Saturday Night Live is a broad show, on one of the original three television networks, and it's an institution that goes back to 1975. What still makes it special, though, is that an episode can feel like each viewer’s little secret – that even though it’s airing live, and everyone with a Twitter handle can simultaneously speak their mind regarding Jay Pharoah, you can feel like the first person on your block to have gotten it.
Louis C.K. is the balding, pudgy, mid-forties, brilliant stand-up with a last name complex enough to be phonetically shortened, whose mainstream success has come after many years as he writes, directs, edits, and stars in his TV show on the niche cable channel FX. His wide appeal, too, is a product of his audience claiming tight ownership on this genius dressed in an everyman’s getup.
Last night, those two forces were brought together. As Louis himself said on Twitter, less than nine hours before he hit the Studio 8H stage, "Hi. I'm hosting SNL tonight. How crazy is that?"
This episode – alongside the mega band fun. and their lead singer, who resembled a cross between SNL writer John Mulaney and Peter Falk’s Columbo – was not only extremely crazy, but extremely hilarious, and extremely personal.
The show got off on the exact right foot, setting the perfect tone after a devastating week following Hurricane Sandy in New York City and the surrounding areas, by ribbing the press conferences held by whiny New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (played by Fred Armisen), and gruff New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (Bobby Moynihan). Each speaker was accompanied by his own personal signer, who animatedly translated on behalf of the hearing-impaired. SNL rookie Cecily Strong’s great portrayal of Bloomberg’s interpreter-turned-internet sensation, Lydia Callis, was only topped by Nasim Pedrad, who played Christie’s Jersey-Housewife-meets-Bon-Jovi-groupie signer. Armisen also killed in Bloomberg’s broken Spanish, letting the Latino viewers in on all the reasons why white people would be angry this week, including: no Homeland.
After a wonderful monologue performed as a stand-up act, complete with a hand-held microphone, Louis embarked on the most insidery of sketches: an ingenious send-up of his FX show Louie called Lincoln. It starred Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States of America (played by Louis), as a middle-aged stand-up in New York City, working out the different parts of his life, from his crazy wife Mary, to his wanting black folks to like him. The opening sequence to Louie was recreated to a tee, with Lincoln jogging up the West 4th Street subway stairs, Lincoln eating a slice of pizza while a passerby gives the camera the middle finger, Lincoln ducking into the Comedy Cellar to do a set . . . all with Lincoln’s name in each of the credits. Lincoln, on stage at the Cellar, goes on a rant about Mary, who is sure he’s going to get murdered. Lincoln says that if that’s indeed the case, he believes his murderer would probably be someone from the South, because, "I ruined the whole way they do everything." The video sketch screamed pure Louis, with its deadpan humor, its long length, and its shake-your-head-this-is-so-damn-smart-ness.
Weekend Update was once again on a roll this week, covering everything from rats surviving Hurricane Sandy to a one-handed boxer winning his first bout. It hit home runs particularly with both Jason Sudekis as a forgotten-in-the-Sandy-coverage Mitt Romney, and Cecily Strong as the new favorite Update guest, Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party.
But last night belonged to Louis: Louis as a middle-earth mountain man who continually blows a ram’s horn; Louis as a very detailed hotel receptionist; Louis as a terrible Australian actor; Louis caught by cameras making the audience laugh as SNL came back from commercial. And finally, Louis in the ten-to-one sketch, Last Call.
Louis played Don Pants, sitting two seats away from the only other patron at Donnelly’s bar, a nasty old bag played by Kate McKinnon. With last call on the horizon and some coercion from bartender Keenan Thompson, Louis and Kate find their way to each other, and their tongues into each other’s mouths. And up and down their faces. After the most disgusting make-out session, Kate declares, "I give it two vaginas down." But would you know, they still left the bar together.
And just like last night’s episode, the balding, pudgy, mid-forties, brilliant stand-up got up in that old beast and did it.
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