When SNL has a person pulling double duty, as host and musical guest, it can pretty much go one of two ways. It can prompt the writers to think outside of the box or can cause them to crawl into their comfort zones with established bits.
I’ve got zero expectations for Lady Gaga. I know she’s huge, but I’m generally only familiar with her from her appearances on Saturday Night Live. Since it’s there was a week off, I am sort of expecting a good episode, but Gaga kind of tempers that.
Let’s get this over with.
But first, our rating system;
Phil Hartman – Comedic gold
Chris Farley – Definitely funny, but kinda messy
Norm MacDonald – Funny, but not for everyone
Kristen Wiig – So-so premise saved by performer.
Tim Meadows – Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it, dripping with adequatulence
Darrell Hammond – Funny, but overstayed it’s welcome
Jim Breuer- Crowd pleaser, but a bit obvious
Robert Downey Jr – Brilliant performer, not a lot to work with
David Spade – Trying too hard
Janeane Garofalo – Weird weird, not weird funny
Rob Ford Cold Open – Of course this is how SNL would have to start the episode. Unfortunately for them, this is a story that ran the entire week and everyone took their shots. Right off the bat, how high up are Taran’s cuecards? Secondly, the Canadian accents feel really forced. I’ll confess to enjoy seeing Moynihan’s belly flop on the podium. More than that I really appreciated the shot at 60 Minutes. Didn’t see it coming and it was a nicely placed shot.
Rating: Chris Farley
Monologue – I’ll give Gaga this; she knows how to make an entrance. It was dynamic and genuinely awesome. For the actual monologue, things were weird. It was musical, my least favorite, with an audience component, one of my favorite types of monologues. The thing is, it wasn’t funny, it was just accurate. That how you get cheap applause and Gaga illustrated it perfectly.
Rating: Janeane Garofalo
Paxi Second Term Strength – This is a funny ad because prescription medication commercials do seem super specialized. That said, it feels a lot like the “dating an actress” energy shot ad from the Bruce Willis episode, complete with the balancing tag at the end. Marks off for that.
Rating: Tim Meadows
Waking Up With Kimye – Another week, another post monologue sketch featuring Nasim in a plum role. Good for her. Pharoah’s Kanye is crazy strong. Gaga seems like she’s trying way too hard with her character, a thought that’s reinforced when she mugs for the camera after taking a shot at herself. This is an interesting sketch, which seems to have reoccurring potential, but the pieces didn’t quite add up this time out.
Rating: Kristen Wiig
Whaat? – I really wanted to like this sketch more than I actually did. It started strong. Killam’s Adam Duritz (with hints of Brad Pitt) admitting that his cover was “maybe way worse than the original.” The two elements of the sketch were a) the impression and b) the absurdity of the covers. Noel’s Spears was pretty spot on. Kenan’s Rick Ross was pretty funny. But when Gaga “covers” Madonna the sketch fails. Yeah, it’s funny that she’s poking fun at herself, but it’s lame that the writers couldn’t come up with something better. Also, it’s a believable cover, which goes against the conceit of the sketch.
Rating: David Spade
Lady Gaga Performance #1 – I initially applauded Gaga for her dynamic stage presence. But once R. Kelly showed up I couldn’t turn away. I was baffled and confused. I was a swirl of emotion. It wasn’t bad, which makes me think that maybe R. Kelly makes everything better?
Weekend Update – It was a decent outing for the desk this week. We got to see how Cecily reacts to a joke not going over (nicely.) We also got to meet Mr. Senior, a “new” yet instantly familiar character from Kenan. The filmed bit went on a bit too long. But on the plus side, we also got introduced to Jebidah Atkinson. At first I rolled my eyes because two vets (Killam and Kenan) were this week’s correspondents. But Atkinson was awesome. I literally had tears. And Killam kept his composure and in character for most of it. It was the perfect marriage of something that was masterfully written and expertly performed. Easily the best correspondent debut in recent memory.
Co-op Interview – This sketch had some things going for it. We got to see Aidy Bryant throw on an accent. We also got to see Kyle Mooney turn in a good performance. The nutty neighbors are funny. But two things; did Beck Bennett get hired onto the cast for the sole purpose of playing the straight man and was that all the writers could come up with for Gaga to do? She didn’t even get a laugh. For shame.
Rating: Tim Meadows
Spotlightz – Eh, this is a sketch were we get to see Vanessa Bayer do the overacting thing she does, adequately. I’m trying to think of when else she’s does this cadence, but it’s probably a couple of times. This sketch could have been great, if they’d constantly upped the ante by having productions of less and less acceptable films (think Resevoir Dogs, Requiem for a Dream.) But by focusing on the overacting of the kids, the sketch has one note and it’s exhausted early.
Rating: Darrell Hammond
Blockbuster Video R.I.P. – I liked this. I liked that it was weird and moody. I liked the reveal and the resolution. The only thing I didn’t really care for; Beck playing the straight man.
Rating: Norm MacDonald
Lady Gaga Performance #2 – First off, I dig her commitment to her performance wig. But once again during her performance I’m distracted. Initially I’m distracted by the guy sitting on her piano bench. Then I get distracted by the topless Black guy in purple tights frantically playing the tambourine. There’s way too much going on onstage, but I guess that’s what you have to do when R. Kelly shows up during your first song.
Talent Pageant – This sketch is brilliant! It’s great not only because it gives John Milhiser his only really prominent screen time thus far this season, but because it’s such a great concept; focusing on the stage parents acting out the routine. I loved how it ventured into ridiculousness when the parents had interacting moves. But this was just great, especially conceptually. Also; excellent use of Gaga.
Rating: Phil Hartman
Gaga in the Future – So, just to be clear, this is the third time she’s poking fun at herself and the second time she’s played herself in a sketch. Bravo writers. Kenan played his part well and there were some funny lines. But in terms of concept, this sketch is so lacking, especially for what’s essentially a five to one sketch.
Rating: Kristen Wiig
The Rosé Zone – This is a funny bit, because that’s what people do watch reality shows for. That said, doesn’t The Rosé Zone already exist as The Soup and Best Week Ever?
Rating: Tim Meadows
Final Thoughts – This was a pretty solid episode, despite the writers having a) no faith in Lady Gaga and b) zero confidence in her acting skills. On one hand they didn’t resort to just plugging her into any reoccurring sketches. On the other hand if she wasn’t poking fun at herself in a sketch, she was probably barely in it. Next week is Josh Hutcherson, which probably means Hunger Games parodies.