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SNL Recap: The Natural Comedy and Casual Racism of Zach Galifianakis

The advantage of going with a host like Zach Galifianakis, with his strong comedy background, is that you don't have to be quite so bulletproof with your concepts or your scripting. What we saw last night were a lot of loose concepts that stayed on the right side of funny because Galifianakis is such a naturally funny guy. (Which, by the way, only serves as a greater indictment of the Hangover series, which can't manage to overcome its vile nature even with a talented comedian like Galifianakis reading the lines.)

Current-Events Mishmash of the Week
As always, the "Fox and Friends" sketch is valuable mostly for the part where you ride the pause-button through the many "corrections" that consequence-free dumb-dumbs Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, and Brian Kilmeade are forced to issue. Favorites this time around: "Rick Moranis was never put on death row for shrinking his children"; "F.A.A. does not stand for 'Fart A**, A**"; and "The Chupacabra does not deliver presents on Cinco de Mayo." If I ever don't laugh at a Chupacabra joke, find the nearest pillow and get to smothering, because it's all over.

Quiet Confidence of the Week
Like Louis CK and Kevin Hart were before him this season, Galifianakis was handed free rein of his monologue to do his usual stand-up thing. Nothing incredibly remarkable, just a funny guy doing his funny-guy thing. I'm sure that a monologue like this goes a long way towards priming the live audience, getting them on your comedic wavelength and prepared for the tenor of the rest of the show. It's also just a huge vote of confidence on the part of the show.

Flawed Premise of the Week
Not to be the guy who misses the forest for the trees and reacts to a sketch about the myopia of nerds with further myopia, but honestly: this Game of Thrones sketch. The point of which appears to be that GoT nerds don't know regular stuff because they're too busy obsessing over the Khaleesi? Is that the stereotype we're working with? I don't know if that's the way to go. It all felt like standard nerd-baiting when greater GoT specificity could have taken the sketch into something really great. Galifianakis sold his stuff well — calling Ruth Bader Ginsburg "some old pilgrim" was a particular highlight — and certainly I'm not going to turn down a random Nikolaj Coster-Waldau cameo, but overall, this disappointed.

Kate McKinnon Takeover Report
Generally, the Takeover Report depends purely on screen time in order to measure just how much McKinnon is dominating a particular episode. More McKinnon = a better position for our ascendant star. This week, however, revealed something we haven't seen much this season: a weakness. We’ve seen McKinnon knock out Ellen, Jodie Foster, Edie Falco, and Ann Romney, but the celebrity impersonation golden touch stopped short at Martha Stewart. I don't know what kind of baritone-voiced hellscape McKinnon's Martha hails from, but I don't think it has a Connecticut.

Bait-and-Switch Cameo of the Week
What a cruel trick that was last night during the Jennifer Aniston lookalike competition. The sketch itself was pretty dumb-funny, thanks mostly to Galifianakis's incredulous rantings ("Who did she promise not to blow to get second place?"), an impersonation riff-off between Vanessa Bayer, Nasim Pedrad, and Taran Killam, and an unexpected and welcome appearance by Kenan Thompson's Whoopi Goldberg. But I can't have been the only one who saw the structure of the sketch (counting down to the #1 Aniston impersonation) and expected the real Jennifer Aniston to show up. Instead ... oh, God, I can barely talk about it. Instead, we got Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms smirking their way through a Hangover promo and grinding the gears of the entire sketch. Ugh.

Explicit Fanboat Story of the Week
Am I crazy, or was that the best James Carville appearance on Update by a multiple of ten? The whole conceit of Carville's ghost Grammy brought the silliness to some really beautiful places. It was a solid Update overall, with Fred Armisen laying waste to Google Glass, as well as a fourth appearance by the Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party. You'd think the diminishing returns would start setting in at some point, but by the time Cecily Strong was lecturing Seth on the cicadas, I stopped fretting.

Candy Slander of the Week
The concept of the "so racist it's funny" sketch is one that's been tested over and over again and is not always the easiest sell for me. Galifianakis made it work. Between the ridiculous M&M costume, Galifianakis's innocent delivery, and the care taken to make the bigoted statements feel more weird than strictly vile (telling the gay guys, "the thought of what you guys do makes me sad"; the recurring apologies for using Native American terminology), it all felt ... charming?

Unbridled Weirdness of the Week
I'm not sure what "Darrell's House" even was. He's just a weird guy? Maybe an angry guy? Certainly a guy without many friends. At the very least, he's a guy with a solid eye for post-production, as we saw in the before-and-after sketches for his at-home TV show. This is another one that Galifianakis sold simply by just being a funny guy. The theme song to "Darrell's House" got me simply by the weird voice he does. Sometimes, when it's one of these ten-to-one sketches, that kind of natural comedic ability is all that's required. I will note, however, in the reprise of the sketch at the end of the show, the near-total lack of Jon Hamm entrance applause. Has Don Draper really alienated his audience so much this season?

Celebrity Impersonation of the Week
I'm going to be honest: I didn't even know that Michael Jordan was getting married. Sorry for not keeping current, Michael. But more so than Galifianakis and Jason Sudeikis's coke-monster emcees, the highlight of this sketch was Jay Pharoah's most unlikely Dikembe Mutombo impersonation. I mean, sure, what comedian in 2013 wouldn't have a Mutombo impersonation at the ready? It's just good business. WTF-ness aside, however, I'm not sure if a line got me as much this week as, "This decadence is taunting God, Michael! He will punish you!"