Before this episode aired, my feelings were as mixed as they could have possibly been. I had no doubt that Katy Perry was going to bring her wildly successful pop tunes with no issue. It was with Bruce Willis, the host of the night, that I had my concerns. Willis hasn’t hosted since September 30th, 1989 when Neil Young was the musical guest and he hasn’t exactly made his career off live sketch comedy. He has done comedy films over his long career but has obviously made his name by doing awesome action movies like the many Die Hard films. Being an action star doesn’t always translate to well comedy segments, especially when it’s live. However, Willis also has more than 30 years of entertainment experience under his belt giving him comfort in front of the camera and a keen sense of what people like to see. So while some people were probably scratching their head at his hosting announcement, I knew that he has what it takes to make people laugh. Whether or not he was going to bring that was a big question going in.
An early favorite for me by far was the Black Ops skit that opened the show with Beck Bennett as a Commanding Officer and Willis as a communications officer with an obsession for action. We all know that Willis’s action films aren’t exactly grounded in reality, a fact that this bit used to soar. According to Willis, going in loud with guns blazing is the way to go. No sneaking around and no ambushing the enemy secretly like real NAVY Seals. His way is to kick the door in, kill lots of people, have a hidden blade pop out of his boot and stab people, and then escape in a red Ferrari with a perfect ten blonde. His stone cold face during his absurd tangents made this whole skit work so well, and I was as into it as the soldiers were.
Then the absurdity got turned to eleven when we had the male dance party that is, and I quote, “Totally not homoerotic.” The bit was basically a lot of the male cast watching Football and refusing the invitations of their wives to go dancing. Once the women leave though, the men immediately break out into dance revealing that they only like to dance with each other. What followed was a surprisingly hilarious and pretty catchy number that had people like Taran Killam, Jay Pharoah, and Mike O’Brien going absolutely insane.
The final top skit for me was the Centauri Vodka one with Willis as the head of a centaur and John Milhiser as Randy, the man working the legs without any holes to breathe out of. The whole premise looked completely ridiculous at the offset but did a great job making the slow oxygen depravation of a man very dedicated to his job absolutely hilarious. It didn’t last very long either which allowed it to end on a high note. It reached its peak at the end with Milhiser “passing out” and Willis dragging the lifeless legs across the stage, destroying every glass bottle. “I’m saving you Randy!!!” indeed.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the Three Barbers skit with Pharoah, Kenan Thompson, and Willis sharing stories about random things. It just wasn’t that funny. Sure there were some funny one-liners thrown in, but it all got overshadowed by the total lack of emotion from Willis. It didn’t help when that was supposed to be the huge source of laughs for those couple minutes. The stories themselves weren’t exactly funny either. Truth be told, I found myself looking at the time and wondering when it was going to be over.
The skit where Killam played an obnoxious 30 year-old named Eddie didn’t work that well either. I remember watching a skit with Eddie before and not exactly liking it that time as well. All the humor revolved around an intimidated Mr. Phips (Willis) saying “Chun” to Eddie instead of child or son and then Eddie just going completely bonkers over it. It would’ve been nice to get some variety but a lot of it was Killam screaming “Chun” in a multitude of ways. It went on way too long too.
Lastly, the Sigma Frat bit near the end had a lot of potential but failed to really become memorable. It’s clear that the writers are trying to bring the success of Digital Shorts back after The Lonely Island crew left but this really felt uninspired. Turning typical beer game punishments into drawing roller coasters or getting a pen pal was really clever, but both Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett had as much emotion as a block of wood. It needed a lot more energy to stand out, especially since it was so late in the show.
In all honesty, I was pleasantly surprised by this episode last night. Willis doesn’t exactly strike people as a comedian but man was he hilarious. In fact, the majority of this episode was really funny. I’ll even go so far as to say it was better than both Tina Fey and Miley Cyrus. Willis meshed well with the cast and a lot of the skits were really funny. The opening scene connecting the events of Gravity to the government shutdown was amazing and Willis rocking the harmonica during his monologue was spectacular. I actually forgot he’s an extremely talented musician! Beck Bennett was put into the limelight last night pretty extensively too and he did a great job with the material given. I can see him really becoming a rising star in coming weeks. The re-airing of the E-Meth segment from the premiere was a bit upsetting though. You’re going to end the show with a rerun? For shame! Overall, it was a great night for comedy. See you on the 26th with Edward Norton and Janelle Monáe!