It’s about time Edward Norton found his way onto the Saturday Night Live stage. Despite being a two time Academy Award Nominated actor (for Primal Fear and American History X) and starring in the now legendary Fight Club, last night’s show was Norton’s first time doing hosting duties. I honestly couldn’t believe it at first but it’s completely true. To put it simply, it was finally time for Norton to receive his due. I love Norton as an actor as well so my hopes for a solid episode were reasonably higher than normal. As for Janelle Monáe as the musical guest, her relatively short time on the music scene has been filled universal acclaim. Many publications consider her as the forefront of a new wave of R&B artists. With an extremely versatile actor as a host and a rising but bright star as guest, last night’s episode was set up for success.
The night started off on the best foot possible with the opening segment being a definitive highlight. This time around Kate McKinnon opened the show completely solo as she parodied Heath and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. To put it simply, she absolutely killed it. Telling people to use BitTorrent to download free healthcare or movies like Patch Adams, or go to Kayak to buy tickets to Canada to buy cheaper prescription drugs was hilarious. It got even better when she advised people to Google questions such as “Who the government?” I would also love to use a Health Care site that simply says “U WANT DOCTR?” with two giant yes or no buttons. McKinnon truly is one of the funniest people on the show right now.
Jump over the okay monologue (which I will go into more detail later) and you have another funny bit of the night. SNL writers have the habit of putting in faux commercials right after the host’s monologue and they’re usually not that great, but sometimes you get something truly special. This was one of those times with the prominent ladies of the show Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong, Vanessa Bayer, and McKinnon advertising a new feminine hygiene product called Autumn’s Eve, a parody of Summer’s Eve. Who wouldn’t love having their intimate areas smelling like pumpkin spice? Add in a couple of scent lines flowing from those very same areas and you have just the right amount of absurdity to make a skit great.
The real dominant skit of the night was unquestionably a preview for the “new” Wes Anderson film The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders. Norton has done a lot with Anderson as of late so making a bit about it wasn’t a surprise, but giving it a Halloween themed feel was outstanding. Having Norton play Owen Wilson (another Anderson mainstay) was simply the tip of the iceberg. It had all the quirkiness and humor that Anderson films are known to have while also being the perfect slasher film. I actually want this movie made now and would go see it in a heartbeat. It also helped that it was completely hilarious.
Kenan Thompson reprising his role as Steve Harvey is normally a good source for some comedy but last night it didn’t work very well. This time around Harvey brought in a costume store owner, played by Edward Norton, to present a few costume themed puns. It was clever in concept but wasn’t that funny. Thompson has had much better turns as Steve Harvey. It wasn’t even Norton’s fault either, it was just lazy writing. The worst part was I kept expecting some big punchline to come in some form and yet it never did. It simply coasted on being okay the entire time.
Then you had a skit with Brooks Wheelan as an exterminator trying to kill possums in an office vent and Norton as one of his friends who is good at killing vermin. Again, it was really clever in concept with the possums being hyper intelligent but it never became truly hilarious. There were even moments where we had Norton and Wheelan looking right at us in a vent narrating what the possums were doing. That’s right, we never even saw the silly creatures. It would’ve been a lot funnier if we got something akin to hand puppets representing the animals as opposed to nothing.
The last and probably worst skit of the night came near the end where you had Norton, Nasim Pedrad, Mike O’Brien, and Cecily Strong playing waiters who don’t understand what sex is. You see, they’re all virgins, and the big punch line was the fact that they have a poor grasp of how sex is actually done. This resulted in a lot of goofy body motions and nicknames like Impact and Intensity. It wasn’t funny and didn’t re-energize the audience that was definitely feeling tired at this point. It was a classic instance of the punch line not working and yet it’s still used multiple times in succession because the show must go on.
As much as I love Edward Norton and thought Janelle Monáe was absolutely spectacular, last night’s episode was basically “okay” from start to finish. There were a few more terrible ones than true hilarity but most were simply average. It wasn’t Norton’s fault either, that guy knows how to do comedy. It just felt like this week there was lazy writing all around. Norton’s opening monologue was a point of intrigue last night especially as it did a great job showing Norton’s versatility with impressions but got weird when he had coaches appear to help him. Alec Baldwin coming in to help Norton on his first time made perfect sense as the man has hosted 16 times, but Miley Cyrus as the other coach? Seriously? Not only has she hosted only two times, but I wouldn’t consider her a hosting professional by any means. It’s obvious that the powers that be were trying to connect with a younger audience by bringing in Cyrus. They could have had the same effect though with five timer Justin Timberlake who does connect with all audiences AND has the experience under his belt. I’d even suggest Steve Martin but that’s probably my own knowledge of the show talking. Regardless, I expected Norton and Monáe to be great, and they were, but the show as a whole unfortunately wasn’t.