Oh, so THAT'S what it's like when extremely comedically talented and charismatic people host SNL! They actually stand out during the episode rather than blend into the background for 90 minutes. Guys, I don't know why I was so nervous when I read that Jamie Foxx was this week's host; I think it's because he's spent so long being a serious actor that his incredible tenure on In Living Color had become an all-but-distant memory? Part of me wondered if he even remembered how to be funny, because maybe he only cares about winning Oscars and putting out boring R&B; albums these days? But his stint on this week's SNL was so crazy and fun that it might be my favorite episode since Melissa McCarthy hosted. Much like that time, the show revolved around a host who was so commanding of our attention that the whole enterprise seemed like it was on the perpetual brink of madness, a feeling that seemed to energize the entire cast. Obviously this episode had some blah moments (like that boring cold open) but its high points were really, really good. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I sort of love Jamie Foxx again? Life is so strange sometimes!
Anyway, enough vague compliments, let's go through this very fun episode one sketch at a time!
[Apologies to international readers for these embedded clips, Hulu can be a bit of a jerk.]
Cold Open: Fiscal Cliff Press Conference
I'm either not smart enough to understand the circumstances of the so-called "fiscal cliff" or maybe I just don't care for political humor. Either way, this sketch didn't work, like, at all. It probably didn't help that Jay Pharoah kept muffing lines, but the central conceit that House Speaker John Boehner is a bullying victim just seemed extremely unfunny to me. So, some unsolicited advice for SNL: The election is over. Please cool it with political cold opens for a few years? At this point it seems like they're just doing them so that Fox News or MSNBC (depending on the sketch's political bent) can re-air them on Monday mornings. Is it really worth it, Lorne?
Jamie Foxx Monologue
Okay, so few things are as traditionally hacky as "black folks are like this, white folks are like this" jokes, but I'll be gosh-darned if Jamie Foxx didn't make this routine work through sheer force of will. I also got nervous when he sat down at the piano, but like the stand-up he'd just done, he operated with this smoothness that was straight-up captivating and it all just worked. And that was before 2 Chainz came out for a guest rap verse. All in all, this monologue established a party atmosphere and Jamie Foxx made for one charismatic emcee.
Bitch, What's the Answer?
So, I don't know if you watched In Living Color as much as I did, but this sketch could've aired on that show for sure. At first the racial dynamics made me uncomfortable (as did the element of a woman being called a "bitch" over and over), but at some point my reflexive outrage subsided to just plain laughter. I mean, this sketch had some audacity. Like, WHAT WAS THIS GAME SHOW? Or when the host told the contestants they were all playing to win "some trash." The entire tone of it reminded me of "The Dirty Dozens," one of my favorite recurring In Loving Color sketches. A good memory, in other words.
J-Pop America Funtime Now: Christmas
This recurring sketch has always walked the line between hilarious and tiresome, but this particular installment really made me laugh. Probably the highlight for me was when Taran Killam turned to the camera for an extreme closeup of non-sequitur gibberish. I rewound that part like four times, it was so funny. Also everything that Jamie Foxx did was perfect, up to and including that Japanese hip-hop performance. So good. This episode was definitely on a real roll so far.
Tyler Perry Presents Alex Cross 2: Madea Special Ops
I liked this sketch but more in an academic way than in an LOL kind of way. I think the idea of Tyler Perry playing both Madea and Alex Cross at the same time was a really clever riff on how schizophrenic Tyler Perry seems sometimes, but the sheer image of the half-n-half makeup was the stuff of nightmares. Yikes! But Jamie Foxx totally committed to how crazy that idea was, and his physical humor was sincerely incredible. That self-wrestling scene! I would legit watch an entire movie of this premise so long as Jamie Foxx was the star. He'd totally get another Oscar, too! (p.s. Ray is still terrible, sorry.)
Ne-Yo: "Let Me Love You"
Um, I have almost nothing to say about the song, but I have EVERYTHING to say about these backup dancers. WHAT ON EARTH? You know what, I can't even start, I don't have the strenf.
Seth Meyers was Seth Meyers.
Commentary: Mrs. Claus
This commentary by Mrs. Claus was charming, but for me only really worked when she got super nasty with it. Like describing Santa's month-long milk fart or his manscaping habits. But then again it was also very disgusting? It was fine, at least I wasn't bored.
Commentary: A Ding Dong
So here's an example of a genuinely stupid premise that still absolutely crackled because of what Jamie Foxx brought to it. I LOLed so much when he talked trash on Sno Balls: "Not even a homeless kid would eat a Sno Ball... they'd rather eat broccoli and bok choi." Or when Ding Dong described his rap career and the time he got in a fight with rap impresario Suge Grr. Or his hot R&B; duet with Lil Debbie. Sorry, I couldn't help it, this made me laugh so much.
Dylan McDermott or Dermot Mulroney?
Another game show sketch! Don't you ever find it lame that game shows barely exist anymore but SNL does SO MANY game show sketches? I guess the game show format really lends itself to being a punchline-o-rama. In this case, three black contestants were forced to tell the difference between Dylan McDermott or Dermot Mulroney. Those two actors' interchangeability is just as mystifying to a white person like me, but something about making the contestants black pushed this sketch into a weird danger zone that for me heightened the comedy. You know? Sometimes danger does that to comedy. The sketch was nicely snappy and the cameo from a bemused-looking Dermot Mulroney was a nice surprise. Pretty solid overall.
To be honest, this pre-taped sketch fell pretty flat for me. It more or less nailed the sad tone of the countless HBO documentaries on the subject of prostitution, but maybe that's why the comedy didn't shine through? It's a sad subject! I don't know, maybe I also stopped laughing at pimp humor after I graduated high school and joined the real world, but that could just be a personal thing.
Um, WHAT ON EARTH WAS THIS SKETCH?? A local courtroom show about the citizens of Maine, but really, they were the citizens of a Louisiana bayou? That was seriously the premise, but so much craziness was going on that it didn't matter that it made no sense whatsoever. Between Jason Sudeikis's southern-fried judge and Jamie Foxx's jheri curl and nonsensical exclamations, I was laughing basically the whole time. Oh, and a surprise cameo from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Charlie Day as the world's trashiest congressman? This whole sketch was off-the-rails from MINUTE ONE and I personally wish MORE of SNL felt like that. Just absolutely insane. I loved it so much.
Ne-Yo: "She Is"
No backup dancers this time, but man was this song lovely. Just so terribly lovely.
YES. EVERYTHING about this sketch felt like a future classic. From the borderline avant-garde premise to the boatload of filthy non-sequiturs ("I lost part of my foot after it broke off in a butt"), I just couldn't get enough of it. I still don't understand anything about it, and I mean that as a compliment. Very excellent.
SNL has a long tradition of airing my personal favorite sketches in the last half-hour or so. You know, when the cast is loopy from exhaustion and Lorne decides to put up the weirdest sketches just to amuse the writers? (Comedy writers as a rule always have weirder senses of humor than their audiences.) Well, almost this entire episode had that same vibe. For the first time in a long time, this felt like a live show that airs past midnight on Saturdays. Transgressive. Strange. Fever-dreamish. But more importantly, like a place where I'd rather spend my time there instead of going to a real-life party or bar. These were the people I wanted to be around, and against all odds, Jamie Foxx was the one I wanted see take the wheel. Episodes like this are what make me put up with the Jeremy Renners or Eli Mannings of the hosting world. After 38 years SNL still has the power to feel new, dangerous, and different, and this episode proved it. Nice job, everyone.
How did YOU think Jamie Foxx fared? What was your favorite sketch of the night?