Time does cruel and terrible things to the human experience. Not only is time the constant current against which we're always swimming, it can play actual tricks on our brains. Why, for example, does an average season of Top Chef seem to be 11 years long, but the tenure of one of SNL's funniest cast members concludes in the blink of an eye? It seems like just yesterday that Kristen Wiig joined SNL as a featured player alongside fellow freshmen Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, and Bill Hader, yet this week she bid us adieu after spending seven years achieving Phil Hartman or Gilda Radner levels of audience adulation. (Yeah, I said it!) If you're an SNL fan of any stripe, chances are you felt something during this week's curtain call when an ordinary-seeming sketch morphed into an all-star sing-along in honor of Wiig's departure. From Arcade Fire's musical serenade, to host Mick Jagger's spirited emceeing, to the parade of cast members past and present, and especially Lorne Michaels' fatherly hug, it was the most touching send-off I've ever seen on SNL.
Mick Jagger should take no offense that this episode will be best remembered as Kristen Wiig's last as a regular cast member; he acquitted himself as host very well. The sketches weren't amazing, but as I suspected it was simply a treat to see him gussied up in various wigs and accents, giving it the old college try. In human years at least, the man is not young—and he certainly has better things to be doing (what exactly do knights do in their spare time?)—but his youthfulness and enthusiasm were a pleasure to watch. Let's talk about the sketches!
[Apologies to international readers for these embedded clips, Hulu can be a bit of a jerk.]
Cold Opening: Lawrence Welk
Hey, Mad Men's Jon Hamm! First off, wasn't it such a relief to not have yet another grasping-at-straws political sketch? Phew! But guys, these Lawrence Welk sketches never cease to delight me. Wiig's Dooneese is one of the strangest characters ever to become a recurring scene-stealer. And I don't care what anybody thinks: The sight of Jon Hamm sucking on one of Dooneese's tiny hands was just straight-up SEXY.
Mick Jagger Monologue
Man, that jacket, am I right? I think we could ALL use a golden jacket but I feel like only Mick Jagger can get away with wearing one. Jagger's opening monologue was sort of a funny FAQ in which he answered all the most common questions he ever hears about himself and The Rolling Stones. I was pretty charmed by how awkward he seemed on-camera. No really, it was charming and human to see him sort of rush through his lines and still keep the audience entertained. That attitude pretty much typified his hosting abilities: Jagger may not be the savviest comic actor, but the crowd was 100 percent on his side the whole time.
Another long-running Wiig sketch! By now we were definitely getting the vibe that SNL was giving Wiig one last hurrah (there hadn't been any formal announcement about her departure—or Jason Sudeikis's or Andy Samberg's, whose contracts are also up). Jagger was a highlight here, playing an action star whose real-life persona was more Charles Nelson Reilly than Charles Bronson.
Here was a very meta sketch that started strong but kind of fell apart: Jagger, in insurance salesman drag, being forced to watch co-workers do awful karaoke impersonations of him. While Fred Armisen's Mick Jagger impression definitely made me laugh, I half expected that the character Mick Jagger was playing would be revealed to ACTUALLY BE Mick Jagger moonlighting as an insurance salesman. Or something? Instead he was just some shy guy who felt the need to defend Mick Jagger's honor. And his final, melancholy performance of "I Can't Get No (Satisfaction)" was just sort of awkward. Oh well, at least I wasn't bored!
Lazy Sunday 2
See, this digital short—plus last week's 100th milestone one—led me to believe that Andy Samberg was also hanging it up after last night. If this WAS his last episode, it wasn't ever confirmed. But anyway, here's a seven-years-later sequel to "Lazy Sunday," the viral sensation that basically put YouTube on the map. I mean, it was the first video *I* ever watched on YouTube, how about you? Despite the Sister Act-related hook and the brief dubstep breakdown, this one can't really compare to the hilarious Narnia-themed original. But it was still nice to see Chris Parnell again, so fine!
I like Kenan Thompson a lot, but if I had to choose between his inarticulate Al Sharpton character and another installment of "What Up With That?" I'll take the latter. Still though, this was pretty amusing, especially when he misheard "salmon cannery" as "salmon canary" and later bragged about owning a '91 Buick Riviera.
Mick Jagger (feat. Arcade Fire) – "The Last Time"
Yes! Play for me, Arcade Fire. Play!
No thanks. (Hey Kristen Wiig, can you give this guy a ride out of town also?)
Stefon is always the best part of any episode he's in and this was no exception. Human R2-D2s! "My best friend Joelll"! Furtlenecks! Wario Batali! Ugh, I love Stefon so much.
So You Think You Can Dance At an Outdoor Music Festival
There's no video for this one (music rights issues, I'm guessing), but I'm still laughing about Carlos Santana's mustache being attached to his hat and the visual joke of Mick Jagger dressed as Steven Tyler. (Jagger's American accent verged on upsetting, but still.) And Bobby Moynihan's drunken dance to Dave Matthews Band really made me laugh. This was just a strong premise that kept paying off. [Jewel mewling]
Mick Jagger (feat. Foo Fighters) – Medley
And now some more Rolling Stones songs, but this time with louder guitars and more background growling!
I'm still not sure this works as legit satire of West Coast living. It seems like there's crazier stuff to make fun of than our accents and driving patterns. Like, the Stefon bits really go there with regards to how nightmarish outsiders view Manhattan night life, so I think these "Californians" sketches could have more teeth! Either way, they're still a decent vehicle for Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen to speak like developmentally disabled people and Kenan Thompson to sport a blond soul patch. And hey, Steve Martin! What a weird, random cameo! Still happy to see him, though.
Mick Jagger (feat. Jeff Beck) – "Tea Party"
Haha, oh Mick Jagger. I don't know about you guys, but it tends to make me uncomfortable when foreign celebrities try to make political statements about U.S. politics. Anyway, this weird, slightly critical assessment of Mitt Romney's candidacy didn't so much provoke thoughts as it did prove that maybe every blues song sounds exactly the same? Like, are blues songs just longer, more boring limericks with the exact same structure and you just switch the words out? I don't know, I'm no music scholar. Anyway, are you even registered to vote in America, Mick Jagger? Get back to me on that, please.
She's a Rainbow
Annnnnd here come the water works! I found it touching how this began as a normal sketch and then devolved into a real show of earnest emotion. And the nice little touches: Samberg on the piano, the genuine sadness in Wiig's eyes, the final assembly of familiar faces (Amy Poehler! Rachel Dratch! Chris Kattan! Will Forte!), the quick Gilly dance. Next fall, Kristen Wiig will be missed on a weekly basis, but it's only a matter of time before she'll be a frequent host, right? When Bridesmaids 4 comes out (I'm hoping it'll be a Police Academy-esque franchise) she'll be hosting for the eighth time? If this star-studded farewell proved anything, it's that you never really leave SNL. Steve Martin just dropped in for, like, no reason! So for those of us longtime fans of the show who came to love Wiig's weekly doses of weirdness, this should come as some comfort.
While Season 37 was about as hit-and-miss as SNL has ALWAYS been, I'm leaning toward the "it was a stronger season than usual" camp. Because it was! Lots of good hosts and some unexpectedly great sketches. Who knows what Season 38 has in store (or who'll even be in the cast!), but here's my early prediction: It'll be hit-and-miss! And I honestly can't wait.
What did YOU think of Mick Jagger? And will you miss Kristen Wiig?