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'Saturday Night Live' recap: Jon Hamm brings the funny

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Wait a minute. What happened last night? A Saturday Night Live whose cold-open was actually funny? (Fred Armisen as Obama delivering the State of the Union speech, calling out Bush for leaving dirty dishes and unwashed sheets in the White House, editing in the Brendan Fraser weird-clap, and having Obama say, “I really don’t care anymore” about health-care reform.)

And an opening-host segment with Jon Hamm that was flat-out funny? (Hamm playing everything from a character in a Saved By The Bell-like sitcom as though he was Don Draper; doing a QVC commercial in which he got to tell one of Kristen Wiig’s characters to “calm down!”; Hamm appearing on Def Comedy Jam and paraphrasing the old Redd Foxx line, “You gotta wash your a–.”)

Making Hamm up in a “Digital Short” as “Sergio,” a kind of cross between Kenny G and Fabio was gratifyingly odd, with an excellent pay-off. Using Hamm and his blank-canvas good looks to play Scott Brown was inspired.

“Weekend Update” was above average; I sense a new catchphrase from Fred Armisen’s well-received courtroom stenographer character Alinda (“I can’t find my crackers”); and Bill Hader as Greg the alien sportscaster is always worth a solid chuckle.

Thank goodness there was a lousy sketch built around Wiig saying the same thing over and over (in this case, “Don’t make me sing”) to remind me that this was still the old SNL or I might have been fooled into thinking there was some kind of renaissance going on in Studio 8H.

I don’t usually have much use for musical guest Michael Bublé — when I want to listen to some sub-Sinatra crooning, I’ll download a few old Steve Lawrence performances — but he was excellent duetting with Sharon Jones on the old Brook Benton hit “You’ve Got What It Takes,” and really terrific with Hamm in a fake commercial for a ham-and-champagne-themed restaurant:

There was some nice self-referential humor in the late-in-the-show sketch in which Hamm and Forte, in a bar, called back to an earlier fake commercial in which Forte starred as a human closet organizer.

I even liked the night-ending bit about the founding of Barnes & Noble (Hamm and Hader) as a place “where homeless people can go to the bathroom.”

In general, there was a lot more snap to the sketches, an embracing of the absurd, and a willingness on the part of the host to go-for-broke. A good night pretty much all around.

Agree? Disagree?

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