By Ken Tucker
Updated January 09, 2011 at 01:20 PM EST

Saturday Night Live

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  • TV Show
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The first Saturday Night Live of the new year was delayed on the East Coast by NFL football. “How ’bout those Jets, New York?” asked host Jim Carrey, as the show started 15 minutes late. Carrey’s opening moments, which included a nice riff on this being “the first show of the last year of our existence” plus his marriage proposal to a good-sport but already-hitched woman in the audience, had every bit of the “positive energy” that Carrey claimed to — and did — radiate.

The pace slowed immediately, however, when SNL ran a repeat hair-transplant fake-commercial, and then took an unavoidable but lengthy midnight commercial-block break.

Fortunately, the night’s first sketch was a Black Swan parody in which Carrey played a very naughty black tutu-ed ballerina. Tapping into the delirious, over-the-top sexuality of the film, Carrey managed to both imitate the titular bird and send up the affectations of a primo prima ballerina.

Whether playing one of three guests in a talk-show spoof or helping Kenan Thompson do one of the latter’s Grady Wilson sex-tip commercials, Carrey totally committed to the shortest of lines, or the quickest reaction shot. His team-player ethos probably reminded a lot of viewers of his days as part of the In Living Color ensemble.

So it was with one of the night’s funniest faux advertisements, one for a Time-Life edition of The Worst of Soul Train. It included Jay Pharoah doing a spot-on Cameo/”Word Up,” Jason Sukeikis as Ocean Billy singing “Get Out Of My Car, Get Into My Trunk,” and Carrey offering a finely tuned variation on El DeBarge.

I’m sure there were a lot of viewers rolling their eyes during a Carrey-centric sketch in which he played a “psychic medium” who did celebrity impressions. The premise was like something left over from an old 1960s variety show, but I loved Carrey’s old-school pluck, as he raced through impersonations that included Jimmy Stewart, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Alan Thicke (as Jason Sudeikis’ character crowed, “Nobody does a Thicke!”).

As I predicted, SNL included some John Boehner-cries-too-much jokes; Bill Hader, in heavy make-up, did the sobbing during “Weekend Update.” I felt badly for the invariably excellent Hader, stuck having to sob for far too long for too few laughs — a waste of his time.

SNL‘s designated late-in-the-show oddball sketch was a downbeat gamble that paid off: Carry, Fred Armisen, and Kristen Wiig as A Taste Of New York, a band playing despairing music for a hotel audience of baffled, irritated midtown-Manhattan tourists.

Overall, SNL made good use of Carrey, knowing that here was a host who was up for anything that called for loopy physicality. Few others performers would have been able to help the show pull off the strange, elaborate amusement-park-ride skit that included Carrey and Taran Killam as unnerving mechanical men.

Musical guest the Black Keys gave two mighty performances, the best one being a terse “Tighten Up.”

Oh, and a small but lusty boo to whoever wrote the cold-open that had Fred Armisen as New York mayor Michael Bloomberg blaming slow snow removal on lazy union workers. You go out and shovel snow for a while, SNL.

What did you think of Jim Carrey and SNL?

Twitter: @kentucker

P.S. Check out the latest EW TV Insiders Podcast as Dalton Ross, Mandi Bierly, Adam B. Vary, and I tackle subjects ranging from The Bachelor (thank goodness Mandi watches that) to Adam’s exclusive scoop on the new American Idol judges panel to what mid-season TV shows are worth watching (that’s where I come in). You can hear it right here.

Episode Recaps

Saturday Night Live

The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.

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  • TV Show
seasons
  • 45
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  • Saturdays at 11:30 PM
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