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Saturday Night's Alright for Laughing: Elton John Slays SNL

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So Elton John hosted Saturday Night Live this weekend, and I’m happy to say it was actually a very good episode! Maybe there is something to my new theory that bad promos make for good episodes, and vice versa. As we all know, Elton isn’t an actor, he’s a musician. But there was something extremely relaxed and natural about him on that stage—he gave off shades of a fey Danny DeVito—which made for enjoyable viewing, even when the sketches were running off the rails.

The obvious criticisme, which Slate has already made, is that the sketches kept mining Elton’s gayness for material. But despite having taken issue with homophobia on SNL in the past, I wasn’t really bothered by the gay material in Saturday’s show. On the contrary—it was kind of sweet, if behind the times. Elton was one of the first major celebrities to come out of the closet, so if he wants to play a cowboy who rode into town on a unicorn, or the grumpy half of a gay couple who hosts a movie show, or even make terrible jokes about “trying to get pregnant” in his opening monologue, then my feeling is, go right ahead. He's earned it.

That said, there was still plenty of stuff that was genuinely funny, even hilarious, in an episode that saw cameos from Tom Hanks and Jake Gyllenhaal. Let’s relive some of the highlights.

We were off to a great start right off the bat with The Lawrence Welk Show sketch, featuring Kristen Wiig as Junice Merrill, the birth-defected member of family singing group The Merrill Sisters. This sketch is pretty much always funny, and Elton’s ease and panache behind the piano only added to the fun.

A sketch in which celebrity knights gathered to discuss how to vanquish a dragon attacking London was long, but funny until the end. It was fun watching Elton openly mock Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark right to Bono/Andy Samberg’s face, and Bill Hader’s Richard Branson elicited much out-loud laughter in my household.

The Digital Short "Laser Cats: The Musical" was actually deceptively smart and creative. I loved Elton as intergalactic bad guy DROZ—a name chosen so SNL could use the Dr. Oz set in the same building. Clever.

It really was a night for Andy Samberg to shine, and his crowning moment came in Weekend Update, with his impression of Nicolas Cage berating Jake G. for stealing the lead in Source Code from him. And it’s true: If Source Code had been a bad movie, Nic Cage would totally have starred in it.

Finally, I loved this sketch that imagined the Queen and Prince Philip as punk-rocking East London thugs. It was just so absurd, and every time Fred Armisen spread his legs, I pretty much lost it. Apparently there’s some “outrage” across the pond for Elton calling Her Highness “a mean, old bitch,” but whatever. She’ll get over it.

So that's it. Well, done, Elty!

What did you think Elton John's showing on SNL?

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