If I could think of a good symbol to describe Christoph Waltz hosting Saturday Night Live it would be: an amusement park. The lines for the rides are the time you spent in anticipation after hearing Waltz was going to be the host. The sketches are the rides. Even though most get you excited, a few have you saying “meh.” Still, after you leave you remember the experience fondly.
Okay, so maybe I’m not as good as Waltz at turning what I say into an elaborate metaphor. I still kind of wish they’d poked a little fun at the format of most of his awards speeches (however charming they may be).
While Waltz never played a completely out-of-left-field character, he did a nice job. He played the straight man in most sketches, but he wasn’t afraid to dance around a bit when the occasion called for it. He was endearing if maybe a little awkward, a true professional, not an obvious cue card reader, and (importantly) articulate and clear (except for maybe in that last sketch).
I expected a State of the Union cold open, but what we got was a sketch about the bizarre story of the stranded Carnival Cruise ship. Cecily Strong and Jason Sudeikis starred as the Cruise Director and Assistant Director charged with the difficult task of keeping a positive attitude as more and more of the ship is being used as a toilet. When Jay Pharoah came out to do his Chris Rock, I was a little worried this would be another excuse to have him run through his impressions. Which, you know, wouldn’t be terrible, but also wouldn’t be too original. However, he was off pretty fast. You would have thought this one could get a little crazier than it did, given how insane that whole situation was. Still, Bobby Moynihan as a distraught animal trainer and Armisen as the now-insane captain worked great.
You could tell from the monologue that Waltz had most of the audience on his side, which made the decision to do a song and dance number all the weirder. “Smile, Damn You, Smile” didn’t seem to be played for laughs. We didn’t want to know that Waltz could be adorable, we wanted to know that he could be funny. Before the song, Waltz joked about people thinking he was German even though he’s Austrian. We could have predicted a few “confused about the whole Hitler thing” laughs. The “casual Hitler” idea didn’t work for me, but the audience liked it (and boy can Killam rock that “sweater over the shoulders” look). Also, ya gotta love a good “Who’s on wurst?” joke.
Moving on to my favorite live sketch of the night, “What Have You Become?” featured Waltz as the judgmental game show host and it worked perfectly. In the sketch, three contestants tell a little about themselves and then the host gets them to re-evaluate their life choices by asking them the pointed question “What Have You Become?” It reminded me of the great Justin Timberlake sketch “Dry Eyes” (which you should Google, because it’s not on YouTube, but it is online).
Yes, there’s already a GIF of Waltz dancing at the end. Also, never have I felt more shame for knowing the name of Katy Perry’s cat.
I’d like to forget Nasim Pedrad as Tippy a woman constantly worried that she is missing the joke at a party. The audience didn’t respond very well to this premise, maybe because the cast just kept setting it up over and over without building to something else.
There were three commercial parodies tonight, but only the parody trailer worked perfectly. In the first, even the Pope needs to manage his financial future post-retirement. I chuckled a little at the humpback whale wearing the Pope’s hat. Another (which starred Thompson, Pharoah, and Waltz) featured the line “If you close your eyes you can hardly tell which Jamarcus brother is an adopted white virgin.” So, you get it. Kenan loved this sketch. It was pretty one note.
But then came the best sketch of the night (pre-taped) in the form of “DJesus Uncrossed” (even though, he was wearing a cross for a lot of the trailer), a Tarantino parody movie that is promised to be a little less violent than The Passion of the Christ. Best exchange:
Roman soldier: “Jesus H. Christ”
Jesus: “The H is silent.”
(What followed was a real-life commercial that I for sure thought was a sketch. Don’t make jokes about your pie eating habits making you take out a second mortgage, apparently.)
After the Alabama Shakes, Weekend Update delivered. We predicted (hoped for) a nod to Marco Rubio’s now-meme-d water drinking incident and Taran Killam really sold the joke with some great physical comedy. Our second guest was Olya Povlatsky who would have preferred the meteor that exploded over Russia to have killed her. It took a while for this one to get going, but Kate McKinnon is nothing if not committed. Pharoah’s Stephen A. Smith rounded out the guests perfectly. Pharoah and Meyers couldn’t keep it together by the end of this bit (I mean, I probably would have lost it at “The night Dwight Howard lost his virginity, I was strapped to his chest in a baby Björn”).
One last thing about Update, major props to the art department for the dog prostitute photo. Some people have the best jobs!
Well, hello again Regine. Armisen in drag can only take you so far. Armisen jumping on top of people, knocking over wine, and getting Bill Hader to lose it, now you have our attention. This sketch started out slow, but Armisen definitely kicked it up a notch falling over Hader, spreading his legs so you could see his tights, and making Regine a lot more amusing than just a character who doesn’t like it when people copy her drink order.
Why didn’t this next Fox and Friends sketch start the show? Who knows. But you can read all the hilarious corrections here. My favorites: “Polar bears are rarely ‘asking for it.’” or “ ‘Adele’ is a singer. ‘A Dell’ is a computer.”
After the Alabama Shakes performed ”Always Alright,” the final sketch of the night had Waltz as a weird security guard who tries to cover up the fact that he is the one who sent a disturbing love letter to a colleague. It didn’t quite come together, but Kenan’s joke at the end saved it for me.
So what did you all think? Did Waltz impress or did you wish he would have gotten out of his comfort zone more? Would you watch DJesus Uncrossed? Who was your favorite update guest? Also, what have you become?