Well, it was bound to happen. After an otherwise good start to the season, I am disappointed to say Jim Carrey’s return as host is our first blip on the radar. I’ll admit this is part of the hesitation to write this, outside of sheer busy-ness. Needless to say, my main issue with this episode is that, as opposed to good ideas just maybe not coming to fruition right, there were odd somewhat laughable moments stemming from ill-conceived ideas. Let’s… take a look.
Cold Open: Ebola Czar. The long and short of this political satire sketch is to demonstrate the ridiculousness of the situation we’re in with Ebola. Fair enough. My favorite part of this though was Kenan Thompson’s ridiculous Al Sharpton impression – which usually gets laughs out of me. This cold open felt kind of slow – it was funny, it was smart, but it wasn’t quite fun until Al Sharpton starts bumbling in, calling the Ebola czar “caesar” and all that. Noble effort.
Monologue: Helvis? I didn’t think they’d treat Jim Carrey’s as the Halloween episode, so I was definitely more than surprised to find him in ridiculous costume. I’m worrying again that they’re just going to rely on musical numbers for monologues – I think almost all of the monologues this season featured some form of singing. With Chris Pratt, it was sweet and endearing. Bill Hader’s was funny. This? This was … odd. I didn’t like the overuse of musical numbers last season either – it’s like a weird copout from doing any other sort of gag. The idea of Helvis as a costume isn’t terrible, but I’m sorry – why on earth do you need to write a song about REALLY wanting pecan pie? Doing a “hellish” Elvis parody would be fine, but the connection between Elvis and his favorite dessert dish is real thin.
Best Sketch of the Night: The Lincoln ad parodies. There’s no other competition for this category this week. What’s rare to see in SNL is callback jokes and callback sketches. Not only do we have a really impressive impression and parody of the ads, but the fun of this was the different variations as the episode went on. It was sweet relief to see this blow completely out of proportion, from simple dribbling philosophy a-la Rust Cohle in True Detective to sheer psychopathy hitting Kenan as the Allstate guy. Jim Carrey is so damn convincing as this, and I wish they utilized this way more.
What Was Wrong With Everything Else: Because most of the rest of the sketches were completely subpar, I can only venture to discuss what was wrong with everything else. They really wrote for Jim some cookey characters, and he gets into them so well. But so many of the premises of the other sketches were just … odd. And the execution was largely uninteresting. The Carrey family reunion is probably one of the more pathetic displays of NOT knowing what to do with raw talent in front of you. It was like throwup of a throwback. It’s almost a dishonoring of Jim Carrey’s former comedic glory back in the 90s the way this was executed. I give Vanessa Bayer credit for ALMOST shamelessly doing the butt cheek talking bit (but I almost read a little bit of “Oh god, I’m really doing this” in her face). Secret Billionaire was just plain old weird – yeah, yeah, have some old guy compete as a bachelor for a young woman against a bunch of normal dudes. Nothing new there. The graveyard song only got a few laughs out of me because of how totally ridiculous Paul and Phil were – terrible premise, not terrible performances per say, but I don’t understand why they did this in this way. If it were just about Paul and Phil ruining the aura, that’s fine. But it was a weird excuse to throw in Sasheer Zamata and Pete Davidson. The Ghost Chasers thing also had a weird premise – good performances, but not compelling.
Weekend Update Bit of the Week: For as odd as the premise was, the more I think about it, the more I really appreciate the Rom-Com expert bit between Vanessa Bayer and Michael Che. I can totally get why Michael Che does way more of the throws to additional character appearances – he just has a better chemistry acting off other people, I think, and it shows here. Colin Jost gets a little too smug sometimes. Michael Che played off Vanessa Bayer really well, kind of tearing apart everything about rom-com tropes as she escalates and presents how they work. By him soundly and outwardly rejecting her at every typical rom-com turn, it made this a fun and unusual Weekend Update bit. He was skeptical without being too cold and too sarcastic. His reactions were also just amazing through the whole thing.
Player of the Week: Pretty much the entire cast for dealing with this episode, but I will say Kenan totally stepped up so many notches this week to help smooth out some of the comedy. His Al Sharpton saved the cold open, his Allstate guy was great, and I actually got laughs out of him during the graveyard song because of how angry he was as the tree and how ridiculous and weird he made his voice sound when he sang. AND Iggy Azalea because if there weren’t cutaways to musical numbers… man.
Let’s hope we pick up the pace again with Chris Rock hosting. This should also be fun for musical guest, especially after announcing that Prince is going to perform 8 minutes straight once only (as opposed to the usual 2 performances).