All season long, Saturday Night Live has tiptoed around the giant elephant in the room: that Andy Samberg (and his Lonely Island cohorts Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone) not only departed after last season’s finale, but also unofficially took SNL Digital Shorts with them. The Lonely Island will forever be known most for the short videos made in their specific voice, like “Laser Cats,” “Dick in a Box,” “I’m On a Boat” and their 2009 musical collaboration with Rihanna, “Shy Ronnie.”
Samberg and company transformed SNL with a brand new format and a brand new sense of humor, and for a brand new audience, they were a singular reason to tune into the show for a good number of years. And for better or worse, any SNL digital short thereafter would be compared and contrasted with the super-high success rate of The Lonely Island.
So it only made sense that this season’s writers and cast members avoided anything that so much as looked digital, aside from last week’s brilliant Louie take. Avoided it, that is, until last night, in an episode helmed by three-time host Anne Hathaway, with returning musical guest Rihanna.
In the fourth segment of the show, after two particularly unique and successful sketches – including the opener, which was based around Mitt Romney hilariously letting loose after his Election Night loss by secretly taking swigs of milk – Saturday Night Live scrapped the game plan and dusted off Andy Samberg’s playbook.
Somewhere, Shy Ronnie silently weeps.
What do you get when you mix a Keenan Thompson character from the Islands, half-singing a narration over a reggae instrumental, with the visual style of a Seventies documentary, following Taran Killam, a deranged man who lives in a wine bottle-shaped submarine and has a glove for a best friend, around New York City? The Legend of Mokiki. Obviously. And Killian as Mokiki, who was once a normal young man, was also subjected to medical tests, which apparently have resulted in his own dance called the Sloppy Swish. A plot point not to be missed: Mokiki spreads the dance by projectile vomiting on other people.
The sketch read clearly as desperation rather than dedication, especially when Keenan’s character all but waved a white flag at the end, stating that the Sloppy Swish was “a really stupid dance created by a crazy person.”
It was disappointing not only in terms of the SNL Digital Short legacy, but also for Taran Killam, who can be way better than just Andy Samberg’s straight-haired stand-in.
Thankfully, most of the evening focused on original live sketches, which meant great opportunities for some of the new cast members to shine. In Girlfriends Talk Show, rookies Aidy Bryant (as Morgan) and Cecily Strong (Kira), cheerfully discussed girlie issues, as they seemingly do every week. This week, though, Anne Hathaway joined them on the couch as Tara, Kira’s new best friend, which took Morgan completely by surprise. Aidy played Morgan’s heartbreak so true that it was laugh-out-loud funny, topped by calling Tara “Roach Warehouse.”
Kate McKinnon played Ellen Degeneres in a pretty solid Ellen sketch, and Anne Hathaway was Claire Danes to a tee in a Homeland bit.
But the real standout last night came at the end of Weekend Update, when Seth Meyers brought out Bobby Moynihan’s stellar recurring character, Drunk Uncle. Drunk Uncle, as he’s wont to do, espoused on his social, technological and political views, especially Tuesday’s election. When Seth asked, “Were you surprised by any of the races?” Drunk Uncle replied, “Oh yeah, black, Hispanics, Koreans, all of them.” He complained about not being able to pull levers in the voting booth anymore – filling out ovals was more like a pregnancy test. And in the midst of breaking down, Drunk Uncle defended himself cluelessly: “So I didn’t go to an Electoral College, OK?”
Though Drunk Uncle may be an alcoholic, sexist, racist relative, unlike this week’s digital short, he’s not trying to act like something he’s not.
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