Well, we had pretty much no expectations for tonight’s episode. It’s not even just the fact that Russell Crowe isn’t known for acting in comedies – he’s not known for being a particularly fun or comedic guy in real life either. So in that regard, this week’s Saturday Night Live surpassed our expectations. Russell Crowe proved himself to be completely game for sketches, throwing himself into various accents with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, you can’t really teach comedic timing and many of the sketches that he appeared in felt stilted and sluggish. The writers also seemed to have doubts about his abilities, as he was largely sidelined in favour of pre-taped sketches in which he didn’t appear at all. Overall though, things could’ve been much worse. At this point, we’re actually kind of hoping they saved up all the good stuff for next week’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus episode.
As it will be from now until November, the cold open focused on the presidential election, with Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton reacting to her recent losses. We love her take on Hillary and it was funny to see her react to her recent primaries losses (we loved when she claimed not to know how many she’d lost in a row, only to have Kenan Thompson walk through dressed as a repairman and comment that he was going to fix the 7 holes in her wall).
They also got some good lines about the way that all the politicians have started pandering to NYC ahead of the New York primaries. Our favorite was Hillary’s line of how she relates to New Yorkers: “I never sleep. I’m in a hurry to get to work and when I’m running, I really hate it when a slow old Jew gets in my way.”
Russell Crowe’s monologue was nice and short, which is probably the best way to go when the host isn’t exactly known for comedy or even live performances. He addressed the elephant in the room, showing clips from Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind that he thought were actually quite funny (and, to be fair, the idea of John Nash spelling out “boobs” with the numbers is amusing). He even showed a willingness to make fun of himself, recognizing that people laughed at his singing in Les Miserables even though he was being totally serious. We’re very surprised he didn’t then break into song with the entire cast behind him dressed in Les Mis drag, but we’re glad they didn’t fall into that trap. Short and sweet was definitely the way to go.
- Preparation H Advanced Gel (pre-taped)
- Politics Nation with Al Sharpton (featuring the real Al Sharpton)
- Henry VIII Hologram
- Match Finders
- 100 Days in the Jungle/Survivor
- Pogie Pepperoni’s (pre-taped)
- Shanice Goodwin: Ninja
- Oprah Winfrey: A Life of Love (pre-taped)
We’re going to be fair and choose a sketch that featured Russell Crowe for this section and then talk about a couple that didn’t (and which were actually our favorite ones). Our favorite character that Russell Crowe played tonight was Pete Davidson’s uncle’s friend Terry in the “100 Days in the Jungle” (aka Survivor) sketch. We loved it for a couple of reasons: first, as Survivor fans, we always roll our eyes at the “loved ones” reunions, so it was fun to see this reality TV mainstay ridiculed. Second, Pete Davidson’s bewilderment at the whole thing was played really well (“Um, I’m probably the most shocked. Cause, like, I have seven brothers and sisters and also a girlfriend of three years.”) And finally, Russell really threw himself into the whole redneck weirdo character in a way that really worked for us.
The two sketches that we liked the most though, were two Russell Crowe-less pre-taped ones. Pogie’s Pepperoni was somewhat a return to form for us for Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett. Their super-realistic, super-specific videos had missed the mark for us the last few times for no solid reason, but their take on two guys who are inordinately excited to be working at a Chuck E. Cheese’s type restaurant called Pogie’s Pepperoni really made us laugh. Their attempts to stifle their glee worked every time and we laughed out loud when they exclaimed “we’re rich!” after being told that employees were entitled to free tokens to play the games. It was just light, silly fun and sometimes that’s good enough.
We also really liked writer Mike O’Brien’s “Oprah Winfrey: A Life of Love”, in which a biopic of Oprah is completely normal except for the fact that Oprah is played by Mike O’Brien. We loved how, apart from the skirt suits, there was absolutely no attempt to make Mike look like Oprah and also how absolutely no one commented on the casting. It hit all the beats that you might expect from an Oprah movie: early years, Tom Cruise couch-jumping, giving away cars (“All you knuckleheads are getting cars!”), and even Oprah’s appearance in The Colour Purple with co-star Whoopi Goldberg (played by SNL alum Jason Sudeikis – “We still buds?”)
Honorable mention goes to Leslie Jones’ new character Shanice Goodwin: Ninja. The idea of the loud Leslie Jones as a very sneaky ninja is inherently funny, and we enjoyed the disconnect between her very obvious moves (including loudly setting up a ladder before jumping on Russell Crowe) and the general obliviousness of everyone else. We think this one has some potential and wouldn’t be surprised to see this character pop up again.
Weekend Update once again was a highlight of this week’s episode of SNL, with Colin Jost and Michael Che each giving their takes on the political pandering to NYC. Both Colin and Michael took shots at Hillary’s “riding the subway means I’m just like you” bit: Colin noted, “It took her 5 times to swipe her Metro Card, before realizing that she was actually swiping her Goldman Sachs American Express card,” while Michael talked about how inherently patronizing it is to act like people actually want to ride the subway, unless “Maybe you want to stand in a sticky puddle and guess, ‘Is this urine or Snapple?’ Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to see the world’s largest penis on the world’s poorest man.”
Kate McKinnon returned to Update with her character Somebody’s Mom Deenie. This character is absolutely a one-joke character, but there’s just something about her absolute inability to remember names of characters or plots of shows and her constant eating that just gets to us. This time, we laughed the most at her recap of her soaps (“red hair is locked in the fallout shelter with Moustache’s twin brother no Moustache”) and her 100% accurate description of brussels sprouts (“they smell like a fart but they taste like a burp”).
Update‘s second guest was another returning character, hack comedian Bruce Chandling (Kyle Mooney). The SNL audiences in studio 8H never seem to appreciate the artful bombing that Kyle Mooney brings to this character, but it gets us every time. This appearance was a bit longer than usual, which meant that the silence hung in the air even more and the sadness was able to creep in as Bruce Chandling’s hacky jokes gave way to reveal a deep unhappiness (“Not only do people not want to be around me cause they think I’m boring, but it probably doesn’t help that I’m also very poor”). Of course, even this doesn’t persuade him to give up the premise of his latest set: Women. They just don’t get sports!
Other Favorite Lines:
- Russell Crowe: “Gosling actually inspired me to do the show. I watched him host in December and I was like, ‘Wow– anyone can do that!’”
- Hillary Clinton to Susan Sarandon: “Why don’t you take Tuesday to drive off of another cliff?”
- “Please stop buying geodes—they’re not rare.”
- Kenan Thompson’s Al Sharpton pronounces “algorithm” as “Al Gore rhythm”
- “Bill Clinton could walk into the BET Awards after party, sit at Rihanna’s table, and order up a plate of mac and cheese and everybody would be like, ‘That seems right’”
- “I’m Oprah Winfrey, and if I had my way, I’d give everyone a car, especially girls.”
Next Week’s Host: Julia Louis-Dreyfus!
Next Week’s Musical Guest: Nick Jonas