CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

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

Love It

Levi’s Wokes – In a season premiere that was no more than perfectly cromulent, the sketch that sticks with me the most is not one that had me non-stop laughing out loud, but the one with the most fully realized ideas. You know, sometimes “labels” are practical and only offensive if you are insane. It may be hilarious to denote a color as “#GREB,” but actual colors work better in most situations. But fashion is about making statements, and Levi’s Wokes do state themselves clearly.

Michael and Colin make it to the Love It section thanks to “White Fudge Ding Dongs.”

Keep It

Henrietta & the FugitiveSNL has never refused to build an entire sketch around any full-body animal costume it comes across. Most of the time this results in something ridiculous and amateur, which is what “Henrietta & the Fugitive” appears to be at first. Not to mention how it has no idea what tone it is going for. But then about the point that the farmer gets shot, and Kenan makes one of his indelible reaction noises, it becomes something else. And then with the epilogue, it is fully transcendent. (I might eventually reevaluate this to be a classic, but right now I’m still smarting a little from how it is initially boring.)

Another White House cold opening, another grab bag of the latest headlines; hoo boy, Chuck Schumer’s glasses are slung low…The joke of Ryan Gosling’s Monologue is really less about “saving jazz” and more about the weirdness in the edges, like mispronouncing cities and claiming that Blade Runner 2049’s budget is “9 million”…Ms. Rafferty, Todd, and Sharon are back from another abduction, and I’m glad that their NSA Interview acknowledges that this isn’t the first time this has happened. Still, you can’t beat the original, though I do admire, as always, Kate’s commitment…HGTV parody The Fliplets is a little underdeveloped but earns points for the weird triplet’s declaration about being reborn as a lizard… Kate’s Angela Merkel impression is always reliable for some exaggerated German stereotypes, and being sent to bed without radishes is the most memorable this time around… It’s no Colombian coffee crystals, but Terrezano’s does make its presence felt with the rejoinder “You should be disbarred!”… I appreciate papyrus’s obsession with a small detail, but maybe it could have done a little more to make me care about that struggle.

Leave It

Mickey’s End Zone – This isn’t a good sketch, but I do admire it. It’s the latest entry in the seemingly endless genre of “lead singer of a weird, often archaic band at an off-the-beaten-path club vamps for a while.” I didn’t laugh much, but I was kind of invested in the saga of Kenan’s good jeans. This sort of committed storytelling needs to be encouraged.

Yeah, I’m still not really seeing the appeal of A Guy Who Just Bought a Boat. I know that’s kind of the point, but the routine is as insufferable as the character. “Reporting for booty” gets a laugh out of me at least.

Ryan Gosling
On a scale of Tom Hanks to Dane Cook, Ryan Gosling is never going to stop doing his inimitable thing. Maybe he could be more professional, but he is far from insufferable. Rather, he is plenty adorable. I don’t get the sense that he inspires the best work from the writers, though, more like his presence encourages them to coast by on good vibes. They are really good vibes, but they can only take you so far.

On a scale of old Jay-Z to post-Lemonade Jay-Z, yeah, there’s most definitely a difference here. The lyrical content is interesting, introspective, and valuable. But as for the actual performances, am I the only one who finds them profoundly staid? Damian Marley is definitely into it, but Jay just looks so tepid. Do the album versions feel more powerful?

Letter Grades:
White House – C+
Ryan Gosling’s Monologue – B-
NSA Alien Abduction Interview – B-
Levi’s Wokes (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – B
The Fliplets – B-
Jay-Z ft. Damian Marley performs “Bam” – B-

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B+ (A+ for “White Fudge Ding Dongs”)
Angela Merkel – B
A Guy Who Just Bought a Boat – C

Henrietta & the Fugitive (BEST SECOND HALF OF THE NIGHT) – B
Terrezano’s – B
Jay-Z performs “4:44” – C+
papyrus – B
Mickey’s End Zone – B-