Saturday Night Live, Season 40, Episode 2, “Sarah Silverman/Maroon 5″
October 4, 2014, 11:30 p.m. (EST), NBC
Luke Annand: So now we are into week 2 of the landmark 40th season of SNL. And already we are seeing signs of improvement with the season and the show. If Chris Pratt was there to shake the cobwebs off and stretch and warm-up, then Sarah Silverman got us on the track with some jogging laps. This was immediate with her opening monologue, which showed off both her stand-up comedy expertise as well as her history as a former regular player way back in the 90’s. I always thought of Silverman as fairly age-less, but seeing the show cut from the 4:3 footage of baby her asking random questions to the widescreen HD version of mature her in the present really shows the evolution of time, both with her as a comedic presence and the show itself over the decades. And that this was followed up by the fake trailer for “The Fault in Our Stars 2: The Ebola in Everything”. I love the fake trailers since you can tell they’ve been worked on all week and have a higher level of production value than the regular sketches. One of the highlights last year was “The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders”, the fake Wes Anderson horror trailer (although Wes said that he’s like to do a horror film in the future, so I’m not sure if the sketch will be a hurdle or a bar to jump over) and this one definitely looks and feel like a movie aimed at the Faults crowd, despite the “teens” being in their 40’s. I like that the humorous attack wasn’t on the film itself, but on how it tries to romanticize a disease that’s scaring everyone shitless.
As for the other sketches, the opening 60 Minutes interview with Obama was OK. When I saw the title card, my heart leapt at the possibility of them resurrecting the cut Bob Simon jaguar sketch Bill Hader talked about when he was a guest on The Late Show with Seth Meyers. Maybe they’re saving it for next week. If you haven’t seen it, . Only notable thing about it was a rather low blow to Zach Braff with his Kickstarter as a front for ISIS. Look, Wish I Was Here was a disappointing follow up to Garden State, but let’s not go too far with it. The Joan Rivers in Heaven bit was a sweet tribute, but felt too much like the cast trotting out their random celebrity impressions. The worst being Adam Levine as Freddy Mercury. Levine (as well as Lambert for that matter) can hit the high notes, but they are ants compared to the once in a lifetime giant presence that was Mercury. The “Whites” commercial I also liked a lot, with the use of Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” (one of the whitest songs in existence) being a nice touch. The “Supportive Women” sketch was hit and miss. The concept was great, but the execution could have used a little more work, although I loved the hints of the old “The Californians” sketches. The Weekend Update was better (this time they only had two characters show up) and the “Proud Mary” sketch was thoroughly one note. BTW, 90 months is only 7.5 years.
Like last week, for me the best sketch of the night was in the last half hour of the show. It was the drive home from the airport sketch where a marriage proposal was botched with a confession of infidelity. Just seeing the drive home get more awkward and stilted was a hilarious display of one upmanship. And any sketch that has Adam Levine (or a dummy of him) get hit by a truck is aces in my book. As you can tell by now, I am not an Adam Levine or Maroon 5 fan. People give Justin Timberlake shit for singing in a high falsetto, but at least he has actual talent, class and style to back it up. Adam Levine, not so much. Only thing about “Begin Again” that I found notable was that his version of “Lost Stars” didn’t make me want to strangle him. I can’t speak for him as a person, but as an actor he’s adequate and as a singer/front man for a band, I can’t stand him. The December Generation sketch that plays off the romantic comedy trope of characters finishing each others sentences was also really funny in a weird sort of way. And the final sketch of the Vitamix commercial/infomercial that had Silverman and Vanessa Bayer getting way too personal ended the night on a strong note.
So Jordan, any thoughts on the episode whether it be Silverman returning home or the sketches in general?
Jordan Ferguson: Luke, I’ve got to be honest. I’m not an Adam Levine guy either, but also, I’ve never been a huge Sarah Silverman fan. So this episode was always going to be an uphill battle for me. I find Silverman stilted and her comedy always strikes me as somewhat forced, and both of those held true this week. It felt like the Joan Rivers sketch never totally came together and was massively re-written before the show, because Silverman didn’t have her lines down at all (even with the cue cards available to her). That sort of thing usually doesn’t bug me, but in a sketch as one-note as that one (which basically amounted to a bunch of half-assed celebrity impersonations, and felt like a writer checking off a “Kate McKinnon as Lucille Ball” box on their bucket list).
What struck me the most about this episode was that Weekend Update was one of the highlights, a thing I haven’t thought in seasons. Colin Jost and Michael Che have settled into a great rhythm already, and they are a lot of fun to watch together. As for favorite sketches, I liked The Fault in Our Stars 2: The Ebola In Our Everything a lot, laughed very hard at the “Whites” commercial, and agree that the drive home from the airport was the best sketch of the night. At this point, I’m willing to wager that Kate McKinnon will make a strong case for being MVP in my eyes again this year. That woman manages to make whatever material she’s given sing. Who do you think is doing particularly well, so far? What did you think of Silverman as a host? Is my well-established bias clouding my vision, or was she a little awkward a lot of the time?
Luke: I think your bias is clouding your vision because while I’m not entirely familiar with her stand-up, I actually think she’s become a really good actress. “Wreck-It Ralph”, “Take This Waltz” and her recent stint on “Masters of Sex” (as well as whenever she shows up on “Louie”) show that she can play a wide emotional range and not just play herself or her comedic persona like a lot of comedians who take acting roles. And despite the strained relationship she has with the show (she was only there for the one season as a regular player), I think she fit in with the rest of the cast. Speaking of, I can see McKinnon ascending to the level of a Kristen Wiig or a Maya Rudolph. I’m glad to see Jay Pharoah rise up the ranks (or at least the opening credits), since his impressions are impeccable and the characters he creates are truly hilarious. Along with Bill Hader, I’m waiting for him to pop and become the next big comedy superstar to come out of SNL. And now that Cecily Strong isn’t on Weekend Update and can focus on her characters, I can see her becoming more prominent on the show. As for the rest of the cast, either they’ve been around long enough that they’ve settled into a nice groove (Thompson, Moynihan) or they’re still fresh enough to expand and hone their comedic presence on the show (Mooney, Bennett, Zamata). I’m hoping Petersen doesn’t become another Casey Wilson or Jenny Slate or Noel Welles and get overshadowed to the point of getting kicked out at the end of the season despite their obvious talent. Although there’s plenty of 1 season cast members who’ve gone on to great careers, which is why I was probably much more receptive to Silverman than you were and why I’m still hoping Robert Downey Jr. can come on and host. Maybe in May when Avengers: Age of Ultron is about to hit.
As for the show, do you think there were too many ebola jokes? I think they made their point with the Fault in Our Stars 2 trailer. Also, best line of the night was obviously Silverman asking “Why is Adam Levine here?’ I think a lot of people were thinking that too.
Jordan: SNL loves to be hyper-topical (and also remains so by necessity—they have 90 minutes to fill every week), so I was expecting a lot of ebola and Secret Service jokes this week, and they delivered. I think the agent telling Obama there was an angry man with a rusty screwdriver waiting in the Oval Office was really funny, and the ebola stuff mostly landed for me too. I agree with you that Silverman is an incredibly capable performer. I loved her in Wreck-It Ralph, and while she was pointless on Masters of Sex that was the writing’s fault, not hers. She can also be immensely funny, even if she tends not to land for me a lot of the time. I just found her consistently under-whelming here, although she nailed the Vitamix sketch. Mostly, for an episode with a host I don’t much care for and a musical guest I actively dislike, I thought this episode was surprisingly solid.
Luke: I thought so too. I’d rather a season, or a series, to start weak and then win me over and become great then to burst out of the gate with so much potential only to squander it. And for their 40th year, hopefully we’ll see the former and not the latter. I’m particularly excited for the next episode when Bill Hader returns to host. I don’t think we’ll see Stefan show up again (the character works in relation to Seth Meyers), but if he can bring back his Vincent Price impression or any of his other mainstays, I’m good.
- “If doctors know so much, then why is my doctor dead from Ebola?”
- “Whites: Still calling the shots ‘til around 2050. 2060, tops.”
- “Audiences tuned in in whatever the opposite of droves is. Why did they not tune in? I don’t know. I’m not a good guesser.”
- “And also, who goes to Texas and Africa?”
- Next Week: Bill Hader and Hozier