I’m surprised I haven’t spoken more about Bill Hader by now—and while there will be a Hidden Gems/Cast Chronology of him sometime in the future (*coughSUMMERcough*), he’s hosting this week, and this is what I have saved in the archives. Then again, why should I say anything about him, considering that he was one of those rare cast members who cannot be (largely) criticized no matter how hard you try? Yeah, he had his fair share of giggle fits—ESPECIALLY in the later years of Stefon & elsewhere—but the guy is probably the 21st Century combination/emulation of Phil Hartman and Dana Carvey; Carvey for his impressions, Hartman for his durability. Even at his worst, you couldn’t find any fault with the guy; pulling through in the clutch when a scene was obviously flatlining. So when he returned to host for the first time in 2014, he did so with the audience retaining a sense of fondness that could only be after leaving the show for a little while—absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say…I wish I could say the same for someone else who happens to show up in this episode……
Bill Hader/Hozier (Original Airdate: 10/11/2014)
KIM JONG UN: No offense, but those have got to be The WHITEST Koreans I have ever seen in my life…seriously, for all the fuss people have been making about a lack of diversity on the show, let’s see if we can get some Asian cast members next…but that’s another rant for another day—Though on the plus side, I’m glad they didn’t do any stereotypical Asian accents in this one, and instead opted to go for “American Anime Dub” style voices. It feels like forever since we’ve seen Bobby in a leading role of some kind, which is unfortunate because for all the praise I keep giving him for stealing scenes in bit parts his major roles seem to invoke a lot of scenery chewing. Not that he didn’t try here, something about his performance seemed a little “Lou Costello-ish”—if not slightly over the top. I have a feeling this might have been switched out after dress, but then again I’ve been so accustomed to seeing Domestic politics open the show that seeing something Foreign related was……uh…foreign to see. But as always, as long as it’s not an Obama opening, it’s always a plus.
SCORE: 6 out of 10 POWs forced to perform in Plays dedicated to “Dear Leader”.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This sketch, BTW, I alluded to in the review of Amy Adams’ episode while looking over the “Asian American Doll” sketch. The point remains, SNL SHOULD hire more Asians…or Any Asians for that matter; Leo Yoshimura’s not gonna live forever. And since we’re on the subject of North Korea; since it looks like the Infected Q-Bert is going to meet up with Kim Jong Un sometime in the Spring, and the show will more than likely spoof the meeting taking place, may I recommend stuntcasting with Ken Jeong? Guy’s hilarious AND he’s an actual Doctor! Just a thought. Also of note, look for a Pre-Cast Member Mikey Day in the Background, back when he was just a humble writer.
MONOLOGUE: Love the energy from Bill, including his story about how he got discovered for the show And the “Skeleton Twins” joke…but then, lord have mercy on us all, Wiig Shows Up. But to be fair, at least her presence tonight is thankfully limited to just this and another sketch, so I remain cautiously optimistic for the rest of the show. And let’s add Harvey Firestein to the list of Random people who I would NEVER expect to appear on the show in a million years, (especially after all the times Lovitz Lampooned him) His appearance was largely pointless and had a feeling of WTF—and not in a good way. As for the “Singing” itself…well…it’s there. Yeah, there’s not really much to defend here (whether you’re a Hader fan or not).
SCORE: 4 out of 10 times I just wanna be loved (is that so Wron-gah!).
EDITOR’S NOTE: Also not unlike Adams’ episode, the amount of times Kristen Wiig cameoed since she left the show in 2012 was starting to boarder on desperate—but it was Adams’ episode where it reached critical mass, and thankfully (with the exception of her hosting in 2016), the cameos have largely died down. Again, I don’t want to knock her talents, she’s got a lot to spare. But you can’t leave the show only to keep coming back over and over through the years. Jon Lovitz tried doing that once, and he wound up being the butt of this 1991 opening. Moderation, guys!
HERB WELCH: Despite the mic joke and the Death fakeout being older than dirt, It was good to see this again. The only thing that can make these “different” each time are the kinds of insults that Hader would dish out to the people he interviews—my favorites include “I don’t take orders from Manniquins”, and his choice words towards Cecily. Also, I’m glad somebody other than Sudeikis is feeding him the straight lines this time (either that or they blew the cameo budget on Wiig this week—Firestein came cheap, I assume). Even though it was the same joke over & over, I can never really bring myself to “hate” these sketches; Hader’s still funny in them, and sometimes that’s all that matters.
SCORE: 6 out of 10 more decades until Herb Welch can collect his pension.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This trivia probably boarders on “Captain Obvious” but for those who still don’t know, the Herb Welch sketches were based on an actual incident on local TV here in New York many years ago. I’m gonna give you a second to watch the video and let the scene speak for itself…(*WAITS*)…That being said, yeah, this sketch really wore out its welcome after the first few times. Hader was still amusing in them, but the formula is so “Lather, Rinse, Repeat” that even if it was still a little charming, we already know what to expect. Thankfully for the show, this marked the beginning of a period (still going on today) where they don’t have to depend so much on characters (Baldwin’s Trumpster Fire & Update people notwithstanding), and instead focus more on actual comedy. On the other hand, it’s Hader! How could he NOT do any of his greatest hits?
THE GROUP HOPPER: I mentioned this on the “Movie Parodies” list a while back, and I still think it holds up as a solid parody of just how confusing some of these movies are—whether you read the Book they’re based on, or not. One new thing I can say about them is just how much Hader throws himself into it as the dystopian queen that’s obviously a hybrid of Hunger Games, Divergent, and maybe a little Harry Potter thrown in. When it came time to review this for the first time, I couldn’t believe how many people were ragging on it—not even the AV Club could be swayed by how obviously sharp a parody this was. I thought it was spot on, and also a good chance for then-newcomer Pete Davidson to flex a little. It still holds up, moving on…
SCORE: 8 out of 10 Chosen Ones.
HOLLYWOOD GAME NIGHT: OK, Standard Impression Showcase Procedure time, let’s rattle them off…Nice to see Kate’s “Jane Lynch” improve greatly from when she did it in “Family Feud” the previous year, It’s about time Cecily actually did her Sofia Vergara AS Sofia Vergara (unlike that “Men’s activist” sketch with O’Brien), Taran as Christoph Waltz was unusually off-target, Jay as Morgan Freeman was decent, Beck as Nick Offerman was kinda lost on me (again, not a big “Parks & Recreation” watcher, so I wouldn’t know much about his mannerisms…though his ID’ing a Snickers bar as a “Healthy Stool” was Juvenile but still funny.), Hader will Always score as Pacino—especially that line about a hooker’s address, and (*ANNOYED SIGH*) Wiig as Kathie Lee continues to just be unnecessarily mean—I mean, yeah, Gifford may seem like a bit of a Diva if you ever see her in person (which I have not), but she doesn’t seem like the “Stone Cold Bitch” type…a little power driven maybe, but certainly not a bad person (on purpose…jury’s still out on that Sweatshop thing). Granted, it’s just a “Character” Wiig does, but something about it has always rubbed me the wrong way. As for the sketch itself, Who cares, it’s pretty much the same old Game show trope of people messing up the answers. We tune in for the impressions, and that’s it.
SCORE: 7 out of 10 lawsuits between this and “Celebrity Name Game” with Craig Ferguson (check your local listings…while you can).
HELP FUND: It’s about time somebody made fun of these kinds of commercials—still waiting for a Sarah McLaughlin/ASPCA parody, BTW. Granted, the joke about 39 cents not going a long way isn’t exactly a new joke, but it’s the way the variation on the joke can be made that makes it worth watching. Hader is trying his best to fend off the criticism from the others over just how mis-managed charitable organizations can be sometimes. Jay & Sasheer do their parts well, and after the influx of Kenan we got in the past two weeks, I’m glad that this is not only his Only appearance this week; but because of the added benefit of being filmed, he doesn’t act like a total spaz here. Also, Hi Leslie, Still waiting for your name to be a part of the Montage (We ALL Are…fingers crossed for a January berth). The only thing I would complain about this one was that maybe Jay, Kenan, Sasheer & Leslie might have been a little TOO stereotypical in their portrayals—they ARE supposed to be refugees, right? Not people who live on 125th street?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jonsey would finally get her name in the Credits by the next episode with Jim Carrey.
LOVE IS A DREAM: (*SIGH*) Yes, we now need to be reminded of some sadness. It was during the week of this show that the great Jan Hooks passed away, and this was the sketch they aired as a tribute (one that I covered a few years ago in our “Tom Time” sub-section, so let’s save a step). But sketch aside, it was at this point that I started to notice that something may be a little “Off” about this season…and if you read the beginning of my Season 20 list, you’re probably way ahead of me in that a lot of things that happened in that season seem to be happening all over again in this season. In this case; Hooks passed away in the middle of a show week, killing whatever momentum was building…the same could be said for the late Michael O’Donoghue who passed in the middle of a show week in ’94, thus killing That episode’s momentum…I really have no reason to bring this up aside from sheer coincidence and the fact that I’ve already spoke about this sketch at great length. For now, let’s just enjoy an all-time classic one more time…
Colin’s Best: Heroin at Daycare.
Michael’s Best: Gay Marriage, New York Comic-Con.
*Pete strikes gold (chains) once again, though a lot shorter than his first one.
*And honestly, what can be said about Stefon that hasn’t already been said? My favorite bits included “Spanish Seinfeld”, Dan Cortese (times 3), Prozac Doobie Brothers and Human Defibrilators…Also, a Major Plus for not having Seth stop by and cameo.
At this point in the show, Jost & Che were still testing the waters, and the fandom were continuing to write off Jost as a bit of a drag. Fortunately in this show, Jost’s delivery still leaves something to be desired…something like ANYTHING for instance…but otherwise I honestly didn’t hear a “Bad” joke from him. Che ultimately had the better night; but then again, he was even newer, so we had to give him just as much of a chance first.
UPDATE SCORE: 7 out of 10 WXIA’s (NBC in Atlanta)
PUPPETRY CLASS II: (*SQUACK, THUD*) I see SNL has decided to kill another Golden Goose, but considering we probably don’t have to see this again (unless Hader hosts again), I’ll watch with an open mind. The “Sesame Street” joke and the “War Flashback” at the end were the ONLY things that kept this from being a 100% carbon copy, which is fine by me—as long as there’s SOME variation, it’s still entertaining. Taran, Bobby & Cecily were pretty much interchangeable in Seth MacFarlane, Kenan & Vanessa’s roles in the first one (save for a few subtle differences). The one thing that kinda confused me was the fact that the puppet was blowing smoke out of its mouth again…but Where was the Cigarette?! Puppets aren’t THAT Magical.
SCORE: 7 out of 10 times you can be as Loud as the Hell you Want on “Avenue Q”.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Again, Since it’s Hader, he/the writers felt the need to break out the “Greatest Hits”. But the Original puppetry sketch was so unique by itself, a 2nd was beyond necessary. Quite honestly, I would’ve been happy with another “Greg the Alien” sketch, and since Hader is hosting in the middle of March Madness, maybe we might get that chance again.
GOOD NEIGHBOR – INSIDE SoCAL: This was a couple steps Better than the first one, mostly because it was less of a Party atmosphere and more of a “2 idiots with a camera” kind of thing. The addition of Pete as a reporter was a good move, and Hader fit in pretty well as well. This continues the kind of mentality they had in things like last year’s “Class President”, in that it deftly parodies just about any Male, Non-Geek, Non-Athletic High School Student from the mid 90s to now. I guess Good Neighbor has a special affinity for Slackers.
SCORE: 7 out of 10 “Ocean Pacific” T-Shirts.
CAT IN THE HAT: (*INSERT OBLIGATORY “AT LEAST HE’S NOT MIKE MYERS” JOKE HERE*) Now that we got That out of the way, I’ll give them credit for capturing the style of Dr. Seuss on a shoestring budget and for getting the make-up right unlike that abomination of a Movie tried to do, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’ve seen this kind of “Absentee Ex” thing so many times before. Hell, Jimmy & Tina did it a year after he left, and it wasn’t that funny back then either. As much as I appreciate the effort from Hader—who carried this one like Atlas & the Globe, this still looks like something a Fanfic writer would put together. All that’s missing is mis-spelled words, bad grammar and more sex, and it would be pretty on par with your common “SlashFic” (Please don’t ask how I know about that).
SCORE: 4 out of 10 dishes of Green Eggs & Ham
FINAL SCORE: 63 out of 100 (63% WATCHABLE)
FINAL THOUGHTS: Despite a certain pall of sadness around the studio that week, this episode was well beyond better than the first two shows of that season. Hader hit the high marks—as usual–and despite use of Wiig, the show wisely used some of its most familiar material to keep us (or at least myself) entertained. Looking back, there were probably one too many things that repeated (Seriously, the First Puppetry Class was a classic, a 2nd one wasn’t necessary), but it still remained a sigh of relief.
That’s it for March, Here’s April:
*That 1999 Retro Review I promised, but then got sidetracked due to the weather wrecking my house…in fact, they’re talking MORE bad weather on Tuesday/Wednesday, so I’m going to need the extra time anyway.
*Definitely want to get a cast member “Appreciation” out of the way—especially before the summer (Plans of which I might also reveal next month).
*And, we’ll return in 2 weeks with something that’s been a LONG time coming…my absolute Favorite sketches of all time.