directed by Rhys Thomas.

For dinner at the house of his boss, all you need to know is that Jonah Hill is a very nervous employee who second-guesses himself at every line of dialogue during the dinner conversation. Beck Bennett and Kate McKinnon are Mr. and Mrs. Banks, while it’s not really important why Aidy Bryant and Kenan Thompson were invited — just that they’re innocent bysitters to Hill’s screams from the next room. “Should we tell him that we can hear him?” Thank you, audience surrogate Mrs. Banks.

Double ad break, and we return with a Good Neighbor video, “Inside SoCal.”

Dave McCary directs this faux talk show, hosted by Todd and Casey (Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett). Their go-to low-key delivery is reminiscent of how they played frat guys in their earliest SNL video hit this season. But this is all meant to convey Southern California skater slacker living. Say hi to Mike O’Brien and Brooks Wheelan. OK. Now over to Chris Parker (Taran Killam) who just saw “Philomena.” What up, Keith? Hey, what’s up, Mr. Andrews? Bobby Moynihan is Keith’s dad. All right. We should bounce. Um. OK. It’s more of an atmospheric thing, and if you’re part of that atmosphere, you laughed.

Back to ads. Looks like we’re just on cruise control for the final half-hour, since we still have another song from Bastille to go.

And it’s “Oblivion.”

It’s six minutes to one, and we’re treated to our porn stars shilling for Lamborghini, the car Justin Bieber was driving when he was arrested. Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong, with vroom vroom Jonah Hill in a blonde dye job, half-Fieri. And they bookend the episode with a “Howard Sterm” reference.

Goodnight, everybody! Leo is back onstage for the goodnights.

See you next Saturday night!

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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