'Saturday Night Live' recap: Lady Gaga lives for applause, but gets laughs too

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Image Credit: NBC

Lady Gaga knows how to make fun of herself.

If there was one takeaway from last night’s show, it was that Lady Gaga knows what you all are saying about her. And in the constant jostling for pop-culture supremacy, one of Gaga’s advantages has been that, when she allows it, she often comes across as a down-to-earth goofball. And happily, last night viewers mostly got the silly theater kid and not the art-house provocateur, which led to an overall enjoyable 90 minutes that, while not always laugh-out-loud hilarious, was consistently amusing.

From the moment she busted out of the doors in a 1920s stage costume straight out of Chicago, there seemed to be two goals for the evening. 1.) Remind people that she’s the pop star, who can, you know, really belt; and 2.) Send up her image before the bloggers can. On both of those counts, she succeeded. She didn’t have a super viral moment like her “Three Way (Golden Rule)” sketch from the last time she was a musical guest (with host Justin Timberlake), but with only one real dud, she anchored what was easily one of the better episodes of the season so far.

Her monologue consisted of singing (of course!) a jazz-y version of “Applause” that segued into “New York, New York” as a somewhat nervous-seeming Gaga did what she does best: Just plain singing. Point of fact: Much like Miley Cyrus should really consider the country music her voice seems best suited to, Gaga should really consider a jazz album. “Applause” sounded much more impressive here than it does on the radio, and the fact that she regularly turns her pop hits into jazz ditties when she performs them live tells me she knows how well the genre suits her.

BEST SKETCH OF THE NIGHT
“Waking Up With Kimye”: Any time we can get SNL’s version of Kim Kardashian (particularly the nasal-y voice, which Nasim Pedrad once again nailed), I’m a happy girl. Jay Pharoah’s Kanye West is hosting a talk show with his new fiancée where they mostly just talk about how great they he is. “Between the two of us, we’ve earned 19 Grammys, sold over 21 million albums, and won Best Male Artist at the NAACP Awards.” “Yeah, we did it!” Gaga played their guest, a nerdy, pants-wearing lady named Karen, who worked at the Apple Store and came to fix Kim’s computer. After Kanye called Kim “The Michael Jordan of Wearing Clothes,” Karen replied, “I think people who are trying too hard with their outfits are maybe hiding something,” before mugging to the camera to big audience cheers. First “I Get It. Love Me Again” joke of the night? Accomplished.

Honorable Mention
Last night’s requisite “Everyone Do A Celebrity Impression,” skit turned out funnier than most, spoofing celebrity covers of popular songs gone wrong. “WHAAAT?: The Worst Cover Songs of All Time” had so many inspired takes: Britney Spears’ syrup-y sexy baby voice (expertly done by Noel Wells) covering “Hallelujah”; Rick Ross (Kenan Thompson) covering Anna Kendrick’s version of “Cups,” complete with actual cups, and even Aidy Bryant finally playing Adele — who “sang” the L.A. Law theme song. But the kicker — Lady Gaga playing Lady Gaga covering Madonna’s “Express Yourself” by singing the lyrics to “Born This Way” — got the biggest laughs. “I Get It. Love Me Again” once again accomplished. (Unfortunately, the sketch is currently unavailable online.)

Worst Sketch
For me, the only sketch that really didn’t work was one taking place in an NYC co-op, where a bunch of current residents interviewed prospective tenants. The central premise was basically “People be Crazy!” as the cast attempted to out-weird each other. Honestly, if it had gone more absurd it might have worked, but between Aidy Bryant getting her When Harry Met Sally on and Kenan Thompson being gross, the whole thing didn’t really go anywhere. Even Gaga-by-way-of-Marisa-Tomei couldn’t save it from feeling dead on arrival.

Best WTF Award
SNL’s Blockbuster eulogy came late and weird in a digital short that showed three former employees lost without their job. So, naturally, they go to a coven in the woods. Then Lady Gaga shows up, and things get steamy, but then the whole thing turns out to just be a dream, man. See you all at Best Buy.

Best Commentary on Pop Stars 
It’s a distant (?) future where Gaga is a washed-up pop star who forces her building super (Kenan Thompson) to listen to her reminisce about her time on top of the world. This sketch was great because it once again showed Gaga being a good sport (and a goofy little actress), as well as offered some pretty damning commentary of pop stars circa 2013. But mostly, it was great for Gaga to basically give a past-five-years career respective: Poke Face! Bad Romance! Telephone! YES, SHE REALLY DOES KNOW BEYONCE!. At the end, Gaga got back on the piano and sadly sang the chorus of “Applause” while two mechanical hands (atop one of her five Grammys) clapped together. You guys, I feel like this could easily be a prequel to Grey Gardens. Fame is a fickle beast, and SNL went darker than it is has in quite some time. Someone is giving Gaga a big hug at the after party, right?

Cast MVP
Vanessa Bayer has been having a stellar season, and even without some of her most well-known characters (like Miley Cyrus or Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy) making an appearance, last night’s episode belonged to her. This was most apparent in an ad for “Spotlightz Acting Camp for Serious Kids,” which featured Bayer, Gaga, and others putting an over-the-top, Disney channel-esque spin on famous adults films such as Training Day and Forrest Gump.

Single Best Line:
“I don’t care about their backstories. I want to see women destroy other women.” — Aidy Bryant in an ad for RoseZone. It’s bloodlust. For Women.

Extras:

– Special shout-out to the shirtless man wearing purple leggings and playing tambourine during Gaga’s performance of “Gypsy.” He looked like he was having the time of his life.

– “You’ll feel like you’re giving a speech at a college campus in 2008.”

– “None of the tedious recaps. None of the ‘let’s make up’ lunches. Just hot garbage 24/7.”

– “I bought some chapstick for everybody, and I would love for you to put it on before you kiss my fat f—ing white ass.” Obviously Bobby Moynihan played Rob Ford.

– Lady Gaga gave Amy Poehler’s Mean Girls character a run for her money as a pushy stage mom who takes over a 4th grade recital.

– If you’re going way too far on purpose, is it really way too far? Watch R. Kelly join Lady Gaga onstage for “Do What U Want” and decide.

Does Lady Gaga get your, well, applause?


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