Girlfriend: “Who’s on Saturday Night Live tonight?”
Me: “Melissa McCarthy with Imagine Dragons.”
Girlfriend: “McCarthy again?!”
That conversation actually happened a few hours before SNL aired last night. Not even a year after she hosted with Phoenix, Melissa McCarthy is back to host with Imagine Dragons. I know that McCarthy is a very funny actress but not nearly enough time has passed since her last gig. In all honesty, her last show wasn’t especially memorable outside of her very awkward monologue where McCarthy tried to walk in giant heels. It was a pretty average show overall. Yet, I know McCarthy has exactly what it takes to deliver some incredible comedy, fully warranting her third hosting gig regardless of how little time has passed. With the incredible Imagine Dragons also on the billing I had pretty reasonable expectations that this episode could be a good one.
The cold open last night was really something special. Since the Super Bowl is the only thing the people of New Jersey and New York can talk about, it only made sense that it would be the first parody of the night. This parody came in the form of a brand new half time show that had to substitute for the cancelled Bruno Mars and Red Hot Chili Peppers performance. The fill-ins were Broadway performers and the new show was basically about how Peyton Manning (Taran Killam) lived and nearly died by the sport of football. While it wasn’t especially hilarious, it was unbelievably clever and surprisingly well done. Killam naturally stole the show but Kenan Thompson as a tap dancing Richard Sherman was pretty spectacular.
We got another game show parody last night too (those are a dime a dozen now huh?) that was essentially Wheel of Fortune without the wheel or the fortune. It was called Guess that Phrase and McCarthy played a woman named Kathleen who was terrible at winning. This idea is so simple and has absolutely no depth, but this time that didn’t stop me from laughing. McCarthy’s drawn out delivery was outstanding and Beck Bennett’s dead pan expression was perfect. McCarthy’s insistence that Bennett “Pass the mash” was great too, though I wish they actually explained what that was.
The real champ of the night definitely belongs to the Weekend Update. Killam got the Update going as Buford Calloway, a survivor of the Atlanta snow storm. I seriously believe the writers could make Killam play a bag of sand and it would be funny. Once he was gone though we entered into the real shining/heart breaking moment: Seth Meyers’ departure (full disclosure, I wrongly assumed this was supposed to happen a few weeks back). Meyers has been on SNL for 13 years now and he quickly became one of the top cast members. His time as a Weekend Update Anchor with Amy Poehler, alone, and with Cecily Strong was phenomenal. The fact that he was able to write so many of the jokes too made it that much more special. He even got a proper send off with Poehler, Stefon (Bill Hader), and Andy Samberg dropping in to wish him good luck. There was also a brief moment of Fred Armisen as former N.Y. Governor David Paterson wandering in front of the camera. SNL officially has a Seth Meyers-sized void that will probably never be filled. At least he’s taking up Late Night!
If the Weekend Update was a freight train of comedic momentum, the skits immediately following it were steel walls that stopped everything. Immediately following the Update there was a skit with Nasim Pedrad as a Frida Kahlo living sculpture and McCarthy as some janitor who needed to plug in an Ethernet cable. Very little about this skit worked and it seriously looked like most of the people involved didn’t know what was going on. McCarthy just seemed so exasperated and confused for most of the skit as she mumbled her way through explaining why she’s interrupting the museum tour. There were some golden one-liners peppered through out, but not nearly enough to save this.
Then we had Girlfriends Talk Show which was, once again, a disappointment. I see the humor behind it but the jokes are so formulaic and expected that it loses a necessary element of surprise. Usually Aidy Bryant is able to make something out of this but even she had little to work with last night. If the writers insist on making this a recurring segment, they seriously need to switch it up once and a while. It’s not a concept that always hits comedic notes on its own accord. At the very least, give Bryant more to do with it. Clearly she is the comedic focus and not Strong and whatever guest they have on.
Imagine Dragons gave us a little breather but then the crap continued with a skit that is best forgotten. It was the Summer of Diane with McCarthy aas a rib eating slob named Diane and Bobby Moynihan as some guy who is obsessed with her. Nothing about this skit worked and it basically plateaued at the “awful” level. It was easily the briefest skit of the night though which was its only saving grace. It went fast to save us from the pain.
Despite McCarthy’s obvious comedic excellence, last night’s SNL was average at best. In terms of comedy, most of the night’s skits didn’t really generate the laughs. This is probably a combination of poor writing and general lack of originality. When the show was airing I got a significant amount of déjà vu with the characters played by McCarthy. They were almost carbon copies of the characters she played less than a year ago. Honestly, look at the Sheila Kelly sketch with McCarthy beating people up (which was actually funny) and tell me it doesn’t look exactly like her role last year as a violently aggressive basketball coach. McCarthy playing a character terrible at a competition based show? She already did it last year with a skit about The Voice. Bottom line: give McCarthy more material to work with. She’s unbelievable as a comedic actress and basically giving her the same characters does little to show that. At the very least, last night was saved by the beautiful send off to Seth Meyers. If you were to watch anything at all from last night, make it the Update. It was comedic sentimentality at its finest. The rest of the show…not so much.