Even The Muppets Can't Save SNL From Itself

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I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but Jason Segel is starring in a movie called The Muppets that also stars The Muppets. I know! They’ve been keeping that under wraps, real hush hush, but it’s a fact, and so it seemed about the right time for Mr. Segel and his furry friends to take the SNL stage. Was it the greatest episode of SNL in history? No. Was it the best episode this season so far? Also no. Was it terrible? Kind of, but come on—we need to savor this time with Kristin Wiig, Bill Hader, and Jason Sudeikis while we can. They won’t be with us for very much longer. As for Segel, he pulled out some great characters, like Andre the Giant and a prostitute (who was basically Andre the Giant in a wig). Let’s break it down, sketch by sketch, as is our way.

I don’t know—I’m kind of with Statler when it comes to that monologue. Muppets singing around a piano? Okay, I’ll bite. But there needs to be a good reason for them to be there, something beyond just plugging their new movie. (Maybe I’m expecting too much.) And there wasn’t, really. They didn’t even give Scooter and Fozzie any lines! It just seemed kind of slapped together, and went on for too long. Sorry, guys. I’m still going to see your movie! But I hope it’s better than this.

Once in a while, SNL will roll out a sketch that tries to squeeze as many celebrity impressions into three minutes as is humanly possible. (Let’s just get this one critique out of the way, though: Paul Brittain, your only job in this sketch was to read celebrity names off a clipboard, and you were incapable of doing that.) As for the impressions, Jason Sudeikis’s Ricky Gervais was pretty spot-on, Fred Armisen’s George Lopez was kind of all over the place (both intentionally and not), and Abby Elliott’s Zooey Deschanel was funny. And then Jay Pharoah, well—this is what Jay Pharoah does. Though his Denzel Washington has morphed into Jim Carrey’s Michael Landon birthing a baby calf.

Hey, it’s a parody ad! This one was funny. It took me a couple seconds to get the joke of the Kemper Pedic Me-Time Mattress, but pretty soon it became all too obvious: This was a sketch about getting Jason Segel to do many things that resemble masturbating. Pounding the pizza dough was my favorite.

Oh, look who’s back: The Vogelchecks, the family that performs inappropriate acts of affection on one another. This was a very special Thanksgiving episode, which included a surprise appearance by Paul Rudd, who performed an open-mouth kiss with Jason Segel to end all open-mouthed kisses. It’s outrageous because they are both men! Get it? Whatever.

Wow, Florence has set her Machine dial from “Blousy Flouncy” to “Tight n’ Sparkly!” I don’t think I’ve ever seen her face, come to think of it. Are we really sure this is Florence? I guess it sounds like her. Her voice is kind of insane, isn’t it? Those last notes on “Shake It Out” sounded like they should have been launched from a mountaintop to announce the end of the world or something. I’m not sure if that was a compliment or not.

As for "Weekend Update," John Huntsman, the only palatable GOP presidential candidate, showed up for some New Hampshire-courting jokes (cause of the primary, get it?!), which kind of appealed to me seeing as, growing up, I spent my summers in New Hampshire. North Conway outlet malls shout-out, hollaaaah! Embedding-wise, however, I’m going to have to give it to my main frog Kermie, who stood in for Amy Poehler in the Really!?! segment. I always hated this segment, but Kermit yelling, “Really!?!” was kind of irresistible. (Also, special Weekend Update mention to that visual joke about Salima, the Saudi girl with screwed-up eyes; it was really disturbing—but funny.)

Can we talk about this retirement party sketch? This sketch was absolutely horrible. Wow. What the hell was going on here? First I thought it was an opportunity to introduce a new Kristin Wiig character who doesn’t like to speak in public, which, despite her total commitment, wasn’t funny. Then it introduced a Jason Segel character who was also weird and inappropriate, but it wasn’t clear how he fit in or what he was supposed to add to the scene. Then it shifted gears completely and turned into, well, I have no idea. A whodunit? Then it ended abruptly, back on Wiig screaming about how she doesn’t have anything to say. No idea what was going on.

This week’s Digital Short felt a lot like a regular sketch to me. I’m not sure what makes this a Digital Short. I guess the fact that it wasn’t live? In any case, I enjoyed this. It was Andy Samberg in a 80s-style instructional video about seducing women with chess. Jason Segel stole the show as a mannish prostitute.

Everything about "Andre the Giant Chooses an Ice Cream Flavor" was vintage SNL, from the Don Pardo intro to the single-joke premise to the ‘70s celebrity reference. Jason’s Andre voice had just the right bass-iness, too. A nice palate cleanser.

And yet the weirdest sketch of the night wasn’t the retirement sketch! It was "The Blue Jean Committee," about a bar band that wears denim and sings Massachusetts-themed songs. It was a nice easy jam and brought everyone back—even Florence and The Muppets. Did I get it? Not really. I have a feeling this was birthed out of a Fred Armisen weed-smoking evening. But at least it wasn’t grating. A nice, light touchdown to a bumpy night.

So that’s it. Another mixed bag, but Jason Segel made it enjoyable enough. What did you guys think?