SNL #40.8 RECAP: Host James Franco, musical guest Nicki Minaj, and cameos from Seth Rogen

Saturday Night Live likes James Franco enough to let Franco film a documentary behind the scenes of SNL, so it’s not surprising that he’ll get some leeway whenever he’s invited back to host, as he was for the third time this weekend. SNL also likes Nicki Minaj, who was given an extra sketch cameo the first time she performed as a musical guest, so it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see her more this second time around. And Franco likes making waves with Seth Rogen, which he has done plenty of in the past couple of years, and has a new movie coming out with him — so yes, again, be prepared to not be surprised.

Thankfully, this show did have a couple of surprises up its sleeves. How many of them did you enjoy?

To the recap!

Note: My thoughts in italics after the official sketch descriptions.

Politics Nation Cold Open: Reverend Al Sharpton (Kenan Thompson) discusses the verdict of the Eric Garner case with Peter Dinello (Bobby Moynihan), a member of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. I get that this is the big news not just nationwide but especially in NYC, and it’s nice enough to acknowledge Sharpton’s weight loss with a joke from Kenan that he didn’t follow suit, but making it all about Sharpton’s malapropisms essentially means this sketch stands for nothing and just wastes time until we can cue the opening line. Just laugh at the misused words and move along. Nothing to see here.

James Franco Monologue: James Franco and surprise guest Seth Rogen address the embarrassing personal photos of them that were leaked as a result of the Sony hack. Franco and Rogen have posed for plenty of cute sexy photos and even a music video mocking Kim and Kanye, so of course they’re ready to preemptively release a bunch more for us now. The John-and-Yoko pose is pretty sweet, though. And oh, before Franco forgets, here’s a rushed alibi for those Instagram come-ons! Great show, stick around!

No fake ad but real movie ad for The Interview starring Franco and Rogen, and Nicki Minaj is in it, too! How convenient.

Peter Pan Live!: Tonkerbell (Aidy Bryant) returns and joins the cast of Peter Pan Live! starring Allison Williams (Cecily Strong) and Christopher Walken (James Franco). OK, so yes, NBC presented this Peter Pan musical just two nights earlier live for three hours, and who actually watched all three hours in a row who wasn’t getting paid to do so? Easily mocked. Perhaps too easily? And the only excuse ever to bring back Tonkerball, Tink’s half-sister, so that at least hits better this time around. Somehow, Franco puts as much effort into his Walken impersonation as Walken did into caring about his Hook performance. So. That’s genius?

Star Wars Teaser: In a galaxy far, far away, Han Solo (Taran Killam), Princess Leia (Bobby Moynihan) and Luke Skywalker (James Franco) face a new foe: old age. Remember that time back in the premiere episode when SNL mashed up Star Wars with Guardians of the Galaxy? OK. Well, remember that, and forget this. Just go watch that video instead.

Jingle Ballerz Special: MTV presents Hip-Hop Nativity, starring Rihanna (Sasheer Zamata), Eminem (Taran Killam), Riff Raff (James Franco), Rick Ross (Kenan Thompson), Justin Bieber (Kate McKinnon), Beyonc√© (Nicki Minaj) and Kanye West (Jay Pharoah). How sly to slip in a joke about MTV’s programming and casting at the beginning of this number, with Pete Davidson hosting as comedian/game-show-host KaTyler Smyth. But quickly, he’s not hosting. Rihanna is? What happened to Pete? Franco already spring broke this bit playing a Riff Raff type on the big screen, so watch your step! Taran does a more than passable Eminem rap. Oh, Kenan, though. The audience is excited to see McKinnon and Minaj, but holy crikey this is a busy-B sketch with so many moving parts and cast members onstage at once!

Grow-a-Guy: For when you need someone by your side to prove you have friends. A Mike O’Brien Picture! Campfire inquisition of Trevor do you have any other friends? Mike is Trevor. He buys a Grow A Guy kit. They grow up so fast! Nice twist!!!!! Also happy to see the show recognizing O’Brien’s unique contributions and point-of-view in the show with his own title card. He is this SNL generation’s Albert Brooks, and yet very much all his own. That they placed this video in the first half-hour also represents another vote of confidence. Yes!

Magic Bridge: When a troll (James Franco) prevents a couple (Kyle Mooney, Aidy Bryant) from crossing his bridge unless he’s kissed, John volunteers to do it. Kyle and Aidy into the woods? Franco as a troll, but why is Cathy Ann (Cecily Strong) here? They’d normally ask the couple a riddle first, but Google indeed has ruined riddles, and it turns out the troll is bisexual. Franco is the troll. You all get the subtle undertones here, that Franco is trolling us with his sexuality, right? Haha, you got us!

Ladies and gentlemen, Nicki Minaj! But first, Skylar Grey on piano, as she opens this duet of “Bed of Lies.” Hope you didn’t get confused and thought Minaj was a fair white lady.

Weekend Update: Colin Jost and Michael Che tackle the week’s biggest news, including the Eric Garner verdict, a bomb threat against Oprah Winfrey’s studios, Monica Bellucci playing a Bond girl and Girl Scouts cookies being sold online. Update got serious. I like it, and yet, it’s weird to take a live comedy show and get serious without trying to get the laugh.

Weekend Update: Anthony Crispino: The secondhand news correspondent Anthony Crispino (Bobby Moynihan) chats about the tree lighting hosted by The Rock and Old Yeller and the news that Bing Crosby is a rap-ist. The difference between Anthony Crispino and Drunk Uncle is so slight when you think about it for the moment it takes me to remind you that you’ll never see Crispino and Drunkle in the same sketch. Did enjoy his Cosby/Crosby mixup, though. Clever way to tackle that topic.

Weekend Update: Leslie Jones on Weekend Update’s relationship expert Leslie Jones discusses the perils of dating men from a dating site for marijuana smokers, namely how it led her to take mushrooms. The more Leslie appears on the Update desk, the more you realize that the whole point is to turn this into a deviously uncomfortable sexual tension between Leslie and Colin. If only they could use this to heal our nation’s racial tension, too. Maybe next week?

Weekend Update: Kim Kardashian: Kim Kardashian (Nicki Minaj) explains her Paper magazine shoot was misinterpreted because the photos were missing the correct background. I mean, sure. We all understand why this is happening. And yet, for a moment, I really hoped Nasim Pedrad was going to show up and surprise us. Although it is nice to see that someone with Kim K’s curves can also rap/sing or do anything other than show off her curves, so please do that photo shoot now, thank you. Or you can just text them to me and I’ll keep them private, I promise.

Brain Space: James Franco cleans out the unnecessary memories stored in Jeremy’s brain, including the words to Savage Garden’s “I Want You” and Billy Zane’s character from Titanic. We’re in the final half-hour, so time to release the weird sketch ideas, and certainly, having a cast member as young as Davidson have so many memories from the 1990s and even the 1980s doesn’t even make sense realistically, neither does having his memories take human forms, either. In fact, the only thing that did make sense was having Minaj show up once more as herself to rap/sing only the first two lines of her “Anaconda” song. Kudos, though, to Taran Killam for showing up twice in different costumes within a hot New York minute for two different impersonations.

(Note: No video yet, probably due to those Savage Garden lyrics Killam sang, as well as the fact that none of Minaj’s songs have hit the SNL video sites, either)

Kid Mayor: Competitor Tad Rankin (James Franco) is not pleased when 4-year-old Tommy is elected mayor over him. It starts as a dark parody video, but then it’s just Franco live and I’m getting distracted by live-Tweeting and the very idea of recapping and criticizing SNL.

Once, again, Nicki Minaj! Here she performs a medley of “Only” and “All Things Go” in lingerie and lace. It’s her second musical performance but fifth appearance on the show tonight, making her almost the co-host, right!?

Porn Stars with James Franco and Seth Rogen: Brecky (Vanessa Bayer) and her friend (Cecily Strong) hawk sunseeker yachts with a little help from Captain Jack Swallow (James Franco) and James Franco (Seth Rogen). Five-to-one a.m. — time for our favorite former porn stars to hawk some items and hope for cash and prizes in return. Yes, the audience gets a kick out of Rogen’s character choice. But, the two guys take away from the usual flair that people enjoy out of this recurring sketch.¬†

Goodnight, everybody! See you next Saturday!

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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