Russell Brand can be so funny and charming on talk shows, quick with ad-libs and witty enthusiasm; he seems so sweet when he’s with his wife, Katy Perry. Consider that a niceness disclaimer for what follows. Hoo boy, was this a pretty bad week for Saturday Night Live.

Coming off a mirthless cold-open that parodied Bill O’Reilly’s interview with President Obama (did you hear? O’Reilly interrupted the President a lot), Brand emerged to deliver a high-energy, low-amusement opening monologue about how tight his pants are and how ordinary married life is even when you’re married to Katy Perry. He concluded, 90 minutes later, without Perry but with a cut finger (“I bled for you!” he crowed).

Playing an ordinary American joe who’d won a six-week vacation from a Travel Channel host (Kristen Wiig), Brand managed an American accent to deliver dialogue that would have required a private detective to locate any punchlines. The enterprise hinged on Wiig being maniacally enthusiastic; it was a mediocre SNL retread.

There was a lengthy sketch about a verbally abuse British king (Brand) who used a “royal taster” to sample his food before he ate it. The usually under-used Taran Killam was, thank goodness, all over the place this night. He was good ‘n’ silly as the taster, and Bill Hader equally over-the-top to just the right degree as the chef who hated the king. But the bellowing and the slapstick became tiresome, and it all built to a meaningless voice-over tag-line — “This has been The King’s Speech. Now you can say you saw it!”

Straining for more Brit-inflected material that could accommodate Brand, there was “A Spot of Tea,” with Brand, Hader, and Andy Samberg all in drag, using falsetto voices stolen from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, screeching to poor effect. I won’t mention Brand spreading his legs in the vain hope of a desperation-laugh.

Okay, so what was the good stuff? Well, thank goodness for Hader’s Stefon, the pervy New York nightlife expert. Offering Valentine’s Day tips that included a club called Booooooooof (“that’s with nine ‘O’s”) and celebrating “Jewpids — Jewish cupids,” Stefon’s recommendations were excellent as always.

You could hear the studio audience yelp with surprised delight at Killam’s ferocious Eminem impersonation during “Weekend Update,” accompanying Jay Pharoah’s Lil Wayne on an obscene Valentine’s Day song.

There was also a funny ad for a British crime film in which everyone spoke with very thick accents. The voice-over cited the parody’s inspirations — Sexy Beast and the Red Riding trilogy — so all we had to do was sit back and admire Bill Hader’s fine, unintelligible-yet-impeccable dialect.

That was it for the material that made me laugh. Maybe you liked the commercial for the lawyer who represents people injured at Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, or Brand as a violent George Washington?

(As for singer Chris Brown — my, he dances energetically, doesn’t he?)

What did you think of Brand and SNL this week?

Twitter: @kentucker

Episode Recaps

Bowen Yang
Saturday Night Live

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

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  • Saturdays at 11:30 PM
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