As Jonah Hill hosts SNL for the fourth time, it’s easy to see why they’d want him. Even though he’s not riding the wave of some recent accomplishment, and not likely to be as big of a ratings grab as another celebrity, Hill’s got a lot to offer. He can come across as a little mechanical in reading the cue cards, but he’s jovial, good-natured and seemingly game for whatever the writers want to throw at him. Wondering whether he’ll do another sketch about taking an embarrassingly massive dump? Wonder no more! He’ll do it, dear viewer!
Though tonight’s show has scads of news parodies — four, if you include Weekend Update and a long news report folded into a filmed sketch — there isn’t one game show or talk show parody in sight. A reprieve! The more exciting moments, i.e., a stellar jab at Trump’s racist supporters, understandably coalesce around political happenings; for that reason, some of the premise-based sketches feel a little flat by comparison.
CNN Cold Open
Between the excitement of Super Tuesday, an awful GOP debate, and lots of smaller ridiculous happenings, this open is a hodgepodge of several noteworthy moments in the political circus. While Donald Trump (Darrell Hammond) boasts that the media hadn’t seen a campaign like his “since Germany in the 1930s,” Bobby Moynihan does a good, shell-shocked Chris Christie hovering in the background. Kate McKinnon as Hillary taunts Hillary-haters, and Jason Sudeikis makes an appearance as the Trump-condemning Mitt Romney: “We in the GOP do not say racist and sexist things. We imply them, subtly, over decades and decades of policy.” A few good lines but all in all, it feels like an obligatory round-up. After all, having Trump come right out and say he has a big dick isn’t any funnier than Trump’s original big dick joke.
Jonah Hill monologue
When Hill last hosted SNL, he was still fresh off the success of Moneyball, his big part in Wolf of Wall Street, and his two Oscar noms. This time, well, he bragged about his “starring role in the Hail, Caesar! trailer” and seeing Deadpool. Hill took questions from the audience, as he did during his last host monologue, but this time it was just Kyle Mooney jabbing Hill about a recent lack of visibility. Then Hill brought musical guest Future out so Hill could try out Drake’s bars in “Jumpman.” If the guy doesn’t have anything to brag about at present, maybe this is the ego boost?
Voters for Trump Ad
The episode’s sketch most likely to blow up social media is this, a searing political ad for Trump in which well-meaning, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth Americans back the Orangeman. After all of the average (white) Janes and Johns have talked about how authentic and successful the Donald is, it’s slowly revealed that their everyday chores involve book-burning and ironing klan robes. This package looks and feels incredible, and the tone is spot-on. No, not all Trump supporters are racists, but its clear that the racists know who they’re voting for.
This filmed piece, which involves Hill as demure wrestling champ Nate, feted by his peers after winning the unwinnable match, takes a pretty long walk to get to the joke. At about a minute and a half, when Nate settles down in front of the TV with his folks, a news segment reveals that Nate’s win was a hoax to make “the school loser” feel good. It’s a little bland, but there are highlights: The news is focused on Nate’s story despite the fact that his neighbors were murdered by Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack, while the cheery school janitor (Kenan Thompson) offers up the secrets of Nate’s bad habits and keeps getting more on-camera interviews (“Why is Mr. Ramirez getting so much air time?”).
Fond Du Lac News
This straightforward newscast parody — from “Southeastern Wisconsin’s award-winning news team” — finds the personal lives of small-town newscasters taking over the broadcast. There are cute characters, including Vanessa Bayer’s weather-woman who just got a Navigator, though a lot of it is giving the cast time for Wisconsinite yah-sure-hey-you-betcha chatter. The best laugh arises from a reaction; after Cecily Strong’s co-anchor tells a long story about her Korean best friend, a stand-up pool, and the Korean friend’s drowned sister, her co-host Hill only manages to say, “Huh!”
After more Trump dick jokes and a groaner about former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle, the desk bits take a backseat to the individual cast performances. Cecily Strong does the Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party, and proves that solid writing and performance can support a character that’s growing stale. Vanessa Bayer shows up for a charming, would-be remote interview with a recalcitrant 110-year-old woman played by Kate McKinnon. As the ever-cheery Bayer sticks her mic in McKinnon’s face, the latter really sells exhausted lines like, “Leave this place."
Finally, Jay Pharoah steals the show by imagining a caucus of black
comics coming to terms with this week’s Katt Williams–Kevin Hart beef.
In a few minutes, he delivers a whirlwind of nine impeccable
impersonations — some of which, like his blustery Chris Rock, need no
introduction at all. It’s in impressive feat, but then again,
impressions are Pharoah’s superpower.
Silver Star Catering
A conference room full of officemates gather to talk about a proposal while their lunch caterer — Hill as Toby from Silver Star — blabs on and on about how much they are enjoying the food. (In fact, they’ve hardly touched it.) Even in the world of the sketch, the script doesn’t do much to support Toby’s ongoing, noxious interruptions; how believable is it for an entire office to sit quietly while a dude loudly goes from talking about wraps being “housed” or “munched” to ranch dressing getting gang banged? In any case, it's a thin premise, but Hill deserves credit for doing his damndest to make work.
Ostensibly a parody of mannered, English murder mysteries, this sketch is just an elaborate shit joke. The cast of broad characters — the brash Americans, the daffy cook — are less interested in the murder than they are in the “24 separate flushes in the span of 90 minutes” that emanated from the room of Hill’s character, Mr. Westin. The writers must think of scat when they think of Hill: The last time Hill hosted the show in 2014, he sat through a game show parody that belabored the fact that his character clogged the toilet.
In this sketch, parents gather to support their kids’ school during a charity auction to support the senior carnival. When the three teens behind hit internet song “I Have a Crush on Kevin” offer a private concert, the parents are outbid by the assistant to the Qatari king, played by Hill. The initial reveal is a silly surprise, and it’s fun to watch the parents doubts about sending their kids overseas with strangers evaporate when money gets involved. Of course, the fact that white dudes are playing Middle Easterners is inherently uncomfortable, even when they try to chew the scenery to make up for the fact that they’re white dudes playing Middle Easterners.
This ultra low-key news show — one of the most surprisingly successful transplants from Beck Bennett, Kyle Mooney and Nick Rutherford’s Good Neighbor — is always good to great. During their top story, host Casey (Bennett) sets the tone by confronting his newborn dad pal with a hard-hitting journalistic question: “What’s it like having a fucking baby?” The audience doesn’t seem to love the fact that most of this episode is about brahs distraught by a woman getting a breast reduction; but Pete Davidson does such a convincingly hurt brah that a few people in the audience “Awww” in sympathy after his brokenhearted exit.