SNL #40.5 RECAP: Host Chris Rock, musical guest Prince

A lot of us undeniably and assuredly were excited for this week’s episode of Saturday Night Live, just based on the strength of comedian Chris Rock hosting and Prince sitting in and jamming as musical guest. And yes, giving Rock an extended monologue and Prince an extended jam session certainly guarantees a chunk of time that’s worth your time, what about the rest of the 90 minutes?

Let’s get to the recap!

Christie Cold Open: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie defends his decision to quarantine Nurse Kaci Hickox with his usual brand of brashness on The Kelly Files. Cecily Strong opens up the show as FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly, and as much as you’d think watching her play it straight against Bobby Moynihan as Chris Christie, the cold open doesn’t heat up until they jump to Maine and Kate McKinnon’s defiant Ebola nurse. The Christie take-downs of his GOP rivals should have hit harder, but it’s mostly flatlining as a sketch until McKinnon smirks and jumps around, “a smart strong woman who has lost her mind.”

The opening cast montage has figured out announcer Darrell Hammond’s sound mix, but it still somehow feels understated. Is that what they’re going for? Anyhow. Moving on.

Chris Rock Monologue: Former SNL cast member and “Top Five” writer, director and star Chris Rock returns to Studio 8H to discuss the NYC Marathon, the Freedom Tower and the commercialization of holidays. Rock puts a marathon distance in perspective and makes light of locating the Boston Marathon’s bombing near the finish line. “But hey, the good people of Boston bounced back.” And he jokingly calls the Freedom Tower the “I’m Never Going In There Tower,” so you better put government agencies in there to force his hand. And don’t accuse him of making 9/11 jokes, because no days are sacred in America. Just ask Jesus about Christmas in America. “Now, I don’t know Jesus,” is a great premise set-up line, by the way. Replacing Christmas with “Jesus birthday” really changes the context of our shopping and economy stories, doesn’t it? He closes his almost eight-minute set with some cogent thoughts on gun control, too. Roll the clip!

No fake ad in the fake ad slot. Instead it’s a real ad for Chris Rock’s new movie, Top Five.

Vlog: He may not understand what fap means but this dad (Chris Rock) definitely knows his daughter’s (Sasheer Zamata) dance vlog is trouble. Some solid generation-gap comedy and commentary on teen-agers and the YouTube generation. Oh, lord, to have a 15-year-old daughter with her own YouTube channel. I’m praying for all of the parents out there. NO FAPPING! #flawless

GoProbe: GoPro technology enters a new frontier: colonoscopies. So here’s the fake ad. I just saw Kyle Mooney on a skateboard a couple of weeks ago, but he’s not in his 40s. So this hits closer to home now. Thanks, fellas. “This ain’t your grandpa’s colonostomy!” Nice touch. So to speak. Sick! Yes.

How’s He Doing with Chris Rock: Four panelists weigh in on just how low President Obama would have to stoop to lose their vote. Just try to imagine this sketch a year ago. Go on. I’ll wait while you try to imagine five black comedic actors and actresses in an SNL sketch. And to think, all it took was massive internal and external pressure on Lorne Michaels to diversify the cast. What do you have to say for yourselves, Latinos? 

Ladies and gentlemen, Prince! Or as Chris Rock let us know, “You are so lucky tonight. Get up out of your seats and welcome Prince!” He performed “Clouds”, “Marz” and “Another Love” with his band 3rdeyegirl. On the plus side, we get eight minutes of Prince. On the minus side, good luck getting him and the band back onstage a second time. Because that ain’t happening. So cherish this. All new stuff.

Weekend Update: Catch up on the headlines with Weekend Update anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che, including New York state’s new Ebola quarantine rules and the World Series’ oldest pitcher. Che bails himself out of a poor delivery one joke, as if Prince really flustered him that much. Kinda wish Che had addressed that “catcalling video,” or brought out someone else — anyone, in fact — to offer any commentary about it. Oh well.  At least we still have that Season #38.3 sketch with Daniel Craig and the SNL cast as catcalling construction workers to laugh about, right?

Weekend Update: Pete Davidson on STD Prevention: Resident young person Pete Davidson drops by Weekend Update to discuss how he dealt with an STD scare. Pete Davidson is allergic to condoms! Turns out that comes with both good news and bad news.

Weekend Update: Katt Williams and Suge Knight: Katt Williams (Jay Pharaoh) and Suge Knight (Kenan Thompson) stop by the Update desk to discuss their recent arrest for stealing a photographer’s camera. Pharaoh’s Katt Williams is divine, and Thompson’s Suge Knight also keeps it quick and playful with Che. Ain’t that right, boo boo?!

Shark Tank: A pair of radical thinkers tries to sell the Sharks on an up-and-coming organization: ISIS. Kate McKinnon’s Barbara Corcoran is on point, and Kenan Thompson’s Damon Dash is devious, but other than that, this sketch is all shocking premise for shocking effect, and very little comedy. Despite what Chris Rock and Kyle Mooney were selling as ISIS. Or is it ISIL? Beck Bennett tries hard to dig into his impersonation; not sure what Taran Killam’s Mark Cuban was supposed to be doing. Jokes didn’t land.

Swiftamine: There’s a new medicine on the market for those affected by vertigo after discovering they love Taylor Swift – Swiftamine. Second Fake AD of the night! Surprised they didn’t air this in the regular fake ad slot. “Yes you do. You friggin’ love her.” Thanks Dr. Doctor. “I friggin’ love Taylor Swift?!” Yes, Leslie Jones. Yes you do. Love that gal’s energy. Still would have aired this right after the monologue — but understand they needed a video or two in the final half-hour to make up for no second musical break. You can tell how much they liked it because they put it on YouTube!

The Couple: Chris Rock and Leslie Jones are an old married couple that keep the spark alive with constant bickering. One of those sketches that’s perfect at read-through at the table, but without execution, you might end up with one of the actors wondering where the cue cards are at. Hypothetically. There’s funny stuff in here, though. I bet it killed at rehearsal, too.

Robbers: A trio of bank robbers (Beck Bennett, Kyle Mooney, Bobby Moynihan) turns thieving into an incredibly polite affair. Your Good Neighbor friends just kicked up the production value several notches with their latest installment in the final half-hour video slot. Nicely done, gents. Nicely done. Teach us all a lesson. Hits squarely in your sillypants. So keep your pants on!

Women in the Workplace: Donna Fingerneck (Cecily Strong) and Jodi Cork (Kate McKinnon) present Tape #5 of Women in the Workplace: Dealing with Diversity. Your five-to-one sketch is whoa, slow down there. We’re going retro with a look at workplace video seminars from the 1990s and racial tensions. Er, I mean diversity tensions. Featuring Vanessa Bayer as the co-worker who is “almost fired” by how she deals with her new boss in Chris Rock. “Where your water comes out” is almost funny enough; that wheelchair lesbian makeout sesh? Not as funny as they think. Those fashions, though? Ouch.

Goodnights! Did we get everything in? Roll the credits! No time for credits on the East Coast!

See you in a couple of weeks with Woody Harrelson.

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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