Saturday Night Live – “Ben Stiller/Foster the People”

Saturday Night Live – “Ben Stiller/Foster the People

It’s always nifty when past Saturday Night Live cast members come back to host. They know the score. They’ve gone through it week after week so they know how this shit works. Well, in addition to the five short weeks Ben Stiller spent as a featured player on SNL in 1989, Stiller also had his own sketch comedy show (The Ben Stiller Show) and has starred in a ton of successful comedy films (as well as directing Reality Bites, The Cable Guy, Zoolander, and Tropic Thunder). Game on. There were rumors that Stiller’s Tower Heist co-star Eddie Murphy might be swinging by for a guest appearance but they proved to be unfounded. While I will agree that when Eddie Murphy was on Saturday Night Live he was one of the funniest people in the world, he seems to have spent most of the past couple decades reversing that status. Stiller was funny enough. He didn’t need him. His monologue (where he goes to a Willy Wonka-like land of Jewish foods) was a bit weak but Stiller shined in the sketches.

When Bobby Moynihan first joined the show, I thought he was pretty worthless but my estimation of him is growing. He had a few parts this week that really worked, especially his “impersonation” of New Jersey governor Chris Christie. He didn’t really capture Christie’s mannerisms but he made it work for the sketch where Christie was the exciting popular non-candidate to Jason Sudeikis’ bland Mitt Romney. He also worked pretty well as the brown-haired guy who is not Steve Ducey on Fox and Friends (okay, Wikipedia tells me him name is Brian Kilmeade but I, like Stephen Colbert, choose to call him the brown-haired guy who is not Steve Ducey). The Fox and Friends sketch was pretty funny as a whole with Taran Killam as Ducey, Vanessa Bayer as a wide-eyed and deranged Gretchen Carlson, and Sudeikis as the least-talented person to be named Hank Williams (also Stiller as Williams Jr.’s attorney). If the writers can really help Moynihan become a more worthwhile part of the show, I just need to ask (not to sound like a broken record) how about some more good stuff for Jay Pharoah?

As usual the comedy black hole of the evening was Kristen Wiig. She was good in the cold open sketch as a disgruntled Republican unhappy with Mitt Romney (“You’re not Chris Christie and you never will be!”) but her devotion to more outlandish characters just kills the whole pace of the show. On Weekend Update she was a party planner who was obsessed with a party about pancakes. That was it. That was the “joke.” It was fucking ghastly. Then she brought back her recurring character Shanna, the girl with the breathy “sexy” voice who says and does disgusting things. It wasn’t really funny the first time and it’s not funny now. Actually that sketch was almost saved by the funny reaction shots of Andy Samberg, Taran Killam, and Keenan Thompson. I’m not staunchly anti-Wiig. I liked her in Bridesmaids, Walk Hard, and Knocked Up. She has great recurring impressions like Nancy Pelosi, Suze Orman, Elizabeth Hasselback, Michelle Bachman, and Greta Van Susteren. It’s these increasingly one-joke characters that are just pure comedy death. She needs to stop.

The musical guest was trendy new group Foster the People. As overplayed as “Pumped Up Kicks” is on the radio, it’s still a catchy song. With a mellow, laid back beat. It’s got that sound that just kind of picks you up. “All the other kids with the pumped-up kicks better run, better run, faster than my gun…” Wait… what? “All the other kids with the pumped-up kicks better run, better run, faster than my bullet.” Oh, that’s right, that mellow little pop hit is about a kid planning to take homicidal revenge on the hipsters at his school. That song you’ve had stuck in your head the past few months is about a school shooting. Song number two was “Houdini.” I hadn’t heard it before (I don’t think) but it was catchy. Plus they played cowbell, which on Saturday Night Live always makes me think of that one sketch… you know, Wayne’s World. What? What did you think I was going to say? Also, what the hell? I thought I saw Kenny G… I did! I did! I did saw Kenny G!

Sketch highlights: I enjoyed the commercial parodies for an insurance company that invites you to “meet your future self.” (Are those based on real ads? With the DVR I’m not exactly up on current commercials.) Ben Stiller finds out he is in the future a transvestite (or transsexual). Bill Hader finds out he gets fat. Jason Sudeikis just wants to fuck himself. The Best of Both Worlds with Hugh Jackman highlights celebrities with seemingly incompatible professional interests such as action star/Broadway star Hugh Jackman (Andy Samberg), bully-ish TV personality/ballroom dancer Nancy Grace (Abby Elliot), Inigo Montoya/Broadway star Mandy Pantinkin (Ben Stiller), badass film icon/jazz composer Clint Eastwood (Bill Hader, best impression of the sketch unsurprisingly), and film star/Broadway star Daniel Radcliffe (the real Hugh Jackman). Naturally once real Jackman shows up, fake Jackman begins rolling out the self-deprecating revelations (“I was a born a woman. The doctor turned my kangaroo pouch into a didgeridoo”). Weekend Update saw the return of Stefon, with a surprise visit from Derek Zoolander who continues his devotion to philanthropic causes with the Foundation for Fat Kids but not Cute Fat like that Fat Kid on Modern Family. SNL still had its share of weak parts this week but it’s a hell of step up from last week. Here’s hoping the quality continues to go on the upswing. Anna Faris is a funny person, despite some of the role she takes so here’s hoping she gets some good stuff to do next week.

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