SNL Highlights: Channing the Charmer

Saturday Night Live S37E13: "02/04/2012: Channing Tatum, Bon Iver"

SNL returned this weekend with stripper-turned-movie star Channing Tatum in the driver’s seat, and Bon Iver serving as musical guest. And it was good! Tatum isn’t the most naturally gifted or versatile comedian, but he has a likable lunkhead energy that served every sketch. And while I don’t often remark upon the musical performances—except when there’s something particularly remarkable about then, such as Lana Del Rey’s bizarre outing—Bon Iver did such a beautiful job that I feel they must be given some recognition as well. And did I mention Kristen Wiig whipped up a Del Rey impression for Weekend Update? Oh yes. She went there.

The cold open took some satisfying shots at Newt Gingrich, a presidential candidate frequently done in by his own, bizarre campaign promises. Child labor! Moon colonies! The comedy writes itself. This sketch, which placed Newt along with a Robot Reagan servant played by Bill Hader inside a sci-fi B-movie from the ‘50s, was actually a perfect way to kick off the show. So much better than those talking-head cold opens. More like this, please!

The monologue was cute, capitalizing on Tatum’s stripper past as he titillated Fred Armisen to death with his stripper hip gyrations. But the parody ad immediately following it was a real winner. (Unfortunately, NBC did not make it available, and keeps removing it from YouTube, but here’s a version shot off someone’s TV screen that seems to be staying up.) The concept is a Spike announcer selling that network's manly audience on Downton Abbey. (“They’ve got three daughters named Hot, Way Hot, and The Other One. And they all live with this old lady who looks like a chicken.” So good.

I liked this sketch, in which NFL football commentators try to shoot a promo bug for the Super Bowl. Each time, they throw in a weird piece of information about themselves. (I loved Jay Pharoah’s line about having a brother born “without a mouth. He doesn’t like to talk about it.”) So, basically, good sketch, guys. High five.

Shall we discuss the Lana Del Rey sketch on Weekend Update now? What did you think about this? Personally, I was uncomfortable with it, because I feel badly for Lana Del Rey. I’m sure she doesn’t need or want my pity, but I can't help it. Even three weeks ago, I couldn’t really bring myself to come out and say she was terrible, even though that’s exactly what I was thinking. I guess I just sympathize with the fact that this was the biggest moment of her life, and she blew it. And it was live and the world was watching and then Twittering and dumping on this person they didn’t know, who had put herself out there and given it a shot and was clearly nervous as hell. Failure is a part of life; it happens and it makes your stronger. But when everyone turns on a person, and scorn and mockery become an internet bloodsport, I just kind of shrivel up and recede. So I don’t really think it was required for SNL to address the Del Rey issue. The show has already done plenty to both promote and harm Del Rey’s career. The way the bit was written, it provided a lot of decent arguments in her favor, so I can see how SNL justified it is actually being supportive of Del Rey. But let’s face it: We were there to laugh at Wiig’s impression, not her snappy retorts to Del Rey’s critics. I don’t know. I just didn’t dig it.

Jason Sudeikis’s strip club DJ character was dusted off for an all-male strip review sketch. It lasted what felt like three hours, and featured Jay Pharoah on a pole in vinyl shorts. So there was that. (I did like the line, “Got great news from my sister today. My nephew does not have ADHD, he’s just a little dickhead.”

Finally, here’s Bon Iver. If you’ve never done it, get a pair of really good headphones and listen to their self-titled album in a dimly lit room with your eyes closed. A glass of wine and whatever else will only help. Then meet me back here and tell me what you thought.

Overall, the episode ran toward the middle of this season’s pack, but was thoroughly entertaining. I'm still not seeing your “my wife has amnesia and I have to teach her how to love me again” movie though, Channing sorry!

Which of this week's sketches were your favorites?

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