We did things a bit differently this week. Instead of the regular quick recap and a few videos, we decided a Louis CK hosted episode of Saturday Night Live needed a little more than that. So join us, please, for a readable, watchable, GIF-able recap of a great SNL episode.
Anticipation was high leading into this episode before Sandy hit. Whole blog posts were written about CK's hosting job when it was announced. He is the biggest comedian working right now. He operates in the Michael Jordan zone. No one can touch him. He is a master of his craft. He has proven himself on the stage and screen: his stand up shows are an event when they're released, and Louie is one of the most highly regarded television show, period. (Notice how I didn't single it out as a comedy.)
It's not every day SNL has a guest like that. Hosts are usually promoting a new movie or TV show, or an album, or they just won a Super Bowl. There are exceptions, but most are duds. They smile to show they're game and happy to be there, and move on to the next thing Sunday morning.
But Sandy changed why we were excited for the show. New York was broken in that storm. Half of Manhattan was in darkness. Staten Island was still a mess, even still on Saturday night. The question became how this New York institution would respond to such a devastating tragedy. Would the city's greatest court jesters rally much the same way Letterman did earlier in the week when he performed for an empty audience? We had high hopes the show would rise to the occasion, the way many New Yorkers did in the days after the storm, and blow us away.
CK set the tone in an email sent out to his fans a few hours before the show:
Its pretty impossible to describe walking through these city streets in total darkness. It can't even be called a trip through time, because as long as new york has lived, its been lit. By electricity, gas lamps, candlelight, kerosene. But this was pitch black, street after street, corner round corner. And for me, the village being the very place that made me into a comedian and a man, to walk through the heart of it and feel like, in a way, it was dead. I can't tell you how that felt. And you also had a palpable sense that inside each dark window was a family or a student or an artist or an old woman living alone, just being int he dark and waiting for the day to come back. Like we were all having one big sleep over, but not so much fun as that.
So, did it deliver? For the most part, yeah.
We loved this episode. The first four segments were the strongest start to an SNL episode we've seen. And it wasn't just because Louis was there. The SNL writers and performers brought their A-game, too. The monologue was basically a stand up routine, and it was amazing. They gave him four minutes of time, at least, and he kills it. [Ed. note: Timed it later. It was six minutes to the second. We're working with a professional here.] The breakout sketch of the night, though, was the Abraham Lincoln Louie parody. It was a brilliant bit of comedy that would never be done anywhere else. Mad TV would never do that sketch. (They would do a Frank Caliendo as Louie parody, and it would be as bad as it sounds.) But even in the sketches where CK was absent or was in a limited role, the SNL performers were fantastic tonight. Was it the best episode ever? No. Some of the sketches were flat and lacked a working ending. The old SNL scabs were still there. But was it one of the strongest episodes in the last, gosh, we donno, years? Was I shouting "FIRE SETH MEYERS" unreasonably after those first twenty minutes of television? Yes and yes.
A recap and breakdown below:
The show came out firing on all cylinders with a sketch riffing on Lydia Calas, Mayor Bloomberg's breakout star/sign language interpreter. They could have done a whole sketch off Cecily Strong's Calas impression, she's that good. When Bloomberg thanked her for bringing "pizzazz" to his press conferences:
Good stuff. But getting Bobby Moynihan to do Chris Christie was unbelievable. If Chris Christie's national prominence results in more screen time for Moynihan's impression, we're all for it. If Nasim Pedrad can tag along as Roxy the Jersey sign language interpreter, all the better:
Also, Fred Armisen riffing on El Bloombito! and white people liking Homeland at the same time was some A+++ work in our notebook. Maybe it's because we expected another nine minute marathon cold open about the election that made this feel so refreshing. There were jokes here.
There's not much we can say about his monologue. It's great. They didn't make him sing or dance, or do a walk-around-backstage monologue, which we were dreading. Let the funny man be funny at the start of your funny show. We could have GIFed every time he impersonated the old lady he was forced to help at JFK, but the single best time was when he finally got her to her flight. "She stuck her old gypsy finger in my face and she said, 'I'll never forget you.'"
"And I was crying..."
Because he loves old ladies. They don't care. They're just like him. "They're my favorite demographic of person. I wish that I desired them... sexually." Yeah, this started with a semi-sentimental tale about helping an old lady and ended with him talking about having sex with one.
The next sketch was Fox and Friends taking on Hurricane Sandy and blaming the entire thing on the President. Steve Doocy (Taran Killam), Gretchen Carlson (Vanessa Bayer), and Brian Kilmeade (Bobby Moynihan) welcome Donald Trump (Jason Sudeikis) and a FEMA agent (Louis CK). Two things worked about this sketch. One, Moynihan stole the sketch. He had some of the funniest lines. ("What about pirañas with aids, which I call 'parades'?" and "I was playing submarine in my bathtub..." and "I threw out my milk and now I dip my cookies in shampoo!") They also had their editors fact check the show, and these were the corrections they found:
The second best thing about this sketch is that Louis isn't the focus, but he still makes everyone look better. He plays a great straight man to Killam, Bayer and Moynihan and let's them carry the comedic weight here. Sudeikis looks like the star he is by having the only other segment dedicated to him. CK is just in the background here, shining in his limited role while putting everyone else over and making them look great. He's like the Ric Flair of SNL hosts so far.
The next sketch was the Abraham Lincoln as Louie parody and we're going to shut up and just put it here because it's a pantheon SNL sketch already. Watch:
So those were the first four sketchs on the show. You can now understand our hyperbole, we hope. Otherwise you probably don't like... happiness and fun and puppies.
Unfortunately, the next sketch was a bit of a dud. "Australian Screen Legends" focuses around Bill Hader and Kate MacKinnon playing "the Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall of Australia." CK pops up as "Australia's Steve Zahn," which made the sketch for us. It was a good excuse for them for them to say inappropriate words with a funny accent ("boh-ners" and "teets!") but ultimately there wasn't much there. They wrapped the whole thing up with a nice can of Foster's.
fun. were the musical guest. The only thing we'll say about fun. is that the lead singer looks like you could find him hawking watches on Canal Street, dates Lena Dunham, and he used autotune. Let's move on.
Seth Meyers, about an hour after I called for his ouster, brought it on Weekend Update. He had two great lines that stood out. The first: "Officials say the city's flooded subway system may be running at full capacity some time next week, which would be amazing since it never has before." The second: "It was announced that both campaigns and outside groups have spent just under $1 billion in advertising on this election, swaying a total of one undecided voter:"
Jason Sudeikis made an appearance as Mitt Romney on Weekend Update, too. [Note: Jay Pharoah didn't appear on this episode as President Obama.] Romney is taking his opportunity here to remind everyone that, "I'm Mitt Romney, and I'm still running for President." He'd rather not focus on Hurricane Sandy, and instead talk about his rocking performance in those debates:
There were more lines and GIF-able moments, but just know that Sudeikis did great here and the writing was strong. If this is his Romney impression's final send off, he did it well.
The other two guests on Weekend Update were a Social Media Expert (Aidy Bryant) who only discussed the most inappropriate comments posted on the candidates' Facebook pages and The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started A Conversation With At A Party (Cecily Strong). Both were great, but there's no video online. (Yet.) Blame NBC. We'll will leave you with is this GIF of Aidy Bryant's blogger face, because it's like looking into a mirror:
The back half of the show only had three sketches and another musical performance. The first was some sort of Hobbit parody (maybe?) with CK as that scary looking dwarf from the trailer. CK is blowing a horn and looking for "Zog" and disturbing everyone in a nearby village. There is a point where CK legitimately forgets what he's supposed to say and looks offscreen for some help, but it worked. CK also can't blow the horn on time to pre-recorded sound effects. His follies endeared the sketch to us.
The second sketch was CK working as a jerk of a front desk manager at an upscale hotel who insisted on reviewing every detail of Bobby Moynihan's bill. He had to pick out things like "six pristine Bengali diamonds hand delivered on pillow of the finest oriental silk," and "argon, sir, it's a noble gas." It's a slow burn through the more mundane things on a hotel bill to get to the ridiculous stuff, but the surprising chemistry between Moynihan and CK make it work.
We're just going to post this video for the final sketch without any context. Watch the whole thing. It's a slow buildup to a huge joke crescendo with a small cigarette joke after.
DO NOT SCROLL PAST HERE UNTIL THE VIDEO IS OVER:
They closed the show on a high note. It was another slow burning sketch crescendoing with this monster make out session between the downtrodden and pathetic spontaneous lovers played by CK and Kate MacKinnon (who is seriously channeling some Ana Gasteyer vibes here.)
We're done here, folks. This was fun. He should be a show staple now. Heck, let's bring him back for the season finale too.
How we feel right now:
[Credit for the Fox credits GIF to Dave Itzkoff.]