Posted by Jesse April 6th, 2009 at 10:01am In SNL
You could say that the second Seth Rogen-hosted episode of SNL was lousy with recurring bits, both expected and not. But “lousy with” has negative connotations for a generally strong episode, so I’ll say this episode was delightful with recurring bits, and hope that phrase catches on in a totally non-confusing way.
Lots of familiar but enjoyable recurring characters turned up: Bill Hader’s guest-flummoxing Italian talk show host Vinny Vedecci, and a variety of Weekend Update players: Rod Blagojevich, Jean K. Jean, and Angelina Jolie. The Digital Short, “Like a Boss,” wasn’t technically a rerun, but I’m disappointed to see the Lonely Island going back and making videos for fresh material that debuted on their Incredibad album a few months back.
But elsewhere, the writers brought back some of the unlikeliest candidates for repeat status, like spaceship/toddler/Model-T/beer jar enthusiasts Clancy T. Bachleratt and Jackie Snad, assayed by Will Forte and Kristen Wiig in completely bonkers mode (see above), which for Forte translates mainly into singing and bulging forehead veins. Rogen stood in for original cohort Jodah Hill; though I couldn’t tell you the exact comedy theories behind this bit, I take it as a tacit endorsement that two improv vets with credits on some of the best recent movie comedies wanted to participate.
A less successful revival was the sketch about saving newspapers, with the entire cast gathered to play funny-pages veterans, just as they all played Broadway characters a couple of months ago. I’m a sucker for jokes about old-timey comic strips, but these didn’t hit with the same ratio of success as their Broadway counterparts (if you’re going to mention how Garfield hates Mondays, you might also point out how thoroughly ridiculous it is for a lazy and demonstrably unemployed cat to feel dread for any particular weekday, or to even know what day it is). Still, I love the idea of a recurring (and super-inclusive) concept rather than a narrow recurring character.
The inclusivity extended to what has become a Rogen SNL signature: a sketch in which he plays Rowlf the Dog due to his vocal aptitude for it. Last time, he sang a song with the Swedish Chef (Andy Samberg; why does it kind of figure that he’d be good at this?), Zoot (Fred Armisen), Janice (at the time, Maya Rudolph), and Animal (Bill Hader); this time, the bit expanded and darkened to include Kermit (Will Forte), Gonzo (Bobby Moynihan), Fozzie (Jason Sudeikis), and Beaker (Kristen Wiig) on the road and struggling to keep it together after a hit-and-run. The sketch wasn’t as fully realized as it could’ve been, but just watching the ensemble do their best Muppet riffs was fun enough.
One of the best sketches of the night, though, had no direct ancestor — the one that began with the concept of using a “girlfriend” voice on phonecalls and escalated from there:
A simple idea, yes, but carried through with such satisfying skill. Not every moment of the Rogen episode was gold; some sketches, as mentioned, got by more on superficial delights than strong writing, and I didn’t get the idea behind the Grease thing, though its strangeness was certainly amusing. Plus, the musical guest was Phoenix, and it weirded me out that I had literally never heard of them before and that my 21-year-old sister had to tell me who they are, and anyway, I think I was happier not knowing (I was going to say “or caring,” but I still don’t much care. But hey, Yeah Yeah Yeahs next week!).
But in the aftermath of that unfortunate Bradley Cooper episode, the show seems to be on a mild but dependable streak. With just three more to go for the season, maybe they’ll keep it going.
Episode Grade: B