Monday Morning Quarterback: SNL Season 36, Episode 4

Posted by Jesse October 24th, 2010 at 02:18pm In SNL

Let’s start with the good stuff: check out the last half-hour or so of the Emma Stone episode of Saturday Night Live. If not for what I assume are music-clearance issues, I would be linking the most delightful sketch of the evening, the thing with the dancing French teenagers. I’m not sure how they got away with doing a sketch that was more cute than laugh-out-loud funny, and also entirely in French, but it’s the kind of non-formulaic experiment that the show should indulge more often, as long as it’s this adorable.

The sketch I’m linking above instead is another one of Nasrim Pedrad’s earnest-little-kids bits, and I’m also fairly delighted that she gets these on the air, even if I’d love to see her explore other types of characters with the same knack for sweet-natured (but not saccharine) observational humor. “My Brother Knows Everything,” like “New Boyfriend Talk Show” from a couple of weeks ago, took what could be a one-joke premise and actually fleshed it out without outstaying its welcome. It was followed immediately by the ad for Sex Ed Vincent’s Sex Symposium, with newcomer Paul Brittain playing a creepy self-styled sex educator running sad, weird sex seminars — yet without any real mean-spiritedness.

“Sex Symposium” was one of four (!) fake ads of the night; the other was for Kenan Thompson’s budget Halloween costumes. I know it’s kind of a go-to move for this era of the show, to do an ad for some kind of sleazy broken-down discount house, but it almost always gets me. Easy, sure, but it’s all in the details, like how the shop offers to cover any stain with an incongruous object, like a gladiator shield or a pot of chili.

So that was four sketches in a row that I really liked. Most impressive was the way this run was driven almost entirely by cast members added in the past two or three years, with the able assistance of Emma Stone, offering a glimpse of what the show may be like when Sudeikis, Hader, and Wiig start thinking about departing in a year or two.

Before that, though, I was a little worried. With her work in Superbad, The House Bunny, Zombieland, and Easy A, Stone has built a breezy comic career without resorting to Heigl-level romantic comedies; no easy feat for a young actress. And young actresses have often been served well by SNL: Scarlett Johansson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gwyneth Paltrow (she was young once!), Anne Hathaway… all were surprisingly funny as hosts, without Stone’s background in comedy.

But after another labored-yet-seemingly-effort-free Obama opener, an okay but uninspired monologue, a one-joke fake ad for Baby Spanx, another one-tic Kristen Wiig mess about a prize-dispensing TV host vexed by a non-reacting Stone (a sketch only partially redeemed by everyone else in the sketch having funnier ideas about what to do with their characters), and another listless run-through of The View (aren’t there a billion other talk shows the show could turn its attentions to spoofing after, you know, twelve or fifteen years/!), suddenly we were at Weekend Update with exactly one decent sketch — the one about the parent-alarming teen trends on local news — and one inspired Digital Short featuring Stone’s broken limbs and rapping grape jelly.

Even Update itself has felt off its game this year; you can hear Seth Meyers’ voice in the jokes, which I like, but they’ve so often felt toothless or obvious, with just the occasional cutting remark. And really, as amusing as it is to see Kenan playing the Rent is Too Damn High guy, is it that much funnier than just watching the real guy? Stefon is still funny, through.

But the show really proved the power of a last-half-hour rally; by 1AM, there had been a half-dozen good-or-better segments, which offhand I’d say beats any episode this season, and I give bonus points for a minimum of recurring characters. It’s far from unbeatable — Jon Hamm, fingers crossed, should prove a season high point next weekend — but it’s another decent notch in Emma Stone’s belt.

Episode Grade: B

2 Comments

  • 1. Marisa  |  October 24th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    I had the Digital Short rap stuck in my head all day. “Sign my cast. Sign my cast. Sign my cast.”

  • 2. sara  |  October 24th, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Les Jeunes de Paris was my favorite part! It was so adorable, and a great showcase for the new kids. And Stefon. Oh, Stefon. New York’s hottest club is YES.


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