Between the ongoing nightmare of Hurricane Sandy cleanup and Louis C.K. willingness to stare into the abyss in the name of comedy, there was a chance that Saturday Night Live could have gone decidedly somber last night. But two weeks after crafting a talent show around Bruno Mars's few workable skills, it must have been a relief for the SNL writers and cast to be able to explore the comedic space with a talented writer/performer like Louis, and the enthusiasm showed.
No-Show of the Night
Not that the man doesn't have a billion more important things to do at the moment, but you still might have expected NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg to make a cameo during the cold open addressing the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Still, despite no stamp of approval from his antecedent, Fred Armisen did quite a good job covering the greatest hits of Bloomberg's persona: the low-key authoritarianism, the ban on large-size sodas, and (my personal favorite) the flat affect when he speaks Spanish. It's too bad Bloomberg's idiosyncrasies never became nationally known; Armisen gets him way better than he ever got Obama. Meanwhile, the enthusiastic interpreter gag had probably been played out by this point in the week, though Cecily Strong did a good job with her, and the punchline was nailed by Nasim Pedrad showing up as Chris Christie's big-haired Jersey interpreter (Pedrad's only sketch this week — what is HAPPENING with her?). Interesting, too, how Sandy has affected the way we make fun of Chris Christie. Specifically, that we don't. Bobby Moynihan's impersonation of a tough-talking, Obama-loving Christie was positively affectionate.
No-Brainer of the Night
It must be nice on the weeks when your host is a brilliant stand-up comedian and you can just let him do his thing for the monologue. One less idea to have to think up. As anyone could have predicted, Louis slayed with an extended bit about meeting an old lady at the airport. Also? Kind of adorable that he requested a hand-held mic, presumably to feel more comfortable up there. If that was the case, it worked.
Portmanteau of the Night
Kind of a standard Fox & Friends sketch, where those three dumb-dumbs let their ill-informed opinions loose on matters of Hurricane Sandy. Louis did a solid job as a bemused FEMA representative, but Jason Sudeikis's Donald Trump faced an uphill climb. Darrell Hammond's take on the guy is still pretty definitive. Still, the sketch was worth it if only for Brian Kilmeade's fears of piranhas with AIDS — or as he calls them, "parades."
Sketch of the Night
Not really a sketch, I guess, but easily the best of whatever we're calling digital shorts post-Samberg. I have no idea whether Louie has gone mainstream enough for this to have been meaningful for a wide audience, but having him go through the show's beats as Abraham Lincoln — beleaguered, sad-sacky, trudging dutifully up those subway steps at West 4th Street in his stovepipe hat — was a flash of brilliance.
Stark Realization of the Night
I laughed at lot at the "Australian Screen Legends" sketch — anything with Bill Hader and Kate McKinnon together is going to be a hit these days, really — but it brought home a sobering truth about the state of American humor: we STILL don't have a consistent framework for making fun of Australians. From Crocodile Dundee to Bart Simpson's prank calls to "maybe the dingo ate your baby," we're all over the map on this issue. In the case of this sketch, we're saying Australians are ... kind of goobery? Flatly unsexy is I guess the point here, which: fair (though it ignores the white-hot sensuality of Noah Taylor, but that's an argument for another time).
Wager-Bait of the Night
Jason Sudeikis's appearance on Weekend Update as Mitt Romney slipped in the most needle-sharp criticism of Romney I've seen to date, on this or any show, when Seth Meyers offhandedly asked Romney why exactly he really, really wants to be President, and Romney had no earthly idea. Bingo. But it brings up another point I've been dancing around these last few weeks: Should Romney lose on Tuesday, how long do you think before Sudeikis announces he's exiting the show? I'm talking in weeks. Does he make it through December? Even if Romney wins, I can see Sudeikis riding out the rest of the season but no more. Much as we need his Joe Biden, he seems ready to move on, and his stuff this season has been heavily weighted to election sketches. So: how many more episodes does Jason Sudeikis have in him if Romney loses on Tuesday? I'll start the betting at "one."
Best Attempt at Sorkin-ese
Super happy for Aidy Bryant that she got her first real crack at a reprisable character, but I'd be bummed, frankly, if social-media expert Kourtney Barnes came back to the Update desk a second time. You'd think a show as young and urban in sensibility as SNL would not still be hung up — in 2012! — on cretinous anonymous commenters on the internet. Some of the breathless outrage at the idea that the subliterate hordes would be given equal credence to David Brooks on matters like the election — DAVID BROOKS, my God, think of the CHILDREN! — sounded like cutting room material from The Newsroom. Or Studio 60. There are so many good, intelligent ways to make fun of the internet. This show ought to find them.
Brightest Spot on Update
I was delighted to see Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With return (kinda seriously on the Cecily Strong bandwagon in this early part of the season), though that gleam of recognition was tempered by my quick realization that, as is the case with so many repeat characters, it's just the same bit with different words. That said, "Can I sing a Negro spiritual real quick?" pretty much murdered me, so it was all worth it.
[Jokey Headline About Running Out of Gas Redacted, As Gas Shortages Still a Real Problem in NYC]
But seriously, there was an audible sound of engines sputtering during both the Horn-Blower and Hotel Check-Out sketches. It's the nature of the beast, of course, and I'm pretty forgiving of whatever happens after 12:30, but putting two of them back-to-back like this made the void stand out more. Horn-Blower was your classic "Come On, Man!" sketch, where someone does something obnoxious, repeatedly, and the whole joke is that everybody else is exasperated by his behavior. Hotel Check-Out wasn't so much a dud as just a decidedly low-key observational sketch. It actually plays much better as a next-day solo clip, without the night-of fatigue making you antsy for the big laugh.
Kate McKinnon Takeover Status
VERY promising rebound this week from a frustrating near-no-show in the Bruno Mars episode. Between the Aussie Screen Legends sketch and this, a screamingly uncomfortable last-call seduction with Louis C.K., the theme of the night could be summed up as: "Awkwardly Forthright Sexuality with Kate McKinnon." Really smart decision to just let Louis and Kate riff away at each other, creating a "Can You Top This?" stack of red-flags ("No way, 'cause I'm a Wiccan!"). The cherry on top is a heart-stopping kiss that I'm pretty sure will turn you to stone if you look directly at it. I love when the final sketch of the night is a reward for sticking it through the whole episode, and this one absolutely was.