After 2 weeks of underwhelming SNL vets returning to host, Woody Harrelson was a fun surprise. As someone I haven’t seen in recent memory being goofy, it was refreshing to see an actor by trade take the stage, as opposed to a comedian with a distinct, identifiable style. He actually played it straight through his scenes very well, whether the sketch was good or so-so. Most of the writing was pretty on-point this time around, with only a few duds. An entertaining week, and what looked to be a fun departure for Woody post-True Detective and Hunger Games series.
Cold Open: Obama and Mitch McConnell have a drink. This was actually a really fun quick hit. The pacing may have been a bit slow, since the joke depended primarily on the perceived passage of time, and the constant scene changes, but each moment hit nicely and nailed something on the nose about either Obama’s recent flubs or just the political climate. The endnote of the sketch was actually very nice – this could’ve gone a very snarky route, but the drunken agreement that nothing will get done till after 2016 was both poignant but a funny tender moment between these two opposing sides. Not amazing, but still a fun cold open that incorporated the Live from New York line nicely.
Monologue: Woody Harrelson and 1989. I like that Woody referenced Taylor Swift and his past when talking about the last time he hosted was in 1989. I was taken by the song gimmick, but he played this off in a fun way that reminded me of a Woody I haven’t thought about in a minute. It was okay – not spectacular, but fun. J. Law did kind of dominate in a weird way, with everyone joking about her inability to sing (didn’t we cover this ground already with Bill Hader?) I would never have expected that they really wanted to visit the Woody Harrelson plays guitar thing. Should’ve taken this as a sign.
Best Sketch of the Week: Match’d. This came as a total shock to me. I wasn’t sure where we were going with this sketch. I mean, joking on MTV and dating shows is definitely a well the SNL writers enjoy pulling from. But here we had a fun twist, and Woody played excellently as the straight man. A dating show where you watch cheesy horny young men vie for your daughter? Amazing. The way he dropped that reveal was a fun tone shift for the sketch, and I loved the caricatures of the “types” that seem to dominate MTV reality shows these days. I love that every one of the dudes’ versions of “respect” involved repeating “sir” after every sentence. Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney played very nicely in these roles and shone for me. And best line in this whole thing? Cecily Strong just dropping the bomb after Beck Bennett tries to emphasize wanting to be courteous to her parents: “Can’t shake hands with a ghost!” The comedic timing on that was so on point. The biggest flop of this is the end with the one-on-one time, which is mildly disappointing because the concept and jokes in this were so well crafted. I didn’t expect this to be my favorite, but well, it struck me. It was a good play on the dating show concept and poking fun at what young people’s version of sexiness is.
I’ll also give props to the Football sketch if only for the beginning part – the rest of it was eh, but Woody Harrelson and Jay Pharaoh really nailed it with the demo of how to safely tackle another player. Jay’s reactions were great, and he never cracked, and Woody got really physical in a fun way.
Best Fake Ad of the Week: The Dudleys. This was a ton of fun, and a wonderful commentary on how over-PC network sitcoms can try to be. Especially now that everyone has an opinion and can share it (like us here on the site!) and especially since companies are definitely taking more stock in public opinion via social media, it was cheeky and played up stereotypes but tastefully and hilariously. Every twist and turn answered each challenge to the nuclear family sitcom well. Woody definitely dove into each stereotype well, and I enjoyed how committed he and Kenan were in the intimate love scene.
Honorable mention goes to the New Marijuana Policy bit for Pete Davidson’s performance, and for the fun jab at the marijuana policy. Amazing production value. I can at least appreciate that, even if the sketch maybe went on a touch too long.
Worst Sketch of the Week: Campfire song. Literally no point. It’s just Woody Harrelson can play the guitar, so let’s find some way to make him play. I don’t even like the character he tried to play – everyone basically made him out to be THAT crazy friend. Just, not good. Lazy writing.
Player of the Week: They actually scattered everyone nicely throughout the episode, although this was a very male-dominated episode. I can’t stop chuckling though at Cecily Strong as the ditz – I haven’t been aching for Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party, but the daughter of the Match’d game show host is a good, tempered version of a ditzy girl. I mean, “You can’t shake hands with a ghost” slayed me.
Weekend Update Moment of the Week: Yeah, yeah, I’m going to admit the McConnaughey-Woody bit was the best. It wasn’t too long ago SNL took a jab at McConnaughey with Jim Carrey, but it’s fun to see Taran take it to another level. It’s funny how different both their performances were, and I can definitely feel a Taran-flair to his version of McConnaughey. Woody played off it well, never cracking during Taran’s bit. The wackiness of the lines were great – a perfect blend of all these different McConnaughey personas we’ve seen on screen throughout the years. Loved the random tie-ins to other McConnaughey stuff (Future, Present, Ghost of Girlfriends Past), and I like that Woody also threw in a McConnaughey-type line (Two roads diverged, and we took neither of them) If anything, the writing in this was pretty solid.
Overall, even with the few flubs, the cast has definitely proven stronger and can definitely steal a scene just as much as the host. The comedic chemistry worked throughout the episode, whether the sketch was amazing or eh. Glad to see Woody have fun on stage.
Till next time!