At this point in Saturday Night Live’s history, any edition with a few good sketches plus good performances by the guest host must be counted a success. So it was this week with Emma Stone and at a series of solid moments.
Stone endeared herself to millions during the very first sketch, when she played opposite Kristen Wiig in a “Dream Home Extreme” sketch. As Wiig’s character did
standard Wiig stuff – condescending generic-Southern accent; wiggly-nervous moves – Stone’s character stood there poker-faced, just as we do at home when Wiig is trying to sell a sketch.
An excellent “Digital Short” featured Stone in a music video as a high school girl who kept slipping on a patch of grape jelly. Stone’s lip-synching and falling were impeccable, and just when it looked as though the short had peaked, the jelly itself began rapping. Good ‘n’ absurd.
One of the best recurring sketches SNL does is its parody of The View -- Fred Armisen's Joy Behar is always a clever combination of physical moves (Behar's twitchy pinching at her clothes) and middle-aged-lady jokes. This week's View was also helped by Stone's Lindsay Lohan; it's tough to do anything funny about the much-derided, sad-life Lohan, but Stone managed
to find the right vocal timbre and captured Lohan's ludicrous sense of hurt privilege.
Stone was also excellent as a disbelieving teen who can’t imagine how gullible adults are to fall for alarmist local news reports such as the ones delivered by a terrific Bill Hader. He warned about phenomena such as
“souping”: “drinking expired soup to get high.”
(I loved Hader's delivery of the line, "Shockingly, soup is legal!")
"Weekend Update": Despite the fact that it's unlikely most of SNL's nationwide audience is aware of New York gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan and his The Rent Is Too Damn High party, McMillan was too obvious a target for a Kenan Thompson impersonation for the show to resist. Too bad there weren't any jokes surrounding Thompson's costume. There was an amusing return appearance by Bill Hader's Stefon, which remained funny even after Hader cracked himself up. Best of all, however, was the welcome return of John Mulaney, who did a happy-news monologue called "I Love It." Mulaney has
a classic comic presence; avoiding easy vulgarity, scoring laughs with calm assurance, he's the sort of performer who reminds the SNL audience that a joke is a cleverly arranged words the build to a surprising point. "We love him," said Seth Meyers in closing out "I Love It," and he was correct.
I also thoroughly enjoyed “Les Jeunes de Paris” – disaffected French youths led by Stone and Taran Killam flirting snootily and dancing with jerky precision. It was flat-out, energetic, verging-on-silly fun. I also thought the commercial for “Baby Spanx” fit into a fine, long-standing SNL tradition.
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Kings of Leon purveyed their paradoxical brand of sensitive-brawny rock with effectiveness – but only the second of their two performances suggested the strength of the band’s new album Come Around Sundown.
Ultimately, Stone was an SNL success because she communicated an ease with herself and as any character she was assigned.
This week’s missing-in-action cast members: Vanessa Bayer and Jay Pharoah barely saw any screen-time.
What did you like or dislike about this week’s Saturday Night Live?
Oh, and after you’ve registered your decision about the episode, won’t you check out the latest edition of the TV Insiders podcast, featuring Dalton Ross, Annie Barrett, Michael Ausiello, Michael Slezak, Missy Schwartz, and me-myself-and-I, yakking about everything from Project Runway to The Good Wife to The Ultimate Fighter. All that, and more. You can either download the mp3 file here or click below.