For an episode of Saturday Night Live that seemed to rely heavily on recurring characters and sketches, returning host Emma Stone helped to make the whole thing feel fresh thanks to her energized, no-holds-barred approach to hosting.
There was never a shred of doubt that SNL would have their turn to poke fun at Gov. Rick Perry and his instantly infamous “oops” gaffe, but the cold opening parodying the moment felt too late to the game. (Especially after seeing Perry’s legitimately funny, self-deprecating Letterman appearance on Thursday.) Despite Bill Hader’s best efforts (I think he really just needed the help of his hula girl again), the six minute-long sketch ran uncomfortably long, even by Rick Perry standards. Eventually, Andy Samberg’s Rick Santorum cried “Somebody make it stop!” – I felt the same way.
Still, mediocre opening be damned, there was no stopping Stone – star of the upcoming flick The Amazing Spider-Man – from giving it her all. Even when Samberg, hopelessly auditioning for the role of Spider-Man, recycled the opening monologue from 2001 with Kirsten Dunst, she made it all feel as good as new thanks to her solid delivery of one-liners (“[I play Gwen Stacy], who is a dynamic and brilliant science student. Not to be confused with Spider-Man’s other girlfriend Mary Jane Watson, who is a skank and doesn’t love him like I do”) and a visit from her Spider-Man co-star Andrew Garfield. Even though Samberg jokingly protested that Garfield can’t just barge onto the stage of Studio 8H “just because you co-created Facebook,” would it be too soon to ask for him to host as well? He’s just so darn charming! Watch the monologue below:
If seeing a Spider-Man leading lady interacting with an upside down Spidey felt all too familiar, then the two skits that followed probably gave you some déjà vu as well. Kristen Wiig revived her part as overly dramatic actress Mindy Elise Grayson, a.k.a. the worst possible Secret Word contestant. While Wiig always nails it as the unbearable Grayson in these skits, Stone stole the spotlight as a squeaky Miss America winner ("Our state's bird is the peach!") thanks to a devotion to the material reminiscent of earlier host Melissa McCarthy. Case in point: Her clueless Charlene made out with her own British ventriloquist dummy Mr. Pickles. See for yourself:
After that, the show revisited Bill Hader's cranky, out-of-touch news reporter Herb Welch. While Stone held her own in the skit as an annoyed New Yorker putting up with Herb's tendency to smack his interviewees with his microphone, the biggest laughs came from Hader and Wiig. As Herb tried to determine if Wiig's character was a man or a woman by hitting her in the crotch repeatedly, both of the SNL vets broke. While they didn’t break character of “Debbie Downer” or Jimmy Fallon proportions, it’s always a kick to watch those moments unfold. See for yourself:
The episode's low-light came courtesy, once again, of the increasingly disappointing Digital Short. What once were instantly viral knee-slappers have turned into head-scratching, dreadfully un-funny bits. This week was no exception as, despite rocking some awesome facial hair, Samberg couldn't salvage the "I Wish It Would Rain On Me" music video in which a singer narrates his every thought while desperately waiting for the rain to arrive. It does arrive, but, unfortunately, the laughs never did.
Thankfully, Coldplay was there to save the day, er, night, from unfortunate tunes. I know some would argue it's terribly un-hip to like Coldplay, but even the most adamant of Chris Martin haters would have to give him and his band kudos for their spirited, energetic, and downright fun performances on last night's SNL. While their first performance of "Paradise" was lovely and enjoyable enough in that Coldplay sort of way (Martin sounded as crystal-clear on SNL as he does on the love-it-or-leave-it Mylo Xyolto), their second set later in the show performing "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall" was downright irresistible. You can accuse Coldplay of a lot of things, but you can't say these guys don't know how to let loose on stage (Martin appeared to have possibly hurt himself during "Waterfall") or play a tight, cohesive set. Sometimes it's hip to be square, kids.
Not unlike the Digital Shorts, Weekend Update has been faltering as of late, too. In a Daily Show-dominated fake news world, it's almost impossible for SNL to compete with cutting-edge commentary on current events. Case in point: SNL's comparison of the Joe Paterno scandal to the Catholic church -- a bit The Daily Show had already explored. While Jason Sudeikis' devil was amusing enough (he hadn't heard the full story, as he gets his news from Ashton Kutcher's twitter), when it comes to tackling sensitive topics like this one, they still could use some pointers from Daily Show.
Then again, Jon Stewart has never had Garth and Kat on his program. Wiig and Fred Armisen's matching musical duo visited Weekend Update to sing their Thanksgiving songs. On the fly, of course. They even got a little help from Chris Martin on a few tunes, including the hilariously titled "Pilgrims Are Always Friendly, Unless They're Pushed To Their Limit." Martin broke character a few times, but the guy still has surprisingly good comedic sensibility. (No, really! Go watch his Extras cameo!) Check out the Update highlight below:
Stone got the chance to slip into her slinky French duds again for the hypnotic "Les Jeunes de Paris," which feels like a cross between a more sophisticated "What Up With That?" and Stefon's wildest dreams come true. (It had everything: Beautiful girls with hairy armpits, a midget in a striped hat, and Tour de France cyclists.) But Stone’s shining moment came next when she shed any resemblance of herself to play uncomfortable, inappropriate bridal shower guest Wallace. Stone was scarily believable as the ill-informed party attendee (she hires a “human toilet” instead of sexy strippers, one of her many missteps), and it was even more fun to watch the tables turn on Wiig, who was now on the other end of a bad bridesmaids scenario. (Anyone else think Stone and Wiig play really nicely off one another and would make for excellent big screen co-stars? Make this happen, Hollywood.) Watch it here:
The night concluded on two funny, albeit very different notes, beginning with a skit which showed how everyone reacts when they listen to Adele's "Someone Like You." (Kudos to the SNL writers for this line: "Last night I watched the series finale of Friday Night Lights and it really screwed me up.” Been there.) Then there was the juvenile finale called “We’re Going To Make Technology,” in which Stone and SNL cast members took digital cameras, iPhones, iPads, and video game controllers and rubbed them together in compromising positions. The skit itself may have been so wrong (was this supposed to be a children’s show?!), but its airtime (a few minutes shy of 1 a.m.) felt just right.
It was evident within the first few minutes of the show that Stone’s talent for hosting wasn’t a fluke. In fact, I’d argue that this episode was even better than her undeniably strong 2010 debut on SNL. The episode itself had a few missed opportunities (the SNL writers laid off their alumni Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler, despite the two of them having major things going on that are prime for the picking, like, say, dropping out of the Oscars and starring in this), but Stone didn’t waste a second of her time and elevated all of the material she was given. Next to fellow team player McCarthy, Stone was a season highlight.
What did you think of Emma Stone’s episode of Saturday Night Live, PopWatchers? Which skit stood out the most with you? Were you (reluctantly) rocking out to Coldplay? Or did Emma Stone steal the show too much for you to even notice them? Speaking of noticing things, anyone else catch Stone’s wonderful homage of Gilda Radner’s Rosanne Roseannadanna at the end of the show? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!