During her opening monologue, first-time Saturday Night Live host Melissa McCarthy gushed–in the same sweetly genuine way she did when she nabbed her first Emmy a few weeks go–that she was excited to be hosting the legendary late night institution and it was something she’d dreamed of her whole life. McCarthy made sure she didn’t let a moment of it pass her by: The Bridesmaids breakout star committed to every bit with total fearlessness, but more than anything else you could tell she was having fun, and her enthusiasm was felt by anyone who tuned in for last night’s SNL.
So let’s recap McCarthy’s magic night: The episode kicked off with the always dementedly delightful version of “The Lawrence Welk Show.” (Kristen Wiig’s Junice and her tiny hands, especially when they start chasing bubbles, never fails to make me laugh.) Things were about par on Welk’s show, including some cheesy banter and a sassy sister group from the Finger Lakes (“Which one? The longest, dirtiest one”), that is, until Wiig’s Junice shows up and creeps everybody out. Only this time, she had company. McCarthy made her grand SNL entrance as her equally bizarre sister, a hilarious, albeit terrifying, hybrid of a woman who talks like Mater from Cars and has the arms of Thor. The Bridesmaids co-stars have their first reunion of the night as two freaks who kick crows and grope scarecrows. All was right with the world. While the skit was as solid as ever, it was hard to hear McCarthy’s punchlines through her fake buck teeth. Then again, when it comes to that sketch, the look is really the punchline. Watch:
When McCarthy re-emerged mere moments later, she looked nothing like that. In a chic sparkly ensemble, McCarthy looked downright amazing and hit the stage with an energy that almost immediately had me thinking, “Alec who?” In her opening monologue the actress joked that her children, who were still scarred from “that sink scene in Bridesmaids” (Andy Samberg wasn’t quite over it yet either), needed to go bed cause “Mama’s about to get inappropriate.” She wasn’t kidding. But, more on that in a bit. Before all the “inappropriate” shenanigans began McCarthy did a kicky little dance number (well, not really) with Wiig. Actually, it was backup dancers, as well as Bobby Moynihan and Taran Killam, who did most of the dancing, but it sure was a delight to watch McCarthy and Wiig have fun with each other. By the end of the segment, it was clear that a giggling Wiig was tickled to be yukking it up with her Bridesmaids pal again. (Let’s just get this sequel in motion already, shall we?)
The first McCarthy-free moment of the night came with a patented SNL fake commercial. This time for a Strawberry Shortcake-like doll named Lil’ Poundcake. In fact, Lil’ Poundcake is just like Strawberry Shortcake in so many ways: She smells like a sweet dessert, she has accessories…and she administers HPV vaccines! (Wait, yours didn’t do that?) The skit didn’t quite hit the mark as well as SNL ads usually do (last week’s ad for “Red Flag” was far superior) but it wasn’t as painful or scary as getting a surprise injection from a freaky doll.
Lil’ Poundcake probably just needed one key ingredient: McCarthy. That was none more evident than the skit that followed, a no-holds-barred, if not a little too lengthy, sketch in which she made us all realize what she meant when she said “things are about to get real inappropriate.” In the bit McCarthy played Arlene, an office drone who doesn’t just hit on her co-worker (played, somehow with a straight face, by Jason Sudeikis), she sexually harasses him as if there’s no rules against it. Sure, Arlene was a bit like a version of her brazen Bridesmaids character Megan, in that she also has zero qualms about coming on to the man seated next to her (ahem, Air Marshall Jon), but by the time McCarthy was licking and riding a horse balloon, I was laughing way too hard to see this as a bad thing. I can’t imagine too many actresses that would be willing to go that far on live television (even Arlene confessed she was embarrassed at one point) but McCarthy clearly left any inhibitions at the door. See for yourself:
After wiping the tears from my eyes, I about wanted to gouge them out after watching the supremely disappointing Digital Short. The premise was flawed from the get-go (bored police officers suddenly break out into a Stomp…how relevant?!) and it made less and less sense as it went on. When the Blue Man Group appears out of nowhere (as Stefon might ask, “WHY?!”), the Stomp cops, lead by Samberg and Sudeikis, literally blow them away after mistaking them for aliens. (Was this skit supposed to take place in 1994 when maybe someone wouldn’t have known what Stomp or the Blue Man Group were?) Sorry, but after Arrested Development, everything done about the Blue Man Group will pale in comparison. This blue.
I’m certain some of you will disagree with me on that and have some very choice words for me, which could land you as a guest on the new talk show “The Comments Section”! In the skit, mean-spirited and overly-opinionated commenters from the web are confronted about their snarky remarks and general terrible attitude. (Wait, people on the Internet speak ill of others in comments sections? I’ll believe it when I see it!) Even though Moynihan, Killam, and McCarthy’s characters (hers, username Da Truf, argued, “[My political opinions are] correct or else I wouldn’t have said them”) only represent the hundreds of thousands of folks who spread nastiness on the Internet, it was still slightly satisfying to watch them punched in the gut. Now, let’s all be friends!
Speaking of criticism on the Internet, Jay Pharoah, who was absent from last week’s season premiere, made his triumphant return as Chris Rock. In the sketch, Pharoah did a spot-on imitation of the stand-up and transplanted him into Broadway shows like Romeo and Juliet, Oliver!, and Annie. Only problem is, as the skit mentioned early on, Rock has already been on Broadway, in the hit play The MotherF***er with the Hat, where he proved he was capable of going beyond what audiences expect of him. I’m sort of hoping Pharoah will do the same. While his impersonations are undoubtedly amazing (I think his Denzel Washington trumps his Chris Rock, however), the guy could veer dangerously close to Frank Caliendo territory. Both are talented, but they always leave you wondering, “Is that all you’ve got?” (In other news, I’ll be appearing on the next installment of “The Comments Section”! I’m pretty psyched…I guess. FIRST!) Decide for yourself after you watch the video below:
Comedy took a back seat for a bit as Lady Antebellum, who like McCarthy, were making their debut SNL appearance, did their first performance of the night. While I reluctantly admit that beyond “Need You Now” and the fact that they cleaned up at the Grammys, I don’t know much about this pop country trio, I was definitely tapping my toes throughout their tune “Own the Night.” If Radiohead wasn’t exactly your cup of tea last week, Lady Antebellum and their very upbeat tune, which is on their new album of the same name (it currently sits at #2 on the Billboard 200 charts), probably did the trick. That’s not to say Radiohead fans can’t be Lady Antebellum fans, but the vibe was very much different. (The trio sounded even better when they hit the stage a second time to play their hit easy listening radio-friendly ballad “Just A Kiss.”)
Weekend Update, which is always rather hit-or-miss, touched on a lot of the same things we here at PopWatch have as of late! There were Andy Rooney observations (Seth Meyers suggested that everyone’s favorite curmudgeon was actually retiring from 60 Minutes to become the old man from Up), jabs at Nancy Grace’s Dancing with the Stars boob mishap (“She had to expose it because she believes it’s not telling her something about the Natalee Holloway case”), and an appearance from Kenan Thompson as the highest-paid man in show business, Tyler Perry (which really could have just been a one-liner, rather than a whole flat bit about how Perry is wealthy because his movies “cost $400 to make and every black person in America goes to see them.”) Best Update line of the night went to the zinger at the new Amazon tablet (“It’s expected to sell well among parents who always buy the wrong thing”) and the bit about Gaddafi’s friends (even though in SNL world, Fred Armisen technically is Gaddafi) who whisper behind their annoying friend’s back, were the installment’s high points.
Boy, McCarthy’s absence during the Rock sketch, Lady Antebellum, and Weekend Update was felt, wasn’t it? As if she needed to remind us of how far she was already knocking it out of the park (though not quite as far as Robinson Cano’s Grand Slam earlier in the evening. Go Yanks!) McCarthy brought it home for the evening’s best, if not craziest, skit. McCarthy, playing hilariously dowdy again (bad perm, Spock sweatshirt), as Linda, one of three Hidden Valley Ranch taste testers. In fact, McCarthy’s Linda likes the dressing so much, she has her own chant (“HVR!” “HVR!”) and will stop at nothing, from trying to sabotage fellow tester Sue (Abby Elliott) to stealing possible catch phrases to win $50 (“It’s got a real kick!”) Linda–and McCarthy–proved they would stop at nothing to get the glory after pouring an entire bottle of Ranch dressing on herself. The audience ate it all up, too. Watch it again:
McCarthy could have stopped there (and maybe the SNL writers should have, too) as she hammed it up as a fictitious Vaudeville actress named Lulu Diamonds, as chronicled by TCM’s The Essentials. The skit wasn’t bad, and once again McCarthy went the extra mile (and down a few flights of steps), but it felt too long and the host was doing all the hard work (same goes for the skit that followed, in which a bad-in-bed Samberg hit on her at a bar.) The only person who came a close second to McCarthy all night was Taran Killam, who was in nearly every sketch and is proving to be an invaluable asset more and more.
While the last skit sort of ended things on a sort of low note, when McCarthy came back out with Lady Antebellum and the entire SNL cast for her send-off, all that could be felt was her infectious joy. Sure, it would have been nice for her to have had more screen time with Wiig (the two have such great comedic chemistry together), but McCarthy, who earned a standing ovation from the audience, was the breath of fresh air that she’s been all year. All in all, a brilliant and daring debut for an SNL newbie.
But, I’m curious, what did you think of Melissa McCarthy on Saturday Night Live, PopWatchers? Do you think she went over-the-top or was simply taking comedic risks that many others wouldn’t dare to? What was your favorite skit of the night. Was it the Ranch dressing taste testing, too? Do you think musical guest Lady Antebellum had an equally strong first showing? Share in the comments section below! (Just try to not get on “Comments Section”!)