Saturday Night Live opened this week with a shot at President Obama’s recent pop culture overtures, launching from the president’s recent appearance on Between Two Ferns and his public NCAA brackets. Setting Jay Pharoah’s president up with a social media expert (Noel Wells) arranging viral-friendly content to lure more Healthcare.gov signees, the skit ran the gamut of references from Pharrell’s hat to Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie. As Taran Killam’s White House aid emphasized the stakes by spinning a series of heart-wrenching tales of the healthcare needy, Obama reluctantly submitted to photo ops involving Kim Kardashian, One Direction’s Harry Styles and batkid, and even danced the Nae Nae with Pope Francis. For the final touch, Kate McKinnon revived her idiotic Justin Bieber for a truly romantic moment with the leader of the free world.
Louis C.K. made his second appearance hosting the show, and his return offered another solid block of mordant, self-deprecating humor. As he did during his 2012 debut, he used his opening monolog to perform a stand-up routine. At nine minutes, it was longer than the usual introduction, but far more polished and comfortable, touching on typical C.K. topics like mortality, religion, the battle of the sexes, and racial guilt. (His explanation of a white noise machine: “It’s a thing that helps white people sleep at night, because we shouldn’t be able to.”)
Carrying on with that theme, the episode ran a new spin on a classic SNL set-up with “Black Jeopardy,” featuring C.K. playing a way out of place professor of African-American Studies from Brigham Young University.
A musical interlude found C.K. as a hapless man seeking directions on a Brooklyn street, set upon by a menacing band of jilted women singing Jean Knight’s accusatory hit, “Mr. Big Stuff.”
C.K.’s earnest sad-sack shtick was put to particularly effective use in a skit where the host attempts to win back an ex-flame with a bizarre and sinister list of arguments at her doorstep, including a conflation of The Ring with the plight of Jessica McClure: “Baby Jessica’s still in that well, and we’re the only ones who can stop her.”
Saturday Night Live returns next week with Anna Kendrick as host and Pharrell as musical guest. C.K.’s FX series Louie returns for its fourth season on May 5th.