Honestly, I spent most of this week's SNL getting excited for NEXT week's SNL with Jon Hamm, because in the last two seasons his episodes clicked like no others, but this week's outing with Emma Stone wasn't that bad, really. None of the sketches worked so well to have me really laughing out loud a lot, but it wasn't a painful experience either. Stone sounded excited to the point of nervous in her monologue but she was a pro throughout, to the extent that I wished she was getting some better material. The only part that seemed to really work was her as Lindsay Lohan on The View, but that sketch was inexplicably cut short without her getting much to do ("so what, who cares?")
I actually really enjoyed Stone's monologue, which these days has become very much a lame formality that's rarely funny. I understand they want to thank everyone in their life and express joy at hosting the show, but it's really not that interesting for us viewers week-to-week! Stone was amusingly deadpan, though, about her career: "To all the 14 year olds out there, drop out of school and move to LA, it always works out!" Kenan Thompson, Bill Hader and Andy Samberg weren't trying to hard as an army of nerds but Taren Killam's impression of Michael Cera was a joy to behold, and they've gotta bring that back for a real sketch. "Oh, great, that's so unexpected!"
After that things just settled into routine SNL territory. Baby spanx was good for one laugh; the Brett Favre jeans/penis commercial didn't even get that out of me. I wish SNL would realize that just addressing controversies in the week's news isn't enough to be funny, you actually have to do something original with it, too. After dominating last week, Kristen Wiig had only one showcase this week, as an excitable home makeover host trying to whip her latest contestant (Stone) into a similar frenzy. It was the usual high-pitched babbling from Wiig, and Stone kept it amusingly cool, but the tag at the end where she flips out over some free hardboiled eggs was unnecessary. SNL never knows how to end its sketches but it's usually better to let them peter out unless your closing joke is really funny.
A lot of the time, like with the Favre commercial, it felt like the writers weren't trying too hard to actually deal with the big pop culture events of the last couple weeks. Like, sure, we had a View sketch that made mention of Bill O'Reilly walking off, but it immediately turned into Kenan making silly faces as Whoopi and Armisen saying "so what, who cares!" One topical event they got right was Kenan's impression of Jimmy McMillan of New York's "Rent is too Damn High" party, which became an internet sensation after the Gubernatorial debate. I don't know if you guys have checked the real McMillan out, but do, because Kenan wasn't really exaggerating his character at all. "People got 7 jobs, they're working 36 hours a day, 12 days a week, and they can't afford a ROOF!"
But even the lamer sketches had a couple gags that stood out. The digital short was nothing much until Andy Samberg started dancing around as a grape jelly spill. The local news sketch wore out its welcome pretty quickly, but I liked "If a girl trampolines ten boys, she receives a bracelet, and that's what Silly Bandz are," which played cleverly on parents' mounting worry over innocuous-seeming kid trends. And the return of Hader's Stefon character was only somewhat exciting until he and Seth Meyers started cracking up at "his knees look like biscuits." Like 30 Rock showed us the other week, it's always great to see someone breaking.
The last half hour of sketches, usually where some interesting fodder ends up, was not much this week except for the French dancing thing which was audacious and cute enough for me to applaud. I was hoping they'd actually attempt a whole sketch entirely in French, which they technically did, but they basically stopped talking 10 seconds in. Paul Brittan seems to be the show's most interesting new talent (aside from the woefully underused Jay Pharoah, barely in anything this week) but his creepy sex educator ad wasn't actually that funny — I more just appreciated the little details, like the authentically downtrodden crowd and his sweaters.
Oh, and I can't go without talking about that fucking cold open. It's not ridiculous to bemoan SNL not being politically engaging because its election sketches were such a sensation just two years ago. Armisen's Obama impression isn't that bad anymore (I actually thought he sort of sounded like him when he started shouting this week) and the show just has to embrace the fact that it made such a wrong-headed casting decision and let him actually be funny, rather than have Armisen basically read off things that Obama said this week. It can be done, guys!
"Are you pumped to eat pizza?" "Can't eat cheese." "What about a cheeseless pizza!"
"I'm a senior editor at Wikipedia specializing in geology and ladies wrestling!"
"Are teens taking turns hiding Osama Bin Laden so they can give him oral sex in exchange for lip gloss? The answer…right now. Yes, yes they are."
"You wanna die? Too bad! Breakfast, lunch and dinner!"
"Ghosts don't turn around, they just approach!" "What about when they have to leave the party?" "I don't know, I don't plan your life!"