'Saturday Night Live' recap: Louis C.K. does his thing

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Image Credit: NBC

It’s too bad the Polar Vortex doesn’t inspire the same creativity as Hurricane Sandy.

When Louis C.K. first hosted SNL in 2012, his debut was nearly ruined by devastating weather. Against all odds, the show went on anyway — and it ended up being one of that fall’s more successful episodes. Although Saturday’s weather (in New York City, anyway) echoed 2012’s cold, rainy November, the show wasn’t quite as on point this time around. C.K. acquitted himself fairly well, minus a few flubbed lines and character breaks. That said, he only really let loose in his opening monologue, perhaps because it’s the only opportunity he had to do what he really does best.

So the show wasn’t great across the board — but it did have a few gems, including the night’s…

Best Sketch
For being both hilarious and a show I’d totally watch if it existed, I have to go with “Dyke & Fats” — a pretape starring Kate McKinnon (a.k.a. “Les Dykawitz”) and Aidy Bryant (a.k.a. “Chubbina Fatzarelli”) as a pair of no-nonsense policewomen who always get their man…though they prefer the company of women and hamburgers, respectively. The ’70s hair and production values were spot-on, the moment when Aidy whipped out a badge connected to a bunch of sausage links was inspired, and the conclusion — in which the gals’ boss, played by C.K., learns some harsh truths about male privilege — was where I really lost it. You don’t get to call us that!! Our words!!


Honorable Mention
Kick off the show with a song and dance routine, or perhaps some goofy questions from the audience? No thanks — not when you’re perhaps the world’s greatest stand-up comic. While C.K.’s second stand-up opener didn’t hit quite as well as his first — perhaps because the 2012 monologue was one sustained story, while 2014’s seemed like a condensed version of a much longer and more nuanced routine — there were still plenty of great punchlines, including the comedian’s observations about the shirts we call “wife beaters” and God’s marital status. Basically, it was a commercial for shows in which Louis isn’t constrained by time or network obscenity rules — but an enticing one.


Worst Sketch
C.K.’s second SNL was pretty fine from start to finish — there was only one really great sketch, and no sketches that were actively terrible. But for starting the show on an especially toothless note and carrying an unpleasant whiff of something ordered by the Powers That Be, my vote here goes to the cold open, which found Jay Pharoah’s Obama doing increasingly undignified things to spread the word about the Obamacare signup deadline. Hey, did you know the deadline is March 31? Because SNL does, and the show wants you to know as well — even if they still can’t quite figure out how to skewer 44. True, Obama isn’t as easy to parody as George W. Bush (he’s a dummy!) or Bill Clinton (he’s a horndog!) — but how is it that six years after his election, SNL hasn’t lit upon anything better than “uh, I dunno, guess Obama’s easily persuadable”? (Silver lining of this sketch: Kate McKinnon’s incredible Bieber, whom I would follow anywhere.)


Biggest Bait-and-Switch
When interstitial footage between commercials showed a Jeopardy! set, I assumed Will Ferrell might be stopping by for his first “Celebrity Jeopardy” since 2009. Instead, the show defied expectations by presenting a new sketch entirely: “Black Jeopardy,” a showcase for Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharoah, Sasheer Zamata…and Louis C.K., playing the inevitable “out of touch white guy” role. Sure, the bit trafficked in stereotypes, but it did so in pretty amusing ways — category: “That Girl;” question: “She think she cute;” answer: “Who is Monique?” Still, I wish it had been building up to something greater than a predictable N-word joke.


Recurring Sketch Corner
Look, I’m the first person to scold SNL for needlessly repeating sketches that weren’t all that funny the first time they aired. (“Secret Word,” anyone?) But every now and then, the show hits upon something I wish they’d bring back more often — like Beck Bennett’s awesome Baby Boss character, a true feat of physical comedy. Happily, Baby Boss made his second appearance last night, proving that there’s still more juice in this gag — though maybe next time, the show should let him out of his office and into the big, bad world. I can see it now: “Baby Boss’s Day Out.”


Best Musical Moment
Because the “Mr. Big Stuff” sketch was basically just a riff on that (awesome) “Your Love” bit from Josh Hutcherson’s episode, let’s turn instead to musical guest Sam Smith — a soulful sort with Morrissey hair and the shiniest eyes this side of anime. (Seriously, what was up with that? Was Smith so moved by his own performance that he was tearing up?) Of Smith’s two songs, “Stay With Me” was more stirring; I mean, who isn’t a sucker for a backup choir?


The WTF Award
“Private Eyes”: What was that? Vanessa Bayer and Louis C.K. channeling Hart to Hart (or something) as detectives contemplating intimacy wasn’t…bad, per se, but it was very, very weird. A sketch that was largely pointless and, ultimately, a failure — but at least a quasi-interesting one.


Cast MVP
Aidy Bryant was everywhere tonight, playing major roles in five sketches — and, with the exception perhaps of the night’s final sketch (which not even Amy Poehler could have saved), making everything she appeared in better. She gets this citation for two main reasons: “Dyke & Fats” and the way she said “would you mind dippin’ in my…back zone” in the Darth Vader figurine sketch.


Extras

- Weekend Update Update: Colin Jost is still stiff; Cecily Strong is still getting stronger each week. And though Jay Pharoah’s Stephen A. Smith will never really hit for someone who’s totally ignorant of sports, I did like a few of his lines: “We share candlelit Lean Cuisine dinners on my forehead.”

- Also on Update — a Katt Williams joke. Show yourself, SNL‘s Katt Williams superfan!

- Think C.K. knew about this classic Onion point/counterpoint when he wrote that joke about Americans saying they’re “starving”?

- Fine, cold open, you can have this one: “It’s a rare and horrible condition. Her heart is literally made of gold.”

- “Had that been me, I’d still be hitting that.” “Who is Robin Thicke?”

- That Jos. A. Bank commercial parody had one joke, but it was a pretty good joke. Who else wants some suit-drained bacon?

- The search party came back with heavy heads and heavier hearts; there’s still no sign of John Milhiser.


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