Louis C.K. is a national treasure not because he fits in so well with mainstream comedy, but because of how much he doesn't. From the (not always) comedic rhythms of his fantastic sitcom Louie to the actual, thoughtful ideas he expresses in his standup, he's established himself as a singular presence in the comedy landscape. A rebel. A loner. He has funny friends, sure, but he can be quite hilarious on his own, thanks. So the prospect of his hosting SNL likely provoked two very divergent reactions in his fans: (1) Yes! Louis C.K. is getting the mainstream plaudits he deserves! But also (2) Uh-oh, SNL does not seem like the right forum for Louis C.K. It's a long-running sketch show that aspires to subversion but is actually this huge corporate machine that frequently perpetuates the kinds of hacky, hoary humor Louis C.K.'s has made a career out of providing a stark contrast to. The humor of Louie is in its shadows, its measured energy, its organic humanity. SNL has never revelled in any of those things. But still, it happened: Louis C.K. hosted SNL this week! Was he funny? YES. Was it a perfect fit? NO. But with his scattered, maddeningly brief appearances throughout SNL's staid format, Louis C.K. did manage to bring something new and different to the show, and it turned out SNL desperately needed those things. It was a very solid showing. Let's talk about it.
[Apologies to international readers for these embedded clips, Hulu can be a bit of a jerk.]
Cold Open: Hurricane Sandy Interpreters
Okay, I half-expected a somber, semi-serious sketch here to start things off on a poignant note, but I'm glad SNL didn't go that route. Instead we got a truly hilarious sketch that kept spinning into newer and funnier premises. First we got a spirited parody of Mayor Bloomberg's extremely expressive ASL interpreter, followed by Gov. Chris Christie's Jerseyfied version. (Nasim Pedrad was truly brilliant here and may have stolen the entire show with this bit alone.) But then when Bloomberg came back on and explained to Spanish-language viewers in Spanish how irritable white people get when they can't watch Homeland, I nearly fell off the couch. This was the rare cold open that actually justified its long runtime. Very excellent job.
Louis C.K.'s Monologue
Yes. Just give Louis C.K. a microphone and let him speak. The opening monologue was invented for Louis C.K. to just come out and do his thing. Here he told a lengthy story about helping an old woman who'd fallen down and it was absolutely great. Just absolutely great. Next time he hosts, I hope they'll just let him do a 30-minute monologue, Jay Leno style.
Sometimes it's hard for me to laugh at these Fox & Friends sketches because, well, yeah, they're hilarious, but at the same time they are spookily accurate and it frightens me how popular this particular morning show is (at least within my family anyway). But, as always, the funniest bit is at the end when the "fact check" scroll races by. Some of SNL's best jokes are hidden there, so it's best to pause, freeze frame, and enjoy. "Michael J. Fox does not have 'multiple sandwiches'."
Perfect. Not much else to say about this. Do I really need to write another paragraph explaining why Louis C.K. is so great? No, I don't, because you can just watch this and know what I mean.
Australian Screen Legends
I think the joke here is that Australian movies might aspire to beautiful, dramatic moments, but Australian people's brassy attitudes and fondness for discussing genitalia ruins them. Well, as long as we're trafficking in stereotypes, how about the one about how Australians are hotter/cooler than everyone else? Huh, SNL? What about that one?
fun.: "Some Nights"
I remember when I heard this song in EVERY COMMERCIAL AND MOVIE TRAILER EVER. It's an okay memory.
Seth Meyers did his thing.
Commentary: Mitt Romney
I liked this, but I will be honest that it's definitely because I'm a pinko commie who hates Amurica. Busted! (Seriously though, Jason Sudeikis is leaving soon and I miss him already!)
Commentary: Social Media Correspondent
One of the reasons it's becoming impossible to watch live news coverage of anything is that national media outlets seem to think we care about what ordinary citizens are saying on Twitter or Facebook. GUESS WHAT WE DON'T. That's why we are watching TV and not our timelines! So this sketch nicely underscored the maddening idiocy of this trend. Thanks, SNL. #truth2power
Commentary: Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With
This seemed pretty funny to me, but I don't know, I don't go to parties or leave the house or talk to people or have friends. It all seemed pretty accurate otherwise.
One thing that never ceases to amaze and/or disturb me about SNL is how needlessly expensive so much of it looks. Here is an example of a sketch with a set and costuming that took countless hours of manpower, tons of ingenuity, and unspeakable amounts of cash to pull off, yet the WRITING felt like someone misplaced the cue cards for five minutes and the cast had to just wing it. Normally I'd be all bored/mad about this, but in this case the disparity between the expense and the writing was so extreme that I had to appreciate it on a conceptual level at the very least. Did any of this explanation make sense to you? I've had A LOT of coffee.
"Hotel Fees" felt very much like a throwback sketch, something that might've worked as a radio play, or a Nichols & May routine, or at the very least a sequel sketch to Monty Python's "Dead Parrot." I appreciated it for that reason, the acknowledgment of its forebears. It also made me laugh a few times, imagine that! The argon joke was great, for example. I'm curious as to why Louis C.K. didn't play the hotel guest, though. You'd think his sort of mumbly irritation would've been the more obvious choice for that part, but then again, maybe Louis C.K. himself wanted to actually play a character here. Understandable! He did a good job of it, in my opinion.
fun.: "Carry On"
Why is he screaming at me? What did I do to deserve this? Just kidding, I didn't really mind.
I have to believe that Louis C.K. had a big influence on this sketch, writing-wise. It was such a perfect combination of charming and outright depressing. Two last call drunks passionately "fall in love" mainly due to the fact that they are each other's only options. Despite being pretty hilarious ("I'm awaiting trial!"), this sketch also felt like a super short stage play, you know? With actual characters and acting. And Louis C.K. and Kate MacKinnon actually made eye contact rather than staring off at cue cards the whole time. I enjoyed this. It was weird, sad, and compelling, plus it featured the world's most insanely disgusting tongue kiss in the history of television. No really, you have to see it to believe it.
As is typically the case with modern-day SNL, the host wasn't nearly as front-and-center as we imagined he'd be. But it meant that Louis C.K.'s participation in sketches felt special and meaningful; he knew his comedic strengths and the sketches that featured them were well-chosen. So yeah, in all, this was a pretty terrific episode of SNL. It wasn't nearly enough to take away the sting of waiting so long until Louie Season 4, but it was nonetheless a pleasure to behold.
How did YOU think Louis C.K. fared? What was your favorite sketch of the night?