Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - Jesse Eisenberg and Nicki Minaj
Hot off the Oscar nominations comes Jesse Eisenberg to host tonight’s episode of “Saturday Night Live.” The musical guest? His twin sister, Nicki Minaj. OK, maybe they aren’t twins like the Winklevoss brothers, but there will surely be plenty of references to “The Social Network” throughout the show. Plus? Real-life Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been rumored to appear tonight as well. It’s unclear if he’ll appear in the monologue, in a sketch, or simply on “Weekend Update” to announce that he’s purchased Colorado and renamed it Zuckerburbia. Guess we’ll have to watch and see for ourselves.
Onto the recap!
“Cold Open”: Oh boy. Michelle Bachmann’s second attempt to make the Tea Party response to the State of the Union address took something already funny (namely, the technical ineptitude of the initial attempt) and made it less funny through obvious sight gags. Plus? Four minutes of Kristen Wiig not directly addressing the camera didn’t produce comedy so much as awkward tension, like when your not-all-there relative talks to invisible people during Thanksgiving dinner. A kernel of a good idea was there (namely, how belt-tightening could produce less-than-stellar results on things such as nationally televised presentations), but buried beneath the more obvious yet less appealing main idea. [Grade: D+]
“Monologue”: You’re never gonna believe this, but Jesse Eisenberg is mocking his own awkwardness. The monologue isn’t so much about introducing Eisenberg to the audience so much as an extended PR move for Zuckerberg, who flubbed his backstage stuff with Lorne Michaels but actually came across decently well once onstage. Anything Zuckerberg can do to make people less afraid of his eventual ownership of the world is probably a smart move on his part. Doing something like this will probably earn more goodwill than the large donation he made to Newark schools last year on Oprah. As a public relations move, good stuff. As a monologue? So so. [Grade: B-] [And watch the monologue here.]
“Estro-Maxx”: For the pre-op transvestite on the go, there’s this once-a-day pill that helps you on your way. I liked this commercial better when it was for “Annuale,” the once-a-year menstruation drug. Do you find men with breasts funny? Then this was your sketch of the year, even though it’s only January. [Grade: C]
“Mr. Wizard’s World”: Funny that Mark Zuckerberg is in the house tonight, since this plays like the best SNL sketch that the Zucker Brothers (“Airplane,” “Top Secret”) never wrote. You could say I’m easily amused, but look at those earlier grades: that’s just not the case. Lines like “It felt like a good headache!” and “I wanna do science in the shower!” had me laughing out loud, a physical response that’s quite infrequent when Stefon isn’t onscreen these days. This sketch gets a slight grade bump due to knowing when to quit: another two minutes of the same joke would have killed it flat. As it stood? Total gold. [Grade: A-]
“Don’t Forget The Lyrics”: This sketch got much more mileage out of Mark McGrath’s prison sentence hosting this gig than in the incorrect lyrics supplied by Eisenberg’s nervous contestant. The actual incorrectly sung lyrics weren’t unfunny, but getting to the punch line sometimes took forever, thus dulling their impact. Still, at least the sketch didn’t try to employ a variety of celebrity impressions and make a musical version of “Celebrity Jeopardy.” So, there’s that. [Grade: B-]
“WXPD News New York”: Hey, it’s Herb, everyone! This character caused quite a divided response here at HitFix last time, though I must admit I’m pretty much a homer for every time that Bill Hader breaks up during a sketch and thus enjoyed this one more than its last attempt. (Weird, since I used to throw things at the screen when Horatio Sanz used to break into fits of laughter. Probably because he did that in EVERY SKETCH.) That goodwill made lines like, “There you have it: the city college now fully integrated!” have a lot more punch than his last iteration. I usually abhor the show’s tendency to go to the same wells week in and week out in terms of either character or sketch concept, but after this round, I wouldn’t mind a third with Herb to see if Hader can develop this character a bit more. [Grade: B]
“The Creep”: Nicki Minaj makes an earlier-than-expected appearance in this digital short, which plays like a modern-day Sugar Hill Gang if, you know, that gang happened to be filled with sex offenders. Minaj is known for her guest appearances on other rappers’ records, and her verse here didn’t disappoint. (The line about “T Rexin’” was especially clever.) Nothing that we haven’t see The Lonely Island boys do before, except this one will probably cause a lot more frat guys to be maced by women unimpressed by the cultural reference all up in their grill on the dance floor. [Grade: B]
Fresh off creepin’ a corpse, it’s Nicki Minaj onstage performing “Right Thru Me.” She wouldn’t look out of place in Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” in that outfit. For all her manic energy in other performances, this song (and that dress) produce a slightly more demure and unenergetic performance. Nothing bad about this, but nothing particularly interesting either. Too bad, since of all the adjectives used to describe Minaj, “uninteresting” is almost never one of them. [Grade: C+]
“Weekend Update”: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak blames Time-Warner for the internet blackout in his country, an excuse that probably rings true for a lot of customers of Time-Warner. (Mubarak also continued the recent trend of Weekend Update portraying major political figures as Catskills comedians.) “Tyler Perry Presents Tyler Perry” talks “White People Problems,” which I’m pretty sure is a hashtag used by most of the people I follow on Twitter. His description of “Adventureland” as a movie “where a young man is sad because he has a job” might be the line of the night. As for Seth Meyers’ material: a hit and miss collection, as always. [Grade: B-]
“TCM Essentials: Bride of Blackenstein”: FREE JAY PHARAOH! Oh, there he is, for the first time all night. (Next up: releasing Vanessa Bayer.) Unfortunately, the Bride of Blackenstein isn’t going to be that time, with Minaj onscreen with the brain of a DMV employee and the mouth of a “ho that didn’t know her place.” Eisenberg-as-Igor is pretty inspired casting, and after chastising the show for it’s lack of ethnic diversity on the female side of the cast recently, I must point out that Minaj is proving how valuable such diversity could be if employed on weeks in which, you know, she’s not the musical guest. By the time Hader’s incredibly offensive mob member came on the scene, I was busy trying to figure out why this wasn’t the first post-monologue sketch of the night. A sketch that could have been terrible ends up as the strongest one so far. [Grade: A]
“MTV Skins Controversy”: I like slutty mashed potatoes as much as any red-blooded American, but after the heights of the last sketch, this product-placement crazy sketch just fell flat. If it featured anything more than four people just staring at cue cards, maybe there would have been something. As such, it felt like a sketch rewritten during “Weekend Update” and thrown on to fill some time. [Grade: D+]
“Spa Talk”: If you ever wanted to hear Abby Elliott’s impression of Rosie Perez, well, this is the sketch for you. Maybe this sketch was funny, but I was too distracted by the possibility of Eisenberg pulling a “Basic Instinct” and showing us an up-robe shot while sitting in the spa chair. On the plus side? Vanessa Bayer is alive! Our 80-minute national nightmare is over. [Grade: C]
Nicki Minaj is back, with her Bride of Blackenstein hair intact for “Moment 4 Life.” Much more energy in this number, which shows off her unique flow much more than her first number tonight. Let’s face it: tonight, she’s the female MVP of the show, pretty much by default. Not many chances for the female members of the cast to shine tonight, save perhaps Nasim Pedrad and her oversexed science student way back in “Mr. Wizard’s World.” [Grade: B+]
“El Shrinko”: Yup, that is a 12:55 am sketch alright. Bizarre as can be, but also fairly amusing, mostly thanks to the disaffected ladies pitching the product and the “what the hell was Hader doing” moment near the end. Harmless as can be, not unlike Randy’s penis, apparently. [Grade: B-]
Best Sketch: “TCM Essentials: Bride of Blackenstein”
Worst Sketch: “MTV Skins Controversy”
Could Have Been Great Moment: Mark Zuckerberg and Tyler Perry having a “Money Count Off” during “Weekend Update”
What did you think of Jesse Eisenberg’s performance? Did he acquit himself nicely, or did he take a back seat to the cast like so many hosts this year? Did “Bride of Blackenstein” point the way towards new sketch possibilities for the show, or simply serve as a one-off? Leave your thoughts below!