By Hillary Busis
Updated August 04, 2017 at 04:41 PM EDT

Django Unchained

  • Movie

In the era of Jamie Foxx, Serious Movie Star, it’s easy to forget that the Oscar winner got his start as a comedian. But Foxx proved last night that he’s still got the comedy bug, preening and mugging like the ex-In Living Color cast member he is — and while his overly confident persona may have seemed grating to some, a host who tries too hard is always preferable to a host who doesn’t try hard enough. (Just compare Daniel Craig to Lindsay Lohan, and you’ll see what I mean.)

The night kicked off with a politically-charged cold open, the only sketch of the night that didn’t feature Foxx. It was pretty standard stuff, with Jay Pharoah’s Obama acting like a sympathetic schoolteacher and Bill Hader’s John Boehner filling the role of miserable, bullied student. (Apparently, the Republicans have been putting rubber snakes in the Speaker’s desk and inviting him to nonexistent pizza parties to punish him for the fiscal cliff negotiations.) While the sketch drove home how much sharper The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are when it comes to fiscal cliff comedy, Hader’s Boehner face — he looked like a disgruntled caveman — made the whole thing worthwhile.

The cold open led into a night of racially-charged comedy, beginning with Foxx’s monologue — a mashup of ’90s-style standup (“How black is that?!”) and, of course, singing. At least 2 Chainz randomly appeared to liven things up, though I wish he’d brought a big booty ho along with him. The night’s first sketch — and first game show parody — cast Foxx as the contemptuous host of a series called Bitch, What’s the Answer? Taran Killam, Nasim Pedrad, and Bobby Moynihan in a truly great Christmas sweater played the genial, mostly white (Pedrad’s Iranian) contestants tasked with answering Foxx’s impossible questions. Bitch had a few high points — Foxx specifying that Pedrad was a “lady bitch;” “Where Jupiter?” — but it mostly served to prove that using “bitch” as comic punctuation has really run its course. Bitch.

When Kristen Wiig left SNL at the end of last season, most of the show’s established recurring sketches went with her. One exception: “J-Pop America Fun Time Now,” the fake TV show starring Killam and Vanessa Bayer as two Japan-obsessed American college students. It’s been long enough since the sketch last appeared for Bayer’s anime eyes, Killam’s wig, and the pair’s cultural insensitivity — putting a “traditional ninja star” on top of their Ja-Kwanza bonsai tree — to be amusing again. Foxx was also pretty good as a smooth karate master who looked like the villain from The Last Dragon.

But he was even better in the pre-taped bit that followed, a trailer for Tyler Perry’s next Alex Cross film: Tyler Perry’s Alex Cross 2: Madea, Special Ops. It’s the first buddy cop movie to star just one actor! Foxx revealed that he can do a pitch-perfect Madea voice while running around in an outfit that was half sober suit, half house dress — not to mention half a wig and half a pair of glasses. You don’t have to know anything about Tyler Perry’s movies to get a few laughs out of this clip:

SNL newbie Ne-Yo made a pretty good showing with his performances of “Let Me Love You” and “She Is.” I preferred the former, mostly because of those jerky toy soldier dancers and the singer’s fascinating half-jort, half-leather pants — though its pandering, faux-chivalrous lyrics (“Girl, let me love you / And I will love you / Until you learn to love yourself”) make that song the R&B dance-pop answer to One Direction. Why is contemporary pop so obsessed with female insecurity?

“Weekend Update” missed with Aidy Bryant’s horny Mrs. Claus and hit with Foxx’s indignant, anthropomorphized Ding Dong, a victim of Hostess’s bankruptcy. Half the joke here was how funny Foxx looked in his goofy Ding Dong costume, complete with giant white Mickey Mouse gloves and another silly mustache (though this one was made of frosting). Watching Foxx try valiantly not to break — then eventually fail — was another highlight.

Everyone knows that Dylan McDermott and Dermot Mulroney are often confused for one another. Hell, in 2009, the actors released a joint statement claiming that they were joining forces to become one man named Dermot McDermott. So SNL‘s Dylan McDermott or Dermot Mulroney? game show felt at least five years too late, and the racial element — Pharoah, Kenan Thompson, and Foxx played the show’s bewildered contestants — felt pretty beside the point. Still, there were a few funny lines here, particularly Foxx’s final Jeopardy guess: “Derbel McDillet.” And kudos to Dermot Mulroney — er, Dylan McDermott — er, Dylmot Derroney — for being a good enough sport to do a cameo.

The show’s last three sketches were a very mixed bag. “Marcus Banks, Tree Pimp” wasn’t funny enough to make up for how tasteless it was; “Maine Justice” wasn’t funny enough to make up for how weird and loud it was. (Pro tip: If the sketch includes a character who keeps asking what’s going on, chances are it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. “Maine” gets a few bonus points for that cameo from Foxx’s Horrible Bosses co-star Charlie Day, though.) But the episode-ending Swarovski Crystals “commercial” was one of the night’s highlights, thanks to Cecily Strong’s winningly blank stare and a bevy of absurd non sequiturs (“My soup ain’t complaining.”) I could have done without all those references to the characters’ porn careers, though; the sketch would have been funnier if it hadn’t relied on shock value in the end.

That’s all, folks! Did Foxx live up to his potential, or do you think he should stick to Oscar bait from now on?

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Read more:

Jamie Foxx gets into holiday hijinks in ‘SNL’ promos — VIDEO

Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes): Inside Kristen Wiig’s enchanting last dance on ‘SNL’

A plea for ‘Saturday Night Live’ and Jamie Foxx: No more musical monologues!

Episode Recaps

Django Unchained

  • Movie
  • R
  • 165 minutes