SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Felicity Jones" Episode 1715 -- Pictured: (l-r) Felicity Jones, Beck Bennett, and Kyle Mooney during the Movie Interview sketch on January 14th, 2017 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Felicity Jones” Episode 1715 — Pictured: (l-r) Felicity Jones, Beck Bennett, and Kyle Mooney during the Movie Interview sketch on January 14th, 2017 — (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

This review was originally posted on News Cult in January 2017.

Love It

Fandango All Access – I believe we have had other examples of trenchant boob-based humor in the past, but never before has this type of material been performed with the idiosyncratic conviction of a Beck Bennett/Kyle Mooney joint. One caveat to my praise, though: I feel like they are holding back on us a bit. If the sketch were just scenes from Hot Robot 3: Journey to Boob Mountain, instead of a discussion about it, I think this could reach the raucous, surreal heights of this crew’s sitcom parodies. As it is, the steely commitment to the patent ridiculousness from everyone in this sketch is still plainly stunning.

Beck Bennett’s turn as a pop sensation feels like a half-baked idea. Or maybe it was fully thought out, and the concept is that it is meant to seem half-baked? Either way, he’s adorable.

Keep It

Shondra & Malik – This is a breed of pre-taped sketch that fascinates me. It is not aiming for big guffaws, nor is it aiming for that bit of poignancy that comedy likes to sneak in there every once in a while. I am not really sure what it is aiming for. Increased thoughtfulness, possibly? Anyway, this tale of Kenan Thompson and Leslie Jones as rival street-level businessfolk (drug dealers, perhaps, though that’s never specified) is not especially impressive, but it is enjoyable in a low-key way. Thus, I would argue that the car explosion is too dramatic an ending and simply driving (or lurching) off to the hospital would have been preferable.

I’m a little surprised that the “golden showers” are discussed only during the Trump Press Conference cold open and by Michael and Colin; perhaps that is for the best, because how can it be made any funnier than it is already? Thus, Trump’s biggest laugh is calling a journalist “mom,” and Update shines more strongly this go-round with its stranger topics…The Princess & the Curse is a little simplistic, though it makes its point about body standards…Pete Davidson could use some more focus in his First Impressions segment, though “Secretary of Honda Civic” is worth a laugh… I appreciate the raunch of the pharmaceutical ladies at Jokeoke, though I think they could use some more resistance to play off of.

Leave It

Susan B. Anthony House – The trouble with this sketch is how much it immediately undercuts itself. Here is a group of female friends who, by virtue of visiting the Susan B. Anthony House, are presumably invested in fighting for justice. And they are rightfully amazed when Ms. Anthony appears from beyond. But as soon as they have checked that off their bucket list, they revert to petty squabbling and supreme impatience. Characters do not have to be sympathetic in sketch comedy, but it helps if we can consistently track their motivations.

How you gonna have Saw Gerrerra show up in your monologue and not let Kenan go totally buckwild with his Forest Whitaker impression? … SNL has done a Bachelor parody in the style of quick series of drop-in visits before, and Beard Hunk is the least imaginative version so far…There is humor to be mined from nursing a 106-year-old man at a live show, but the distractions he presents to the crowd at the Albee Durberry Theater extend to the SNL crowd as well.

Felicity Jones
Right from her monologue, Ms. Jones makes it clear that she is going to stick hard to the cue cards. This could be a bad sign, but there is room for redemption in this strategy. And she uses it to her advantage somewhat. This affectless style makes for an especially dead-eyed suitor in “Beard Hunk,” and it is a perfect fit for the deadpan goofiness when discussing Hot Robot 3 alongside Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney. If she ever hosts again, give her more dumb stuff like that.

Sturgill Simpson
If I had known about Sturgill Simpson’s subversive streak, I would have started listening to him sooner. Not that I should be surprised, considering that his version of country is often labeled “outlaw.” As soon as the horns bring us into his first number, “Keep It Between the Lines,” I know we are in for a welcome genre fusion. Song number 2, “Call to Arms,” has a more traditional sound, but the sneakily harsh lyrics lend it a defiant protest vibe.

Letter Grades:
Trump Press Conference – B-
Felicity Jones’ Monologue – C
Beard Hunk – C-
Shondra & Malik – B
Albee Durberry Theater – C
The Princess & the Curse – B-
Susan B. Anthony House – C
Sturgill Simpson performs “Keep It Between the Lines” – B+

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Pete Davidson: First Impressions – C+
Beck Bennett, Pop Sensation – B+

Fandango All Access (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B+
Sturgill Simpson performs “Call to Arms” – B+
Jokeoke – B-