SNL: God Bless Louis C.K.

By Price Peterson

Nov 05, 2012

Saturday Night Live S38E06: "Louis C.K. and fun."

Louis C.K. is a national treasure not because he fits in so well with mainstream comedy, but because of how much he doesn't. From the (not always) comedic rhythms of his fantastic sitcom Louie to the actual, thoughtful ideas he expresses in his standup, he's established himself as a singular presence in the comedy landscape. A rebel. A loner. He has funny friends, sure, but he can be quite hilarious on his own, thanks. So the prospect of his hosting SNL likely provoked two very divergent reactions in his fans: (1) Yes! Louis C.K. is getting the mainstream plaudits he deserves! But also (2) Uh-oh, SNL does not seem like the right forum for Louis C.K. It's a long-running sketch show that aspires to subversion but is actually this huge corporate machine that frequently perpetuates the kinds of hacky, hoary humor Louis C.K.'s has made a career out of providing a stark contrast to. The humor of Louie is in its shadows, its measured energy, its organic humanity. SNL has never revelled in any of those things. But still, it happened: Louis C.K. hosted SNL this week! Was he funny? YES. Was it a perfect fit? NO. But with his scattered, maddeningly brief appearances throughout SNL's staid format, Louis C.K. did manage to bring something new and different to the show, and it turned out SNL desperately needed those things. It was a very solid showing. Let's talk about it.

[Apologies to international readers for these embedded clips, Hulu can be a bit of a jerk.]

Cold Open: Hurricane Sandy Interpreters

Okay, I half-expected a somber, semi-serious sketch here to start things off on a poignant note, but I'm glad SNL didn't go that route. Instead we got a truly hilarious sketch that kept spinning into newer and funnier premises. First we got a spirited parody of Mayor Bloomberg's extremely expressive ASL interpreter, followed by Gov. Chris Christie's Jerseyfied version. (Nasim Pedrad was truly brilliant here and may have stolen the entire show with this bit alone.) But then when Bloomberg came back on and explained to Spanish-language viewers in Spanish how irritable white people get when they can't watch Homeland, I nearly fell off the couch. This was the rare cold open that actually justified its long runtime. Very excellent job.

Louis C.K.'s Monologue

Yes. Just give Louis C.K. a microphone and let him speak. The opening monologue was invented for Louis C.K. to just come out and do his thing. Here he told a lengthy story about helping an old woman who'd fallen down and it was absolutely great. Just absolutely great. Next time he hosts, I hope they'll just let him do a 30-minute monologue, Jay Leno style.

Fox & Friends

Sometimes it's hard for me to laugh at these Fox & Friends sketches because, well, yeah, they're hilarious, but at the same time they are spookily accurate and it frightens me how popular this particular morning show is (at least within my family anyway). But, as always, the funniest bit is at the end when the "fact check" scroll races by. Some of SNL's best jokes are hidden there, so it's best to pause, freeze frame, and enjoy. "Michael J. Fox does not have 'multiple sandwiches'."


Perfect. Not much else to say about this. Do I really need to write another paragraph explaining why Louis C.K. is so great? No, I don't, because you can just watch this and know what I mean.

Australian Screen Legends

I think the joke here is that Australian movies might aspire to beautiful, dramatic moments, but Australian people's brassy attitudes and fondness for discussing genitalia ruins them. Well, as long as we're trafficking in stereotypes, how about the one about how Australians are hotter/cooler than everyone else? Huh, SNL? What about that one?

fun.: "Some Nights"

I remember when I heard this song in EVERY COMMERCIAL AND MOVIE TRAILER EVER. It's an okay memory.

Weekend Update

Seth Meyers did his thing.

Commentary: Mitt Romney

I liked this, but I will be honest that it's definitely because I'm a pinko commie who hates Amurica. Busted! (Seriously though, Jason Sudeikis is leaving soon and I miss him already!)

Commentary: Social Media Correspondent

One of the reasons it's becoming impossible to watch live news coverage of anything is that national media outlets seem to think we care about what ordinary citizens are saying on Twitter or Facebook. GUESS WHAT WE DON'T. That's why we are watching TV and not our timelines! So this sketch nicely underscored the maddening idiocy of this trend. Thanks, SNL. #truth2power

Commentary: Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With

This seemed pretty funny to me, but I don't know, I don't go to parties or leave the house or talk to people or have friends. It all seemed pretty accurate otherwise.

Mountain Pass

One thing that never ceases to amaze and/or disturb me about SNL is how needlessly expensive so much of it looks. Here is an example of a sketch with a set and costuming that took countless hours of manpower, tons of ingenuity, and unspeakable amounts of cash to pull off, yet the WRITING felt like someone misplaced the cue cards for five minutes and the cast had to just wing it. Normally I'd be all bored/mad about this, but in this case the disparity between the expense and the writing was so extreme that I had to appreciate it on a conceptual level at the very least. Did any of this explanation make sense to you? I've had A LOT of coffee.

Hotel Fees

"Hotel Fees" felt very much like a throwback sketch, something that might've worked as a radio play, or a Nichols & May routine, or at the very least a sequel sketch to Monty Python's "Dead Parrot." I appreciated it for that reason, the acknowledgment of its forebears. It also made me laugh a few times, imagine that! The argon joke was great, for example. I'm curious as to why Louis C.K. didn't play the hotel guest, though. You'd think his sort of mumbly irritation would've been the more obvious choice for that part, but then again, maybe Louis C.K. himself wanted to actually play a character here. Understandable! He did a good job of it, in my opinion.

fun.: "Carry On"

Why is he screaming at me? What did I do to deserve this? Just kidding, I didn't really mind.

Last Call

I have to believe that Louis C.K. had a big influence on this sketch, writing-wise. It was such a perfect combination of charming and outright depressing. Two last call drunks passionately "fall in love" mainly due to the fact that they are each other's only options. Despite being pretty hilarious ("I'm awaiting trial!"), this sketch also felt like a super short stage play, you know? With actual characters and acting. And Louis C.K. and Kate MacKinnon actually made eye contact rather than staring off at cue cards the whole time. I enjoyed this. It was weird, sad, and compelling, plus it featured the world's most insanely disgusting tongue kiss in the history of television. No really, you have to see it to believe it.

As is typically the case with modern-day SNL, the host wasn't nearly as front-and-center as we imagined he'd be. But it meant that Louis C.K.'s participation in sketches felt special and meaningful; he knew his comedic strengths and the sketches that featured them were well-chosen. So yeah, in all, this was a pretty terrific episode of SNL. It wasn't nearly enough to take away the sting of waiting so long until Louie Season 4, but it was nonetheless a pleasure to behold.

How did YOU think Louis C.K. fared? What was your favorite sketch of the night?

  • Comments (28)
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  • SeanBoulger Nov 09, 2012

    Price -- good review, man. But you definitely called SNL a "huge corporate machine."

    Who signs YOUR paychecks, dude? (Hint:

    Maybe best not to forget your place in all this.

  • blaine101 Nov 06, 2012

    My whole family thought the best bit of snl was the Lincoln sketch - and we hope it continues with other historical characters. Louis was hilarious. Home run.

  • AlexFrey1 Nov 06, 2012

    actually it was the best episode for me in 2 years, this season is way better and Louis C.K.... i guess you love him or your hate him. I love him and his Stand-Up about the old lady was amazing. He isn't mainstream because he isn't loud or attractive enough, you need a brain to follow his unspoken story lines and people often don't want to use their brain when they watch TV... I can see where his critics are coming from.

    I loved it and I loved to see that he loved what he was doing.

  • niedermayer27 Nov 06, 2012

    Another great SNL, it's been a good season. Louis was great. The Lincoln sketch was fantastic. Too many stuck up posters on here that cannot appreciate SNL for what it is - mindless comedy.

  • rishabhpb Nov 06, 2012

    There was only one really bad sketch in the episode, and that was Mountain Pass. And that was the one Louie asked to be left in just because he hated it. That's nothing to complain about, and an above average episode.

  • thatmonkey Nov 06, 2012

    I though the fit was bad. I love the show and love louie, but didn't care for any of the skits with the exception of the Cold Open. Best of the season...? That is a long stretch even though it's early in the season. Raise your expectations.

  • radrobd Nov 06, 2012

    Meh. I was bored throughout most of the episode.

  • nexpose Nov 05, 2012

    I guess I'm on some other dimension of comedy since I don't understand the appeal of Louis CK. I'm mostly indifferent about him and feel he's just another comedian but not on his over rated bandwagon.

  • AydinTurgay Nov 05, 2012

    It was a very good episode. Top to bottom, very few unwatchable sketches. Nothing where the punchline is "everybody dances", like those stupid Dominican talk show, or French talk show sketches. The Lincoln sketch was maybe the single funniest sketch of the season so far.

    I don't know why you guys thought it was a strange fit, as historically, SNL used to ask stand-up comics to host all the time! It's only in the past 15-20 years that they started asking more athletes and pop stars to host. I really hope this leads to more stand-ups getting to host, rather than a-list celebrities, who often aren't funny. I would love to see Patton Oswalt, or David Cross, or Tig Notaro, or Todd Glass host one day.

    From reading SNL books and watching documentaries, I was surprised to learn how much involvement the guest host has in choosing the sketches. This is why when former SNL cast members return to host, the episode is always hilarious, because they help choose sketches that they know will work. The same can be said for comedians and comedic actors. They are aware of their own comedic capabilities, and what will get an audience reaction.

    In my opinion, there are too many people who have lowered their expectations so much, they convince themselves that Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars are comedic geniuses. If only SNL would choose more funny people to host their comedy show, I believe a buzz would build.

  • BuuYaa Nov 05, 2012

    this is just me though, but this episode was the worst so far this season. The cold open and Louis CK monologue in opening and Lincoln were great. I laughed so yes they were great. But the rest are just BLA! Especially that sketch with snowy background I forgot its name. Not funny at all

    Best to worst so far (the funniest to the least fun)

    #1 Seth McFarlanne's episdoe

    #2 Joseph Gordon Levitt's

    #3 Christina Applegate's

    #4 Daniel Craig's

    #5 Bruno Mars'

    #6 Louis Ck's

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