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The Aziz Ansari Hosted 'SNL' Is a Mixed Bag That Works Best When It Sticks to Politics

By Dustin Rowles | Saturday Night Live | January 22, 2017 |

By Dustin Rowles | Saturday Night Live | January 22, 2017 |

Cold Open — This weekend’s cold open sees Beck Bennet’s Vladimir Putin discuss his deal to buy America’s presidency, and provided the dig Trump needed to see on national TV: Pictures of the Women’s March crowds next to the puny crowds at Trump’s Inauguration, and a dig at Trump for his speech in front of the CIA Wall (“If you’re going to lie, don’t make it so obvious.”) It’s not a particularly funny or novel cold open, but knowing that Donald Trump is watching it is immensely satisfying. (Score: 5 out of 10)

Aziz Ansari Monologue — While Saturday Night Live’s cold open (without Alec Baldwin) didn’t provide any great political digs, Aziz Ansari brought it in a stand-up monologue he devoted entirely to Trump, his racist supporters, and Islamophobia. “Pretty cool to know that [Donald Trump] is at home watching a brown man make fun of him.” … “Today, an entire gender voted against him.” He also wisely compares Donald Trump to Chris Brown.

And then he ended it on a perfect note: “Presidents don’t make big change. Large groups of angry people make change, and if Day One is any indication, you’re going to make a lot of change.” Yes! This is the night’s one must-see segment. Watch here. (Score: 9 out of 10)

Beat the Bookworm — In a game show, contestants have to face the Bookworm (Ansari), a conceited, self-assured nerd who typically destroys opponents, until he’s forced to answer questions about ’90s pop culture. That’s the joke. It’s a bad sketch. All the hope we had for the show after the monologue completely frittered away. Watch here. (Score: 2 out of 10)

Interrogation — Police interrogate an Ansari character who is under suspicion of not loving La La Land enough. The police are really upset about it. “I liked the movie, I just didn’t love it. It’s a whole movie about jazz, and there’s no black people in it!” Fun skit, especially if you’ve been following the pointless think piece debate online. (Score: 7 out of 10)

Jake Tapper — Tapper interviews Kellyanne Conway (McKinnon), who finally admits why she works for Trump: Fame. She spells it out in a musical parody of Chicago. It’s not particularly funny, but watching McKinnon sing in a 20’s dress is pretty frickin’ outstanding. (Score: 6 out of 10)

Broderick and Ganz — In a law firm commercial, two attorneys are their clients brag about how much money the law firm was able to get them, while Ansari’s client complains that he only got $6,000 for a much worse injury. It’s not great, but Ansari makes is sort-of work. Watch here. (Score: 4 out of 10)

Weekend Update — This week, I did a joke count! About 10 out of 20 jokes landed, although Che gets two negative two points for incorrectly saying, ‘I’m not a dick’ and for mansplaining feminism. Meanwhile, Leslie Jones uses Hidden Figures as a platform for encouraging us to learn black history all year instead of just one month. It’s funny, but that is completely offset by a remote segment with Jake from the “Friend Zone” with a whole lot of lame, generic jokes. (Score: 5 out of 10)

Watch Weekend Update Part I here. (Most of the jokes that landed were in this segment).

Watch Weekend Update Part II here.

Here’s Leslie:

Bedroom — A dirty talk session goes horribly wrong because Ansari’s girlfriend (Melissa Villaseñor) is really bad at it. It’s actually much funnier than it should be. Watch here. (Score: 6 out of 10)

5 Stars — A short film where an Uber driver with 3.9 stars drives a passenger with 3.9 stars, and the two spend the entire drive badly attempting to impress each other to improve their ratings. It goes very poorly for both. (Score: 5 out of 10)

Pizza Town — Police corner two suspects in a Pizza Town restaurant, but the stand-off turns awkward when the Pizza Town animatronic characters begin singing songs heavy on pizza puns. This is a bad sketch, but I know it’s the kind of bad sketch my friend and Uproxx colleague Josh Kurp probably loved, so your mileage may vary. Watch here. (Score: 3 out of 10)

Thank You Obama — In a tribute to President Obama, Cecily Strong and Sasheer Zamata very sweetly sing “To Sir with Love.” There is no joke here. That it’s not a very good song matters not. (Score: 8 out of 10)

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.