SNL #39.13 RECAP: Host Melissa McCarthy, musical guest Imagine Dragons (Seth Meyers farewell)

Melissa McCarthy returned, making yet another new member to SNL’s Three-Timers Club (which isn’t a thing, but then again, is the Five-Timers Club really a thing, or just a sketch about a thing?), and since her first two turns at the hosting gig for Saturday Night Live were memorably funny, then the third time would prove to be equally charming, yes?

Let me stop you right there.

Because this first Saturday in February of 2014 also proved to be the final SNL for head writer and Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers.

That fact and emotion dominated the proceedings, and perhaps even dictated more than usual which sketches made the cut throughout the 90 minutes. But don’t take my words for it…let’s get to the recap!

We open cold at halftime of the Super Bowl with FOX Sports coverage and Bobby Moynihan as Jimmy Johnson, Jay Pharoah as Michael Strahan and Beck Bennett as Howie Long — but they’re spinning the premise on Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers canceling their halftime show — which is weird considering this is a live show and they’re saying the “polar vortex” cancelled halftime when they know and we know it’s going to be 50 degrees on Sunday!? Oh no. Me no likey when a comedian or comedy group starts a joke with a bald-faced lie of a premise. You can be absurd all you want and play with reality until it becomes surreal and then some. But tell me it’s too cold to rock and roll when it’s 50 degrees outside? No siree, Lorne.

That said, their premise is hey, what if the Super Bowl Halftime was a Broadway medley, because New York City, are we right?! Back in the real world, anyone old enough to remember when people didn’t write online recaps of TV shows remembers when past Super Bowl halftime performances really were too campy for our own good. Throwback Jerseys for us. Kyle Mooney as a Jersey Boys character for you. Taran Killam plays Peyton Manning with a mustache and a sequined jersey, breaking out into song. I take it this is making fun of Broadway, but really, I’m taking it more as a joke about the comedians on Twitter who like to “joke” about how they don’t get “sports.” Anyhow. Kate McKinnon and Noël Wells are singing/dancing refs. John Milhiser bounds on, then quickly offstage as a singing Seahawk hoping “to score a tackle for my team.” “Oh My!” Aidy Bryant’s old, rich lady character. Wait. No, this is a joke by those comedians who joke about not getting sports?! Melissa McCarthy is vamping. Kenan Thompson is tappity-tap-tap-dancing. And yes, this sketch is that long.

So, too, is the monologue. Did something happen in dress rehearsal that made them say, let’s stretch the first two bits as long as possible? For her monologue, McCarthy wore high heels again, but didn’t make a physical comedy show of it this time.  Bobby Moynihan interrupts her to remind her of how rudely she treated him — and the show’s secret not-so-secret hallway characters (the showgirls, Lincoln and a llama) — and cut back to Moynihan, and he’s on wires? So this wire work is silly, but that’s the point. Why it’s devolved into spoofing Chinese martial arts, with Killam as a wise old cliched Chinese guru, though???

Tonight’s show hits a few new inexplicable trends that could be explicable if anyone ever used the latter term in a sentence in real life.

Fake ad in the fake ad slot! Funny because it’s true — this Valentine’s Day ad for men to buy your woman “some dumb little thing from CVS pharmacy” is no parody. It’s the real thing for far too many relationships, but before you blame the guys for being cheap and less than romantic, blame ourselves for making Valentine’s Day a commercial thing. Oh, who am I kidding…

After our first real commercial break, McCarthy brings back one of her previous SNL characters — former Middle Delaware State basketball coach Sheila Kelly — as a first-term Congresswoman. All to play off of the real-life incident involving a NY1 reporter and a Staten Island congressman who had threatened him off camera following the State of the Union address. Notice how nonpolitical this take is? No Jay Pharoah as Obama, no Killam as John Boehner and certainly no Jason Sudeikis around to play Biden. But the show also ditched a diss on the SOTU or the GOP response to it. The NY1 incident was the big media takeout in NYC, obviously, and SNL heightens it by having McCarthy’s character start going after everyone and every camera, from John Milhiser’s Delaware1 reporter, to a passerby to a parking garage, to a police cruiser. Nice idea. Well-played. Pre-taped.

We’re back live, and the first-ever house meeting of a womens’ group (Vanessa Bayer, Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant, Nasim Pedrad and McCarthy), having lady talk — going around the room, it reminds me of an Amy Schumer bit in which she talked about being with her girlfriends from school at a bridal thing and how they weren’t living in the same real world that she was. Here, it’s vision boards, and one woman’s idea of a dream kitchen doesn’t compare to another woman avenging her father’s death.

The “Guess That Phrase?” game show is hosted by Beck Bennett, thus disproving anything I typed last week suggesting that Kenan Thompson was SNL’s go-to for this role (or proving they read this, or neither). Bennett should be a good mark for game-show sketches since audiences have become so familiar seeing him in a moderator role in his AT&T commercials with the elementary school kids. Anyhow. Here, it’s “Wheel of Fortune” without a wheel, and McCarthy’s contestant isn’t very fortunate. “Pass the mash!” Her Kathleen wants Rebeccah’s (Vanessa Bayer’s) points. And then there’s Terrence (Kenan Thompson). Better luck with the mash next time. Is it the monster mash?

Another video. And this is where you see SNL doing something different, as far as SNL goes. A high-school presentation from the black students for Black History Month busts out into “28 Reasons to Hug a Black Guy”…mostly slavery. It’s slavery. “When I say slavery, you say sorry…” This, by the way, is the second week in a row SNL has built a digital short around a musical hook sung by Sasheer Zamata. I am not complaining. Just noticing. Not something you would have or could have seen/heard on the show last year.

Ladies and gentlemen, Imagine Dragons did that Radioactive song that’s been making the rounds and the drums and the strings on backup, but this time also with Kendrick Lamar!

Weekend Update. It’s Seth Meyer’s last run at the anchor desk. What do you think they have cooked up for him?

First, Taran Killam brings his Jebediah accent to present-day Atlanta to play some guy (Buford Calloway) to talk about how the fine people of Georgia could not deal with the recent snow that befell the South.

Hey, look, it’s two of the most important people to Seth and his time at Weekend Update: Amy Poehler and Stefon! “Seth, we are here to take you to the other side.” And also Andy Samberg showed up, to sing “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye…” And a heartfelt message from Seth, his “husband” “Stefon Meyers” and hey, a made-up cameo from Fred Armisen as former New York Gov. David Paterson — showing just how far we’ve come from what served as topical humor in 2010. It’s touching and sweet, and yet, Seth’s just moving down the hallway for his new gig on the same network. Just a half-hour later, Mondays-Fridays. So it’s not really goodbye. And yet. And yet. For the show, it’ll be a huge shift not just for Weekend Update but for the entire show’s writing, as we’ll see how audiences adjust to seeing two newbies delivering newsy jokes, and what types of sketches get pushed to the forefront now.

12:30 a.m. on the East Coast. Live from New York, we’re transported to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where Kyle Mooney is leading a tour and stopping in front of a live art exhibit where Nasim Pedrad is statuesque as Frida Kahlo with a young boy. McCarthy is a maintenance worker who barges in because the wifi is down. “Danny Trans told me to come in,” she keeps telling us. Danny Trans tells her to do something, she’s gonna do it. No matter what Latino Bert has to say. She’s not supposed to say anything. Latino Bert/Frida Kahlo is a statue. More importantly, though, are we to presume that Danny Trans is our generation’s Bill Brasky? If so, no go.

Sketches become recurring because the audience likes the character so much, they want to see that character in new and different situations. So what explains the success of Girlfriends Talk Show, then? Kyra (Cecily Strong) always proves more popular than her co-host Morgan (Aidy Bryant), no matter who the guest is. Even if it’s Morgan’s mom’s best friend, sad divorced lady Donna Ruth Baker (McCarthy). Kyra already has gotten her hooks in Donna Ruth, coloring her hair and getting her back into dating for “hook-ups” and “Hawaiian man meat.” If you laughed at “Hawaiian man meat,” then you were onboard for this sketch.

Once again, Imagine Dragons. This song has had airplay, too. They really want to make sure we remember who they are by singing the songs that brought them here. “Kingdom Come.” Oh. It’s called “Demons.” My bad. Did Imagine Dragons listen to a lot of Savage Garden growing up and decide to rebel? That’s the vibe I’m getting here.

12:51 a.m. Best summer of my life? “That’d have to be the summer of Diane.” Moynihan is voicing over his own live sketch, that’s spoofing 500 Days of Summer now? McCarthy digging into a styrofoam tray of ribs. This is the second sketch this year that the show has relied on a live sketch with pre-taped voiceover. Second trend of 2014. Um. Ok?

12:55 a.m. The five-to-one sketch is here. And let’s stop pretending that anyone who writes about 10-to-1 sketches is worth a dime, because it’s the nickel time that’s actually the time slot. We could have another Good Neighbor video on our hands, but it’s only sorta kind that. It’s Kyle Mooney with a man-on-the-street segment from Times Square, which became Super Bowl Blvd. this week. “Super Champions with Kyle.” He mutters a lot, walking away from interviews mid-conversation. “There’s a lot of guys like that.” You said it.

Goodnight, everybody! See you back here March 1. Not you, Seth. You’ll be down the hall doing your thing at 12:30 a.m. Monday-Friday now.

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.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →