I’ve been looking forward to this edition of SNL since I first heard that Jesse Eisenberg was hosting. I thought he gave the best male performance of the year in The Social Network and he’s proven great comic timing in films like Zombieland, Adventureland, Roger Dodger…land, and a host of others. But it’s always fascinating to see who rises to the occasion on live television and who fails. Just because you’ve been great before doesn’t mean you’ll be an ideal SNL host, but my finely-honed SNL instincts tell me that Eisenberg will do pretty well. Apparently Mark Zuckerberg is going to make an appearance as well. I’m not the biggest fan of real-life counterparts meeting the people who play them because I don’t think there’s that much potential there, but we’ll see how the Zuck does. As for Nicki Minaj, can’t say I’m the biggest fan, but I do love her amazing verse on Kanye West’s “Monster” off his new album.
As usual, I’ll be offering my thoughts on each skit and giving them a rating out of 10. Okay, let’s go to the videotape!
Cold Open – Kristen Wiig doing Michelle Bachmann’s rebuttal speech, “second attempt.” Looks over to the side, chart is also on its side, then the next chart is turned around completely. This is a pretty easy joke and an easy target and was already done on by Olivia Munn oon The Daily Show earlier this week. This is the kind of skit that, if it were not political, it wouldn’t open the show. Hell, it probably wouldn’t have made it past the initial pitch if there wasn’t an identifiable political target here. These are the worst kinds of SNL skits, where they try to stay topical rather than finding the joke first and then building a sketch around it. The mistake is compounded by this open going on for a full four minutes, which is about three minutes too long. This was a stinker. 1/10
Monologue – Eisenberg’s hair is longer and straighter, looks like he’s nervous and full of energy, but he kinda always looks like that. Says he’s not the “shy and unassuming” guy he often plays in movies. “Who is that freight train of confidence? Or not, I wouldn’t want to pretend to be an expert…” That’s pretty funny stuff. “Every 28 days, a female will shed her uterine lining.” He seems more and more comfortable as this monologue goes on. “Heeeere’s Jesse!” Samberg as Zuckerberg comes out to complain, “All hail the Zuck.” Zuckerberg and Lorne Michael backstage, Zuck looks really happy to be there, smiling even though he’s supposed to be upset. Zuck makes it onstage as Eisenberg and Samberg compare notes on how to play Zuck. Eisenberg, Samberg, Zuckerberg, Berg, Berg, Berg Berg’s the word. Awkward conversation between Eisenberg and Zuck, who calls The Social Network “interesting.” I think this is another example of trying to inject topicality awkwardly into the proceedings. The monologue was going well, Eisenberg was charming, but then they had to bring in Zuckerberg and the whole thing lost a good deal of energy. Still, it was fun to see Zuckerberg and Eisenberg poking fun at themselves. 6.5/10
Commercial – Bill Hader as a pre-op transexual in an ad for “Estro-Maxx.” This is pretty clever. Armisen running on the treadmill. Paul Brittain is going to be a breakout star, I’m telling you; “I’m the head of a major corporation. I can’t spend all day increasing market share AND turning my penis into a functional vagina.” Bobby Moynihan at airport security; last week he was Chaz Bono, this week he’s a transexual. Keenan as the TSA officer showing up at the party at the end was a nice touch. 6.5/10
Mr. Wizard’s World – Okay, I’m excited because I remember watching this show as a kid. This is kind of obscure, so I already love it. Bill Hader doing a pitch-perfect Mr. Wizard, one of the strangest talents a person can have. Eisenberg, Nasim Pedrad, Keenan, and Abby Elliott are the kids. They’re learning about static electricity, rubbing baloons on themselves and each other, Eisenberg and Nasim are getting a little too comfortable rubbing the balloons on each other. “What’d you experience with the balloons?” “Something new?” “It felt like a good headache.” This is a clever skit already. “You guys feeling that charge?” Eisenberg and Nasim are killing it in this skit, really going for it. “What’d we learn from this experiment?” “I like rubbing?” Oh boy, what are they gonna do with that Van de Graff generator? Nasim and Eisenberg humping the generator, their hair is sticking up. “I wanna do science in the shower.” Wow, that was an excellent skit. This is what I’m talking about, the skit wasn’t topical but managed to cram a whole lot of laughs into it because the basic premise was already funny. 9/10
Don’t Forget the Lyrics – Is this an actual TV show? I’ve never heard of it. Jason Sudeikis is host Mark McGrath “…and yes, I do this now!” Eisenberg as the first contestant. “Don’t forget the lyrics.” “That is the purpose of this show, yeah!” Eisenberg has just got a whole lot of energy tonight and is investing himself fully, really impressing me. “I Love Rock N’ Roll” is the song he’s chosen and he ends it with, “So come and kiss a lime, you dance machine” instead of “Come and take the time and dance with me” and I’m officially laughing out loud by myself. “Lock ’em in.” Next song is “Doctor Doctor” by Robert Palmer. I know where this is going and I can’t wait, which means the writers have a solid premise. Instead of “bad case of loving you,” Eisenberg sings, “I’ve got one extra testicle.” Not as funny as the first misread lyric. “Cel-e-brate Saddam Hussein.” “I was thinking of a different song.” That’s a good one. “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones and he sings…”It’s not unusual to get a boner a the movies.” Not bad. Nice Toy Story 3 joke too. I think this sketch started out strong and then faltered as it went on. Still, I laughed out loud, so points for that. 7.5/10
Next Week – Dana Carvey is hosting! Wow, I really hope he does nothing but old characters that I haven’t seen in forever. Bring back Mike Myers and do Wayne’s World! I’m sure they’ll do Church Lady. I hope we get a reprise of “Choppin’ Broccoli.” He was one of the best cast members of all-time, but he probably should have been a permanent SNL fixture since his movie career never really took off. It’s a shame too because I actually consider both Opportunity Knocks and Clean Slate to be perfectly decent vehicles. Linkin Park is the musical guest next week, so that’s, um…they still exist?
Herb the Reporter – Bill Hader doing his old guy reporter Herb Welch. Usual shtick, he talks really softly and shoves his microphone in people’s faces. Hader is interviewing his Adventureland co-star Eisenberg and keeps shoving his mic in his face, focusing on the fact that the kid is wearing pajama bottoms. I gotta say, this is not my favorite recurring character. It’s a one-joke skit that seems like a poor waste of Hader’s considerable talents. There’s only so many times I can watch Hader hit someone in the face with a microphone. Keenan showed up to get hit in the face and Hader is losing it, having to turn away from the camera to hide his laughter. Well, at least someone’s laughing. 3/10
Digital Short – Let’s hope this one is as good as the Pee-Wee one from two weeks ago. John Waters presenting “The Creep.” All of the Lonely Island guys are in this one, dancing like creeps, dressed in suits that are too small with pencil-thin mustaches and glasses. This is pretty good, but the best part is watching the faces that Andy, Akiva and Jorma are making. Nicki Minaj shows up as the female creep and drops a good verse, but her presence doesn’t really work that well because she’s not nearly as creepy as the Lonely Island boys are and diverts attention away from the funny. I enjoyed aspects of this one, but it’s not a home run. A solid 7/10.
Nicki Minaj – She’s dressed like Kirsten Dunst in Marie-Antoinette or like a character in an Adam and the Ants video but her back-up dancers and the band isn’t keeping with the theme. I don’t know what this song is, but I’m not really digging it. She’s got some pretty good skills as a rapper, but the beat is way too treacly. I don’t understand her choice in dress because it limits her ability to move around the stage, so she’s just kinda standing in place and swaying slightly. 4/10
Weekend Update – As with every week, I’m hoping Stefon makes an appearance, but it’s already been a Hader- heavy show so I doubt they’ll go there. Meyers starts with a joke that manages to combine the current events in Egypt and the McRib. Well played, Meyers. Another Michelle Bachmann joke, I’m sick of this topic. “This week Comcast officially took control of NBCUniversal and I have to say: things are better already. Seriously. I have to say that.” Fred Armisen shows up as Egpytian President Hosni Mubarak, talking about the internet and blaming Time Warner. “I’m beloved, my approval rating is 115%.” “We needed ten plagues before we left, you know what I mean?” Armisen killed it as Mubarak, a really funny take. Charlie Sheen joke, “It’s a good thing he kept the cocaine in a briefcase because if anybody saw him, they’d go ‘there goes Charlie Sheen with some paperwork.'” A pretty clever joke about the two waitresses fired from the Standard hotel for being short. Tyler Perry Presents Tyler Perry…Keenan is throwing money around as Tyler Perry Presents Tyler Perry. “Not one nomination…poor, poor Tyler Perry.” White people problems? Isn’t that a trending topic on Twitter? “My best friend is Oprah.” “I Can Do Internet All By Myself.” “Adventureland, where a young man is sad because he has a job.” This is a pretty solid skewering of Tyler Perry Presents Tyler Perry and his movies. Lame New York cab joke. Lady Gaga wants her fragrance to smell like “semen and blood” and Meyers says it’s gonna be called “Hotel Mattress.” Jersey Shore’s fourth season is going to be in Italy, which Meyers says will hopefully segue into an episode of “Locked Up Abroad.” Pretty soft joke to go out on, but the Update was fairly solid overall. 7/10
TCM The Essentials – I love it when they do these TCM parodies, mostly because I love TCM and Robert Osborne. We’re taking a look at the “Bride of Blackenstein” with Jay Pharoah as the doctor, Keenan as the monster, Eisenberg as Igor and Nicki Minaj as the Bride. I guess they felt like they had three black people on tonight for the first time in ages, so they could finally do a sketch that is all about Nicki Minaj’s ample posterior. Pharoah is doing Dr. Blackenstein like he’s a young Eddie Murphy. “Where did you get the mouth, Igor?” “From a ho who didn’t know her place!” Eisenberg and Pharoah are the best parts of this skit and of course, they are relegated to the background so that we could focus on Keenan and Nicki Minaj doing stereotypes. “I’ve just been with Jewish girls.” “Oh, then you gotta understand.” Hader and Wiig, “You know I like a booty like yours, flat and shapeless.” “Good!” I felt like this skit was a missed opportunity that focused on all the wrong things. I can’t imagine how many people will be offended by this, but the truth is that the only thing offensive about it is the waste of Pharoah and Eisenberg who were clearly game, but weren’t given enough good material to work with. 5/10
MTV – Andy Samberg as the head of programming, talking about the awful US remake of Skins. “Because of all the controversy and ‘child porn laws’ we lost our sponsors.” Samberg knocks over a prop and almost loses it, but he’s a professional and keeps it together. Eisenberg and Abby Elliott in a scene from Skins, promoting Kennedy Fried Chicken. “Speaking of which, cool cocaine.” “Stank ass foot powder, so sexy.” Paul Brittain shows up to promote “Walzer Toyota.” “Just hearing about used cars makes me hella horny.” Nasim shows up for a four-way. I think this skit would probably work better without the product placement angle. It limits them. If they just did a straight up parody of Skins. “That sounds great…for young vaginas.” Abby Elliott was excellent in that skit and Paul Brittain’s “I’m twelve” at the end was a nice touch. I hope they’ll revisit Skins is a future episode, but I doubt it’s going to last long enough. It’s a shame, I think there was a better skit to be made. 6/10
Spa Talk – Kristen Wiig as Tyla Yonders, host of Spa Talk. “Isn’t stress gross?” She’s basically a modern-day hippie. Keenan and Abby are playing a married couple. Wiig sprays water all over Keenan’s face, then spreads lotion on it. This skit is really not working already and it’s getting worse and worse. This is a character in search of a skit to put her in. The talk show aspect is not really being utilized, Keenan and Abby are playing stock characters, and there are no jokes. Oh boy, it’s going on, more guests coming. Eisenberg, Vanessa Bayer (hey, welcome to the show at 12:45!) and Bobby Moynihan as the family. I suppose the joke of the skit is supposed to be Kristen Wiig’s hippy-dippy character rubbing up against blue-collar folks, but it is just not working at all. I don’t know how this wasn’t cut after Dress because this is unbelievably awful. She rubbed turtle shit on their faces, wow, this is really bottom of the barrel. Please tell me it’s over now. Thank goodness, it is. 1/10
Nicki Minaj Part 2 – She’s still wearing her Bride of Blackenstein hair, except now she’s wearing the most disgustingly colorful onesie I’ve ever seen. I’m definitely digging this song more, though. I think her talent lies in the fact that she’s a rapper that actually has a nice voice, which makes her versatile, and this song really exploits that talent. And her outfit shows us that she wasn’t padding for that Bride of Blackenstein skit, either…Jesus. 8/10
It’s Too Big – Andy Samberg as Arthur Perkins in a paid advertisement. Jesse Eisenberg joins him as his friend to promote “El Shrinko” for men with penises who were once too big. The joke is that it’s clear that they’re just trying to come up with an excuse for why they are lacking endowment. “It’s why Arthur and Randy’s penises are too small.” Wiig, Bayer, and Nasim show up to vouch for them. For the last skit of the night, it was concise and induced a chuckle. 6.5/10
Jesse Eisenberg – He did a really good job. I was impressed by his level of commitment and energy. He didn’t seem to look at the cue cards at all and was elevated every character he played. I really hope he’ll be on again in the future because he’s a great utility player, seeming like he would fit in as a regular castmember. I think the writing stranded him in some poor skits, but he was sharp throughout. 9/10
Nicki Minaj – I thought she was solid overall, with special credit given to her for acting in the Digital Short and the Bride of Blackenstein sketch. Not sure that I’m rushing out to buy her album anytime soon, but it was pleasant enough to see her and listen to her. 7/10
The rest of the cast – No MVP tonight, except for Eisenberg maybe. I think Jay Pharoah, Paul Brittain, and Abby Elliott all need to be used more. Armisen wasn’t really in a lot of skits tonight either, surprisingly. Sudeikis did a good job as Mark McGrath. I thought Nasim did a good job overall, with excellent work in the Mr. Wizard skit. Bill Hader was the most-used castmember tonight and the results were strong (Mr. Wizard) and weak (Herb Welch). Taran Killam was completely absent this week and he’s been used pretty sparingly all season, so I wonder if he’s gonna stick around next year and Vanessa Bayer didn’t show up until the last two skits, but she did solid work.
The writing – Really up and down night tonight. There were two absolute stinkers with the cold open and the Spa Talk skit, which was just DOA. However, the Mr. Wizard skit was a real high point. Everything else was somewhere in the middle. They had two weeks to come up with material for tonight and I felt like this was a bit of a let-down. Don’t Forget the Lyrics was a decent skit, one that I might consider watching again and Weekend Update was pretty strong this week, even with an absence of Stefon. 6/10
As for myself, I give myself a 5.5/10. I think I’m getting better at this SNL Recap thing in my second try, but just like the show itself, sometimes I have trouble going on too long. So, at almost 3000 words, I’m going to say adieu. See you next week for Dana Carvey’s return.