If you happened to tune in to SNL after Jonah Hill’s monologue, you probably thought it was an uneven mix of sketches with a laugh here and there. If you viewed the show in its entirety like I did, your ride started off with a BANG and slowly lost steam as the episode went along, but not without hitting a few other highs (and lows) along the way. Hill was returning for his third time in the host’s seat (or the Benihana seat), a strong addition to his Actor’s Stat Card, which also now reads, “two-time Academy Award nominee.” The host could hardly mention as much in his monologue before the anticipation started to build: It really seems like they’re building up to a Leo cameo right now. But there’s no way he’ll stop by, right? Are they…? Is he…? And then, there he was in all of his bronzed boyish charm, Leonardo DiCaprio. I gasped.
Plenty of people were speculating if Hill’s Wolf of Wall Street costar would show up to help Jonah out, but as Hillary Busis said in her SNL predictions, it was an exciting, but highly unlikely prospect. Until it happened. And then it was more than just an unexpected A-list celebrity cameo, it was a Saturday Night Live moment. Of course, the last time Hill hosted saw a surprise appearance from Tom Hanks during the monologue. The difference between this and that is whereas Tom Hanks has made his way to Studio 8H eight times over the years in the hosting role alone, this was notably Leo’s first visit, not to mention, Hanks didn’t reenact a romantic scene from Forrest Gump onstage with Hill when he stopped by.
Newly minted “comedic actor,” Leonardo DiCaprio, showing up to pal around in the first few minutes of the show went a long way in making Hill seem more likable and down to earth than he’s sometimes come across since his foray into the more dramatic side of acting, getting me nice and excited for the rest of the show. But it also set the bar so high right from the start that it cast a bit of a shadow over the rest of the mostly one-joke sketches that nothing else could quite live up to, though a few sure gave it the old penny stock try.
Can’t a guy just talk about being an Oscar-nominated actor without being asked about Leo DiCaprio by Brad Pitt (Taran Killam)? And can’t a guy just get through his third SNL monologue talking smack about Leo DiCaprio without the very man, looking like the damn Philosophy professor of your dreams in his elbow-padded blazer, sauntering on stage to steal his spotlight? “Oh god, no!” What could have just been an exciting monologue cameo turned epically gifset-worthy when Hill asked DiCaprio to do “the thing we always did every day, the thing that made me feel safe.” And then DiCaprio took him by the waist, nestled his goateed chin into Hill’s shoulder and reenacted the “I’m flying” scene from Titanic. I’m sure no one was more delighted than Kate Winslet.
Seth’s penultimate episode was a classic showing from “Weekend Update.” Rather than bust out Kate McKinnon’s killer Justin Bieber impression from last week’s Cold Open again, Cecily brought out Bieber’s arresting Miami police officer (Kenan Thompson), who could not be more delighted to have been “barked at by a puppy who smelled like Smirnoff Ice” when he pulled Bieber over, rather than the typical Miami clientele he’s used to: “they’ve usually got a tiger in the back seat and an alligator in the trunk to guard the cocaine.” Cecily stacked on her character-breaking drunk Scottish fish impression – “YOU DON’T KNOW MEH” – and Seth brought out one of Kate McKinnon’s best Eastern European characters (of many), Olya Plovatsky, president of Russia’s hater brigade: “I mean, how could the Olympics pick Russia? What was the other options, Haiti or middle of ocean?”
The first and second blows from the puppet horse got me a little, sure, but the premise of Sweetland Ranch was a little simple to carry a whole sketch, and Hill seemed to struggle most with the cue card reading here.
Best Parody/Non-Leo Celebrity Cameo
Hill’s childlike voice and best Michael Cera impression lent itself well to “me,” a parody of her (not capitalized – who knew?). And then, of course, the “Cera-gate” himself showed up and things got “super weird.” Like, high-waisted weird.
Most Welcome Recurring 12:55 Sketch
Something about those two ex-porn stars just never gets old for me. The well of sexual innuendo jokes is deep, sure, but the SNL writing staff seems to have a particular proclivity for turning a phrase in that specific department. And Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong are so specific in their ticks and cadence, their not-porn-stars-anymore characters seem more developed than half of those on network TV. They put the hard sell on “Lambortinis,” but I really can’t print any of the best selling points here. Okay, just one: “What are those things you press with your feet?” “Testicles.”
Most Recurring 6-Year-Old
You may know Adam Grossman from his “almost constant fruit punch mustache,” as well as his Benihana skit from Jonah Hill’s last two hosting turns. He’s a love-him-or-hate-him type of character, but SNL must love him, because he led in the post-monologue spot, with Vanessa Bayer stepping up in place of Bill Hader, as Adam’s stepmother, Debbie. The jokes were hit or miss, but I will always, always appreciate a Shel Silverstein pun.
Most WTF Moment
Last night’s episode was kind of made of WTF moments, what with the Good-Neighbor-does-SNL short, Inside SoCal and the Couples-Quiz-that-was-actually-just-about-poop-skit, but The Hit probably takes the “the writers may have been on quaaludes” cake. Kenan Thomson’s Carole-King-loving gangster’s childlike wonder at the falling snow was actually pretty sweet. The, uh, gang violence at the end kind of took me out though.
Best Musical Moment
Let the cool kids weep; now that America knows who sings “Pompeii,” the Brits won’t stay a semi-secret for long. Bastille gave charming and confident performances on both upbeat “Pompeii” and ballad, “Oblivion,” but I particularly enjoyed watching the evolution of the lead singer’s hair from “delicious breakfast pastry” to “Flock of Seagulls Jr.” in the first performance. Apparently that was a pretty tame up-do for him, anyway.
Cast MVP: It was a big night for both Kenan Thompson and Kate McKinnon, but let’s give it up for Cecily Strong coming into her own on “Weekend Update” in a way that says she can handle steering the ship after Seth’s departure next week, and with a new right hand man in Colin Jost.
– Jay Pharoah scoot-skating straight through three orange cones with an assist from his little cousin to help him off the ice in the Cold Open = GPOY.
– On Bieber’s father: “He’s what you’d get if Ed Hardy released a line of people.”
– Miami: “The only city in America where the NBA players are the best behaved people.”
– Hill’s facial acting in the Dinner with the Boss sketch was pretty impressive. Those eyes…so twitchy.
– I really just wanted the closing credits to go on and on so I could watch who had the nerve to immediately go chat up DiCaprio – I see you, Vanessa Bayer!
– Next week: An almost sure thing in Melissa McCarthy.