SNL November 14, 2015 Recap: Elizabeth Banks/Disclosure

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SNL: Disclosure, Elizabeth Banks, Leslie Jones, Sam Smith, Lorde (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in November 2015.

“SNL” often responds to its most controversial outings in subsequent episodes, but the Donald Trump spectacle is nary mentioned at all a week later, save for a quick hit on Weekend Update. And this is for the best, because Elizabeth Banks shall not be overshadowed. She has been a deserving host for at least a decade, and in her debut, she puts on a showcase monologue, and then she fades into the ensemble for an episode that is all over the place. Meanwhile, musical guest Disclosure makes it a party by inviting their friends Lorde and Sam Smith.

In lieu of an opening sketch, “SNL” acknowledged the terrorist attack at Paris’ Bataclan Concert Hall with Cecily Strong stating a message of solidarity in both English and French.

Elizabeth Banks’ Monologue (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – “Catching the directing bug” is a simplistic premise, and musical monologues are overdone, but Elizabeth Banks uses the setup to show off her personality – the wisest direction to go when making your “SNL” hosting debut. The flourishes that she adds by taking the reins away from Don Roy King are just weird and edgy enough to start this episode off with some individuality. She is a lady in control, unafraid to demand diversity and make hacky tricks like green screen and star wipes work like gangbusters. B+

ARON’S List – Sex offender registries cover a wide swath of criminality, so a service like ARON’S List existing to get the non-violent segment of that group employed is not wholly unrealistic. It probably would not be advertised so cheerily, though (therein lies the joke). Much of this piece works as a call to give second chances to folks who made a mistake, but then Jay Pharoah makes a creepy face, and Kenan Thompson snaps an upskirt photo, undercutting that approach. Still, it is a fascinatingly out-there concept. B-

Black Jeopardy – The second edition of the African-American answer-and-question show runs just as much of a risk as the first one of gliding by on stereotypes, especially with its token white contestant. But it manages to be real because ingratiating fools like Elizabeth Banks’ character who once dated a black guy actually do exist. And the black contestants – once again played by Jay Pharoah and Sasheer Zamata – work because their performances are lived-in enough to come off as legitimate instead of cliché. B

Infinity + 5 – “First Got Horny 2 U” – The “SNL” ladies of the 2010’s are threatening to become as prolific as the Lonely Island with their musical output. This ode to their sexual awakenings is right in their wheelhouse, with its mix of accessible ballsiness and nineties nostalgia. They are a little weirder and more risqué than usual, what with the inaugural turn-on’s including the TGIF sitcom “Dinosaurs” and the parricidal Menendez brothers. B+

Woodbridge High School Student Theater Showcase – The experimental “theater” in the Woodbridge High sketches have thrilled with their depiction of naïvely tone-deaf activist art, but some have accused the sketches themselves of being tone-deaf. This outing counteracts that concern by giving the parents in the crowd a fully-formed response to each scene, underscoring how ridiculously surface-level this all is. It provides an important challenge, with the well-timed observation that white teenagers declaring that whites run the world “just sounds like bragging” and the anticipation of a bit about gender identity deflating the silly confrontation. B+

Disclosure and Lorde – “Magnets” – For as much as EDM has dominated the past decade or so of pop music, it has never gotten its fair representation on “SNL.” This is understandable, as the bombast of the genre does not lend itself well to the limits of the Studio 8H stage. But the Lawrence brothers favor a synth-y style that lends itself to intimacy. They produce a variety of sounds for every track, but they are packed densely enough for a snug fit. Plus, they have got the live performance instincts to bring along a backing crew of drummers and an especially expressive vocalist like Lorde. A-

Weekend Update – This edition of the “SNL” news eschews any commentary on the Paris attacks (not like there was much time to put together a decent comedic response anyway). But there have been plenty of stories otherwise this week. Michael and Colin lead off with their usual political jabs at the insanity of the Republican field, and also add a description Bernie Sanders as “if the post office became a person” for good measure. Then they get into another racially informed back-and-forth, this time focused on the Halloween controversy at Yale. It is more goofy than cutting (the best line is Colin’s aside that his mom worked really hard on his “white Al Roker” costume), which is perfectly fine – Update does not need to have satirical bite to be successful. But when it comes to topics like this one, they could stand to be more challenging, and they have previously shown that they are willing to do so. Michael and Colin’s Grade: B-
Weekend Update: Pete Davidson – No longer billed as the “resident young person,” Davidson discusses the issue of transgender bathroom access and offers some common sense. People already use bathrooms regardless of the prescribed gender, because when nature calls, it can be an emergency. What lawmakers who oppose the expansion of transgender bathroom rights fail to consider is that nobody wants to enter any public restroom. They are all uncomfortable – this fight is about ensuring the least uncomfortable option. B
Weekend Update: Bruce Chandling – Kyle Mooney could portray veteran stand-up Bruce Chandling as just a hack, and that would be enough for a fully formed character. But he goes the extra mile by also making him unprecedently tragic, for a brand of humor that causes discomfort, but also gains sympathy, and remains wildly unpredictable. It is quite an accomplishment that Bruce inadvertently dating a high school girl does not come off as creepy but rather, pitiable. Even if he does manage to find someone his own age, he remains cursed by the inability to understand any women. B+
Weekend Update: Olya Povlatsky – The more Kate McKinnon trots out her insanely dispossessed Russian villager, the harder it is to suspend disbelief over her exaggeration of her home as a desolate wasteland. Luckily, she can still turn a phrase in a way that reveals a tragic side of the human condition. Her pick-up line (“Did you fall from heaven? If so, please tell me my babies are up there!”) is absolutely devastating. B

The Adventures of Young Ben Carson – Jay Pharoah’s sleepy-eyed Ben Carson is a solid addition to his impressions repertoire, and he gets a sketch with a clever concept to go along with it. The suspect claims of his violent youth play out as ridiculously as one might expect. His “rage,” such as it is, is reminiscent of Jon Lovitz’ take on Michael Dukakis, another similarly feckless candidate who claimed to be overcome by anger. B

The Bureau – Bobby Moynihan plays a mild-mannered middle school principle, the winner of a walk-on role on a “Law & Order”-style procedural. The typical joke in this setup might be that the walk-on’s performance is too flashy, but this sketch pulls off the minor twist of the folks on the show making it difficult for him. Unfortunately, as every angle of the perversion of the role is explored, it edges past “all in good fun” and into outright cruelty. B-

Disclosure and Sam Smith – “Omen” – Is it possible that Disclosure have collaborated with both Lorde and Sam Smith because of how much those two crooners look alike? Seriously, they both have wide foreheads, deep and expressive eyes, pouty lips, and pointy chins. They probably wear much the same emotions a lot of the time. Here, Sam puts that intensity to good use, with a low-key, but high-flying performance matching the small-but-dense approach of the music. B+

U B E R for Jen – Despite leaving the writing staff, former featured player Mike O’Brien is still on tap to provide the occasional short film. In this narrative, he targets the hassle of an unruly Uber driver and runs with it for hours and hours.  Eventually, it comes around to turning that nightmare into an adventure, but still enigmatic enough that it tracks as simultaneously thrilling and disturbing. B

Ghetto – The last sketch of the night is the second sketch in a row to feature Uber (and the Uber driver’s wife!) in its material. The problems that arise in this scene of brunching girlfriends are much more life-threatening than may be expected. Meghan (Elizabeth Banks) lives in a rough side of town, filled with toddlers making threats and demands for rent in the middle of the night. Her actually ghetto experience is an effective rebuke of her friends’ facetious overuse of the term. Even though they seem to recognize this immediately, they are a little slow on the uptake, carrying on with their metaphorical ghetto descriptions until the end of the sketch, making for a tone that remains confused throughout. C+

Notes & Quotes:
-“Oh, I’m sorry, you’re white? I don’t see color.”
-So is 2Pac a member or a victim of the Illuminati?
-Would Aidy Bryant like to hear a joke? “HA HA ha ha Ha.”
-The proceeds from the Woodbridge show go to Neil Patrick Harris. “He doesn’t need that.”
-The Woodbridge kids also have a chair taped off for Caitlyn Jenner. “She doesn’t want to come to this.”
-Bruce Chandling ribbing Michael Che: “You look good… for once.”
-“Am I dating a girl, or am I dating … a pop quiz?”
-According to Bruce, the only dance moves guys know are the “Slide the Bowl of Chips Closer to Us” and the “Twist Open the Chili Cheese Dip.”
-Olya Povlatsky’s 3-piece bikini consists of shirt, pants, and a big heavy coat.


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