Saturday Night Live

Season 36 Episode 22

Justin Timberlake/Lady Gaga

Aired Saturday 11:30 PM May 21, 2011 on NBC

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  • Sexyback and the Go-Go Gaga Gospel

    A Review by "HelloStuart," Amateur Critic and Little Monster

    Scroll down for my annual season recap!

    This week's host is the incomparable Justin Timberlake, which marks his fourth go-around as master of ceremonies, and including his one appearance with N*SYNC his official entry into the Five Timers' Club. Though his track record in the movies has been inconsistent -he has "The Social Network" and what else?- JT is a natural for the Studio 8H stage, and his dynamic presence guarantees that regardless of what happens, tonight's show will not be a rousing failure.

    The musical guest is also no stranger to SNL, though she's not anywhere near as prolific. Lady Gaga was a force to be reckoned with in her first appearance in October 2009, and she's arguably the only musician on the planet with the chutzpah and name-brand recognition to go toe-to-toe with Justin. Put together, this is a matchup that SNL fans have been clamoring for since it was leaked in late February.

    And now, the sketch-by-sketch analysis:

    COLD OPENING: In lieu of more Obama/Oval Office tedium, the nightly topical sketch shifts to Rikers Island, where disgraced EMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (TK) runs afoul of two incarcerated hoods (JP, KT). The joke's on him, as the encounter leads into an intense, pithy debate about the various European economic powers, with DSK silently nodding and smiling in the middle. This felt like your typical Jim Downey sketch more than anything else that's aired this season, though I'm assuming the 60-year-old Jewish Ivy Leaguer probably needed help from a younger scribe on that Nas/"Illmatic" reference.

    MONOLOGUE: For the record, this is the first time Justin has appeared on SNL strictly to host. After an alleged argument with Lorne, JT claims he won't sing… so sings an elaborate number about why he won't sing, complete with every cliché from every hit single he's ever had.

    "Liquorville": The overeager small-business hustler (JT) makes a snooty tea shop employee (KW) his latest target of derision and one-upmanship. The conceit of repurposing songs is still here, with Justin borrowing from the oeuvres of Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and J-Kwon to build his point. I initially thought Kristen was miscast as the high-strung straight man, but her obliviousness and natural discomfort was a good match for Justin's energy and positivity.

    "WXPD News": A bland morning news team (JS, NP) and several unassuming passerby are again the unwilling patsies for nonagenarian news reporter Herb Welch (BH), who grumbles and wheezes through a live report from a local middle school. Bill-as-Herb is fun to watch, and the more cantankerous and inappropriate he is, the funnier the old fart becomes.

    DIGITAL SHORT: This is where I have to give mad props to the comedic "duo" of Timberlake and Andy Samberg. Nobody on this planet could find this mileage out of two blatantly one-note characters. "Three-Way," their collaboration with Lady Gaga, is the weakest of the three but by no means terrible nor ill-equipped for frequent YouTube downloading. A little '90s kitsch goes a long way.

    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: An earnest, solo piano rendition of Gaga's current single "The Edge of Glory" is a sharp contrast to the second half of this five-minute medley, the hard-charging, borderline-sacriligious "Judas."

    WEEKEND UPDATE: Seth has been just as strong anchoring solo this season as he was last year, and his sharp wit and vaguely liberal, populist inclinations have put his best nights alongside the likes of Dennis Miller, Norm Macdonald, and Tina Fey. Tonight, we were treated to a particularly cutting "Really?!?" that breaks down the Governator love-child scandal, another so-so "Get in the Cage" segment with Andy as Nic Cage and Bradley Cooper as his latest reluctant guest, and a weird summer sendoff from Seth's vacation buddy, Stefon (BH).

    "What's That Name?": Justin and Gaga go head-to-head in a special celebrity edition of a game show sketch that appeared earlier this year. The conceit is that two self-involved individuals must correctly name random people they've encountered. Remember N*SYNC? Yeah, neither does Justin. Abby Elliott, the most seldom-used repertory player in recent memory, is somewhat endearing as a recent one-night stand of JT's. Oddly enough, Gaga is the breakout star here, cleaning up in the actual game and playing up to her diva reputation.

    "Merry-Go-Love Tunnel": In a blatant rewrite of a sketch that first appeared in the Jim Carrey/Black Keys show-oddly enough, the last episode I wrote a full review for-three creepy animatronic robots (JT, BH, TK) mess around with a seemingly happy couple (NP, JS) on a Tunnel of Love-type ride. In all fairness, I neither loved nor hated this sketch, but it felt plodding at times and ending wasn't particularly clever or inspiring.

    "Secret Word": If you've seen this '60s game show parody before, you know the drill: a smarmy host (BH) is forced to deal with aloof diva Mindy Grayson (KW) and a caricature of some old-time D-list celebrity, this time an incompetent hybrid (JT) of the intuitive Kreskin and the magician Blackstone. Never mind that Bill essentially played the same role in two out of the last three sketches; is there really anything left to explore in this recurring sketch?

    MUSICAL PERFORMANCE: Just for the fans, Gaga crawls out of her egg and storms through "Born This Way," her #1 hit from two months ago. Initially just an excuse to prance around in leather, Ms. Germonatta straps on a maternity suit and sings on the world's most glam birthing station.

    "Barry Gibb Talk Show": Love it or hate it, no appearance by Justin is complete without this somewhat surreal roundtable talk show. Tonight, Barry (Jimmy Fallon, as usual) and his surviving brother Robin (JT) fail to build a dialogue between Ben Bernanke (FA), Rachel Maddow (AE), and Roland S. Martin (KT), opting instead to give each other primal scream therapy and admire Barry's chest hair. I entered tonight's show half-expecting a zillion rapture jokes, so saving exactly one reference for the tail end of the show was an alleviating moment of restraint.

    As a longtime SNL fan, I could argue that the season finale is one of the most overrated aspects of the show. The last show of the year typically finds the cast and writers at the brink of creative exhaustion, going through the motions and often relying upon past successes. Tonight was a textbook example: outside of the cold open the monologue, every sketch had been done before, and in some cases executed far better. Justin ran a clinic in comic timing, though Lady Gaga's stage presence and natural self-deprecation was much more unexpected and revealing.

    Segments That Will Probably Be Removed from the 60-Minute Edit: "Get in the Cage," "Merry-Go-Love Tunnel," "Secret Word," and "Born This Way."


    And now, a retrospective of Season 36:

    Everyone knew this was going to be a transitional year. Seasoned veterans would slowly pass the baton to a group of fresh-faced youngsters, and there would be great inconsistency as to whom would be in how many sketches in any given week (unless you're Army or Wiigy). The end result was a like a more consistent version of Year 31; youth was served for the most part, but a core of six proven cast members dominated the proceedings. Alas, the show's core isn't getting any younger and the familiar faces are far closer to leaving than signing long-term contracts. One must wonder if Year 37 will be the year the current crop of youngsters (the four freshmen, plus Bobby and Nasim) finally take the reins.

    Best Digital Short: "Three-Way"
    Honorable Mention: "Stumblin'"
    Worst Digital Short: "Boogerman"

    Best Musical Guest: Kanye West
    Runner-Up: Paul Simon

    Worst Musical Guest: Diddy Dirty Money
    Runner-Up: Linkin Park

    Best Host: Zach Galifianakis
    Runner-Up: Anne Hathaway

    Worst Host: Elton John
    Runner-Up: Bryan Cranston

    Best Episodes:
    3. Zach Galifianakis/Jessie J.
    2. Jesse Eisenberg/Nicki Minaj
    1. Anne Hathaway/Florence & The Machine

    Worst Episodes:
    3. Robert DeNiro/Diddy Dirty Money
    2. Jane Lynch/Bruno Mars
    1. Elton John/Leon Russell

    Most Valuable Player: Bill Hader. I don't know if there's anything I can add to what I stated about Billy in my midseason recap. A well-earned honor, though.
    Rookie of the Year: Vanessa Bayer. At this juncture, she may seem like a one-trick pony ("The Miley Cyrus Show") but regardless of whether she had a large or small part in a sketch, "V-Bay" did something that Casey Wilson and Jenny Slate never did: she distinguished herself. If SNL's female cast is built around Vanessa and Nasim Pedrad in the coming years, I think we'll be in good hands.
    The White, Female Finesse Mitchell: Abby Elliott
    Most Likely to Become a Five-Timer: Jon Hamm

    The Ten Most Indelible Moments of the Season:

    10. Cookie Monster gets his due (Bridges/Lil' Wayne)
    9. "I brought a bottle of sparkling apple juice to your door… did you get it?" (Cranston/West)
    8. Amy Poehler's monologue
    7. Paul McCartney makes the audience eat of his hand (Rudd/McCartney)
    6. Bill's dead-on impressions of Alan Alda and Julian Assange (various episodes)
    5. The return of "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" (Helms/Simon)
    4. Miley Cyrus confronts her imitator (Cyrus/Strokes)
    3. "Wayne's World" and "Church Chat" are resurrected (Carvey/Linkin Park)
    2. Zach Galifianakis' monologue
    1. The rise of Stefon (various episodes)

    "HelloStuart" has spent 8 1/2 combined years at TV Tome and compensating for his fledging social life. When's not standing in line for an unemployment check with Dick Ebersol, Stu can be contacted at
  • Finale both good, disappointing

    The 36th (wow, that's incredible no matter how many times we say it) season finale of "Saturday Night Live" was one of the best and funniest episodes of the season … yet, it was also, oddly enough, somewhat of a disappointment. The reason why it was such a disappointment in my eyes is because I expected a lot, not just because it was the season finale, but because Justin Timberlake was the host and, believe it or not, Timberlake has proved himself to be old reliable when it comes to hosting. Saturday night's hosting gig was his fourth, by the way, one away from the prestigious five-timers club. There were a few things I predicted that we would get from this episode because of Timberlake's appearance: a Barry Gibb Talk Show sketch with special guest Jimmy Fallon, a new digital short song collaboration with Andy Samberg and a sketch involving Timberlake's recurring dancing and singing mascot peddler character. All three of my predictions came true, but only one of them lived up to expectations. The final sketch of the night was the Barry Gibb Talk Show with Fallon as Barry Gibb and Timberlake as his usual sidekick and brother Robin and it was the one that did live up to my high expectations, in fact, it might be one of the best performances of this sketch that Fallon and Timberlake have ever done. The funniest moment of the sketch came when Fallon as Barry Gibb in a fit of rage did a karate kick while saying "I survived the Rapture," which seemed as if it was possibly improvised and was certainly fitting, as most of you probably know some predicted the end of the world would be Saturday.

    The biggest disappointment of my three correct predictions was the digital short. Samberg and Timberlake have teamed up twice before with the epically hilarious "Dick in a Box" and "Mother Lover," but this third collaboration, a song called "3-Way (The Golden Rule)" wasn't even in the same time zone as the previous two. I would've preferred being wrong in this prediction.

    Timberlake did, also, bring back his recurring singing and dancing mascot this time advertising a liquor store. The sketch was good, don't get me wrong, but was probably the weakest he's done so far with this character. The funniest sketch for this character was probably the first one "bring it on down to Omeletville!" from his first hosting stint in 2003. The best sketch of the night was without a doubt the return of Bill Hader's perfect Herb Welch character, which he did two previous times this season. It was the one fall out of your seat laughing moment of the night. Welch is an elderly news reporter who frequently hits people in the face with his microphone and just doesn't seem competent anymore. Hader was certainly the best performer of the 36th season of 'SNL," with his Welch and Stefon characters, great impersonations (most notably Julian Assange and James Carville) and just doing whatever is needed to make the audience laugh. Hader is definitely the yeoman of the cast. The oddity of the night was the rather brisk Weekend Update; both short on guests and jokes … was Seth Meyers and the writers just that ready for the summer break? It did feature a nice and quick appearance by Hader as Stefon going with Meyers on summer vacation over the hiatus though.
  • Suck an egg, you manikan.


    Tonight's the season finale. This year has been a great year overall, but I'll go more into that at the bottom. Tonight's host is a very popular choice for a host, Justin Timberlake. Musical guest is Lady Gaga, who always knows how to be "out there" with her performances.

    Strauss-Kahn In Jail: The twist of this was pretty funny. Otherwise there was nothing to go on. Kenan and Jay did a great job at this sketch.

    Monologue: Timberlake obviously has to sing in the monologue, and he did a good job as usual. A song monologue is good as long as it comes very scarcely.

    Liquorville: This was another hilarious edition to this recurring sketch. I laughed at Lady Gaga's addition too. The T-bagging line was very funny too. It's always hilarious to see what popular songs they make fun of.

    WXPD News: Bill's done this character twice before, but it's still just as funny as the first time, just because of the awful politically incorrect lines he says.

    Three Way (The Golden Rule): This is a 2nd sequel to the original Special Present that aired 4 and a half years ago, and it's still pretty funny. The premise is a little less creative, but, still, it was funny.

    Musical Performance: Lady Gaga performs a piano version of "The Edge of Glory" than goes into a dance of "Judas". It was very interesting to watch this, and the choreography was good as usual, so my credit goes out to her for putting herself out there like that.

    Weekend Update: Tonight's Update was a bit underwhelming. It was not up to par with the rest of the Updates this season. I didn't really enjoy the Nicolas Cage/Bradley Cooper interview, and I feel like the Stefon joke has been overdone this season.

    Whats My Name: I'm glad to see this back. It's a really funny premise. The fact that Lady Gaga would remember all her little fans is hilarious, and the girl JT slept with but he couldn't remember the girl he had sex with.

    Merryville Love Tunnel: The same premise as the Jim Carey show, with a little twist. It was still very funny, and I laughed at some of the gimmicks.

    Secret Word: This sketch is always funny to me just because the eccentric characters that are involved in this. But, it's one of the many recurring sketches of the night. You can tell it's the finale.

    Musical Performance: Lady Gaga performs "Born This Way". A very bizarre performance, as Gaga actually pretends to give birth on stage....

    The Barry Gibb Talk Show: It was a pretty standard edition of this sketch, but I laughed at the rapture line.

    Tonight's episode seemed like your standard season finale. The writing and creativity was a little burnt out, but, otherwise, I enjoyed tonight's episode. Justin did a great job keeping the energy alive, even if it were mostly rehashed material. Lady Gaga was just as powerful a performer and out there as she was back in her first stint in October 2009.

    Most Improved Cast Member:
    Usually, I do this for a cast member who was here last year, but, I got to give this to Taran Killam. I didn't think Taran was going anywhere at the January check point, but the second half of the season, he really became the go-to man for a lot of impressions and comedy gags. I have to give him credit.

    Best Digital Shorts:
    3. I Broke My Arm (10/23/10)
    2. Pee-Wee's Night Out (01/15/11)
    1. 3-Way (Golden Rule) (05/21/11)

    Worst Digital Shorts:
    3. Relaxation Therapy (10/09/10)
    2. Boogerman (09/25/10)
    1. Laser Cats (04/02/11)

    Best Cold Open:
    3. Ask Gloria Allred (10/09/10)
    2. Embracing Civility (01/15/11)
    1. Wayne's World (02/05/11)

    Worst Cold Open:
    3. Lawrence Welk Show (04/02/11)
    2. Reid Address (10/23/10)
    1. China's Address (11/14/10)

    Best Cast Member:
    Even though this new cast is clearly becoming the voice of the show, I still have to say Bill Hader has best cast member material in him. The guy can do ANYTHING.

    Worst Cast Member:
    Well, at this point, Abby Elliott is clearly looking at getting fired. She and Paul Brittain have had very unsubstantial parts this year to the success of the show. But, maybe it'll luck out for both of them.

    Favorite Rookie:
    No doubt that it's Vanessa Bayer. Taran is awesome, but he didn't really come through until the 2nd half of the year, and Jay went into hiding after the first half of the year. Vanessa has been constant and great throughout the whole season.

    Worst Hosts:
    3. Russell Brand
    2. Robert DeNiro
    1. Elton John

    Best Hosts:
    3. Justin Timberlake
    2. Dana Carvey
    1. Anne Hathaway

    Worst Musical Guests:
    3. Ellie Goulding
    2. Eminem, Lil Wayne
    1. Diddy-Dirty Money

    Best Musical Guests:
    3. Kanye West
    2. Arcade Fire
    1. Paul McCartney

    Bottom 5 Episodes:
    5. Ed Helms/Paul Simon (05/14/11)
    4. Russell Brand/Chris Brown (02/12/11)
    3. Jane Lynch/Bruno Mars (10/09/10)
    2. Robert DeNiro/Diddy Dirty Money (12/04/10)
    1. Elton John (04/02/11)

    Top 5 Episodes:
    5. Amy Poehler/Katy Perry (09/25/10)
    4. Tina Fey/Ellie Goulding (05/07/11)
    3. Emma Stone/Kings of Leon (10/23/10)
    2. Anne Hathaway/Florence and the Machine (11/20/10)
    1. Jesse Eisenberg/Nicki Minaj (01/30/11)

    Season 36:
    Some will say season 36 was only a little step above season 35, but I beg to differ. Season 36 felt new, and funnier than last season. The four newbies along with Bobby and Nasim really made a difference in quality. Kristen Wiig, though still prominent, was a lot less used this season, which made fans appreciate her more, and made things a lot less recurring. I have a very small list of complaints this year. In fact it's not even a list. My only hope is to see Fred and Kenan leave this summer, but even if they were to come back, it would be fine with me. I don't want to see anybody get fired this summer, but, if Lorne has to fire Abby, it has to be done. She's had 3 years to prove herself, and she's gotten no where. But, other wise, this season was a great, fresh season for SNL. I'm very excited to see where this cast goes with season 37.

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