SNL: With a Cameo Appearance by Josh Brolin!

Last week I worried whether SNL would properly put Sofia Vergara's ample comedic talents to good use. This week I worried whether Josh Brolin had ANY comedic talents to lend whatsoever. While he's definitely appeared in hilarious things before—from the overtly funny Flirting with Disaster to the campy Planet Terror and unintentionally hilarious Jonah Hex—let's face it: Brolin's performances really only range from serious to DEADLY SERIOUS. I mean, that's the entire reason he's playing a young Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black 3, right? Fortunately dramatic actors tend to do pretty well on SNL, their dogged commitment to character can sometimes be just as hilarious as someone innately funny. So did the same apply to this Josh Brolin in this week's episode?

We never really found out! SNL sidestepped the entire issue by barely giving Brolin any screen time. Without any starring roles his participation amounted to a series of cameos in larger ensemble sketches. He and his goatee certainly had their moments, but ultimately this was a highly forgettable episode.

So let's talk about it! Here are the sketches in the order in which they aired. Apologies to our international readers for the Hulu embeds, but if it makes you feel any better, FOUR of this week's sketches weren't even made available to U.S. readers, presumably due to music licensing issues.

Cold Open: Republican Nominees' "Time of Your Life"

The cold open is not online, probably due to the fact that it centered on an impromptu rendition of Green Day's "Time of Your Life" by the current and former GOP presidential nominees. On the upside, it was funnier than your average Season 37 political cold open, mostly because this one had more teeth than usual. I laughed out loud at Herman Cain's statement that he now has "9-9-9 problems and a b---- is all of 'em," and Michelle Bachmann's Sarah McLachlan-esque singing voice was pretty great. I don't know, seemed like a solid send-off for this batch of characters, right?

Josh Brolin Monologue

Short and not-quite-sweet, Josh Brolin tossed off a joke about how his stint on SNL could end up being "career-endingly" ridiculous and that his goatee was contractually obligated for an upcoming role. About the goatee: I never imagined how distracting an actor's facial hair could be until I realized that all of Josh Brolin's characters over the course of the evening would have identical goatees! Maybe that's why he wasn't featured very often? Gotta stay versatile, actors.

Game of Thrones' 13-Year-Old Writer

[Flash 10 is required to watch video]

This sketch involved a behind-the-scenes look at the 13-year-old writer (Andy Samberg) who's responsible for all of Game of Thrones' gratuitous nudity. Honestly, I didn't care for this concept (nudity is childish?) but it was worth it for Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan's impressions of Kit Harington and George R.R. Martin, respectively. Seriously, their impressions were so good it made me wish for a more legitimate Game of Thrones parody. It also made me wish for the prompt dismissal of Andy Samberg from my TV forever. Get out of here with your terrible, one-note acting, Andy Samberg!

The Californians

It's been well-established that New Yorkers are even more obsessed with Los Angeles than they are with themselves, so here we got some kind of weird takedown of L.A. vapidity. Speaking as a Los Angeleno (gross), we're definitely all blond and talk about traffic routes and speak unintelligibly and are distracted by mirrors and also have trouble keeping straight faces. Nailed it! But this sketch was pretty funny in its sheer weirdness, plus the close-up of Bill Hader trying not to lose it was great.

America's Next Top "Empire State of Mind" Parody Artist

Hmmm I remember watching this sketch, it just didn't really make any impression on me. I know Andy Samberg impersonated "Weird Al" Yankovic as the host of this reality competition looking for the best parody's of Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind." It made me laugh when celebrity judge Jay-Z gave everyone 10s and even claimed one song was so good that maybe his original was a parody of THAT song. But again, the concept of this sketch was so complicated and the end result so underwhelming that it was all just a wash for me.

Digital Short: Laser Cats 7

Your enjoyment of this video depends on how you've felt about the "Laser Cats" franchise so far. Personally, I don't like seeing internet-style videos on SNL because I'm tired of the internet most of the time and SNL should be my refuge from it. But I did LOVE Steven Spielberg's performance here. He was so funny and charming! I'm serious, can HE host sometime? Maybe when War Horse 2 comes out? That would be awesome.

Gotye: "Somebody I Used to Know"

This song is so huge right now. This week alone it was performed on American Idol AND on Glee (by Matt Bomer, no less!). So the time was certainly right for an SNL performance. Whether it was weird sound mixing (SNL has a difficult time making its bands sound good) or maybe just Gotye's jet lag, this was not the greatest performance ever. Even the lady singer seemed kinda hoarse and over it. Oh well. (Because you totally came to for music reviews, right?)

Weekend Update

Then Seth Meyers shouted some jokes at us. Credit where credit's due, though, I did like his extended bit about North Korea. So sue me. People I find mostly unfunny can still make me laugh sometimes, life is unpredictable that way.

Garth & Kat

I love Garth & Kat and there's a good chance I will never get tired of them. I still haven't completely figured out what their process is... I'm guessing Fred Armisen improvises the songs and Kristen Wiig attempts to sing along with him? But I really could just watch these two go at it all day. I loved their excuse for being late, something to do with sitting on their couch stunned by the news that Battleship the board game was being made into a movie. And also when Kat claimed they had to go to the grocery store because they needed beans "like, yesterday." I laughed so much.

Piers Morgan Tonight: Trayvon Martin

Don't worry, this sketch didn't delve into the Trayvon Martin case TOO intensely, aside from a few jabs at how crazy Florida law is. No, this was mostly a vehicle to take down Piers Morgan's insistence on interviewing celebrities whenever a serious current events story is going down. In this case we got Ice-T, Kanye West, and Kim Kardashian all opining on the Trayvon Martin case. Nasim Pedrad's Kardashian is always pretty great, and Jay Pharaoh's Kanye was solid. But will he ever be funny as an original character? (Answer to come!)

High School Slo-Mo Hallway

Music rights issues are presumably what's keeping this one off the internet, but this was one of SNL's weirder sketches. As a new girl was being shown around her high school, she learned about the school hallway which makes all who enter walk in slow-motion while a pop tune plays. In probably his best moment, Josh Brolin played a mad scientist who was convinced the hallway's supernatural properties could be explained by science, and not the curse of an angry witch. But yeah, this was more a sketch that I simply enjoyed rather than laughed at. It takes all kinds.

*Another* Digital short: Gotye Backstage

I'm not sure this sketch worked on me as well as it should have, mostly owing to the fact that I hadn't seen the music video for Gotye's ubiquitous single. But if I had, I probably would've better enjoyed Andy Samberg and Taran Killan's re-enactment of its body paint camouflage element.

Gotye: "Eyes Wide Open"

To my surprise, Gotye did NOT sing "Somebody That I Used To Know" twice. Instead he opted to sing a different song during his second appearance and it was pretty good! I think the mix sounded better than earlier, too. Congrats all around!

Principal Frye at the Prom

Wow! Loved Jay Pharaoh in this. First of all, he got to play an original character and it was a GREAT character. His fuddy-duddy, inarticulate high school principal kept jumping on stage to make announcements at a high school prom. Other characters, such as Josh Brolin's inebriated chaperone and Kenan Thompson's politically incorrect gym teacher, were good too, but this was Jay Pharaoh's sketch and he nailed it.

So, not a terrible episode of SNL, but fewer highlights than usual. Josh Brolin had about as much screen time as the musical guest, but at least he got more than newest hire Kate McKinnon, who didn't have a ton to do this week either. Next week we're looking at an Eli Manning-hosted episode, so that could be fun. Sports stars always make great hosts right? (Don't answer that.)


... So how do you think Josh Brolin did?

... What was the best sketch of the night?

... Gotye or Gotnay?

Comments (13)
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-I liked it. Don't know Brolin that much for comedy.

-Personally I enjoyed the hallway thing. It just hit me for some odd reason.

-Don't know. Still don't watch the musical guests.
with a couple caveats, it was probably the tightest and consistently funny episode of SNL I've seen in awhile.
The "*Another* Digitial short" was my favorite bit of this episode, it was really good.
Man, you guys are harsh. I actually really liked this episode (and the recap too), but I was comparing it to last week's so its hard to look bad in that context. LOVED laser cats! "What about your wife and kids?" "F*ck them." Laughed so hard at that.

Really, every sketch made me laugh at least a little, but I do have lowered expectations for SNL
Ouch, mean opening comment! Josh Brolin has a very special comedic tool: he commits to a part, he gives himself fully no matter how silly the material, and this SNL was a good example - I will grant you that they didn't give him much screen time, but he was funny what he had.

Time of Your Life was ok, yes it was a good send-off for these characters, but there's still a lack of punch to the SNL political writing, it's so toothless most of the time. I didn't laugh, but I didn't roll my eyes too hard, so that's some measure of praise for SNL cold opens.

Game of Thrones' Writer was an understandable bit,( though I haven't seen the show yet I'm assuming those clips are accurate, otherwise why bother with this joke?) but Andy Samberg really does pigeonhole himself into this sort of character too damned often. Same voice, same eyes, same joke year after year - I know the guy has more range, I've seen it, but nobody is bothering to bring it out of him and he falls back on cheapness. Also, why this had to be a pre-filmed bit since it's intercut with footage anyway seems wasteful: Saturday Night Pre-taped.

The Californians was a weird sketch, I kept thinking it was a more direct takeoff on something than what it was. I was mainly impressed at how accurate the directions were considering they were written by writers 3,000 miles away - I wonder if Google Maps got writing credit for this sketch. Anyway, Hader's breaking was amusing because he really was trying not to laugh and he hasn't done Stefon in a few weeks, a character he ALWAYS breaks on. Ultimately though it wasn't really a great sketch, although the potential to have it throw down directly against any number of New York-based soap cliches would be an awesome sequel.

Andy's Weird Al was such a bad parody, everything from his voice to the costume was way off. You are entirely right that this whole sketch was overly convoluted which stepped on the humor of it.

I hate Laser Cats, it's such a hipster-ironic joke and it's so broadly over the top, but Spielberg's addition was fantastic. If this had been the only pre-taped bit, I would have given it more applause, but not using the guest host AND being the 2nd pre-taped piece in the first third of the show was not good.

"Seth Meyers shouted jokes at us", you said it last week and you were right on the money, every time I see that it makes me laugh because it's so true. His piece on North Korea had a good concept but felt lazy to me, like the premise got lost in the writing: "What are you doing?!" could have been a good hook but wasn't. And then we had Garth & Kat, luckily by this point I was on DVR and able to fast-forward through most of this lame improv-troupe time-suck. I'm the opposite as you Price, a few moments of this feel like they're going with the same joke all day.

Piers Morgan was bland, Taran Killam seemed like he's stuck in a very specific impersonation rhythm and voice, this could easily have been him doing Michael Cera and I wouldn't have known the difference. The Kanye / Kim part was funny but the writing for the Ice-T bit didn't find the joke and took too long trying. Nasim seems unhappy in every sketch now, like she knows they're underutilizing her and wasting her time.

Slo-mo Hallway wasn't exactly funny, but everybody did really good miming here, and the slow-open locker was clever. I don't even remember how it ended, except it had a post-ending gag of the cursed witch that could have been left out.

I also hadn't seen the Gotye video in reference, but I found this short to be terribly unfunny and really drawn out for a shorter pre-taped bit. I also couldn't see why it had to be pre-taped at all, this seemed like quite a simple bit that could have been done live with some driven makeup people (or clever costuming). The premise wasn't funny, the punchline wasn't funny, it felt like yet another time-suck, and the host wasn't in it.

Principal Frye finally made me laugh, even before it made Jay break, because it was slightly more than just a list sketch the way it normally is. Josh Brolin's drunk teacher sleeping with a student was awesome, this was a one-two hitter with that. Throwing Kenan into the mix could have been unnecessary except the writing for his character actually cracked me up.

Bottom line, this was a flat episode that felt weak due not only to the standard substandard writing but also to really poor planning which I think is on the head writer and the director. Josh Brolin seemed willing to go anywhere they'd point the comedy cannon, and instead they just let him wither which was wasteful.
Put Seth Abramovich back on these reviews, please. If I wanted to see a trashy SNL review I would see what people on Twitter were saying.
Whudda ya know - ANOTHER anti-Republican cold open! Shocker...

SNL is more predictable than the morning sunrise.
So none of the bashing was based on the truth, then?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the principal character was not a new one for Jay. I believe he has played it once before, last season. I do enjoy this one though.
Found it:
Attention teachers and students: Weak episode. Best part was Taram and Nasim making out in the hallway sketch, and then the swtich to the side camera that showed them like a foot apart before they realized and stopped. Nice to see Jay get some screen time.
You know who I find unfunny? You, Price. All your jokes and comments rely on trashing other people - people who are actually funny like Andy Samberg and Seth Myers. Every time you do an SNL review it seems you watched an entirely different episode like everyone else. And who in their right mind likes Garth & Kat?
"Apologies to our international readers for the Hulu embeds, but if it makes you feel any better, FOUR of this week's sketches weren't even made available to U.S. readers, presumably due to music licensing issues."

- It doesn't.

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