When it comes to picking SNL hosts, Lorne Michaels has always made a point of extending invitations to a cross-section of "types," from comedians (Will Ferrell, Melissa McCarthy) to tabloid stars (Taylor Lautner, Lindsay Lohan) to, you know, just whomever the crew wanted to hang out with for a week (Eli Manning, Mick Jagger). But as much as we all enjoy the hosts who are funny by trade, I think my favorite hosts are the dramatic actors. Obviously it's a kick to see serious actors put on silly wigs and behave foolishly for 90 minutes, but they also make great hosts for the simple reason that many of them are GOOD ACTORS. Maybe it's a result of their years of doing Shakespeare at royal academies or maybe they've just grown so tired of their day jobs, but most of these very serious thespians seem to give SNL 110 percent, and that's the kind of commitment this show needs more of, quite frankly. People who don't simply stare vacantly while reading cue cards, but rather take the time to memorize their lines and actually bring distinct characterizations to the sketches. This week, erstwhile serious actor Daniel "Bond James Bond" Craig arrived at Studio 8H for a very fun time indeed, guv'nuh! And he was great. Fully clothed, yet great. Let's talk about it!
[Apologies to international readers for these embedded clips, Hulu can be a bit of a jerk.]
Cold Open: Presidential Debate
As is tradition during the run-up to a presidential election, this cold open had to do with whatever the candidates were up to this week. In this case it was a debate. I am not an expert political analyst, but the joke seemed to be that Obama was distracted by myriad things and therefore didn't do well in the debate. I'm just guessing, I don't know if that was true or not! But as much as I don't love the political sketches, this one was good for at least a few chuckles, especially the cutaways to real footage of Michelle Obama looking unhappy, and also Jason Sudeikis-as-Romney's vacant stare during Jay Pharoah-as-Obama's speeches. I'm not sure the sketch needed to be 35 minutes long, but still. Good job!
Daniel Craig's Monologue
As of press time this sketch was not available online, probably due to its use of "What a Wonderful World" and also clips from various Daniel Craig films in which he killed people. In fact, that's what this was: Daniel Craig presenting an In Memoriam-style tribute to all the people he'd killed, including misnamed extras, a dog, and a sound guy (in real life). I especially liked the weird asides, like Daniel Craig insisting that "What a Wonderful World" was his favorite song but that he didn't know its title and could somebody please Shazam it for him? Also when he grew concerned about whether there was too much fake fog onstage. I already liked Daniel Craig, but I really liked Daniel Craig here.
This sketch had one joke: A construction worker was terrible at sexual innuendo. But while his attempted sexy jokes were amusingly ridiculous, it was Daniel Craig's commitment to his wiseguy persona/accent that really entertained me. See what I'm saying about serious actors going for broke? I like it.
Lesser Known Bond Girls
This was a classic SNL-actors-doing-impressions-of-celebrities showcase and in my opinion it was one of the best they've done in a while. Lea Michele, Diane Keaton, Molly Ringwald: All of them were in lesser-known Bond films! (It made me laugh that a Bond film could be "lesser known.") But Kate MacKinnon's Ellen Degeneres was truly amazing and obviously Fred Armisen's Penny Marshall was hilarious too. We probably knew to expect a Bond parody, but I appreciated how Bond himself was beside the point in this sketch. Also: Quantum of Leap is a movie I REALLY wish had been made instead of Quantum of Solace.
Here was another politically oriented sketch which was about MSNBC's lefty commentators processing an unstellar performance by President Obama during last Wednesday's debate. Chris Matthews likes to shout, Rachel Maddow takes cheap shots, the conservative lady is boring. That type of thing. But I will never grow tired of Kenan Thompson's Al Sharpton impression, especially when he's describing something called "altitude poisoning" and insisting that Hawaii is "a mile below the Earth." Love that guy. (Kenan Thompson.)
Long Island Medium
This was a weirdly not-at-all timely parody of TLC's Long Island Medium series, but it did afford us another chance to see how great Kate MacKinnon is. Her impression was pretty solid and I also loved the jokes about how everyone bursts out sobbing whenever she tells them about their dead relatives. And the whole room full of people whose grandfathers choked to death on a "meatball parm." And I don't know how to break it to you, but Daniel Craig's Long Island makeover (complete with soul patch) made me feel funny. I don't know, it just kind of worked, you know?
"Mars Mission" was the sort of sketch that bored me at first, but by the end I loved it. After it took that turn where the lead character (Bobby Moynihan) began freaking out and screaming about his supposedly dead kitten, I was on board. But then throw a REAL KITTEN into the mix? Of course I loved this sketch. I am not a monster.
There is a chance I haven't heard a Muse song that I've liked since "Starlight," but this one came close. First of all, that bass guitarist had an iPad embedded into his bass guitar! The future! But also this song was understated (by Muse standards—there was still a guitar solo and screaming) and downright lovely. I liked it. Congratulations, Kate Hudson.
Seth Meyers, everybody.
Weekend Update: Winners and Losers
Seth Meyers, everybody.
Commentary: Big Bird
Well, who doesn't love Big Bird? I was kiiiinda hoping there'd be a more eloquent plea for PBS's continued funding, but oh well. It's Big Bird!
Commentary: Cecilia Gimenez
Okay, this was just incredible. Kate MacKinnon is officially SNL's new leading lady (time to retire that "and featuring" designation, right, Lorne Michaels?). Man, this made me laugh. The conceit was that the Jesus-ruining elderly Spanish artist had intentionally painted him that way because when he came to her in a dream, that's how he looked. "I said 'Jesus, why you look like a shark?' And Jesus say, 'I think it look cool.'" So good.
A Sad Lot We Are
This sketch—a parody of a BBC working-class comedy—was not so much laugh-out-loud funny as it was a fairly brutal takedown of the BBC sensibility. From the disgusting-sounding British cuisine to the homely-love-interest-as-added-insult to the blue-collar wallowing, this sketch both felt like a real show that might exist and more importantly a show I would ignore when it eventually aired on BBC America. Great job?
I enjoyed this sketch, mostly because it played like a live-TV version of Portlandia. Fred Armisen has always made for an unsightly woman, but here his character had the most loathsome, pretentious personality imaginable. Because the segment had to do with a man's new girlfriend making a terrible first impression on his friends, I couldn't help but wonder if whoever wrote this sketch was basing it on a real situation. You know? It just felt like it was coming from a place of righteous anger, and that might be why it worked so well. People can be awful!
Muse: "Panic Station"
This performance was much more like the Muse I'd come to know: Simultaneously over-the-top AND boring. And here everyone was so scared that the new Muse album would contain too much dubstep, but did anyone pause to wonder if there'd also be too much funk guitar? Because there apparently is! Sorry, Kate Hudson.
For whatever reason SNL skipped the new sketch they had in waiting and just re-aired this (admittedly fantastic) fake ad from a few weeks ago. No complaint here! It made me laugh all over again.
So there you have it, folks. Another solid entry in what's shaping up to be a very solid season of SNL. One of the world's most recognizable and handsome leading men fell in with the cast like just another excitable weirdo. Daniel Craig's performances were both fun and non-showy, like all those years of stolid leading-man drudgery were leaving him antsy to just be silly for a few hours. It worked! Who knows, maybe he should even make a comedy sometime?
How did YOU think Daniel Craig fared? And what was your favorite sketch of the night?