Martin Short has always been one of the best things we've got going for those of us humans who enjoy laughter. Major "no duh" statement, I know, but it can be hard to remember the reality of Martin Short's awesomeness due to how infrequently he appears in the national spotlight. I mean, yeah, he's not exactly a hermit, but he's also no Steve Martin who splits his time between everything all of the time. Even better, Martin Short is definitely in the coasting-and-accepting-paychecks part of his career (ugh, those Old Navy ads), but he still manages to do some of the weirdest and riskiest alt-comedy of anyone of his generation. Like, do people even appreciate how bizarre Jiminy Glick was as a character? Or Short's stint on Arrested Development? I shouldn't even have to mention how incredible Clifford is. Point is, Martin Short is a household name, but he operates with just enough subversive weirdness to make him seem like a bit of a comedy dark horse, and on this week's SNL he brought that weirdness full force. He was terrific!
If we're being honest, the entire episode wasn't quite as solid as last week's Jamie Foxx showcase (another example of a sketch veteran bringing his A-game), but this week's more holiday-centric episode felt more like a traditional variety show. Tons of guest stars, lots of music, a dead-serious and devastating tribute to tragic events of the past week, a possible Samuel L. Jackson F-bomb, a quasi Nirvana reunion. I mean, it was a full show! But for me, Martin Short was the best part. Let's talk about it!
[Apologies to international readers for these embedded clips, Hulu can be a bit of a jerk.]
Cold Open: "Silent Night"
Oh, just the New York Children's Chorus singing a somber rendition of "Silent Night." If you weren't sobbing by the time they got to "sleep in heavenly peace," then I don't know what to tell you. Seriously, I don't know why I look to a comedy show to so perfectly address certain IRL tragedies, but SNL is just so very, very good at it. Understated, devastating, and perfect.
Martin Short's Monologue
I truly wish this was online because Martin Short's opening monologue was just about as perfect as you can get, and perhaps the show's highlight overall. After some extremely funny and weird jokes, he segued into charming banter with Paul Shaffer ("Which show do you work for again?") before gallivanting around the studio greeting tons of guest stars (including Kristen Wiig, Tina Fey, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Fallon, and Samuel L. Jackson) and then planting a kiss on Lorne Michaels. Just a very fun and funny opening monologue.
The Tony Bennett Show
This sketch is not yet online and I can't even seem to find a picture of it. Did it even happen? Maybe I dreamed it? Anyway, it wasn't extremely stellar, but it WAS nice seeing Alec Baldwin doing his Tony Bennett impression (alongside Martin Short as Tony Bennett's clingy younger brother). Yeah this sketch, assuming it happened, was more fun to watch than funny.
Royal Family Doctor
I loved this sketch so much. The gynecologist assigned to treating Kate Middleton during her pregnancy was briefed on the protocol for handling a royal pregnancy, and Martin Short's character was as over-the-top silly as possible. I laughed so much at all the euphemisms for ladyparts: The Royal [Ahem], Her Downton Abbey, The Kingmaker, The Chunnel, Judi Dench, and Thomas's English Muffin. It's no surprise that straight-man Bill Hader could barely keep it together, particularly when Fred Armisen came in to do his Cockney Queen routine ("I'm 'ere to get me Judi Dench warshed"). Ugh, so good.
You're a Rat Bastard, Charlie Brown
This was a pretty standard SNL showcase for celebrity impressions, but the thing that made it work was how specific it was: The actors chosen for spoofing are mostly known for their hard-edged New York personas. But the best part was how it was filmed to look like an actual stage show, complete with hilarious cutaways to confused/disapproving children in the audience. Oh and the Fran Drescher "voiceover" had me LOL-ing for sure, but I'm easy like that.
Paul McCartney: "My Valentine"
This nice-seeming old lady did a pretty good Paul McCartney impression. Not sure if the man responsible for so many of the Beatles' hits would ever write a song like this, but whatever. Perfectly pleasant.
Seth Meyers did Weekend Update jokes.
Commentary: Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy
I appreciated Vanessa Bayer's character here, not so much because it was particularly hilarious, but because of how uncomfortably accurate it seemed. Mazel tov.
Commentary: Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party
Wow, this character is turning out to be pretty amazing right? Cecily Strong has done this before, but I think this was the best installment yet. Checking her texts got me every time. What a truly gross person!
What Up With That?
I'm on board for this recurring sketch and have been from the beginning. It's always been a perfect marriage of live TV insanity and rapid-fire comedy. Maybe its absence had made my heart grow fonder, but I really loved this one. Jason Sudeikis smoking a cigarette. Grinchina the Female Grinch. Samuel L. Jackson dropping what SOUNDED like an F-bomb, and then Kenan Thompson ad-libbing for him to settle down because "That costs money!" For the record, Jackson insisted he didn't actually say the whole word, but I felt like *I* heard the full word, and it's not like Jackson's tweet afterward made things clearer:
I only said FUH not FUCK!K was sposed to cut off da BULLSHIT, blew it!! twitter.com/SamuelLJackson…— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) December 16, 2012
Anyway, who cares? This was a really fun sketch, and if more live-TV F-bombs are what it takes, then go for it, everyone!
Paul McCartney & Nirvana (sort of): "Cut Me Some Slack"
I'm truly and honestly not sure how I felt about this collaboration between Paul McCartney and the surviving members of Nirvana. When they did it the other night for that Sandy benefit, I figured it was a one-off for charity. But two's a trend, and it's a trend that weirdly depresses me. It's not even like I'm the hugest Nirvana purist, but I wish they could've collaborated with someone who wasn't Paul McCartney, you know? Nirvana and Paul McCartney go together like toothpaste and orange juice. OR, they could've at least covered "Rape Me." I probably would've enjoyed that.
This pleasant sketch wasn't particularly amazing, but Fred Armisen's interplay with Martin Short and their bizarre one-upsmanship over how sad their lives have become really kept my attention. This was more of a smiler than a laffer.
Holiday Pageant/"Wonderful Christmas Time"
This sketch started out fairly traditional: Martin Short and his "brother" played by Paul McCartney were doing a bad audition for a Christmas pageant while also bickering, and then it all segued into McCartney doing a real performance of "Wonderful Christmas Time." For those of you who enjoy that particular Christmas classic, it was probably a total delight. Me, I hate that song with every fabric of my being, and it was just as grating with a children's choir as it is with that awful synth-funk instrumentation in the original. Get out of here, that song. Entertaining idea though!
Okay, so I'm not the biggest Paul McCartney fan, but I respect the man, and I obviously love Martin Short. All in all, I thought SNL pulled out all the stops for its last episode of the year and I appreciated that immensely. A fitting hiatus send-off for sure.
How did YOU think Martin Short fared? What was your favorite sketch of the night?