*** 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 Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Mumford & Sons episode (September 22, 2012). Here's the original review I wrote for the sketch:
Sketch - Hypnotist
• Oh, I loved this! The whole sketch was pulled off very well, and Taran was an absolute riot. He had me laughing so much all throughout this; not only with the main things he did of course, but even the little things like him silently mouthing various things to the crowd ("I'm not really hypnotized!", etc.), the way his face looked whenever his character would laugh (there was something about his fake mustache that made his smile/laugh look so humorous)... his whole performance just killed me.
• They really fooled me towards the end with Taran confessing to having an affair, followed by him and Vanessa arguing. I wasn't expecting the revelation afterwards that they both were actually faking. That was a fantastic twist.
• I know I've said this about Taran in several sketches last season, but performance-wise he totally reminded me of Will Ferrell during this sketch, and I love that. There's a certain fearlessness, a certain approach to physical comedy we see in Taran from time to time that makes me realize he just might be the closest SNL's come to having a player like Will Ferrell ever since he left the cast in 2002. And it's not just roles like this where I see Ferrell in Taran; there's a certain way he has handled some of his subtle roles, too, that immediately brought Ferrell to mind. Taran's already been a very good castmember in his own right so far, but when he displays Ferrell-esque leadership and fearlessness like in this particular sketch, it 1) makes me even more excited for him as a performer, and 2) gives me absolutely no doubt that he's on his way to becoming the star of the show in the future. It's stuff like this that makes him stand out from the rest of this current cast.
• I really would like to know what exactly the point is of having the audience applaud at the beginning of every cold opening after one of the performers starts speaking. It always just comes off so awkward to me.
• This cold opening wasn't really bad, but it took a very predictable approach to the Donald Sterling story and I wish they could've been more creative.
• Taran's intro was decent (especially the "high-fives" line), Bobby did fine in the main role, Sasheer's walk-on didn't make me laugh at all, Jay was okay (especially him talking in Korean) and his Rodman impression seems to have improved from when he last played him, and Kenan's part would've been funnier if he had walked off after the initial "Look..." & "come on..."s - we didn't really need the whole college explanation bit.
• I do like how they segued into LFNY by having Bobby say "I've always wanted to say this...", if only because it's a welcome change from the boring, uncreative "and one more thing..." or just "and..." segues they ALWAYS use nowadays. But man, this seems to be the season of group LFNYs. SNL appears to be going out of their way to do one almost every week nowadays. I know that's a dumb thing to nitpick about, but something about it bugs me, almost as if this is SNL's forced way of making the show seem more "exciting". But who knows, maybe this is just SNL's way of getting every single featured player this year to say LFNY at least once before the season's over. The only FPs left who are still "LFNY Virgins" are Kyle, Mike, and John (Colin doesn't count for obvious reasons).
Monologue - Andrew Garfield
• Nice energetic entrance from Andrew at the beginning.
• Did we really need two monologues in a row that relied on a celebrity cameo(s) to do the heavy lifting? This is starting to become as annoying a monologue crutch as the song-and-dance or questions-from-the-audience routines. Luckily for tonight's monologue, the celebrity cameo was from Emma Stone, who always performs reliably well on the show. But I was not a big fan of this overall monologue, despite a few okay lines.
• Surprisingly nice recognition applause from the audience when Aidy walked on. That's rare for a cast member who's only in their second season.
Commercial - Stanx
• Further proof that the writing has been relying more and more on cheap bathroom humor in the second half of this season...
• I always like seeing Beck in non-straight roles and he performed well here; I especially loved his funny delivery of "Thanks, Stanx!" at the end. But the majority of this commercial just had me going "Really, SNL?" The idea behind this was not only juvenile, but also wasn't creative at all (it felt like any fifth-grader could've written it in five minutes) and didn't lend itself to many laughs (i.e. the weak repeated gag of showing the back of Beck's pants inflating).
• However, I admit to getting a genuine laugh from the exploding apartment gag, which wasn't enough to redeem the commercial but was at least a decent way to end it.
Sketch - Celebrity Edition Family Feud
• I guess I'm okay with this being recurring. While the first installment was far from one of my favorites of the season, it was a fun parade of impressions, as was tonight's installment. And these sketches are pretty much the only way I'm able to find Kenan's Steve Harvey tolerable.
• My favorites of the impressions were Jay's Drake, Noel's Reba (wish she had more lines), and Taran's "singing" as Russell Crowe. I remember Jay actually did a (voice) impression of Drake years ago in that Thanksgiving hip-hop songs commentary that Jay did as himself on Update back in his first season, but I wasn't familiar enough with Drake back then to appreciate the impression.
• Strange that Andrew played Justin Timberlake, considering in the first installment, Timberlake himself played that night's host, Jimmy Fallon. Does this mean in the next installment, that week's host will play Andrew Garfield?
Sketch - Oliver Twist
• Didn't care for this AT ALL. Aside from Andrew's "pussy" line at the beginning and Kate's funny delivery all throughout, there were no laughs to be found at all in this strange, dull sketch.
• What the heck kind of accent was Cecily supposed to be doing anyway? At first, I thought it was southern, but then I wasn't so sure as the sketch went on. I can't figure out WHAT accent that was.
• There's been a long string of recent bad sketches featuring Cecily in the lead role, and this is just another one of them. I fear she may be slowly turning into the type of female performer every recent era seems to have who always has the lead role in at least one terrible "showcase" sketch per week (i.e. Maya Rudolph, Molly Shannon in her later seasons, Kristen Wiig).
Short - The Beygency
• A very well-done short; one of the better filmed pieces of the season, in fact.
• Everything in this was pulled off perfectly, and there were some great laughs, especially from Bobby as the store owner pulling out a rifle and almost shooting Andrew, the Kiefer Sutherland/Jack Bauer cameo, Andrew's whispery long scream after Jack Bauer and Chloe got shot, the agents all doing the Singles Ladies dance, and the part with Kate in the locked room.
• They seemed to cue the applause lights & SNL Band a few seconds too early, which made Kate's final line almost completely inaudible.
• Kate always gets some good laughs as her Russian villager character, and this was another good appearance from her. I especially liked the "f my life" bit. The Full House running gag contained some funny lines as well.
• Leslie Jones doing an Update commentary was very unexpected. It's always interesting when SNL gets one of their writers to do an Update bit. They tried bringing that back for a short period a few years ago (around 2010) by having writers John Mulaney and Hannibal Burress do a few commentaries (except none of Hannibal's ever made it past dress). I wonder if tonight will be the start of that trend coming back. Which other current writers are capable of potentially doing their own Update commentaries? I normally would say I'd love to see Michael Che try one, but he's apparently on his way out (unfortunately).
• Anyway, getting back on-topic, I enjoyed Leslie's commentary. She had some funny lines and her delivery and overall demeanor made me laugh. In fact, I'd say she displayed more comedic potential in this one commentary than Sasheer Zamata has during her entire half-season. I can't help but wonder if this is like when SNL had the hilarious black comedian J.B. Smoove stuck in the writers room while the less-funny Kenan and Finesse Mitchell were in the cast instead of him.
• Jebidiah Atkinson! I said this in my review of his last commentary, but he's the first recurring character in ages who actually gets me cheering whenever he shows up. A week or so ago, I was wondering if the next Jebidiah appearance would be on the season finale, which would've been a great way to finish the season, but I guess there are no award shows or anything else around that time that would usually warrant a Jebidiah appearance, which I guess is why we're getting him tonight instead. Either way, I can't complain at all. Tonight was the usual great stuff from him; I especially loved his Of Mice and Men, Wicked, Annie, and Abraham Lincoln comments. And it can't be said enough how much I LOVE the fact that his commentaries are filled with lots of great ad-libbing whenever anything goes wrong. Taran is a fantastic improviser. I also liked how at the very end, he referenced Leslie Jones' commentary from earlier, with the "Can a bitch get a beef bowl?" callback.
Sketch - Spiderman Kiss
• Blah. The show often seems to do sketches like this where during the filming of a movie or TV show, an actor doesn't know how to perform a very simple task (i.e. that stupid sketch with Taylor Lautner where he was a high school football player filming a head shot for a promo and he didn't know how to smile properly into the camera), and more often than not, those sketches end up being weak. This one was no exception.
• One of my few laughs came from the part where the heads of the "kissing doubles" were sloppily superimposed into the Spiderman 1 clip.
• Jay's performance as the marker guy was weird but made me laugh and he managed to make the most out of his bit role.
• Hated the ending, as "newspaper headline" endings always fall flat and are a lazy cop-out.
Sketch - Wedding
• I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this. In fact, I find it to be one of the stronger live sketches in quite a while. Between Andrew's fine performance, the good writing, the funny unexpected twists that kept occurring, and the fact that they ended this at the perfect time without letting it go on too long, I was very entertained by this.
• The various turns this took kinda reminded me of how the well-loved Cartoon Catchphrase sketch from earlier this season had a lot of surprise twists, which makes me wonder if this wedding sketch was another Kelly & Schneider-written piece.
Commercial - The Bird Bible
• Rerun. It's always disappointing whenever the show ends with a repeat commercial. And is it just me, or did the post-Update half of this episode feel unusually short? In fact, there weren't many live sketches in this whole episode; only two in the first half, and two in the second half. Strange. I can't remember the last episode that had so few sketches.