Hey, did you know that Anchorman 2 is coming soon to a theater near you? It would be kind of strange if you didn’t, considering how the movie’s full-court-press marketing has invaded every facet of our lives. (Last night, Ron Burgundy co-hosted one of my dreams and I wasn’t even surprised.) The original film germinated from a partnership between SNL writer Adam McKay and his muse, Will Ferrell, so it was inevitable that the show would aid in the sequel’s ongoing media blitz. Since Ferrell was perhaps a little too busy this week to host, we instead got Paul Rudd.
I never thought I’d say this, but Rudd failed to top the recent Josh Hutcherson episode of SNL. Rudd’s a funny guy. He’s in a lot of funny movies. He’s also easy on the eyes and seems like the kind of guy every dude wishes was his best friend. Because of all these facts, however, the writers on the show seem to have thought this one was in the bag. Unfortunately, this one was not in the bag. It was decidedly very far away from the bag, in fact.
As he mentions in his monologue, Rudd tends to host with musical guests that overshadow him: Beyoncé, Paul McCartney, and now One Direction. In this instance, at least, the band thankfully didn’t dominate the episode, nor will it dominate subsequent discussions about it. (Although One Direction does makes us wonder if, like ‘N Sync before them, this boy band might have a future SNL hero like Timberlake in its ranks.) Instead, people will be talking about how overall this episode was “okay,” and the return of some old friends.
Welcome Back, Wiig of the Week
The Sound of Music Live’s sets — especially those festooned with swastikas — made the TV event feel like an SNL sketch, and since it was so widely viewed and hate-tweeted, the program had to be covered here. This condensed version of it ends up serving as an opportunity for Kristen Wiig to reprise her deformed Dooneese character, and stick a tiny doll hand into Kate McKinnon’s boob. It was an interesting twist on the character, taking her out of the Lawrence Welk Show context, and her sing-song story about a fish was actually disturbing. Fred Armisen’s joke-free Welk cameo at the end, though, was so brief it doesn’t even qualify as a tag.
Okay, Fine of the Week
“You’ve got your boy band,” Rudd says to One Direction during his monologue, “and I’ve got my man band.” The host is then joined by SNL and Anchorman alumni Ferrell and David Koechner, along with Steve Carrell, to sing “Afternoon Delight,” a song made ironic-famous for a new generation in their movie. At least these bros are surely way more sick of singing that damn song than we are of hearing it. Serves them right.
Perfunctory Healthcare.gov-Bashing of the Week
Politics Nation with Al Sharpton exists this week for one reason and one reason only: Kenan’s Sharpton in Puma tracksuits with a clerical collar. Other than that, the sketch awkwardly shoehorns Rudd in as unpaid HuffPo contributor Peter “Dushy” Douchet the way one might have imagined the writers would for an unproven host like, say, Josh Hutcherson, rather than a third-timer. Meh.
Digital Direction-ing of the Week
The first digital short of the night acknowledges the popularity of our musical guest for any adults watching who aren’t aware of them and just want to get One Direction off their lawn as quickly as possible. Easily the best part of watching Rudd as Dan Charles, 1D’s #1 fan is the way the assemblage of adolescent girls respond to his catty one-upmanship. One girl in particular gives him some of the mightiest side-eye I’ve ever seen.
Fanciest Footwork of the Week
The divorce sketch was a bizarre blend of weird wordplay and white people dancing. Rudd and Vanessa Bayer meet up at a diner accompanied by their lawyers, and even though they’re ending their blessed union, they can’t seem to divorce their love for Fleetwood Mac’s “I Don’t Want To Know.” When the song comes on, they are moved to dance badly. It seems like two separate premises jammed together, and while they don’t mesh neatly, the ambition of the sketch and its players is admirable.
Opposite of ‘Bah, Humbug’ of the Week
Bayer’s eager-to-please Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy is always a killer bit, but here she was outshone by the return of Taran Killam’s 1860s newspaper critic, Jebidiah Atkinson. Previously, this character reviewed the Gettysburg Address, and other historical speeches; now he’s ripping apart Christmas specials, like the classic Charlie Brown iteration, which was, in Atkinson’s words, “a 30-minute Zoloft commercial.” Killan’s dandy fop can seemingly make any joke land just by looking out over the rims of his tiny glasses in utter disdain and yelling at the end of the sentence. Weirdly, though, the character’s commentary on how the audience reacts to his lines makes him seem like a stand-up comic.
Size Matters of the Week
What if Michelangelo’s “David” had a penis the size of a Monopoly thimble, and the sculpture’s model was at the unveiling? What might that be like? This sketch has a funny premise, but there’s really nowhere to go after the first minute or so. At least it doesn’t hang around too long. Props to the fake beard department for decking out Michelangelo and da Vinci in face-puffery the Duck Dynasty cast would kill for.
Controversy Generator of the Week
The next digital short is a mock-preview for White Christmas, the first black holiday movie for a white audience. This is somewhat uncomfortable territory, considering the show’s epic diversity problems of late, and in general. On the one hand, it is perfectly acceptable, and well-deserved, to call out how dressing up like an old lady à la Madea is not funny in and of itself. Unfortunately, it is insultingly reductive to suggest that all holiday movies geared toward black audiences are like Tyler Perry movies. Thompson’s raised eyebrow at a key moment in this sketch could be a comment on the sketch itself. Later on, though, Jay Pharoah actually does put it out there, saying “Are we gonna get in trouble for this?” Kind of?
Season’s Greeting of the Week
Like Michelangelo’s David and the baby dong, this sketch about Rudd’s newly svelte Santa doesn’t have a lot to do. Clunkers like “What the Keebler’s fudge?” delivered by an embarrassed Kyle Mooney are around every corner here. Kate McKinnon shines, though, as Santa’s hot new girlfriend he met at Whole Foods. And I may be a bit of a Killam partisan, but even the one line he has here is funny because of the nasally Snork-voice he uses to dispense it.
Forgettable Forgetfulness of the Week
It was a big night for Cecily Strong, who shows up in a number of sketches, including this one, about a woman haunted by her past lovers. The most handsome cast members play suave reminders of old indiscretions, and then there’s Rudd as Victor from the airport Papa John’s. I suppose each of us probably has an Airport Papa John’s Victor in our history somewhere, which makes this premise relatable, and even though he’s rather cue card–challenged, Rudd does what he can with him and it works for a bit. (Bobby Moynihan is a scream here.) Fittingly for a sketch that never really goes anywhere, though, this one ends with Paul Rudd crawling away on his hands and knees, as our opinion of this episode did a couple sketches ago.
Toast-Worthy Return of the Week
At least this uneven episode went out on a high note. The return of Bill Brasky was prophesied by a tweet from Adam McKay and it did not disappoint. For the uninitiated, Bill Brasky is the predecessor of what Chuck Norris became during that weird Chuck Norris Facts moment seven or eight years ago. He is a mythic figure touted by soused businessmen played by Ferrell, Koechner, and past hosts like John Goodman and Alec Baldwin. Rudd and Killan don the fake buck teeth and terrible suits to join Koechner and Ferrell in toasting the greatest nutjob who ever lived, in what is revealed to be a Chuck E. Cheese. It’s hard to single out one line in a sketch that is basically a collection of one-liners, but let’s go with, “His urine stream is so strong, it can cut through an uncooked steak..” Were this episode a urine stream, however, it would not make it through that steak by any measure.