Unbelievably, the last time Bruce Willis hosted Saturday Night Live, he was still known as “that guy from Moonlighting.” It was 1989, Die Hard had come out one year earlier, and musical guest Katy Perry was eight years old. Needless to say, there was a lot of potential ground to cover for Willis’ grand return to the Studio 8H stage 24 years later, but for whatever reason, the writers stuck to only a few career milestones — Armageddon being the most noteworthy — and even re-aired the season premiere’s “E-Meth” short. Let’s take a look at the evening’s highlights (and a few lowlights).
Monologue: Perhaps .05 percent of the population would have caught the fact that Willis playing harmonica during his monologue last night was an allusion to his last SNL hosting gig — when he played harmonica and sang with the SNL band. (Vulture‘s look back at the actor’s musical career is quite enlightening.)
24-Hour Energy for Dating Actresses: This sketch felt like someone taking out a very specific grudge. I can picture that actress at home, practicing her lines, looking up at the TV and saying, “Oh, screw you, SNL writer ex-boyfriend.” The comedian punchline at the end saves this one from being one long “women be crazy” joke, but it’s a little too close for comfort.
Black Ops: Bruce plays a Navy SEAL who wants to go all John McClane on a terrorist cell, even though his actual job is to wait in the van. This was Bruce’s best character of the night, and fully captured the over-the-topness of his many turns as an action hero on the big screen.
The Ol’ Barbershop: I don’t want to be a drag and bring up SNL‘s “diversity problem,” but when was the last time we saw two African-American cast members star in a sketch together? It’s long overdue, which makes it extra-sad that this sketch was a train wreck. Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharaoh are clearly having a good time playing chatty barbers, but Kenan flubs a line early on, and Willis (as the new barber who can’t tell a good story to save his life) doesn’t help the comic rhythm. The sketch ends with Willis accidentally pulling off Bobby Moynihan’s barber cape, then trying to get a door unstuck while he awkwardly repeats his exit line, which happens to be “Sheryl Crow.” From now on, we can all feel free to use “Sheryl Crow, Sheryl Crow” as shorthand for “this is really embarrassing, guys.”
Boy Dance Party: I’m pretty sure this short came into existence so that we could all make awesome GIFs of Bruce Willis’s hilariously terrible dancing. And you know what? I am okay with that. This also serves as the show’s weekly showcase of Taran Killam’s hot body (see previously: his shirtless moment in the Girls sketch, and his Sexy John Boehner costume). I am okay with that, too. This bit has the most potential to go viral this week, with good reason.
Weekend Update: This week’s back-and-forth gag about Kris and Bruce Jenner’s divorce was fast and funny; it really didn’t take much time at all for Cecily Strong and Seth Meyers to develop a great rapport. Too bad it will all vanish when Seth moves to Late Night in two-and-a-half months. New cast member Brooks Wheelan makes an amazing guest appearance as himself, making fun of his own regrettable tattoos. What’s the meaning of that nautilus star near his right armpit? “The only thing it means is that I shouldn’t be trusted with my own thoughts.”
Beer Pong: Like last week’s “Miley Sex Tape,” this video is a welcome jolt of absurdity during the slowest part of the evening. Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett play frat boys dictating their beer pong rules during pledge week. There’s no actual drinking, but there is an opportunity to design the roller coaster of your dreams. I realize that the whole point of SNL is the live sketches, but may I respectfully request more like this?
Without either a powerhouse comedian (Tina Fey) or a hot-button topic (Miley Cyrus) in the host slot, SNL was a bit rudderless this week. It’s becoming clear that they have a deficit of recurring characters right now, hence the return of Bobby Moynihan’s Kirby (“I wuv my lil’ kitty cat” – yeah, that guy) and Taran Killam’s obnoxious brother Eddie. Neither was as funny the second time around. There was an attempt to give Lady Gaga the Barry Gibb Talk Show treatment, but Vanessa Bayer just couldn’t do much with Gaga, whose entire career already verges on self-parody. The cast has two weeks to recharge, and the writers have two weeks to come up with some decent material for Nasim Pedrad. See you on October 26th, when Edward Norton hosts for the first time ever (!).