Saturday Night Live

Season 34 Episode 11

Hugh Laurie/Kanye West

Aired Saturday 11:30 PM Dec 13, 2008 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (5)

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  • Do they know it's Christmas?

    A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Candidates 1 through 4

    Scroll down for a special bonus review!

    I guess it was a tease after all. One week after returning from maternity leave, Amy Poehler ends her remarkable 7 ½-year stint on SNL with tonight's broadcast, earning the fond send-off she didn't receive when she gave birth just before the Jon Hamm/Coldplay broadcast. I don't think there's anything I can say that has already been said: Amy was probably the most versatile actress in the show's history –at least until Kristen arrived- but her ability to carry an otherwise mediocre sketch with unlimited energy and pluck is something that cannot be duplicated easily. With the way this season has been going, SNL will not be a stronger show without her, but no less flawed, either.

    Tonight's guests are no strangers to Studio 8H. The host is Hugh Laurie, the dry British thespian best known as Dr. Gregory House, here to follow up his strong showing two years ago. The musical guest is Kanye West, the Chicagoan hip-hop artist/raging egomaniac who conquered the stage in two previous season premieres. His new album, "808s and Heartbreaks," is a departure of sorts, a ballad-heavy record written and produced in the wake of West's mother's death and the end of a long-term relationship.

    And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:

    COLD OPENING: In the wake of his criminal complaint, disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (JS) addresses the U.S. Senate with a list of extortion-type demands. His profanity-enriched requests mystify the committee, which includes Chris Dodd (DH), Evan Bayh (WF), and the ever-so-ornery Robert Byrd (BH). Starting the show with a riff on Blago was far from surprising; the only suspense in carrying out a sketch like this was finding the right actor to play the governor. Given that, Jason was adequate yet still somewhat miscast; when asked if he was insane or developmentally disabled, Suds/Blago responded with aplomb. Everything else was merely sufficient.

    MONOLOGUE: Reunited with "Sweetcheeks," Hugh comments on 2008, how he loves New York City during Christmas, than gives an audience member some Chapstick. The audience (both in the studio and at home) is lethargic until he sings a holiday medley truncated for licensing purposes, the only moment of the sketch that duplicates how Hugh won us over the first time around.

    "Bronx Beat": Jodi and Betty (AP, Maya Rudolph) return from a 13-month hiatus to complain about holiday shopping and turn it into another diatribe about how their families take the ladies for granted. Their guest is British butcher shop owner Jeff Billings (Hugh), who gets the usual uninformed, double-entendre grilling that we've all come to anticipate. This last sketch appearance by Amy was no better or worse than any other "Bronx Beat," if not a tad overlong and unfocused.

    "Christmas Dinner": A dysfunctional family of five (Hugh, WF, JS, KW, CW) trade sarcastic barbs and chug red wine before they abruptly learn the true meaning of Christmas. The sketch felt stagy, which isn't necessarily a bad thing (I have reason to believe this is an adapted Second City sketch), but the ending was a total cop-out.

    "Culhane Wedding": A reception for a newly-married couple (AE, AS) drags on when a parade of weird relatives and well-wishers hog the mike from the exasperated emcee (JS). The most notable of these misfits is Bob Kemp (Hugh), a friend of the bride's father whose toast travels from explaining how he met the family to describing the engine of a car he drove 20-plus years ago. Maybe it was the inflection of the dialogue, especially Kemp's monotone, which kept me laughing through the whole sketch.

    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "Love Lockdown" puts heavy emphasis on two alien elements to the SNL stage- the 808 drum machine, the trendiest percussion in hip-hop right now, and a giant plasma screen that changes color, a fixture at Kanye's live shows. With all that happening, I almost forgot that there was a song being performed.

    WEEKEND UPDATE: It might've been Amy's final night behind the Update desk, but tonight's segment belonged to Gov. David Paterson (FA) and his blunt treatise of the Blagojevich controversy. What could've been a one-note blind joke turned into a tour de force; granted, his swipes at New Jersey were lame but his literal and figurative wandering –especially during Amy's poignant and heartfelt farewell speech- was hysterical.

    "City Nick": Inside the titular mom-and-pop furniture shop, three magical lamps (KW, Hugh, AS) come to life, singing and dancing with childlike merriment. However, things take a very bizarre turn when they're caught by the shop owners (FA, MW). Sometimes "Family Guy"-style meta gags don't need to be brought to life, and this was a case example.

    "Cat Christmas Letter": Two middle-age marrieds (KW, Hugh) bicker over employing the cutesy persona of their pet feline for their annual holiday missive, even though the cat died earlier in the year. I liked the random "kitty bone morrow transplant" reference, but this might've worked better if it were a tad shorter. Sometimes a tighter sketch is better than one that throws in every funny line you can think of.

    DIGITAL SHORT: During a corporate meeting regarding companywide layoffs, one effete exec (FA) is distracted by a complimentary plate of cookies. The Lonely Island can do way better than this; for a trio of comedy prodigies bent on reshaping SNL's brand of comedy, this felt like a one-dimensional dress rehearsal sketch that was filmed when it could've been performed live once and quickly discarded.

    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "Heartless" is a bipolar, passive-aggressive ballad about a bipolar, passive-aggressive woman breaking up with a man not unlike Kanye. If you didn't like the song, at least you had some cartoons to watch.

    I had to think about what sort of rating I would give tonight show for a long while, something that I'm not used to. There were three acutely funny moments in the show, and while there were no bad sketches, the less outstanding moments still felt lacking. With Poehler's departure, this is do-or-die time for the show's three female supporting players. Where Casey and Michaela have at least made a dent in the public's consciousness, Abby's contribution thus far has been roughly one line per sketch, one sketch per night. It didn't seem like anybody except Fred rose to the occasion tonight; than again, it could be another sign of creative burnout.

    Segments That Will Probably Be Removed in Repeats: if the entire last half-hour disappeared, I wouldn't notice.

    ----+---------------+ ----

    After a one-year hiatus, here's my midseason recap of Season 34:

    Best Show So Far: In an eleven-episode span that has been surprisingly top-heavy in entertaining shows, I'll give Anne Hathaway/The Killers a slight edge over Tim McGraw/Ludacris and T-Pain. The condensed, mostly Gen-Y cast that debuted two seasons ago has finally found its rhythm, and there was no better example of that than in the Hathaway show.

    Worst Show So Far: Michael Phelps/Lil' Wayne. Tonight's show was more drab than not, but the near-stillborn season premiere still takes the cake. First Half MVP: The no-brainer pick here would be Tina Fey, considering her almost vicious and right-on-the-money mimicry of Gov. Sarah Palin, but she left the show 2 ½ years ago and appeared only as Palin in six sketches during the first two months of the season. If the honor belonged to a current cast member, it would be a toss-up between Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig. Where Wiigy is nothing short of a comedy android (and I mean that in a good way), Army is a late bloomer, morphing into the show's clutch hitter after six years of being just one of the guys. His Obama impression is flawed but passable, and his regular appearances as a guest commentator on Weekend Update could be best described as not awful.

    Fourteen live broadcasts in thirteen weeks? I could use a break, too.

    Next Week: A repeat of the sometimes delightful, cameo-heavy Josh Brolin/Adele broadcast.

    Contact Stu at Happy holidays, and see you in '09!
  • Amy Poehler's last show. She'll be missed!

    All were awesome, funny sketches. A great end of a great year!

    Sketches: Blagojevich Testimony (the SNL folks are at their best in these political sketches), Bronx Beat (it's back, I love it!), Sarcastic Christmas Dinner ("sit DOWN!"), Culhane Wedding Toasts (Hugh Laurie's old man, Bob Kemp, was hilarious!), Magical Lamps (completely ridiculous!), Cat Christmas Letter (Kristen is just awesome with that cat voice!), Cookie Crimes (digital short) - oh my god, I laughed at Fred nonstop wathing this!

    Hugh Laurie was really funny, he's one of my favorites on TV. Great actor + SNL = a good time! ^^

    - Amy Poehler
    This is Amy Poehler's last show on SNL. I'm really sad that she's leaving, she's my favorite, but then again - I totally get that she wants to be with her family.
    Oh, and by the way - the name Archival is hilarious!
    The baby's probably super cute, having good genes from both mommy and daddy. (Amy's husband Will Arnett is hooot!)

    - I wonder what's gonna happen to Weekend Update?
    It's gonna be really exciting to see who will be replacing Amy (if that's even possible ;)
    This episode's Weekend Update was of course a great one, here are some of the best quotes:

    Seth: Same-sex marriage supporters urged people to skip work by "calling in gay on Wednesday, as part of 'Day Without A Gay I thought about doing it, but I do not want to use up all my gay days.

    Amy: Barack Obama this week named Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steve Chu as his Energy Secretary... unless he was just sneezing.

    Amy: The FDA this week unanimously approved a less costly version of the female condom. Hear that, ladies? The female condoms you wouldn't use in a zillion years are now cheaper!

    Amy: Walmart has announced plans to sell a $99 version of the iPhone at their stores. However, it will be lacking some of the iPhone features, like the camera, and the touch screen, and the ability to make calls, and it's just a calculator.

    Seth: It was announced this week that Michael Jackson's famous glittery glove will be auctioned off next week. Man, if that glove could talk it would probably apologize to a lot of kids.

    Amy: Three emplyees of a KFC in California have been suspended for bathing in a deep sink used to clean dishes, which makes me wonder: where is this magical, mythical KFC that has dishes?

    Amy: KISS announced that next year they will record their first new album since 1998. "That's awesome!" said the guy who still lives in your hometown.

    Amy: According to new research, obese women have more sex than thin women. The study was conducted by the prestigious Sir Mix-A-Lot Institute For Big Butt Sciences.

    Seth: Police in New York arrested two co-eds from the Fashion Institute of Technology for allegedly dealing cocaine from their dorm room. Though, in fairness - at FIT, that is a major.

    And here's the entire last 'Really!?! With Seth & Amy'

    Seth: Despite his recent arrest on federal corruption charges and calls from the Illinois attorney general for him to step down, Governor Rob Blagojevich has yet to resign, which brings us to a segment we like to call 'Really!?! With Seth & Amy'.
    Really, Blagojevich? Really? You're not gonna resign? Because you should resign. Even Illinois politicians are saying you should resign, and when Illinois politicians think you're too corrupt, you're too corrupt! That's like Amy Winehouse telling you to go to rehab! Really?
    Amy: Really? And really, it's 2008, did you not know that people tap phones? Really? You've never seen a TV show or a film? When you're doing something illegal, you need to speak in code. When I call up my weed dealer and I ask for $50 worth of circus tickets, you know what he doesn't give me? Circus tickets! Really!
    Seth: And really, how did you think you'd get away with this? George Ryan, the governor before you, was in jail for pretty much the same thing. When people are burned, they become vigilant. Really? My friend once brought a girl home who turned out to be a dude, so every time he meets a girl, you can bet he checks for an Adam's apple!
    Amy: Really? Really, that really happened to Seth's "friend". And you know what, it's beside the point, but the hair?! The hair? Really? It looks like your wearing a toupé that's also wearing a toupé!
    Seth: Really. It's like you have a proceeding hairline. Is that really your hair, or did you grow out your eyebrows and comb them up?
    Amy: Really? It's like someone put the hair on backwards on one of those Fischer Price (?) people! Really? The first time I saw you, I thought you were walking away.
    Seth: Really? Blagojevich, you're supposed to put the Rogaine on the crown, not the forehead! I thought you had a bad temper, but maybe your head is just hot from being under that bear skin rug.

    Bye Amy! We love you!
  • A pretty big disappointment. As with Malkovich, the writers did not rise to the occasion and instead turned in a rather lazy holiday episode which also turned out to be the anticlimactic finale for Amy.

    Blag cold open – A timely poke at the unbelievably corrupt Illinois governor. I like the use of the constant profanity especially in light of the bleeping remarks he made on the wiretap. Sudeikis did a good job as the smug and idiotic Blag. Loved the bit when he tried to extort the senators. Grade: B

    Hugh Monologue – Hugh has the charisma to shine in these kinds of settings. Nice reference to his previous appearance with mention of Sweetcheeks. A good gag to give away Chapstick and ask for the bow back. The Christmas medley was also a delight. Grade: A-

    Bronx Beat – I guess I shouldn't complain too much because it is the last one we will ever have to endure. But it is odd that Amy chose this sketch as her big farewell sketch. Hugh didn't have much to do and the ladies treaded upon familiar territory. At over 8 minutes long, this sketch was a little hard to watch. Bye Amy. Grade: D

    Christmas Dinner – Very similar to some of the tense dinner sketches with Ferrell, especially the one where there are long gaps of silence punctuated by clattering silverware. Everybody performed well, but it was just a little too predictable to be really amusing. Grade: C

    Culhane Wedding – Another rehashed concept that got old quickly. Other than Hugh's amusing ramblings, there wasn't much to enjoy in the other guest speakers. Andy is now the king of "irritated faces" at SNL. He seems to do it at least once every episode. Not much of a calling card though. Grade: C-

    Weekend Update – Better than usual with some snappy jokes and a great David Patterson impression by Armisen. The Really! segment had a lot of good Blag jokes and Amy's farewell was heartfelt and moving. I could have done without the usual gag of Armisen blocking the camera, but I think Amy wanted it in there to keep her from crying on camera. The "joke" about Obama having no connection with Blag was kind of weird. Relax SNL writers; there is no need to perform damage control. Your man has already been elected. Grade: A

    Lamps! – Perhaps Limps! would have been a better title. The costumes were fine and even the premise wasn't too bad. The sketch was doomed by the songs and the plot line. Was it really necessary to kill the grandfather clock? Grade: D

    Christmas Litter – Anybody who knows a "cat person" can relate to this sketch. The phrases were horrible in a somewhat amusing way. I just didn't like the way the sketch was executed. It was very static with all of the "action" taking place around the computer. Kristen is the obvious choice to play these kinds of roles, but there should have been something more to it. Grade: C

    Digital Short – Kind of weird to see a digital short without Andy. Still, Fred did a great job as the cookie-obsessed employee. The sketch kept building up to what I hoped would be a great conclusion, but instead turned out to be a pedestrian "twist" with the cookies actually stool softeners. Hugh and Fred were both great, but the ending was very weak. Grade: C
  • I'm a cousin of a friend...

    Wow, we're already half way through the season! My god, things are going by fast. Granted, the second half will be 5 months long, while the 1st half is only 3 months, but still, time is going by fast. As far as SAG news, we will get our January 10 and January 17 episodes in, before even thinking about anything, so don't worry about that.

    Tonight is Amy's last show. Yes, it really is, this time. It was kind of expected that she'd come back for the Christmas episodes, so, it's good to have her back while we can. Amy has been an awesome cast member, and even though we can think she has a big ego at times, she will be sorely missed.

    This week's host is Hugh Laurie, who did a magnificant job hosting last time, so I'm really looking forward to the show. Kanye West is back after a little bit more than a year from his last visit.

    Blagoevich in Congress: Jason playing Blagoevich? Wierd choice. Hader or Armisen would have been my first two choices. The sketch did drag on, and that bleeped out swearing stopped being funny the first time Sudeikis unexpectedly did it. I would have prefered a Nancy Grace cold opening for Amy's sendoff.

    Monologue: I have to say once again, Laurie is a very funny guy. This monologue was all over the place, but in a good way.

    Bronx Beat: You've gotta be kidding me. Seriously? And a lead off sketch? The sketch itself wasn't as bad as the Braff and Manning Bronx Beat sketches, but not as good as the Brian Williams sketch. I kind of felt bad about how Maya got NO applause at all. But, then again, that sketch never gets applause. I kind of feel bad for them.

    Dysfunctional Family: Right when this started, I knew it was a dysfunctional family sketch, yet I was still laughing on the floor by the time this was over. Just those stupid little things are all so true! That ironic ending was awesome, too.

    Wedding Toasts: This was a silly sketch, and I enjoyed it. Hugh's character was hilarious, and so were most of the other ones.

    Musical Performance: Wow, this was a really cool stage set-up, but, I can not stand this song. Maybe it's just me, but Kanye was much better a year and a half ago when he was on.

    Weekend Update: Most of the jokes were funny, while Fred as the governer KILLED! It was hilarious! Fred is so freakin talented, it's not funny. Right down to Amy's heartfilled goodbye, and Fred interrupting it was hilarious!

    Lamps: Dancing lamps. I thought the premise was clever and witty: Lamps holding owners hostage, but it really didn't go anywhere, at all.

    Cat Letter: This was actually somewhat entertaining. Hugh, once again, was great in this, and so was Kristen.

    DS: Lay-Offs: Eh, it was a 10-to-1 digital short. What ever. It wasn't terrible.

    Musical Performance: Kanye West performs once again, and it's an underwhelming song. Don't get me wrong, Kanye's talented, (a lot more talented than T.I.) but maybe it's just me.

    No skating rink tonight. Bummer. Somebody pointed out, that New York City, and all of New England, was at most 20 degrees last night. I totally forgot New York City was a real place for a second. Never entered my mind, plus they, and I, just got an ice storm, so it's probably even worse out there right now.

    Tonight was a decent night, yet at the same time, it was an off night. I guess doing 11 shows in 14 weeks (14 broadcasts in 14 weeks to be exact), the cast was kind of looking forward to this break. Everything was just kind of off. Steve Martin was not here to sing "Not Gonna Phone It In Tonight", so I guess that's what did it. Hugh was a great host. Even him starting to chuckle in Bronx Beat had me laughing. Kanye West, as I stated, was just not as thrilling as he was on his last visit. Maybe it's because his new album is more love songs (i guess?), but I don't know.

    I really will miss Amy. She was great on the show. I am looking forward to the evolution of Michaela, Abby, and Casey (yes, even Casey). Speaking of Abby, she really hasn't done anything to prove herself, yet. Michaela has been doing all kinds of stuff. I really do think she's another Kristen Wiig, which is a good thing. Abby still has yet to show off why she got on this show. Casey has slowly, but surely, risen up to fill Amy and Maya's voids, but she can still go much farther. As for Kristen, I just hope she keeps it up. She's doing a fantastic job.

    I'm taking it our next episode is January 10. No confirmed host. No confirmed musical guest.

    On January 4, we have a special (not sure what time), called SNL Sports Extra. If it's live, and new, then I'll review.

    Next week is a rebroadcast of the uneven Josh Brolin/Adele episode, while the week after is the strong Ben Affleck/David Cook, and after that, the uneven Paul Rudd/Beyonce episode.

    Wow, I can't believe I'm not reviewing for 2 weeks. It just feels like yesterday I was making reviews right back to back. Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!
  • Pretty lackluster episode, but Amy Poehler was actually funny for a change.

    Hugh Laurie returned to host SNL again. Why? Who knows as his first gig was not exactly memorable. I'm not a House fan and I find Laurie's work to be extremely overrated, but I tried to be entertained by this episode. I gave it a shot, but he just didn't deliver. He didn't appear to be reading off cue cards like some past guests but his lines weren't exactly funny either.

    Hell as frozen over though as I actually laughed at numerous Amy Poehler lines during the Bronx Beat and Weekend Update sketches. Seth Meyers had some good news bits as well regarding nobody calling sharing appetizers "nontrees" and calling in gay to work. I'm willing to give Amy's new sitcom a shot, but I have a feeling this was just a fluke thing and not the start of a comedic turnaround.

    I am not a fan of Kanye West's music, but he does put on an entertaining, well produced show. He had visuals and lighting to go along with his performance, a rarity for SNL.

    Overall this was just not a good way to close out the year. Anne Hathaway and James Franco were really the only memorable hosts thus far. Hopefully things will get better in 2009.