Taylor Swift proved to be this season’s best Saturday Night Live host so far. Whether shrewdly letting her Kate Gosselin wig do most of the acting during a typically pungent parody of The View, or gleefully screeching while wearing braces in a public-service commercial satirizing texting-while-driving, Swift was always up for the challenge, seemed to be having fun, and helped the rest of the cast nail the punchlines.
Swift began the night strumming her guitar and singing “Monologue Song (La, La, La),” whose lyrics nicely dispatched the heavily anticipated Kanye West jokes, as well as invoking Swift dates Taylor Lautner and Joe Jonas.
Speaking of Lautner, a clear stand-out was the beautifully-shot Digital Short spoof of Twilight that subbed a Frankenstein-monster family for vampires and featured Swift doing an impeccable mopey-Bella:
In her day-job, Swift’s appeal relies in part on the thin vulnerability of her voice and her sensitive-songwriter lyrics. But here, Swift proved admirably resilient in a wide variety of sketch roles, whether she was required to imitate Kristen Wiig’s nervous Penelope character, or Kenan Thompson’s tough convict in a “Scared Straight” sketch that cracked up its own participants. (The host also performed two songs.)
Even the Swift-less “Weekend Update” was strong this week. Many of Seth Meyers’ jokes had a sharp snap, there was a fine Amy Poehler cameo during a “Really!?! with Seth & Amy” segment.
I always love Fred Armisen’s “Nicholas Fehn” moments on “Update.” Armisen, in a shaggy wig and Army-green jacket, toting newspapers, melds Mort Sahl, George Carlin, early Robert Klein, and his own take on any pretentious “conceptual” comedian — it’s an inspired put-on.
Swift inspired more of a female, girly-in-the-best-sense sensibility in SNL than it’s shown since the Tina Fey-Amy Poehler days. I’m thinking, for example, of a sketch such as the one in which Swift and Nasim Pedrad played delightfully devoted-to-each-other roommates, irritating a boyfriend played with fine exasperation by Andy Samberg.
This was one of the rare SNLs where even the late-in-the-evening bits were home-runs. A satire of pop singers contributing to a kid’s-movie soundtrack included dead-on impersonations of Randy Newman by Armisen, Wiig as Natalie Merchant, and Samberg as Adam Duritz.
All in all, these 90 minutes went by Swiftly and niftily.
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For more on SNL: Taylor Swift sings to Kanye West and Taylor Lautner