If you didn’t know that Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was coming out this month, then you have been living under the biggest and darkest rock. Will Ferrell has been everywhere as Ron Burgundy. Whether or not you feel the promotion has become a bit too much, it was basically a guarantee that someone from the main cast was going to make an appearance on Saturday Night Live. Enter in Paul Rudd, hosting for the third time. Rudd has found enormous success since the first Anchorman film and I’m sure the SNL heads didn’t want to fall back on Ferrell once again. I’d also consider Rudd a better choice than David Koechner or Steve Carell. I’m a huge Rudd fan so I was pretty excited for this week’s episode. I also couldn’t care less about One Direction, but their disturbingly immense popularity meant that SNL writers were going to use them heavily during the night. So with one of Hollywood’s biggest comedic actors and one of the most popular music acts in history, last night’s SNL had everything it needed to be successful.
As far as I’m concerned, last night’s episode started out the best way possible with an absolutely hilarious Cold Open. Did you know that NBC recently aired The Sound of Music Live! with Carrie Underwood? Of course you did! How could you not? Always finding a way to poke fun at their parent network, the Cold Open last night was The Sound of Music Condensed with Taran Killam and Kate McKinnon as the two leads. You’d think that alone could lead to some good stuff, but then Kristen Wiig pops in out of nowhere as her giant forehead, small hands character Dooneese. I wouldn’t consider Dooneese one of Wiig’s best by any means, but having this comedienne back in any form was enough to make me squeal with glee. I was losing it the entire time. It was nice having you back Wiig, even if it was brief.
My enjoyment simply continued with Rudd’s opening monologue. Rudd took a quick stab at how he was overshadowed in his prior hosting gigs by musical guests Paul McCartney and Beyoncé, but this time he was confident it was The Paul Rudd Show. But then One Direction comes on stage and threatens to steal his thunder. What does Rudd do? Bring out the best damn news team ever of course! Ferrell, Koechner, and Carell all came out. I expected Ferrell to pop in at some point but having the dynamic foursome was amazing. It got even better when the four Anchorman stars and One Direction all sang “Afternoon Delight” in harmony. This was absolute perfection.
The other major standout was the pre-recorded sketch with Rudd as Dan Charles, One Direction’s number one fan. This sketch could also be called “Some Fans Are Actually This Insane” and “Paul Rudd is a Dick to Children.” Everything about this bit, from Rudd’s delivery to the comedic energy between him and the children, was absolutely spot-on. If there wasn’t an absolutely abysmal sketch between the monologue and this segment, I wouldn’t have stopped laughing for a straight 20 minutes.
Speaking of that absolutely abysmal sketch, it was Politics Nation with Al Sharpton. Kenan Thompson played the Reverend and it was all about President Obama’s healthcare law. Rudd played an unpaid contributor for the Huffington Post. The real brunt of the humor was Sharpton not being able to understand basic things like zip codes or tweets, but Thompson already does this as Steve Harvey. Do we really need Thompson to play two characters that both pronounce words wrong and don’t understand certain concepts? Not really. Where’s the originality? Not even Rudd looked like he was completely into the whole bit. A lot of the humor fell flat, though I did laugh when Sharpton kept saying for people to mail him tweets. True fact, I almost wrote that as “Harvey.”
The Weekend Update this week was also an unfortunate disappointment. Killam once again killed it as Jebidiah Atkinson, making that one of his new recurring characters, but the rest of the segment just wasn’t as great as it could have been. Seth Meyers and Cecily Strong generated some laughs out of me at best. Vanessa Bayer even came back as Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy too which just brought whatever momentum Meyer and Strong had to a sudden halt. I get that the whole appeal of Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy is his awkwardness around the adults, but Jacob has never been a strong recurring character. It’s exhausting trying to get past the brief moments he’s on screen. Lastly, how much of a missed opportunity was it for the writers not to bring on the Channel 4 news team to take over the Weekend Update? You had Ron Burgundy, Champ Kind, Brick Tamland, and Brian Fantana all there already! How did this not happen?
Rudd as the newly skinny Santa who’s also a huge ass wasn’t that great either. You had everything in place to make a skit funny and it just wasn’t. McKinnon as Santa’s sexy new girlfriend named Candice, Rudd playing out of character, and a lot of great cast members as confused elves. Yet not of this really meshed. Not even the live studio audience really got into this with some glaring moments of no laughter. This was also one of the few segments of the night where the new people and some excellent cast members like Aidy Bryant were even on the stage. It felt like the main purpose of this was to cram as many people in as possible. It really could have been better.
Despite some incredibly weak bits, last night was a particularly solid episode of SNL. It was more humorous and the writing was improved. Rudd also killed it, as expected. Some other skits that really worked were White Christmas and the one-note but still funny Michelangelo’s David. Both of these bits were a bit more risqué than what we’ve seen recently and it made them each that much better. I did however feel like the surprise guests could have been more utilized. I can understand being a bit tired of Ferrell at this point, but having him only appear in the very beginning and the very end with the hilarious Bill Brasky funeral felt like too little. Fred Armisen even appeared briefly as Lawrence Welk. I’m sure the writers could have found a way to bring these guests back without outshining every other member. Regardless, I had a great time with SNL last night, and I can’t wait to see what John Goodman does next week.