[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.]

I saw Nebraska on Saturday! (Relevant because SNL) It was so good and Will Forte and Bruce Dern had very moving performances.

BUT my seeing Nebraska made watching this week’s SNL the next day a scavenger hunt because licensing rights kept so many of the sketches off Hulu. UGH! This is what you get for hiring a very big-name singer with lots of hit singles to host SNL, SNL!! I’ve always thought, if you’re gonna have a superstar who’s definitely going to be relying on singing to get through 95% of her sketches (zing!), at least make sure all her songs are in the public domain because then it will be easier for us at to watch at home online! But because of this Hulu thing, I saw a very short, mostly bad-to-okay episode, realized I had missed a bunch, went back and found everything I’d missed, and can now give this episode a solid, “Ehhh it was okay I guess!?!?”

The cold open was good. Canadian accents often end up being funny, albeit very predictable, but yes Rob Ford DOES look sweaty and silly in every media photo. The endless cycle of press conferences was funny. This sketch ran a little long and I could do without the 60 Minutes part but Bobby Moynihan was fine, so I’ll take it! (I know you were all wondering, “Will she take it?” And I will! I’m taking it!)

Lady G’s monologue is one of the clips you won’t find on Hulu because of the music involved. Her singing a song about “cheap applause” seems like it’s just one step removed from actually pandering for cheap applause, I’m just not sure if that step’s headed in a better or worse direction. Probably worse! But I guess we accept the applause we think we deserve.

The commercial parody for second term anti-depressants rang true and was well-performed by Jay Pharoah, but still I’m probably not going to show it to anyone unless I’m trying hard to sound knowledgable about politics in comedy or something, and even then I would absolutely show something else.

The Kimye (are we sticking with that name for them?) sketch had more good impressions from Jay Pharoah and Nasim Pedrad (I think! From Pharoah at least, I’m more familiar with Kanye’s growl-yelps). The band of both familiar and nameless Kardashians was very funny, and Lady Gaga’s Genius Bar girl was not. There’s one part where she made fun of herself for wearing silly clothes, which was good, kinda, thank you for calling yourself out, but not funny.

On Hulu this is when the first musical performance comes on. Kind of a bummer when you didn’t like any of the sketches so far! Naturally, I assumed my browser was broken and paused for ten minutes while I tried to address the problem.

Then came “Weekend Update.” Kenan appeared as Common Sense Correspondent Mr. Senior, who took a mostly unfunny bit about Christmas starting too soon to the streets for a remote segment. Like Canadian accents, people who are upset about Christmas spirit starting right after Halloween are very cliche, but Kenan turned this into something funny, over the top, and something that elicited laughter. Comedy!

Taran Killam in “Update” was even better, though, as a man who gave a negative review to The Gettysburg Address. Very funny from the start, but then he flubs a thing towards the end and Taran and Seth break for laughter. I don’t know what the actual line was going to be, but I like the flub!

Vanessa Bayer was best in the “Spotlightz Acting Camp” sketch, but her Social Network monologue at the beginning was her best, and it was mostly downhill from there.

The “Co-Op Board” sketch was just very, very bad, and the main joke was about tying a key to a string and resting it under your testicles? Even Kenan couldn’t save this sketch, because of how it was bad!

The Blockbuster sketch was also lackluster for me, but I applaud their efforts. It reminded me of the ice cream sketch from last episode, in that I didn’t laugh at all, but it was well-shot, absurd, and had nice music. It’s good that the show addressed the Blockbuster situation. RIP Stores.

The Dance Parents sketch is the first time I can remember John Milhiser in the show besides that time he was a horse’s butt with Bruce Willis. He was so full of energy, just put him in more sketches already!

Besides the monologue, there were two sketches you won’t find on Hulu. One is a scene from the future with older Lady Gaga as a forgotten former star. Kenan comes in and doesn’t understand her, even when she’s all like, “Telephone?” “Paparazzi?” and does a little medley. Again, props to her for making fun of herself but the sketch is still low/medium levels of funny.

The other is a commercial parody for a compilation CD of the worst cover songs of all time, with Taran Killam-as-Adam-Duritz hosting (BTW — One time, at a funeral I was attending, the person giving the eulogy said, “In the words of the Counting Crows,” and then quoted “Big Yellow Taxi.” Just a fun lil’ SNL recap story!) Duritz introduces some silly ideas like Britney Spears singing “Allelujah,” and Adele covering the theme from LA Law. This sketch was very funny, although mostly just for the impressions. The punchline is supposed to be that “Born This Way” is a Madonna ripoff, so here is Lady Gaga keeping it real again, but it’s not the best part of the sketch, and you can tell it’s supposed to be. You can watch here, along with Lady Gaga’s musical performances, the first of which features R. Kelly and they simulate sex onstage and what even is that song about??

Comments (14)
  1. John Milhiser, more like John More-hiser please!

    I watched the episode live, and all I could think during the music sketches was “How is this supposed to go viral, with all the licensing issues?!” Always be thinking about going viral.

  2. This was a pretty good episode although I don’t think any of that was because of Lady Gaga (though she wasn’t bad).
    The Taran Killam as speech critic bit had me laughing hysterically the ENTIRE time. I can’t explain why, but that was the funniest thing in the world to me.
    Also the Blockbuster thing was funny when it first started because those three guys were EXACT COPIES of Blockbuster employees.
    Also the kids’ acting camp was really funny too because Vanessa Bayer does the perfect “kid acting” which I would bet was her audition because she does it so perfectly.

    • Agreed on the speech critic thing. I actually applauded when it was over. The “What was her name? Mary Todd?” take with Seth Myers was the highlight of the episode.

    • Her kid acting is so on-note that it feels like knives in my ears (just like real kid actors!) and I spent half of my dog walk yesterday thinking it had to be her audition. Add twang? Miley. Long black wig? The tiny Snow White that is now on Trophy Wife. She does other characters right? I can’t remember, they all default to acting kid.

  3. Jebidiah Atkinson was amaze!

  4. As a Torontonian I’d just like to say how disappointed I am, when making fun of Canadians, when one lowers oneself to doing the accent thing. We don’t talk like that in Toronto. I know it seems trivial, but it’s inaccurate, and also super lame. Rub Ferd is a hilarious caricature of a human being. Just do his voice!

    • As a non-Canadian, I totally agree. And although I enjoyed the “That’s a lot of crack!” line, the cold open was really underwritten. I don’t know how you botch material as golden as Rob Ford.

      I read somewhere on the internet that Ford could really only be played by Chris Farley, who is in heaven, and yes, that sounds right.

      • It’s kind of like if you did a southern accent to portray a Minnesotan. The rest of the sketch was also so on-the-nose. Maybe just because I’ve been following this story for, oh, around 4 years. But other people have done way better with this material. know I shouldn’t expect much from SNL.

        Chris Farley would have been perfect!

  5. One of my favorite parts of the Jebediah Atkinson bit was Seth’s giggling throughout

  6. I identified with Kenan’s Mr. Senior character on a deep spiritual level. At any given time, I’m only ever seconds away from screaming “NO CHRISTMAS UNTIL AFTER THANKSGIVING” at people IRL and on social media.

  7. I really liked this episode if only because Gaga’s childhood theatre geek flag flew and you could tell she pitched some of these sketches and maybe daydreamed them as a kid, which made her endearing to me.

  8. MOAR MILHISER

  9. I loved Weekend Update as always and the sketch about covers killed me. Especially the Duritz “Yyyyyeahhhh” wail at the end. Classic.

    As for the Kimye sketch, yuck. What the hell was that all about? And Lady Gaga’s apple store employee? What? Like seriously, what? That one was a big pile of no.

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