That headline isn’t meant to be a knock on Andrew Garfield, who was nimble and vibrant as Peter Parker (post-spider bite, of course) in his SNL hosting debut. His face sported a gigantic, adorable grin for about 75 percent of last night’s 90-minute show; he easily and smoothly transitioned between British and American accents, even multiple times in the same sketch; he showed a real knack for flustered buffoonery, almost saving an iffy wedding toast sketch by sheer force of personality alone. (Key word there: almost.)
Garfield was good enough that it’s puzzling the show didn’t give him more to do. As amusing as it was, his opening monologue — predictably crashed by his Amazing Spider-Man 2 co-star/girlfriend Emma Stone, who couldn’t help giving a bunch of undermining advice — didn’t exactly scream “vote of confidence.” And though Garfield was front and center several times throughout the night, he only got a few chances to really let loose. But wouldn’t you know it — the first one of those chances just happened to be the night’s…
Sometimes, bits that exist only to accommodate a bunch of celebrity impressions come off as lazy. When the impressions happen to be great, though, these sketches can be pretty delightful — and that was the case with last night’s first post-monologue scene. SNL‘s take on Celebrity Family Feud pitted American musicians against a team of international stars, giving us ace impersonations like Jay Pharoah’s smug Drake, Aidy Bryant’s boisterous Adele, Kate McKinnon’s incomprehensible Shakira (who’s pretty much the same as her Penelope Cruz, but whatever), and Andrew Garfield’s own Justin Timberlake, played as an unholy mixture of Zac Efron, Robin Thicke, and McKinnon’s own Justin Bieber impression. Wait — even JT’s pals at SNL think the former ‘N Sync frontman is an attention hog? Will wonders never cease!
The only proper sketch to feature Stone had a great, weird premise — real-life couple Emma and Andrew have no idea how normal people kiss — and tons of awesome physical comedy. Too bad it ended up devolving into a tired gay panic joke. Sigh; maybe we can just pretend the sketch ended before Chris Martin showed up. And either way, we’ll always have the gifs. (Theory: This sketch was created solely as gif fodder.)
One word: “Stanx.” So dumb I can barely bring myself to post video, but if you’ve been hankering for a 90-second fart joke with zero payoff, have at it (ya weirdo):
Emma Stone wasn’t the only celebrity to turn up last night. A pre-taped sketch about the dangers of not appreciating Beyoncé also featured a brief drop-in by Kiefer Sutherland and Mary Lynn Rajskub, the stars of 24: Live Another Day. Beware, kids: Even Jack Bauer isn’t safe to declare Rihanna better than Bey. The video itself is a funny, well-executed idea, though it left me with one burning question — how do you do a whole sketch about Beyoncé without ever featuring Sasheer Zamata as Queen B herself? Beyoncé is one of her things!
The “Oh Yeah, This Is a Live Show” Award
Kudos to Taran Killam for not breaking character during a major verbal slip-up. In a bit about Broadway theater, Killam — as caustic critic Jebidiah Atkinson — accidentally said “Tommy” instead of “Tony.” For a brief, horrible second, he froze… then ad-libbed that he’s got “big beef with Tommy” before plowing forward. (Too bad neither he nor Cecily Strong thought to make a Who joke.) I’d include video, but I don’t want to overload you with Weekend Update stuff, and there’s another Update talking head we must discuss:
The Big Debut Award
Don’t remember seeing comedian Leslie Jones on SNL before? That’s because you haven’t: While she’s one of the women the show hired during its push to include more black female voices earlier this year, Jones was brought on as a writer, not a performer. After her blistering first Update appearance, though, that could change next season. Jones’s aggressive, racially-tinged humor is definitely polarizing — but it’s tough to deny that she has a great, unique energy and stage presence to spare. (Poor Colin Jost looks wan and a little frightened by comparison.) Giving Jones a chance to perform three minutes of fairly edgy standup shows that after finally hiring more black women, SNL is ready to take the next step: acknowledging that those black women bring with them a variety of different perspectives.
Best Musical Moment
Coldplay’s performances last night were…very Coldplay. Current fans had reason to be pleased; haters won’t be moved to change their minds. The band’s starry, starry set had a vibe halfway between DIY-Etsy-Portlandia and middle school musical, so that was pretty cool, I guess. “A Sky Full of Stars” is bouncier and more exciting than “Magic,” so let’s go with that one here:
Kenan Thompson tends to get a bad rap, perhaps because he’s never really jockeyed for the spotlight; while everyone around him is hustling for attention and screen time, he seems content and comfortable sticking to supporting roles. That quality may explain how and why Kenan is still on SNL a decade after being hired — and it could eventually lead Thompson to become SNL‘s longest-lived repertory player ever. (Thompson certainly hopes that’ll be the case; as he told me in an interview last summer, “I’m never leaving.”) The downside of this strategy, of course, is that when Thompson isn’t getting ragged on, he’s being overlooked — which is a shame, because the guy’s actually really good at what he does. That was especially apparent this week, thanks both to Thompson’s Steve Harvey (Family Feud‘s secret weapon) and especially his turn in the episode’s cold open, an otherwise uninspired riff on Donald Sterling. Watch the way Thompson wrings laughs out of a single word — “Look…” — then try to tell me he’s not funny.
– Oliver Twist. Like, what?
– Wonder which last-minute cut made way for “Bird Bible,” of all things, to be rerun?
– This week in Kate McKinnon awesomeness: A repeat appearance from Olya Povlatsky, the Eastern European women who’s basically Blerta but funny enough for that not to matter. “Ladies leave your man at home/The club is full of wolves, and it’s very dangerous.”
– Psst, Colin: See how well the audience reacted when you injected some personality into that cheerleading joke? Just keep doing that, and you’ll be fine.
– Totally confused by that brief commercial showing Garfield in a wig and a dress? This should help. (TL;DR version: It’s for a new Arcade Fire video.)
– “Everyone knows that ‘Canada’s just French for ‘Chicago.'”
– The John Milhiser Report: It’s not looking good, folks.