When I said last week that Jay Pharoah was no longer going to be underused, I had no idea he’d be starring in two cold opens in a row. But the youngest castmember on Saturday Night Live has done exactly that at the start of season 38. Accompanied by Nasim Pedrad as Kelly Ripa, Pharoah plays the newly-enlisted Live! co-host, former New York Giants player Michael Strahan. Of course, the main comedy play is that the pair create a physical oddity together; separately Strahan’s lisp and Ripa’s obnoxious enthusiasm are on full display. And while Pedrad’s Ripa isn’t exactly spot-on it’s so satisfying. But that might be because I fucking hate Kelly Ripa. Enjoy!
In this week’s mock political ad, SNL moves its aim away from the candidates and instead fixes on the voters– specifically, undecided voters. You know, the ones that most Americans cannot believe actually exist. Seriously, how can you be undecided at this point? Anchored by newcomer Cecily Strong, the ad finds these concerned voters, played by Bill Hader, Taran Killam, Vanessa Bayer and SNL rookie Tim Robinson, asking the questions we’d all imagine undecided voters asking. Thank you, SNL.
On the lighter side of mock ads comes this one for Tres Equis, the beer promoted by the never-hugged-enough son of the Most Interesting Man in the World we all know from the Dos Equis commercials. Host Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as the neglected son. Check it out.
Gordon-Levitt plays a hacky Las Vegas hypnotist in this sketch, preying upon a happy couple — Killam and Bayer — to help impress his audience. Some cheap laughs are had when Killam, dressed only in tighty-whities, humps Kenan Thompson’s shoulder, but other than that, it’s a forgettable bit.
When this second Tres Equis ad began, I was thinking, ‘Oh, they’re going to beat this joke to death.’ But little did I know that SNL was going to delve deep into the relationship between father and son. I love that at some point somebody in the the writers room said, ‘What if that guy from the Dos Equis commercials has a layabout son and they have a terrible history together– like “Cats in the Cradle” terrible?’ Maybe it didn’t go down like that, but the fake beer spot is hilarious nonetheless. Jason Sudeikis plays dad.
In what will undoubtedly go down as one of the more bizarre sketches of the season, Hader plays Sam Flint, a private dick looking into a possible infidelity case for his client (Gordon-Levitt). The thing is, Flint is the worst PI ever– mostly because he harbors dreams of selling his original boardwalk art to the people he’s supposed to be helping. It’s a bit of a throw-away sketch with no real pay off, but there’s a few laughs along the way.
In the fourth mock ad of the night, Bayer is that woman we know from seemingly every tampon commercial. But she’s not pushing just any tampon; this was was “created by the people who know my body best– the gentleman of the Republican Party… designed with all the knowledge of a woman’s anatomy that only comes from being a 60+ year old conservative man.” Although it’s a concept that’s been deeply explored in viral videos before — notably on Funny Or Die’s “Republicans, Get In My Vagina” with Kate Beckinsale, Judy Green and Andrea Savage — I still love what SNL did with this. And I love Bayer in it. Enjoy!
In the first round of Weekend Update highlights, Seth Meyers covers Mitt Romney’s tax crisis, news from the New Jersey DMV, a Jew-hating Elmo and walking-piece-of-garbage Paris Hilton.
Meyers introduces a segment called What Are You Doing?, which is aimed at Barack Obama this week. It seems our president made a slight gaffe when he told a bunch of supporters that Washington cannot be changed from the inside (um, where he is) but only from the outside (where we are). Meyers let’s the prez have it, advising him to sit back, relax and let Romney hang himself the way he’s been doing the last few weeks.
In the next Weekend Update segment we get Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s two best childhood friends, played by Fred Armisen and Bayer. It’s a funny premise– humanizing an evil dictator and global threat by imagining his buddies ragging on him the way you and I would rag on our friends. The pair have played the same characters but with different dictators. The sketch always works for a few good laughs.
In what I consider to be the highlight performance of the night, second season player Kate McKinnon visits Meyers at the desk as Ann Romney, who in real life recently defended her husband against republican critics. In this bit, McKinnon makes the Romneys likable.
And finally ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith (Pharoah) visits Meyers, to sound off on New York Jets starting quarterback Mark Sanchez and backup Tim Tebow. I don’t know anything about Smith, but apparently he’s really loud and during his sports commentary he usually makes references to all the players he knows on a personal level? By the end, I was a bit surprised SNL didn’t work in anything about the fact that Sanchez is now banging Eva Longoria. So, now you know where my sports knowledge lies. A few hours ago Smith, himself, tweeted his approval: “Before anyone even asks, I had no problem with Jay Pharoah’s impersonation of me on SNL. I think he’s hysterical. All love!!!”
Thompson and Pharoah team up as hosts Suede and Fort Knox of The Finer Things, a show that respects hardcore hip-hop attitude and luxury fashion in equal parts. With a little help from Jay Thriller (Gordon-Levitt, the high-end designer of the “scardigan”) and street reporter Teddy Graham (Bobby Moynihan), our rapper/hosts deliver a fairly funny take on two seemingly disparate worlds.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think we’ve seen a husband-wife musical duo since the Culps played by Will Ferrell and Ana Gastayer from 1996 to 2002 and reprised in May when Ferrell hosted during season 37. But this week’s episode found Armisen and McKinnon doing a similar bit, except they weren’t using music to educate a gymnasium full of unwilling students, but instead were attempting to find their daughter — played by an attractive Gordon-Levitt — a suitable boyfriend (Robinson). Things didn’t go well.
And, finally in the time-padding bit of the night, Pedrad and Robinson are realtors who appear in a television commercial in an attempt to dissuade folks from defacing their local ads with dongs and poop.
Not as strong as the season premiere last week, but I’m thrilled to see Pharoah and McKinnon given more responsibilities. And out of the three newcomers, it seems Robinson will be used most, if the first two episodes are any indication. Strong and Aidy Bryant have barely been seen. We’ll have to wait to see if that changes. Next week’s host is Daniel Craig with musical guest Muse. It’s going to be super British.