Jeez. I’m glad that’s the last of SNL’s Weekend Update Thursdays this year, and maybe ever, since the ratings haven’t really been good enough to justify a repeat outing even if the 2016 election is Hillary Clinton vs. Sarah Palin. SNL is not a show that’s hampered by a slow news week—if nothing else, it is a sketch show. It can air whatever it wants. But Weekend Update Thursday operates on the principle that it’s a busy time for news right now, and while obviously the campaign remains in full swing, there wasn’t a lot going on for this episode.
Last week, the show had a real treat: Mitt’s secret 47 percent video. This time, we open with Obama giving a speech to a bunch of people who are either unemployed or have weird, depressing jobs. It felt a little warmed-over and placed a lot of emphasis on Jay Pharoah’s developing Obama character, who hasn’t loosened up much yet. The minute he made a Sixth Sense joke, I knew we were in trouble (and honestly, that was one of the funnier jokes in a long sketch that was light on laughs).
I’m honestly surprised the show didn’t open with its “Replacement Refs” bit, because that feels like the biggest story of last week, and Kenan Thompson pathetically throwing his flag was a repetitive joke that kept on giving. But I guess a Weekend Update Thursday has to have a political cold open, even one as weak as this. I wouldn’t call the sketch toothless—I doubt either candidate would watch it with delight. But I wouldn’t call it funny, either.
Seth Meyers did his usual shtick behind the table, but the jokes weren’t much funnier (and this time they writers didn’t have the excuse that they’re saving the best ones for the main show on Saturday—SNL’s taking a week off). The panel guests were easy to take, although none of them were outstanding. Cecily Strong’s uninformed party guest was the funniest—her subtle little moves, like taking her phone out of her purse all worked well, and she didn’t last long enough to start truly grating.
The spoof of Fred Armisen’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (with Nasim Pedrad as his frustrated translator) was cute, although the Austin Powers reference was a strange cousin to Obama’s Sixth Sense joke (at least this time the point was that the reference was lame). Kenan Thompson’s Cornel West came entirely out of left-field (the Occupy anniversary wasn’t even last week!) and didn’t really have a punchline to it, although I suppose it’s better than some of Kenan’s half-hearted impressions.
I don’t know what else there is to say. I’ve been enjoying the main show this year, and the new cast is more on its game than you’d expect. The problems with this show are obviously largely to do with fatigue and a lack of spoofable news. So I’ll happily bid it farewell until the next time NBC needs to plug holes in its lineup, and hope the writers will have a better angle on things next time.
- Obama’s in Ohio “Must be a rally. I’ve got my sleeves rolled up like a weatherman on Friday!”
- Mahmoud loves people-watching. “My favorite game is: homosexual or Jew?” He gets most excited when someone is both. “That’s why I am always so happy to see you, Seth!”
- The translator admits the nuclear program is for a bomb. Saying otherwise is like “saying you need Internet in your hotel just for e-mail.”
- Cornel admits he looks unusual. “I look like a Blaxploitation member of the Addams Family.”
- “Seth, can I use the n-word real quick?”