The difference between the single funniest monologue I’ve ever seen on Saturday Night Live and pretty much the rest of the show this week? Night and day.
Leave it to Zach Galifianakis to be his twisted self, but to find a way to make it palatable for Middle America. He pandered to the mainstream through self-mockery and common reference, but balanced it for the indies though razor-sharp wit. He was brilliantly awkward, confidently off-kilter and slyly honest while he tip-toed along the edge.
He tenderly tweaked even the most traditional aspects of the monologue “It’s great to be back hosting Saturday Night Live!” (He’s never hosted.) “We have a great show for you tonight. Hoobastank is here! No?” (The musical guest was Vampire Weekend.)
The writing, the timing, everything was spot-on and those deadpanned lines are sure to live on for a while in the retelling. I could spend this entire post going on and on about this mere seven minutes, but let me yield to your viewing pleasure.
Now begrudgingly I say… on with the show.
When you’ve got Zach friggin’ Galifianakis as your star, you do not rehash a bunch of old premises! Wait, unfortunately, I guess you do if you’re writing for Saturday Night Live.
If I were giving the show a one-word review, that word would be lazy. Oh, you’re out of that? Well, just give me disappointing. Oh, you’re out of that? Well, just give me uninspired.
As soon as I realized that the first sketch was “The Vogelchecks” (that overdone, overly affectionate family bit), I groaned… audibly. Bill Hader got a little unnatural with a dog. Not to be outdone, Fred Armisen tongued the entire face of a corpse (Will Forte), finally full-on making out with him. Too bad one-upmanship isn’t synonymous with funny.
What else? Let’s just stick Zach in a Today bit as a background crazy dude crazy guy who’s trying to get with Hoda Kotb (Jenny Slate), a “Situation Room” bit as a cut-away character and a “What’s Up With That?” bit as ambidextrous disco flute player RJ Sizzle.
Only two sketches seemed to be written specifically for the host.
He, Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg got together for “Bidet,” a mediocre scene that focused on the insinuated freakiness a couple plans to get into with their hotel bidet.
And while Vampire Weekend performed its second, excellent song, someone was busy backstage getting into his final costume for his final sketch, “Pageant Talk.” There’s no NBC video for this one, so you’ll simply have to imagine a beardless (!) Galifianakis as a gay pageant-obsessed father.
All told, the only real nugget the writers came up with for what could have been a viral smorgasbord was the digital short “Zach Drops by the Set.” In this video compilation, Galifianakis inserts himself into NBC properties including (but not limited to) The Nightly News with Brian Williams, 30 Rock and Law and Order.
In short, the night before the Oscars might not have been the right time to slot a next-generation-friendly host who’s apparently too funny for SNL writers to handle. At the very least they should have swapped this week with next, when Jude Law hosts and the musical guest is Pearl Jam.