Christina Applegate resuscitated a flatlining season of Saturday Night Live with her brilliant song and dance numbers this weekend.
The Up All Night actress last graced the SNL stage 19 years ago in her Kelly Bundy days, but looked right at home last night. She seemed to be over-selling herself during a few sketches, especially those that involved speaking in accent, but redeemed herself with song. And unlike last week’s dull treatment of the first presidential debate, the gang had a field day with last Thursday’s vice presidential debate.
The laugh-out-loud funny debate cold open set the tone for the entire episode. Jason Sudeikis nailed Joe Biden’s condescending laughs, audible sighs, and eye rolls, while Taran Killam delivered a spot-on impression of Paul Ryan’s nervous mannerisms. Kate McKinnon, who usually wows in every role, could have brought more sass and aggression to her depiction of moderator Martha Raddatz.
With the exception of her Jim Lehrer jab (“Do I sound like Jim Lehrer? And do I look like Jim Lehrer? Then don’t try and fu** me like Jim Lehrer”), Raddatz was underwhelming in her role. Because many of the jokes simply wrote themselves, the duo often quoted the vice presidential contenders verbatim, complete with declarations of malarkey and references to beans. The otherwise perfect segment was weighted down by some weak Scranton jokes (courtesy of its dead Walking Dead reference) and odd guest appearance by Usain Bolt.
Yup, you read that right. What was Bolt doing there, you ask? Verifying that he, not Ryan, won the 100-meter dash at the London Olympics, naturally. The highlight of the set was watching Ryan’s smile become more robotic, his eyes turn “sharkier,” and his water glass increase in size. But the best line of the segment was courtesy of Biden: “You think you’re tougher than me because you do the P90X workout? … There’s gym strong and there’s old-man strong.” Let’s just say that old man strong involves the Amtrak and tighty whiteys.
Next up, Applegate took a short trip down memory lane with her opening monologue. She fumbled her first joke of the night about the Yankees, but compensated for it later. Applegate claimed she was 10 during her last hosting stint (which also marked Matt Foley’s first appearance on the show) and clad in an outfit that was even more horrid that motivational speaker Matt Foley’s getup.
She then jumped into a song and dance number about her favorite time of year: “There are no holidays yet, no decorations, no cards, no weird family tension. And not every single thing tastes like pumpkin.” The Tony-nominated actress, who starred in the musical revival Sweet Charity in 2004, has a powerful set of lungs. I knew she could sing “The Piña Colada Song” and Live’s “Lightning Crashes” mid-labor, but I didn’t realize she was such a talented songstress until this number. She’s later joined by jazzy background dancers, the Frumpets (the Muppets’ mid-October counterparts), and the Frumpets’ version of the Swedish Chef — a.k.a. Dane Cook (huh?). I have an itching suspicion that Cook was written in for the sole purpose of allowing Sudeikis to do his impression, but I didn’t mind. Sudeikis sounded exactly like the frat boy comedian:
After an unimpressive fake Gillette razor commercial starring Adrien Brody, Gael Garcia Bernal, André 3000, and an orange jumpered Jerry Sandusky, one of my favorite skits from recent years returned. Yup, that’s right, “The Californians” are back! But the excitement was short-lived. Aside from the fact that the skit had no fresh jokes (sundried tomatoes in clay bowls were replaced by California dates in small bowls), it made me miss Kristen Wiig.
With Karina gone, Stewart was now marrying Appelgate’s character Brie. Instead of bringing her own voice to the role, Appelgate plays Wiig playing Karina. In between the pauses, rising intonations, and “what are you doing herrr” inquiries, Bolt makes another guest appearance. What’s worse that Bolt playing himself in the debate segment? Bolt playing a Californian with a Jamaican accent. The skit made me giggle sporadically, but lightning didn’t strike twice.
Appelgate then put on her best talk show host guise to host Tech Talk. Representatives from Gizmodo, CNET, and Wired voiced their grievances about the iPhone 5’s “glitches and design flaws” — essentially, Apple maps is a total disaster, and the phone is too thin and too light (“I know we asked for a phone that was lighter and thinner, but this is ridiculous.”). Cue an in-studio rebuttal from three peasant laborers from the iPhone factory in China. Said laborer Fred Armisen, with exaggerated pity: “You want Starbuck, it take you to Dunkin Donut? That must be so hard for you.” By the time they pulled out the “sad Chinese violin from New York subway,” I was already in stitches.
Fans (or not) of Taken and The Expendables were targets for the next faux commercial: a trailer for Give Us All Out Daughters Back, in which Liam Neeson, Denzel Washington, Harrison Ford, Uma Thurman, Mel Gibson, and Steven Segal basically snarl dangerously into cell phones in their efforts to rescue their kidnapped daughters.
Passion Pit definitely had a tough act to follow; After the commercial the electro rockers performed “Take a Walk” off their latest hipsterific album Gossamer. I was thoroughly entertained, but the performance left me craving Doritos Locos Tacos for some reason.
This week’s Weekend Update was especially weak. It had two — count them, two — Red Bull jokes and focused primarily on the vice presidential debate. But where Seth Meyers slumped, Nasim Pedrad soared: Her Arianna Huffington packed a punch. Judging by Pedrad’s take on a strong-willed woman, she would have probably made a better Raddatz in the cold open. Every single joke out of her mouth landed, even her pet names for Meyers.
It’s a tough call, but my favorite Huffington line was: “If men could get pregnant, abortion clinics would be like a Starbucks. There would be two on every block and four in every airport. And the morning after pill would come in different flavors — like sea salt, and cool ranch.” Alas, Huffington was followed by Kenan Thompson’s Jean K Jean — the top Def Jam comedian in France — stock full of jokes about fromage and handball.
The next skit was, without a doubt, my favorite of the night. It proved that SNL sketches don’t necessarily have to be timely to be appealing, that Applegate is more vocally talented than most multi-platinum recording artists, and that a little nostalgia can go a long way. The scene opens with the legendary Greek hero Odysseus and his men preparing to face the sirens’ fatal song. Instead of an ear-shattering cry, the sirens — Applegate, McKinnon, and newcomer Cecily Strong — belt out quiet-storm ’90s jams, from Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much” to Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do.” Now that impressed me much. It also left me wondering (like Sudeikis’ Odysseus) why I still remembered the lyrics to these songs.
(The last two skits of the night were anticlimactic, to say the least, and the one about a school Hell-oween Ball to promote literacy was dead on arrival — Jay Pharoah, as a school principal, broke down laughing after delivering the only decent joke of the skit, about two children fornicating inside a Mufasa costume.)
Pit then performed their second song of the night, “Carried Away.” Despite lead singer Michael Angelakos’ valiant effort, I was too busy watching keyboardist Ian Hultquist’s killer dance moves and staring at a background singer’s pink hair streaks (I can’t wait for this fad to fade). In the final skit of the night, Applegate played a dance instructor trying to teach her class the Bob Fosse method. She had a few decent one-liners in between her “ka-kunks” and “za-zas,” but Applegate delivered the most laughs while dancing. Her choreography left me yearning for more song and dance numbers.
What did you think of the episode? Were you impressed with Applegate’s hosting chops? How did she fare compared to Seth MacFarlane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Daniel Craig? What was your favorite skit or joke of the night?
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