This review was originally posted on News Cult in October 2016.

Love It

Ann Arbor Short Film Festival – This is the sort of satire that really nails a particular piece of culture. This is not the first time amateur filmmaking has been lampooned, but it feels like it is, because it is so incisive, and so cleanly produced. It effectively uses exaggeration and reversal to make its points. Dozens of people work on a one-minute film featuring only one actor, and that feels oddly plausible. And unlike many screenings, in which the wave of questioners overwhelms the panelist, everyone on stage dwarfs the lone audience member. The Holocaust/makeup/“at the end of the day, it’s also a comedy” explanation is one for the ages.

The Hummer party limo’s visit to the Burger King Drive-Thru could have been random for the sake of randomness, but instead, each outré character is sharply defined.

Keep It

Second Presidential Debate – For a debate sketch to really take it to the next level, it has to be making observations that nobody else is making. For it to provide an adequate number of laughs (still an admirable goal to reach), it has to make sharp comments about the things we all noticed. And so, the 2016 SNL Debate Round 2 succeeds at the latter, even more incisively than the initial bout. Trump is more unapologetically awful, Hillary is bursting with even more giddiness, and Ken Bone is the perfect mustachioed Bobby Moynihan character.

Emily Blunt’s monologue is short on jokes, but never underestimate the powers of puppies, or putting an audience member’s face on a cake, for the sake of establishing good vibes…The history of 2016 justifies Melanianade’s existence…The problems with the marketing of women’s clothing are well-established, both comedically and otherwise – CHONK stands out with its aggressive discordance…I think it is time for the election to be over, because Michael and Colin’s tenor is growing ever more frustrated…A couple of our favorite Update guests (Olya Povlatsky, Laura Parsons) stop by to remind us how much we love them…The Sink is a half-baked filmed piece, but it does give Emily Blunt the opportunity for a real actorly monologue…We’ve seen malfunctioning robots before on SNL, but the Honda Robotics Lounge has the X-factor of Leslie Jones keeping things in control…In the best Melania Moments yet, Melania ponders a Prince and the Pauper scenario with a lookalike housekeeper…Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in a Hamster Cage keeps its parody tight by not getting too cutesy.

Leave It

The Great British Bake Off – The pristinely polite Great British Bake Off and the stereotype of crass English villagers make for a promising juxtaposition, but their clashing styles never quite come together. Cecily Strong and Emily Blunt both revel in their roles of fame-seeking attention whores who would much rather be on Big Brother, but their energy is too far divorced from Mary Berry and company. It feels like this was written by two sets of writers in two different rooms.

Save for using a lampshade to cover some breaking, the Escorts do not justify their placement at the top of the show.

Emily Blunt
On a scale of January Jones to Candice Bergen, Emily Blunt slots right in with the cast, almost a little too well. Her roles mostly fall under one of two categories: herself, or a crazy character buried under a ton of a makeup or a robot costume. These are not bad things in and of themselves. It all depends on how they manifest. And indeed, they manifest interestingly, as those selves are surprise versions of herself, and she is certainly up to the task of playing crazy. It all just has a net effect of obscuring how much of a star she is, and why would you ever want to do that?

Bruno Mars
On a scale of “Bruno Mars the musical guest” to “Bruno Mars the host AND musical guest,” Bruno Mars is just the musical guest, and that is just dandy. He acquitted himself admirably when he pulled double duty four years ago, but focusing just on the tunes allows him to shine where he really shines. Starting a performance anywhere other than the actual stage, as he does for “24K Magic,” is practically unheard of, and so that routine-breaking decision goes a long way. Good thing he is just about the perfect star to pull it off. His second number, “Chunky,” is a weird mix of explicit and substantive, but I’m listening.

Letter Grades:
Second Presidential Debate – B
Emily Blunt’s Monologue – B-
Escorts – C
Melanianade – B-
Ann Arbor Short Film Festival (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-
Chonk – B-
Bruno Mars performs “24K Magic” – B+

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Olya Povlatsky – B
Laura Parsons – B

Burger King Drive-Thru – B+
The Sink – B
Honda Robotics Lounge – B-
Melania Moments – B
Bruno Mars performs “Chunky” – B
The Great British Bake Off – C
Hamster Cage – B-