SNL recap: Woody Harrelson and Kendrick Lamar

Woody Harrelson SNL 2014

I have a theory about Saturday Night Live cold opens. They’re terrible on purpose, to set the bar low for the rest of the episode. It seems to be the strategy for this 40th season of the iconic sketch-comedy show. Last night’s episode, hosted by Woody Harrelson with musical guest Kendrick Lamar, started with a lame sketch of Jay Pharoah’s Obama drinking with Taran Killam’s Mitch McConnell. This kind of political sketch seems odd for for me to see SNL do, since it hasn’t bothered to be topical very often this season, and when it does, it doesn’t do it very well.

The rest of the Harrelson episode was stellar by comparison, and Harrelson did have a few memorable moments. He wasn’t overshadowed by his monologue crashers (his Hunger Games co-stars Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson and aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh Jennifer Lawrence) like Bill Hader was earlier this season by Kristen Wiig, but that’s mostly because Harrelson’s crashers didn’t have much to do or say. Among the Harrelson-centric highlights: the monologue song about the year 1989; playing one of the dads in the new CBS sitcom The Dudleys; lamenting New York City’s crack situation, i.e. that it is harder to come by these days and its quality is dwindling. One thing that should be noted about this season of SNL is how great the musical guests are and have been on stage. Between Hozier and Prince, and last night’s electrifying Kendrick Lamar set, it’s great to see different genres grace the SNL stage and the artists making it their own.

Here are my three favourite moments from last night’s show:

Kendrick Lamar performs “i” 

Hypnotic and energetic, Kendrick Lamar got on that stage and owned it. If you weren’t exicted about his new album before, he certainly makes the case that it’ll be one of the best of the year. Most/all links to his performance are not streamable in Canada, so you will just have to take my word for it.

Leslie Jones on crazy bitches during Weekend Update 

It’s where most viewers first witnessed her greatness, so I don’t mind that Leslie Jones’s only moment last night was a rant about men calling women they’ve slept with crazy during Weekend Update. I do hope she will get to do more things soon. I am excited to see the characters she has cooking in her head. Watch Weekend Update on Global’s website. 

Last Call

It’s hard to get annoyed with the repetitiveness of the sketch when Kate McKinnon commits to it so fully. Harrelson and McKinnon are the last two patrons in a bar and they are convincing each other as much as themselves that leaving with this person is probably not going to be the worst thing they have ever done. Watch Last Call on Global’s website.

SNL recap: Chris Rock and Prince

SNL Chris Rock

The Saturday Night Live alum keep coming back to 30 Rock this season, with mixed results – Sarah Silverman delivered one of the best monologues ever, Bill Hader was mostly upstaged, and an uneven Jim Carrey episode was energy-filled.

It was Chris Rock’s turn to host last night. Rock was a SNL cast-member from 1990 to 1993 and had no problem leveraging his stint on the sketch-comedy show into a huge career in stand-up and film. Top Five, a film he writes, directs and stars in, will open in December (It has already received tremendous reviews, like this one from The Hollywood Reporter when Top Five screened at TIFF.)

Save the monologue, this episode of Saturday Night Live was a terrible showcase for Rock’s talents, with almost every sketch veering into predictable territory and Rock performing his signature outrage half-heartedly, not to mention some very real and noticeable technical difficulties (What was that cue card mess-up in the Uber sketch, and people flubbing lines, and missing their mark or shoddy blocking?) throughout the show.

Here are the three bits from last night’s Saturday Night Live most worth your time:

Chris Rock’s almost eight-minute monologue: Totally in his element and delving into very controversial territory in poking fun at the Boston Marathon bombing and 9/11. The audience was audibly and understandably uncomfortable, but I liked his bit on rebuilding the Freedom Tower in the same spot at the Twin Towers. “I got robbed on 48th and 8th 20 years ago. I haven’t been back to 48th and 8th.” Watch the monologue on Mashable.

Prince’s eight-minute medley: A performer unlike any other, Prince blessed us all with an eight-minute medley last night. Watch Prince’s performance on The Concourse.

Swiftamine: Adults who get vertigo when they realize they like … Taylor Swift. So simple, so brilliant, and one of the few sketches from last night that made me lol. Watch it on blip.tv.

SNL recap: Jim Carrey and Iggy Azalea

SNL Jim Carrey

For the first time in a long time, I did not watch all of Saturday Night Live live.

It’s not because I didn’t think last night’s episode, hosted by SNL alum Jim Carrey, a staple of my childhood, wasn’t spectacular. And I wish I could say it’s because as a 20-something, I had plans outside my house with people my age; or that I was protesting the show’s decision to book the intolerable Iggy Azalea as musical guest.

The boring truth is that I have been getting up around the same time for the last month because of a (great) new job, and I didn’t want to mess up my sleep pattern too much. I knew I wouldn’t be staying up late enough to watch the whole episode, so I didn’t do a live blog for this episode like I’ve been doing almost every episode since last season. I tweeted some for the first hour or so of the show, but very distinctly remember shutting off Update during Bobby Moynihan’s latest appearance as Drunk Uncle.

I watched yesterday’s episode hosted by a fully committed and game Carrey this morning, skipping through commercials (I’m finally remembering that I am able to do this with the gizmo that is PVR) and Iggy Azalea , and continue to be impressed with this season of Saturday Night Live. The Carrey episode has been the best so far, mostly because of his infectious energy. It’s no surprise, then, that the weakest sketch of the night was the cold open, which mocked the Ebola Czar. It was the only sketch that was Carrey-less. I want to commend SNL for continuing to attempt to remain topical, but by Saturday, the jokes they do in these political cold opens have often been done to death by late-night hosts – heck, even Twitter. (Though maybe this is done on purpose, to make the dismal monologues they’ve been churning out this season – with the exception of the perfect Sarah Silverman monologue – look great by comparison.)

It was an odd night and a Halloween-themed episode; rather than grade each sketch, here are the three that are most worth your time:

Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln commercials

They are so ridiculous, and so ripe for spoofing, and this was so unexpected an impersonation for Carrey, but it all came together and worked. Odd to the 10th power. See the sketch on YahooTV.

Carrey Family reunion

Basically what every conversation my cousins and I would have in the ’90s. The Carreys reunite (much like the Walkens have reunited on an SNL past) for a loving get-together full of classic one-liners from some of Carrey’s biggest film roles. See the sketch on YahooTV.

Office costume contest

Odd to the 50th power, but the physicality and commitment make this my favourite sketch of the night. In an office costume contest, Carrey and Kate McKinnon both show up as the dancer from Sia’s “Chandelier” music video. The tie-breaker is a dance-ff, and it’s a doozy. See the sketch on YahooTV.

What was your favourite sketch of the night?

Saturday Night Live continues to welcome its alum back next week, Nov. 1, with Chris Rock hosting. Prince will be the musical guest.

SNL recap: Bill Hader and Hozier

Bill Hader SNL 2014

Bill Hader was on Saturday Night Live for eight years before he left at the end of the 2012-13 season, earning two Emmy nominations and creating countless memorable characters – and nailing impersonations of James Carville, Vincent Price and Al Pacino – during his run.

He’s back tonight, and we can expect that he’ll reprise his most famous characters (at the very least Stefon, who’ll descend upon the Weekend Update desk, heartbroken that his boo Seth Meyers is no longer there). Hozier will provide the music tonight, whose alt-rock hit “Take Me To Church” I once Shazamed during an episode of HBO’s The Leftovers.

There’s been no announcement of who’ll host the next episode of SNL, so that’ll be one thing to look out for tonight! As always, you can come back after the show for a full recap of what worked and what didn’t, and check out past SNL recaps.

Cold open: Bobby Moynihan is Kim Jong Un, addressing his subjects about his rumoured illnesses. The sketch lives and dies with Moynihan’s theatrics, and he’s so good at the physical comedy stuff that it almost distracts from the fact that the cold open had no jokes: Fact is indeed stranger than fiction. C

Monologue: Pleasantries, niceties, Bill’s nervous, yadi-yada, Kristen Wiig!!! It’s Bill’s dream to sing on SNL but his singing voice is low, like Harvey Fierstein low, and Wiig is his supposed hype man. Damn, is Wiig gonna steal this from Hader already? And there’s Fierstein! Hader’s likeable and this is a nice homecoming for him. He’ll have his chance to shine tonight. Right? B-

Herb Welch: The first of many, I am sure, returning characters for Hader. Welch is the jaded, cynical New York TV reporter who’s terrible at interviews and with people, and can barely report. Kinda great. A

The Group Hooper: A trailer for a teen movie that combines every teen-movie trope. It’s the joke version of all those terrible Jason Friedberg/Aaron Seltzer films. B+

Ohhhh, Jim Carrey will host the Oct. 25 episode.

Hollywood Game Night: I kinda love that the contestants are put together based on who the SNL cast can impersonate: Morgan Freeman, Al Pacino, Kathie Lee Gifford, Nick Offerman, Christoph Waltz and Sofia Vergara. Host Jane Lynch was played by the brilliant Kate McKinnon. The problem with these impersonation-heavy sketches is they rely on ticks, outbursts and over-the-topness for laughs, instead of, you know, jokes, plot and kooky situations. Wiig stealing it again, though, as Gifford. C

Help Fund: You know those commercials that tell people that “for 39 cents a day,” they can help a poor African village survive? Now imagine African villagers looked on and asked for more money. Like, why do you start so low, one asks. Instead of the price of a cup of coffee, why don’t you ask for 99 cents, the price of a can of Arizona Iced Tea, asks another. B-

Love Is A Dream/Jan Hooks tribute: So sweet, so nice, so classy. A

Hozier, “Take Me To Church”: It’s pronounced Ho-zier, like Hozier Daddy. I don’t know any other song by him, but this one’s pretty great. I first heard it on an episode of The Leftovers, which seriously did not get enough love this past summer. A

Weekend Update: The Update desk is really coming into its own. Three episodes in, the chemistry between Colin Jost and Michael Che hasn’t improved, per se, but it’s more because it doesn’t really exist. But each host is delivering; Che continues to get some killer lines, Jost gets more likeable every week. Pete Davidson had a great shot at delivering another winning sorta-monologue like he did in the season première, but he flubbed a few lines and seemed just a tad too pleased with himself when some of his jokes landed. The rest of Update was … was there any doubt? … Stefon, of course! Stefon doesn’t really do it for me as a character, but I do love Bill Hader as Stefon, especially since he’s said in interviews that the things he reads on air, he’s reading for the first time. It’s only Hader’s second homerun, though, and we’re at the halfway mark of the episode. B+

Puppets: Holy weirdness, Batman. A puppetry class taught by a happy-go-lucky instructor has a student who maybe needs therapy. Hader plays a Vietnam vet who’s obviously seen some things and is using his puppet (who looks and sounds just like him) to get by. B

Inside SoCal: If these Kyle Mooney videos are gonna be the new Digital Shorts, they’ll probably need to be more like this. I find these widely inconsistent week to week, but I loved this week’s. (But, hey, how about instead of having Cecily Strong, whom I love, play two Latinas this week, maybe …….. get a Latina on the show, Lorne). B+ 

Cat in the Hat: I’m gonna blame the elaborate costume and makeup for why this sketch is the last one of the night. Two bored kids summon the Cat in the Hat, who shows up and realizes their mom Linda is his ex. A

Etc.: Where was Vanessa Bayer tonight?; For real, Cecily Strong playing two Latinas this week highlights another diversity problem on the show; With Jim Carrey hosting the next new episode, it’ll be 3/4 hosts who were cast-members at one point – this makes it hard for new cast-members and characters to get chances to shine.

SNL recap: Sarah Silverman and Maroon 5

Saturday Night Live 40

This 40th season of Saturday Night Live is attracting huge names, with Chris Pratt having hosted last week, and SNL alum Bill Hader returns to host next week. There have also been reports that Jim Carrey will be back at some point this season (Dumb and Dumber To comes out Nov. 14 …)

This week, it’s Sarah Silverman who returns to SNL, though I hope her hosting gig is more memorable than her short tenure on the show in the ’90s.

Maroon 5 will be the musical guest tonight.

Join me on Twitter starting at 11:30 p.m. and come back at the end of the show for a full recap of the episode.

SNL Sarah Silverman Maroon 5

Cold open: Whose Obama impersonation do you prefer? Jay Pharoah’s on SNL or Jordan Peele on Key & Peele? I think Pharoah’s is a bit less of a caricature than Peele’s, but the political stuff on K&P blows SNL‘s out of the water. Tonight, Obama was on 60 Minutes discussing the social media strategies of ISIS. The sketch rested entirely on the shoulders of Pharoah and he couldn’t carry it all the way. C+

Monologue: “Is it really crazy? It kind of makes all the sense in the world.” Sarah Silverman’s a pretty big comedian, after all, so it really does make sense that she’s finally hosting SNL. Fresh off her Emmy win for her HBO stand-up special We Are All Miracles, she incorporated some jokes from her special with two hysterical gags that are setting the bar high for the rest of the season. First, she sat on an audience member’s lap, doling out life advice and fishing for compliments. Then, she answered questions from “plants,” SNL castmembers planted in the audience to ask the host a question. They were clips from Silverman’s time on SNL, and the questions were as non-sensical as they were funny: Will she release a solo album now that she’s left Wilson Phillips? There was absolutely no doubt Sarah Silverman would have been comfortable up there by herself, repurposing an act like Louis C.K. did last season. But this was inventive, hilarious and a great showcase for her style. 

The Fault in Our Stars 2: The Ebola in Our Everything: It’s The Fault in Our Stars, but instead of two teens with cancer, Theodore (Taran Killam) falls in love with Olive (Silverman), who doesn’t have cancer … She has Ebola. The surprise reveal gave this fake movie trailer legs, and it kept delivering until the very end. B+

Heaven Roast: If there’s anyone Joan Rivers would have deemed OK to impersonate her, it would be Sarah Silverman, who portrayed the late comedienne in the sketch. My favourite line was directed to Steve Jobs, whom Rivers wished would be made to buy a new coffin every six months. Silverman’s impersonation was good, but the jokes didn’t always land. In this case, it wasn’t parodying the format of the roast or roasts themselves; they merely moved the roast to Heaven. C

Whites: This is the kind of pre-recorded sketch that makes the live stuff look so weak in comparison. About how white people need to enjoy these last few decades of total domination, it was scathing and hilarious and timely. A

Supportive Women: A “forgotten TV gem” is a soap opera in which there is no conflict between the female characters, who support each other no matter what, even accidentally getting shot in the chest. C

Maroon 5 performs “Animals.” I think it’s commendable that Adam Levine still calls the band Maroon 5 and not, like, Adam Levine and the Maroon 5s. I like the set on this song and the light set up was really cool.

Weekend Update: Michael Che’s jokes were better this week, but Colin Jost’s delivery continues to improve. “Who goes to Africa *and* Texas?” asks Che about the first U.S. Ebola case. Update started heavy on politics, but settled into Ebola pretty quickly, having Kenan Thompson’s Rev. Al Sharpton rambling about Secret Service things and Ebola, again. Then something great happened. Jost turned to Che to ask him if “bae” was an appropriate word for him to use. No, Che said, because Jost is 30. Their interaction was nice and the first time in a long time the Update anchors didn’t feel and look like they were anchoring together/separately. Kudos. Then there was Kate McKinnon’s first appearance this episode. With Silverman, the duo was a feminist band, singing that everyone and everything is a woman, from Bill Maher, to Walt Disney (but Pixar is a pointed shoe).  B

Proud MaryOK, so it’s post-Update and there’s a certain expectation that the quality’ll take a dip at this point. The energy from all the performers (Cecily Strong, Sasheer Zamata and Silverman) was up, and the costumes and wigs were a nice visual gag, but I just didn’t think there was much else here. C-

Amsterdam: Rachel is picked up by her brother from the airport after a trip to Amsterdam during which she cheated on her boyfriend who’s hiding in the backseat waiting to propose! Blame lowered expectations becauses of the “Proud Mary” sketch … B

The December Generation: I don’t know about these Kyle Mooney sketches. One week they’re great, others less so. They’re always weird, though, of course, which is part of their charm. I just didn’t get this one, but I am glad Beck Bennett was asked back this season. I think he can fill the void left by Jason Sudeikis (white, great hair, can play corporate ass and terrible boyfriends) C-

Maroon 5 performs “Maps.”

Vitamix blender: Hey, now! There’s Vanessa Bayer showing off an a $650 blender that purees and juices without you needing to core! This was a cute way to end the night. Two women (who are not Supportive, like the women in an earlier sketch) argue over the unreasonable price of the blender. It’s not really funnier than it sounds, but it was kinda cute. B-

SNL recap: Chris Pratt and Ariana Grande

SNL Chris Pratt Ariana Grande

Saturday Night Live is back! The show’s 40th season premières tonight with host/new action star Chris Pratt (Guardians of the GalaxyParks and Recreation) and musical guest Ariana Grande.

As always, the summer saw lots of shakeups for the NBC show. Perhaps most notable is the unfortunate death of announcer Don Pardo. SNL alum Darrell Hammond will be introducing the cast from now on. There was also the hiring of Michael Che, who will join Colin Jost at the Weekend Update table. Cecily Strong remains on the cast (phew!), but has been relieved of her Update duties. Pete Davidson also joins SNL as a featured player, replacing three featured players who were not asked to return: John Milhiser, Noël Wells and Brooks Wheelan. Nasim Pedrad also left the show and she’ll star in the FOX sitcom Mulaney Sundays this fall starting Oct. 5. Mike O’Brien returns to the writers’ room after a season as a featured player.

Sarah Silverman and Bill Hader will be hosting the next two episodes, but tonight, it’s Chris Pratt’s first turn at bat, after a nutso news summer that I imagine is a comedy writer’s dream (NFL fiasco! White House on ISIS! Celebrity nude photo theft!).

Join me on Twitter starting at 11:30 p.m. and come back at the end of the show for a full recap of the episode.

Cold open: State of the Union with Candy Crowley, played by Aidy Bryant. The season’s off to a shaky start, with Bryant flubbing her lines a few times. Host Chris Pratt made an appearance as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, thanking the people who stood by him in the last few weeks (Michael Vick, Redskins owner Dan Snyder, so he’s in OK company). B- 

Monologue: Chris Pratt is so at ease on stage and he just oozes charm. It didn’t quite make a great monologue, but he whipped out a guitar and talk-sang through a little song that he messed up twice, with a little appearance from his wife Anna Faris, a two-time SNL host herself. C for charm

Cialis Turnt: “You’re able to achieve an erection, but I need more than that. I need you to get turnt.” So you’ve got your ED medication, but does it make you turnt? Hopefully this is just a way for SNL to get “Turn Down For What” out of its system… C-

He-Man and Lion-O: A boy with no friends makes a birthday wish that his action figures were real. He blows a candle and Chris Pratt and Taran Killam show up as He-Man and Lion-O. They were more Tarzan than than “Woody and Buzz Lightyear” as the boy mentions. Mostly, I found the sketch juvenile and predictable and predictably juvenile. F

Animal hospital: It’s an odd sketch to do again and again since the punchline is always the same… Pet owners bring their furry and scaly and feathery friends to the worst animal hospital in the world and the incompetent staff ends up, somehow, killing them. Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon almost make the sketch memorable. C+

Marvel movies: Jolting the episode back to life, these fake trailers for upcoming movies from Marvel, the studio that strikes gold with the most obscure adaptations, were spot on. I’d watch Bus People, and Pam, and Fancy Ghosts. A-

Ariana Grande started singing a stripped-down version of her hit “Break Free.” I’m a fan. Not a superfan, but I do like her. Her vocals were a bit shaky here, as they have been in many live performances of late. C+

Weekend Update: Silver lining of Cecily Strong leaving the Update desk: The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party is back, supposedly to talk about ebola. The relationship expert/single-girl Leslie Jones was hilarious, but the highlight was new featured player Pete Davidson talking about “when he was in high school, three years ago.” Sad/odd that the worst parts of Update were the news bits, but new Updater Michael Che and wooden Colin Jost redeemed it slightly with a pep talk for Barack Obama. The rest of his presidency probably won’t get better, but it can’t possibly get worse! B-

Aidy’s “Big Fat Ass:” There was an energy in this sketch that’s been missing from the episode so far. Aidy Bryant and Chris Pratt eye each other in a bar, but they’re nervous about talking, so they break into really inappropriate rap songs when they flirt. Aidy Bryant tonight is truly the MVP, though I’d make the case that she, Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon will carry the series through this 40th season. B-

Sitcom Bad Boys: These Kyle Mooney sketches don’t always do it for me, but this one was great. So absurd, so strange, so funny: Chris Pratt gets involved with a street gang (four pre-teens) and starts rebelling – he comes home too late to watch his favourite show and plays with a ball inside the house. B

New NFL lineups: This sketch looked so much like one they do on Key & Peele, about ridiculous names in football, that I just wished I was watching that instead of this, a sketch in which football players would also mention which crimes they’ve committed in their on-air introductions. D

Ariana Grande is joined on stage by The Weeknd for “Love Me Harder,” one of my favourite tracks from her sophomore album My Everything. She was outshone vocally by The Weeknd, to be honest, but it’s a nice duet. B+

Video-game testers: I love Chris Pratt and Parks and Rec proves he’s great at the physical comedy bits. This sketch showed that, too, as did his He-Man crashing through walls. But this sketch was painfully unfunny, about three video-game testers tasked with reviewing a terrible puzzle game in which the characters make out – inappropriately, unexpectedly – every time a level is completed. D- 

Stray observations: Is it just me, or are castmembers blatantly reading their lines off cue cards?; It would be nice to see Michael Che and Colin Jost in more than just Update; The cast is huge and with big-name hosts next week and the week after, I hope we’ll get to see more of Kate McKinnon and Sasheer Zamata; The show doesn’t seem too interested in being super topical politically anymore, but if it’s going to tackle culture, it’ll have to do better than having two NFL sketches in one night.

Recap: Anna Kendrick on Saturday Night Live

Anna Kendrick SNL

The adorable, affable Anna Kendrick hosted her first Saturday Night Live tonight, with musical guest Pharrell Williams.

Ultimately it was her infectious energy and enthusiasm that made the so-so, uneven episode (so many musical sketches – she’s an Oscar nominee, I think the writers could have given her something more) lots of fun to watch. My favourite part was her monologue, which I link to below.

Kendrick is perhaps best known for her roles in musical Pitch Perfect and the Twilight series, but she’s had a number of memorable supporting roles, including her Oscar-nominated turn in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, and 50/50Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and End of Watch. She’s going to have a hell of a year: her IMDb page has her in six projects slated for 2014, including Rob Marshall’s Into the Woods, out Christmas Day.

Kendrick is the eighth first-time host this season. They’ve ranged from the fantastic (Drake, Kerry Washington) to the good (Josh Hutcherson, Lady GaGa, Lena Dunham) to the bad (Jim Parsons, Edward Norton, though that Wes Anderson spoof was phenomenal). I wished Kendrick would join Drake and Washington as a fantastic first-time host. I think she was all in, ultra game and endlessly cute, but didn’t have the greatest material to work with.

Next week’s episode will be hosted by Seth Rogen with musical guest Ed Sheeran.

You can check out my recap of Anna Kendrick on SNL below – and let me know what you thought! – and the rest of my recaps of the show, which I do every week, here..

IN CANADA, YOU CAN STREAM THE EPISODE ON GLOBAL’S WEBSITE ON SUNDAY, USUALLY BY NOON.

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Cold open

Rough start to tonight’s episode. A mock hearing about a faulty ignition on Chevy Cobalts featured a clueless GM exec (the wonderful Kate McKinnon, whose go-to “We’re looking into that” wasn’t funny the first time, let alone the 12th) being harangued by Congress people about GM and corporate responsibility. Aren’t those recipes for comedy gold? I’m nervous about what they’ve chosen for the cold open, because this was really weak and unfunny, but I hope it’s not indicative of the 90 minutes to come. Anna Kendrick deserves better. Video via mediaite.com.

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