Jeff’s Wacky SNL Review: Issa Rae/Justin Bieber

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SNL: Justin Bieber, Issa Rae (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

SNL Season 46 Log. Episode 3. No major emergencies. Time for some funnies!

Insecure creator-star Issa Rae is making her hosting debut, and I think that’s a commendable booking decision. She has the chops to be goofy, which she doesn’t always have the opportunity to show off in Insecure. But on SNL, there’s plenty of room for her to kick back and be silly. In fact, it’s encouraged.

As for the tunes, Justin Bieber is the musical guest for the fourth time in his career and the second time in this calendar year. To which I say, “Huh.” I’m open to the possibility of liking his songs more now and in the future than I have in the past, but I wouldn’t have pegged him to be such a Studio 8H fixture at this point.

I woke up early Sunday morning. Before 7:00 AM, even! But I stayed in bed a little past 7:00 because I like to rise with the sun. Then I watched this episode and took some notes while I watched.


Jeff’s Wacky SNL Review: Chance the Rapper (Season 45)

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CREDIT: Rosalind O’Connor/NBC

After a short one-week break (presumably so that the cast could catch up on their sleep), SNL is back with a new Season 45 episode, with Chance the Rapper pulling double duty. He’s hosted before, been musical guest before, but never both at the same time … until now! I don’t know exactly what he’s promoting right now, but he seems like the type of person who releases new music often enough that he’s always promoting something. And they seem to like him at SNL enough that he can stop by whenever he wants to. To give you a sense of where I was at while watching, I made myself pancakes. You might notice that I eat pancakes frequently on the weekends.

For the cold open, Alec Baldwin showed up as Trump again. I wish I could muster more enthusiasm. “Deep State lizard conspiracy” made me laugh, and I enjoyed Fred Armisen’s very silly Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Trump Rally (Grade: More Turkey Puns, Please) Chance the Rapper inserted plenty of rhythm into his Monologue (Grade: 4/5 Second Places) by debuting a little rap (alongside Kyle Mooney) about the second bests of various attractions, as inspired by his hometown of Chicago, the “Second City.” At first blush, this feels like it deserves a place in the Monologue Song Pantheon.


SNL Review November 18, 2017: Chance the Rapper/Eminem


CREDIT: Samantha Lichtenstein/NBC

This post was originally published on News Cult in November 2017.

News Cult Entertainment Editor Jeffrey Malone watches every new episode of Saturday Night Live and then organizes the sketches into the following categories: “Love It” (potentially Best of the Season-worthy), “Keep It” (perfectly adequate), or “Leave It” (in need of a rewrite, to say the least). Then he concludes with assessments of the host and musical guest.

Love It

The Mueller Files – You can take the Update guests out from behind the desk, but you can’t take the desk out of the Update guests. But sometimes that transition is a good thing. A new context can be enlightening. And so we have the Trump sons off on their own adventure, free from the confines of the middle of the show. And the result might be just be SNL’s most confident political satire of this era.

Pete Davidson mercilessly skewers his native Staten Island and the borough’s golden boy Colin Jost in one of his best Update appearances.


SNL Review December 17, 2016: Casey Affleck/Chance the Rapper

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SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Casey Affleck" Episode 1714 -- Pictured: Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton during the "Hillary Actually" sketch on December 17, 2016 -- (Photo by: Becky Vu/NBC)

This post was originally published on News Cult in December 2016.

News Cult Entertainment Editor Jeffrey Malone watches every new episode of Saturday Night Live and then organizes the sketches into the following categories: “Love It” (potentially Best of the Season-worthy), “Keep It” (perfectly adequate), or “Leave It” (in need of a rewrite, to say the least). Then he concludes with assessments of the host and musical guest.

Love It

Hillary Actually – I generally cut SNL slack for not having the sharpest political satire around, but I do encourage more adventurous ideas, and this is exactly what I am talking about. Using a movie parody to make sense of the current twist in the election is what SNL is uniquely equipped to do. Hillary wooing an elector in the style of Love Actually’s cue cards scene may be over-the-top, but it rings through and through with essential truth.

I love the hacky comedy in the nativity play covered by New York Now and wish it had lasted even longer and gotten even more ridiculous…At Frankie’s Ale House, it is not just the guys looking to score who are deploying faux shyness: it’s also the bouncer, the guy calling 911, the EMT, and even God.

Keep It

Santa Encounter – The first appearance of Kate McKinnon’s unlucky-in-abduction Ms. Rafferty was a blast of otherworldly goodness. The second edition perfected the formula. This third go-round shows the limits of the premise. An encounter with Santa does not have quite the same type of legendary appeal as capture by aliens. Also, the shock value has worn off, and with everyone more practiced, the chances for breaking are less likely. Still, I am not going to complain when Kate describes how this is not the worst time she has had on all fours.

In our weekly check-in at Trump Tower, we discover how much of a dead ringer Beck Bennett is for Vladimir Putin…Combative Dunkin’ Donuts Superfan Casey Affleck shows us what happens when all the loyal customers show up for the commercial…The inexplicably gay robots at the Microsoft Tech Expo examine overly sensitive minefields, but the whole sketch is a little too timid…Jingle Barack, a sort of “Christmas in Hollis” redux, is a festive and wistful goodbye to the first black POTUS…Michael and Colin get their biggest laughs from the all-potato diet and “phubbing”…With Fred Armisen stopping by, he and Vanessa Bayer don the stereotypical Russian garb as Putin’s Two Best Friends From Growing Up – the gossipy premise is firmly established by now, but the details (e.g., Putin collects “fun, vintage sodas”) are endless…The naughty elves are back in Mrs. Claus and the Christmas Feast, and somehow I have warmed up to their charms a bit.

Leave It

Monologue – It’s the end of the year, it’s the third episode in three weeks, everybody forgot to write a monologue. I understand, but that doesn’t make it okay. Saying “I’m not going to sing about it” is all well and good – we’re not clamoring for the umpteenth musical monologue, after all – but if you’re not going to sing, you’ve gotta do something. A rookie host passing his monologue off on vets like Alec Baldwin and John Goodman may be cheap, but if that’s what you’re gonna do, just do that. Instead, we just get some teeth-gritting that feels like teeth-pulling to fill 3 minutes of air time.

Casey Affleck

When Casey Affleck was first announced as host, I was more than a little wary, given his lack of comedic experience. Sure, plenty of primarily dramatic actors have found success on the show, but the quiet, introspective style he is known for is not the sort of dramatic acting style that generally lends itself well to comedy. Ultimately, Affleck acquits himself perfectly adequately. He seems to enjoy doing silly voices, particularly a post-ironic Borat impression.

Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper gets a lot of critical praise, but with the album release landscape being what it is in 2016 (i.e., riven with exclusives and secrecy), he is one of those artists you can easily miss out on if you’re not specifically looking for him. His two tracks tonight (“Finish Line/Drown” and “Same Drugs”) have a fun multi-genre influence and his verbal acuity is undeniable, but I am most struck by his decision to wear overalls. I assume he is going for a festive vibe, but he comes off more like Rappin’ Super Mario.

I’ll be back on January 14 to let you know what I’m loving, keeping, and leaving from host Felicity Jones and musical guest Sturgill Simpson!


SNL Recap December 12, 2015: Chris Hemsworth/Chance the Rapper

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SNL: Chance the Rapper, Chris Hemsworth, Bobby Moynihan

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in December 2015.

When Chris Hemsworth first hosted “SNL,” almost every sketch featured the theme “Let’s Ogle Chris Hemsworth’s Body.” Perhaps because of that prurience, the show could not wait even a year to have him back, and his physique is once again a major part of the material. He does not even bother to plug his current movie, except to obliquely reference it in a way that underscores how huge he looks even when having lost weight for a role. Elsewhere, this episode finds plenty of room to address Donald Trump’s call to ban all Muslims, driving the political material to tip-top shape.

Announcement from George W. Bush – Some time last decade, there was a Doonesbury cartoon recounting how terrible the George H.W. Bush presidency seemed at the time, but now, compared to his son, he looked prudent and reasonable. Somehow, everyone in the current Republican field is either ridiculous or feckless enough to grant W. a similarly favorable reevaluation. Will Ferrell is welcomed back with cheers partly because it is one of the best impressions in “SNL” history, but also because the guy he is playing really would be preferable to this notorious lineup. He certainly provides some perspective. As fodder for comedy, the 2016 candidates may be buffoons, but they are also depressing. None of them are so playfully silly that they could conceivably wonder what happened to all the leprechauns. B+