Avengers: Age of Ultron star Scarlett Johansson is no stranger to the Saturday Night Live stage – after all, the actress is inching up on Five-Timers Club entrance. Give the lady one more hosting gig, and she's in, along with the likes of Alec Baldwin, Drew Barrymore, and Justin Timberlake. For her fourth go at hosting the sketch comedy show, Johansson was saddled with a mostly mixed outing, one that frequently went for a timely joke (the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, the unrest in Baltimore) and the obvious gag (a send-up of the Marvel movie franchise), but couldn't always earn the biggest laughs.
There's just two more episodes left in SNL's momentous fortieth season now, and everyone seems eager to go out on a high note, but last night's episode was unable to find its footing, no matter how game Johansson was (read: very game) or how many good ideas the cast threw at the screen. Things ended on a high note (literally, there was singing and everything), but it was rough going in the beginning there.
Here's hoping the fifth time will be better, but at least we've got these three sketches to keep us laughing until then.
"Mayweather-Pacquiao Cold Open"
The thing about Saturday Night Live is that, well, it airs on Saturday night (live even!), schedule conflicts be damned. As boxing fans across the country were gearing up to watch the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight (which was slated to kick off just as SNL was getting going on the East coast), the show decided to simply embrace the awkwardness of facing off against such a major event instead of ignoring it.
Don't worry about changing that channel, guys, because the fight is totally on SNL, thanks to a stolen pay-per-view signal and an admirably clever way to address this Saturday night's version of Sophie’s Choice. Featuring Jay Pharoah as Mayweather (fair) and Aidy Bryant as Pacquiao (pardon?), the sketch lucked into one heck of a timely chuckle, playing up the potential problems of watching such an event on the television via a pirated feed. While real-time fight watchers had to contend with a late start to the event, SNL viewers were forced to deal with a "distorted" feed that made everything look slow – gracefully so! – and unexpectedly casted.
And, for extra added punch, the sketch even featured a special appearance by Kate McKinnon as Justin Bieber, and no one had to pay nearly a hundred dollars to watch it.
"Black Widow Trailer"
Johansson's latest Marvel-branded feature film, Avengers: Age of Ultron, opened just this weekend, so there was zero question whether or not we'd see the host donning Black Widow's catsuit – or, at least, the SNL version of it, which was still pretty good, and looked great with a peppy cardigan – for a sketch, but the show really delivered with this one. Marvel has consistently been taken to task for their grating lack of female-centric superhero films, and SNL gamely found a way for the blockbuster behemoth to give one of their most popular female characters her very own movie, complete with the kind of storyline people associate with "lady films." It's a rom-com!
Pulling from a deep well of genre tropes and tricks, Black Widow: Age of Me imagines Johansson's Black Widow as the prototypical rom-com heroine: successful, smart, fashion-driven, a resident of Manhattan, and totally unlucky in love. When she meets a suave new man – spoiler alert: it's Ultron – her life suddenly seems to be coming together (finally! for once! cue some cool new jam from Katy Perry!). But love is never an easy endeavor, especially when your paramour is a sentient robot bent on worldwide destruction, which likely includes your own death and probably the total ruination of your picture perfect city.
Johansson sells the heck out of this sketch, all goofy grins and knowing winks, but the already winning conceit is made even beefier by the appearance of various other Avengers (including Beck Bennett as Captain America, Taran Killam as Thor, and Bobby Moynihan as The Hulk) as standard issue rom-com supporting characters, from the sardonic best pal to the goofy guy with the heart of (green) gold.
"He plays by his own rules."
That's it, Taran Killam is going to end up leaving Saturday Night Live so that he can headline his own purposely terrible cop show and there's not a thing anyone can do about it and we're all going to watch it and love it and that’s just how it is. As Detective Don Blazer, Killam happily harkens back to the glory days of network cop shows, complete with enough scenes of sunglass removal to make even the most hardened CSI: Miami fan crack up and a leather jacket that we imagine had a wonderful previous life in the wardrobe department of Starsky and Hutch.
Don Blazer knows his way around a punch, which just might be the problem, because there’s something decidedly undemocratic about his choice of targets (including musical guest Wiz Khalifa, who should have been asked to participate in more sketches, thanks to his sleepy charm). Boasting a Russian nesting doll of a twist, Blazer is gleefully self-reflective and weirdly timeless. Turn this bad boy into a recurring sketch ASAP, or at least give the world the Blazer and Dyke & Fats crossover episode it needs.