When I interviewed Seth Rogen last year, I felt compelled to ask about his relationship with sticky icky. It was not a unique impulse. Several of Rogen’s movies enthusiastically endorse marijuana — hell, it drove the entire plot of Pineapple Express — so it seems worthy of its own line of inquiry. Sure enough, the budding filmmaker was game to talk pot. The reality, of course, is that Seth Rogen is asked about this topic in way too many interviews, and he’s probably bored out of his mind with these questions by now. But he always comes through anyway, and does his best to make the answers interesting. It was this affable good nature that shone through most in Rogen’s third time hosting Saturday Night Live. Even when he was in less-than-stellar sketches, and a couple duds did indeed make the cut this week, Rogen still performed the hell out of them, like he was in on some cosmic joke we’d all be privy to eventually. His consistent delivery anchored the episode, and made it look like fun. Oh, and there was also a weed sketch for the ages.
Bass Drop of the Week
Recent sketches have made fun of President Obama’s efforts to go unlikely distances to appeal to the youth of today. This week, the GOP gets a turn. Taran Killam as Paul Ryan and Beck Bennett as Jeb Bush stop by Coachella to foment affinity for the “new” Republican party. (John Oliver’s forthcoming Last Week Tonight recently did the same with a devastating web parody of those Republican hipster bro ads.) The cold open hit the usual beats of ill-advised slang and clumsy pandering, but because of the topical Coachella setting, it also included Brooks Wheelan’s DJ Rand Paul doing a “Not My President”-themed bass drop as a kicker.
Cameo Cavalcade of the Week
Monologues are where SNL hosts tend to confront the public’s opinion of them dead-on. For Seth Rogen, that meant his supposed journal of the week’s events includes an entry where the show’s writers pitched him 50 ideas about weed. (Further rifling through the journal reveals several pages of doodling the Wu-Tang “W.”) For James Franco, one pea in a cameo-pod that also included Zooey Deschanel, the confrontational element involved a nod to his recent Instagram shenanigans. But Franco and our host are both one-upped by the inexplicable presence of Taylor Swift, who shows up because “Whenever a man shows emotion, I appear.”
Welcome Return of the Week
It’s nice to see Nasim Pedrad’s Shallon again — the perpetually amused pied piper who always leads her young classmates down a dark road. In a total inversion of the message Seth Rogen’s Officer Kellogg is in class to spread, Shallon ends up proselytizing the benefits of responsible crack use. You know, just a little bit of crack now and then, like when the spelling bee doesn’t go so well. It’s the same sketch it always is, but what’s really nice is seeing more of Pedrad, who has been splitting her time lately between this show and the forthcoming, much-anticipated Mulaney. Hopefully, she’ll be in some more sketches before closing out what may be her final season.
Continued Search of the Week
SNL has wisely stayed away from joking about Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. Any Lost parody, for instance, would have been in poor taste, and Twitter has already adequately addressed it. However, this digital short about a CNN-sponsored pregnancy test indirectly touches on the tragic event, by sending up the news network’s relentless, under-informed fixation on it. In the fake ad, Beck Bennett and Vanessa Bayer are vexed by frequent, news-free prenatal updates. Bayer sums up a lot of our feelings about following along on CNN when she says of the pregnancy test, “This was fun at first, but now, it’s just like: Wait and tell me when you know.”
Fart Joke of the Week
After Aidy Bryant’s southern belle from hell breaks both arms, her dutiful boyfriend, Seth Rogen, has to do everything for her. As Rogen emphasizes with haunted eyes multiple times: everything. He does not make his new chores sound very fun either, to the increasing horror of his dinner party tablemates. “This has been the hardest chunk of my life so far,” Rogen’s Allan says, “And I was in Afghanistan.” Aidy Bryant has been a continual delight throughout this season, and her chemistry with Rogen here is impressive — especially when they both break after an elaborate fart joke.
Monster Mash of the Week
The best digital shorts function like mini-movies, and this week’s “Monster Pals” easily qualifies. The titular damaged duo is hanging out together in a bar. Danny has long white hair and the Wicked Witch’s complexion, and Jim has a Prince Valiant ‘do and the face of rigor mortis–ridden chimp. When they are ridiculed by society we feel their pain, and when Jim disappears to get a human-ectomy, we hope Danny will be able to find him. (Judging by some of the reactions from people Danny encounters in his search, they actually did unleash Mike O’Brien in New York City with a monster mask and film his reactions with people.) It can’t be easy to mine an actual emotional vein in something this silly. Also, this sketch offers a payoff to the James Franco cameo set up in the monologue.
“Ground Yellow Corn Chicken Byproduct Meal”? Instead of Chicken of the Week
The Blue River Dog Food ad is based on a real ad, during which a pet owner switches allegiances after finding out more about the big name brand’s ingredients. It’s a pretty obscure target for parody, though, so most of the audience probably just saw Cecily Strong freaking out and some sketch-salvaging adorable dog reaction shots.
Tuna Casserole of the Week
The new co-hosts of Weekend Update have been slowly making strides toward replicating the kind of easy rapport Seth Meyers had with the weekly guests, and it shows in this week’s installment. First up is Red Sox all-star “Big Papi” David Ortiz, who responds to criticism for taking a Samsung selfie with Obama while under an endorsement deal by trying out some slogans on Colin Jost. As amusing as it is to hear Jost continually address Kenan Thompson’s Ortiz as “Big Papi,” this appearance is dwarfed by the return of Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy.
Jacob may be Vanessa Bayer’s signature character. The pleading desperation in his eyes as he tells belabored jokes is a wonder to behold. Bayer may have outdone herself this week on the acting front, though, when Jacob grapples with the reality of Derek Jeter leaving the Yankees, like a robot on the brink of self-destruction. Although he’s cool to Cecily Strong in his first post-Meyers outing, over the course of not one but three jokes about his mom’s tuna casserole, Jacob almost warms up to her. Most of the Update audience, though, is probably already there.
Clunker of the Week
On the other hand, this sketch contained Strong’s second lead performance this week that didn’t quite connect. She plays a singularly obnoxious cousin to a recently engaged Rogen, and chooses the occasion of the engagement party to talk about the time Rogen’s character performed oral sex on a sleeping man. You know, like comedy? If you avoid one sketch this week, make it this one.
Undercover Sharpton of the Week
According to recently released documents, in 1983 Reverend Al Sharpton was part of an FBI sting operation to bring down New York’s toughest crime family. For SNL, news like this is sweet manna from heaven. Obviously, Al Sharpton is the least likely candidate for covert ops that there is, which is the joke at the center of the sketch, Undercover Sharpton, which plays like an ‘80s cop show. (“Y’all sure I should be doing this?” Thompson’s Sharpton says during the awesome credits sequence.) There are a lot of “saying things too obviously for the hidden mic” jokes here, all of them landing due to Thompson’s bewildered performance. Bonus points for the revelation that the briefcase Sharpton brought to the would-be drug deal is actually full of caramel corn and demo tapes.
4/20 of the Week
It’s a Seth Rogen episode in mid-April, so a 4/20 sketch was always a possibility. This one invents some mythology to go behind the goofy high school-beloved weed holiday, and then deflates it. The Kyle Mooney–honed short managed to simultaneously make fun of weed culture while also entertaining any stoners watching.
Yucky Combo of the Week
In perhaps the most unfortunate brand re-launch of all times, Herman and Sons is going from sperm bank to frozen yogurt shop. You see where they’re going with this, and you’re already headed to the nearest vomitorium. Just try to erase from your memory the image of Seth Rogen guzzling the wrong substance from a frozen yogurt dispenser. It literally cannot be done.