Given how engaged and engaging Ashton Kutcher was prior to this week’s Saturday Night Live – hosting a series of live behind-the-scenes videos on Ustream – it was fair, I think, to assume that his fourth time hosting the show would inspire words like “edgy” and “cool.” Not so much. The truly funny stuff this week, and there was some really truly funny stuff, came primarily from around Kutcher rather than from him.
In his monologue, he proclaimed a persona change as a step toward public respectability, only to be confronted with a series of tests to his maturity. As Kutcher struggled to maintain composure, we had no such restraints. And, after all, could even the most mature of us keep our pants on, let alone a straight face, when a tee-ball kid punches a mini-bike riding Mark Twain in the nuts in front of a Storm Trooper and Superman?
It was actually only when Kutcher finally cracked, that the whole thing stopped being funny. Once the straight-man, stay the straight-man.
Where Kutcher was not concerned… it was a great week for political humor.
The Cold Open began with a brilliant one-liner where I normally expect to be lulled into the show: “You’re watching Fox News. Oh my God… look out behind you.” Reteaming Kristen Wiig as Greta Van Sustern and Jason Sudeikis as Glenn Beck, a combination that’s worked marvelously before, this installment offered Sudeikis a little more room to play up his melodramatic take. As well it should.
The brief bit may have been buried at the end of “Weekend Update,” but Bill Hader scored quick big points as Eliot Spitzer reading Valentine’s Day cards for disgraced public figures.
And Andy Samberg in “And Now an Even-Tempered Apology from White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel,” as usual, went beyond just being a funny sketch. Yes, the delivery (or, let’s call it what it is… great acting) is like a loud comedic shot of adrenaline that’s sure to wake you up if you’re starting to doze. But more than that it is incredible writing. That’s not just to say it’s incredible comedic writing, but incredible writing writing. “I need sixty votes just to take a shit!” “I will write shit on your wall so obscene your computer will cry!”
There’s that edgy and cool I was hoping for! And speaking of great writing, it feels weird to say so about yet another SNL game show, but way to nail it with “What is Burn Notice?” Working against its own formula, the butt of this joke isn’t the stupidity of the contestants. In fact, it’s the contestants… and the host… and the judges panel that we’re identifying with as they poke fun at the USA Network’s runaway success.
Finally, it seems, the full-blown edgy cool came out in the last sketch of the night. After two ass-kicking performances by Them Crooked Vultures (a supergroup consisting of Josh Homme, John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl), Grohl joined the acting ranks as a member of an ‘80s band reuniting at a wedding.
With Fred Armisen on vocals, Kutcher on guitar, Bill Hader on bass and Grohl, complete with old man ponytail wig, on drums, the group offered a great marriage (pun intended) between intellectual and physical humor. Taking its name almost entirely from a real band formed in the ‘80s, Crisis of Conformity sounded more like Suicidal Tendencies. Meanwhile frontman Armisen sang far-outdated politically-charged lyrics that came off more like Dead Kennedys while he thrashed around in a manner that can only mean that John Belushi and Chris Farley are smiling down upon him.
The show now goes on break until Feb. 27, when Jennifer Lopez will host; she’ll be the musical guest as well. See ya then.