Irrefutable evidence has arrived that Saturday Night Live is a capsizing shadow of its former self. The talent is strong and there are undeniable highlights and wonderful little moments, but in terms of general caliber Jim Carrey’s return to the hosting duties for the kickoff of the 2011 season proved that much of the wind has left the eternally-running sketch show’s sails – though buoyed heavily by musical guest The Black Keys’ soaring blues-demon performances.
The first time Jim Carrey hosted Saturday Night Live was in the mid-’90s, and at the peak of his powers the man provided one of the most memorable episodes of the last two decades (can anyone ever top the Ride The Snake skit? I think not). His return to the show is on the downhill coast of his superstardom, and evidenced by his more understated persona throughout the episode. Unfortunately, he was provided quite limited fertile ground with which to harvest his brand of over-the-top hilarity, and while he made the very best of the writers’ limited provisions, the underlying laziness of the production was dismally disappointing.
Cold Open – New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Fred Armisen) addressed the recent snowstorm in New York City, playing on the total paralysis the Big Apple fell into when blanketed in white while explaining that he and his team are hard at work to find answers to the tough seasonal questions like “what happens if snow touches suede.” The skit was contexted and aimed specifically at New Yorkers, but in case SNL hadn’t noticed, their audience extends beyond the five boroughs. The local-reference comedy has its place, but it’s an off-putting introduction.
Monologue – Carrey displayed a greater level of maturity in his monologue than the last time he visited, planning out “the last year before the Apocalypse” by making plans to kayak in a river of blood – with a condom on, of course. Asking an unsuspecting married woman sitting in the front row to marry him was a nice touch, reminding us of the bullet he dodged in breaking up with batshit crazy anti-vaccine ex-sex symbol Jenny McCarthy last year.
Bosley Hair Transplant Commercial – The third (or fourth? Or fifth?) repeat of the pubic hair transplant skit has officially killed its laughability. Time to put it to rest, guys.
The Black Swan – The standout skit of the night featured Carrey – reenacting Natalie Portman’s character in the Black Swan – alongside Nasim Pedrad’s White Swan. Hilarious and disturbing, the comedian’s visual comedy was in full bloom as he stuck his whole fist in his mouth and exposed his nipples to the audience.
Finding Your Power – It’s hard to watch great ideas fall by the wayside of hackie writing. Jason Sudeikis played the host of a talk show in which guests (Andy Samberg, Vanessa Bayer, Jim Carrey) recount confrontations in their lives, after which hidden cam footage shows the big moments to be nothing more than pathetic breakdowns. Moving on…
Grady Wilson’s Tantric ‘N Tasty – A recurring sketch featuring Kenan Thompson as geriatric garage-dweller Grady Wilson demonstrating various imaginatively thematic sexual positions. With the help of bohemian sex guru Lee Liscious (Carrey), Grady brought a mix of South Asian positions, which included the “Sneaky Baboon” and the “Slum-dog Millionaire.
Soul Train Collection – The Worst of Soul Train was a delightful mess done right, with odd performances from almost every single cast member of SNL. Big points for the Cameo ripoff, and whatever the hell Kristen Wiig was trying to be. That woman is the saving grace of the show these days.
Weekend Update – It’s become abundantly clear that Seth Myers has outlasted his expiration date as the spoof-news host, his smugly condescending delivery wearing far too thin on a segment that’s often been the leading draw for watchers. Nancy Pelosi (Kristen Wiig) and the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner (Bill Hader) had a mildly funny bit about gavel size and the orange Republican’s tendency to cry at Pelosi’s mere mention of a “little American flag” and reruns of “Touched by an Angel,” but immediately stopping at the mention of “millions without health care.” Classic.
Bobby Moynihan’s secondhand news correspondent Anthony Crispino, also made a return appearance, having heard that Brett Favre is “retarded” and that Oprah now owns a new television set. The good graces all went awry, however, with Cameron the Winged Blackbird (Andy Samberg) and Everett the Fish (Taran Killam) joining Seth to explain the mysterious sudden deaths of blackbirds and fish in the midwest. Ridiculous, nonsensical and worst of all, barely worth even a perfunctory chuckle.
Amusement Park Ride – Another show highlight arrives as Kenan Thompson and Kristen Wiig play a couple stuck on a Disneyland-style amusement park ride, in which they meet animatronic dancers (Taran Killam, Jim Carrey, Bill Hader) who are a little too real for comfort. The general creepiness intensified to outright murderous maneuvers, as Thompson realized that he would soon become one of the mechanized creepies.
Psychic Medium – Carrey played a fraudulent psychic medium, instead a retired impressionist. This allowed Carrey the opportunity to showcase some of his stellar impressions, which included Jimmy Stewart, Billie Holiday, Miss Piggy, Kermit and the Growing Pains father, Alan Thicke. 90% of the viewing audience likely has no reference for most of the impersonations, but
A Taste of New York – A very weak ten-to-one sketch that featured Kristen Wiig, Jim Carrey and Fred Armisen as a trashy, and most likely, homeless New York street corner band.
Musical Guest – The Black Keys performed “Howlin’ for You” and “Tighten Up,” both off the band’s unbelievably great 2010 album Brothers. Once again, SNL’s sound guy is the cause of great frustration, though his hackery on the levels was limited to chorus guitar fuzz overload. A forgivable offense for getting the Keys some solid TV time… though seeds have been planted for a published verbal assault on the man.
Every single sketch on this most recent episode of "Saturday Night Live" fell short in some way, and recent history will show that it wasn’t simply an off night for the sketch marathon. What’s become of recent cast additions Abby Elliott and Paul Brittain are anyone’s guess, considering they’ve been missing in action for virtually the entire season.
As hope dwindles that SNL can salvage what little good graces it has left despite a strongly talented cast, one wonders what it will take for Lorne Michaels to finally realize that he needs to replace the majority of his writing staff.
CraveOnline Rating: 6 out of 10