Saturday Night Live

Season 36 Episode 11

Jim Carrey/The Black Keys

Aired Saturday 11:30 PM Jan 08, 2011 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (4)

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  • "Once you go black swan, you never go back... swan."

    A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Frugalista

    Yeah, yeah, I'm still here. For those of you who miss my reviews, I'm still commenting and moderating in the forum adjacent to this episode guide. With 2010-11 now halfway over, I felt obligated to roll out my emeritus status once more and whip out my annual midseason review (see below).

    One of my favorite SNL season finales ever was in 1996, when Jim Carrey hosted with musical guest Soundgarden. The fact that Carrey auditioned to be a cast member in his own right -at age 18, during the Doumanian season- was not lost on the SNL diehards, but the regular fans didn't seem to care because it was a damn funny show. What puzzled me for years afterward was why Carrey wasn't booked again, at least not within a year or two of his initial live TV triumph. Nearly 15 years later, Ace Ventura is back and better now than never.

    Tonight's musical guest is The Black Keys, the Ohio-based acid blues/DIY punk duo behind one of 2010's best rock albums, Brothers. I'm not sure how strong they are as a live act, but I'm cranking up the volume regardless.

    Without further ado, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:

    COLD OPENING: For a show that is fully ingrained in the sights and sounds of New York City, they seldom cover the local political beat. Stranger yet, until this point SNL has never spoofed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who succeeded Rudy Giuliani nearly a decade ago. In a tempered and mediated response to the blizzard from two weeks ago, Fred plays the multi-millionaire media magnate/mayor as a cross between his David Paterson and Barack Obama impression: personality-driven, pragmatic, and a quintessential Knickerbocker. The questions he fields in regard to the snowfall are petty and insipid, and not only does Bloomberg sympathize with the irresolute elitists, he caters to their whims. His defending of drunken, hapless city workers earned sharper jabs from Fallon and Letterman, though in this instance it was icing on the cake.

    MONOLOGUE: When was the last time SNL had an audience participation monologue? Not necessarily one of those staged Q&A segments with James Downey et al, but real people interacting with the host? It felt like a '70s-era monologue, and rest assured that's no complaint.

    "Bosley Hair Restoration": Already on its third airing, the comedic shock value of transplanted pubic hair has dissipated. The ad parodies are often the most scatological sketches SNL has to offer, and often they're funny, though constant repeats don't exactly help the cause. However, as is this the first time I've reviewed this per se, I definitely enjoyed it the first time around.

    "Black Swan": A parody of the likely Oscar contender pits virginal, childlike Nina (NP) against the sensuous, immoral Lily (Jim) for the lead role in "Swan Lake." Where Lily/Natalie Portman plays it straight, Nina/Mila Kunis sprawls all over the stage with goofy abandon. This is not so much a spoof but an opportunity to showcase a great physical comedian still in prime form, a sketch that aimed for crowd-pleasing first and pointed lampoon second.

    "Finding Your Power": A goateed therapist (JS) that encourages healthy confrontation finds anything but closure with his three patients: a frustrated working stiff (AS), a lonely singleton with sister issues (VB), and a cuckolded husband (Jim). In short, this was a decent set-up with a great payoff.

    "Grady Wilson's Tantric n' Tasty": As long as middle-aged couples scramble to find spice in the bedroom, Grady (KT) will set up a tripod, bounce around in his underwear, and sell the results. This time around, he's joined by shaman poseur Lee Licious (Jim), a self-proclaimed expert of Eastern lovemaking who's just as clueless as Grady. Once again, the writers expect Jim to get physical and he runs away with the ball.

    "The Worst of Soul Train": If 120 hours of old footage isn't enough, claims Smokey Robinson's sad half-brother (BM), than let's watch what the producers never intended you to see. The acts in themselves were funny, but lest we forget that 90% of Soul Train's soundtrack was performed by black artists, and SNL has only two cast members of color. Would they've booked an act like Triangle Sally (KW)? Probably. Bro-Botix (PB, TK)? No. The end result is a period piece that will likely remind music geeks more of "American Bandstand" and "Solid Gold" than Don Cornelius, making this both a strong ensemble sketch and a blown opportunity.

    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "Howlin' for You" is gritty acid blues, equally yearning and menacing. I loved that Patrick Carney's drum kit had a more prominent part on the stage than a rhythm section normally would; it was almost like a percussion clinic.

    WEEKEND UPDATE: Now in his fifth year behind the Update desk, Seth is still solid and consistent even when the commentaries mostly falter. A series of decent chuckles in regard to the 112th Congress and Governor Jerry Brown gave way to a paper-thin "debate" between outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (KW) and her successor John Boehner (BH), two one-note impressions that barely click. Another visit from the comically under-informed Anthony Crispino (BM) wasn't really necessary in spite of a clever jab at Brett Favre. Last and most certainly least, a commentary by "Cameron the Red-Winged Blackbird" (AS), his buddy "Everett the Fish" (TK), and their respective species' pending apocalypse merely dragged along without much rhyme or reason.

    "Merryville Trolley Ride": In an amusement park ride, a man (KT) is taunted and harassed by a trio (Jim, TK, BH) of creepy animatronic musicians. Kenan has quite possibly the most expressive face in the cast, and watching him play the hapless straight man in a sketch was a sweet respite from the stereotype-pushing parts he'll normally play.

    "Alan Musche": A disabled psychic medium (Jim) with questionable hygiene is revealed to be a master of impressions. Granted, Jim goes coo-coo and the cast simply reacts, but that description is too cut-and-dry to give the sketch justice. For all his movie work Carrey has been forced to put his celebrity mimicry in the backburner, and giving him a moment to whip out his Billie Holliday and Alan Thicke impressions was fair enough.

    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: "Tighten Up," the breakout hit from Brothers, is a series of quirks and twitches that join together for an incredibly catchy song. Between the whistling, the android-like drum fills, and Dan Auerbach's jangly guitar, I wouldn't remove a thing.

    "A Taste of New York": In the Cosmopolitan Lounge at the New York City Marriott, a group of naïve tourists are treated to band of vagrants (Jim, FA, KW) performing a song about their woeful, bottom-feeding lives. It's a fun juxtaposition, though at times the point of the sketch was lost on me.

    I half-expected a more physical show than usual, and even though my assumption wasn't met I wasn't disappointed, either. Jim Carrey was a fun host and then some; in an 11-episode span of mild surprises, he not only played to his strengths but made everyone around him sharper, more dynamic, and all-around funnier. No one benefitted more than Kenan, a team player who has been regulated to mostly stock "black guy" roles for much of the past five years and broke out of the monotony (if only briefly) under Jim's guidance.

    Sketches/Segments That Will Probably Be Removed from the 60-Minute Edit: "Bosley," the bird/fish commentary on Update, "Alan Musche," "Tighten Up," and "A Taste of New York."

    Next Week: After a nine-year hiatus, Gwyneth Paltrow hosts with musical guest Cee-Lo Green. Five dollars says there will be a duet.


    And now, a quick recap of the first half of Season 36:

    The biggest surprise this season –at least for me, anyway- was how the cast and writers have regrouped and soldiered on so seamlessly without Will Forte. Typically when a go-to cast member departs, like Phil Hartman in 1994 or Will Ferrell in 2002, there's an awkward period of transition where the creative talent scrambles to recast certain roles within the show's dynamic. It lasts anywhere from a few episodes to an entire season. As much as I loved Forte, there hasn't been a moment in the season so far where I thought, "Will would've killed in this sketch" or "This is the type of role Will would've eaten up." On one hand, Will wrote or co-wrote so much of his own material that he was almost a show unto himself. Plus, bringing in a small army of new featured players doesn't hurt either.

    Best Host: Anne Hathaway
    Runner-Up: Scarlett Johansson
    Worst Host: Robert DeNiro

    Best Musical Guest: Kayne West
    Runner-Up: Paul McCartney
    Worst Musical Guest: Diddy Dirty Money

    Midseason MVP: Bill Hader has been an underappreciated clutch hitter for some time now, and in 2010-11 he's been an anchor in sketches that would otherwise float or drift away. You've come a long way, baby.
    Midseason Rookie of the Year: Vanessa Bayer. I give her a narrow edge over Jay if only because she's running away with the alpha-female parts that Kristen can do in her sleep and anything else that just isn't fit for Abby or Nasim.

    Best Overall Episode: Anne Hathaway/Florence + The Machine
    Runner-Up: Paul Rudd/Paul McCartney
    Worst Overall Episode: Jane Lynch/Bruno Mars

    "HelloStuart" has spent most of the last 18 months as the middle third of a human centipede. In his spare time, he's been a contributor to since the site's 2005 inception.
  • Half-Year Review

    Tonight's show brings host Jim Carrey. He hasn't hosted since 1996, and I've heard SNL kept on trying to get him back, so I'm not sure why he'd all of a sudden accept now. But, it's good to have him back. Musical guest is The Black Keys. This also marks the half-way mark to the season.

    A Message From Mike Bloomberg: People hated this opening, but I thought it was pretty good. New Yorkers don't know the real harsh winter that us Mainahs do. So, yeah, it was funny.

    Monologue: This was a lot like the Jeremy Piven monologue. It was really funny, and it worked well.

    Bosely Restoration: Yes..... again. Out of all the commercials they've aired, they couldn't have aired another one?

    Black Swan: I'm glad they spoofed this movie. I saw it over Christmas break, and it truly was messed up, but still good at the same time. Jim's "sexy" antics were hilarious.

    Finding Your Power: This sketch was pretty good. The irony of "well, we taped it" was never really ironic, though.

    Grady Wilson's Tantric & Tasty: Yes... Grady Wilson again... Jim did make this funnier though. But, the movies are just way too animated to be disgustingly funny anymore.

    The Worst of Soul Train: I was surprised this sketch was put so high up in the show. It wasn't too funny. There were some hopeful comedic moments, but, otherwise, it wasn't anything too big to laugh about.

    Musical Performance: The Black Keys perform "Howlin' For You", which was a good performance.

    Weekend Update: The Pelosi/Boehner commentary was probably the funniest commentary of the night. Bobby's Anthony Crispino and the Bird/Fish interaction were both funny too.

    Merryville: This sketch was absolutely hilarious. The facial expressions when the men stopped were great, and everything about this was hilarious.

    Psychic Medium: This was a great way to feature Carrey's talents at his impressions. It was another hilarious sketch.

    Musical Performance: The Black Keys perform "Tighten Up" which was another good song.

    A Taste of New York: Yet again, another hilarious sketch. Kristen and Jim were both so convincingly depressed that it was great.

    Tonight's show took a while to warm up. Post-Update was a lot better than before Update. But, it worked out to be a decent enough show. Jim Carrey was a great host, once again, and hopefully he'll host another time... maybe a little sooner than 14 years from now. The Black Keys were good additions to the show.
    And now, for the half-way mark, my thoughts on Season 36 so far.

    Best Rookie-Cast Member (Minus Nasim):
    It was definitely a toss-up between Jay Pharaoh and Vanessa Bayer... Vanessa has been more constant throughout the whole season with her appearances and is just always funny with the way she delivers, but when Jay shows up, which is less consistent than usual, he hits it out of the park usually. (Meanwhile, please know that this year, I like all the new cast members thus far. They seem to be fitting in pretty well)
    So, my nomination shall be Vanessa Bayer.

    Best Digital Short:
    3. Ronnie & Clyde (10/30/10)
    2. Rescue Dogs 911 (10/02/10)
    1. Broke My Arm (10/23/10)

    Worst Digital Short:
    Toss-up between Boogerman and Relaxation Therapy, but I'll go with Relaxation Therapy (10/09/10)

    Best Cold Opening:
    3. Christine O'Donnell Opening (09/25/10)
    2. Ask Gloria Allred (10/09/10)
    1. Wiki-Leaked (12/04/10)

    Worst Cold Opening:
    China Conference [Can we say "Re-write"?] (11/13/10)

    Best Cast Member Thus Far:
    Bill Hader. No contest.

    Worst Cast Member:
    Abby Elliott would be my least favorite at the moment.

    Cast Member(s) who have overstayed their Welcome:
    Yes. There are multiple. Fred's time has officially expired on the show. I feel that Seth can stay as head-writer, but his time on Weekend Update needs to end after May. And, I feel bad that many say Kristen needs to go, since, in year's measurement, she hasn't been around for an extremely long time, but, yes, her talent has become too much for SNL. She needs a TV Show, or a movie. She definitely deserves some sort of contract when she eventually leaves.

    Those are my three. People will say Kenan, but, as long as he's not always trying to ham it up, and he plays an even amount of straight-men characters, and main characters, I won't mind his stay.

    Worst Host:
    There really hasn't been any bad hosts this season, yet. I feel all of the applied themselves. But, Robert DeNiro was probably the weakest out of the bunch.

    Best Hosts:
    In no real order, the best ones so far are Jon Hamm, Emma Stone, Amy Poehler, and Anne Hathaway. The rest were good too though.

    Worst Musical Guest:
    3. Eminem & Lil' Wayne
    2. Katy Perry
    1. Diddy Dirty Money (All because Diddy didn't even DO anything his whole second performance.)
    Best Musical Guest:
    This was a hard bunch to choose from. Here we go.
    3. Kanye West
    2. Paul McCartney
    1. Arcade Fire

    Worst Episode:
    Jane Lynch/Bruno Mars (10/09/10)

    Best Episode:
    It's a toss-up between Stone/Leon, and Hathaway/Florence.... but I'm going to say Hathaway/Florence.

    This season so far:
    Season 36 is looking up. People are incessantly complaining about it all over, but I like it. I hope the 2nd half does not go through the usual mid-season low as bad as it did last year. It's usually late January to mid March that such a low occurs. But, season 36's overall quality is better than season 35's. Most of the episodes that have aired this year would have been considered in the top 5 episodes of last year.

    All the newly hired cast members are showing huge promise. Last year, Jenny Slate was struggling very badly around this time. This year, all 4 seem to have some sort of energy they add to the show.

    Can't wait for part 2. Next week is Gwenyth Paltrow and Cee-Lo.
  • 1/8

    Jim Carrey tried, but the fact is that Ace Ventura Pet Detective should stop looking for dogs and start looking for some new writers.

    Cold Opening: Fred Armisen again as a tanned character, this time Michael Bloomberg. Huh? He didn't look or sound anything like him, but that hasn't stopped SNL before. Weak cold opening.

    Monologue: Jim Carrey growing crazy for 2011, overweight men in the audience and proposing to a woman before leaving with the aforementioned man. He is excited to be there, but he left his comedy back in 1993 on In Living Color.

    Black Swan: A parody of the "popular" movie with Jim Carrey appearing as a ballerina that the instructor liked. Nothing to write home about.

    Finding Power: Jason Sudeikis hosts a talk show about people who are afraid of confrontation and cry instead of yelling. Not worth going farther into it.

    Grady Wilson's Sex DVD: They dug this segment up from the grave and Jim Carrey appeared as well. If you laugh during it you probably laughed here. I don't and I didn't.

    Soul Train Performances: Bobby Moynihan (unfortunately) hosts a commercial for a collection of songs. Worse than the MTV 3 segments.

    Weekend Update: Seth Meyers has been in a slump lately and this did not help. Bobby Moynihan (unfortunately) stopped by as the second hand news person and Andy Samberg in a bird suit again. Want that quarter of an hour back.

    Ride: Kenan and Kristen go on a ride where the singing robots end up attacking him. Yeah.

    Spiritual Guide: Jason, Nasim and Vanessa visit someone who they believe will help them communicate with the dead. Jim Carrey ends up claiming to contact past celebrities and does impressions of them. Not exactly Jay Pharaoh.

    Taste of New York: Fred Armisen's wedding band is repackaged here as three grunge people in NYC. Bad even by last segment of the night standards.
  • An okay episode, but at least Carrey was in just about every skit

    Jim Carrey has aired in some pretty dumb movies over the years, but one thing I've always enjoyed is how consistently hilarious he is in most of them.. even in the more serious ones, he has a certain charm that is impossible to ignore. Tonight's episode was sort of like his career: hysterical in parts, super-awkward and awful in others.

    Cold Open: Started off promising, got super-lame very fast. If they could've found a way to tell this joke without driving the point home twenty million times, it would've worked more. Plus, as somebody who lives in Maine, where it's always snowing, it's easy to understand what the skit was saying. That's what my entire city and state is like.

    Monologue: Actually very good.. sometimes, the writers have no clue how to play to the strengths of the host, and today, they did a great job. The way Carrey interacted with the audience was superb.

    Black Swan: I don't even know what to think.. by rights, it should've been stupid, but Jim Carrey's energy can sometimes make me forget how dumb a skit is. It was also just one example of how dirty Carrey was willing to be.

    Finding Your Power: Stupid. Why show the same thing over and over again? I understand that SNL finds it funny to take one little skit and drive it into our skulls over and over again, getting more and more ridiculous each time, but this was just dull. Not even Carrey could save it.

    Grady Wilson: Funny but tasteless.. I can see this being a love or hate skit. Jim Carrey was awesome in this. I'm surprised at how raunchy they've let Jim Carrey be in this.. already, for me, this is one of the best episodes this season (that's not saying much though)

    Soul Train: I hate half of this skit and loved the other half.. Triangle Sally and Ocean Billy both made me laugh while the rest made me either lightly chuckle or remain silent. But there was enough to make it far from a total trainwreck. Oh and Jim Carrey's show stopping song was AWESOME.. unfortunately, I can't repeat it here, but still.. it was good. Trust me.

    Weekend Update: Not really that funny.. I still think Bill Hader and Andy Sanburg are hilarious, but boy, they give them some pretty stupid skits to do.

    There were a few more, one of them being Carrey impersonating a bunch of celebrities, but they were just sub-par at best. All in all, I was glad that Carrey was in a majority of the skits, but I don't think the writing matched his comedic abilities. Not bad though.