'SNL' recap: Chris Hemsworth and Zac Brown Band
Thor himself brought a thunderous energy to Studio 8H, even when the sketches weren't all that funny.
Chris Hemsworth is a big guy. Sure he has arms the size of Taran Killam’s torso, but he also towered over most of the Saturday Night Live cast throughout the night. But for a guy with such stature, the night’s sketches offered little opportunity for him to leave much of a mark. You know the writers had an issue making good use of the host when he was the third most interesting thing about his monologue (the first two being the third Hemsworth, Luke, showing up, and Kenan Thompson as the surprise fourth brother).
And that’s such a shame because Hemsworth has proven he can be both handsome and hilarious as Thor. Unfortunately, SNL often focused on that first attribute and forgot to highlight the second. From the American Express commercial that suggested how shockingly great it is to be Chris Hemsworth to pointing out how much more in shape he is than Killam, Hemsworth’s comedic chops often took a backseat to his looks. Thankfully, Hemsworth himself brought enough energy and enthusiasm and nailed every role; it would be great to see him come back and be given some meatier material.
But the misuse of Hemsworth didn’t make for a horrible night necessarily. Instead, it was just a largely unremarkable one, with a steady stream of average sketches before Weekend Update and a host of mediocre ones after. Many had their moments but few proved to be utterly hilarious or cringeworthy duds.
A chicken as the captain of a Star Trek-like show is amusing, but Hemsworth talking to that chicken like he’s in love with it is downright hilarious. The initial reveal of the chicken is funny enough, but the sketch hits another level when Hemsworth and the bird have a heart-to-heart. He pulls off a great little bit of improv as he asks the chicken—excuse me, Emily—to look at him and she refuses to meet his gaze.
Kate McKinnon has played Hillary Clinton before, but this week’s cold open likely solidifies her impersonation for the 2016 presidenital election (Vanessa Bayer played her after McKinnon in 2014). She’ll play her, that is, if Clinton runs, which is the main throughline of the sketch. The cold open throws every Clinton joke at the wall hoping something sticks, and for the most part they do, thanks to McKinnon’s impression. That, and for the best use of Clinton’s maiden name I’ve heard in years—”You won’t find jack Rodham squat” in her emails.
Not only did I not laugh once at The Iggy Azalea Show, but it all felt like a missed opportunity. The Iggy Azalea/Azealia Banks feud was barely mined for laughs, and there just wasn’t anything particularly memorable about McKinnon’s impression. And it may have been the episode’s most fleeting use of its host. The night had some other clunkers, most notably a soap opera sketch later in the evening, but at least that bit felt like a fully formed idea and it allowed Hemsworth to shine, whereas Iggy could have used a few more rewrites to figure out the sketch’s purpose.
Best Returnning Characters
The pornstars-who-aren’t-pornstars-anymore have made a few more appearances than they should have by this point, but this episode’s version was a strong one. From Cecily Strong blurting out “I reamed a donkey” to the name of Hemsworth’s scooter-driving hustler, there’s definitely some life left in these less-than-classy saleswomen.
Best Freudian Slip
Weekend Update felt, all around, stronger than it has been this season, but the segment’s funniest joke was an unintentional one. As Colin Jost takes over a joke from Michael Che about penis size, he trips up, replacing a 3.6 inch-statistic with “36 inches.” The flub, and Jost’s reaction to it, was actually much funnier than the intended joke itself—and more so than much of the episode.
Best Musical Moment
Zac Brown Band pulled out two strong performances during the episode, but it was their second that I’ve rewatched several times since it aired. Teaming up with Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, the band broke out their new track “Heavy Is the Head.” Funkier and showing off much more of a rock edge, “Heavy” may not end up being the band’s most mainstream hit, but it’s definitely the one worth playing with some air guitar while listening at home.
Requisite Avengers Sketch
SNL couldn’t finish the night without an Avengers ode this close to Age of Ultron, and while the sketch itself isn’t particularly funny, Hemsworth saves it. His overly excitable Thor fills the sketch with energy where the laughs are missing, and Pete Davidson sneaks in a great bit as an ashamed Bruce Banner.
Most Wasted Potential
Empire was bound to make an appearance on SNL. It’s a shame then that the show’s parody sketch is so weak, adding in a prominent white character in the form of Hemsworth’s Chip. The idea is a good one, but most of the jokes amount to plot summaries ending on a note of “Isn’t that ridiculous!?” The problem is that the audience is aware of how outrageous Empire is already—that’s so much of why they love it. And sadly, even Chip trying to make everyone sign a birthday card for Cookie can’t save the sketch.
Kate McKinnon had the most screen time out of anyone last night, but the night’s true MVP was Cecily Strong. She had fewer roles, but nailed all of them, keeping the momentum going during the Spaceship sketch, going on a hilarious tirade about Chris Hemsworth’s looks in “Brother 2 Brother,” and bringing back two favorite-if-overused characters while managing to keep them fresh.
- McKinnon had some great moments as Clinton, but her frequent eyerolls toward the ground whenever she mentioned the “uncertainty” of her running for office really sold the bit.
- The night tackled Hemsworth’s godly good looks early and often, but the funniest attempt came during an American Express commercial parody. Poor Hemsworth reveals he bounced around Hollywood for days before he was pulled off the street to play Thor.
- Taran Killam said dick and wasn’t censored during “Brother 2 Brother,” which is a far cry from the days when Dick in a Box went by the title D**k in a Box.
- Hemsworth’s monologue was surprisingly light on Chris himself, but not on the number of Hemsworths. Liam and Luke both showed up but were mostly left to stand around as Kenan Thompson took the spotlight.
- Seriously, this may have been one of, if not the best Weekend Updates of the season. Leslie Jones proved again why she should have a dedicated spot each week. Jost’s flub may have been one of his funniest moments on the show (and I mean that in the best way possible because he completely rolled with his mistake), and the successive Ben Carson jokes were fantastic. They played on an old Update stand-by, but the execution was incredible.
- The night’s best Update one-liner? The survivors of the La Guardia plane crash will be charged a $45 survival fee by Delta.