Like most people, when I think comedy I think Bruno Mars. The name is synonymous with hilarity. If you look up "comedy" in the encyclopedia (I think there may be one or two encyclopedias left somewhere in the Midwest), you will see Bruno Mars' headshot, resting his chin on his hand just smiling at you, all like, "I am comedy." Okay, I can't continue with this dumbness, because it's not really fair to claim that all SNL hosts have to be comedically talented or have any background whatsoever in making people laugh. That'd be disingenuous. This show has had hosts who were sports stars, politicians, Britney Spears. People who aren't very funny normally! To me the only real eyebrow-raising element to Bruno Mars' gig was that he was invited to do double duty as host AND musical guest, a privilege usually only afforded to legends and superstars. To be polite, he's not quite those things (yet, anyway). But now that we've seen what Bruno Mars can do in a wig, the joke's on us: He did a pretty good job! If the episode overall wasn't quite up to par, it had less to do with Mars and more to do with just being an off-night for SNL in general. You know? It's allowed. But there were some excellent moments, so let's talk about them!
[Apologies to international readers for these embedded clips, Hulu can be a bit of a jerk.]
Cold Open: Presidential Town Hall Debate
This loose parody of the second presidential debate was one of my favorite political sketches SNL has done in a while. It alternated between absurd and scathing, but mostly it was just really high-energy and unpredictable. Jay Pharoah's getting better and better at impersonating President Obama, but Jason Sudeikis's Mitt Romney remains pretty awesome. I loved the bumbling, occasionally aggressive Long Islanders in the audience and Mitt's son Tagg attempting to fight Obama. Much like the debate this sketch inspired, it was slightly invigorating to see these two characters going at it. Like, I LOLed when Pharoah's Obama called Romney "Casper." There was just something so inappropriate yet cathartic about seeing them be so terrible to each other. The Tom Hanks cameo was pretty great also. Love that guy. He's going to be famous someday.
Bruno Mars Monologue
If you can't say it, just sing it! This was a charming monologue. Mars first sang a ballad about being nervous about hosting, then it turned into a full-band romp about how awesome he'd do. Good times. And from such a tiny, tiny man.
Fake Ad: Brad Pitt for Chanel
The pitfalls of parodying something that was already hilarious were illustrated here, where Taran Killam's normally awesome Brad Pitt impersonation still couldn't stack up to how weird the original Chanel ad is. Plus, the quiet tone and overall weirdness got a relatively stony reaction from the studio audience.
This sketch made me laugh even though it had basically no point. Obviously anytime Bobby Moynihan is in drag it's going to make me laugh, but the true star of this thing was Bruno Mars' trampy teen girl. At this point I was like "OH THAT'S why he's hosting." He's genuinely hilarious in certain situations! I'm still not sure I got the premise of this sketch—talk show guests shouting at and being shouted at by an audience—but I probably could've watched a 15-minute version of it and not grown bored. I think I just like it when people shout at each other.
Fake Ad: Brad Pitt for Taco Bell
Oh, this was going to be a series of ads! Of the four of these that would air throughout the show (all of which seemed to lull the audience into a state of quiet contemplation), this was probably the best one. First for shaking off the Chanel connection and making the joke that Brad Pitt will endorse anything, but also because Taco Bell makes me laugh in almost any situation. I don't mean to be controversial but I don't think those Dorito tacos are very good. The Dorito shell gets too soggy and few things are as upsetting as a soggy Dorito. Sorry!
This one is obviously not online because it would cost roughly a billion dollars in licensing fees, I'm guessing. But it employed one of the stupidest premises of all time and was still somehow watchable. In a comically dumb-looking Pandora Radio headquarters set, some unspecified disaster happened that required a shy intern to step up to the mic and sing popular favorites. I don't know either! But if that's the kind of set-up it takes to get Bruno Mars to do impressions of Billie Joe Armstrong or Michael Jackson, then that's okay I guess. This was glorified karaoke, but it was still kind of fun. Also I liked that the intern died at the end. Poor fella! (Spoiler.)
Short Film: Sad Mouse
Well, this was probably my favorite thing that aired all night, which is only notable for the fact that it wasn't even trying to be funny. No, "Sad Mouse" was more like a melancholy short film in which a distraught man gets a job as a Times Square furry but can't quite get it together enough to be cheerful. I'm sure people were confused as to what was happening here, but I would love for SNL to branch out more into weird things like this. It was an unexpected bit of art hidden amongst a bunch of otherwise predictable sketches. Really dug this.
Bruno Mars: "Locked Out of Heaven"
Bruno Mars got new music, y'all! Look, I don't know much about this little gentleman, just that his song "Grenade" had lyrics that made me cringe and get angry. Don't hurt yourself that badly over someone you like! Unacceptable! But these new songs definitely have a more modern feel, as though Mars decided to leave behind the heavy retro quality of his previous work. Yeah, this was a fun song. I expect it will be featured in a lot of TV commercials in the future.
Weekend Update: Dos & Don'ts
I only really like Seth Meyers' Weekend Update routine when he keeps things topical and scathing. Too much of his jokes are based on weird, obscure stories that would've been funny anyway, so it's like shooting comedy fish in a comedy barrel. But in segments like this, I think Meyers has a good mind for super-harsh political jokes, and I appreciate that. I still don't care much for his fratty smugness, but I'm big enough to admit that he was on his game here.
Commentary: Stefon's Halloween Tips
"New York's hottest club is [Cat hiss]... [Cat hiss]. This club has everything: Ghosts, ghouls, goblins, my son." Stefon's still got it, you guys. Even in this segment where Bill Hader spent a majority of the time laughing behind his hands, I was still cracking up so much. "Hobocops . . . Homeless robocops." Perfect.
Aaaaaaaahhh! How had they never done this sketch for Halloween before? Killam's mouth movements are so horrifying. And it was awesome how Tom Hanks was slightly cross-eyed at the end. This sketch was as silly as it was genuinely unsettling, and I loved that about it.
Fake Ad: Brad Pitt for Franklin's Dog Condoms
Here was the third Brad Pitt ad. It was fine. Can't believe there were four of these. Did they just absolutely kill in dress rehearsal or something?
A young couple was warned by locals that the area is plagued by a Yeti rapist. You could kind of see where this sketch was going, and when it got there you were like, "Yup, pretty much." Bruno Mars tried his best with his eye patch-enhanced dramatic stare, but overall this thing just didn't work. Sorry, yeti rape enthusiasts!
Fake Ad: Brad Pitt for Dr. Z's Tattoo Removal
At this point I was so over it that I had no idea what Pitt was endorsing and didn't even care. Was Dr. Z some kind of New York inside joke? I don't live there.
Bruno Mars: "Young Wild Girls"
And now it was ballad time! This was a good song to get into your jammies and brush your teeth to.
Another in the long-running "Gathering of the Juggalos" parodies, but this one was about a political gathering for young people called "Donkey Punch the Vote." Overall the sketch was insanely hit-or-miss, but its pacing was so fast and the jokes were so dense that for every total stinker there'd be a truly hilarious bit mixed in. But I did appreciate the energy. A for energy.
You know, it's getting to the point where it barely even merits discussion how a host did or didn't do. By design, hosts are increasingly inessential to an average SNL episode, existing mostly to do a monologue and show up as an extra in certain sketches. In this regard, I thought Bruno Mars did a great job as a supporting player. The guy clearly has comic timing, plus a virtuosic performance instinct. Unfortunately the SNL format (and material) just didn't come through for him. While I liked certain things about this episode, I continued to gravitate toward the unexpected ("Sad Mouse") or just plain pointless ("Haters") and Mars was a prominent part of both of those. So yeah, I never thought I'd say this, but Bruno Mars was one of the best things about this episode! R.I.P. Me.
(Oh, and P.S. LOUIS C.K. IS HOSTING THE NEXT EPISODE. TELL EVERYBODY!)
How did YOU think Bruno Mars fared? What was your favorite sketch of the night?