There’s a bit of irony in this week’s show. You’ve got an actor of Robert De Niro’s caliber hosting, one whose very reason for being a host is that his ability to deliver in comedies has proven so successful that audiences are flocking for thirds with “Little Fockers.” And yet, he spent most of the night playing either himself or his old cast-type. In one case, it was both. The obvious question is: But was it funny? The honest answer is: Sometimes. The show did elicit laughs, but often, where the host was concerned, it felt awkward.
The monologue is a natural place to start. The writing really was smart, with one of the greatest ambassadors of New York City screwing up essential facts. The “Hooked on Phonics” delivery, if it had been intentional and more over-the-top, could have actually complemented the writing. But, it didn’t. Bobby D was hooked on cue cards and, unfortunately, it showed.
But let’s try to concentrate on the good stuff. Immediately after that, we saw a more successful combination in a pre-recorded fauxmercial for a bestselling author. De Niro made a lot of laugh-worthy faces and nailed his one-off lines while the majority of the work was done by the writers coming up with funny book titles read by an overly serious narrator.
Next thing you know, he’s on stage with an Oompa Loompa. What? Or I should say “What Up With That?” In this installment, Kenan Thompson’s Deandre Cole dedicates his segment to Hollywood. De Niro, backed by Robin Williams, doesn’t take kindly to the inherent interruptions, but his reaction only plays further into the bit’s formula.
Making the promotional rounds, the host also appeared on “La Rivista Della Televisione,” the Italian talk show hosted by Bill Hader’s suave, chain smoking Vinny Vedecci. He’s bested in performing De Niro impressions, he’s pranked into involuntary manslaughter and he’s tricked into delivering one of his old movie lines.
As himself again on the set of “Little Fockers,” he was stumped by Bobby Moynahan as a 13-year-old kid who’s giddy about all things movies, even Ben Stiller in his first of two cameos, but remains thoroughly unimpressed by him. Maybe if that kid saw him decked out in Brooklyn drag, grinding up on musical guest Diddy, he’d have been more impressed. Probably not.
Finally, we end with the beginning, and the funniest sketch of the night. While the Cold Open began as another eye-rolling public address by Fred Armisen’s Obama, it quickly morphed into an inspired politics and pop culture mashup of WikiLeaks and TMZ, featuring lots of perfect bits and pieces, including a quickie from De Niro. More openings like this in the future, please!
December 11 will be the week of the Pauls, with Rudd hosting and McCartney as the musical guest.