Steve Buscemi’s opening monologue during last night’s mixed bag episode of Saturday Night Live featured cast members playing actors struggling with typecast roles (“The Clumsy Best Friend in the Romantic Comedy,” “The Magical African American Character,” “The Sassy Lady Judge,” among others), who asked the Boardwalk Empire star how he broke out of his character actor stigma. While Buscemi has become a bona fide, Golden Globe-winning television star thanks to his work as Nucky on the HBO drama, SNL didn’t quite let the actor take center stage as leading man for his return as host. That’s not to say that Buscemi didn’t make the best of his second banana status or the mostly very funny episode itself. In fact, Buscemi, who really played into his persona throughout the night (at one point during the monologue he joked that he was once cast as “The Creepy Creepy Guy”) turned out to be a fine host – even though he had just one skit (at the end, no less) to really claim as his own.
Buscemi wasn’t featured in the cold open, a so-so Presidential address skit featuring Fred Armisen, who seems to be letting his Barack Obama impersonation slip more as the years go on and seemingly having way less fun with the opportunity than Will Ferrell did when he hammed it up as George W. Bush. He also didn’t appear in the funny, very old school-feeling SNL fake commercial about how to fix constipation – eat a frozen Mexican or fish or Indian dinner and rock on! But he did make an appearance during the always welcome, always pretty cool “Miley Cyrus Show.” While it was plenty amusing to see Buscemi as a sketchy hippie who Miley met at Burning Man, the skit all but belonged to Maya Rudolph, who popped in for a surprise visit as Whitney Houston. Rudolph, who has always pulled off being both a team player and a scene-stealer, returned to play her clean and sober (“since 2013!”) over-the-top Houston (“Shoop!”) who taught Cyrus some invaluable lessons. Namely, don’t take advice from Pauly Shore. (I don’t know about you, but I could honestly listen to Rudolph’s Houston saying variations of Bobby Brown’s name all day.) Watch:
There was probably more potential for the Batman Digital Short, but Buscemi played the straight man (in this case, Commissioner Gordon) well against Andy Samberg's silly, Christian Bale rasp-y, stalker version of Batman. Jason Sudeikis' inappropriate pose for a photo during a prostate exam (then again, it's probably impossible to have an appropriate picture in that scenario) and a pants-less superhero shower certainly stuck out.
Still, Batman was no match for fellow crime fighting enthusiast Keith Morrison. Bill Hader finally brought back his insanely funny, overtly ridiculous impression of the Dateline correspondent. In last night's segment, Hader's Morrison continued to mercilessly grin as he unconvincingly tried to sound sympathetic ("Ohhhhh, that's terrible") and asked more asinine questions ("Was it Wilson the volleyball?" or "Kill, like a comedian at The Apollo?") as he tried to help solve "The Mystery of the Chopped-Up Guy." These skits are always perfection, from pointing out hilariously spot-on Dateline observations (they do use the same picture repeatedly, don't they?) to Hader's far-too-excited-about-murder Morrison. Buscemi and Kristen Wiig were no slouches in the night's best sketch either, but as is so often the case, it's all Hader's. Ohhhh, see for yourself:
For a sketch that could have been very cringe-inducing, I have to give SNL credit for pulling off the tough feat of having a bit based off of the ongoing sex abuse scandals. It turned out to be both funny and not entirely insensitive to a very sensitive subject. Though it ran a bit too long (a problem most SNL skits tend to have), there were some solid laughs in the sketch in which Buscemi played a rightly appalled fictional basketball coach who is called out as a "potential sexual predator," despite having no evidence to support the theory that he's a pedophile aside from having a creepy mustache and being anti-social. Of course, Hader earned the biggest laugh as a NAMBLA member (he even wore a Members Only jacket) who rejected the clearly-innocent coach. (It's not possible for a current cast member to host, is it?) Check it out: