Best episode ever?
Of the season, I mean. I had a feeling ahead of time that Joseph Gordon-Levitt could pull off a good show—I liked him on 3rd Rock from the Sun and if, as a kid, he could be funny next to French Stewart (and I guess, John Lithgow too) I figured he might be able to pull off at the very least an energetic performance on SNL. I liked that in his monologue he made fun of his indie darling status and then really worked his ass off during "Make 'Em Laugh," complete with singing, cartwheels, pratfalls, punches to the face, wall-flips and whatever the name is for that move that Homer Simpson did when he was trying to read handwriting on the back of his own head.
Overly repeated sketches make me irrationally angry so it was actually a pretty good episode for me: I think we all knew that "The Mellow Show" was going to make an appearance with Dave Matthews Band as the musical guest, but it's been a while since we've last seen it. Something about Andy Samberg's voice when he drops phrases like "cargo shorts," "ultimate frisbee" and "vegan cookies" out of nowhere makes me laugh, as do pets named things like Mr. Coconut and Professor Munchie. I was waiting to find out how Dave Matthews would be used in the sketch, and although an Ozzy Osbourne impression isn't exactly the freshest idea ever, I think "Dave," as his friends and fans would call him, actually did a decent job—better than Lady Gaga, that's for sure.
The other repeated sketch came from a long time ago: a family sits tensely at the dinner table, punctuating moments of silence with simultaneous yelling and one lady occasionally stands up furiously to leave as the others scream at her to sit back down. I didn't like it as much as the first time but as someone on Twitter put it, better than another Gilly skit.
"What Up With That?" was a sketch that took me through a journey of emotions (I'm aware that it was a repeat from the Gerard Butler episode but I didn't catch it the first time around). First, I was intrigued by a scene that featured Al Gore, Mindy Kaling and Bill Hader as Lindsey Buckhingham. Then I got bored when I realized that Kenan Thompson and his backup singers were singing "Ooo-wee…what up with that? What up with that?" for a super-long time. Then I saw Jason Sudeikis dancing in a red tracksuit, mini-fro and dookie chain. Then Kenan Thompson started singing "political will…renewable resource yeah….unprecented baby!" and taking over Al Gore's discussion with a song. I think it was when Jake "The Snake" Roberts joined in, tap-dancing with a snake, that I gave up and realized this was one of those WTF sketches that makes you laugh with how stupid and fun it is—I liked JGL dancing across the frame with his keytar, too. Good for Al Gore for sitting through all that. And I even liked the ending. I recommend a re-watch for a pick-me-up.
I don't have much to say about Dave Matthews Band either way. I'm wouldn't go so far as to call myself a fan but I don't hate them with the fire of a thousand suns as much as some people do. I was disappointed though with the second song because for a moment I thought he was going to cover "Word Up" by Cameo but no, it was just a song that sort of sounded like it and "Dave" kind of sounds like Cameo himself.
There were a couple of duds this episode, most specifically the political sketches. I laughed in the cold opener when Hu Jintao's translator asked "Will you kiss me?" but when the joke got played three times—that China is taking it in the butt from us—it came with diminishing returns. The "SNL Movie Trailer Re-cut" was also uninspired: Sarah Palin as President + 2012 footage just felt a little lazy. So there you go—you can be unfunny making fun of either party.
I liked the concept of the Say Anything sketch, with an obnoxious neighbor talking to Lloyd Dobler as he holds up his boombox to Diane Court's house, but I would have liked it if the writers gave Gordon-Levitt a bit more to do in the sketch—they should have saved that scene for a host who can't do much more than stand still and hold up a boombox. But overall, thanks to a combination of newer sketches and a game, talented host it was a better episode than most. If anything, I think JGL was underused: he's obviously a willing ham so I would have rather seen him star in more sketches than be a supporting player in the talk show, game show and Say Anything bits.
—I'm just going to say it: can't tell Nasim Pedrad apart from Jenny Slate
—When Joseph Gorden-Levitt delivered his monologue, I kept expecting him to break into a Christopher Walken impression.
—I didn't mind the Digital Short but I'm ready for those guys to move past the whole "Ha a guy is in love with another guy" premise. This time it was just extra-raunchy and involved a red wig.