Listen. It’s hard not to have very high expectations when one of the best members of Saturday Night Live in the past decade comes back to host. Bill Hader was part of a golden team on SNL that shaped what it was in the late 2000’s-early 2010’s. He’s a fantastic performer, a brilliant character actor, and all of that was clearly on display tonight, there is no disputing that.
But these WRITERS. I’m completely aware of the stress that must come with having to write successfully funny sketches in one week for a live network comedy show. I get that. But week after week, we’re given these lazy paint-by-numbers live sketches, devoid of any life or substance, and as per usual, these live sketches were trumped by the usually superior taped sketches. Not to say we didn’t get some gems tonight. But, few and far between.
Best Sketch of the Night
I was really excited to almost give this title to a live sketch for once (the Puppet class, which we’ll get into later), but I have to say the commercial for the “39 Cents” charity was that sort of edgy, smart humor that we never seem to find in the live sketches anymore. Hell, I’m sure there’s a way you could make this a live sketch, and still keep it as funny. It followed a great rhythm, and had a satisfying ending joke. Again, a rarity for this show. If they can inject some of this humor into the live show, these would be some happier reviews.
Worst Sketch of the Night
Probably that Cat in the Hat sketch. Not a lot of great jokes, not so great delivery. I appreciate Thing 2 going by “JonaThing” now, I’ll say that. Just a bland piece of sketch comedy.
What Else Happened Tonight?
-They brought back the Puppet Class sketch we first saw in the Seth MacFarlane sketch. The original is one of my favorite recent sketches, so I was worried when they decided to go back to this well, but I’m glad they found some original humor here. Taran Killam made a great puppet teacher, and there were some brilliant gags with Bill Hader and his horrific puppet doppelganger. My favorites were the cigarette gag, and of course, the Puppet ‘Nam Flashback.
-Hollywood Game Night showed us some more of the great impressions this cast can do. My favorites were Taran’s Christoph Waltz, and a surprisingly well-done Nick Offerman from Beck Bennett. Bravo, sir.
-Again, we were treated to more of the Bennett/Mooney ridiculousness with another segment of “Inside SoCal.” It’s a damn ridiculous sketch, but again, it’s different and weird and original, so it’s welcome any time.
-Speaking of taped sketches, I greatly enjoyed the “Group Hopper” movie trailer parodying YA novels. They hit all the notes, and even gave newcomer Pete Davidson a lead role in a sketch. That’s wild!
How Was Weekend Update?
Everyone went crazy for Stefon because, well, it’s Stefon. He’s a great character, and it was lovely to see him back at the desk. But is it me, or was Bill a little rusty with this one? Maybe it’s the lack of a Seth Meyers to bounce off of, but I can’t say it was one of my favorite Stefon bits. Of course, him referring to Colin and Michael as “Mitt” and “Barack” was priceless. And how can we forget the repeated appearance of one Dan Cortese?
-I think Michael is finally settling into the desk and finding time to do his thing with these jokes. There’s still some very stiff readings to the jokes, but I’m hoping in 2-3 episodes, he’ll be on track. Jost needs to go.
And the Musical Guest?
Some guy named Hozier. He’s a white guy who plays guitar and it doesn’t hurt your ears when you hear his voice. A solid B+ for effort!
Any Other Memorable Moments?
-The Jan Hooks tribute was beautiful and exquisitely handled.
-Harvey Fierstein appeared in the monologue, because he’s got time.
-I know I’ve neglected to mention that Kristen Wiig also guest starred in some sketches throughout the evening. We’ll leave it at that.
-When being sorted into groups, I’d love to either be in Hasidics, or Gryffindor. Tough choice.
-“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a…” “…prostitute my home address.” Al Pacino isn’t wrong there, folks.
-Seriously, watch the “39 Cents” sketch. It’s sort of magical.
-“Oh. One of each.” Oh, Stefon.
-“Here’s a joke. GOD.”
-“Can you tell me how to get…” “How to get the nightmares to stop!” I think that moment in the Puppet Class sketch made me laugh the hardest. Bravo.