Lena Dunham / The National
March 8, 2014

*** Stooge's Look-Back Sketch Review of the Week ***

Since this is my final year of doing SNL reviews after 14 long consecutive seasons, I'll be starting each of my reviews this season with a special "look back" on one of my all-time favorite sketches from the seasons that I've reviewed, by re-posting the original review I wrote for the selected sketch back when it originally aired.

Tonight's look back will be at a sketch from the Scarlett Johansson/Death Cab For Cutie episode (January 14, 2006). Here's the original review I wrote for the sketch:

[SKETCH] Fly High Duluth

-- SNL was having technical difficulties with the microphones at the beginning: you couldn’t hear a word Jason was saying and the camera cut to Amy for a split second for no reason.

-- This sketch went on for a very long time obviously, but Will had me dying with his with his crazy singing, insane facial expressions, and chugging the Jack Daniels, and there were a lot of other funny things to keep it from getting old.

-- It’s good to see another “Bizarre Will Forte Sketch of the Week” so soon after the success of his Spelling Bee sketch from the last episode.

-- Fred’s drum solo was awesome, as well as the look on his face.

-- There maybe could’ve been a little more variety in the band scenes or show Jason and Amy doing funnier stuff in their reaction shots, but overall, this was very good and the best sketch of the night.

RATING: ****1/2



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

**** = Great

*** = Average

** = Meh

* = How'd this get past dress?

Cold Opening - A Message from President Obama

• A very welcome change-of-pace from the usual presidential address-the-nation cold opening. One of the upsides to this season is that with Jim Downey gone, there's been a noticeable absence of dull “one person speaking to the camera the whole time” snoozefest cold openings. In fact, there's been very few political cold openings this season in general. Tonight's is the first one since December, I believe.

• The Liam Neeson twist was very good, and I really enjoyed the pre-taped action video they showed.

Stars: ***½

Monologue - Lena Dunham

• Despite the fact that it became very obvious where this was headed after a while and the fact that this felt similarly-structured to Kerry Washington's monologue, this still turned out decent with enough laughs.

• My favorite parts were Vanessa with her "tires" analogy and the whole bit with Bobby and his robe.

Stars: ***

Short - Ooh Child

• I was a bit surprised to see a short this early in the episode.

• An okay short that somehow managed to work even though the main joke of "someone's singing always gets cut off by a GPS" isn't exactly something that sounds laugh-out-loud funny on paper.

• What really made this, though, was the unexpected dark twist ending with a tied-up Brooks Wheelan, which was great and came out of nowhere.

Stars: ***

Sketch - Scandal

• I have to wonder if this was written by the same person behind that 1940s Newspaper Office sketch with Zooey Deschanel ("Is everyone here on cocaine?"), as both sketches had basically the same premise with the hosts playing the same role.

• Despite that, I didn't have much of a problem with this sketch. It was a pretty good parody of Scandal, with several funny jokes. In fact, I actually liked this better than the Zooey Deschanel newspaper sketch, which didn't go anywhere after the premise was established.

• I especially liked the appearance from Taran as the fictional president, who once again reminded me of Will Ferrell for some reason during his interaction with Sasheer.

• Beck looked almost completely unrecognizable here.

Stars: ***

Sketch - What's Poppin'

• Seeing Jay and Kenan co-starring together in an urban talk show sketch made me wonder whatever happened to their "The Finer Things" sketch from last season's Joseph Gordon-Levitt episode. I would've bet anything back when that originally aired that it would end up becoming a recurring sketch, not that I wanted it to.

• Didn't care much for this overall sketch, as the joke with the "rap" group got old too fast for my likes, and I'm tired of how so many sketches nowadays rely on the overdone "cutaway to people's frozen-faced reactions when something weird is going on" routine. The constant Sprite jokes really fell flat, too, and the sketch's abrupt ending made it feel like this got cut off too early or something.

• Some parts I did like were the album cover with Sasheer, the fact that Jay's character was named "Lil' Taint Anthony", Jay pulling out the plug to stop the band's music, and Aidy's line about her "flute amp".

• Mike's character being named "Tim" makes one wonder if this sketch was written by Tim Robinson, especially since Mike and Brooks Wheelan both seem to be the go-to guys for any lead roles in a Tim Robinson-written sketch (which I find strange, considering that out of this current cast, Kyle Mooney has far more similarities to Tim Robinson as a performer than either Mike or Brooks).

Stars: **

Commercial - Biblical Movie

• Not sure if I can judge this fairly. As I said in my review of the Tina Fey season premiere when talking about the Girls parody they did there, I've never actually watched Girls (and from what I hear, I should consider myself lucky). I was still able to enjoy the parody SNL did in the season premiere because even without knowing much about the show, the parody came off very well-done, funny, and appealing to all viewers, including those that have never seen the real show. Tonight's Girls parody, however, seemed more like something that you would have to be a regular Girls viewer in order to "get". I was too lost during most of the references here and wasn't able to really enjoy this commercial.

Stars: **

Sketch - What Are You Even Doing? You're Being Crazy

• Ugh, the title alone makes me hope this sketch never becomes recurring, because I'm not looking forward to having to type such a wordy, hard-to-remember title each time. Maybe it would be more accurate to just title it "Nasim Little Kid Sketch #6,319,098".

• Nasim continues her recent streak of creating new characters that just don't work for me. Add in the fact that this was yet ANOTHER interchangeable little kid character of hers (seriously, does Nasim have an endless supply of child characters or something?) and the fact that this used the beyond-overdone talk show format, and you have a recipe for a sketch that I'm going to really dislike.

• Another issue I have with this is that it reminded me too much of Nasim's "My Brother Knows Everything" sketch that she did with Emma Stone playing her friend/co-host and Andy Samberg playing the brother. Thankfully, that sketch never became recurring, but I don't think we're going to be so lucky with this one.

• At first, Bobby was the only thing saving this, but then Jon Hamm made his obligatory Annual Cameo of the Season and helped make this sketch more tolerable just by being himself. I especially liked his Dateline comment and him burying his face in his hands in shame after doing the "face-flirting" bit.

• I wanted to like Kyle's character and I'm always happy to see him getting any noteworthy roles in live sketches, but he wasn't really given an opportunity to be funny in this, although I guess his awkward/nervous look throughout the whole sketch was chuckleworthy.

Stars: **

Weekend Update - Strong & Jost, featuring Matthew McConaughey, Putin's Best Friends From Growing Up

• Best jokes: New ad campaign/stoned drivers

• Third Update in a row with a Taran Killam commentary, and as always, he knocked this one out of the park, though this one seems to be getting a very mixed reaction among online SNL fans - it seems like people either absolutely loved it or absolutely hated it. I personally loved his McConaughey impression, and he had me cracking up throughout. He totally nailed McConaughey's demeanor and "deep" ramblings. My favorite parts were the braille bit and the Inspector Gadget reference at the end.

• WTF??? Putin's Two Best Friends From Gr-- Oh, you have got to be freakin' kidding me. You've GOT to be. And THREE Fred Armisen cameos in four months, when it hasn't even been a full year since he left the cast? I don't even know where to begin with all of this. I honestly don't. I'm probably better off just leaving it at that, because if I DO try to say anything, it'll end up turning into an angry paragraph-long Fred Armisen rant, and I don't have the energy for that right now.

Stars: **½

Sketch - Jewelry Party

• Wow, two lead roles in one night for Mike O'Brien, and oddly, both roles had him as the only male in an all-female group.

• I laughed at the initial revelation of Mike being a men’s rights activist, which had me expecting the sketch to be really good, but unfortunately, what followed for the rest of the sketch wasn't anywhere near as funny as I thought it would be. The overall sketch ended up being pretty forgettable.

• I have to wonder if Mike can do anything besides play awkward roles all the time. Even when he's not playing an intentionally-awkward character, he often tends to come off awkward (though not quite as much these last two episodes) to the degree that I have to question whether it's even acting or not.

• I remember reading sometime at the beginning of last season (when Cecily, Aidy, and Tim Robinson first joined SNL) that Cecily did a Sofia Vergara impression in her SNL audition, and I've always been curious to see what her impression is like. Why do I bring that up here, you ask? Oh, no reason...........

Stars: **

Sketch - Pimpin' Pimpin' Pimpin' with Katt Williams: Oscar Edition

• THREE talk show sketches debuting on the same night (though I realize calling "What's Poppin'" a talk show might be a stretch)? Should we start some kind of contest seeing who on the board can correctly guess which one of the three sketches will be made recurring first? If so, my bet goes to this Katt Williams sketch, which will most likely make its return sometime before the season ends.

• Love Jay's Katt Williams impression, but I'm not thrilled that they used it in such a formulaic talk show sketch like this. Even with the "crazy factor", this sketch still didn't feel all that inventive nor did it do much to distinguish itself much from your typical "celebrity-hosted talk show sketch".

• As for the three guests, Brooks was merely passable, Lena as Liza Minnelli was nothing special despite looking just like her, and Taran had me laughing A LOT with his Harrison Ford impression; he was hilarious.

• Since I'm now a lot more familiar with Lena Dunham than I was back in the season premiere when SNL did their first Girls parody, I was able to appreciate Noel's Lena impression in this sketch. Noel did a very good imitation, for as little as we saw of her.

Stars: **½

Short - Will Smith Concert

• As usual for Good Neighbor, I found this short to be a nice breath of fresh air and it gave me some of my biggest laughs of the night. The humor in this one reminded me of the great Sigma short, in how the fast-paced absurdity kept escalating and escalating as the short progressed.

• Brooks did a fine job here playing off of Beck & Kyle. Brooks has been slowly improving in general these last two weeks, and between this short and the 12 Years A Slave piece, he's also proving he can convincingly play the straight man well in pre-taped segments.

• I laughed at how during the "Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/etc." title screens, a snippet of the Fresh Prince theme song would play each time, which was a funny little touch.

Stars: ***½


Episode Highlights:

• Will Smith Concert

• Taran's Matthew McConaughey commentary on Weekend Update

• A Message from President Obama

Episode Lowlights:

• Putin's Best Friends From Growing Up

• What's Poppin'

• parts of What Are You Even Doing? You're Being Crazy

Best Performer of the Night:

• Taran Killam / Jay Pharoah


BAYER: 3 sketches (Monologue, Update, Jewelry Party)

BRYANT: 3 sketches (Monologue, What's Poppin', Jewelry Party)

KILLAM: 5 sketches (Ooh Child, Scandal, Biblical Movie, Update, Pimpin')

MCKINNON: 2 sketches (Monologue, Scandal)

MOYNIHAN: 2 sketches (Monologue, You're Being Crazy)

PEDRAD: 2 sketches (You're Being Crazy, Jewelry Party)

PHAROAH: 4 sketches (President Obama, Scandal, What's Poppin', Pimpin')

STRONG: 5 sketches (Ooh Child, Scandal, What's Poppin', Update, Jewelry Party)

THOMPSON: 3 sketches (Ooh Child, What's Poppin', Pimpin')

BENNETT: 2 sketches (Scandal, Concert)

JOST: 1 sketch (Update)

MILHISER: 0 sketches

MOONEY: 2 sketches (You're Being Crazy, Concert)

O'BRIEN: 2 sketches (What's Poppin', Jewelry Party)

WELLS: 1 sketch (Pimpin')

WHEELAN: 3 sketches (Ooh Child, Pimpin', Concert)

ZAMATA: 1 sketch (Scandal)

LENA DUNHAM: 8 sketches (Monologue, Ooh Child, Scandal, What's Poppin', Biblical Movie, You're Being Crazy, Jewelry Party, Pimpin')

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