In Unusual Twist, "SNL's" Political Skits Were Great Last Night; It Was the Rest of the Show That Sucked
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In Unusual Twist, "SNL's" Political Skits Were Great Last Night; It Was the Rest of the Show That Sucked

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | September 16, 2012 | Comments ()

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Last night saw the season debut of "Saturday Night Live," after an off-season with quite a few changes: Kristen Wiig, Abby Elliot, and Andy Samberg are gone, which means so are the Digital Shorts, Gilly, and whatever cute background characters Abby Elliot typically played. The other major change was promoting Jay Pharoah to Obama impersonator, a move that immediately paid off in the show's cold open. This was maybe one of the best cold opens and best political skits in a long while, thanks as much to Pharoah's impersonation of Obama as Sudekis' awesome Romney. It was also our first look at Taran Killam as Paul Ryan.

The show also featured a Romney attack ad played to hilariously exaggerated effect.

Meanwhile, Hader's impressions of Clint Eastwood is always great, but the Eastwood goes on the road with a chair skit didn't land (apologies if that embed is gimpy).

The rest of the show, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, was far less successful. In fact, most of it reminded me of everything I didn't like Seth MacFarlane before Ted came along, beginning with the monologue, which featured MacFarlane trotting out all of his voices as well as a few jokes typical of MacFarlane: More offensive for being unfunny than for being actually offensive.

Bill Hader managed to salvage most of Puppet Class, the most worthwhile non-political skit of the night.

Seth Meyers' return to Weekend Update features a few decent headlines, but I won't torture you with any of the lousy segments.

The Lids skit was lousy, but it did feature a cameo from the Gangnam Style guy.

I can't recommend any of the rest of the show, but the last skit of the night, Wooden Spoons, was great if only because it was the perfect length for most "SNL" skit ideas: 45 seconds.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • dizzylucy

    I liked Pharoah's impression, but I always liked Fred's too - and I thought they handled the transition very well.
    I couldn't help it, the puppet sketch cracked me up. Though I was a little freaked out by how much Seth in that wig looks like Mike Myers in his SNL days.
    I have an inexplicable dislike for Seth though. I've never really watched his shows, but every time I see him, I don't like him. I don't know. But he did better than I expected in this.

  • HaydenT

    You know what I just realized? Our discussions of SNL are representative of how people become 'old' and out of touch.

    The easiest analogy would be music: when you were young, you just listened to whatever was on the radio but when you get older you think "That's crap!" and switch the dial. Suddenly you end up listening to the oldies station because all the music has been curated to the most popular songs in the past, whereas current radio is not curated in that way, and you don't have the patience to sit through songs you don't like to get to ones you do.

    When we think of SNLs past, we mentally curate to the skits and actors we liked while we have to slog through all skits in the present.

    Anyway, I thought "Lids" was HILARIOUS.

  • Mavler

    The Ryan Lochte impression was pretty good, and the rest of Weekend Update was average. The puppet sketch made me laugh pretty hard. We debate every week whether this show has lost it or if its as good as it ever was. I thought this week was "okay" and that's all I really want with my Sunday morning coffee. Hell, I hope I'm still this good when I'm 38.

  • kilmo

    I really enjoyed last night's episode, except for the Family Guy voices. Frank Ovean was great, I really enjoyed John Mayer's O Face on the guitar.

    They lightened Jay Pharoah's skin for Obama. Did anyone else notice that? Aside from that I like his impression.

    The Llids sketch was fab. I'm in S. Korea right now so it's great seeing Psy invade the USA. Now we aren't the only ones with "Gangnam Style" in our head. Though he just signed with Bieber's label, uggh.

  • lowercase_ryan

    the open was brilliant, the Eastwood/Chair was stupid.

  • jja

    Very interesting...that's the first time I've watched any of SNL in years (not sure why, but haven't even seen a clip in years), and my reaction to the political bits was just about opposite of Dustin's. They all seemed so....careful. Or colorless. Like people searching for a good grade in a college improve class. (are there college improv classes?) Don't get me wrong, it's obvious these are talented people, but the impersonations seem just like really close...well, impersonations. Getting Obama's voice and every mannerism as close as possible to the actual Obama doesn't strike me as very funny, and the writing seemed to insist on prodding the audience into getting the joke -- "see, see there, that was a joke! Obama (or Romney) says that, and here's a slightly exaggerated version."

    I dunno. I always thought SNL's political stuff was funniest when it was some combination of wild caricature and putting the actor in an improbable situation. I used to love Ferrell's GWB, or Carvey's Bush -- Lovitz's Dukakis! (I can't believe I'm losing to this guy) -- not because of their (often incidental) resemblance to the actual person, but because they wildly exaggerated little quirks (among other things -- like, for example, Lovitz just sort of being Lovitz, instead of trying really hard to mimic Dukakis). I still remember when I was a kid seeing that clip of Dan Akroyd as Jimmy Carter on a radio show talking down the guy on an acid trip...."Do you have any Allman Brothers?"

    These impressions just don't seem funny at all. Could be there justn't isn't as much to mock with Obama, Romney, or Ryan (well, plenty to mock in a more serious way with the latter two), but that doesn't seem to me to be the only reason.

    BTW, the Eastwood sketch was great, I thought, for all the above reasons....just different senses of humor, maybe.

  • Ian Fay

    I much preferred Armisen's Obama to Pharoahs. I think it's mostly because Armisen actually kind of resembles Obama.

    I also think Pharoah's impersonation was pretty much one note (the pause at the beginning) and that was about it. Armisen really had the man's voice and tone.

    I really do like Pharoah on the show though, especially his Denzel.

    Also, the Gangam Style sketch actually was surprisingly good if only because I expect any cultural reference to be long past its sell by date by the time SNL gets a hold of it. To see a viral vid sketch this soon was pretty cool.

    The puppet sketch was pretty great too because Bill Hader is amazing (see the Alien Sportscaster sketches)

  • Dave McIntyre, Esq.

    I'd have to disagree with you. Pharoah's Obama is far more nuanced than Armisen, and actually has potential for future sketches. Though both imitations pale to what Keegan Michael-Key did with the Obama character back on Mad-TV.

  • Dave McIntyre, Esq.

    Also: I think my favourite part of the show last night may have been the cheering for Pharoah's debut as Obama. It's like everyone realised that he was finally playing the part he was hired to perform over two years ago and were saying "It's about time!!!"

  • Quatermain

    SNL hasn't been funny or relevant for years. It's become to an even more marked degree what it kind of always was: the college football of sketch comedy. It's where you go to get good enough at what you do so that you can go somewhere where people will actually pay attention and give you money to do it.

  • Quatermain

    Just out of curiosity, did the downvotes come because I disparaged SNL, or because I tarred college football with the same brush? I'm thinking on this site it's the former, but people will continue to surprise you. If it's the first, don't shoot the messenger, he's only pointing out the obvious. If it's the second, sorry NCAA, you'll always come in second to the NFL. There are ways you could fix that, but you won't be told, apparently.

  • It was probably because you were being "that guy" who comes up in the comments section of every SNL recap.

  • AudioSuede

    Well well well, Rowles, here we are again. What a long strange trip it's been since the last time I got to desperately disagree with you while I defend a show that admittedly probably needs way too much defending. Did you have a good summer? Find a good swimming hole? Ah, well, back to work:

    GOD DAMN IT, ROWLES, HOW COULD YOU NOT LIKE THAT EASTWOOD SKETCH?! And Lids was probably in my top three favorite sketches of the night independent of the Psy cameo. Though I agree on the political sketches; they grew some balls in the off-season, and having Fred Armisen intro Jay Pharaoh was absolutely the best way to start the season.

    Also, I thought MacFarlane's monologue was pretty good, despite the fact that it was a not-so-glorified plug for Famiiy Guy. He seemed to do well in the sketch work. He hit his marks, actually memorized his lines, even threw in a little personality from time to time. I thought he was more dapper and affable than usual.

    The Amish sketch killed me, and the Weekend Update headlines were awesome. Was every sketch a winner? No. The date sketch was uncomfortable and yeah, the segments in Weekend Update were mostly awful (I thought MacFarlane's Ryan Lochte was the best one, and while it was a pretty easy series of jokes, it made me laugh). But I thought it was a solid all-around episode.

    And I'm disappointed that you didn't even mention Frank Ocean. His first performance started a little shaky, but once his nerves settled, he was all go.

    You know? It feels good to be back.

  • Green Lantern

    I'm with you, Suede. In fact I was a little disturbed at how well McFarlene performed on the show. I find him pretty damn talented...which means I must kill him using a mix of rage and jealousy.

  • pajiba

    Welcome back, my old friend/"SNL" nemesis.

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