SNL: Jim Carrey, Iggy Azalea (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in October 2014.

When Jim Carrey first hosted “SNL” in 1996, it was one of the times when the host temporarily revamped the show according to his own performance style.  That can be a good thing or a bad thing; in Jim’s case, it was very good.  For his third hosting stint, he was not quite as unstoppable, but he was still quite the blast of energy.  As he pointed out in his monologue, Halloween is the one day each year that he is able to blend in with everyone else, and with a plethora of mostly successful All Hallow’s Eve-themed sketches, he proved to be the most apt host for the occasion.  There were a few clunkers that were too intense for their own good, but there were also several incredibly thrilling moments.  Even though it was wildly uneven, this was probably the best episode of the season thus far.  Meanwhile, Leslie Jones, after making memorable appearances in the first three weeks of the season, was promoted from writer to featured player. Let’s take a closer look at each segment of the show:

Ebola Press Conference – Kenan Thompson’s Al Sharpton impression is too silly to work for viewer, but there can be no doubt that his entrance instantly livened up this rather staid cold opening.  Even though Ebola has rendered Ron Klain a timely public figure, most “SNL” viewers probably have no idea who he is.  Thus, vote-baiting jokes in which Latinos have immunity to Ebola, though kind of clever, could be nothing more than cookie-cutter.  So Sharpton sauntering on to call Klain the “Ebola Caesar” and talk about “pigeons, rats, and sewer monsters” was undoubtedly a welcome blast of energy. C+

Jim Carrey’s Monologue – It has become de rigueur – and thus essentially pointless – to complain whenever the monologue consists of a song-and-dance number.  But Jim Carrey’s routine was not a typical musical monologue in any sense.  To wit: he was dressed up in the combo outfit of “Helvis,” which, well, this was the Halloween episode, so whatever.  So then this costume led into a song about how pecan pie could be the dessert to Elvis’s beloved peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches.  And then almost every single line of the song was about needing a pecan pie.  This wasn’t exactly actually funny, but it was unlike just about anything else on TV right now. B-

Matthew McConaughey for Lincoln – This was a fine opportunity to crack how it is a bizarre step down for McConaughey to go from winning an Oscar to doing a car commercial.  But the truly bizarre thing is how the actual commercial this was spoofing fits so well with the existential persona McConaughey has solidified ever since “True Detective.”  So this was just a chance for Jim Carrey to make that appropriateness clear by riffing on that vibe, such as by commenting to a booger, “Ain’t you a vision?” B

Carrey Family Reunion – “SNL” trotted out this concept of an actor’s every family member having the same personality once before in 2008 when Christopher Walken hosted.  The Carrey Family Reunion was always going to be tougher than the Walken reunion, since Jim Carrey impressions are based more on his characters than who he is as a person and thus tend to be hackier (although, to be fair, Jim Carrey’s characters do in a way represent who he is as a person).  Ultimately, this sketch depended on the strength of its impressions, which were mostly okay with a couple that were excellent: Kyle Mooney proved how chameleonic he can be, while Cecily Strong went all-in with her take on Fire Marshall Bill.  The Jeff Daniels cameo was mostly perfunctory. B-

Matthew McConaughey for Lincoln II – The second part of the night’s McConaughey runner made the “True Detective” connection even more obvious and ramped up the absurdity with the addition of kids that may or may not have been McConaughey’s. B

Graveyard – At first glance, this appeared to be a sequel to the Merryville Brothers Trolley Ride from Jim Carrey’s last hosting stint.  But, in point of fact, this musical ditty from a group of whimsical ghosts was its own thing, though it did have a similar, sort-of-reversed vibe as that earlier creepy sketch.  Instead of mischievous animatronic robots, this time Jim and Taran Killam were ghost pals Paul and Phil, the most delightful creations “SNL” has concocted in years.  Everything about them displayed their thorough characterization, from Paul having died by chasing a butterfly off a cliff to beer going “right through” Phil, all acted out to perfection with the unreal chemistry between Jim and Taran. A-

Allstate/ Matthew McConaughey for Lincoln III – Kenan actually seemed to be making an effort with his Dennis Haysbert, which is not always the case with his impressions, but that was beside the point, as this was just a punctuation to the McConaughey runner.  The slurring of New Age-y bon mots like how maybe the moon made God felt like a naturally absurd conclusion. B+

Iggy Azalea – “Fancy”/“Black Widow” (with Rita Ora) – Iggy Azalea, with her American-influenced, Australian hip-hop voice, does not sound quite like anyone else on pop radio.  Unfortunately that uniqueness was not conveyed via this performance.  As disappointing as Iggy was, much of that likely had to do with forces beyond her control.  She sounded like she was straining during her more verbose lines, which was weird because her dance moves were not particularly strenuous.  Maybe she was suffering from a cold.  But the biggest culprit here was the “SNL” music stage’s notoriously bad acoustics, which were as bad as they have ever been.  The transition from “Fancy” to “Black Widow” was astoundingly awful.  Whoever was running the soundboard seemed to have no idea where the levels were supposed to be.  This is not how you want two of the catchiest pop songs of the year to go.  Also, what was up with the self-censoring of “bad bitch” to “bad chick” while “retarded” remained unaltered?  “Bitch” in this case is not derogatory but a positive reclamation while “retarded” has the reputation of a word that simply cannot be positively reclaimed. C

Weekend Update – Colin had very little noteworthy on this outing, save for a couple of weird, though obvious, punchlines (UNC student-athletes calling fraud reports “ungood and distrue,” Brett Favre writing “Good job” on his penis to congratulate Peyton Manning).  Michael overall was not that notable either, though his style continued to be more interesting; sex being pioneered by fish turning into a “yo mama” joke was a nice quick unexpected zinger, but he could have gone further with his comparison of Ebola to black people. Michael and Colin’s Grade: C+
Daisy Rose – This initially appeared to be an aggravatingly cliché bit about movie clichés playing out cliché-ly in real life, but wisely, Michael was immune to the insistence of rom-com expert Daisy Rose.  His tension with the Update guests has worked a lot better than the overly rehearsed Seth Meyers feel or the bland Colin Jost approach.  It would have been nice if the show had actually checked in on Daisy and Michael after 15 or 20 minutes. B
Drunk Uncle – Drunk Uncle was back for his eleventh appearance overall and first with a black Weekend Update anchor.  He mistook Michael for the elevator doorman and then wheeled on over to Colin’s side.  It was understandable that he preferred to be by the white guy, but there could have been some back-and-forth from across the desk.  Regardless, this was surprisingly the first time that Drunk Uncle was here to discuss Halloween.  Thus, he still had plenty new to say about the problems with today’s youth, noting their preference for Goji berries in Dropbox over candy. B+

Secret Billionaire – The “secret” of who the actual billionaire here was painfully obvious.  Luckily that was not the point of this sketch.  That much was clear when it just ended without the contestant making a decision or anything conclusive.  This was all about Jim Carrey’s performance as Abbott Bonneville King, whose hobbies include creating a mechanical replacement limb, shooting his “essence” to the ground from a hot air balloon, and “gently sipping on a glass of octopus urine.”  This was a rather thin premise, merely relying as it did on one character out-crazying all the others, but fortunately Jim Carrey was up for bringing to life an eccentric to best all eccentrics. B-

Ghosts Fact or Fiction – There was no effort to establish any of Rhonda’s scientific credentials, making this all about how the “skeptic” was more scared of ghosts than the believers.  Leslie Jones can play freaked out perfectly fine, but this wasn’t much more than the shtick the Wayans brothers have been trotting out for years. C+

10 Days After the Zombie Apocalypse – “Fletch” is a zombie word?  This was one of those sketches that fully revealed its premise right away, which meant that there needed to be more information revealed as it went along, but instead, this was just Jim Carrey constantly insisting that his obviously zombified son was not a zombie.  There were a few funny things around the edges, like the Brian Williams impression, though that was more WTF-funny than clever-funny. C+

Office Costume Party (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – Confusing a black person dressed as Vanna White for Beyoncé or Rihanna was reminiscent, in a good way, of the racially ambiguous costumes of the Halloween episodes of “Community.”  The fat jokes here might have been a touch offensive, though that was mitigated by how absurd they were – the joke was really on Vanessa’s character being so oblivious.  Also, this sketch featured Kate McKinnon and Jim Carrey (and Iggy Azalea) dancing together in nude leotards.  Lorne Michaels looked the most confused he has ever been.  This was one of the most gratifying explorations of the studio in the show’s history. A-

Iggy Azalea ft. MØ – “Beg for It” – At least the mix was actually handled well for this performance.  Iggy still sounded far from 100 percent, though.  MØ had an interesting vampy, cat-like presence, but she wasn’t exactly vibing with Iggy.  The choreography was decent, but awkwardly staged.  This was far from a bad song, so to put a kind spin on things, we can say that Iggy hasn’t mastered performing it yet. C+

Geoff’s Halloween Emporium – During Jim Carrey’s first hosting stint, there was a sketch called Jimmy Tango’s Fat Busters, in which he played the spokesman for a crystal meth-based diet plan.  This sketch, in which he played the demon-possessed owner of a Halloween store, pretty much worked according to the same idea.  Cecily and Vanessa’s Midwestern charm gibed surprisingly well with Jim’s banshee howling.

Some Bullet Points:
-“We are Paul and Phil.”
-“Stop reading the cue cards out there, and start reading the ones in here.”
-“Are you scared?” “Paul and Phil.”
-So, Drunk Uncle’s not a jack-of-all-lanterns, doesn’t know how to commit murder with Viola Davis, and isn’t a graveyard smash, okay?
-“Can you guess who’s who? We’ll never tell.” “Yes, we will. I’m Paul.” “I guess I’m Phil.”
-Don’t walk, drive to Geoff’s Halloween Emporium. They’ve got every Sexy Hunger Games costume imaginable: Sexy Katniss Everdeen, Sexy Her Sister, Sexy Woody Harrelson, and Sexy Tracker Jacker.