'Saturday Night Live' recap: Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, and Gov. Paterson help Amy Poehler kick off a new season

This past Thursday, my DVR and I felt mighty lonely without our favorite show Parks & Recreation, which was benched until January. But that emptiness was filled last night when the former Saturday Night Live star returned to her old workplace to host the premiere of the 36th season.

Before Poehler took the stage, we got a cold open featuring Kristen Wiig as tea party member Christine O’Donnell, who’s been on everyone lips thanks to proclamations of witchcraft and a thing against monkeys:

After a few throwaway jokes in her monologue (i.e. Joe Jonas and Taylor Lautner), Poehler gave us a star-studded dream sequence, similar to, but not as shockingly hilarious as Jimmy Fallon’s opening Emmy routine. Former cast members Fallon, Fey, Rachel Dratch and honorary cast member Justin Timberlake showed up for the fun, which depicted Poehler’s nightmare before hosting the show. With so many famous faces to look at, it didn’t matter that the gags weren’t all that sharp.

The first sketch of the night was fan favorite Bronx Beat with Poehler and another guest alum, Maya Rudolph (!). The mouthy pair chatted with local good girl Maureen, played by the night’s musical guest Katy Perry, who popped up—quite literally—in a revealing Elmo shirt, a nod to her recent Sesame Street drama. (“Double D? More like 3D!” Poheler quipped.) I could watch Poehler and Rudolph banter all day, so keeping Perry’s lines to a minimum was probably a wise choice.

There were a few faux-mercials throughout the night, and while the hair restoration ad had me shielding my eyes, the commercial for the Ground Zero mosque hosting gay marriages (which turned out to be an ad put out by the RNC) was a wonderfully novel take on all the hoopla, and gave Poehler an opportunity to cop her best Ellen DeGeneres look.

With Poehler a host, it was only natural for a Weekend Update reunion with Seth Meyers, and thanks to a news item about Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the two launched into a “Really!?! with Seth and Amy.” I never was a huge fan of this bit, so I was glad to see the focus shifted to new cast member Jay Pharaoh, who performed a dead-on Will Smith impersonation.

But the bigger news (that we already knew) was a guest appearance by New York governor David Paterson, who has become the butt of many a joke on SNL‘s stage. The Gov came armed with his own jokes, took a few jabs at his disability (if you cant beat ‘em; join ‘em) and one directed squarely at SNL: “There are a lot of characters, it’s funny for 10 minutes, and then you just want it to be over.”

The few shorter sketches were fairly ho-hum, like a Justin Timberlake-Andy Samberg bit that seemed like an attempt to get extra mileage out of the pop star. But I did love Abby Elliott’s version of Laura Linney in the Showtime spoof and the musical ode to the unfortunately titled “Boogerman,” performed by Perry with a nanosecond-long guest spot by Peter Sarsgaard.

Speaking of Perry, after a slightly rough rendition of “California Girls,” which seemed somewhat lost on an iconic New York show, the singer was in better shape for “Teenage Dream” (though it was hard to pay attention with her wearing a toddler-sized plaid skirt).

As the episode drew to an end, it finished with two solid sketches: one, a trailer for an The Expendables sequel, dubbed The Even More Expendables, starring Steven Seagal (Bill Hader), Brigitte Nielsen (Samberg), Eugene Levy (Fred Armisen) and best of all, Tracy Chapman (Kenan Thompson), singing “Fast Car.”

The other was a bit that featured Poehler joined by a gaggle of ladies who lunch—and wear tiny hats.

Everything from the premise to Hader’s pink-suited waiter was over-the-top, but it was the kind of madness that someone as skilled as Poehler could turn into big laughs. And for that, I tipped my own tiny hat to Poehler, for giving me faith in a new season of SNL and something to tide me over until January.

What did you guys think of the episode? Anyone else sad we didn’t get a Will Arnett guest spot?

Comments (142 total) Add your comment
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  • CiCi217

    Katy Perry = Grade A
    The rest of the show = C to C-

    Few of the skits had much to laugh at. The opening one with the Delaware candidate YAWN, same for the lame small hat skit.

    If it wasn’t for Katy’s singing and skit involvement (she’s a natural) we would have turned this mess off a lot earlier.

    • Carrie

      She was singing? Is that what that sound was?

    • Allison

      I agree on the small hat skit – really? – Loved the Andy and Justin skit, but Katy… bleh.

      • Matt

        Bill Hader killed me in the small hat skit. The rest of it was only okay, but each time he walked by and said something, I was laughing out loud.

    • keith

      I like Katy fine but she is positively one of the worst live singers I’ve heard. She has a great personality and I bet she’d make a great regular on the show if she wasn’t a pop start already. But thank god for autotune and multiple takes in the studio or she’s have no singing career.

    • LOL

      The first hour was good. The last 30 minutes not so much.

      • dakmart

        The same thing could be said (and has, ad nauseum) about just about any episode of SNL — it’s part of the design of the show that SNL puts its strongest sketches at the beginning of a show; its weakest or more experimental pieces always go on after Weekend Update.

    • Bob

      She’s a natural… pile of suck.

    • Elizabeth

      Katy Perry was awful. I usually like her but “California Girls” was TERRIBLE live. “Teenage Dream” was a little better but REALLY.

      • Lori

        I think the problem with Katy Perry is she’s so full of herself. She sucked. And I give her sham of a wedding to Brand a year.

      • Wha?

        That’s because Teenage Dream was lip-synced whereas California Girls was not. How do you all not notice these things?

    • Ill?

      Katy did not look happy. She put energy into what she did. But here eyes were not in it.. few real smiles.
      We were wondering if she was sick or she had some bad news that day.

    • Wha?

      She was hardly singing. She clearly lip-synced her second song. She did sing “California Girls” though, which is not much of a feat considering that she just does that talking/singing thing through most of it. Not much range needed in that one. Anyway, she’s awful, just awful as a “singer”.

      I suspect your A grade is indicative of how much masturbation fodder her barely-there outfits afforded you.

      • Woody

        Hey, don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.

    • Luna

      Are you serious? I didnt think I could dislike Katy Perrys music anymore then I did, until I heard her sing live. If your an auto tune singer you should avoid live tv.

    • Dana

      Katy Perry= D- at best, for her singing and her acting

    • Linda

      If you think that’s singing, you must also really enjoy the musical warblings of cats in heat and the bad audition phase of American Idol.

  • Ian

    Kim Jong NOT-Il

    • DVR

      Kim Jong Well?

  • DVR

    Except for the cold open, I enjoyed every other sketch. It was a good start to this season, let’s hope it keeps up.

  • Mike

    Loved. NBC should be embarrassed about how they treat Parks. Other networks would kill to have the following:

    One of the most popular and respected female comedy
    stars (Amy). The hottest comic in America who just hosted the MTV Movie Awards (Aziz), another actress coming out in the most buzzed about movie of the Fall (Rashida), and I haven’t even mentioned Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt and Adam Scott yet.


    • coolhandkate

      Part of the holdover is due to Amy Poehler’s maternity leave.

      • California

        No actually it’s not. Has nothing to do with her pregnancy.

      • Garry

        I heard she’s a raging coke-head.

    • viddingwithkyle

      Aziz is the hottest comic in America? America must be the most boring place on the planet if that’s what you consider comic genius.

    • Woot

      You forgot about Aubrey Plaza! She is one of my favorites!

  • sam

    Funniest show since Betty White and John Hamm shows. Unfortunately, most of the laughs came from former cast members, so it doesn’t necessarily look good for the rest of the season. I didn’t think that they used Justin enough, but it was great to see him on here again.

    • Mary

      Since Timberlake and Fallon both turned up, I was secretly hoping for a segment of the “Barry Gibb Talk Show.”

      • Tiffany

        Granted, that would have been nice. But they has Fallon and Fey, they could have thought of something for them to do together. Dratch was there as well, her and Fallon could have done the Boston couple (I can’t think of their names). What killed it for me was that all these people were not utilized and done something great together.

  • Avery

    I was so hoping for a Parks and Recreation skit with Kenan playing Donna. But over all it was a good show. I didn’t understand why Nasim didn’t get anything because she is hilarious. I applaud the use of Kristen Wiig, not putting her in every sketch. And Jay Pharoah is going to be a great new addition to the cast (if any of you have seen his video of impersonations).
    I only hope for the best!

    • z

      I would have liked to see Amy in the sketch with Nasim where she wants to be friends with her parent- and she’d play the cool mom from mean girls

    • Woot

      I agree. Love Kristen Wiig, easily one of the most talented cast members… but they kept putting her in EVERYTHING and giving her the SAME character. I’m sure she was getting tired of it herself.

  • Rose

    It was okay. I’m glad I DVR-ed it and could fast forward over the lame bits. The only laugh-out-loud moment for me…Fred Armisen as Gov Patterson, rolling around the set trying to find his spot — also at the end of the skit with the real Gov popping up in front of the cameras…Amy trying not to laugh. Other than that…it was more of a “meh” kind of show.

  • Shannon

    The majority of last nights show was suprisingly pretty funny! The new guy who did the Will Smith impersonation was so hilarious he was so on point. I’m really going to miss the Gov. Patterson jokes, they were funny.

  • Omacolt

    SNL broke out their former cast members to produce an quality premiere. Outside of Poehlet farting in a sketch the show stayed away from potty jokes that show bad comedy writing. Waiting for Jay Phaoah’s Obama which should be good. Katie Perry doesn’t have to talk or sing to have presence. Thought there would have more current events of the summer like oil spills and tea party humor. That’s ok.

    • MK

      I thought they announced Fred Armisen was still going to be Obama, even w/the addition of Jay Pharoah? Or did that change?

  • GeorgiaYankeesFan

    why is it so hard for the new cast members to get a few sketches. i was psyched to see that new dude do the Will Smith impersonation. i thought the digital short was a little lame this week. also weird there weren’t any send ups on some of the new or upcoming TV/movies shows – monologue had a weak inception reference. nice to see timberlake, liz lemon and jimmy fallon – i thought they were a bit wasted. dare I say the writers were lucky to have the Katy Perry Elmo thing happen this week. I give the episode a B – thank goodness Poehler was the host.

  • sock monkey

    Sigh, geoblocking sucks.
    Caught the first half hour though and loved it.

  • c

    i’m so sick of kristen wiig

    • Deena

      THANK YOU! I don’t understand why everyone adores her. She basically does the same thing in every skit and she does it every season. I immediately get a negative vibe when I see her and it ruins the skit for me.

    • Mikey

      How can you be sick of her? She is one of the funniest most talented cast member left on the show. . . she’s brilliant!

      • Lena120

        Really? She’s the most talented left? I’ll take Bill Hader and Jason Sudeikis over her any day!

      • Stephanie T.

        She is a good actress but not a funny character actress. I will give props to SNL for the first sketch because it felt like I was zapped back to the early ninties. Jan Hooks would have pulled off that sketch prefectly if she was younger. It shows you that a bad comedianne can work well with the right script. Perry was funny but her singing? Eh. Ke$ha is worse. It was a good start so let’s pray that things will get better this season.

    • D

      She’s overused sure, but she’s the funniest person they’ve got!

      • Jeremy DC

        Her and Bill Hader.

    • santana

      Some of her skits are super annoying, especially when she just repeats herself or acts like a moron and that’s the joke for the entire skit. But she can be really funny too, so I wouldn’t necessarily blame her.

  • Jeff from Jersey; yes New Jersey

    With all due respect, the dream sequence will be on the highlight reel for this season. Also, the skits before closing were different. They were funny.

  • amj

    I loved the Bronx Beat sketch! Very funny, boy is Katy getting attention this week. My nephew just adores her. And, I have to say after this week she is growing on me too. Was excited to see Justin. Hope he hosts soon. It was a funny start this year and one of the best episodes in awhile. Hopefully SNL can keep it up. Loved that Gov. Patterson could come make fun of himself, that was great. Still sticking with SNL.

  • OMG-PW

    Now that you mention it, I am mad Will Arnett didn’t get a cameo! Not even in the star-studded monologue! In fact, why hasn’t he hosted? Should’ve saved Poehler for an episode closer to the Parks and Rec premier and had Arnett host this one. After all, he has a new show.
    Now I’m mad. Thanks, popwatch.

    • Snsetblaze

      His show is on the wrong network.

      • Stephanie T.

        Yeah I think that he is under contract with Fox so he cannot go on NBC.

      • mackey3000

        That definitely would NOT be an issue. Jon Hamm and Bryan Cranston aren’t on NBC. Neither was Julia-Louis Dreyfus when she hosted TWICE (when Old Christine was still on the air). Jason Bateman hosted when AD was still on the air. The list goes on and on, they’ve ALWAYS had hosts with shows on other channels (when FOX’s Beverly Hills 90210 was on in the 90’s, at least 3 of those kids hosted).

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