[Ed. Note: Jenny Nelson is a writer, student, and -- most importantly -- Videogum intern. She'll be taking us through this season of Saturday Night Live.]

Two things I learned from Bruce Willis’s harMONicOLOGUE (n, a monologue in which speaker plays harmonica) are that a) Bruce Willis plays harmonica, and b) this week was the first time he’s hosted SNL since 1989. Wow! One more year and it could’ve been the 25th anniversary. Who planned this, because you done messed up! Kidding. I’m just kidding, it’s fine. Truly JK. Anyways, although Bruce Willis is an entertaining enough comedic performer (have you seen him in The Whole Nine Yards?) [Ed. Note: AND REMEMBER WHEN HE WAS ON FRIENDS?], the material in this episode was maybe too tailored to his sensibilities and action movie tropes, seeing as how the show turned into mostly boys being boys. We get it, boys! Some of it was funny though, just also some of it wasn’t. Here we go:

The Gravity/Government Shutdown cold open was alright. Kenan was in especially good form.

The “24-hour Energy for Dating Actresses” sketch seemed like a worse version of last season’s “Xanax for Gay Summer Weddings.” Yeah, I guess actresses can be difficult, but this commercial still makes me feel bad. You guys seem unhappy, maybe you should just break up, fake commercial characters!

I liked the next one, though, in which a troop (do they call them troops?) of Navy Seals plans out a mission and Bruce Willis imagines his role as an over-the-top war movie complete with kicking down doors, dramatic dialogue, and cinematic fades to black. This is also how I imagine Bruce Willis is in real life!

Next, although I think it’s cute that aging-star-of-action-movies Bruce Willis was in a sketch called “Boy Dance Party,” I also think that it’s the 2000s and a sketch about how some guys are into dancing but they have to keep it secret from their significant others and pretend they watch sports is weirdly outdated. “No homo,” says every guy in this sketch, pretty much.

Then came Weekend Update. This episode continued to be very Kenan, with him appearing as a chaplain with some particularly ireful prayers to say about Congress. Then, featured player Brooks Wheelan stopped by to talk about his tattoo #FAILs. I sometimes think about something Amy Poehler said (about something Lorne Michaels said) which is that hosting Weekend Update changes everything because you’re saying your real name and no longer hiding behind any characters. Yet look here, Brooks Wheelan’s full name! He also talks about his home state and decisions he made as a teen, how cool that we now know so much about this new guy! If it weren’t for this context, this bit would be mostly lame, but I bet my mom would like it because she thinks tattoos represent very terrible decisions!

Then there was an Armageddon spoof, a take on a different kind of Bruce Willis movie. Whereas the Navy Seal one was funny because it put action movie star Bruce Willis in a realistic situation, this one put cat-obsessed Bobby Moynihan in an action movie. I don’t recall having seen this one of Moynihan’s recurring characters before but I have so little interest in looking it up because I really didn’t like it.

“Centauri Vodka” and Taran Killam’s overprotective son were boring and too long for sketches based on just one little visual joke, and one play on words (?), respectively. Then, to make matters worse, I watched on Hulu this week so I didn’t get to see the Lady Gaga talk show, which I know definitely had female cast members in it. INSTEAD I saw a repeat of the “E-Meth” commercial from the season premiere, which I liked the first time, but why again?

Like last week, this episode had a Good Neighbor-type sketch towards the end, this time starring Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett as a pair of atypical frat brothers explaining rules for their version of beer pong. I particularly liked the pen pal part, baseball card, and lizards. I’m still not sure how well these sketches are fitting into the rest of the show, but I like them and maybe as they keep going they’ll become a more natural part of the show!

Finally, I’ve been rooting for Katy Perry ever since I watched Part of Me this summer, but I did not like her performances very much at all, sorry!

Comments (14)
  1. I liked this one much better than last week’s episode. The cold open was a very clever bit of topical satire, something I had assumed the current writers were incapable of doing with any finesse. I MEAN it didn’t have a lot of finesse, just a little. And that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory joke may stand as my favorite joke of the season (I MEAN I hope not, but it could, just saying.)

    I feel out of step with most people I talk to or read on the Internet in regard to SNL humor. For example, I find Kenan to be maybe the best player (probably due to practice), and I have hated the music video stuff that’s happened the past two weeks, which most people seem to love.

    I used to think I liked Taren Killam, and I still think he’s capable, but mostly I now find him irritating. The “chun” sketch was the absolute worst, even worse than the barber sketch, which seemed to be a “black barbers are like this, but white barbers are like this” kind of thing and had to be saved by Jay Pharoah sacrificing himself for comedy and chugging barbicide. RIP Jay Pharoah.

  2. I bet that SNL kid got his tattoos where I got my 90s facial piercings. No, literally. It’s where all the teens and college kids went. Also, I’m really old.

  3. I liked the Centauri skit for the face John Milhiser made when his head popped out of his costume. The sketch never really progressed form there, though. That was unfortunate.

    Real talk, pen pals are great. I am with you on that train, Good Neighbros.

    • I kind of liked that sketch too. Honestly, though, where do you go after “person playing hind quarters expires in suit?” Maybe they should have had it go on longer, with everyone acting blase about the fact that Bruce Willis is dragging around a dead man in his pants while hawking stupid fashion vodka.

  4. The chaplain character was based on the REAL Senate chaplain Barry Black who really does give ‘em hell in his prayers. He prayed that congress not “shakle themselves with the chains of dysfunction.” Perfect. I’m glad the writers picked up on how great he is.

  5. I loved Boy Dance Party. I didn’t the joke was that dancing is “gay,” but that boys are terrible dancers. Bruce Willis’s moves are hysterical.

  6. Sigma Beer Pong is the only clip I watched, which was funny, but it also made me wish more frats were like this. I did read the whole post, though! Thanks Jenny!

  7. Blah. A dud of an episode, despite the cold open that I agree was pretty spot on, if not brief.

    What I thought could have been a pretty decent sketch with the Military briefing room was made painful by Bruno just mumbling and tripping over every one of his lines while clearly reading the cue cards. Ooof. The timing was so off and the entire thing was just a grind. It seemed like he just showed up for the show 10 minutes prior without a bit of rehearsal. Speak up bro! Enunciate!

    Weekend Update was still great, per usual. The Barber shop sketch was painful, and as far as I can tell Jar Pharaoh’s go to move is simply repeating or making annoying sounds before he talks. Good joke bro. Funny.

    This episode did very little for me. The monologue was pretty brutal as well, and seemed to just abruptly end, because it had nothing else left. Bring on Edward Norton and let’s move past this one.

  8. I bet those sessions guys were really stoked to get to wear those cool Romper Room animal costumes for children while playing behind Katy Perry. Probably exactly the cool rock-stardom they hoped they were signing up for.

    • I liked the jungle-theme – I thought it was fun. And I made up a fantasy that the musicians were all really happy to do whatever Katy wanted because she’s so nice to them. That’s how I made it okay for myself.

  9. Man, this season. I thought the first two episodes were really solid (we are all pretending that bizarro cheerleader/abduction fiasco didn’t happen last week, yeah?), but Bruce Willis really sucked the life out of this episode. Loved the cold open, but as soon as he took the stage it all kinda of deflated, and the cast had to keep bailing him out all the time.

    I am not sure now whether it would actually have been better (and I never thought I’d say this) to have Katy Perry sneak into a few of the sketches. She might have at least brought some crazy-eyes energy to it?

    Having said that, I laughed so hard at Cecily Strong’s deadpan of “…the man was charged with one count of lovin’ it” that it kind of made up for the rest of the show.

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