SNL: Future, Jonah Hill, Future (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in March 2016.

Jonah Hill does not proclaim “I’m six!” during any part of his fourth stint on “SNL.” This is not the sort of episode that relies completely on steady favorites, nor is it the sort of episode in which the host is clearly promoting something. (Hill’s last movie was “Hail, Caesar!,” which he appeared in for all of five minutes.) Also, Future is the musical guest. He is one of those artists who is really hot right now even though a significant portion of the “SNL” viewership have surely never heard of him.

CNN America’s Choice 2016 – After a few weeks off, “SNL” gets back in the groove of cold openings that run down the latest electoral goings-on. This is a low ceiling/high floor venture: it is too scattered to have a real selling point, but nothing lasts long enough to stink up the joint and the individual parts are all decent. The highlight, such as there is one, is a returning favorite: Jason Sudeikis’ reprisal of his Mitt Romney. The material is predictable (he’s a vanilla Mormon milquetoast), but refreshing, as there are only so many incisive jokes that can be squeezed out of the current candidates. B-

Jonah Hill’s Monologue – For anyone wondering why Jonah Hill is hosting right now, he comes right out and confirms that he is indeed not starring in anything coming out soon. In that vein, not much happens in his monologue either. He and Kyle Mooney get into an on the nose, passive-aggressive Q&A, he does his best Drake alongside Future for a verse, and then … that’s it. The brevity makes for a nice change of pace, but not much else. B-

Racists for Trump – This gradual revelation of who Trump supporters really are is a simple joke, but one with plenty of endurance. There are plenty of ways to systematically hate entire groups of people. B

Fond du Lac Action News – Yes, we get it: Midwesterners have broad accents and easygoing attitudes, even in the face of violent crime. Still, there is room to squeeze a promising premise out of this setting. This local newscast shows flashes of something unique, but it suffers from the same approach favored by the political cold opens: rushing through a bunch of features that could all stand on their own if given space to grow into full-bodied sketches. The confused, still-horny lottery reporter (Taran Killam) at least displays full development. C+

The Champ – Letting the air out of a supposed local high school sports hero is a clever concept, but it is one that can turn sour fast and hard, as it does here. The details about Nate (Hill), supposedly the biggest loser in school, demonstrate admirable world-building, but in a way that makes the stomach curdle. The humor is there, but it does not produce the sort of laughter that makes viewers feel good about themselves. The little satirical bits (this is the only lead news story, despite a double homicide perpetrated by a celebrity right next door) hit the right tone, though. C+

Oak Ridge Student Auction – Entertainers performing at private functions for rich foreign leaders of dubious morality is a real thing, so a Qatari king or a Kuwaiti sultan hiring youthful viral video stars is not that far removed from reality. They probably would not obtain these bookings at a high school auction, but it does not feel so different from the truth. Therein lies the comedy: the confluence between seeming ridiculousness and unsettling reality. B

Future ft. The Weeknd – “Low Life” – Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn, née Future, is one of those rappers who is big in the hip-hop world but has not quite crossed over into mainstream consciousness. So to ease folks into his acquaintance, he astutely brings along someone who has already graced the “SNL” stage and dominated the Billboard charts. Letting The Weeknd take the lead and opening with the melancholically thoughtful “Low Life” prove to be effective ways to ease people into this crazy guy wearing a 70’s pimp-style winter jacket on a hot stage. B

Weekend Update – Michael and Colin are on an absolute tear this week, inspired by the continued and accelerated devolution of the election cycle and the new developments in the OJ case (it is not just “American Crime Story” making it 1995 again). While there is a fire to the headline material, their best moments continue to be the apparent ad-libs, as when Michael notes that he is “lonely on the road,” after Colin explains that the reason the top PornHub search is the same in so many states is that “Michael travels a lot.” B
Weekend Update: The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – Give her a few months’ rest in between appearances, and there will always be plenty of world issues for the Girl at a Party to completely mangle and oddly poignantly summarize. B+
Weekend Update: Flossie Dickey – The real 110-year-old Flossie Dickey is already a comedy sketch unto herself. It would be so easy to just recreate her local news spot, and “SNL” probably would have gotten away with it, but they find another angle, wherein Colin and Michael torture Vanessa Bayer through the personal hell of interviewing Flossie. Bonus points to Kate McKinnon for gradually sliding down her chair in her portrayal of the curmudgeon. B
Weekend Update: Jay Pharoah – The solution to Jay Pharoah struggling to find the right concept for his proficient impressions is apparently to just do a whole bunch of them at once. His Katt Williams, Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Tracy Morgan, Chris Tucker, Hannibal Burress, and Bernie Mac are all perfect. Saying that mouthful is very different from saying that just one of them is perfect. Overwhelming the audience is sometimes the right move. Perhaps this could have been even better if Jay were in a room, acting out the scene, switching his position for each comedian, singlehandedly filling in the space in Eddie Murphy’s house. B

Murder Investigation – Jonah Hill is just one of those guys who always plays the unfairly abused. It is probably because his freakouts are in a class all their own. A locked room mystery scene is generally going to make at least one character sweat, and if only one is sweating, then that character is probably guilty. But in this case, he is not guilty of murder, but rather, unusually distressing bodily functions. A sketch focused on gastrointestinal overdrive can be unbearably lowbrow, but not necessarily so when there is an element of mystery. B-

Inside SoCal – The skater punks of this DIY talk show have always been immature, but their blatant sexism has never been so strongly on display as it is here. They are clearly the butt of the joke in their complete incredulity at breast reduction, but that does not make it any less painful to witness. Still, the lo-fi touch of Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett lends charm to even the ickiest of characters. Plus, the “world news” segment about Indian food is an unqualified success. B

Future – “March Madness” – Future goes timely with his second song, but it would be hard to realize that for anyone who has never heard this track before. His flow is too droning, too fast, and too drowned out by the beat for the uninitiated to get the full effect. For those who could not discern any of the lyrics, it is worth looking them to realize their social consciousness. B-

Merger Meeting – The 10-to-1 slot is the opportunity to experiment with ideas that are not fully fleshed out or too weird to work in a more prime position. And experiment this sketch this does. Jonah Hill’s caterer raves about the reception of his food at a corporate meeting, despite almost none of it being eaten yet. He is rude, eccentric, and prone to extremely off-color descriptions (“bowl of ranch: gangbanged!”). He does not make a lick of sense. Sometimes these weirdos slip into the rest of the world, and it is a hit of something else. B-

Notes & Quotes:
-According to Mitt Romney, Republicans do not say racist and sexist things – they imply them. Variations of that sentiment show frequently up in today’s comedy, but this one is particularly well-constructed.
-“Forgive me, Joseph Smith!”
-“It’s twins! … that he murdered.”
-Girl at a Party quotes, coming through: “Just so you know, if it were up to me, every year would be Black History Month.” “And now Ben Carson’s pulling out, and we’re just supposed to believe that’s the most effective form of birth control?” “Why do we have to labia everything?” #BlackGuysMatter
-“A Catholic priest in Ireland was caught on video snorting cocaine in a room adorned with Nazi symbols. Okay, but show me where in the Bible it says you can’t do that.”
-There cannot be an Agatha Christie-style sketch without linking to this classic Monty Python bit.