In terms of hunky leading men hosting Saturday Night Live, this week’s episode hosted by Chris Hemsworth wasn’t nearly as strong as last week’s solid Ryan Gos-fest, but a few choice sketches and a much-needed Will Ferrell cameo kept the show moving at a decent pace.
Hemsworth first hosted SNL just nine months ago in March on the 40th season, and similar to then, he brought a goofy energy to the show, the perfect example of which being the Brother 2 Brother sketch which was brought back for round two. His good looks served as fodder for several sketches, and he played to his strengths in a pre-recorded short that cast him as a hot-but-oblivious cop. The cast did most of the heavy lifting in terms of actually funny moments, and we got a closer look at newcomer Jon Rudnitsky, who has been on the sidelines for much of the season.
Things continue to be strong on the Weekend Update front, with Michael Che and Colin Jost playing off each other well as they keep picking apart the 2016 election (but mostly just Trump). But the highlight of this episode was obviously Will Ferrell reprising his George W. Bush impression. He joins a growing list of former cast member drop-ins this season, so far including Darrell Hammond, Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Mike Myers, and Martin Short (and I’m guessing one or two more will come next week).
Speaking of next week, let’s not forget that real-life goddesses TINA FEY and AMY POEHLER are co-hosting the last episode of the year. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. But before we indulge in that bound-to-be-wonderful way of ending 2015, let’s dive into this week’s not-too-shabby episode hosted by Chris Hemsworth with musical guest Chance the Rapper.
George W. Bush Cold Open
Will Ferrell proved once again that he will continue to get mileage out of his George W. Bush impression for as long as he lives (and provided a break from Taran Killam’s Trump impression) with this surprise, one-man cold open. What stuck out about this monologue was how smart and reasonable the caricature of Bush seemed compared to the old days on SNL, and not to mention the real-life array of current GOP candidates. As Bush says, “It makes you miss me, doesn’t it? And that’s sayin’ a lot.” His jokes about Ben Carson’s qualifications (“Running the country is NOT brain surgery”) and Ted Cruz’s attitude towards immigrants (“Unless your name is Running Bear or Chief Two Rivers, we’re all anchor babies”) got earnest applause breaks, because he was making a lot of sense. There were, of course, the usual mispronunciations and jokes about Bush’s intelligence, but for the most part he was making sharp observations about today’s more-ridiculous-than-Bush candidates. It almost makes you nostalgic for the days when Dubya was the biggest political target you could have on SNL.
Chris Hemsworth Monologue
When a monologue involves the host leaving the stage and walking around the halls of Studio 8H, it almost doesn’t matter what they’re doing. Luckily for Hemsworth, seeing the SNL dressing room and backstage areas helped distract from the general weakness of this bit, in which he walks around punching, teasing, and otherwise bullying all the cast members as they get ready for the show. Well, except for Leslie Jones, the show’s resident bullshit-cutter. She’s having none of it. My main question is, did Hemsworth walk into that door on purpose? I’m guessing it was planned, but it’s way funnier if you imagine that it was just a “hot clumsy guy” mistake.
Star Wars Toy Commercial
However cliché the Adult-Nerd stereotype is, this commercial parody for new Star Wars toys had just enough funny details to remind you of that one friend who takes their fandom so seriously that it becomes less of a hobby and more like an OCD chore. Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan provided that contrast to the adorable child actors, who just want to play with their Stormtroopers instead of leaving them in the box and never touching them. The guys’ insistence on total film accuracy reminded me of Comic Book Guy correcting Bart about a comic book on The Simpsons, after which Bart reminds him, “None of these things ever really happened.” But the best part of this sketch was when one of the children asks an instantly deflated Taran Killam, “Does your wife like toys too?”
On The Record With Greta Van Susteren
Kate McKinnon is the third SNL cast member to impersonate Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, and while Kristen Wiig made it her own, McKinnon has that lisp down, especially when trying to say her own name or “She sells sea shells by the seashore.” Greta serves as the mostly straight-man in this sketch, which felt like it could have started out as a weaker cold open that got bumped by Ferrell’s cameo. In an episode full of solid political material, this interview with Sen. Ted Cruz (Taran Killam), Gov. Chris Christie (Bobby Moynihan), and Dr. Ben Carson (Jay Pharoah) wasn’t as strong in comparison, but there’s always room for more jokes about Donald Trump. And, for what it’s worth, the sketch was even Van Susteren-approved.
Time to Bleed
In the second pre-taped sketch of the night, Hemsworth was totally in his element as a hunky cop who refuses to treat a bullet wound until every last aspect of taking down the bad guy (Kyle Mooney) has been completed, including winning an award, doing his paperwork, and having celebratory coitus with his partner (Sasheer Zamata). Hemsworth’s character offers up some increasingly hilarious come-ons to Zamata, and Mooney says what’s possibly the least menacing criminal taunt of all time: “You really thought you could beat me, policeman?” Zamata’s reaction to the especially twisted ending was also a great way to cap it off.
Brother 2 Brother
Bringing back this sketch from Hemsworth’s last stint as host was a good idea, but it also reminded me that Hemsworth himself contributes very little to the humor of it, other than serving as a funny prop (if I was really trying to dig in, I’d say that was a metaphor for this entire episode). It’s all about watching Taran Killam, or Matty, react to people comparing his (totally fine) body to that of his twin Marky, a hot Australian guy who passed as Thor. Beck Bennett, Kyle Mooney, and Pete Davidson get super descriptive this time around, like saying Marky’s feet look more like hands than Matty’s hands do. This one must have been fun to write, considering it’s basically a series of insults at Killam’s expense. Also, what was that one line about “giving daddy his massage” about? I don’t even want to know.
Hey, Cecily Strong can really sing! That was the biggest takeaway from this sketch, in which a kooky couple (Strong and Hemsworth) insist that their friends (Sasheer Zamata, Kenan Thompson, Kate McKinnon, and Taran Killam) sing along with them to “Debra’s Time,” a song from the made-up Broadway play, “It’s Christmas After All” which was also featured in a Smucker’s commercial. Strong carries this one with her melancholy, over-the-top theatrical performance while Hemsworth supports her by pretending to play the piano. I will admit, I laughed out loud at the throwaway joke about driving fast during a snowstorm at the end, when it cuts to footage of a car doing exactly that. That little randomness sort of redeemed it for me.
Broken record alert: Update has really improved since last season. But seriously, I hope they do a few Thursday night specials ahead of the election like they did in 2008 and 2012. This week, Michael Che and Colin Jost came up with a great way to reframe Trump’s racist comments about Muslims and Mexicans: he’s not actually a racist, but a soulless opportunist who will say anything to get attention from those who are; “The political equivalent of a phone sex operator,” as Che says. It seems like the dial has been turned up on how far they can go regarding Trump now that they let him host the show. As Che explains, “Racism is embedded deep down in the soul… I’ve looked into that man’s eyes. Donald Trump doesn’t have a soul, just a pair of dollar signs floating in cologne.” Damn.
In terms of one-off jokes, the sad, Sarah Mclachlan campaign ad for Jeb Bush got a big laugh, and Che’s joke about Kendrick Lamar’s 11 Grammy nominations got a more guttural response from the audience, even a few gasps. The latter got a response from Jost (“Cool!”) and an audience member’s “Aww” after a later punchline about sex offenders got some now-regular commentary from Che. I like that they’ve been so ad-libby lately. Che’s relaxed nature (like his drinking from a red solo cup at the end, and throwing his leg up on the desk) has loosened up the format in a way that contrasts well with Jost’s more vulnerable, type-A personality.
On the guest side of things, Kate McKinnon reprised her Angela Merkel impression to celebrate – or try to at least, her “body is rejecting it” – being chosen as Time’s person of the year. Thankfully she addressed the less-than-flattering cover image, which she says looks like “A pint of oatmeal with two blueberries for eyes, with a smile that says, ‘Are we done here?’” They also manage to work in yet another jab at Trump, with Merkel responding to his saying she’s ruining Germany by saying, “He likes our older stuff.”
Always welcome at the desk is Leslie Jones, who dropped by to defend the honor of Breaking Bad not being nominated for a Golden Globe, despite the fact that it’s been over for more than a year and won best drama in 2014. I prefer her relationship expert segments (although she still found room to call Jost a “frothy glass of eggnog”) but it was fun to hear her break down the plot of one of the best shows of all time. Plus, you could say that endlessly hating on Skyler is a mark of a true BB fan.
Chris Hemsworth in a dress and wig. Okay, sure. Why not. Surprisingly, that’s not where this one lost me. It relied on Hemsworth to be hilarious while playing himself, which as we saw in the monologue, is not his strength, and the meta jokes about him and his brother (not to mention his quirk of referring to everyone as bitches) were lukewarm at best. His lady brunch pals (Aidy Bryant,
Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Cecily Strong) are funny as they quickly catch on to the fact that he is not their friend Claire, but Hemsworth in disguise, which prompts him to remove his wig and still look more womanly in a dress than I do on most days.
Newest cast member Jon Rudnitsky got more of a voice in this pirate sketch, which was pretty elaborately decorated in terms of set. As Mark, he’s supposed to contrast with the more cutthroat pirates (Chris Hemsworth, Taran Killam, and Kenan Thompson) by “keeping things fun,” sort of like the office buffoon who’s always getting it wrong but keeps morale up in the process. As the new guy on the cast, Rudnitsky had the challenge here of getting the audience to warm up to him in a sketch where the premise is that he’s telling bad jokes, which doesn’t sound easy. But aside from Kenan getting drenched, it wasn’t exactly overflowing with funny moments.
Personally, I loved this sketch, and if I were Lorne Michaels, I would have ran it in place of the Christmas sing-along earlier in the show. Both sketches make fun of overzealous amateur theater, but this premise had even more to work with, such as the different perspectives of the strip club patrons (Leslie Jones, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, and Cecily Strong) and the beleaguered owner (Kenan Thompson), twisting his long gray ponytail in disappointment. The dancers (Hemsworth, Taran Killam, Jay Pharoah, and Beck Bennett) pull off the cheesy routine easily, but the funnier target is the reasoning behind women going to male strip clubs and whether or not it’s about getting horny (“I paid to see naked tool!”) or appreciating the showmanship (“This show may not be perfect, but they care about it!”). Kenan’s character also stood out despite only having a few lines, but it probably helps that one of those lines was “Expose your stinky peanut and testeballs.”
So shoot, what else?