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'Saturday Night Live' review: Miley Cyrus and a show better than 'pretty cool': It was pretty funny

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Miley Cyrus’ distinctive speech pattern — a Nashville twang bouncing against glottal stops — is both distracting and distinctive, which makes her comparatively easy to imitate, if you have that kind of talent, and Vanessa Bayer does. She’s spent this SNL season making her “Miley Cyrus Show” sketches little critiques of show-biz unctuousness, exaggerating Miley’s penchant for hype (“Purty cooool!”) and dad Billy Ray’s coattail-riding of his daughter’s fame (Jason Sudeikis plays him as a shameless shill).

Saturday Night Live waited until midnight to unveil its latest “Miley Cyrus Show” sketch, which turned out to have a clever idea: Bayer was Miley, as usual, while the week’s host, Miley Cyrus, portrayed  Justin Bieber in her best impersonation of the night. Cyrus had Bieber’s trying-too-hard hiphop mannerisms down cold.

SNL commenced with — duh — “Duh! Winning! with Charlie Sheen,” with Bill Hader doing a good Sheen impersonation, hosting  the week’s biggest losers, including Christina Aguilera (Abby Elliott), John Galliano (an excellent Taran Killam), Lindsay Lohan (Cyrus sounding like Cyrus), and Fred Armisen’s Muammar Gaddafi. (Told ya SNL would conflate Sheen with Gaddafi.)

A particularly strong “Weekend Update” did better with its Sheen jokes, offering the winners and losers in that guy’s scandals. Denise Richards was a winner, said Seth Meyers, for getting out early, “like someone who’d sold her house in 2007.” A loser: tigers and their blood (“Why is he dragging us into this?”). It was followed by a superb up-yours to the religious protesters at a military funeral whose right to be heinous was upheld by the Supreme Court earlier this week. Sudekis played  Satan, relishing what he’d do when these homophobic zealots landed in Hell… and added a nice kicker about working on the upcoming season of Entourage.

Feeling her oats, the 18 year-old Cyrus ridiculed her Hannah Montana fame-vehicle in a sketch about the “Disney Channel Acting School,” with Kenan Thompson accompanying her as Raven-Symone. It was nicely done, with lessons in speaking too loudly and dressing too loudly.

I’m always a sucker for SNL‘s Turner Classic Movies parodies, and this week’s one, built around unseen footage from The Sound of Music, was well-conceived, folding in Fred Armisen as the kind of brassy stand-up comic who’d have been making comedy records and doing movie cameos during the time of Music‘s release in 1959. There were a few duds, of course, such as Wiig and Cyrus in a “Rockabilly Lady Party” fake ad, but the majority of the material this week was, at the very least, goofy fun, such as the  charmingly wacky French-people-dancing moment. (Again, congrats to Killam, who stuffed his face with a lot of French bread crepe while wiggling around.)

Cyrus fared best in the moments when she was required to sing, whether it was her cute opening “I’m Sorry That I’m Not Perfect” specialty number to her showing-closing tune, playing a disgusted cruise-ship singer, crooning about how everybody on a cruise ship seemed “gross” to her.

Musical guest the Strokes sounded very Strokes-like; by this time, they’re almost Ramones-ish in their assiduous adherence to formula, and of their two performances, I liked “Under Cover of Darkness” the best. (And if this is the kind of thing that gets you wound up, yes, I think Julian Casablancas uttered the f-word; I also couldn’t care less if he did.)

What did you think of Miley and SNL?

Twitter: @kentucker

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