On March 8, 2008, my life changed for the better. On a whim, a friend and I decided to watch Saturday Night Live. I had seen skits from the show before, I’d watched in awe at the Best Of Chris Farley and the Best of Will Ferrell, but never before had I sat down and watched an entire episode. It was an awakening for me. I had never laughed that hard at television, and to this day I don’t think I have. And since that night when Amy Adams invaded my television set, I haven’t missed an episode. 116 consecutive episodes. And I regret nothing. Most college students like to party on Saturday nights. I prefer to watch television’s greatest party. So there is my qualification for this new column. Don’t worry, this is one column I can guarantee will be recurring.
Tina Fey rejoined her former brethren at Studio 8-H Saturday, and I have to be honest, the episode reminded me of just how little I think of Tina Fey as a performer. Don’t get me wrong, she may just be the best comedy writer in the world, (Disagree? Watch 30 Rock.) but as a performer she leaves a lot to be desired. She even hinted at it in her monologue. Over her years at SNL, she never established a recurring character worthy of mention. She had Palin, but Bobby Moynihan in a wig and a dress could have gotten laughs as Palin. Seriously, the writing for those skits was so good that Tina Fey just looked excellent because she got the voice write. In my opinion, Kristen Wiig would have done even better. But Tina made it iconic. Her impression was iconic for the same reason that this week’s episode was exceedingly well executed: when Tina Fey is on stage, everyone else elevates their game. Even thinking of 30 Rock, Fey was nowhere near the funniest performer, but the best scenes always had her in them. She is so good at making people feed off of her that other actors and actresses are better around her. And because of that, this episode was fantastic. Maybe I’d just been waiting for so long for the show to return that I couldn’t fathom a bad episode, but I don’t think that was so. I generally know a bad episode when I see it. This was not one.
Performer of the Week:Kenan Thompson
Bill Hader is gone. Jason Sudeikis is gone. Fred Armisen is gone. Wiig and Samberg are long gone. Seth Meyers is on his way out. Kenan is the only one left from the last generation still performing sketch in and sketch out. And the writers showcased his experience in a big way Saturday. Starting in the cold open, Kenan was hot. I’ve always said the thing that makes Kenan so funny is that he makes things that aren’t anywhere near funny into hilarious staples. He did that in the cold open. Cheesy rap jokes are passé, but Kenan has quite literally made a career out of them on SNL. (See: That, What Up With) Heading into the next full sketch, Kenan had one job, carry a very big suitcase through a doorway. That shouldn’t be funny. It was hilarious. All he did was say “It’ll fit. Oh, it’ll fit!,” and then laugh maniacally. To some, it was the highlight on the night. Then, in the game show skit, we learned what Kenan’s real new purpose is this season: filling in for Bill Hader. Hader used to host every game show, host every stupid old television gag, play the straight man in the most outlandish way imaginable. Kenan is doing that now. (More on that later.) Though this was far from Kenan’s best episode, he did execute in such a precise way that made him the best part. Though we’ll likely see Moynihan and Taran Killam take this trophy more often than Kenan, no one is more valuable to the show right now than the man who has been doing this since he was on Nickelodeon.
Impression of the Week: Noel Wells
This wasn’t a very impression heavy week, so why not give the crown to the new girl for her fantastic Lena Dunham? Yes, Killam and Vanessa Bayer submitted funnier impressions in that skit alone, but there was so much more fodder for them. Playing Lena Dunham is such a subdued impression that mastering it baffles me. I can tell just from the clips I’ve watched online and from this new episode that Wells is going to be the go-to for female impressions. I call her the new girl just because I’ve seen her Zooey Deschanel and it is fantastic. Look it up. Anyway, I like what I saw. I give her three OCD shoulder shakes for that one.
Alarming Absentee: Nasim Pedrad
If this space turns into what I think it will, I’ll just start calling it “Where’s Nasim?” She is such a gifted performer, but the only time she showed up, by my remembrance, was to do a borderline racist interpretation of a Brazilian in the middle of a horde of extras. The writers use Nasim like an extra sometimes and I don’t understand why. Yeah, she’ll show up a lot during update, but she needs to be in more sketches. Also, Killam was underutilized be his standards too, but nowhere near Nasim. I can guarantee you he will be featured more. Nasim probably won’t. It’s a shame.
Facial Expression of the Week: Bobby Moynihan
Farter. Enough said.
Overexplanation of a Joke: Drunk Uncle
This may be my favorite part of the review, but it may be your least favorite. I am about to kill the runner-up for Joke of the Week this week with a ridiculously long-winded explanation. The joke belonged to Update staple Drunk Uncle. He threw out some fantastic one-liners this week (My personal favorite: “You used to go to school until you were 8 and then get married to a factory!”) but the obvious joke of the week for Inebriated Uncle was his take on Breaking Bad. You see, Drunk Uncle is a fan of telling Knock-Knock jokes to Seth. When his relative Meth Nephew, obviously played by Aaron Paul, attempted to tell Seth a Knock-Knock joke, Drunk Uncle did not approve, as he is THE ONE WHO KNOCK-KNOCKS! You see, I’ve never watched an episode of Breaking Bad, but even I think that joke is funny. Because, you know, Drunk Uncle is the one who Knock-Knocks. It’s funny. LAUGH DAMMIT!
Joke of the Week: Lorne Michaels
As it always should, the joke of the week belongs to the man behind the show, Mr. Lorne Michaels. But first, a little background. There is a recurring gag throughout the show that Lorne never learns the name of cast members who aren’t ridiculously important, especially minorities. When Kenan and Finesse Mitchell came up at the same time, they were constantly confused with one another and called “the black ones.” Fast forward to Saturday. Tina Fey needed to use a lifeline in a game show she was playing (See end of column) and Lorne trotted out onto the stage, as SwagTastic as ever, only to ask if Kenan was the new cast member. Except he didn’t say Kenan. He said “Is it the black one?” While Kenan’s reactions were priceless, Lorne’s original joke allowed him to earn J.O.T.W. Honors.
Newbie of the Week: Kyle Mooney
All due respect to Noel Wells, but Kyle Mooney just killed it Saturday. Just watch his face in the monologue and in the game show sketch and you can tell the kid has chops. And you can also tell that the writers trust him, as he got the coveted “New Guy” slot in Weekend Update. (Every year week one, one featured player gets a slot in Update to showcase a character. For example, Jay Pharaoh got it to do his Will Smith impression when he was a rookie and Bill Hader and Andy Samberg got it their freshman year to have an impression battle. Bill won.) And while it wasn’t the best character I’ve ever seen, he seemed smooth doing it, which is always a good sign. I’ve said in the past that I think Mooney and fellow featured player Beck Bennett would be best off doing Digital Short-esque films to fully utilize their humor, but if Kyle wants to just do Update segments, that’s fine by me.
Single Best Skit of the Season…So Far
To borrow from TMQ, let’s keep a running tally of the best sketch of the season at the bottom. This one was pretty obvious to me. So without further ado, the aforementioned game show sketch
NEXT WEEK: Everybody is just twerking 9-to-5 until Miley Cyrus shows up for her second hosting gig, this time probably not as wholesomely.