Josh Brolin

The 2012 Republican Primary has been a beautiful thing for comedy writers. For months on end, it’s been providing consistent heaps of diversely fertile material. Heck, horny pizza baron Herman Cain alone could supply a year’s worth of Tonight Show monologues. So it was hardly a surprise when SNL‘s cold open went big to commemorate Rick Santorum’s effectively primary-ending concession speech.

Fittingly, the show brought back together the whole gang — Santorum, Cain, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, the indefatigable Newt Gingrich, and presumed winner Mitt Romney — to throw the primary an Irish wake. (Well, Irishish: Santorum ordered a chocolate milk from the bartender, while Romney opted for a glass of napkin.) The candidates sang revised refrains of Green Day’s “Good Riddance” and waxed nostalgic, and SNL, too, was genuinely sad to see the erratic, parody-ripe race come to an end. Fortunately, Bachmann had just the thing to cheer everyone up: Newsweek Face!

Yet there was still more face humor to be had. In his opening monologue, host Josh Brolin quickly addressed the thing that was on everyone’s mind: the thing that was on his chin. We’re told that Brolin’s goatee — which we’ll call the Brotee to avoid confusion with other goatees, or even Gotye — is contractually required to exist due to the actor’s new gig as “the official spokesman of the ’90s.” We didn’t know Ethan Hawke resigned?

Speaking of the ’90s: the upcoming Men in Black sequel was the host’s next order of business. We’d predicted/hoped that Will Smith, who’s somehow never been on the show before, would make a special cameo for the occasion. But alas, we instead settled for a sturdy impersonation courtesy of Jay Pharaoh — who, in fact, made his SNL debut as Will Smith back in 2010.

Back in February, SNL gifted us with a commercial for a Spike TV’d Downton Abbey. This time, we got an illuminating behind-the-scenes look at our latest television obsession, Game of Thrones. Taran Killam nailed it as Kit Harrington’s Jon Snow, but Andy Samberg was the star, playing the 13-year-old visionary responsible for the HBO program’s frequent bursts of porny sexposition. As with Abbey, this was one of the episode’s strongest points. And since the sketch doubled as a raunchy (albeit censored) reel of GoT‘s nudest moments, it’ll be interesting to see whether the free promotion will garner the actual show a ratings boost tonight.

Things stayed strong with the amazingly absurd “The Californians”, a SoapNet series centered on elite, yellow-haired Angelenos and their transportation-based dramas. Of course, SNL has a rich history of mangling Boston accents, but something about watching five cast members and a host basically invent their own whimsical SoCal dialects while discussing L.A.’s arcane traffic routes just tickled the Stella fan inside me.

Then came “America’s Next Top ‘Empire State of Mind’ Parody Artist,” a timely skit concerning YouTube parodies of the Jay-Z song… hosted by Weird Al. (Between this and that recent 30 Rock episode, Yankovic is having quite the comeback!) The whole thing was messy, though Jay-P’s Jay-Z was as good as ever. As for Brolin’s joke-dancing? Sorry, but I’m pretty sure joke-dancing is never funny on any level.

“Laser Cats” returned for the first(!) Digital Short of the night. To prevent it from getting stale, “LC” fanboy Steven Spielberg came in to helm the franchise’s seventh installment, giving way to memorable lines like “We’re gonna need a bigger cat ” and “E.A.T. phone house.”

Gotye was the week’s fresh-faced musical guest, and the Belgian-born Australian didn’t waste any time. He gave us what we wanted to hear, a faithful rendition of the unstoppable “Somebody That I Used to Know,” and even brought out his cohort Kimbra to seal the deal.

“Weekend Update” was a breezy one, zipping through easy targets like Pizza Hut’s hot dog-stuffed-crust pizzas, masturbating baboons, and Rick Santorum. This week’s only guests were the unsynchronized singers Garth and Kat, making me wish there were no guests at all. Meyers also riffed on North Korea’s slapstick rocket launch, while the week’s hardest news, the Trayvon Martin case, fell to the Piers Morgan Live skit. As such, the topic of George Zimmerman’s arrest mainly led to Florida jokes, Law and Order: SVU‘s Ice-T not knowing things, and Kim Kardashian’s stunt-romance with Kanye West.

The slow-motion hallway of Woodbridge High was thoroughly amusing at first but, really, wasn’t built to last longer than a minute. So, in typical SNL fashion, it lasted three. The episode’s second Digital Short allowed Samberg and Killam to goof on Gotye’s stunning bodypaint video — and make a d— joke.

Gotye looked like he had a blast filming it, but his serious face returned in time for his performance of “Eyes Wide Open.” And while Kimbra didn’t come out this round, the spirit of Sting certainly did. If things don’t work out for Gotye, at least he can always fall back on leading a Police cover band.

The night’s comedy then ended, in multiple senses, at a high school prom administered by Jay Pharoah as Principal Eddie Murphy. The inexplicable skit seemed to have been written during the preceding commercial break, but it did birth one hilarious quote: “Also, there’s an owl up in here somewhere!”

And on that strange note, Brolin took to the stage to bow out with Gotye, Kimbra, and the rest of the players — including newcomer Kate McKinnon, believe it or not. Her second show didn’t bring about any strong vehicles like last week’s Penelope Cruz shampoo commercial, and she wasn’t given much to work with in the Game of Thrones segment, but she certainly held her own in the crowded “Californians” sketch.

Brolin was underused too. Considering that the actor is commanding enough to play the dude who was our president while the dude was our president, you’d think SNL would’ve tailored a few segments around his strengths. Instead, he was a secondary or tertiary character in almost every scene. At certain points of the show, it was easy to forget he was even the host. I guess the Brotee can only do so much.

What about you, PopWatchers? Do you think Brolin got a chance to shine? What about McKinnon? And did Spielberg’s cameo make up for Will Smith’s absence? Fire away in the comments!

Men in Black III
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