By Aly Semigran
December 18, 2011 at 01:00 PM EST
NBC
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  • TV Show
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It’s easy to be jaded about the holidays. It’s not unlike the temptation to feel weary and blasé about Saturday Night Live. Both seemed to feel more special when we were younger, didn’t they? But you would have to be a Grinch with a heart (and funny bone) two sizes too small not to have gotten into the spirit of last night’s joyous, hilarious, and often times touching, instant classic episode of Saturday Night Live. It encompassed all the things that make the holidays — and SNL — so wonderful when done right: It reunited old friends, brought back fond memories, and made us believe there was a little bit of magic in the air.

Of course, there may be no star better suited to spread that kind of joy to Studio 8H than Jimmy Fallon, who hosted for the first time since leaving the show as a cast member. After all, the Late Night host brings a free-spirited sense of fun to everything he does. Jaded is simply not on the guy’s radar at Christmas or any other time of the year, for that matter.

Fallon’s infectious brand of merriment was felt from the minute the show started, as he and his old pal Rachel Dratch (one of many truly excellent cameos) brought back their Bah-stin lovebirds, Sully and Denise. Not much has changed with the couple since we last saw them. (Well, aside from their five kids Weezer, Chubsy, Squeezebox, Hags, and Baby Richard.) They still love No-mahr, they still keep it classy (they attempted to sneak in to their old high school and drank a bag of Franzia wine) and they still are the best Beantown has to offer. (No, you ahhhhhr!) It was a bit of a bummer — sorry, bummah — to watch the sketch through a fake VCR blur, especially when Amy Poehler showed up (wicked awesome!) and we could only see her second-most awkward boob grab on television this year through a haze. But it was still as funny and silly as it was years ago, and Fallon looked like a kid on Christmas morning when he finally got to yell “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”  Watch:

I would be lying if I said I didn’t get choked up watching Fallon’s monologue. I wasn’t always the biggest Fallon fan during his run on SNL (his scene-breaking went from charming to frustrating rather quickly) but his genuinely heartfelt excitement to be back on the show (“This place means so much to me. All I’ve ever wanted my whole life was to be on this show. It’s just a dream come true”) instantly made me forgive and forget. Of course, Jimmy being Jimmy, he had his guitar ready to break out into song. (After all, the guy knows a thing or two about kicking a show off with a killer musical number.) His rendition of “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)” was just a little different than the original, in that this one included a self-aware crack at his giggling problem, lyrics about Michael Bublé doing cocaine, and concluded with a big dance party with the current SNL cast. (Kristen Wiig, how in the world did you dance in those shoes?)

Wiig’s Kathie Lee Gifford was most certainly in the holiday spirits (the spirits part, mostly) approaching the fifth hour of The Today Show during the post-monologue sketch. While it ran a bit long (perhaps it was just keeping in the spirit of Today) it’s always amusing to watch Wiig’s over-the-top Gifford lay into Nasim Pedrad’s hapless Hota Kotb and it got even better when Fallon revived his Regis Philbin for a visit.

But none of it was any match for hilarious, spot-on imitations as the one that followed, the episode’s best sketch: Michael Bublé‘s Christmas duets album. While Wiig’s take on the perpetually psyched Taylor Swift, Taran Killam’s deeply funny imitation of Scotty McCreery, Jay Pharoah’s Kanye West proclamation of “Jesus, I’m so much better than you,” and a Christmas tree dressed up as Lady Gaga were as pitch-perfect as Bublé’s voice and comedic timing, Fallon absolutely killed it playing Sting, Justin Bieber and Russell Brand. I honestly don’t know if I’ve laughed harder at anything all season on SNL more than I did watching Fallon imitate Brand. See for yourself:

NEXT: The man in the mirror and the best Weekend Update EVER…

Following the keep-it-on-your-DVR-forever Bublé duet sketch, Fallon pulled a reverse Mick Jagger, as he found himself on the other end of the mirror facing himself. (Or, in this case, Andy Samberg.) Under any other circumstances I would have felt like doing this many celebrity imitations (Jerry Seinfeld, Barry Gibb, Kermit the Frog, and himself) instead of original characters was a bit of a cop-out to get cheap laughs, but it was simply sheer joy to watch Fallon showcase his talents. (Which also included the ability to do a gigantic spit take all over Samberg.) Still, even with that disappointing Justin Timberlake tease (aww maaaan) it was an awfully nice full-circle moment for Fallon. Watch:

The host then tap-danced all over Wiig in the Lilia skit. The always-too-eager-to-please 1920’s party-goer was up to her old tricks (“Don’t make me sing”) but it was Fallon’s “Don’t make me dance” hoofer that stole the spotlight. In fact, Fred Armisen’s one-man show sketch (“Tommy Palmese: Half Jewish, Half Italian, Completely Neurotic”) that followed probably could have used a little bit of his assistance. While it was funny in concept (especially if you’ve ever endured a dreadful off-off-Broadway show of that nature) the same couldn’t be said for the execution. Still, the critical “raves” about the show (“The whole thing just stressed me out from beginning to end”) saved it from being a total flop.

I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the entire original line-up of “I Wish It Was Christmas Today” performers on the stage together. Fallon — sandwiched between a very svelte Horatio Sanz and apparent rivals Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan (was it just me or did he look a little aggravated throughout?) —  broke for the first time all night as he and his former cast mates jammed to their brilliantly simple holiday ditty. The quartet made for the perfect opening act for Bublé’s lovely musical performances. If the charming singer crooning “Have A Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” didn’t warm your heart, then you may just have to ask for one on Dec. 25. That, and his Christmas album… and if you’ve been really good, a gift certificate to Hamm and Bublé.

Then again, if you already asked for the most awesome installment of “Weekend Update” ever (without Stefon, that is) then you got your present a little bit early. Because in addition to Jude Law (or Judy Blume, if you will) stopping by to get in the cage with Samberg and his deliriously funny Nicolas Cage impression and some Daily Show-quality zingers (“[The poverty line] is the invisible line that separates Target from Walmart”) there was a “Weekend Update” Joke-Off between Seth Meyers, Fallon, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. I’m still geeking out about this one: The former “Weekend Update” hosting duos (Fallon and Fey, and — really — Poehler and Meyers) paired up to see who could deliver the best punchline for the story about a strip club that was offering free lap dances for patrons who donated a toy for needy children. While Fey and Fallon emerged victorious in the comedy battle for their “Toys for Tatas” line (I personally would have given it to them for Tina’s “This strip club is the only place you can pick up a Barbie and a Barbie and crabs” or her “bleep-blorp” sound effect) everyone’s a winner when all four of these talented folks are in the same room together. Happiness is:

NEXT: Slow jammin’ with Beethoven and one lucky ice skating bumblebee…

The Beethoven band shout-out sketch reminded me of something that would be on Fallon’s own Late Night show (maybe, in part, because it had a similar vibe to ‘Slow Jam the News.’) The bit had more highs (Bobby Moynihan’s facial expression, calling the tuba “music’s answer to the fart,” Sanz and Kattan reappearing ) than lows (ahh, nothing says Christmas quite like a Hitler joke) but it still wasn’t the evening’s strongest outing. Neither was the War Horse parody that followed, but it still provided some legitimately hearty laughs. Is it so wrong that I now really hope the movie includes hand puppets, Jason Sudeikis narrating the plot through song, and the line “You’re not just a war horse… you’re a friend horse!”? Check it out:

I’d like to think it was no strange coincidence that they saved a winning Tim Tebow moment for last. In case you hadn’t heard, that’s sort of his thing. It’s even more fitting that they had Killam play the Jesus-loving Denver Broncos QB because just like him, all the SNL rising star does is win.

Of course, the show wasn’t truly over yet, and thank goodness for that, because one of the coolest television moments of the year happened during the credits of last night’s Saturday Night Live. Riding high off of his spectacular hosting job, Fallon, dressed inexplicably in a bumblebee costume [Update: Can’t believe I missed that reference, PopWatchers. Shameful, I admit,] hit the world famous Rockefeller Center ice skating rink with friends old and new. (Anyone else catch Amy Poehler’s hubby Will Arnett skating around in the background?!) SNL truly couldn’t have ended 2011 on a more perfect note.

Did you love Jimmy Fallon’s episode of Saturday Night Live as much as I did or was I simply swept up in all the nostalgia? Should Michael Bublé get a shot at hosting sometime? Can you believe they took off Nicolas Cage’s face off in Face/Off, either? What was your favorite sketch of the night? Least favorite? Did Fallon pull off a Tebow-like last-minute win to become the best host of 2011? Share your thoughts on the episode in the comments section below.

Read more:

Jimmy Fallon’s episode of ‘Saturday Night Live’: Talk about it here!

Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ promo: Watch

Jimmy Fallon predicts future stardom, 2011 ‘SNL’ host gig all the way from 1998

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The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.
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seasons
  • 45
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  • TV-14
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  • Saturdays at 11:30pm
Premiere
  • 10/11/75
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