If you had told me a week ago that not only was Charles Barkley hosting Saturday Night Live (Huh? He must have a new EA Sports videogame commercial to promote!), but that he would deliver far-and-away the best episode of the season, I would have told you to STOP PLAYING SILLY MAKE BELIEVE. But it is true! This week’s SNL was so good. Even the opening sketch and the monologue were funny, and the opening sketch and monologue haven’t been funny all year!

It didn’t have anything to do with Barkley’s performance, of course. The man bulldozed his way through the episode like a borderline-illiterate Shrek with no affect. And yet, it had everything to do with him. Because Charles Barkley is just another word for “nothing left to lose.” And since the audience has no real expectations from Charles Barkley as a performer, it allowed the rest of the cast to carry the show. Not in the way they had to carry it with January Jones, where everyone struggled to drag her (beautiful) dead weight to the finish line. They carried it in the way that a group of professional comedians who are having fun doing their jobs carry something: on their shoulders! Like champions! And it’s not as if a bulldozing borderline-illiterate Shrek with no affect and nothing left to lose isn’t funny in his own way.

By now, the Reel Quotes sketch is already a classic. “I see two people, you and Rebecca.” Classic! There has been some criticism of this sketch on-line, but a) if it ain’t broke, don’t stop doing funny variations on it, and b) burn the past. But seriously, you can already see this sketch placed dutifully in its proper place in some future TV Land hover-montage of outdated but still funny moments. 2040 takes a look back at the way we used to be.

And this week’s MacGruber arc was maybe the best MacGruber arc ever? And now I think the MacGruber movie is going to be as good as everyone has been saying it is going to be? As long as the movie is about MacGruber being a huge racist.

Admittedly, the Digital Short with Alicia Keys did not quite manage the heights of the Digital Short with Rihanna, but it is still really good, duh, and those guys always manage to slip in a really funny surprise curveball. Those guys! It’s weird that no one likes the Lonely Island guys or ever talks about how funny they are.

Even the scared straight sketch was just killing it. Killing it!

But I mean, those are all just highlights. I didn’t even mention Weekend Update’s timely and incredible American Treasure jokes or always excellent James Carville impersonation. I genuinely recommend watching the full episode if you have the time. Taken as a whole, it is a reminder of why we still watch/talk about/love this show still. 2010.

Charles Barkley, you guys! Who knew?

UPDATE: Europe! Canada! Try this! http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/

Comments (51)
  1. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • I think you might want to just stick with your Leno…

    • This is just Worst-Comment-of-the-Week-bait. I WON’T GIVE HIM THE SATISFACTION OF MY DOWNVOTE.

      But I reeeeeeeeeally want to.

      • 1. i’m female.
        2. it really was not intended as bait! i mean it! :)

        • I thought as the page was loading my comment, “You know, what if…”. No offense intended, the way the downvoting was happening, I thought it was intentional. At any rate, we can discuss the finer points of our arguments over tea sometime, yes?

    • I agree so much. I don’t understand why yall find this enjoyable. Like, watching it, I can see why it could be funny in the abstract “Oh, haha. She gives ridiculous answers on a game show.” But really, it’s just lukewarm chuckle-worthy.

      • I think you maybe need to be of a certain age and have previously grown up with SNL to understand why we still think it’s important in our lives and why we still see the good in it? Maybe? I’m not Professor SNL, but that is just my theory.

        • What’s weird is that, other than this, my sense of humor is pretty similar to other monsters [duh, that's why we're here! Pretty much.] Like, we all laugh at grape ladies falling and Bangs, etc. But there’s a disconnect when it comes to SNL. Like, how is that funny? I though we found the same things funny?

    • Thank you. This is the only thing I don’t like about Video Gum. Really! When I see this post and all of the comments every week it makes me feel like I’m living in an episode of The Twilight Zone in an alternate universe where the same people who love 30 Rock also watch SNL and I feel like the crazy one for hating it.

    • I actually agree with you completely. I actually don’t watch much TV and when I do I don’t watch SNL. Because its terrible. In an hour and a half there are maybe 10 good minutes. And those good minutes are really not “good”, just OK minutes that only seem good when placed next to all those terrible minutes. I love reading about all the nightmare minutes because Gabe is a funny person. I don’t actually watch them. I don’t watch Leno either. And I never watched Seinfield. Conan is a genius though.

  2. sketches were great, weekend update (particularly the Paterson bit) was great as always…but perhaps more importantly, how awesome was Alicia Keys? hope i’m not getting too Stereogum with this one but she was incredible.

  3. I was glad the Sexy Girl sketch was back, but I still think the first one with John Malkovich was better.

  4. Holy bananas, are we not talking about the RENAISSANCE that was Thomas Peepers Insurance?! The commercial parody is back!

  5. That AV Club article you disagree with name drops Videogum’s Twitter. I think we know what that means. AV Club))<>((Videogum.

    • In the article, Gabe says that Nathan Rabin (whom I love deeply, along with Gabe) was critical of the Reel Quotes sketch? But when you read the AVClub link, clearly Rabin liked it as much as Gabe? I don’t mean to speak truth to Big Gabe, but: HUH?

      Although I am very glad to see my two favorite worlds are finally been had colliding all over the internets.

  6. I was actually super excited to see that Charles Barkley was going to be hosting SNL. He’s the main reason I enjoy watching the NBA on TNT. He is constantly funny. Plus he had been on NBC during the football games all day talking about how he was going to be on SNL and it was no biggie because there were no expectations of him to be good in any way. And he wasn’t, but it was still so funny. Though nothing will ever quite be as funny as this NBA/SNL moment:

    #jocktalk

  7. Charles Barkley is awesome on TNT’s pre game shows. The team he has with Kenny Smith (and occasionally Chris Webber) is great – good rapport, and they are allowed a lot of leeway to joke around by under rated straight man Ernie Johnson.

    The best part, of course-Sir Charles always seems 5 seconds away from completely astounding himself (and everyone else).

  8. “I am not a role model.” – Sir Charles”The Round Mound of Rebound” Barkley
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8vh2MwXZ6o

  9. “May the Force…”

    “Equal Mass times acceleration!”

    “I’m no dummy I just don’t watch a lot of movies”

    Instant Classic!

  10. Thank you for mentioning what sketches you posted from Hulu so the Nucks know what you’re talking about! It turns out I have nothing to say about them, but I appreciate it all the same!

  11. Sir Charles of Barkley, killing it on the court and now killing it in our hearts. Well done, sir.

  12. The cold open was centered on as offensive a “greedy scheming Arab” stereotype as you could ask for. Unoriginal, and not daring in the least in the current political climate.

    Reel Quotes and Alicia Keys were great, though.

  13. I had a strange dream. Charles Barkley was in a skit where he shilled for Barkley’s Bank (as opposed to Barclays Bank, get it?), but the skit was ended abruptly by a commercial break. I need to cut out the corn dogs before bedtime.

    • YES! What happened there?!?

    • Strange that no one else mentioned that. Right when the SNL screen came on in the middle of the sketch I could hear Barkley say something along the lines of “I told you this wasn’t funny.” My friend watching it with me didn’t hear it, so I guess it was easy to miss. I figured this sketch is what he meant at the beginning when he said that some of the show was great, and the rest they were gonna do anyway.

  14. The writers of SNL were on fire this week. Not because of the actual show (though it was very funny), but because they actually managed to make me question whether Charles Barkley was reading from a script. If it wasn’t for knowing that SNL is a scripted show and thus Charles Barkley was reading from a script, I would have sworn that they just threw him into every script and let him say whatever he wanted, and that’s awesome.

    To get an idea of what I mean, here he is on the Daily Show (Barkley needs to be given his own show where he gets to talk about whatever he feels like talking about): http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-january-31-2006/charles-barkley

    • Seriously, thank god (or something) for the new writers. killin’ it. michael patrick o’brian (just scooped up from Second City) was the kissin’ abby elliot guy and also wrote the juggalo sketch. love!

    • i just watched the Reel Quotes sketch pretending that Barkley didn’t have a script. amazing.

  15. Just FYI – NBC.com does not work for Canada. I think we may have SNL on Globaltv, but I can’t be sure.

  16. Great episode! The new writers must be doing a great job! Someone already mentioned Michael Patrick O’Brien who was in a few sketches. Also Jessi Klein, John Lutz, and one of my favorite comics, Hannibal Buress were in the monologue, and the White Harlem Globetrotters pic had some MAJOR Easter Eggs for the super fanzzzz. John Mulaney, who is my absolute favorite comic right now, Ryan Perez, Simon Rich, and Bryan Tucker were the team members.
    Beyond Awesome. It’s like a game of Where’s Waldo for comedy geeks. This episode was super solid – and even if it’s not in the future (though, I predict good things for next week!), I’ve found my own ways to enjoy the show.

    • Becca!
      I just went in search of some Bill Hader as James Carville quotes, and the link I followed wound up going to your blog, where you have the snl video, the actual James Carville reacting to the snl James Caerville video, and then some actual James Carville quotes.
      Crazy!

      Here’s the quote I was looking for though-
      “It’s ridiculous, Seth. These Republicans are like a fat lady in a milkshake store. They’re grasping for straws.

    • Becca, we need to talk. Total comedy geek here. I don’t get to see SNL on Saturdays cause of work but I did hear about Hannibal and was super excited about the whole thing

  17. Thanks for trying Gabe, but the NBC site is reserved for the US too. I do appreciate the description of the clips though.

  18. In almost every sketch featuring Charles Barkley, I found myself asking, “Is he okay?”.
    Then again, 90% of my knowledge of Charles Barkley comes from Space Jam.
    “You ain’t Charles Barkley, you’re just a wannabe who looks like him.”

  19. seems like a grey area, reg…

  20. this totally won the best overall episode (within past 6 months? maybe 12? i forget)
    maybe it’s funnier when it comes more natural…
    like, maybe charles DID have a script, but he forgot all his lines?
    hahahaha

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