Sunday, February 17, 2013

SNL - "Cristoph Waltz/Alabama Shakes"

Season 38, Episode 14

Christoph Waltz hosts and tries to prove wrong everybody’s fears that he’s a poor decision for a host.

Cold Open – Carnival Cruise: Let’s set aside the fact that the story of the stranded cruise ship and its passengers was over-reported, and that there were other more important stories that the media should have focused on and thus SNL should have skewered. That’s not there fault; as a current events sketch show, they go where the buzz is. (Which may explain the oddly loud and enthusiastic applause at the beginning of this sketch.) The sketch itself was nicely structured alternating between the cruise directors attempting to keep the passengers happy with updates and jokes, and the on board entertainment trying (and failing) to provide fresh entertainment. It’s not the most creative way to do a sketch, but what really makes this one work is that it nails the desperation that the passengers and crew must have felt have being stranded at sea for days.

Opening Credits: For some reason, Don Pardo wasn’t able to do the introduction for The Alabama Shakes and Christoph Waltz. I have no idea why that is, but it was quite noticeable, and the fact that the show tried to cover it up by having an also-ran fill in was just sad. (Note: I will feel like such an ass for saying this if it turns out Pardo is really sick or something.)

Monologue: Much like with Bieber’s monologue last week, this was the show trying to address the elephant in the rokm in regard to its host, in this case Waltz’s perception as Austrian/stern/not funny. This tongue and cheek acknowledgement did help the gags go down better – but only if you appreciate purposely awful anti-comedy, as I do. And while I appreciate the monologue trying to illustrate what a showman Waltz can be, I also wish they would stop having their host burst out into song when they can’t think of anything better to fill the time.

What Have You Become?: This was a great idea for a sketch that was a bit undone by the structure. Much like with the “Dry Eyes” sketch from a few years back, this one is clearly trying to get laughs from the deep sadness of the contestants, and asking them to face the bleak desolation of their lives is a brilliant idea for a sketch. However, we didn’t know the premise until a third of the way through the sketch (which I get was so that the set-up for each character’s particular life failings could be set up in an uninterrupted fashion), and even beyond that the sketch was pretty one note. Still, the idea of having the question be asked a second time by one of the contestants’ family members was a good one, and Waltz played his inevitable turn at the question with aplomb.

Papal Securities: This is essentially a regular financial securities company commercial, redone with a papal bent, with nothing specific about Papal finances used to make jokes. Congrats, SNL. You took one of this week’s biggest stories and managed to find the blandest, least offensive comedic direction in which to take it.

Tippy: The idea of character who always comes into conversations at the wrong time and makes wrongful guesses about what there talking about, and thusly is always afraid their missing something on the other side of the party is a good one, and it’s a testament to this sketch that I was laughing as I was cringing because this one also hit pretty close to home. Yet even though there were some great line via the bawdy guesses that Tippy made (note: I do not do this when in awkward social situations), I was a bit bothered by how much this felt like a Bedelia sketch, another character that Pedrad plays. Granted, I don’t really like Bedelia sketches, so I’m glad this wasn’t one of those, but it’s a bit disappointing not to see the show be more creative with its sketch premises.

Djesus Uncrossed: On the one hand, I should be mad that this sketch only perpetuates the singular focus the media has for Waltz’s work in Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained. On the other hand, I can’t think of any other films he’s been in either (as I can no longer say he’ll be in the Muppets sequel), and this sketch got some good laughs out of a premise that admittedly has been done before, so who am I to complain?

The Jamarcus Bros.: A white guy singing R&B, and terribly? And he’s also a virgin? Yes, this a tired premise, and really it shouldn’t have worked. But Waltz killed it in this sketch and sold a lot of things that shouldn’t have worked. Throw in some well-written track names (the escalating awkward title tracks were great), and this one just about breaks even.

Weekend Update: In addition to Seth Meyer’s usual shtick, we also got…The show goes for another over-reported news story as Marco Rubio shows up to explain his sip-of-water faux pas. Luckily, this time SNL took the time to call out the media’s over-fascination with this slip up – right before they themselves made fun of it. Still, Killam sold this over-the-top version of the same speech, which made for some solid laughs…A woman from rural Russia, so that SNL can address that recent meteor that landed in the country, except that she doesn’t really address the story of the meteor. Instead, it just becomes a chance for SNL to make a bunch of tired jokes about how a large portion of Russia lives in urban poverty…Finally, ‘Stephen A. Smith’ arrived to talk about something going on in the sports world, and by this time in this overly-long Weekend Update, I couldn’t be bothered to care, and was too distracted trying to figure out whether or not WU had trotted out this impersonation before or not. (I don’t follow sport, and so it’s hard for me to tell most of the sports-world-related impressions apart.) Either way, the joke seemed to be how Smith always talks about how he’s friends with the athletes he’s commentating on, which I didn’t find all that funny.

Regine: I wasn’t all that impressed by the first iteration of this sketch, and I can’t really say that my opinion has improved all that much with a second version. I did seem like this one played up the character’s snobbishness more this time around, and while I appreciate the attempt to make the character a bit more dimensional, it didn’t add any laughs what so ever. And it’s not like it’s all that important anyway, as the laughs for those who enjoy this is clearly in Armisen’s slapstick, many moments of which were repeated from the first time around.

Fox & Friends: I’m surprised that a ‘Fox & Friends’ sketch is buried this deep in the episode, since they are usually quite good, and this one did not disappoint either. In fact, with their incorporation of Ted Nugent, this was the iteration of the sketch which best satirized the show’s hosts’ willingness to agree with whatever insane thing their guests say. In fact, this point was made so clearly (or, alternatively, I just now realized that they do that in these sketches) that the appearance as a British health officer felt a little off. These sketches are better served when the show is merely showing us the hosts’ inanity, not having characters point it out.

Secret Admirer: I know, I know, I took the show to task for using lazy Russian stereotypes as part of Weekend Update tonight, so logically I should be mad that a lot of the humor from this sketch came from broken English and misunderstood cultural practices. However, this sketch was also layered with the general creepiness of the message, the cluelessness of the letter’s recipient, and the fact that the rest of the office members knew that was Dmitri was responsible and kept trying to pin the responsibility back onto him.

There was no truly great or hilarious sketch here in this episode, but there wasn’t anything terribly awful either. (Well, apart from “Regine”, but that’s just a case of a Recurring Character Who Shouldn’t Be, and we’re just going to have to accept that.) This was an episode that was wall-to-wall solid, and while that might be damming the episode with faint praise, remember that SNL has had a pretty shitty 2013 up until this point. More to this fact, we should celebrate when the show puts out something that more even-keeled, as opposed to an episode that’s only two or three good sketches and everything else is dreck. Additionally, Waltz had some actually meaty parts in the episode (I was surprised when he showed up as the host in “What Have You Become?”), and while there weren’t that many of them, he at least didn’t feel as relegated to the sidelines as the last string of hosts has.

Best Sketch – Fox & Friends
Worst Sketch – Regine

In Two Weeks: Kevin Hart hosts for reasons not related to popularity, and whole lot of unfunny people comment on how Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, a white hip-hop act, are playing on the same night as a black host.

Quotes, Etc.:

“I’m sorry, I can’t tell anymore jokes. There’s dookie on the walls, man! How does dookie get on the walls?”

“There is no god!” “Hey, there is a god, he did not abandon us!”

“Self-employed entrepreneur? That’s not even a thing!”

“All I know is the name of Katy Perry’s cat. It’s Kitty Purry.”

“‘Mama, let me go to dance school.’ ‘No boy, you have to go to Game Show School.’”

“It was just social laughter.” “So it’s a black thing?”

“Jesus H. Chirst!” “The ‘H’ is silent.”

“Well, it was a big week for everybody trying to convince you that everything’s going great.”

“Why did I eat all that cinnamon?” “Yeah, why did I have all that cinnamon?” “Cause it’s the Cinnamon Challenge!”

“A new study shows that 30% of co-workers marry, and the other 70% take the long way to the copier.”

“Stephen Nash and I are friends. Steven Nash and I have held hands in a hot air balloon.”

“Oh don’t worry baby, I’m sure that we will discuss social politics soon enough.”

“Did you watch the State of the Union address?” “Well, I meant to, but there was a bee in my apartment and it turned into this whole thing.”

“My favorite ‘p’ word is ‘pasghetti ‘. Love it!”

“I mean, who eats a horse?” “Well, one time in fifth grade, I ate a sea horse. They still won’t let me back in that aquarium.”

My favorite correction from the ‘Fox & Friends’ sketch (of those I caught): “Zero Dark Thirty is not a diet soda.” 

1 comment:

  1. For the record, Katy Perry's cat really is named Kitty Purry.