If you are not familiar with Maya Rudolph, then you have been living under a pile of dog crap. She was a cast member on “SNL“ for seven years, and most recently, she has gained fame for Bridesmaids and the TV show Up All Night. Ringing any bells? Good. Because she is funny and talented and beautiful, and I think she just might be the host to elevate this faltering show.
I was wrong. Well, to be fair, I was only partly wrong. Maya herself was funny and she brought other heavy-hitters with her (Amy Poehler and Justin Timberlake) to mix things up. Looking back, one of the only things that ruined this episode was the over-long sketches.
How to describe over-long sketches. Okay, I will give a few examples from this show (although, feel free to apply this to any episode of SNL, and I am sure you will see the pattern).
- “The Obama Show” was a really creative take on the 1st family. I loved how they copied the opening of The Cosby Show, but every single thing between the two musical numbers was utter garbage. The dialogue was slow, and it was trying to teach me about salami and hoagies. It felt like even the actors in the sketch wanted it to stop…they realized too late the sketch sucked so they had to just get it over with.
- “What’s Up With That” is one of my least favorite sketches. It may be because Kenan Thompson is one the most over-rated cast members in SNL history. This sketch is about a flamboyant talk show host who loves to sing while ignoring his guests. The line “What’s up with that” is sung about 200 times. The whole sketch is a mess of random dancers and Jheri Curl. This awful sketch represents everything that is wrong with SNL this season — no direction, bad impressions, bad guest hosts (some unknown model and Bill O’Reilly?) and Kenan Thompson.
- “Bronx Beat” is one of my favorite ideas, and I love the tangential banter of Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph. But this sketch was more than eight minutes long. Even adding Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg did not stop the dragging feeling. A lot of the silence was filled with facial expressions, other times, there was so much fast-talking I could not understand what was being said… This sketch was super funny, Maya almost choked to death on her gum, and you get to see JT with 5-head. But my god, this was a long one.
- “Beyonce and Jay-Z’s Baby” was another very funny, yet stagnantly over-long sketch. It was a way for the cast to display their amazing impressionistic skills…well, with the exception of Vanessa Bayer (who is worthless) and Kenan Thompson (who plays every character exactly the same). We had Beyonce, Jay-Z, LL Cool J, Taylor Swift, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Nicki Minaj, Bon Iver, and Prince. This sketch comes right after impressions of Maya Angelou, Laurence Fishburne and Stephen King. SO MANY IMPRESSIONS.
Now to talk about Sleigh Bells. First, I hate their name. I also hate that the lead singer dressed in heroine-chic grunge except for her bright white KEDS. But the thing I hated most was that the 16 mega-speakers did not project the voice of the singer. I could not make out a single word. I thought it was just my TV, but it wasn’t. I assumed that a national television show would notify their sound engineers and fix the problem by the second song, but nope. The singer of Sleigh Bells was unintelligible, the background tracks were obviously pre-recorded, and I am still not sure which of the guitarists is actually the male member of the band in all the promos.
Okay, so on a second read, the sketches being long did not really ruin the whole episode. In fact, Seth Meyers did not even ruin this episode (thanks only to Amy Poehler). I am disappointed that SNL did not allow a Whitney Houtson impersonation…but I guess it was too soon. The cold open was not about politics (yah!) but the monologue was a song again (boo!). This was just one more bipolar episode of Saturday Night Live. Though, I think it was the funniest this year, you should skip the “What’s up with That” and Sleigh Bells segments. Not everything can be comedy gold, but this episode sure tries for alchemy. Enjoy!