Saturday Night Live, Chris Rock

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Another week, another SNL alum in the dust. I was very excited about this episode, but was left underwhelmed. I wasn’t as disappointed as I was with the Jim Carrey episode, but this week’s struggle seemed to be in high concept jokes not quite landing smoothly or easily. Let’s take a look.

Cold Open: Chris Christie & Kaci Hikcox. Cold Opens are hard pressed to ignore current events, so it’s very natural that they would not only take a crack at Ebola (and oh, there were so many ebola jokes) but also Chris Christie. Bobby Moynihan’s Chris Christie is usually entertaining, but Kate McKinnon’s Kaci Hikcox really made this cold open sing. The confrontation between the two at the end was also a good silly ending. Not bad, guys.

Monologue: It’s refreshing to me when the monologue is really… a monologue. I counted on Chris Rock doing a stand up routine, and he definitely still has it. I was a little worried at first since he was tackling some pretty tough topics, and that was clearly a signal that that’s what he wants to achieve in the episode. I got a lot of good chuckles out of him in this, as he finessed through these tougher topics smoothly and with comedic grace.

Best Sketch of the Week: Vlog. This was pretty unexpected, and started out rather understated. I applaud the efforts on this one to also include some visual effects a-la Apple photo/video effects. From Janelle’s innocence to her dancing fandom, to Kyle Mooney (who made surprisingly MANY appearances in this episode) as the friend-zoned friend-in-love who’s still learning about his own urges, to Jay Pharaoh as the older brother (he had two amazing one liners here), to Chris Rock being the overprotective dad, the humor of this escalated nicely. This was the most fun and the least high-concept sketch they did.

I’ll also give props to the Women in the Workplace sketch since this also featured Chris Rock in his most natural form the whole episode. He didn’t seem as comfortable in other sketches, but here works somehow. Something about the fake bad acting made it feel less like he had to BE Chris Rock as X Character. He was THE prototypical black guy in the office character and it worked. Also mad props to Vanessa Bayer as the uncouth woman in the workplace navigating diversity – these awkward female characters are the roles she excels at.

Best Fake Ad of the Week: I actually really enjoyed all the digital skits this week. Swiftamine was a fun and funny acknowledgement of Taylor Swift’s new pop music prowess, and GoProbe was also a funny acknowledgement of how far we go with this new, accessible technology to POV film anything. (Also helps that I work with this type of footage to and nerd out about it as well) Even the polite Robbers pulled out some fun gags and surprises – the concept was simple, but I never knew what to expect with every twist they had.

Worst Sketch of the Week: The Couple. This just didn’t land as well as it should have. The concept is fairly simple – bickering old couple. But, as I mentioned earlier, the man was just Chris Rock being this Chris Rock caricature, and Leslie Jones wasn’t as strong as she could be. She’s a great supporting character, but maybe not strong enough yet to be leading a sketch.

Player of the Week: I think simply because he was in it SO much this week, I might give this to Kyle Mooney. It felt like they gave him a makeover or something – he played well into a lot of the sketches and wasn’t as weird / hard to swallow as he tended to be in the past. His character in the Vlog sketch was excellent, and even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the ISIS sketch, I was impressed with the fact that they chose him to carry the bit with Chris Rock. He definitely killed it in Robbers too, and played an actually convincing skateboarder (I don’t ever envision him as an athletic type but this worked)

Honorable mention to Sasheer Zamata who also got a little more screen time this episode. She really nailed it with Vlog.

Weekend Update Moment of the Week: Pete Davidson’s STD bit was actually really funny and rounded out nicely. He fumbled a little bit – like he wanted to go a slightly different direction with the joke by going to the deli to buy a lambskin condom instead – but he totally made it work as the naive young guy working through learning he’s allergic to latex. From thinking it could be normal to send a dick pic to his mom (who IS a nurse) to cracking jokes about his father and his mom’s possible sexual practices, and the idea of calling his doctor his “best friend” by saying he can’t wear normal condoms, every joke landed and properly built up this character of the young guy persona.

Overall, this episode had its moments. It wasn’t a shining episode like the earlier ones, but we at least got back into stride a bit. Really, I’m enjoying seeing some of these players flesh out their strengths and weaknesses sketch by sketch. Till next time!

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