Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Morning Quarterback – Ben Stiller & Foster The People

Expectations were raised for this episode of SNL. Not only Ben Stiller a SNL alum, but his Ben Stiller Show is one of the great American sketch comedy programs. The Ben Stiller Show was also the first sketch comedy show that I sort of claimed as “mine.”

Among the expectations were that we’d see Stiller return to familiar characters and that the show would be not only better than last week, but, y'know, actually funny.

Here's the rating scale as usual;

Phil Hartman – Comedic gold
Chris Farley – Definitely funny, but kinda messy
Norm McDonald – Funny, but not for everyone
Tim Meadows – Solid Bit
Andy Samberg – Funny, but overstayed it’s welcome
Jim Breuer- Crowd pleaser, but a bit obvious
David Spade – Trying too hard
Chris Elliot – Didn’t click at all, how did it get on

(Also, this week Jay1 and I actually spoke on the phone after the episode to compare notes, so I've included some of his observations. Enjoy!)

Political Cold Open – This was decent bit. Christ Christie and Romney are topical. Everyone’s talking about how the GOP isn’t happy with the candidates that are running. You get Jersey jokes and fat jokes. Plus you’ve got the added bonus of mob ties.

Rating: Tim Meadows

Monologue – The Jewish holiday makes it topical. And Jewish stereotypes apparently never get old. On the downside it’s two weeks in a row with musical opening. Also, how short is Ben Stiller?

Rating: Tim Meadows

Lincoln Financial – Jay1 pointed out that this is bit would’ve been funnier if the ad campaign it’s parodying was still running. For me, the look that the future self gave when the present self went under the blanket was gold. In a bit that was Sudekis vs Sudekis, future totally killed.

Rating: Norm McDonald, Tim Meadows

Fox & Friends – I really feel bad for Vanessa Bayer. First off, she never loses herself in a character, it’s always her playing someone. As a result most of her characters strike the same notes. Secondly, she totally bungled the bongos joke and the audience was laughing at her, in the wrong way. Again, Hank Williams Jr was hot this week so in that regard they get props for making things current. Also, the corrections always make me wish I had a DVR.

Rating: Jim Breuer, Tim Meadows

Lincoln Financial II – Hader in a fatsuit with a fat guy voice is pretty much guaranteed to get a laugh. But couple that with the fact that the guy’s future is depressing and you’ve got some decent writing. Funny enough.

Rating: Tim Meadows

Best of Both Worlds – Eh, this sketch seemed to come more from the fact that they could get Hugh Jackman than from the fact that anything was actually funny. Ben Stiller did his best and was 100% into the bit. Hader was gold again in an underappreciated Clint Eastwood impression. The Harry Potter stuff seemed forced and it was meta to the point of being cute, which was annoying.

Rating: Chris Farley, Andy Samberg, David Spade

V-Necks – Great idea. Jay1 said he encountered the same existential questions of “am I v-neck guy” recently. I hope to never face that dilemma. I dug the Eurotrash aspect and the variations on the v-neck. The Negative and the Double V were personal faves.

Rating: Phil Hartman

Hank Williams Toss to Commercial – This was sort of odd. It wasn’t really funny enough to be poking fun at the situation. It was almost like a shoutout, since Sudekis was just doing Hank Williams Jr and not “crazy talking Hank Williams Jr.” It would have been funnier if he’d said more outlandish things. Also, poor Sudekis for having to sit in what I’d have to assume is a sticky fake beard for an extra ten minutes just for this toss to commercial.

Rating: Chris Elliot

Foster The People: Pumped Up Kicks – Jay1 loved this one. He found it infectious and intriguing. To hear him tell it, he was humming the catchy chorus minutes after the song was over. Jay1 liked the earnestness of some kids who were uncomfortable and didn’t behave like rock stars. I didn’t care that much for it. It was a song I’d heard talked about before and actually hearing it was disappointing.

Weekend Update – I found Nan Washington to be tolerable, but my initial thought was “yet another Kristen Wiig character?” It was funny enough, but Wiig clearly has carte blanche on the show at this point. Jay1 pointed out that Nan Washington basically has “a little bit of everything Wiig always does.” And while we were both happy to see Stefon again, we both felt it was the laziest and most predictable way to incorporate Zoolander into the show. Update was funny, but not without it’s flaws.

Shanna Halloween Party – Wow, this is the first Black guy we’ve seen in a sketch all week? And it’s after Update? Wow. Ben Stiller’s character being stuck in the 90’s was moderately funny, but I’d like to meet the person who doesn’t think that Shanna should be retired.

Rating: Andy Samberg, Jim Breuer, David Spade

Lincoln Financial III: Funny. And very quick. Totally didn't overstay it's welcome. It was pretty much perfect.

Rating: Phil Hartman

Underground Festival: Columbus Day – We both love these bits. Seriously, who doesn’t love Mrs Potato Dick and Ass Dan? How can you not love them?

Rating: Phil Hartman, Norm McDonald

Bruce Springsteen DVD Set – Props to Steve Higgins on voiceover, because he’s doing a third of the sketch. And Springsteen talking between songs is probably skewing a bit old considering SNL’s demographic, especially considering Foster The People is the musical guest.

Rating: Norm McDonald, Tim Meadows

Foster The People: Houdini – Jay1 felt this song wasn’t as good as “Pumped Up Kicks” and I felt it was completely forgettable. And then Kenny G came out, which prompted this quote from Jay1 “Ten years ago, if you’d told me that I’d respect the fact that Kenny G cosigned somebody, I’d have called you crazy.”

And than Jay1 began to wax on the lack of brass instruments of modern music and how the alto sax is like the sexually ambigious cousin to the much cooler regular saxophone. Which prompted him to spin a yarn about how he’d seen a tuba in a pawn shop window and reflected on the poor soul who had to give up on his dreams of playing a sousaphone because he had a pregnant wife, a kid and rent to pay. It was a sad story full of heartbreak.

But the point was that Kenny G totally made the performance. It was reminiscent of when Will Ferrell came out and while Queens of the Stone Age performed.

Tinyballs – This was an acceptable bit. But the real relevation is Taran Gillam as Brad Pitt. This is the second time he’s done it and this was clearly written for him. He’s got Pitt’s cadence down and this shows he’s got fans on the writing staff, which means he’s poised to be a star. Plus he’s talented as he showed last week with his dance moves in the monlogue. He’s also a workhorse. The official F&S stance is that Gillam will fill the void left when Hader, Armisen and Sudekis leave the show. And that he’s going to graduate from “Featured” next year.

Rating: Tim Meadows

Final Thoughts – This was solid episode. It didn’t disappoint, regardless of our raised expectations. Hader and Sudekis really turned in strong performances, while Armisen was almost missing. Both Black cast members turned up in one sketch apiece. On the plus side, the writers didn’t resort to any game show bits this week.

Also, next week is a new episode? I’m expecting game show bits and plenty of reoccurring characters and bits. The writers are probably burned out by now.

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