To a lot of people tuning into Saturday Night Live last night, Zach Galifianakis was just that weird bearded guy from The Hangover. But to those who have watched him over the years, he was that weird bearded guy from so many other hilarious things (Between Two Ferns, Live at the Purple Onion, Tim and Eric). Count us among the group that appreciated Galifianakis’s deadpan delivery and expertly crafted one-liners long before he got drunk and silly in Vegas. So we were excited for this week’s episode of SNL, especially after those fantastic promos. And it’s not often that SNL books a host who is famous for being funny (Galifianakis is the first host this season whom you could call a comedian, sorry Charles Barkley). More reason for excitement! So how did it end up?
Not so good. The cold open, a send-up of President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid talking about health-care reform, was so unfunny that it could have actually been President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid talking about health-care reform. Things quickly got better as Galifianakis came out for his monologue and killed it. There were no questions from the audience or interruptions from other cast members, just ZG and his jokes. Sure, some of it might have sounded familiar to those who know his stuff, but watching a comedian tell funny jokes during the monologue was such a welcome change that we’ll excuse him. Also, Hoobastank!
Next up were the Vogelchecks, that way too intimate family in which men love kissing each other. Ugh. Like every time before, this sketch tried to get by on being gross, and while it absolutely succeeded at that (Bill Hader’s dog smooching, Fred Armisen, and Will Forte’s tongue jousting), it didn’t succeed at being funny. The bidet sketch was amusing in an absurd way but the Digital Short brought out the first real laughs since the monologue. It also made clear how this episode would work: The show would be funny when Galifianakis was onscreen. Otherwise, it would not.
The highlight of the night came from a recurring sketche that we cannot stop loving in spite of (or is it because of?) its ridiculousness: “What Up With That?” This week’s version of the DeAndre Cole—hosted talk show brought it on every different level, from the guests (Paul Rudd! Frank Rich!) to Jason Sudeikis’s B-boy moves, to the musical and sartorial stylings of “the world’s greatest ambidextrous, flute player R.J. Sizzle.”
The most discussed moment of the night came in the last sketch where Galifianakis appeared beardless. Some people seem to think that it was covered by makeup or some sort of rubber chin cap, but the fake beard he wore at the closing seemed to make it pretty clear that he actually did shave while Vampire Weekend (really good!) played its last song. We’d put up the video to allow you to investigate further, but neither NBC nor Hulu has it online. Hmmm, interesting.