And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how an episode of Saturday Night Live is done. Was it perfect? No, but compared to a lot of what we’ve seen this season, it was downright awards-worthy. Here’s hoping we see a lot more of the lovely Ms. Melissa McCarthy on SNL. The actress, who next graces our movie screens in June’s The Heat opposite Sandra Bullock (a dream team if there ever was one), infused the show with a much-needed energy, giving it her all, even when that all meant face-planting on the sticky stage floor.
The night kicked off with a Kim Jong-un-centered cold open, in which the North Korean leader addressed his subjects on two important topics. First, the reopening of the Yongbyong nuclear complex that will leave his “enemies chagrined and discombobulated,” and second, that he had “decided to lift [the] nation’s ban on same-sex marriage.” Bobby Moynihan as Jong-un insisted that the change in views was not because he had a nephew who happened to be gay (he was executed anyway), nor was it because of his own personal preferences (“I’m about as heterosexual as a person can be.”), but simply because it seemed like the right thing to do. How progressive of him! All in all, it was a decent start to the night, made better by Dennis Rodman’s cameo at the end. (A quick aside: Am I the only one who thinks of Rodman not as a basketball player, but as Jean-Claude Van Damme’s sidekick in Double Team? Ah, a true classic, that one.)
However, McCarthy’s monologue left a little something to be desired. I’ve loved her from her days as television’s original Sookie on Gilmore Girls, but this intro just felt slightly too long and a little bit… lazy? Watching her teeter in those Wizard of Oz-inspired stilettos was a good showcase of McCarthy’s ability for physical comedy; and yet, it seemed like her stumbling should have been part of a broader monologue. I will give her kudos for her line about her shoe of choice: “I’m primarily in a Croc.” Preach, sista.
McCarthy quickly recovered with a sketch on Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice. You thought he was bad? Just wait until you meet Sheila Kelly. Forget simple pushing and shoving — Kelly takes her reign of terror to the next level by firing T-shirt guns at her players, dropping bricks on them, and forcing them to serve her meals. (“Where is the bread?!” A question I too often ask at mealtimes.) Even the classroom’s not safe.
As much as I adored the basketball sketch, the Voice skit that followed was even better. Bill Hader nailed his portrayal of Adam Levine, down to the soft voice, tattooed forearms and pursed lips. But Pharaoh’s Usher made me laugh out loud. “What are your dreams, baby?” he asked McCarthy’s hillbilly contestant, propping his legs up on his Starship Enterprise chair. Kate McKinnon’s Shakira was alright, if essentially just unintelligible, while Jason Sudeikis’ Blake Shelton wasn’t the world’s best impersonation, though he did share some of my favorite lines with the hopeful (that might be too strong a word for what McCarthy was) contestant. “What’s your father do?” Sudeikis asked kindly. “He’s an alcoholic,” McCarthy answered.
Can I take a moment to single out the beautiful still of McCarthy posing as though for a Harlequin romance novel cover? One, that was genius. And two, where can I buy the poster? Next up was probably one of the more bizarre skits I’ve ever witnessed on SNL: McCarthy played an entrant in a honey-baked ham contest that put on quite the show for the judges. At first, I thought it would just be her and Sudeikis’ presenter trading words, but then Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan came out in matching pig suits and McCarthy busted out club jam about, well, ham. It was so utterly strange (and perhaps potentially traumatizing on some level), but watching Killam and Moynihan try to keep a straight face in their pig costumes sold me on it. That’s the funny thing about SNL: It’s the sketches that put the actors in situations where they’ll break that end up being the best. Tragically, this sketch is not online.
The honey-baked ham-off was followed by a fake commercial for the Bathroom Businessman. Did you know the average American wastes 15 minutes a day in bathroom? That’s a quarter of an hour that could jeopardize the foundations of your very career. Have no fear, though! The Bathroom Businessman is here. It’s an easy-to-assemble office that can be installed right in your bathroom (just make sure you thread the fax modem to the nearest telephone line and don’t forget to update your network’s software). By the time you’re done, you’ll be ready to go without the fear of missing anything — except for maybe the toilet. What saved this from being just one of SNL‘s standard fake commercials was its Sixth Sense-worthy (not really) twist at the end, which I won’t spoil for you here.
Next was Phoenix, performing “Entertainment” (or so says the video — as much as I like Phoenix, I cannot tell any of their songs apart) with the Weekend Update on their heels. This was where the show started to sour for me. Vanessa Bayer’s appearance as Jacob the Bar Mitzvah boy went on endlessly with no laughs (though it did give me the urge to listen to the Plagues song from The Prince of Egypt; here, I will share the gloriousness of Ralph Fiennes singing with you too). Thompson’s Charles Barkley stopped by to lament his gambling debts and got in a good line (“People thought it was bad that I do all those Weight Watchers commercials, wait ’til they see Charles Barkley for Tampax.”), but the only real standout was Tyrion Lannister’s surprise cameo. That’s right, Peter Dinklage himself dropped by as Peter Drunklage, Drunk Uncle’s brother-in-law. I don’t know about you, but I could listen to Dinklage sing “I Want to Know What Love Is” forever. Peter Dinklage for host, y’all!
McCarthy starred in the next sketch as a Vanna White-esque substitute for SNL‘s Wheel of Fortune rip-off Million Dollar Wheel. The gist of this skit was that McCarthy’s character was a bit (okay, a lot) of an idiot, incapable of revealing the correct letters on the board. Again, it was a great showcase of her physical comedy, but the sketch felt underwhelming as a whole.
Thankfully it was followed up by another McCarthy sketch (she was everywhere last night, wasn’t she?), this time with the actress playing a woman asking for a loan to operate her own pizza-eating business. Got leftover pizza you don’t want to throw out? McCarthy’s your gal. (Where can I get in this business?!) Sudeikis’ loan officer tried to convince her that surely there was something else she could do professionally, but McCarthy spouted patented wisdom courtesy of the title of Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow (she hadn’t read the actual book): “I legitimately love eating pizza.” Indeed.
Phoenix followed with their second performance of the night, a combination of “Trying to Be Cool” and “Drakkar Noir,” and then the evening closed out with “The Art of the Encounter,” an educational video on dating the ’90s. Complete with Working Girl hair, McKinnon and Cecily Strong counseled viewers on how to interact with men (safe topics: sports scores, blazers, travel mugs, and personal health scares). Makes you almost appreciate OkCupid (but only almost).
What were your thoughts on last night’s SNL? Did Melissa McCarthy nail it? Should Peter Dinklage return as host (or perhaps Dennis Rodman)? Are you incredibly hungry for bread, ham, and pizza? (I am!)