I don't like Katy Perry. But I can't say that I'm mad at her or anything. This isn't like the truly heinous time Miley Cyrus hosted last year and all the energy seemed to have been sucked out of the audience and the cast. Perry wasn't given a ton to do but I don't know how much she impeded things either; it was just a generally sub-par night for the show, especially since it's been on pretty good form this year. Weirdly, though, it was also an episode that pulled out the guest-star spots, with welcome appearances by Matt Damon and Val Kilmer in the digital short, and a more-predictable showing from Alec Baldwin on Weekend Update about a certain game of Words With Friends.
We also had the return of Darrell Hammond, for the first time since he wrote that searing memoir, to do his Donald Trump for everyone and dominate the cold open as Newt and Santorum looked on blandly. I love Darrell Hammond, but I don't actually think his Trump is that good, even though it's the impression he's come back to do the last two times we've seen him. Trump certainly is someone who brags endlessly about his wealth and power, but he does it in such a specific way that they haven't really nailed. There's an insane cadence to it. Anyway, it was one of those disappointing cold opens where everyone onstage just watches one guy pontificate for a while.
Perry's monologue basically set the standard for her performance on the show: she was very smiley and pleasant and a straight lady for weirdoes to bounce off of. Her biggest sketch of the night was probably Kristen Wiig's new character Kalle, where she played herself and was uneasy and horrified at the progression of clips that the Finnish show had on her. I was happy to see Kalle, though. It wasn't a terrific sketch and I'm sure it's something we'll be subjected to again and again, but it is cool that Wiig, in her seventh season on a show that everyone expects her to leave soon (she says she has no plans to) is still trying to come up with new characters to do. Kalle was really just one line: “we have a clip!” but at least I'm not sick of it yet. I will eventually be sick of it, though. I can guarantee you that.
Apart from Kalle, the sketches seemed mostly designed around Perry's limitations. It was somewhat surprising to see J Pop America Fun Time Now show up again so quickly, but it is the perfect material for Perry since she's famous for dressin' weird. I like the sketch because Taren Killam is so consummate in the role (Bayer's good too, but the best thing about her is that she's called Rebecca Stern Markowitz-san). Sudeikis protesting as the professor of Japanese was as funny as it was last time, but this sketch hewed exactly to the format we saw in the Anna Faris episode. If we see it again, hopefully it's changed up a bit.
We also had two short video impression sketches, one spoof of New Year's Eve that had a couple new ones in it (I don't remember Sudeikis doing such a good Philip Seymour Hoffman, and I loved Wiig's Kim Catrall) and some really bad ones (Abby Elliott's Kirsten Dunst and Jay Pharoah's Cuba Gooding Jr. did not need to be there) but wrung most of its laughs out of the building silliness near the end, like Kris "Ludacris" Kristofferson or Sir Judi Dench wearing a mustache or how they cleverly slotted Seth Meyers' grinning face from that actual movie that's such a piece of shit I forgot he was in it. Glad he acknowledged it! Then there was something about dogs that I'm not going to talk about because it was terrible.
The digital short was one of the strongest, and not because Matt Damon and Val Kilmer were in it — although I loved that they appeared so suddenly and behaved so dementedly. But the format of the song was just perfect, getting progressively weirder and weirder with each verse and managing to fit in quite a bit of surrealism into two and a half minutes. Unlike every other sketch on this show, the digital shorts always move at such a clip.
Weekend Update was surprisingly stacked: Wiig's body language expert was a one-joke bit that took a couple minutes too long, but her performance was actually pretty strong. Alec Baldwin's appearance was handled very nicely, allowing him to get in jabs at American Airlines while also sending up the image of himself as a big douchebag (Seth's repeated pleas to him to stop were great). Then Stefon was with us, and, well, I'll never get tired of Stefon or of John Mulaney's (who writes the bits with Hader) skill at making him break every time. I don't know who my favorite creation was this time. Fat Sajak? A Fish Called Kwanzaa? Probably Menorah the Explorer.
The weakest sketches of the night were sandwiched in between Update and the finale and were so incredibly skippable, especially the not-at-all required return of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. Katy Perry actually got the most to do in that one — she had to play Pippa Middleton all thuggy like Armisen and Hader play the royals, and, well, good effort Katy, but nope. Pretty wince-inducing. Kenan Thompson's Al Sharpton felt a few months late — I remember stories about him looking at the wrong camera and stuff, but that was a while ago. He made a decent effort at an impression that faded as the sketch went on, but I did laugh at Jim Vandehei's name getting a “Sharpton hi!” back.
Probably the best sketch of the night outside of the digital short was the final one, and that's kind of indicative of the quality of this episode, because while it was funny, it wasn't that good. Just a nice little weirdo confection about Perry and Moynihan discovering that they have incredibly specific things in common, with a bizarre ending that served as a weirdly fitting capper to the episode (Perry falls down an elevator shaft). SNL sketches that have a plot to them are often among their most successful.
Oh well. Next week, for our Christmas episode, we'll have a trip down memory lane as Jimmy Fallon takes the stage. It'll probably be a pretty good time. At least I won't have that same sense of dread when I cue up the DVR that I had this week.
“At 4:15 it's the all-male a cappella group, The Dickheads!”
Sudeikis’ line of the night: “You're all white people! If there is such a thing as a loving version of racism, you have found it.”
You might go to one of Stefon’s clubs “Because the line is too long at SPICY!”
He’s shocked to hear Seth Meyers misses his family. “I never knew you had a family. I just thought you were built by gay scientists.”
“Someone should look at that elevator.”