During their lukewarm cold open, in which Jason Sudeikis played a “raw and unleashed” version of Mitt Romney (and by raw and unleashed they meant, wore a leather jacket and made “Obama hair” jokes,) it seemed like it was going to be business– or in this case, politics– as usual for Saturday Night Live. Then, as we’d all hoped, the Muppets showed up!
No, they weren’t hosting. (Though, they pondered why they weren’t. First the Oscars, now this!) Rather, they’d stopped by to help out their pal Jason Segel, who was having his first go as SNL host. After the beaming Segel hit the stage, he told the audience he couldn’t put his genuine excitement into words. Lucky for him, there was a piano and the Muppets–namely Kermit, Miss Piggy, Rowlf, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, and Scooter–nearby to give him some assistance. During the sweet, bouncy little tune, titled “I Can’t Believe I’m Hosting SNL”, Segel lived out two of his lifelong dreams at the same moment: Hosting the late night show and hanging out with his beloved Muppets. If this opening monologue–which included some great zingers from the Muppets aimed towards Lorne Michaels and Segel himself (“When people go to a Muppet movie, they say, ‘Gee, I can’t wait to see the human!”)–was any indication of how funny, heartfelt and nostalgic The Muppets will be, I think we’re all in for a treat come Wednesday. Watch the full clip, including Kermit’s spot-on impression of Ray Romano and a visit from Statler and Waldorf, here.
Speaking of impressions, the Regis Philbin replacement sketch was chock full of them. (I’m skipping over the very funny Red Flag perfume commercial that aired following the opening monologue, as its not a newbie.) Of course, Regis’ exit really didn’t have much to do with the bit, so much as give SNL an excuse to let their cast try out their best impressions. Those, by the way, were Sudeikis’ snooty Ricky Gervais, Taran Killam’s Punk‘d era Ashton Kutcher, and Bill Hader’s frighteningly accurate Garrison Keillor. (While nothing tops his Alan Alda, this one was pretty darn great.) The worst? Abby Elliott’s “adorkable” take on Zooey Deschanel (just because you dress like someone doesn’t mean you in any way resemble them), Jay Pharoah’s Denzel Washington (it’s not that it isn’t a great impression, it’s just that I’m still waiting to see Pharoah’s range), and, as much as it pains me to say it, Segel’s Antonio Banderas, which fell into the same trap as Elliott’s Deschanel. In short, this was not on par with the Back to the Future auditions.
Aside from the joy-inducing opening Muppet monologue (a Muppet-logue?) the first real, hearty laugh of the night came from the hilariously naughty Kemper-pedic bed commercial. Much like the actual Temper-pedic bed, the Kemper-pedic bed, which was created by a couple named the Kempers, (played by Segel and Vanessa Bayer, ensured that you don’t feel any of your partner’s movements. Whether that be rolling some dice, kneading dough, or working out (which of course, resemble nothing else) whoever you sleep next to, won’t notice it one bit. While the premise for the skit is funny in and of itself, I have to give the credit to Segel on this one. The guy has never had any shame in going there for the sake of comedy and it paid off in a big way . (Oh, wait, that’s just a telescope.) Check it out here, but maybe watch it with your laptop shield on!
I must admit I was instantly filled with dread when the kissing family sketch started. As far as recurring skits go on SNL, this is one of my least favorites, as it relies entirely on its shock value, all of which gets old relatively quickly. While the Vogelchecks were up to their same disgusting antics, (spitting seltzer water at each others crotches, licking gravy off of a homeless man’s beard) there was one pleasant surprise in the midst of a sketch that included a nauseating transfer of Brussels sprouts: Paul Rudd! Yes, the Vogelcheck’s other handsome son (this brood, while horrible, has produced some good looking offspring, including James Franco who appeared in their family photo) came home for Thanksgiving and was greeted with a full-on make-out session by his brother, played by Segel. Guess he really does love him, man. Paul Rudd, you always make everything everywhere better at all times. If you can stomach it readers, here it is.
In fact, maybe Florence Welch should have pulled Paul Rudd on stage for a little help during her first performance of the night. While I downright adore Florence + the Machine’s haunting “Shake It Out”, something sounded a bit off during the SNL rendition. I’ll chalk it up to nerves (Welch could be seen looking into the camera a few times) for the uncharacteristically out-of-key number. But still, even on a bad night, Welch’s angelic voice sounds better than most popular artists on their best day. Plus, the follow-up “No Light, No Light” sounded significantly improved. I can only hope this doesn’t deter those unfamiliar with Florence + the Machine from giving them a shot, as their latest album Ceremonials is truly something to behold.
It seemed like there was no helping the continually flagging Weekend Update after some ho-hum cracks about Newt Gingrich and Occupy Wall Street. While a visit from Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman improved things a bit (he certainly had a good sense of humor about himself and his continual love fest for New Hampshire,) the real scene-stealer was, unsurprisingly, Kermit. While its nearly impossible to top Amy Poehler for the “Really?!” segments, Kermit came awfully close thanks to his over-the-top reactions (throwing his froggy hands in the air with contempt, rubbing his adorable froggy belly) during the pizza-as-a-vegetable discussion. The highlight: Kermit correcting Homer Simpson’s failed Muppets theory once and for all with this explanation: “A puppet is actually controlled by a person, whereas I am an actual talking frog.” See for yourself.
The Kermit high unfortunately didn’t last very long as the worst skit of the night, an uncomfortable, confusing bit about a retirement party, soon followed. The skit was a muddled combination of the far superior dramatic soap opera reactions skit from earlier this season combined with Kristen Wiig’s terrible toast-giving skills (which proved to be much, much funnier in Bridesmaids.) The “New Jack Thanksgiving” skit that followed wasn’t much better, despite some solid efforts from Segel as an R&B singer who wears nothing but a vest (nice try, blurred-out bottom half, but we’ve all seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Bobby Moynihan essentially reviving his Slappy Pappy character, only this time with a Jheri curl and a sketchy mustache. (That said, I would absolutely listen to a band called Tony Tony Tony Shaloub.)
While Florence Welch made a noticeable cameo for “New Jack Thanksgiving” as a hip hop version of herself called “Flo Diggity”, if you blinked you probably missed Olivia Wilde in the bizarre, but surprisingly funny Digital Short that followed. In the clip, which was made to look like an old, shoddy instructional video from 1981, Andy Samberg taught how to “Seduce Women Through Chess.” Only problem was he couldn’t play chess..or checkers…or Jenga…or eat glass (which is where an unimpressed Wilde popped up)…or not get stabbed by a prostitute that looked an awful lot like Jason Segel.
Segel’s real moment shining of the night, however, arrived with the all-too-short “Andre the Giant Chooses an Ice Cream Flavor.” (I would have to guess this was the skit the actor tweeted about earlier this week, wouldn’t you?) Okay, so his Banderas may not be any good, but his Andre the Giant–which he previously showed off in I Love You, Man–is nothing short of incredible. Watch it here.
Despite wearing an all-denim ensemble, neither Segel, nor additional cameos by the Muppets, Rudd and Welch, could really do much to salvage the Blue Jean Committee skit. It wasn’t bad per se (not to mention the fact that “Massachusetts Afternoon” will likely be stuck in my head for sometime) it just felt a little anti-climatic. Sort of like the episode itself, really. While I didn’t love the episode as much as I’d desperately hoped I would (perhaps my unwavering love of Segel set my expectations too high,) it still had some positive, memorable highlights, including those delightful Muppets appearances. Jeez, is it Wednesday yet?
What did you think of last night’s Jason Segel-hosted episode of Saturday Night Live? Did he charm the pants off of you? (I mean, he dedicated the episode to his family, for cryin’ out loud!) Or did his Muppets simply steal the show from him? Were you as surprised by the shaky Florence + the Machine performance as I was? What was your favorite skit of the night? Least favorite? Share in the comments section below!