Woody Harrelson’s turn hosting SNL was a stoner’s delight. The show was ready to jump on Harrelson’s reputation as a pot aficionado, so we got a couple of sketches about weed, one about crack, and at least one that probably made more sense if watched while high.
Harrelson seemed completely at ease on the show, turning in a variety of solid performances throughout the evening. (Apparently, he has a spot on James Taylor up his sleeve.) The episode on a whole felt steady, if not spectacular. Though no one sketch felt like an instant classic, there were a variety of chances for individual cast members to do great work. Kenan Thompson once again he proved that his supporting work is a gift to the show, and Kate McKinnon’s oddball bar dweller Sheila of the “Last Call” sketch was a highlight, as were the variety of impressions Taran Killam was allowed to pull out.
Still, the biggest winner of the night was probably marijuana, which brings me to the best sketch of the night…
In an evening full of drug-related sketches, the best was “New Marijuana Policy.” The premise? All of New York’s brownstone dwellers realize that they can go outside with 25 grams of weed without being arrested thanks to de Blasio. What follows is some beautifully choreographed euphoria that finds Harrelson with dreads and a dreadful soul patch, a Funyuns banner, and Leslie Jones screaming, “de Blasio, baby” after stepping out of hotboxed car. It’s a simple sketch, but easily the best executed of the night aside from the familiar “Last Call.” The fact that it’s not live is perhaps saying something.
Honestly, I would have put “Last Call” as the best sketch if it hadn’t been done multiple times before, especially because it was the only sketch of the night that truly made me laugh out loud as opposed to chuckle knowingly at times. Kate McKinnon is a disgusting genius, and this sketch stays fresh thanks to its commitment to making viewers uncomfortable. Does her Sheila have a pepperoni on her neck to lure men? Yes. What does she do for a living? “I re-plaster unpopular glory holes.” Bravo. This installment also included Harrelson and McKinnon making out Pushing Daisies style through a piece of cling wrap. In an episode that felt frustratingly Kate McKinnon-less, “Last Call” was a pleasant surprise.
No sketch last night felt quite as stale as “Match’d,” which relied on a familiar format to do absolutely nothing new. The premise? Horny guys on an MTV show try to impress a girl with their horniness until the host is revealed to be her dad.
Unfortunately, this does not go to Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey did not show up for any True Detective-related sketches. Instead, we got a Weekend Update segment with Taran Killam’s great McConaughey impression (more on that later). It was funny, but does not make up for the lack of flesh and blood McConaughey.
Harrelson’s monologue was based around the fact that he first hosted SNL almost exactly 25 years ago back in 1989, a year which now immediately conjures thoughts of Taylor Swift. So, Harrelson, launched into a version of Swift’s “Blank Space” based on his hazy take on the year. Sample lyric? “Then I got a blank space baby because I used to do cocaine.” Present-day Harrelson, at least the monologue version, doesn’t seem any less stoned than he would have been back then. That becomes evident as he’s joined by his Hunger Games co-stars Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, and, later, by Jennifer Lawrence herself, who Harrelson mistakes for Swift. Lawrence did her now routine “don’t make me sing” act, and then broke, turning the monologue into a veritable giggle fest among these buddies. But, you know what? It’s fine. They are charming.
Best Musical Moment
Both of Kendrick Lamar’s performances—”I” to begin, and then “Pay for It,” Jay Rock’s song featuring Lamar and Chantal Kreviazuk spoke to what an engaging performer he is, and were easily the best musical moments of the night. No offense to Harrelson, who, surprisingly after that monologue, did even more singing.
For the life of me I couldn’t tell what the two following sketches were satirizing. Everything? Nothing? “The Dudleys” was about CBS altering a boring, traditional sitcom because of Internet commenters who want it to be more diverse, and then changing it back after receiving snail mail from the conservatives who don’t know how to use the Internet. Is the sketch mocking rote CBS sitcoms? Sort of. The Internet’s political correctness? Maybe. Old CBS viewers? Probably. Who knows? The best moment came when one of the daughters in the Dudley family turned into Crazy Eyes from Orange Is the New Black and Uzo Aduba showed up to lick Woody Harrelson’s face. (Harrelson got his face licked a lot last night. It was a good night for face-licking.)
What “Football Halftime Speech” was trying to do was equally unclear. At first the sketch seems to be all about how concussion rules are ridiculous, which is an odd and seemingly dangerous stance to take. Then it’s about how without those rules football players get concussions, which make them loopy. Props to Kenan Thompson for his great, intentionally confused performance, but the sketch, once again, seemed like a total jumble of ideas.
Sketch That Made Us Go “Huh?”
What was the point “Campfire Song?” It involved Harrelson as the outcast in a group of friends; he was really enthusiastic about a song about apples. I’m tempted to think it’s covertly part of the druggy theme of the show. Read: Maybe it’s funnier if you’re high.
This was a great night for Taran Killam playing people with the initials M.M. First, he gave us a drunk Mitch McConnell in the cold open, which was a satisfying riff on the political sketch format. Then, we got the return of his Matthew McConaughey. His McConaughey lost some of the sheen this time around, partially because Harrelson was never quite sure what to do with him, and partially because Jim Carrey’s McConaughey just a couple of weeks ago was also great. Still, it was nice to see Killam get to run with impressions, and the “Young Tarts & Old Farts” riff on the Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga collaboration gave us his Barry Manilow and Sam Smith.
Runners up? Kenan Thompson, whose presence and delivery routinely elevates less-than-great sketches, and Leslie Jones who recovered from that disaster during the Chris Rock show with a solid return to Update as the relationship expert.
—I’m usually a sucker for impression-athons, but “Young Tarts & Old Farts” was somewhat underwhelming. (Maybe that’s just because I just always want to see Bill Hader do Alan Alda.) The high points? The little kid who played Blue Ivy, who was precious, and the return of Vanessa Bayer’s Miley Cyrus, who I’ve genuinely missed.
—Other impressions that felt greatly missed? Nasim Pedrad’s Kim Kardashian. She would have been welcome this week.
—The goodbyes were great. Liam Hemsworth and Leslie Jones did a bit where she patted his ass. Jennifer Lawrence seemingly didn’t realize cameras were rolling and had a conversation while Harrelson was doing his thank yous, at one point basically punching Josh Hutcherson. The Hunger Games folks did a cute little huddle. They seem like a fun group.
—The only good thing about “Match’d” was Kyle Mooney trying to say “veterans.”
—Ugh, “Last Call” is hilariously gross. “Let’s speed this mama up and take the express train to penetratia.” “As long as you don’t mind taking a detour through STDetroit.”
—This felt like a very New York-centric episode, and the best thing to come out of that was Colin Jost’s Update line about New York being Ebola free: “We’ll see about that said Times Square Elmos.”