Lady Gaga is no stranger to Saturday Night Live. Since 2009 she has been the musical guest twice (once with Ryan Reynolds hosting, the other with Justin Timberlake) and has even appeared in some skits of her own. Last night’s episode was her first actual time hosting, but going into the show I had complete faith that the pop-star would feel comfortable on the stage. She’s certainly been on it enough times to get a more than beginners feel. It made perfect sense to have her pick up musical guest duties as well with the recent release of her latest album Artpop. Lady Gaga is an exceptionally talented musician and I have found her past skit appearances to actually be pretty funny. Needless to say, I expected Gaga’s past experience to make her first time hosting a reasonably memorable and humorous endeavor.
Few skits last night really rose above the hilarity that was Waking up with Kimye. This entire bit was basically an answer to the question “What if Kanye West and Kim Kardashian had a morning talk show?” If you think that answer has Kanye talking about how much of a genius he is and Kim is being her usual talentless self, then you’re absolutely right! Both Jay Pharoah and Nasim Pedrad were spot on with their representations of this new Hollywood power couple. Gaga in this skit played a nerdy Apple Genius, which obviously led to Kanye proclaiming that he and Kim are the true geniuses. The real gem of this entire bit though was how the rest of the Kardashian family was portrayed as talentless jokes with Kanye giving them instruments based on their musical abilities. The instruments included many triangles, a Simon, a box of rice, and clapping. Mocking the Kardashians is hardly a new practice, but it can still be really funny.
The Weekend Update this week was once again spectacular. As per usual, Seth Meyers and Cecily Strong were fantastic, but their guests really stole the show. Kenan Thompson came on as a man named Mr. Senior who really just has a huge problem with how early Christmas is being celebrated. We’ve all complained about this from time to time, but there is something truly special about watching a man tear down Christmas decorations yelling “It’s the middle of November!” Taran Killam finished off the bit as a speech critic named Jebediah Atkinson who really hated Abraham Lincoln’s classic Gettysburg Address. Normally something as random as this wouldn’t really work out, but Killam alone made it soar. His constant berating of famous speeches including FDR’s Pearl Harbor speech and MLK’s I Have a Dream was phenomenal. There was even a moment where Killam clearly stumbled on a line, possibly even read the wrong one, but in expert form he just rolled with it and recovered with grace. Not many people can do that on the fly.
The faux advertisement for “WHAAAT! The Worst Cover Songs of All Time” CD was also a big highlight of the night, despite it sort of fizzling out near the end. Killam was great as Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, but he was easily outshone by Thompson singing the Anna Kendick song “Cups (When I’m Gone)” as Rick Ross. It was one of those moments that was so hilarious and absurd that you immediately start laughing once you first hear the premise. I would pay big money to see Rick Ross actually perform a cover of that song. Lana Del Rey (Strong) and Nathan Lane (Bobby Moynihan) covering Shaggy was also amazing, as was Adele’s (Aidy Bryant) performance of the instrumental theme from LA Law. It got a little tiring near the end though, and hit a definitive wall when Gaga covered Madonna’s “Express Yourself” with the lyrics to “Born This Way.” I didn’t know the songs were so similar and was simply more confused as to what I was watching.
The Spotlightz Camp for Serious Kids bit was easily one of the lowest points of the night. It had such a great idea behind it with little kids performing G rated versions of Breaking Bad, Training Day, and Forrest Gump, but the skit felt like a never ending slog. I had a few chuckles with it in the beginning but it quickly lost whatever shine it started out with. It wasn’t entirely memorable either. There’s really not much else to say other than it was a trudge.
A few bits later we had a 4th Grade Talent Show with Lady Gaga and John Milhiser as overly excited parents telling their daughter what to do. Milhiser has yet to really come into his own on this show but moments like this really don’t work in his favor. The entire scene just felt like one jumbled mess that had no direction whatsoever. It literally was Gaga and Milhiser yelling “Go Ashley” while jumping around a room. Bryant’s disgusted expression was high point but it wasn’t nearly enough to save this skit that was fortunately very short.
One of the final segments took place in the future with an elderly Lady Gaga (back to being Stefani Germanotta by this point) trying to convince her building super that she was once a world renowned pop-star. Thompson played the super and his lack of Gaga knowledge made the entire skit more tragic than funny. It was basically a living representation of every artists fear: When I get older, will people care or remember me? In this case, that answer is no, which simply made it a sad look into Gaga’s possible future. However, learning that Beyoncé had become an Empress was amazing.
Much to my delight, Lady Gaga was really on top form last night. Her past experience definitely gave her a stage comfort like no other, and she even outshone some of the new cast members with her appearances. If anything, last night’s show should have quieted some naysayers who aren’t convinced that Gaga is an exceptionally talented musician. She absolutely killed it last night. Her classical stage performance of “Applause” in the monologue wasn’t funny by any means, but it worked really well by being a legitimately great performance. I’m convinced that if Gaga were to release an album without all the poppy frills she is known for, it would be outstanding. Unfortunately the laugh out loud moments last night were really few and far in between. Only the Weekend Update and Waking Up with Kimye gave me real belly laughs from start to finish. Everything else had their moments but weren’t especially spectacular, and some were just unnecessary (and a little sad). All things considered though, last night’s show was relatively enjoyable and Lady Gaga fans had a lot to love.