Tina Fey is easily one of the funniest, if not THE funniest, comedienne currently on television. She is absolutely hilarious in no matter what she does. When I first saw that she was hosting the 39th Season Premiere of Saturday Night Live, I knew we were in for something special. This actually marks Fey’s fifth time hosting the show after she was a cast member for nearly a decade. It goes without saying that she’s comfortable doing live comedy. As for the musical guest, Arcade Fire has a new album coming out on October 28th called Reflektor so I fully expected some new tunes from them. This is also their first album since The Suburbs which won Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammy Awards so this is their best chance to show that they can measure up to that highly successful album.
There were a lot of really funny skits tonight making this a truly enjoyable premiere. An early favorite for me was a skit based on the hit show Girls featuring new cast member Noël Wells. I have seen incredibly little of this Golden Globe winning show but was laughing nonstop once Fey entered as the new girl in the group, Blerta from Albania. I would watch Girls in a heart beat if a person like Blerta became part of the show.
Later on we got another gem in “New Cast Member or Arcade Fire” which had Fey attempt to guess if one of two people was a new cast member or a member of the musical guest Arcade Fire. I don’t recall featured players getting so much forward attention in recent seasons, but in this case it worked really well. Sure it was a shameless attempt to familiarize the viewer with these new faces, but Kenan Thompson straight up shutting them down was sheer gold.
Both of these skits absolutely pale in comparison to the now classic closer skit of Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong playing retired porn stars selling “high quality” goods. This time they were selling Manolo Blahnik shoes. I have been a fan of this bit since it first premiered and it’s still hilarious from start to finish. I was laughing to the point of tears. The comedic duo of Bayer and Strong is starting to become one of the brighter spots of SNL and it’s great that these two rising stars are getting the attention they deserve. Well, at least Strong is with her promotion to Weekend Update co-anchor. Bayer however was surprisingly absent most of the night.
The show really didn’t start off on the right foot with both the cold opener and Fey’s opening monologue lacking in the humor department. In regards to the monologue, there were some good sections with Kate McKinnon as a Doctor and Aaron Paul coming in using the plot of Breaking Bad as a reason why Obamacare is a good idea (no health care = meth and murder!), but those were really it. Jay Pharaoh plays a good Barack Obama but these C-Span based cold openers are starting to get really tiresome. Plus, it went on a lot longer than it should have which is a common problem with SNL nowadays.
Fey’s opening monologue didn’t really improve the show by much. Instead of Fey using her classic brand of wit and humor to get the audience rolling, she instead brought out every new cast member and had them do an embarrassing dance off in tight gold clothing. It might have been embarrassing for some of them but it really wasn’t funny for the viewer. It was barely relying on Fey for comedy either making it feel like a wasted opportunity for something good. When you have Fey as the host, the monologue should be something special and unique to her and not something you can just paste any random host into.
I loved how Aaron Paul appeared on the show, but there seemed to be a lot of Breaking Bad related jokes tonight which definitely made it feel a lot less special as the episode went on. Paul appeared in the monologue, a bit about e-meth (like e-cigs, but funnier), and the weekend update which also put in a straight plug for Breaking Bad. It honestly felt like someone on the writing staff was trying to promote that tomorrow is the Series Finale, but there’s also a strong chance they got overexcited with the show as many people do (guilty as charged).
The premiere episode of a new season of SNL is typically regarded as one of the better episodes all season. Last year it was Seth MacFarlane and that episode was considered one of the best for Season 38. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one has the same reputation in coming weeks. The only really lacking bits were in the beginning. Everything else delivered plenty of laughs. Even when a bit wasn’t doing well, Fey was always there to make it that much better. This was also the first time Strong was a co-anchor on Weekend Update and it’s clear she’s comfortable in the anchor chair. It’ll take her time before she becomes top tier like Seth Meyers, but she’s getting there. As for Arcade Fire, they were their typical bizarre selves with completely over the top performances that were also amazing. Yeah, I’m starting to look forward to their new album. Overall this was a solid night of live comedy and a good opener to a new season of this classic sketch show.