Maya Rudolph / Sleigh Bells
February 18, 2012


***** = Excellent, a possible future classic

**** = Great

*** = Average

** = Meh

* = How'd this get past dress?

Cold Opening - New York Sports Now

• I’m surprised the show isn’t beginning with a sketch starring Maya, but I can’t complain.

• Always refreshing whenever they do a non-political cold opening.

• This was a great satire of all the fawning over the Knicks’ new golden boy Jeremy Lin. Some of my biggest laughs here came from Taran’s fried chicken joke, the re-dubbed interview with Jeremy Lin, and the “Tolerant” ad.

• Overall, this is easily one of the best cold openings of the season so far.

Stars: ****

Monologue - Maya Rudolph

• A monologue that begins with Maya singing as usual, accompanied by backup dancers? Yawn. But wait... there’s a twist! She’s headed backstage now? A backstage monologue? Alright! Sorry for my excitement; it’s just that I’m a sucker for monologues that involve the host going backstage and talking to various cast/crew members... I especially love when they do this in episodes hosted by a former castmember. This definitely managed to save the dull first half of this monologue.

• Andy Samberg’s hair seems to be getting shorter and shorter these days. Remember when his wild shaggy hairstyle from his earlier seasons used to pretty much be his trademark?

• A few months ago, I pointed out in my review of Jimmy Fallon’s monologue that I was surprised Seth wasn’t in that since he usually appears briefly in the monologues whenever a former castmember is hosting (i.e. Tracy Morgan, Amy Poehler)... I guess his absence from Fallon’s monologue was just a fluke, because here he is in Maya’s monologue.

• Speaking of Seth’s appearance here, what was with that gong sound effect along with Maya crossing her eyes after she greeted Seth? I didn’t get that part at all.

• I was almost expecting them to throw in a joke where Maya is surprised that Seth, Fred, and Kenan are still on the show after all these years. SNL used to do jokes like that very often with Tim Meadows in his later seasons when former castmembers from his earlier seasons hosted.

• Wow, Stefon and Paul Simon came out of nowhere. I know Stefon is an overused character, but I don’t mind when they throw him in different settings like they did here. It was at least a change of pace seeing him away from the Weekend Update set.

Stars: ***

Sketch - Bronx Beat with Betty & Jodi

• It’s kinda funny how the last time they did this sketch, Amy was the one hosting SNL and Maya was just making a cameo. Now tonight, it’s the other way around.

• I was wondering beforehand who would play the guest in this installment and I figured it would be Andy since, if I remember correctly, he played a guest in the cut Bronx Beat dress rehearsal sketch from the Betty White episode that was posted online. My prediction turned out to be half-correct: Andy DID show up as the guest in tonight’s installment, but I definitely didn’t expect Timberlake to join him.

• There was actually an out-of-the-ordinary twist where they turned the tables by having Justin and Andy’s characters do Maya and Amy’s routine on them, leaving them surprised. While I still didn’t find this all that funny, SNL at least deserves credit for doing something different and unexpected with the formula, which is very rare for recurring sketches nowadays.

• I did get a good genuine laugh from Amy’s line about the vibrating cellphone at the end.

• Overall, while I still didn’t care for this sketch as a whole, it wasn’t too bad for Bronx Beat standards.

Stars: **

Commercial - Maya Angelou’s: I Know Why the Caged Bird Laughs

• Pretty interesting sketch.

• Maya’s impression of Maya (sorry, I couldn’t resist typing that) was... um, her impression actually kinda creeped me out. There was something about her sleepy-looking eyes combined with those slow eerie smiles she kept giving the camera that almost unnerved me a bit.

• The weird thing about Bill playing Stephen King tonight is that just yesterday, I was thinking about how much Stephen King and Bill Hader resemble each other and how it’s strange that Bill has never played him on SNL after all these years. Then just one day later, it finally happens. Eerie.

Stars: ***

Sketch - Jay-Z and Beyonce’s Baby

• After hearing about the purportedly-great “Jay-Z in the Maternity Ward” sketch that unfortunately got cut a few episodes ago, it’s good that another different Jay-Z baby sketch made it on the air.

• Jay’s impression of Jay (sorry, I couldn’t resist typing that) is always excellent, and it’s about time they centered a whole sketch around it.

• Kenan as LL Cool J? Uh... nice try, but NO.

• Ha, the return of Taran’s very bizarre “Bahhhh!” take on Brad Pitt, which I remember left so many people (including myself) absolutely puzzled the first time Taran did this version of him. I have to admit, it’s grown on me and Taran did make the impression funnier tonight. I STILL think he sounds more like Tony Danza, though, when he does those “bahhhh!” sounds.

• Kristen’s impression of Taylor Swift is an accurate parody of Swift’s insanely-humble personality, particularly whenever she gives an acceptance speech at award shows. Also, Kristen’s impression of her has something in common with Bill’s impression of Lindsey Buckingham: they never speak!

• I was wondering who would play Justin Vernon, the lead singer of Bon Iver, when Andy introduced him, and it ended up being Timberlake in another cameo. Justin’s impression of Justin (sorry, I couldn’t resist typing that... I’ll knock it off, I swear) was pretty good, especially the unintelligible lyrics at the end.

• Very strange end to this sketch. Was that ending supposed to be as awkward as it came off? Maya cracking up right before the camera faded to black suggests that it wasn’t planned.

Stars: **½

Weekend Update - Seth Meyers with special co-anchor Amy Poehler, featuring... no guests at all

• Best jokes: CBS, Too nice on Valentine’s Day

• A new “Really” segment? Yawn. “Really” has lost all of its spark and needs to stop. It’s already pretty much jumped the shark, so there’s no reason to continue dragging this out. Most of tonight’s “Really” fell flat with me, although I did kinda like Amy’s Transvaginal bit.

• BTW, did Tina Fey send that Transvaginal bit in, because that had her writing style all over it, especially the “lady business” line.

• I had to laugh when I read an observation on the Voy SNL board regarding how Seth’s already-loud, overly-theatrical voice seems to get even louder and LOUDER in these “Really” segments. Very true.

• Amy’s “Hips Don’t Lie” joke reminds me of the type of cheesy pun-based jokes she used to regularly tell during her years on Update (i.e. that “Kim Jong Not-Ill” joke she told in the Update from the episode she hosted last season).

• Wow, no guest commentaries at all on tonight’s Update, which is very rare. I think the last one that featured no guest commentaries is the Update from the Steve Martin / Prince episode all the way back in 2006! That was back when Fey & Poehler were the Update anchors.

Stars: *½

Sketch - What Up With That?

• Aw man, we almost went through the whole season without this played-out sketch. Up until now, I was beginning to think they retired WUWT with the Ed Helms installment, which would’ve been a fitting end considering the real Lindsay Buckingham made a cameo in that one.

• What happened with Taran during the beginning? For some odd reason, he paused abruptly in the middle of his introduction and just froze awkwardly, as if something went wrong.

• At least the random special guest selections for WUWT are still somewhat inspired. Bill O’Reilly - now there’s someone who I never thought I’d ever see on the SNL stage.

• Jay’s appearance as Geoffrey Canada was pretty funny.

• Who was Abby playing in her quick appearance? Or was that just a random character?

Stars: *½

Sketch - Super Showcase

• Yeah... I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that there was probably no writing involved in this sketch AT ALL. I think one of the writers just simply came up with a basic gameshow setting, then Lorne threw Maya and Kristen out there and told them to ad-lib lots of crazy stuff to fill time. As a result, the sketch was an absolute disaster.

• Don’t get me wrong - stuff like performers breaking character and cracking up (which has happened quite a lot tonight in general) doesn’t bother me these days, so that’s not the reason why I didn’t like this. The character-breaking didn’t make up for the fact that this sketch was an awful, material-less filler segment that was an absolute waste of time in my opinion.

• Props to Vanessa for being the only performer in the sketch who kept a straight face.

Stars: *

Sketch - The Obama Show

• As someone who’s always been a huge fan of The Cosby Show, I definitely enjoyed this. Very creative idea to do a hybrid of the Obamas and the Huxtables, and they got the whole tone of a typical Cosby Show episode down perfectly.

• The idea behind this reminded me a little bit of a sketch from 2006 where they had Kenan as Colin Powell starring in a Sanford and Son-esque sitcom. I wonder if the person who wrote that sketch came up with this Obama Cosby one as well.

• The replication of the Cosby Show opening credits was absolutely DEAD-ON. So much attention to detail went into that sequence, even down to crediting Jason’s Biden as “Joe Jamal-Biden”.

• Speaking of Jason’s Biden, he was hilarious in this sketch. Just the image of him in both the Cosby sweater during the opening credits and that ridiculous purple outfit during the actual sketch cracked me up to no end, as well the idea of him trying to act like a cool teenager.

• Props to the writers for not going the cheap route of having Kenan and Jay dress in drag as Sasha and Malia.

• I liked Maya’s ad-lib(?) about eating the rice cake off the floor.

Stars: ***½

Sketch - How’s He Doing?

• An okay sketch, if a bit forgettable. Not too bad, though.

• Lots of Jay Pharoah tonight. It’s official: he has definitely inherited the “only gets used a lot whenever there’s a black host” deal from Tracy Morgan in his first few seasons.

• Speaking of Jay, my biggest laugh of this sketch came from Jay’s line about how he celebrated Obama’s election win by breakdancing in the streets for three days straight. In fact, almost all of the funny lines in this sketch came from Jay’s character; he had another funny bit about how Mitt Romney looks like the villain in every blaxploitation movie ever.

Stars: ***


Episode Highlights:

• New York Sports Now

• The Obama Show

• the second half of the monologue

Episode Lowlights:

• Super Showcase

• What Up With That?

• some portions of Bronx Beat

Best Performer of the Night:

• Jay Pharoah


ARMISEN: 4 sketches (Monologue, Jay-Z and Beyonce, WUWT, Obama Show)

ELLIOTT: 2 sketches (Jay-Z and Beyonce, WUWT)

HADER: 5 sketches (New York Sports, Monologue, Maya Angelou, WUWT, Super Showcase)

MEYERS: 2 sketches (Monologue, Update)

MOYNIHAN: 1 sketch (WUWT)

PEDRAD: 2 sketches (Jay-Z and Beyonce, WUWT)

SAMBERG: 4 sketches (Monologue, Bronx Beat, Jay-Z and Beyonce, WUWT)

SUDEIKIS: 3 sketches (Monologue, WUWT, Obama Show)

THOMPSON: 6 sketches (New York Sports, Monologue, Maya Angelou, Jay-Z and Beyonce, WUWT, How’s He Doing)

WIIG: 3 sketches (Monologue, Jay-Z and Beyonce, Super Showcase)

BAYER: 2 sketches (WUWT, Super Showcase)

KILLAM: 4 sketches (New York Sports, Jay-Z and Beyonce, WUWT, Obama Show)

PHAROAH: 5 sketches (New York Sports, Maya Angelou, Jay-Z and Beyonce, WUWT, How’s He Doing)

MAYA RUDOLPH: 8 sketches (Monologue, Bronx Beat, Maya Angelou, Jay-Z and Beyonce, WUWT, Super Showcase, Obama Show, How’s He Doing)

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