As if there was any doubt Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a talented multi-hyphenate before, his performance last night certainly put any lingering doubt to rest. While the writing in the sketches wasn’t always hilarious, Gordon-Levitt – much like Seth MacFarlane last week – came prepared to have fun. It was obvious he was up for anything and giving the show his all, keeping the energy high whether he was in a Magic Mike-inspired stripper routine of a monologue, or a raunchy Beatles sing-along.
The episode didn’t get off to the best start. In lieu of a political cold opener, it did a parody of Live! With Kelly and Michael. With Nasim Pedrad as Ripa, and Jay Pharoah as Michael Strahan, the sketch was dead on arrival. Kelly’s tiny (and ripped!) Michael is huge! They’re two different sized people on the same program! Comedy gold! The only highlight was Bill Hader as guest Robert Pattinson. Sullen and brooding (with some great-styled hair) Hader once again proved that he’s a a total MVP for this show. But the opener was really just preamble to the highlight of the episode: Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s monologue.
Let’s talk about that monologue, shall we? (Unfortunately, probably because it contains music, the clip isn’t available online). I was wondering to myself how Gordon-Levitt was going to top his “Make ‘Em Laugh” song-and-dance routine from when he first hosted in 2009. He was hosting this time to promote Looper, so I thought we might be in for some time-travel jokes. Instead, we got a welcome surprise from left field. After declaring that his favorite superhero movie of the summer was Magic Mike, starring his friend Channing Tatum, he asked the audience if they knew what his favorite part was, and then proceeded to show them by ripping off his shirt to reveal a Tatum-esque stripper vest. Cue: “It’s Raining Men.” I re-watched a few times (for research) and I can officially declare that from the push-ups to the pelvic thrusts, JGL killed it. Magic Mike 2 is officially happening, and I think we can all agree we just witnessed one heck of an audition. Naturally, Gifs of the performance have taken over Tumblr.
There were more fake commercials than usual last night — not that I’m complaining. While the live sketches may have been a disappointment, the fake ads were a treat, starting with one about the people that are going to decide the upcoming election: Undecided Voters. The quick bit expertly spoofed the random things that still-undecided voters seem to fixate on. From “When is the election?” to “Who is the President right now?” the commercial — complete with faux-concern voices that are so prevalent in political ads — definitely got my vote.
Another highlight was another political-themed pre-taped commercial, this time for Gob tampons. If anything besides Gordon-Levitt’s monologue is destined to go viral, it’s this. It’s “designed with all the knowledge of a woman’s anatomy, that only comes from being a 60+ year old conservative man,” Vanessa Bayer happily declared. “Made for a woman, by republicans,” the ad was full of misinformation, and was a nice parody of some of the recent craziness in Congress.
For a lot of the rest of the episode, I was disappointed. A game Joseph Gordon-Levitt was highly visible, appearing in every live sketch aside from the opener, but unfortunately, most of the comedy bits were one-note or dead on arrival, whether that be an old-school P.I. who drew characters instead of taking actual evidence photos, or a hypnotist (Gordon-Levitt) who attempted to hypnotized someone (Taran Killam) who wasn’t actually hypnotized. It ended with Killam in his underwear, but for all the effort, there weren’t too many laughs. Also lacking in humor was a later-in-the-show segment “The Finer Things” featuring Jay Pharoah and Kenan Thompson.
“Weekend Update” was also less solid than usual. With Weekend Update Thursday, is it possible that they are simply using up all of their political material early? Seth Meyers touched on Mitt Romney’s tax return release from yesterday, and also started a “Really?!”-esque segment “What Are You Doing?” about Barack Obama that was pretty amusing. The highlight was a drop-by from (secret Beyonce fangirl) Ann Romney (Kate McKinnon), who had taken some heat this week after saying that Republicans were “Lucky” Mitt was the nominee. She talked about being pegged an an elitist, while the Obamas get to hang out with Jay-Z and Beyonce without consequence. “People are always telling me I’m unrelatable because I had a horse in the Olympics, but let me tell you something. I would kill that horse if it meant I could meet BeyonSAY,” she said. Her singing of “Countdown” (alas, also not available online) was definitely a top moment.
If any of last night’s fairly random sketches worked, it was yet another fake commercial, this time for Tres Equis, a beer by the sleazy son of the Dos Equis man. Starring Gordon-Levitt, the clip featured funny voiceover about being able to “Make a woman cringe, just by entering a room,” and “He claims he dated a model, but her only job was an ad for her dad’s car dealership…and they never had sex.” The joke got funnier — not to mention weirder — when later in the episode another Tres Equis commercial aired, this time with a drop-by from Dad (Jason Sudeikis) himself.
To no one’s surprise, Mumford & Sons sounded great for their Saturday Night Live debut. Note to SNL: More musical guests like this, please. Watch their performance of “I Will Wait” below:
Toward the end of the episode, there were two more memorable sketches. First, the show brought back a recurring sketch in which a group of guys each talk through a verse of a song — this time The Beatles’ “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” — that each reveal something horrible/hilarious. Mumford & Sons appeared as Beatles cover band Hey Dude. Against a backdrop of a bachelor party for a friend (Gordon-Levitt), the verses involved vibrators and being Jerry Sandusky’s son. Following that up, Fred Armisen brought the requisite amount of weird to a sketch about a family (who must be a spin-off of the kissing Vogelcheck crew), that had a colleague over for dinner and proceeded to sing to him a made-up song, “We Present Her To You,” about his daughter, Evelyn (Gordon-Levitt in drag). Kudos to Gordon-Levitt (who yodels) and Armisen for fully committing, but the sketch never really took off as it should have.
We’re two weeks in to the season so far — how are you all feeling? What did you think of Gordon-Levitt’s second go-round as host? Did he give us the monologue to beat for the season? (Yes.) Countdown until there is a “Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Magic Mike 2” petition online? Did you like all the fake commercials this episode? What sketches worked — and didn’t — for you?