Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' – Sarah Silverman and Maroon 5
By her own admission, Sarah Silverman wasn’t prepared for her last stint on “Saturday Night Live,” which only lasted 18 total episodes. But was it really a matter of her not being prepared, or simply that her brand of comedy has never matched up with that of the show? That doesn’t make one brand better than another, but certainly produces a potentially odd mix when the two sides reunite tonight. If the show can write to her strengths rather than force her into an uncomfortable mode, this could be quite the unique episode. If not…well, last week’s premiere was pretty good, right? (And I’ve already bought tons of swag from the “Pam 2: The Winter Pam” online store.)
Along for the ride tonight is musical guest Maroon 5. As always, I’ll grade each sketch live as they occur. As always, a vocal minority will take those grades as heinous affronts upon their own existence. I used to keep reiterating that these are snap judgments made from a singular perspective, but I think that message would have gotten through years ago at this point. Onwards and upwards!
Come back at 11:30 pm EST when I’ll kick off the liveblog properly.
60 Minutes: Steve Kroft (Beck Bennett) sits down with President Obama (Jay Pharaoh) to discuss ISIS. It seems that ISIS isn’t just winning on the ground, but in the Twitter-verse as well. They aren’t only infiltrating Twitter, but other social media such as Kickstarter and Tinder to boot. Really, this sketch is more about Pinterest than ISIS, but that fits within the mold of recent political cold opens that have fewer teeth than a newborn baby. Even jokes about recent security breaches at The White House are met with silence. Youch. [Grade: C-]
Monologue: “I guess I’m known as a bit of a blue comedian,” Silverman says, noting they had to censor a lot of her jokes after dress rehearsal. “Let’s get real,” she insists, moving into the crowd to sit on the lap of an audience member in the front row. She puts an extremely nervous woman on the spot, asking her to reciprocate the praise Silverman bestows upon her. And yet, it’s sort of adorable! Which is amazing, since this has all the trappings of confrontational comedy. It’s a great twist on the monologue form: We’ve seen plenty of audience interaction, but this is a fresh take, and plays entirely into Silverman’s comedic strengths. (The one time the monologue does the “usual” take of audience Q&A, it’s Silverman talking to her younger self on the show.) The rest of the show might not solve Silverman’s style, but this did. I can already see this monologue splitting people online in a divisive manner. Tonight's episode should be a wild ride. [Grade: A-]
The Fault In Our Stars 2: The Ebola In Our Everything: If you’re going to do ebola jokes, this is probably the way to do it! If for nothing else than Taran Killam’s sudden realization of what he’s gotten into, this would have been a good idea. Throw in Kenan Thompson’s Terrence Howard impression and hazmat sex, and you have a solid (if not spectacular) parody commercial. [Grade: B]
Joan Rivers Heaven Roast: Oh boy. Well, this is certainly in Silverman’s wheelhouse, but the crowd is absolutely confused and more than a little uncomfortable at the premise. Only Benjamin Franklin seems to offer the crowd some comfort, with other dead celebrities such as Richard Pryor and Freddie Mercury (played by Adam Levine) offering up nervous jitters, if any noise at all. Look, all of this is obviously intended as a tribute to Rivers, but the “too soon” nature of it all, coupled with Silverman tripping over a lot of the lines, made this a dire affair. It was a bold choice, but one that ultimately didn’t pan out. [Grade: C]
Whites: First up: MIKE O’BRIEN SIGHTING! Secondly: I can’t help but wonder if this is as much a commentary on “SNL” as the United States as a whole. But hey, let’s just assume that it’s not since that might make some fans of the show super uncomfortable. Given how tepid the cold open was, this was a refreshingly sharp piece of writing. More of this, please. [Grade: A-]
Forgotten TV Gems: Oh boy, a sketch about “Terriers”??? Oh, not so much. Instead, we get “Supportive Women,” an old soap that presented women as “nurturing and sympathetic.” The parody itself isn’t all that great, but Kenan Thompson’s host is so delightfully weird that I am laughing at everything he says. (“That character died with a smile on her face! Do not ask me why!”) I’ll forget this sketch in a week’s time, but I laughed during it plenty. That’s a win overall. [Grade: B]
Weekend Update: “Who goes to Texas AND Africa?” Good bless you, Michael Che. Al Sharpton appears to discuss recent security breaches at the White House. Thompson is on fire tonight, with Sharpton’s malapropisms landing each and every time. (“’Miss NBC’? That must be NBC for ladies or something.”) If nothing else, I now want a movie called “Karate, Karaoke, And Kaiju” after this segment. Afterwards, the feminist band Garage And Her appear to discuss the new female Thor via song. Everything can be a woman to them: Jesus, Italians, tapeworms, and the show “Friends” are all women, apparently. Nice idea, but a miss in terms of execution. But the big takeaway: “Weekend Update” is fun again! The Jost/Che back-and-forth about what they can and cannot respectively say is absolutely gold, and something the show’s been missing for a long time. [Grade: B]
The River Sisters: Three riverboat performers dressed as Tina Turner sing “Proud Mary” and share horrible stories about how they ended up on the riverboat. It’s a tried-and-true sketch format (song-into-short monologue-back-to-song), but the jokes just aren’t here to support the structure. You can feel Silverman, Cecily Strong, and Sasheer Zamata praying the band speeds up so the sketch can end faster. [Grade: C-]
Airport Pickup: A woman confesses her infidelity in Amsterdam, unaware that her boyfriend is hiding in the back seat ready to propose. And it’s not only the would-be fiancée that’s in the back seat, but her parents and Adam Levine as well. (That’s one hell of a backseat.) If you took a shot every time someone said Adam Levine’s full name (or “Pizza Hut”) in this sketch, you are on your way to the hospital right now. This sketch had a great start, but limped to the finish line. [Grade: C]
The December Generation: Bennett/Kyle Mooney strike again, this time with a short subverting the trope of people who can finish each other’s sentences. It works very well until the life-sized puppets enter the picture. It’s always weird to talk about the “reality” of a sketch, but basically the rules of a sketch have to hold in order to make any of it funny. Those (incredibly obvious) puppets don’t hold, and so the air goes out of a solid premise. [Grade: C-]
Vitamix: VANESSA BAYER SIGHTING. Whew, I had organized a search party. This is a 12:50 am sketch about an expensive blender and hateful women. This is NOT the way “Supportive Women” would act. It’s a mean-spirited sketch that ends the episode on a sour note. Wow. That cannot have been the intent. [Grade: D-]
Best Sketch: “Whites”
Worst Sketch: “Vitamix,” swooping in at the end for the win!
How Were Maroon 5: I miss “Songs About Jane,” back when the band had crunchy guitars and more soulful grooves. You can’t argue with their commercial success, but that success has come at the expense of sawing off what few edges they had in the first place.
Biggest Theme: Whereas last week felt like a balanced effort, cast-wise, there were some notable gaps tonight. Pete Davidson was nowhere to be seen, and Pharaoh, Bobby Moynihan, and Vanessa Bayer were all woefully underused. This will always happen with a cast this big, but it’s still a bummer all the same.
What did you think of tonight’s episode? Sound off below!