SNL Season Finale Recap May 21, 2011: Justin Timberlake/Lady GaGa

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Alphonse!

Cold Opening – Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s Prison Cell
As I see it, the humor in a sketch like this isn’t so much the dissonance of a convict displaying the knowledge of a sophisticated topic like the world economy.  It is more about the fact that when a topic like the economy is discussed, it is usually rather dry, so it is funny when it is expressed with some attitude, or some form of personality.  That is essentially what Kenan does with Jean K. Jean.  In this sketch he did it less shticky, with a dash of Lorenzo McIntosh thrown in. B

Justin Timberlake’s Monologue
Justin does all the things he says he is not going to do.  I am so pretend-confused. B-

Liquorville
If I remember correctly, when Will Forte was the upstaged spokesman in the (Fill in the Blank)-ville sketches, he and Justin’s mascot character always got along by the end.  So it was a change of pace that Kristen’s spokeswoman remained at odds with him.  As always, the musical selections were generally energetic and inspired.  Pulling J-Kwon’s “Tipsy” out of the vault?  Hoo boy, gotta love that. B

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Addendum to SNL Recap May 14, 2011: Ed Helms/Paul Simon

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In last week’s recap, I mentioned that I didn’t really know who Ann-Margret is, but I have since come to realize that I actually am somewhat familiar with her work, as I have seen Bye Bye Birdie, in which she played one of the lead roles, Kim McAfee.  It has been several years since I have seen Birdie, so I hope my readers can forgive my oversight.  Does this rediscovered knowledge change my assessment of the Ann-Margret sketch?  Hardly.

SNL Recap May 14, 2011: Ed Helms/Paul Simon

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Cold Opening – The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer
I am pretty sure that Obama has not been constantly bragging about the bin Laden kill, at least not to this degree nor in this manner.  And that was why this sketch was so funny: because it was not true.  Actually, it was based on a certain nugget of truth: Obama is a smooth talker, and those verbal skills could mean he has a knack for standup comedy bubbling underneath the surface.  Fred’s delivery of the “kill bin Laden” catchphrase sounded similar to Kenan’s refrain of “Beeeef Jelly” as David “Beef Jelly” Winfield.” B+

Ed Helms’ Monologue
This is something you just about never see: a monologue that is focused around an essentially original idea.  A childhood love of baton twirling is in no way a major aspect of Ed Helms’ public persona, nor is it the opposite of his persona either.  But it proved to be a funny, well-thought out, well-executed idea.  The success of this monologue resided in the details: the influence of “Rascal T. Peppercorn,” Ed’s revelation of his knack for comedy coming from his brother and his brother’s friends’ laughing while simultaneously beating him, and that outfit. B+

A Message from the Corn Syrup Producers of America
Again, this was to be too smug to be over the top, or maybe it just wasn’t funny enough to overcome that dissonance.  But I did laugh a few times. Original Grade: B-

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SNL Recap May 7, 2011: Tina Fey/Ellie Goulding

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Cold Opening – Osama bin Laden’s Video Will
Essentially mandatory.  I laughed a few times, though this was more a collection of parts instead of a significant whole. B-

Tina Fey’s Monologue
Falling back on the singing monologue format yet again?  Out of 20 monologues this year, this makes 9 (10 if you count Zach Galifianakis).  Anyway, Tina plied her usual off-putting, yet sexy style, and Maya plied her usual wildly pitchy, overly dramatic style, and the most memorable – and disturbing – moment came with Kristen and Kenan as the singing, big-headed babies. B-

GOP 2012 Undeclared Candidates’ Debate
If Tina was going to reprise Palin, it was nice that she did so in a sketch that wasn’t entirely hers.  Of course for this sketch to succeed, Darrell Hammond had to return as Trump (and when Romney was introduced, I thought, “There’s someone Darrell Hammond would probably be playing if he were still on”), and Jimmy McMillan was just an added treat.  All in all, when it comes to crazy in the GOP, Sarah Palin is still around, but she has been outshone, several times over. B+

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SNL Recap April 9, 2011: Helen Mirren/Foo Fighters

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Cold Opening – A Message from the President of the United States
There were several jokes that worked in this opening, even if it wasn’t clear how accurate the jibes were.  (Is Dale Humphries really trapped in a loveless marriage?   Perhaps, perhaps not.  Either way, I laughed).   But then it was so short.   It was as if everyone was so pleased that a positive percentage of the jokes worked that they didn’t want to ruin it by taking a chance on having any more jokes at all. B

Helen Mirren’s Monologue
This wasn’t exactly funny, but it did perfectly capture Dame Helen’s uncanny ability to remain classy while showing off her unbelievably-sexy-for-her-age side. B

Mort Mort Feingold: Accountant for the Stars
The impressions were nothing to write home about, and the jokes were second-rate versions of those from the first Mort Mort sketch. C+

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SNL Recap April 2, 2011: Elton John/…and Leon Russell

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It combines time travel with screaming.

Cold Opening – The Lawrence Welk Show
Lawrence Welk Show sketches are generally successful according to how funkily outrageous Dooneese’s confessions are, and this time, unfortunately, she flailed around a bit.  The guest can add an important element, as Will Ferrell and Betty White did particularly, but Elton did not have much to offer other than his piano skills.  But let’s not forget Lawrence himself.  With everyone else disappointing, this sketch served to emphasize that Fred is quite valuable as Mr. Welk, with his bit about seasons pulling it off this time. B-

Elton John’s Monologue
Elton talks about being a new father, and we are happy to have him show off his personality by way of his home life, and we are confident that he understands that he is responsible for putting on a show. B

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SNL Recap March 12, 2011: Zach Galifianakis/Jessie J

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Wh’ are those, cargo shorts?

Cold Opening – March (Actual) Madness Selection Show
Kenan didn’t even bother to do an impression of Greg Gumbel (no surprise).  Sudeikis already kind of sounds like Jim Nantz.   Andy’s Dick Vitale was serviceable and about what one would expect.  There were some scattershot good lines here and there.  Melissa Leo: huh?   The solidness of the idea elevated the whole. B

Zach Galifianakis’s Monologue
I’ve seen Zach’s stand-up before.   He included parts of his act in his monologue the first time he hosted, and he included some other bits this time around.   The Axe/Ask Body Spray joke is tops.  Gotta love Hoobastank. A-

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SNL Recap March 5, 2011: Miley Cyrus/The Strokes

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Cold Opening – Duh! Winning! with Charlie Sheen
But of course this week SNL did not open with a political sketch.   Obviously Sheen was going to be all over this episode.  This was a clever premise to take him on, and considering the way he has dominated his interviews, it wasn’t too crazy an idea to make Sheen the interviewer.  Unfortunately, the guest choices did not really fit.  John Galliano and Gaddafi may have also had some issues this past week, but neither exemplifies “bi-winning” the way Charlie does.  And Xtina was totally out of place.  Gaddafi did get in a good line about dressing like Humpty Hump, though.  Thankfully, there was an appropriate guest when Lindsay showed up, as her troubles are actually of the sort that can be rationalized and dressed up the way Sheen has his. B

Miley Cyrus’s Monologue
I feel that Miley must have watched the SNL Backstage special, specifically, the portion about monologues.  According to that retrospective, hosts have been told that the monologue is their opportunity to introduce themselves to the audience, to say, “This is who I am.”  Miley took that advice, and came out swinging.   By addressing her “controversies,” she demonstrated the best way to call bullshit: instead of getting angry, she made a joke out of it.   I don’t think I’ve ever seen a host work an audience for a specific reaction in a non-joking way the way Miley did.   (That was quite a reaction when she mentioned Hannah Montana, and those shouts didn’t sound like they came from 12-year-olds.) B+

Babyspanx
I laughed a few times. Original Grade: C+ Adjusted Grade: B-

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SNL Recap February 12, 2011: Russell Brand/Chris Brown

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You gotta pay the bills.

Cold Opening – The O’Reilly Factor: The Super Bowl Sunday Obama Interview
Initially, this was all about O’Reilly stubbornly sticking to obviously wrong statements, as when Darrell Hammond did his O’Reilly. That was basically enjoyable. Then a new element was added with the pop culture quiz, which led to Obama’s mild exasperation, which is generally amusing. Ultimately lightweight, but in the best way possible. B

Russell Brand’s Monologue
Russell performed standup on a variety of topics, some of which were funny, some of which went on too long.  The centerpiece joke – that wearing tight trousers indicates fame in England – illustrated both elements, with the bit about having to say that you’re famous being like having to say that you’re sexually attractive eliciting a few laughs.  But Russell did take a while to get his entire point across.  His impression of his wife Ms. Perry was pretty spot-on.  Despite the inconsistency, it is always a huge relief when the host actually performs standup in the monologue.  (Did anyone else hear, “Ejaculate box” when Russell said “Jack-in-the-box”?) B

Gublin & Green
Considering the problems that have plagued this production, this sort of comedic sendup was only inevitable.  The fact that all the settlements were tickets for future performances was quite the zing at first, then got old quickly, and was ultimately so delightfully bizarre.  (For those who didn’t notice, the law firm’s name is a pun.) B+

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SNL Recap February 5, 2011: Dana Carvey/Linkin Park

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Looks like you on the phone with Ice-T.

Cold Opening – Wayne’s World
The great thing about Wayne’s World sketches and the reason why there has never been a bad one is because they always mix up the comedy styles.  This reprise was no different, making use of the ever-popular sniggering pun (“Winter’s Bone”), witty babe-ogling (“I’d make a Mila out of her Kunis”), and Abbott and Costello-style shtick (“Who’s on Firth?”) B+

Dana Carvey’s Monologue
Dana appeared to be going for goofy-sounding singing, so we don’t know if he could pull out a legit singing voice, but he didn’t need to.  Goofy, but rhythmic, singing is generally successfully but, oddly, it is rarely seen these days, at least on SNL.  That being said, the song itself wasn’t overly noteworthy.  It’s always good when something else is going on around the song, so here we had Dana not knowing the cast members’ names.  Calling Bill “Rainn Wilson” was funny in that it almost made sense.  And you can never go wrong with Lovitz yelling, “ACTING!” B

I-Sleep Pro
The black noise sleep aid commercial makes a return appearance, getting upgraded from the the last sketch of the night to the post-monologue slot in the process. B+

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