By Aly Semigran
Updated December 04, 2011 at 02:55 PM EST
NBC

Steve Buscemi‘s opening monologue during last night’s mixed bag episode of Saturday Night Live featured cast members playing actors struggling with typecast roles (“The Clumsy Best Friend in the Romantic Comedy,” “The Magical African American Character,” “The Sassy Lady Judge,” among others), who asked the Boardwalk Empire star how he broke out of his character actor stigma. While Buscemi has become a bona fide, Golden Globe-winning television star thanks to his work as Nucky on the HBO drama, SNL didn’t quite let the actor take center stage as leading man for his return as host. That’s not to say that Buscemi didn’t make the best of his second banana status or the mostly very funny episode itself. In fact, Buscemi, who really played into his persona throughout the night (at one point during the monologue he joked that he was once cast as “The Creepy Creepy Guy”) turned out to be a fine host — even though he had just one skit (at the end, no less) to really claim as his own.

Buscemi wasn’t featured in the cold open, a so-so Presidential address skit featuring Fred Armisen, who seems to be letting his Barack Obama impersonation slip more as the years go on and seemingly having way less fun with the opportunity than Will Ferrell did when he hammed it up as George W. Bush. He also didn’t appear in the funny, very old school-feeling SNL fake commercial about how to fix constipation — eat a frozen Mexican or fish or Indian dinner and rock on! But he did make an appearance during the always welcome, always pretty cool “Miley Cyrus Show.” While it was plenty amusing to see Buscemi as a sketchy hippie who Miley met at Burning Man, the skit all but belonged to Maya Rudolph, who popped in for a surprise visit as Whitney Houston. Rudolph, who has always pulled off being both a team player and a scene-stealer, returned to play her clean and sober (“since 2013!”) over-the-top Houston (“Shoop!”) who taught Cyrus some invaluable lessons. Namely, don’t take advice from Pauly Shore. (I don’t know about you, but I could honestly listen to Rudolph’s Houston saying variations of Bobby Brown’s name all day.) Watch:

There was probably more potential for the Batman Digital Short, but Buscemi played the straight man (in this case, Commissioner Gordon) well against Andy Samberg’s silly, Christian Bale rasp-y, stalker version of Batman. Jason Sudeikis’ inappropriate pose for a photo during a prostate exam (then again, it’s probably impossible to have an appropriate picture in that scenario) and a pants-less superhero shower certainly stuck out.

Still, Batman was no match for fellow crime fighting enthusiast Keith Morrison. Bill Hader finally brought back his insanely funny, overtly ridiculous impression of the Dateline correspondent. In last night’s segment, Hader’s Morrison continued to mercilessly grin as he unconvincingly tried to sound sympathetic (“Ohhhhh, that’s terrible”) and asked more asinine questions (“Was it Wilson the volleyball?” or “Kill, like a comedian at The Apollo?”) as he tried to help solve “The Mystery of the Chopped-Up Guy.” These skits are always perfection, from pointing out hilariously spot-on Dateline observations (they do use the same picture repeatedly, don’t they?) to Hader’s far-too-excited-about-murder Morrison. Buscemi and Kristen Wiig were no slouches in the night’s best sketch either, but as is so often the case, it’s all Hader’s. Ohhhh, see for yourself:

For a sketch that could have been very cringe-inducing, I have to give SNL credit for pulling off the tough feat of having a bit based off of the ongoing sex abuse scandals. It turned out to be both funny and not entirely insensitive to a very sensitive subject. Though it ran a bit too long (a problem most SNL skits tend to have), there were some solid laughs in the sketch in which Buscemi played a rightly appalled fictional basketball coach who is called out as a “potential sexual predator,” despite having no evidence to support the theory that he’s a pedophile aside from having a creepy mustache and being anti-social. Of course, Hader earned the biggest laugh as a NAMBLA member (he even wore a Members Only jacket) who rejected the clearly-innocent coach. (It’s not possible for a current cast member to host, is it?) Check it out:

READ MORE: The Black Keys rock the house, and ‘SNL’ says so long to Herman Cain

And hey, if it is possible for Hader to host, maybe it would be possible for SNL to have The Black Keys back as soon as possible, too? (Yes, yes, I know they were in the Jim Carrey episode last year, but as far as musical guests go, they are as good as it gets.) The blues-rock duo opted to play two tracks off of their latest album, the impeccable El Camino, by starting off with the groovy “Lonely Boy” and followed later in the evening with the toe-tapping “Gold on the Ceiling.” They might not be the flashiest or the most charismatic live bands out there, but they are one of the very few rock bands that are still creating a raw, classic rock sound. Come back soon, y’all.

It was inevitable that SNL would touch on the latest turn of events in the ongoing saga that is Herman Cain, so it was of no real surprise that the show dedicated almost all of Weekend Update to the presidential candidate, who announced over the weekend that he’ll be suspending his campaign. While I sincerely doubt this will be the last we see of Cain on SNL, or any other comedy programs for that matter, they certainly treated it as though they may never get to make fun of him again, with some cracks about why he really halted his presidential bid (“The White House was outside of his delivery area”) and allowing Kenan Thompson to do his impression of him. Still, it’s entirely debatable as to who made more off-the-wall statements, Thompson’s Cain or Bobby Moynihan’s drunk uncle. (“Hey baby Jesus, you wanna do pilates?”) Decide for yourself:

If SNL was bidding Cain adieu, they may want to consider doing the same for Wiig’s excitable Sue. As a fervent Wiig supporter (I will never understand all the hate towards her, especially considering that any ill will should have been forever eradicated thanks to her brilliant Bridesmaids) even I can’t get behind this recurring character. Aside from making a great gif, Wiig’s Sue is the same old schtick every time, and last night’s appearance as a nervous Playskool employee hell-bent on surprising a co-worker, was no exception. On the other hand, I’m willing to give Paul Brittain’s sex “expert” Ed Vincent another chance, despite his all-around terrible advice and equally terrible perm and mustache in the returning skit that followed.

While the latest Ed Vincent sketch wasn’t a home run (Buscemi helped with his erotic chef who pointed out the obvious with foods like hot dogs and cantaloupes), it helped pave the way for the night’s finale, the even stranger Christmas ornaments sketch with Buscemi and Wiig as a bizarre couple named Shelia and Shelia going through their collection of collectables. The final sketches are known for being off-kilter and this one was no exception. (Buscemi making a “beep boop beep” sound for a computer and pine cone ornament was gold.) It wasn’t the best sketch (Hader and Keith Morrison get bragging rights to that), but the quirky bit was certainly one of the highlights, in spite of being saved for last. If only they’d let Buscemi shine earlier, and more often. Watch the ornaments sketch here:

What did you think of last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live, PopWatchers? Would you agree that Steve Buscemi was really a quite good, if not underutilized, host? Did it feel like there were some missed opportunities? (No Boardwalk Empire parodies? Really?!) Or was the return of Vanessa Bayer’s Miley Cyrus, Bill Hader’s Keith Morrison, and Maya Rudolph’s Whitney Houston enough to keep you satisfied? What did you think of The Black Keys performances? Share in the comments section below.

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