Boy, Andy Samberg does a good Billy Bob Thornton, doesn’t he? Bill Hader is superb as James Carville, don’t you think? I’m trying to lead off this week’s SNL recap with some praise and positivity, but the show keeps conspiring against this strategy.
For the second week in a row, the cold-open consisted of Fred Armisen doing his increasingly half-hearted President Obama impersonation. This time, he played off this week’s Nobel Peace Prize announcement in a predictable way: “I won it for not being George Bush.” Merely stating a fact isn’t necessarily funny.
Early on we got a “Gilly” sketch, with Kristen Wiig doing her mischievous-kid routine, joined by host Drew Barrymore as an Italian version of same. The result: twice the mischief, half the laughs.
“Celebrity Ghost Stories”? Hey, look: Justin Long is doing a Matthew McConaughey impersonation! Gee, too bad — Matt Damon’s is better:
Hader made a valiant effort to wring some humor from one of his Vinny Vedecci, Italian talk-show host routines, but as was true for most of the evening, the writing failed him. I really like this character and his non sequitur setting — a Charlie Rose-style round table. But bringing on Barrymore as herself promoting her movie Whip It and having Vinny mistake it for the Devo song… sheesh, didn’t your uncle make that joke three weeks ago?
“Weekend Update”? Seth Meyers got in more Obama/Nobel Prize digs. Judging from this week and last, SNL seems to have settled on the idea that the way to do Obama jokes is to suggest he’s not getting enough accomplished quickly enough. The result is both pointed and pretty limited. Kenan Thompson fulfilled his apparently-contractual agreement to appear in drag every week by showing up here as Maya Angelou; I snickered at his version of an Angelou poem done in a Dr. Seuss rhyme scheme, but that’s just because Angelou’s real poetry is so lousy, this almost sounded good. It was during “Update” that Hader appeared as James Carville, the high point of a very slow night.
The only sketch I actually laughed out loud at was the ESPN Classic parody, coverage of a 1991 billiards tournament sponsored by Tampax. Barrymore and Wiig, as the pool players, were given nothing to play except some lousy pool-table schtick. But Jason Sudeikis, as a color commentator along with Will Forte, made a lot of amusing tampon puns — hey, this week, you had to take your chuckles wherever you could find them. Compared to the Larry King spoof later on, which revolved entirely around saying the word “weiner,” the tampon punchlines were high wit.
Musical guest Regina Spektor did nothing to dispel my belief that what she does is cross Tori Amos with Billy Joel. Nice voice, though.
Did I miss anything? Did anyone find the “Digital Short” — the fake commercial for a pair of cheesy magicians (Barrymore and Armisen) — funny? I sort of admired the final sketch, which had Forte playing a creepy-yet-seductive loon at a bookstore reading, but, once again, it wasn’t actually laugh-out-loud stuff.
Barrymore appeared in a lot more sketches than Ryan Reynolds did last week. She’s a trouper. Too bad the show this week let her down.