April 12, 2009 at 04:04 PM EDT

Playing to their strengths. That seemed to be the idea of this week’s Saturday Night Live. Lotsa familiar characters, leading off with Kristen Wiig’s Kathie Lee Gifford impersonation followed by Kristen Wiig’s mischievous-scamp “Gilly” character. (Wiig and Jason Sudeikis starred in this week’s funniest sketches. Ghost-presence Darrell Hammond showed up exactly once by my count — as, more or less, a ghost, playing an unfrozen Walt Disney.)

Other returning-characters: Bill Hader and Fred Armisen as the “new Jersey gay couple” (funnier than it was written, because these guys put such commitment into what can be a trite idea), and Sudekis and Will Forte as Jon Bovi, the Bon Jovi “opposite band.” I also laughed at Michaela Watkins’ snide movie-review blogger Angie Tempura, both because the stereotype she’s satirizing rings true and you’ve got admire the wide variety changes she can wring from the repeated phrase, “Oh, bitch, please!”

Host Zac Efron wasn’t all that funny, but he was pleasant and up for just about anything, from the inevitable High School Musical parody to getting a foot-rub from Sudeikis in the designated late-in-the-show oddball-sketch. The thing is, both of those were really well-done. The HSM sketch had Efron’s Troy coming back to high school to break it to the students that there’s no singing in college. The snippets of HSM-style songcraft were impeccable song-crap. I think there wasn’t more audience laughter for this well-written parody because it embodied an interestingly significant gap: while Efron was booked to attract a younger audience to SNL (and increase awareness of his upcoming 17 Again movie), a lot of the SNL audience simply doesn’t know the High School Musical productions. The sketch also had a nice sting throughout, and Hammond-as-Walt-Disney-as-anti-Semite was more unexpected than the inevitable cryogenics jokes.

Musical guests the Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Liked ’em a lot. Go, Karen O.

Most valuable player award this night goes to Sudeikis, who not only appeared in a majority of scenes, but as an older brother teaching younger-bro Efron the fine points of foot-massage seduction, went the extra mile in actually trying to suck Efron’s toes. That’s earning your paycheck, buddy.

Did you watch? What sketches did you like? Or not like?

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