Early in her Saturday Night Live monologue, host Emma Stone asks to check the sound levels on the microphones. “BTS is here!” she casually notes, and the crowd erupts into furious screams of excitement. That was both a cheap way to generate heat but also a not-so-subtle message to the at-home audience that the folks in Studio 8H were there to see a concert first and a sketch comedy show second.
Now, such a warning wasn’t truly necessary, as plenty in-house laughed at the mostly solid material in this week’s installment. But it’s a reminder all the same that SNL is a show meant to generate an audience, and having an incredibly talented four-time host isn’t necessarily enough to cut through the pop-culture clatter on a weekend in which everyone is talking Game Of Thrones 24/7. I would have bet a non-small amount of money on BTS appearing in multiple sketches, but they were confined to two energetic performances (and numerous in-sketch shout-outs).
Michael Keaton’s appearance as Julian Assange would normally be a shoe-in for analysis, but the cold open once again fell flat after an incredible run of jokes at the expense of Lori Loughlin (Kate McKinnon). The show clearly wanted to take advantage of Keaton’s onscreen manic energy, but it never quite made it out of first gear. Even an overt Batman reference (“You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts!”) failed to make an impact. Somewhere in the world right now, Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan are crying a single tear.
With that said, here are three sketches people will be discussing until the show returns in May with Adam Sandler, making his long overdue first appearance as host.
In a night with several overlong sketches, this two-minute pre-taped segment knows its limits and maximizes its impact. It introduces the concept, gets in about 15 great jokes, and gets the heck out of Dodge. It’s impossible to build an entire show around live sketches this short, but as a way to ensure the best flow for an overall episode, these are invaluable to keeping things moving.
There isn’t much to “analyze” here: If you’ve ever tried on clothes, this probably rings true for you. I could list out the jokes (outfits with names like “Cruises With My Parents”) or the various visual puns (one section of the store is called “Tragedy/Celebration”), but that seems unnecessary. The idea of “mercy gas” knocking women out when choices become overwhelming is the sketch’s most subversive idea, especially when it has a man take over the shopping duties for the incapacitated shopper. I imagine there will be divided opinions on that particular portion of the segment. That doesn’t rule it from inclusion here: Rather, the fact that I think people will be discussing its meaning enforces its place on this week’s list.
OK, full stop: I have no idea if this is actually good. But I do know that it’s definitely GREAT.
The disclaimer “comedy is subjective and no one should ever get upset by another person’s opinion” is written in invisible ink at the top of each of these reviews, but it holds triply true here. This is a weird, weird, weird sketch, so weird that I checked the DVR to see if this if it was already time for the ten-to-one sketch. But nope! This dropped right in the middle of the episode, without warning, and with the apostrophe in “Ladie’s” put in the incorrect place.
The primary reason why this sketch works is that the song is catchy as hell. The chorus is as catchy as “D%ck in A Box,” and like Donald Glover’s “80’s Music Video” sketch last season, perfectly captures the music, vibe, and fashion of the early 80’s. The fact that this song also takes place inside a department store with a frazzled, unnerved night manager trying to make sense of the proceedings takes things up three notches: Why don’t these people know they aren’t in a nightclub? How did they rig that stage to come out of the wall? How come none of them realize there are no toilets in this “bathroom”?
I’m guessing “cocaine” is the answer to all these questions, but the sketch never provides it. Either way, the band Orgasmyxx (an INCREDIBLE fake band name, the icing on this insane cake) will live on in our hearts and minds via this insane ear worm for the foreseeable future.
This late-episode sketch takes a while to get going, but once the puzzle pieces start to click into place, it’s like watching the final act of a Christopher Nolan film. You know, if that Nolan film happened to be about a struggling actress delivering two lines in an adult film.
What could have been a flat, uninspired premise (person takes something far too seriously) turns into something almost tragic, as Stone’s actress goes from obliviousness into something approaching the sublime. She discovers the interior life of a one-dimensional character through a haphazard assortment of items in a throw-away prop bin, and as those disparate items form a coherent backstory, one can’t help but marvel at the magic trick this sketch pulls off. Yes, Stone’s actress is finding connections where none exist, but this in turn becomes an oddly affecting meditation on the act of connection itself. Even if Beck Bennett’s direction continually ignores her attempts at profundity, it’s clear that her fellow actors respect and even respond to her line readings. They see and feel what she does in that moment.
That unexpected pathos reflects what digital shorts have often accomplished in the post-Lonely Island world: An examination of the ache under the laughter. “Sad Mouse” may have perfected this subgenre of short, but “The Actress” is a welcome and worthy addition to the pantheon.