SNL #40.11 RECAP: Host Kevin Hart, musical guest Sia

You knew Kevin Hart would bring the energy and enthusiasm when he hosted Saturday Night Live for the second time, but would he, the cast and the writers bring the funny to go with it as we kicked off the 2015 portion of this 40th anniversary season?

To the recap!

MLK Cold Open: The ghost of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Kenan Thompson) visits a student (Pete Davidson) writing a paper about him and gets a crash course in America’s racial progress. Topical way to start the hour, and plays off Davidson’s own vague complexion (which he himself jokes about in his stand-up, that few people realize he’s white) and youth, while also getting in a dig on the Oscar snubs for Selma.

Kevin Hart Monologue: Host Kevin Hart discusses the raccoon problem in his neighborhood and why he wouldn’t rescue his fiancée from a mountain lion attack. The point to this story is that Hart remains a little man despite becoming a big star, and that you can sell a lengthy monologue to a live audience with delivery substituting for actual punchlines.

Fake ad in the fake ad slot! Actually, it’s one of a trilogy, but the show has packaged them all together for the recap video.

Calvin Klein Ad: Justin Bieber (Kate McKinnon) strips down for a new set of Calvin Klein underwear ads. And scares Cecily Strong’s model character in the process.

Why’d You Post That?: On Why’d You Post That? host Darnell (Kevin Hart) calls out Instagram users (Vanessa Bayer, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney) on their terrible photo choices. Why’d You Broadcast That? But really. Even without the multiple technical difficulties that plagued the live sketch — photos didn’t load, and the dungeon trick didn’t fully work the first time — this is a lot of barking and biting into material that has little flavor to it.

Bushwick, Brooklyn 2015: Three friends (Kenan Thompson, Kevin Hart, Jay Pharoah) from Bushwick, Brooklyn, hang out on a corner and discuss what they’ve been up to. This video, on the other hand, is pitch-perfect. Bravo.

Get On Up: James Brown (Kevin Hart) polls his entire band mid-song (Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan, Beck Bennett, Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharoah, Pete Davidson, Cecily Strong, Sasheer Zamata, Kyle Mooney) before making any decisions. Of course, Hart would want to funnel his energy into a James Brown impersonation. Strong premise, and yet I found the execution a bit uneven. Then again, I do love me some of the late great James Brown and probably hold this sketch to a higher standard because of it. Bias!

Soap Opera Reunion: When the cast of a popular soap opera is reunited on a talk show, one actor (Vanessa Bayer) realizes she’s being negatively singled out with her walk-on music. Proving not all fart jokes are created equally funny.

Ladies and gentlemen, Sia! This is “Elastic Heart” but you may think of Tiny Dancers instead.

Weekend Update 1-17-2015: Colin Jost and Michael Che tackle the week’s biggest news, including Mitt Romney’s possible presidential run, the Oscar nominations’ lack of diversity, how a Chinese woman cut off her cheating husband’s penis – twice – and Pope Francis’ criticism of Charlie Hebdo. Getting there. Still wishing for them to establish a signature bit or voice, although Che does go on another run of his own in the middle. So like I just typed, getting there.

Weekend Update: Mrs. Santini Mrs. Santini (Kate McKinnon), a woman who lives in Colin Jost’s building, gives advice on how to deal with annoying neighbors. Fun little bit, and it’s the only character this week on the Update desk because, wow, would you look at the time! How’d it get to be this late in the show already?!

The Journey: To escape the wrath of a dragon, one man (Kevin Hart) must get his companions (Kenan Thompson, Sasheer Zamata, Cecily Strong, Taran Killam) to stop breaking into song and get moving. Repeat: Hart remains a little man, so seeing him afraid and carried is going to pull at your aw-cute-strings. The sketch sure dragged getting you to that moment, though.

Kevin’s Son: Kevin Hart finds out he has a son (Jay Pharoah) when he runs into a one-night stand (Leslie Jones) backstage at a comedy show. Fun self-involved fact: I talked to Pharoah over the break and asked him if he’d ad-libbed his Chris Rock impersonation into his Top Five scene with Rock and Jones. He said that would have been a fun alternate take. Do I get partial credit for turning on the light-bulb here? Probably not. But I still wasted your time reading my rationalization for it.

Once again, Sia. This is her hit, “Chandelier,” and there’s a mime on TV now.
If you see something, type something.

Listening Party: Rapper Chocolate Droppa’s (Kevin Hart) new single is inspired by his crew (Leslie Jones, Jay Pharoah, Bobby Moynihan, Taran Killam, Cecily Strong, Beck Bennett, Pete Davidson, Kenan Thompson); it also reveals all of their secrets. Would rather have seen the “Cut For Time” sketch, no matter what that sketch or video would have been. This is not 5-to-1 weird worthy.

And that’s your show, people. See you next week with host and musical guest Blake Shelton, because NBC synergy!

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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