SNL #40.16 RECAP: Host Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, musical guest George Ezra

Dwayne Johnson has known how to pump up soft material for going on two decades now, so seeing him show up for his fourth stint as host of Saturday Night Live, you could feel fairly confident on this WrestleMania weekend that no matter what the writers were cooking up for him, he’d be ready to rumble.

Enough wordplay for ya? Alrighty then! To the recap!

The Rock Obama Cold Open: After the actions of Rep. John Boehner (Taran Killam), Sen. Ted Cruz (Bobby Moynihan) and Sen. Tom Cotton (Kyle Mooney) make him lose his cool, President Obama (Jay Pharoah) turns into The Rock Obama (Dwayne Johnson). Speaking of wordplay, having the guy who plays “The Rock” in professional rassling play Barack Obama as a Hulk-smash version of the president may seem super obvious at first, second and third glance, but it’s a hook that works pretty much every time. So much so that the audience giggles just at the set-ups as each of the Republicans quivers in anticipation of how The Rock Obama will smash them next. And now, with Leslie Jones in the cast, they’ve added the new wrinkle of making Michelle Obama (Sasheer Zamata) anger herself into She Rock Obama.

Dwayne Johnson’s Franchise Viagra Monologue: Host Dwayne Johnson sings about which Hollywood franchises he’d like to join next with help from Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong, Sasheer Zamata and Aidy Bryant. Wow. They’re really such strong fans of turning the celebrity monologue into a song-and-dance routine, you’re amazed NBC hasn’t jump-started multiple variety series at this point. Or revived Studio 60. One of those things.

Fake ad in the fake ad slot!

Pepboys: Inspired by Starbucks’s Race Together campaign, Pepboys launches its own initiative to encourage employees and customers to discuss gender and sexual identity: Genderflect. Funny idea executed well. And yet. Didn’t SNL already address Starbucks #RaceTogether campaign already when it produced the Starbucks Verismo fake ad?!

WWE Promo Shoot: Koko WatchOut (Dwayne Johnson) gets a little too personal while trash talking opponent Trashyard Mutt (Bobby Moynihan) during a promo shoot. Just when you think you know where this sketch is going, Koko takes it even further into rigorous honesty than you expected. So funny. I’d say too funny. But it’s just the right amount of funny and then some!

New Disney Movie: Disney’s latest live action film stars Dwayne Johnson as Bambi, Vin Diesel (Taran Killam) as Thumper, Tyrese Gibson (Jay Pharoah) as Flower and Michelle Rodriguez (Cecily Strong) as Faline. Putting Johnson’s Fast/Furious castmates alongside him in a Bambi reboot, the latest example of how well SNL has been executing movie parodies within short film segments.

Dinner Date: A couple’s (Vanessa Bayer, Kenan Thompson) dinner date turns sour when an old friend (Dwayne Johnson) and his British girlfriend (Cecily Strong) unexpectedly join them. Oh, Gemma. Didn’t want to like this sketch premise at all, but then Strong opened her mouth and the accent and attitude was spot-on, and just like Kenan Thompson’s character, we’re turned onto the idea. Although what really sold Kenan’s turn at the end? Anything? Onion rings, anyone?

The Jungle: When Dr. Bones (Dwayne Johnson) gets shot with poisoned darts in the chest, butt and groin, Short-Long (Pete Davidson) and Miss Reese (Kate McKinnon) vie to be the one that gets to suck the poison out. SNL sometimes takes the too-short-shortcut to sexual innuendo for an easy laugh. It’s one thing in the previous sketch when Johnson keeps insisting that his girlfriend’s accent will give any man a boner. It’s quite another when all you’ve got to hang a sketch on is the sexual connotations of sucking poison out of another person. Unless this sketch is somehow also sticking up for the movie premiere of critically-drubbed Get Hard, in which case, we see and hear you! I get that it’s an Indiana Jones spoof with “Dr. Bones” but still slightly unnecessary to have Pete Davidson playing a character named “Short-Long,” and just haha weird to have the woman fawning over him be played by McKinnon. That was your point, right?

Brogaine: Because no one wants to be the bald guy in a frat. Topical solution to a topical problem!

Ladies and gentlemen, George Ezra. This is that song you know called “Budapest,” and now you know who the guy is who’s been singing it.

Weekend Update 3-28-15: Weekend Update anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che tackle the week’s biggest news, including Sen. Ted Cruz running for president, King Richard III’s reburial, the opening credits of HBO’s The Jinx and George Zimmerman speaking out against President Obama. Still my favorite moments in this pairing of Jost and Che are when Che reacts to Jost’s punchlines.

Weekend Update: Olya Povlatsky on the Russian Economy: Olya Povlatsky weighs in on Russia’s crumbling economy, comparing District 12 from The Hunger Games to the richest neighborhood in her village. McKinnon’s Olya is back again with more insults about living in Russia, but I’m not entirely sure why. Just go with it?

Weekend Update: Willie Is Excited for Spring: Not even the death of his wife or the loss of his dog can keep Willie (Kenan Thompson) from looking forward to spring. This Willie guy sure seems happy for all of the depressing stuff going on his life. Where’s Riblet?!

Cooking with Paul: On Cooking with Paul, Paul is a James Beard Award-winning chef and three-times convicted sex offender whose sidekick Mitch (Dwayne Johnson) is actually his probation officer. What kind of probation officer allows a convicted sex offender to keep a laptop on his kitchen counter? What kind of cable TV network allows a sex offender to host a show? What kind of a show allows a sketch with such a thin premise to make it on the air? None of these questions will be answered in the nex few minutes.

Improv Show: Improv group Prince Charmin’ (Aidy Bryant, Pete Davidson, Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett) draws inspiration for their performance from audience member Robert Durst (Kate McKinnon). Nice shout-out to The Creek and The Cave by using their storefront for the bumpers to this sketch. Nice impersonation of Durst by McKinnon. Not-so-nice impersonation of improv comedy, though. Oh well, two out of three ain’t bad.

Once again, George Ezra. This song is “Blame It on Me.”

Interrogation: An overenthusiastic FBI agent (Dwayne Johnson) gets a suspect (Taran Killam) to talk after berating him with lame insults. This sketch would never have survived dress rehearsal if not for Johnson’s delivery of the lines, right? Right?!?

Circus: Kyle Mooney puts his interviewing skills to the test at the circus. Or, more to the point, Mooney puts our tolerance levels to the test, as this bit really succeeds or fails based on how these actual circus customers respond to his anti-social interviewing skills.

That’s it, folks! If you’d been one of those old fuddy-duddies who turns off the TV after or when the show hits Weekend Update, then you made the correct call. Otherwise, you made it through to the end, just like the rest of us. We’ll be back next week with an all-new show, though. Because that’s the drill. This is not a simulation. This is the way SNL still is, 40 seasons and counting.

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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