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'Saturday Night Live' recap: Jude Law: To be or not to be funny?

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It was a mostly a game of “Remember This Sketch?” this week on Saturday Night Live.

Law made the most of his Broadway run in Hamlet. His opening monologue consisted of a tedious summary of the play. But a later sketch was better: He was made to audition for the role, with competing actors including Bill Hader’s fine Al Pacino, Bobby Moynihan’s Nathan Lane, and — best of all — Jason Sudeikis as a gnomically wise Sam Elliott.

Because the show acts as though its audience wouldn’t be familiar with any current event except perhaps who got kicked off American Idol this week, the cold-open featured a voiceover summary of the Eric Massa scandal, and then followed it with an exceedingly unfunny “exit interview” with Massa (Bobby Moynihan) conducted by Kristen Wiig. The recurring punchline here was that gay sex is inherently hilarious.

Later, during “Weekend Update,” surprise guest Jerry Seinfeld took Amy Poehler’s old spot in a “Really!?!” segment… about Eric Massa. Jerry got off a “massa-bate” joke.”

The night’s first sketch was “Secret Word,” a Password parody SNL has done before… which means we knew that we’d have to watch Kristen Wiig as flamboyant, stupid actress Mindy Grayson, who (this was the bit’s sole joke) always says the “secret word” instead of giving her partner clues to guess at it. Absolutely suffocating, and I even watch Password reruns occasionally:

Much later, there was another character we’ve seen before: Fred Armisen as the addled court stenographer who says, “I can’t find my Chapstick” over and over. That one was pretty airless, too.

After a number of weeks with relatively few fake commercials, this week had three. The best one was a rerun, though, “Kickspit Underground Rock Festival” TV ad, promoting metal bands like Donkey Crust and Gunt, and cool giveaways: “Everyone gets a pitchfork!” Runner-up, however, was one for something called “Broadview Security,” that cleverly exaggerated home-alone fears and carried them into absurdity:

Andy Samberg’s “Digital Short” was a song about him hoisting a boom-box in various settings (a New York street; a retirement home), with dancing and wild behavior ensuing. But not many laughs. It was well-made, with Julian Casablancas singing, but the mini-film didn’t add much to the music-comedy formula Samberg has done so well in the past.

Law made the most of a scene in which he played a seductive Spanish man trying to seduce two American women (Abby Elliott and Nasim Pedrad). The plot was lifted from a Woody Allen movie with a bit of Law’s Talented Mr. Ripley menace thrown in, awkwardly.

There was a parody of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” the 1961 Twilight Zone episode that starred William Shatner as an airline passenger who sees a  gremlin  on the wing of the plane. Law played the passenger (excellent, though he didn’t do a Shatner impersonation) and Moynihan was the gremlin. It was very old-school SNL — you could almost imagine John Belushi as the gremlin, and almost sweet in its commitment to black-and-white-TV-show conventions.

As for Pearl Jam: Eddie Vedder sounded terrific twice, on both the ballad and the rocker. The band also made a cameo in the Twilight Zone sketch that almost lifted the bit into hilarity. Well done, gentlemen.

Overall, there was an air of exhausted inspiration this week, as though the writers and performers were looking forward to a few weeks off. Which is what they’re going to get. (The show will be back Apr. 10 with Tina Fey as host.) Jude Law was certainly charming and game, his accents (Russian, Spanish) spot-on, but there wasn’t much for him to work with.

Agree? Disagree?

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