It is hard for me to talk about the TV show Saturday Night Live without simultaneously giggling and rolling my eyes. The giggle is in a tone only appropriate for a pre-teen about to meet Justin Bieber and the eye roll is one I would save for an incorrigible puppy. I have not only watched every episode that has aired since 2000 but consumed most its relevant highlights, documentaries and reruns available. More than once, I have woken up inconsolable because it turns out I’m not actually best friends with Kristen Wiig, working for Lorne Michaels, and dating Andy Samberg as my dream had implied. Yes, my SNL obsession is fully blown.
Last week, the 38th season started with three new cast members, a new co-head writer and Seth MacFarlane hosting opening night. They definitely brought in a heavy hitter like MacFarlane to keep things running smoothly after the departure of Wiig, Samberg, and Abby Elliott.
MacFarlane, best known as the creator of Family Guy, led a monologue that showcased his Sinatra-esque voice, other impression talents, Family Guy references, and a sparkling smile. The opening included characters like an anti-semetic Kermit the Frog that hinted toward MacFarlane’s humor, most often based on obscure, crude, or surreal pop culture references.
The second half of the show included vignettes that would fit perfectly into a Family Guy scene; a stuttering platoon sergeant, a pair of rural farm brothers attempting to run an e-commerce website, and a puppeteering class overshadowed by a Vietnam veteran.
However, the first half of the show is what brought in the most laughs and Internet views.
Jay Pharoah, who joined the cast two years ago, took charge of the Cold Open as President Obama and owned it. Like every other Presidential election year, the next few months of SNL will bring in higher ratings and hopefully some wonderful political cameos
There was a great moment when Pharoah’s President Obama gave a speech. He bursts into song and serenades the audience with a few lines of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” followed by a line on how charming it is when he sings to the people. He then urges the cameras to cut to a speech by Mitt Romney (played by Jason Sudeikis) who is caught singing “Old McDonald.” The Obama character then notes that the opposition’s campaign has been a “Christmas miracle.”
This is great because SNL not only slashes on the Romney/Ryan campaign, which is the easiest target, but in this small moment recognizes how much rock star status President Obama’s fandom sometimes unjustly gives him. Throughout the episode, the writers made a point to argue that President Obama is definitely the lesser of two evils. There were plenty of other political sketches like a fake attack ad on Romney and a spoof-mercial of Clint Eastwood’s new theater show with his sidekick “Chair”. I don’t think any of these jokes were fresh or transcendent but it was exciting to see Studio 8H back on screen hitting the ground running.
Weekend Update never fails since Seth Meyers has his fake news reporting down to a T with jokes focusing on everything from Chris Brown’s neck tattoo to the idea of using walnuts as a feasible power source. It also featured pseudo-guest appearances from Honey Boo Boo the TLC star, Mimi Morales the underage Latino voting mascot, and the Olympic’s star swimmer Ryan Lochte as a TV critic. MacFarlane’s Lochte framed the host’s best screen time that night and let him stand-alone as a goofy comedian rather than a celebrity host in a costume.
The highlight of the night was so ridiculous and so silly that it reminded me of any skit that brought Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell together. The plot was loosely structured around the idea that three guys (bros is a more appropriate term) work at a mall hat shop and are as bored as the men in a Budweiser commercial before the beer shows up. With the press of a large red button, one dude is able to summon out Psy (played by Bobby Moynihan), the South Korean rap star. The whole sketch has really no purpose but to recreate the 222 million-view count Youtube hit “Gangnam Style” on national television. It is wacky and it is wonderful. Those four minutes captured the whimsicality of older seasons so well that I was expecting Jimmy Fallon to come out any minute.
It’s hard to tell how the rest of the season will turn out, since MacFarlane provided such a solid foundation as a host. The exciting part of SNL is that it is truly different every year and every week. So try tuning in the next Saturday night you’re stuck at home with nothing to do, but play the Moustache drinking game (with apple juice, obviously). SNL has always been there for me and will (almost) always make you smile. Saturday Night Live is at 11:30 PM on NBC.