Saturday Night Live Season 38, Episode 2 Review: “Joseph Gordon-Levitt”

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his return to 30 Rock after a memorable debut. It’s been two years since he first hosted Saturday Night Live, and in those years he’s become one of the most famous young actors working today. Can he still “Make ‘Em Laugh?” 


Live! with Kelly and Michael: I expected this episode to start off with another political cold open, but instead we got the return of the “Live!” sketches – something none of us were really asking for. Jay Pharoah does a great Michael Strahan, but that couldn’t save this sketch from being dull. I was enjoying the back-and-forth between Nasim Pedrad and Pharoah, but then Bill Hader was brought on to play Robert Pattinson even though it isn’t 2009. Though Pattinson is in the news, bringing him on and making jokes about him brooding isn’t very original, and the sketch died once he came out. Score: 5 out of 10

Monolouge: Last time JGL hosted, his monologue was a fantastic performance of “Make ‘Em Laugh!”, so we were all expecting him to try and live up to it this time. Instead, we got one of the shortest monologues of recent memory. JGL walked out, mentioned he was in Looper, then took his shirt off and danced. I’ll give this sketch a plus because Bobby Moynihan ripping off his vest revealing another vest beneath was the hardest I laughed during the episode. Score: 5 out of 10

Undecided Voter: This was a simple idea, but it was consistently funny and didn’t get stale. The undecided voters were asking questions but none of them knew anything about politics, the candidates, or life. Increasingly silly questions like “What is oil?” and “Can a woman get pregnant just from french kissing?” were enough to make it memorable. Score: 8 out of 10

The Son of the Most Interesting Man in theWorld: The son of the most interesting man in the world isn’t nearly as good as his dad. He owns five different styles of fedoras, and can’t break dance. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was really funny in the sketch, and I enjoyed it more than the usual SNL commercials. Score: 7 out of 10

Private Detective Sam Flint: This was a surprisingly good sketch. A man goes to a private detective and wants to know if his wife is cheating on him, but all the detective keeps showing him are caricatures. It was a very goofy sketch, but Bill Hader’s deadpan delivery sold the jokes. Score: 7 out of 10

One interesting thing to note was how short this sketch was. Normally SNL sketches have a problem with running too long and overstaying their welcome, but this sketch, and all of the sketches pre-Weekend Update, were very short. They did their setup, they made their jokes, and they ended. Sure the ending wasn’t very good, but I hope this is a trend SNL continues. We got nine sketches pre-Update tonight.

The Son of the Most Interesting Man in the World 2: Normally when SNL returns to a sketch more than once in an episode, the law of diminishing returns is enacted. Not this time. From the start the jokes were better than the previous installment, but then Jason Sudekis entered as his father and it became great. Seeing the father and son argue as the son admits that he has no income and that he’s mad at his father for never going to his swim meet was hilarious. Score: 9 out of 10

Hypnotist: Taran Killam made this sketch as funny as it was. It started off simple, with him mouthing to the audience that he wasn’t really hypnotized, but soon it escalated to him acting like a dinosaur and humping Kenan Thompson. This had the best ending of a sketch for the night, with him tricking the hypnotist into thinking he ruined his wife’s birthday by admitting he had an affair. I was convinced by the wife, so when she walked on stage and showed she was in on the joke I was surprised. Also, I loved JGL’s voice for the sketch. Once again, another short sketch that did its thing and ended quickly. Score: 8 out of 10

GOP Tampons: This was a funny sketch, but suffered from being a tad too late. This would have been better closer to when Todd Akin actually made his comments, but SNL was off the air then. Still, it had some novelty. Score: 6 out of 10

Weekend Update: Even though they had done a primetime special on Thursday, Weekend Update was still strong. Seth Meyers debuted a new segment “What Are You Doing?”, which was basically “Really?!?” minus a co-host, and he was on his game. He does best when he’s fired up about something, and “What Are You Doing?” brought it out in him.

The return of Assad’s two best friends was less successful. Until that point, the episode was Armisen-free, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Armisen was reading a newspaper, saw a story about Assad, and then ran into the writer’s room screaming that he had something he could do. The segment is the exact same thing drawn out for a few minutes, and the thing isn’t even funny to begin with.

Kate McKinnon did a good job in her turn in the spotlight as Ann Romney. She’s found a good take on her and had plenty of good quirks like waving to the crowd and mispronouncing Beyonce. It was also great to see the return of Rick Perry. Man I miss that guy.

Finally, in a stuffed Weekend Update, we got Jay Pharoah as Stephen A. Smith. It’s a fantastic impression, and the running joke of Smith knowing everyone and considering them a good friend was funny. Hopefully Weekend Update has found a new character to bring back until it isn’t funny anymore. Score: 7 out of 10

 Beatles Pub: This was a welcome return of one of my favorite recurring sketches on the show. A group of friends sits around a table, each one tells a weird story, and they sing along to a song. Having Mumford & Sons as a Beatles cover band was a nice touch, and each of the stories was funny. Normally each of the “friends drinking” sketches have ended with something dark and crazy, but I loved having the cast and band break the fourth wall and walk off the stage. It was reminiscent of a sketch from one of Will Ferrell’s last hosting jobs when the cast sang “Goodnight Saigon.” Score: 7 out of 10

The Finer Things: This was one of the weaker sketches of the night. Jay Pharoah and Kenan Thompson played two lame rappers who hosted a talk show. Joseph Gordon-Levitt brought a lot of energy to it, but this was a one joke sketch without a good joke to repeat. Score: 4 out of 10

We Present Her to You: I feared the worst when I saw Joseph Gordon-Levitt in drag, because having that’s usually a sign of a bad sketch. This didn’t end up being bad – just mediocre. Fred Armisen and Kate McKinnon sang a song about their daughter while her would be suitor sat on the couch. I kept waiting for a big joke to happen, but it never did. Score: 5 out of 10

Powers Reality: Tim Robinson finally got a decent sketch for the night. This was a simple juvenile sketch, but I laughed consistently throughout it. People kept vandalizing the Powers Reality signs, and Burt & Blair were fed up with it. The final joke that it was their son was good, but I’m not sure what happened next, because NBC cut to commercial. Score: 7 out of 10

Final Thoughts: This was one of my favorite episodes SNL has done in a while. It was jam-packed – eleven sketches, a monologue, and Weekend Update – so even if some sketches didn’t work, this episode was so full that the good outweighed the bad. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was an energetic host who brought his all to every sketch and will hopefully be back soon. This was one of the most consistently good episodes SNL has had in a while, and this and a surprisingly good Seth MacFarlane episode have started the season out on a high note. In two weeks Daniel Craig will host, which will either be very good or terrible. Hopefully the extra week will give the writers a chance to write some great sketches, because when you have a host that isn’t inherently comedic, you need strong writing to make up for it.

Sketch of the Night: The Son of the Most Interesting Man in the World 2

MVP: Jay Pharoah, who debuted two new impressions and killed as both.

Loose Ends:

  • “I can’t believe I got smashed in the head every day for fifteen years when this was a job!”
  • “We’re like that things on the news when dogs and elephants are friends!”
  • When he orders at Starbucks, he only gets fake names.
  • “I’m not the monster, he is. His name is Feebles.”
  • When he tips, he puts a negative ammount.
  • “A New York who dresses as Elmo was arrested this week in Times Square after going on an anti-semetic rant. Though what’s most shocking is that there are people in the costumes, and not, as I had assumed, a hundred rats working together.”
  • “I would kill that horse if I could meet Beyonce.”
  • “Just another day in the life of Larry Sandusky.”
  • “She was inside me.” “We present her to you.” “Now she’s outside me.”