SNL: Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Babies, and Bin Laden

Welcome back, Tina Fey! Any Saturday Night Live with Tina hosting it, even a mediocre one, is still an SNL worth watching. And despite a stinker of a cold open, a few misfire sketches, and one musical guest who made absolutely zero impression whatsoever, this week’s episode was no exception.

The opening monologue brought out Maya Rudolph, a Fey-era all-star who could give everyone—boy and girl—a few lessons in crafting a memorable character. Both Maya and Tina are very pregnant, so they performed a song about the gift of procreation. It starts out sweetly enough, but quickly becomes a bawdy ode to parents having sex. A highlight: A sonogram lets you see their babies in the womb, who use their umbilical cords as microphones to sing backup.

The Digital Short, starring the Lonely Island guys and Michael Bolton, was awesome. I’ve felt kind of badly for Bolton since he was humiliated by that Bruno idiot on Dancing with the Stars last season, and this video redeemed him/upped the cool-factor he never had. The basic joke is that the guys want to do a hip-hop song, so they enlist Bolton (just go with it) to write one for them. But Bolton is obsessed with movies—the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise in particular—so he keeps bringing the song lyrics back to that. It’s funny! And catchy. Score one for the Boltster. (I think it probably could have done without the Scarface references, though seeing Bolton in drag as Erin Brockovich was pretty awesome.)

This was the sketch that made me laugh the most. It featured Fred Armisen and Vanessa Bayer as “Gaddaffi’s Two Best Friends From Growing Up,” and it skewers that very specific thing people do when they drop their voices to complain about a friend. It’s something many of us do, and we aren’t even aware of it! The sketch has Armisen’s sensibility all over it, and it’s kind of telling that the humor makes me think “Portlandia” before it does “SNL.” Which is probably why I love Portlandia so much. The comedy on that show is so well-observed—something SNL doesn’t do particularly well. SNL would rather do LOUD BOBBY MOYNIHAN SKETCHES. (I don’t really get that guy’s appeal. Do you? He’s so generic to me.)

OK, this is where I’m going to probably diverge from many of you, but, like I said last week, I think Stefon has been delivering diminishing returns. I love him, he’s the cutest little meth-addled club kid ever, but Bill Hader, dude, keep it together! The weird little details weren’t even that funny this week. A midget in a windbreaker as a “human kite” isn’t nearly as good as a midget on roller skates who you pull through an airport as “human luggage.” I guess you could argue that even lesser Stefon is still great. But I'm worried he’s eventually not going to be funny at all, and I’m going to forget what made me love Stefon in the first place. I guess I should bring up my Stefon issues in therapy this week, and not work them all out here on your time.

While we’re bringing up my issues (thanks—you’re a great listener), I have to admit that I definitely have birthing issues. Ick! Anything involving placenta and delivery room defecation freaks me out. Plus there’s the whole problem that the world is overpopulated as it is, and it’s going to end in 2012, and climate change, etc. etc. Stop having babies, everyone! (But, I guess Tina Fey can have another baby. It might be the messiah.) So this sketch made me really lightheaded and nauseous. It was also kind of spotty. Like, some moments were really funny, and some just kind of hung there and felt poorly timed and not organic. That said, it had Tina, Maya, Vanessa, Kristen Wiig and Abby Elliott in it, so in many ways it formed the all-girl natural birthing comedy orgy of my dreams. The best part is when Maya and Kristen look directly at the camera.

I know it’s unheard of to review a Tina appearance without highlighting her now-sainted Sarah Palin impression, but the GOP debate sketch was a little lackluster—even though it wheeled out Darell Hammond to do his amazing Donald Trump. (Isn’t it a little disturbing how much Hammond looks like Trump? Poor Darell.) Anyway, Tina knocked it out of the park again—best line: “I just hope that tonight the lamestream media won’t twist my words by repeating them verbatim”—but I think we can all agree Palin is no longer a viable threat to our nation’s security, but rather a lip-flapping painted clown, trotted out for our amusement because American Loves Clowns™. As such, Fey’s brilliant Palin evisceration is no longer as essential as the breath of life itself, but rather an amusing side note to SNL/USA history.

In general, the Bin Laden humor fell short for me, from the living will to the Little Mermaid sketch in which his body fell on Sebastian the crab (um, wow, OK. Let’s hope The Terrorists don’t watch SNL, but if they do—here! Have Kenan Thompson!), to Jason Sudeikis’s Devil character, to Seth Meyers editorializing that it didn’t matter if bin Laden was “holding a teddy bear” when the SEALs showed up, he still deserved to be killed. So many 72 virgins jokes! Too many. I realize a story as huge as that one needs to be tackled head-on, but there was just something unseemly about it to me. Could I finally be softening my stance on celebrations of Bin Laden’s death?

One last observation: Where are the new guys? Paul Brittain showed up once, playing a seahorse in the Little Mermaid scene—and they gave him a costume that hid his face. Poor Paul! At least let us see his face in his single scene. Taran Killam was similarly M.I.A. And then Jay Pharoah—whose very existence hangs by a thread—showed up only once, as the sidekick in the Pregnant in Heels send-up. Pregnant in Heels is the most horrible show in history (and can’t spell), so I was pleasantly surprised to see it being parodied. It made sense though, as it hits Tina’s sweet spots: babies and Bravo.

In it, Jay holds up a baby T-shirt that says “ASS” on it (hilarious), then says, “I am not so much a person as I am a collection of choices.” Which was delivered perfectly and was also hilarious, and makes me think this guy should put aside the Denzel Washington impressions for a bit (because how many of those do we really need?) and take more chances like this one. Also, dude should wear more animal print tank tops, ‘cause he’s jacked! Way to hit the Nautilus machines, Jay-dawg! Seriously, though—I like Jay. I hope he sticks around.

So that’s it! I guess I had a lot to say about this week’s SNL. Do you agree? Disagree? Tell us in the comments.

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