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No matter how big or small the star, it’s a rare SNL where the guest host truly dominates. Sure, there’s always one or two sketches where they get to shine, but then they’re relegated to bit parts elsewhere, rarely appearing on Weekend Update at all. Not so for Mr. Foxx, making his second appearance as a host (his first was all the way back in 2000) and pretty much owning the show, for better or worse, from start to finish. I’ve always liked Foxx as an entertainer, but his career choices as of late have been a little frustrating, so it’s not like I was particularly excited for this episode.
And things did not start particularly well. The cold open was on the juvenile side and didn’t let Bill Hader have any fun with his John Boehner impression. The concept (Obama feels bad for Boehner because the Republicans mercilessly taunt him for any hint at compromise) wasn’t bad, but it’s only so funny to have two guys tell you about a bunch of funny situations. Jay Pharoah’s impression still has a little more energy to it (this would have been even duller with Fred Armisen) but that couldn’t really save this one.
Foxx’s monologue was strong (remember, this guy started out as a stand-up comedian) and featured singing, dancing, riffing on Obama’s blackness, and even a little call-and-response. His whole persona seems to be built on him brimming with confidence, and I suppose that can get grating, but given the usual standard of monologue on this show, I was happy.
Then we got our first of two quiz show sketches with “Bitch, What’s The Answer?” which relied…very heavily on Foxx calling everyone a bitch. Over and over again. Which not only got repetitive, but also felt a little cheap. The point was, he was making fun of a bunch of dorky white people who couldn’t answer his vague questions. Some of the questions and answers were funny (carbon, it turns out, is “in fancy bikes”) but once you got the gimmick, it was pretty laugh-free, unless Foxx calling everyone a bitch just gets funnier every time for you.
The return of J-Pop America Fun Time Now (its first appearance of the season, I believe) was along the lines of its previous three iterations, this time with Foxx as a cuckolded gi salesman who Jason calls Sudeikis’ professor out for saying he’s “clearly” not Japanese. I think the air may be out of this one. I’ve never particularly had a problem with it (it’s probably my favorite of Vanessa Bayer’s recurring bits) but the formula is set at this point. If it continues on after Sudeikis leaves the show, it’ll be losing one of its best features, too.
After we were done with our first pre-taped short, a Tyler Perry spoof that sees him playing Alex Cross and Madea as an insane take on Two-Face, I was ready to wash my hands of this episode. It wasn’t a total stinker, but each sketch was less inspiring than the last, and the Tyler Perry thing went on wayyy too long considering the one joke was super-obvious (I did enjoy Foxx’s repeated “Hellooo!”s).
Weekend Update didn’t help much—Aidy Bryant’s bit as Mrs. Claus was a showcase for a cavalcade of elder sex jokes and complaints about Santa Claus being a lazy husband (nothing against Bryant, who’s doing fine so far this year, but that premise was very tired). Foxx’s appearance as a ding-dong was appreciably surreal but also light on the actual jokes. Then, our first sketch back was another gameshow, and I groaned audibly.
Except no! Because the next sketch was “Dylan McDermott or Dermot Mulroney?” a cute concept on its own, before we cut to the panel of contestants: a frustrated-looking Foxx, Pharoah and Kenan Thompson. I was sold long before Dermot Mulroney walked out looking confused and reacting with horror when he’s told his own name. “I’ve been sleeping with another man’s wife!” The number of imdb-sourced jokes and the constant corrections whispered to Hader’s host…well, it was just perfect, for me at least. Why didn’t this lead off the night instead of the bitch gameshow?
The next pre-taped bit, with Kenan as a former pimp hawking Christmas trees, had the same low-key style as Bruno Mars’ Sad Mouse or Louis C.K.’s Lincoln, which I’ve really been enjoying. But it was maybe a little too low-key, and also light on jokes that weren’t incredibly obvious (this was an A to Z of formulaic pimp gags). Once Armisen was making out with a tree in his car, I pretty much checked out.
With the “Maine Justice” skit, I understand why that couldn’t lead off the night. I pretty much understand that it had to air after Weekend Update. Because as that graphic of Maine flew at us with an alligator by the state seal, even I got confused. Had the SNL team made some basic error? If it was a joke, what a weirdly specific one to make!
As the sketch unfolded, the premise became clear: this was a pastiche of a southern court, with Bryant fanning herself, Sudeikis in a ridiculous Colonel Sanders get-up, Foxx pretty much ranting gibberish (and Moynihan as a baffled straight man). Eventually we kind of get an explanation: these guys are transplants from the bayou, displaced by Hurricane Katrina. But I honestly wish we hadn’t gotten an explanation, because the sketch was funny, bizarre and wonderfully high-energy (Sudeikis’ increasingly animated yelping understandably caused Foxx to totally break by the end of the sketch). Charlie Day’s cameo as an overall-wearing, moonshine-swilling congressman was just a joyous cherry on top. My favorite sketch of the night, and one of the best of the year.
And to close it off, we got a nicely gross Swarovski Crystals spoof ad fronted by dead-eyed porn stars (Bayer and Cecily Strong) and a potentially murderous Foxx, that slipped in a dozen horrifying (but just subtle enough) jokes about their past lives while hinting at some grim future plan. Plus, a bunch of jokes about dumb crystals and shit.
Halfway through, I really thought this would get my worst grade of the year. Not so much. SNL always has the capability to surprise.
- Who was the president? William Howard Taft. “Come on, that’s the president!”
- As we all know, Diane Lane was in “Both Untraceable and Unfaithful!”
- “He’s lying like a viper in the red Maine mud!”
- Moynihan is sentenced to eat the hottest bowl of jambalaya.
- “To my middle school teacher, the one who said I’d never be a professional actor, I’m here to tell you, I’m still trying to find out where you live so I can kill you!”