SNL can often feel like a 90-minute party, at least for the people on stage, and the proceedings are rarely as festive as when a former cast member returns as a host. Usually the very fact that he or she is now hosting implies a post-SNL success of some kind, either in movies or primetime TV, which is cause for celebration in itself. But even better, returning alumni tend to travel in packs: Where there's one there are many, and that held true for Will Ferrell, who brought not only an easygoing sense of fun, but some pretty hilarious former castmates as well.
If we're being honest, this episode of SNL may not have been the funniest (certainly none of the sketches would make a Best of Will Ferrell: Volume 4 DVD), but there was something irresistible about seeing one of the world's most famous comedy stars engaging in some good old-fashioned weirdo sketch comedy. For one night at least, Ferrell was a supporting player again and just seeing his face made me happy. Let's talk about the episode!
[Apologies to international readers for these embedded clips, Hulu can be a bit of a jerk.]
Cold Opening: Obama Visits Biden
I'm not particularly savvy about politics, so a lot of these political cold opens are generally pretty lost on me. In this case I think it was supposed to seem funny that Vice President Biden is childish? Who knows. But it did afford us the opportunity to see Ferrell's George W. Bush impersonation, which made me realize how badly I missed it! Now that Bush is no longer president, this character is charming and much more likeable! I laughed when he said he'd been living in the White House for the past three years after getting lost while chasing a butterfly. Poor fella!
Will Ferrell's Monologue
I just loved Ferrell's monologue, despite his weirdly hoarse voice. In honor of Mother's Day he brought his mother onstage and then proudly proclaimed that he wanted to speak from the heart (and not cue cards) for the first time in a while. What followed was one of the most grammatically bizarre, terrible speeches ever given and it verged on genius. Just a good idea perfectly executed and it ended up being heartwarming as well.
Ad: Cold Medicine
Another great ad. Do you ever watch these ads and imagine how funny they must have been during the initial pitch meeting? Like a room full of writers sneeze-screaming at each other. Kristen Wiig does a great exasperated wife and that final button made me LOL. At this point I was settling in for what I was hoping would be a great episode.
Not gonna lie, I've never loved this bit or these characters, The Kulps singing modern pop songs in between ultra stilted banter. However, it WAS still pretty fun from a nostalgia standpoint and seeing Ana Gasteyer in costume again was a thrill. And, okay, their rendition of "Super Bass" was pretty great. Still though, this was more just pleasant than hilarious.
Hey, it's Will Forte! In what would be one of the bigger surprises of the night, he'd wind up getting almost as many hard laughs as the host. This recurring bit about mid-'90s color commentators discussing professional ladies' golf has made me uncomfortable in the past. It just makes me feel weird to see women athletes painted as freakish, plus the recurring joke about Maxi Pad slogans is pretty juvenile. But man, I definitely laughed at this. From Forte's incredible non-sequiturs to Kristen Wiig's golfing behavior, this sketch ended up much better than what I was expecting. Credit where credit's due!
The 100th Digital Short
For their 100th Digital Short, the guys from The Lonely Island decided to make a self-congratulatory video that revisited many of their old classics (and threw in Justin Bieber for no real reason). The joke is right up front: They're both literally and metaphorically sucking their own d*cks! So while the entertainment value was in playing a sort of Where's Waldo? with all their former guest -tars, it was genuinely cool to see who returned for more—including Natalie Portman, Michael Bolton, Justin Timberlake. It's really amazing how many celebrities they've gotten to play ball over the years.
I think the thing I was most surprised about tonight was how much I liked Usher's two performances. I don't know his music too well. I know it constantly plays at the mall and that Usher "discovered" Justin Bieber. But he kind of put on a great show tonight and in my mind separated himself from his nearest competition—Chris Brown—in a really good way. This has been my pop music critique for the day!
You know what? Seth Meyers' "REALLY???!??!?" segment was terrific. The only thing better than his rant about that Time Magazine breast-feeding mother would've been if Amy Poehler could've dropped by to join in, but oh well.
Commentary: "Get in the Cage" with Liam Neeson
I love that Liam Neeson is starting to lend his talents to weird comedy more and more. Like, you all saw his incredible bit in Life's Too Short, right? He wasn't as laugh-out-loud hilarious here, but he served as a great foil to Andy Samberg's Nicolas Cage. I laughed.
The 2012 Funkytown Debate
This might've been my favorite sketch of the night, if only for how WEIRD it was. The idea of a bunch of colorful citizens (and one normal woman) running for the mayorship of Funkytown was funny enough, but how impressive was it that they all had to speak in sync with the music? It looked really hard! But I loved the way it played out, especially when Kenan Thompson's character vehemently denied that he'd never been involved in a sex scandal. See, I'm not a political person, so this is as close as I get to enjoying comedy about politics. Just make it all ridiculous in a FUN way, you know?
I straight-up did not understand this sketch at all, but I liked how go-nowhere the Will Ferrell stuff was. Repeatedly singing Broadway songs only to realize they were being sung from the perspective of a woman, then insisting on getting to go again? Okay. I was sort of transfixed by his hat more than anything.
Good job, Usher!
Anniversary Party Speeches
I love these sketches. Just a revolving door of the cast doing their weirdest, most awkward characters. And the idea of strangers insisting on toasting the guests of honor makes me laugh. Taran Killam's bizarre transsexual (?) model was great and I especially loved the return of Will Forte's Hamilton character. That the disturbingly creepy Hamilton ever became a recurring character just shows how amazing Will Forte was on this show. Come back more often, Will Forte!
Ad: Almost Pizza
This was just an encore presentation of my favorite fake ad of the season. That shattering glass sound effect gets me every time. Weird that the show ended on this, though. Maybe a sketch got cut or Will Ferrell got TOO hoarse? Either way, if they had to replay a fake ad, this was a good one.
I'm probably sending mixed signals here, but I enjoyed this episode in a pleasant, just hangin' out kind of way. Nothing I saw was anything worth screaming about from the mountaintops, but sometimes all you want from SNL is a late-night party. Thanks to Will Ferrell and his friends, it really was a happening.
What did YOU think of this episode?