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Christoph Waltz Hosts a Solid "Saturday Night Live," But Alabama Shakes Rips Up the Rug

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 17, 2013 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 17, 2013 |

Christoph Waltz hosted what was probably the best episode of a weak season, which is to say: It was probably a B+, but it was a fun B+ thanks to consistently good (but not great) sketches, and two knock-out performances from Alabama Shakes. It is one of those rare shows where I’d suggest waiting until the entire show arrives on Hulu this afternoon to watch it in its entirety (skip only the last two episodes, a weak “Fox and Friends” sketch and a forgettable Valentine’s sketch). However, DO jump straight to the pre-taped Tarantino trailer: Djesus Uncrosses. I’ve included the “director’s cut,” and it’s outstanding.

Carnival Cruise — There’s not a lot of angles you could take with this, but Saturday Night Live’s Cold Open was definitely, uh, one of them. Basically, they trot out the FM radio DJ versions of cruise directors to keep up the spirits of 4,000 people kicking it old school with ketchup sandwiches and fecal-splattered walls. I wouldn’t call it funny, but it didn’t provoke blood lust.

Christopher Waltz is an amazing actor, but they didn’t give him much to work with in the Monologue: Basically, it’s a send-up of Austrian-German stereotypes that ends with a bad song-and-dance number reinforcing Austrian-German stereotypes. It gets by on Waltz’ charm.

What Have You Become? explores the dashed dreams of lame suburbanites. It wasn’t that funny, but I do appreciate the sketches’ dark sense of humor.

The Papal Securities ad amusingly focuses on the investment strategies of retiring popes, and while it wasn’t a knock-out, it did make excellent use of Waltz as a Pope playing guitar.

Nasim Pedrad introduces a new character, Tippy, who destroys party conversation with awkward interruptions and clueless remarks. The problem with SNL characters who are annoying is that there is a fine line between extracting the humor out of an annoying situation and simply being annoying. This one falls in the latter category. I highlight it here only because I know that Tippy will probably become a recurring sketch.

Djesus Uncrosses is a Tarantino revenge tale centered on a blood-thirsty, n-word using Jesus, and it is not just fantastic, it’s the night’s best sketch and best use of Christoph Waltz.

Engelbert Jarmacus also makes great us of Waltz as the white, virgin brother in a trio with two Barry Whites. The sketch is a B, but Waltz is an A+.

Alabama Shakes’ Hold On is soul-stirring. When I heard that the Brittany Howard was only 23, my first thought was that there’s probably a lot of people she went to high school with who are saying, “What? That quiet girl who sat in the back of the class, made strange faces, and looked like a 47-year-old sounds like THAT? I really should’ve talked to her more.”

After opening with a couple of rough jokes, Weekend Update soared, including two great guests, Taran Killam’s Marco Rubio and Kate McKinnon’s out-fucking-standing peasant woman from the Ural mountains. McKinnon continues to be one of the best things going on with “SNL” this season. (Sadly, it ended on a bum note with another Jay Pharaoh impression of Stephen A. Smith rehashing the same premise and jokes from his last “Weekend Update” appearance.)

I didn’t like Fred Armison’s Regine character the first time, and I didn’t care for it much this time, but two things save the sketch this time around: Bill Hader totally fucking losing it, and Armisen’s total insistence that he take it so far that we see his junk. I saw Armisen’s soul. Unfortunately, it was through his ass crack.

I love Brittany Howard, but I can’t help but think that “SNL” is about three episodes from Aidy Bryant doing an easy Alabama Shakes sketch.

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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.