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

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. READ FULL STORY

Lady Gaga takes over 'Saturday Night Live' tonight: Talk about it here!

Rah rah ah ah ah, roma roh mah mah, Gaga oo la la — who’s excited for SNL tonight?

By inviting Lady Gaga to serve as host and musical guest just six weeks after Miley Cyrus did the same, Saturday Night Live inadvertently invites a comparison to last season — which saw Justin Timberlake taking the show’s reigns four weeks after Justin Bieber performed double-duty. The analogy isn’t perfect, of course: Bieber had never hosted the show before, though Cyrus had. And while Timberlake is an old hosting pro, Gaga’s previous appearances were nominally as musical guest only — though she has performed in a handful of sketches over the years.

But Bieber is to Timberlake as Cyrus is to Gaga in that the first party in each equation is a younger, provocative, multitalented upstart trying to retread ground that’s already been paved by the elder party. When Timberlake hosted SNL so soon after Bieber had, JT’s triumphant outing stood in sharp contrast to the other Justin’s — which was a mixed bag at best and an exercise in smugness at worst.

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Which Gaga will we get on 'SNL'? Let's go to the videotape

Whether she’s onstage or off, Lady Gaga clearly knows how to put on a show. But when it comes to Saturday Night Live, her experience is surprisingly limited. The artist formerly known as Stefani Germanotta has appeared on just two episodes of SNL, in 2009 and 2011 — both times as the show’s musical guest rather than its host.

Still, looking at those old episodes may give a few hints about what to expect when Gaga finally headlines an entire installment of SNL tomorrow night. In each one, Gaga ventured beyond her band to appear in a handful of sketches — showing off different skills (and, er, areas with room for improvement) every time. Which of these sub-Gagas will rule Studio 8H on Saturday’s show? Let’s look at the evidence and start speculating:

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Lady Gaga plays it fairly straight in 'Saturday Night Live' promos -- VIDEO

Let’s have a round of applause for Understated Gaga!

Sure, “understated” in this case still involves a glittery halter gown, over-the-elbow black gloves, and a Vegas-style headpiece that looks straight out of Showgirls. That said, if this weekend’s Lady Gaga-led episode of SNL is anything like these new promos, it’ll be less “Arcade Fire-style fever dream” than “quirky Drama Club president puts on a show.” Which should be a good thing! After all, we always have fun when Anne Hathaway hosts, don’t we?

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Bobby Moynihan addresses 'SNL' host Kerry Washington's opening sketch

What did you think of Kerry Washington’s opening sketch on Saturday Night Live? We saw the Scandal star breathlessly changing character from one prominent black woman to another, from the First Lady Michelle Obama to Oprah Winfrey. While Washington was changing wardrobe, text scrolled on the screen addressing the fact that there is no current SNL female black cast member. Though the sketch’s execution could be described as too on-the-nose, one current cast member believes it was appropriate:

“I just think it was important for us to acknowledge it, pretty much,” Bobby Moynihan told E! News on Sunday. READ FULL STORY

'Saturday Night Live' best host poll: Kerry Washington or Tina Fey? Let the vote begin!

Saturday Night Live has been around for 39 years. Think about that for another sec. Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show for only 30 years. Both shows became late-night institutions, NBC breadwinners, and comedy king-makers. To be on Johnny Carson at the height of his reign was the ultimate for a young comedian, just as SNL‘s Lorne Michaels has plucked comedians from obscurity and turned them into stars who can eventually carry their own movies, sitcoms, and late-night talk shows.

Saturday Night Live is still the ultimate testing ground for comedy, and that challenge can be especially intimidating to a green guest host. Always has been. In less than a week, an actor, rock star, athlete, or — dear god — a politician has to metaphorically jump onto a speeding bus — a three-wheel bus, mind you, according to Alec Baldwin, “careening towards a blown-out bridge.”

Many are called, but few are called back. Those guest-hosts who ace the test join a certain club; not necessarily the Five-Timers, but a small fraternity of performers who did it right. Baldwin, SNL‘s current Joe DiMaggio of sorts, went on to tell Edward Norton that the guest needs to be “facile, nimble, ready for curveballs,” but it’s more than that. You’ve got to have the goods in the first place, because the SNL experience can be the cruelest example of the Emperor’s New Clothes in entertainment. No one wants to end up there buck naked.

For the last two years, Entertainment Weekly’s readers have selected the best Saturday Night Live host of the season in a series of weekly polls. That they chose Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, two savvy, versatile entertainers, sets the bar for our third season. At the very least, we know what it means to be great at this. Now that we’re five episodes in to this new season, it’s time we begin our contest anew to see who’s got the goods and who’s just standing naked in the spotlight to a chorus of crickets.

Thus far, we’ve enjoyed Tina Fey, Miley Cyrus, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, and Kerry Washington. They all had their moments, but someone is doomed to go home. Our rules are simple: Who was the best host? More specifically, who looked like they belonged? Who surprised you with a side of them you never thought existed? Whose hilarious sketch did you post on Facebook? Whose show were your boss, your mom, and your roommate all giggling about on Monday morning?

Below, I’ve embedded one clip for each of the five hosts, just to remind you of their recent performances. Vote, and the host with the least support will be eliminated, and the other four will advance to compete against Lady Gaga on Nov. 16. Ultimately, we’ll eliminate the less memorable hosts and crown a new Mr. or Mrs. Saturday Night next May. Watch and vote below. READ FULL STORY

'SNL' recap: Host Kerry Washington smartly handles heavy diversity mantle

This week’s episode of SNL felt like it had something to prove, though what that was never became entirely clear.

If its intention was to prove that Kerry Washington brings a spark of energy to most anything she touches, it succeeded. If its intention was to prove that Jay Pharoah has grown into more than just a skilled impressionist — and judging by previous seasons, not without a considerable amount of work — then it succeeded. Further, it succeeded in addressing – but only addressing – the elephant in the room that is the lack of diversity in its cast.

SNL proved that it can still do what it has always done: slyly address an issue with comedy and confidence, without feeling the need to offer any real solutions or insight as to how to take care of the problem. Perhaps Al Sharpton said it best (what???): “What have we learned from this…as usual, nothing. Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!” Let’s hope he won’t be right forever.

Last night’s episode was full of sketches that left you confused but intrigued, maybe not laughing your hardest but probably wanting more. Diversity was the word on the tip of everyone’s tongue, including the show itself’s, going into this week’s episode. After Kenan Thompson’s remarks to TV Guide a few weeks ago that the lack of a black female cast member since Maya Rudolph left the show in 2007 is due to the show not being able to find black female comedians who “are ready,” the choice to have Kerry Washington host this week seemed appropriately timed.

Whether she was utilized to play every black female in the news who has been ignored in sketches for the last six years, or whether race was taken off the table altogether… No, scratch that, race can never really be taken off the table. And hot damn, did Lorne Michaels ever put race all over that sketch table last night!

If Thompson says the problem is black female comedians not being ready for the show, perhaps Washington has a break from Scandal coming up, because girl was ready. Even in the most middling sketches, Washington’s energy and commitment to an array of characters was the best part. Here’s to you, Ms. Washington. Let’s take a look at one of the more confusing (and probably divisive) episodes of SNL in a while:
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Kerry Washington hosts 'Saturday Night Live' tonight -- talk about it here!

Kerry Washington is poised, intelligent, talented, stylish, and, of course, beautiful. But is she funny?

I want the answer to be “yes.” I hope the answer will be “yes.” But considering that the Scandal star’s last major comedy credit is a series of 1996 PBS “edutainment” shorts called Standard Deviants, one can be forgiven for having doubts. (Okay, she was also the other woman in Chris Rock’s I Think I Love My Wife — but the role wasn’t particularly funny, and also, the movie wasn’t particularly good.)

Of course, a lack of comedic experience doesn’t necessarily mean an actor has no aptitude for comedy. Before they became SNL favorites, Christopher Walken and Jon Hamm were known primarily as dramatic actors. After their first turns as host, though, both proved that they’ve got serious comedic chops as well. (Christoph Waltz also sort of belongs in this category, though his Oscar-winning turn in Inglourious Basterds was funny in a very dark sort of way.)

Could Kerry join the exclusive ranks of those unexpectedly great hosts — or will she turn in a performance more along the lines of unsuccessful Serious Actor hosts like January Jones or Daniel Craig?

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Eminem and Kerry Washington can't wait to do 'SNL' this weekend -- VIDEO

Remember when Kanye West scowled through a set of Saturday Night Live promos earlier this year? (You don’t? What, you have more important things to think about or something?) Well, this newest spot features upcoming musical guest Eminem basically doing the same thing — though this time, it’s at least part of the joke.

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Kerry Washington's 'SNL' promos? They're handled -- VIDEO

Will Kerry Washington and Saturday Night Live be two great tastes that taste great together? We won’t know for sure until this weekend — but in the meantime, please feast on Washington’s new SNL promos.

They’re basically three minutes of the Scandal star playing the straight woman to Taran Killam’s loud buffoonery, though Washington does get a few moments to shine (“BUCK UP, TARAN!”). Let’s just hope that the show itself gives the actress more to do than stand around looking pretty. (Remember the great January Jones debacle of ’09?) Also: Killam does a pretty good Eminem impression, albeit a bit too Beavis-esque.

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