Miley Cyrus on SNL: Pretty Cool, But Funnier with Salvia

When it comes to Saturday Night Live hosts, there are those who try too hard (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jim Carrey), those who try just enough (Justin Timberlake, Jon Hamm), those who don’t really try (January Jones, Robert De Niro), and those who appear to have nodded off into a heroin-induced coma (The Strokes). A host who phones it in will invariably result in a disaster of a show; the try-too-hards, meanwhile, can provide mixed results. Yes, you’ll occasionally catch glimpses of the dark, bottomless canyons of their needy souls—but then a ridiculous sketch comes along requiring 110-percent commitment, and bam! They hit it out of the park. And that’s where we were with this week’s SNL, hosted by Miley Cyrus. A former child star who’s now entered the sexed-up “take me seriously, guys!” phase of her career, Miley eventually won me over just by her sheer investment in the proceedings, no matter how stupid they were. Let’s take a look at some highlights and lowlights from the show.

The cold open was, duh, Charlie Sheen. We’re all suffering Sheen burnout at this point, but what was SNL supposed to do—ignore the greatest trove of comedic material to come our way since Sarah Palin? SNL had the advantage of some of their strongest cast members doing great celeb characterizations: Bill Hader’s Sheen (no one hosts a talk show while smoking and speaking gibberish better than Hader; see: Vinny Vedecci), Taran Killem’s “methed-out musketeer” John Galliano, and Fred Armisen’s Muammar Gaddafi. Even Abby Elliot’s obnoxious Christina Aguilera vocal runs were on the money. Strong start.

Things then took a turn for the sucky with Miley’s opening monologue. On the Saturday Night Live: Behind the Scenes special that aired recently, one of the show’s producers explained that if a host can sing, the writers usually incorporate a song into the monologue. He also said that the monologue is the most important part of the show, because it’s the one time that the host gets to interact directly with the audience. Can I suggest that these two statements are working in diametric opposition to one another? How is kicking off the show with a dorky, tuneless song about Miley’s various non-scandal scandals going to endear us to her? Later in the show, The Devil showed up on Weekend Update and quipped that he was the one responsible for this year’s Oscars; I’ll assume he was also responsible for that opening monologue.

The Disney Channel Acting School sketch was a highlight, mostly because it was just really funny, but also because it offered us some insight into Miley's general performance technique: huge smiles, singing to the last row in the arena, and shooting plenty of sass at adults (especially the ones who have a problem with role models smoking hallucinogenic herbs from a bong). But mainly it was just funny. I dare you not to laugh when Kenan Thompson rolls by on his scooter.

Then there was another fake talk show, hosted by Taboo and—those two dudes doing jumping jacks behind and Fergie whenever The Black Eyed Peas perform. It was during the Super Bowl half-time debacle that I found myself wondering for the first time, “Who are these guys? Do they even play instruments?” As envisioned by SNL, one is Filiblacko and one is from the Matrix, and both suffer from severe inferiority complexes. Miley was used wisely here as Fergie, who kept interrupting their show with loud, annoying singing every time she heard her name. And any appearance by Elliot’s Khloe Kardashian is a welcome one.

The inevitable "The Miley Cyrus Show" sketch turned the real Miley into Justin Bieber, who had a “swagger” coach and literally name-checked the little affectations he aims at the camera—wink, point, eyebrow-smooth, whatever—to demonstrate what a cool, chill, sexy, confident little pop idol he is. Man, I can’t wait until Bieber is on Celebrity Apprentice 2051, looking a lot like Udo Kier as he shamelessly kisses the ass of Donald Trump’s brain-in-a-jar. It was a pretty decent sketch, aided by the Vanessa Bayer, who is kind of an SNL throwback player. I could see her trading jokes with Phil Hartman. I did NOT enjoy Miley's little op-ed, directed right at the camera, about the merits of smoking Salvia. Tell it to the Disney judge, or whoever scolds you for being a terrible role model.

Aided by some amazing news this week, Seth Meyers had a banner night behind the Weekend Update desk, firing off blistering comic riffs aimed at the philandering Charlie Sheen and his fossilized forefather, Hugh Hefner. But the correspondents kind of brought things down. Jason Sudeikis’s Devil was uninspired and dragged on, and Bobby Moynihan’s paranoid-guy-who-gets-the-terms-of-the news-all-wrong was just plain unfunny. Oh well, you can’t have Stefon every weekend.

So, overall, a pretty funny episode of SNL. What did you think of Miley and The Strokes? Did I miss any of your favorite sketches?

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