It's holiday season at SNL, which means that Lorne Michaels has stocked the lineup with reliable charmers like Paul Rudd, hosting for the third time. In his monologue, the Anchorman 2 actor joked about always being overshadowed by his musical guest, which was Beyonce the first time, Paul McCartney the second, and One Direction this time around. In fact, Rudd has gotten great comedic mileage out of these musicians; the sketch in which he played Beyonce's "Single Ladies" choreographer was a classic, and he did a memorable monologue about mistaking McCartney's fans (who were chanting "Paul! Paul! Paul!") for his own. Tonight was no exception, as Rudd's funniest bits incorporated One Direction, in all their teased-hair, glitter-booted glory. The audience's palpable excitement over the boy band, plus the appearance Rudd's of Anchorman 2 co-stars Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell, Fred Armisen, David Koechner and Steve Carell, made this episode feel like a true event. And that's how it should be every week, isn't it? On to the sketches!
Sound of Music Cold Open: I have more enduring faith in SNL than your average TV viewer, but if they'd missed an opportunity to parody this week's Sound of Music Live special, I might have lost it entirely. Fortunately, they came through with The Sound of Music: Live & Condensed. (The real Sound of Music could have used some condensing, amirite?) Kate McKinnon plays Maria, Taran Killam plays the Captain, and I'm loving this even before Kristen Wiig shows up. The moment she sings "And I'm Doonise!" and starts feeling up McKinnon with her weird baby hands, all is right with the world. Doonise Von Trapp is quite the scene stealer, particularly during the "Doe a Deer" number. ("So, I sewed a chicken to the wall! La, I sewed a chicken to the floor! Ti, a drink that comes from the toilet!") She also does a pretty mean rendition of "Climb Every Mountain," though was anybody else disappointed that she didn't turn out to be a Nazi? No? Fred Armisen turns up at the end to toss in Lawrence Welk's two cents. The hills are alive with nostalgia for 2010.
Monologue: Not to be upstaged by One Direction, Paul Rudd sees the boy band and raises them his man band: Will Ferrell, David Koechner and Steve Carell. After the requisite trash-talking, Ferrell, who is approximately two Nialls high, unites the groups with an a cappella rendition of "Afternoon Delight" (as seen in the original Anchorman). It's a little sped-up and pitchy, but it's still the best thing that could possibly happen to an SNL monologue. It's a shame that this rivalry wasn't a running gag. I would have loved to see Ferrell challenge Harry Styles to a game of dodgeball.
One Direction Concert Line: For this one, we join the crowds outside Madison Square Garden, where middle-aged One Direction fan Dan Charles (Rudd) is trying to out-fangirl a gaggle of preteen 1D obsessives. "I'm gonna marry Zayn," one little girl gushes. "You know, I absolutely hate to tell you this, but you're not," Rudd interjects. "Because I know what Zane's into, and it's definitely not you." Spouting questionable One Direction trivia ("Did you know that Liam is afraid of spoons?"), he shuts down another girl by singing a snippet of "What Makes You Beautiful": "oh, oh, oh, you don't know your ba-sic-facts." Watching Rudd lose his shit over the boy band is delightful; watching those little girls give him bitchface is priceless. The boys in the band make an appearance at the end of the video, as deadpan as the Beatles in A Hard Day's Night.
Weekend Update: We get two repeat guests this time around. The first is Vanessa Bayer's character Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy, who always makes me smile but never makes me laugh out loud. (Was this the last time we'll be seeing him? He said a tearful goodbye to Seth Meyers, who will soon depart for Late Night, and froze up at the idea of talking to Cecily Strong, who is, after all, a girl.) The second is Taran Killam's 1860s newspaper critic Jebediah Atkinson, who made his debut two episodes ago to trash the Gettysburg Address. This time, he was here to throw shade on classic Christmas specials, like Frosty the Snowman ("Five minutes in, I was rooting for the sun."), How the Grinch Stole Christmas ("Whoville? Exactly. Whereville? The toilet."), and A Christmas Carol ("Hey Dickens, four ghosts to tell one story? I guess Tiny Tim isn't the only who needed a crutch."). Maybe Christmas movies are too sacred to skewer, because Killam elicited some actual "boos" from the audience when he turned his comments to Snoopy: "If you ask me, Family Guy killed the wrong dog."
White Christmas: This commercial for White Christmas, "the first black holiday movie for a white audience," featured white SNL cast members (i.e., most of them) re-enacting scenes from the Best Man Holiday, Black Nativity and Madea's Christmas trailers. Why yes, that does sound like a terrible idea! And yet, I think they pulled it off, because it's not a send-up of the movies themselves; it's a send-up of the narrow and predictable way that holiday films are marketed to their target demographic. It also skewers the ridiculous Hollywood conceit that white male moviegoers are the only ones that matter. Has "the black holiday movie for the rest of us" ever been floated at an actual pitch meeting? I wouldn’t be shocked. But for what it's worth, I would probably see any movie that features Paul Rudd dancing to New Kids on the Block.
Memories: Cecily Strong is a woman drinking alone in her luxurious apartment, reminiscing about the men she's loved in the past. We see the ghosts of her affairs: Adrian the watercolor painter, Carlos the exotic car collector, Jack the Wall Street tycoon – and Victor from the airport Papa Johns (played by Rudd in a greasy apron). As much as Strong tries to romanticize her past, the guy she revenge-fucked in the handicapped bathroom won't stop popping up. Unlike your standard fake-talk-show SNL sketch, this one spoke to a larger truth: that the one person we'd rather leave out of our memories may have the most to say about who we really are. Or maybe it was just an excuse to see Paul Rudd in a funny wig. Either way, I enjoyed it.
Bill Brasky: SNL head writer and Anchorman director Adam McKay teased this sketch on Twitter, so its appearance wasn't a complete surprise. Last seen in 1998, the "Bill Brasky" sketches featured a group of drunk friends reminiscing about their deceased pal Brasky. This time around, it was Ferrell, Koechner, Killam and Rudd who popped in the fake teeth and raised a giant tumblr. (Where the hell did Steve Carell go? He would have been amazing in this.) Not the finest of the Bill Brasky sketches, though the randomly interjected drunk confessions (Ferrell: "I sneak into hospitals and kiss coma patients") were pretty great.
In another lifetime, Paul Rudd could have been a fine SNL cast member. Actually, it may not be too late, since Rudd's ever-so-slightly receding hairline is the only sign he's aged since Clueless. Maybe he even has a shot at joining One Direction. Next week, we'll get to see John Goodman host with musical guest Kings of Leon, but given the number of comedy stars who were in the studio last night, I'd be as happy if they just showed video of this after-party.