Monday Morning Quarterback: SNL Season 35, Episode 3

Posted by Jesse October 12th, 2009 at 09:01am In SNL

That was a weird bit of trivia that Drew Barrymore laid on us Saturday night: Apparently, she is the woman who has hosted SNL the most number of times, passing Candice Bergen’s five with her latest appearance. This, naturally, got me looking over the SNL hosts info over at Wikipedia. You know who hasn’t hosted in awhile who should? John Goodman. Also Bill Murray. You know who doesn’t have much representation in the five-timers club? Women.

Barrymore is sort of an odd figure to rack up so many hosting gigs. She’s not really a comedienne by trade, yet isn’t much of a serious actor, either; one of her greatest skills as a movie actor is her ability, unmatched by any number of more accomplished famous actresses, to work on Adam Sandler’s wavelength as a believable love interest. Even in a funny movie like The Wedding Singer, her job isn’t really being funny.

But she’s a likable performer, and clearly game: witness her monologue, which consisted of Barrymore playing up her own valley-girl inflection so that cast members, impersonating real and fictional members of the Barrymore acting dynasty, could parody her. Barrymore didn’t have a lot of personal performing highlights (her Sharon Osbourne impression… not so good), but it seems like the writers feel comfortable with her, because they stuck her in some truly strange post-Update sketches.

Some, like the Tampax-sponsored Women’s Billiards tournament from 1991, drew together some nicely disparate elements without quite synthesizing them, but I laughed pretty hard at two others: the Cooking Al Fresco segment with its marauding birds, and the last sketch of the night with Will Forte reprising his sunglassed weirdo from the wedding toast and funeral speech sketches of years past. Not Especially Beloved But Totally Hilarious Will Forte Recurring Characters would make a great ninety-minute special someday. In the meantime:

The night’s weirdness helped balance the continuing mildness of SNL’s political sketches this year, which lean heavily on making perfectly good points in completely direct and uncreative ways — basically, having someone “impersonate” a figure by having that figure saying stuff that everyone says or thinks about them, like having Armisen’s Obama say that he won the Nobel Peace Prize for not being George Bush. Another level to these jokes would be appreciated.

Despite the weak political stuff, the only real splat of the night was featured prominently and early: the return of Kristen Wiig’s umpteenth one-note recurring character, Gilly. Sometimes the Gilly sketches are more frustrating to watch than even worse counterparts, because everything surrounding Gilly is generally pretty funny: Will Forte’s mild admonishments as the teacher; Kenan Thompson and Bobby Moynihan as Gilly’s classmates; the weird, creepy cartoon violence of Gilly’s vengeance. But Gilly herself mires the sketch in slow-paced formula — exacerbated by having Barrymore do that old hacky SNL sketch standby of playing a slightly different version of a familiar recurring character. Vinny Vedecci, in contrast, certainly has some repeated jokes from sketch to sketch, but Bill Hader makes Vinny so weirdly lovable and spontaneous-seeming that the bit has a lot of life, even when not at its peak (as was the case this week).

So: a solid if not thoroughly inspired episode, which sort of fits Barrymore, a repeat host without the real classic or signature moves of an Alec Baldwin or a Christopher Walken. It was probably the best episode yet for a season that hasn’t often fallen on its face, but has yet to really bust through with anything resembling greatness.

Episode Grade: B

1 Comment

  • 1. sara  |  October 12th, 2009 at 11:02 am

    I cracked up so hard at Cooking Al Fresco. It made my night. Also, Vinny Vedecci AND James Carville?! It was Awesome Bill Hader night. Ideally, every night of the week should be Awesome Bill Hader night.


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