It’s interesting: most of the sketches on this week’s episode of SNL were straight down the middle: big set-up, obvious follow-through, nail the jokes and get out. They could’ve easily seemed a little hacky, and though host Jim Carrey was strong in his only previous time on the show, about a dozen years ago, he isn’t necessarily the first person you’d suggest for the task of enlivening hoary sketch ideas; he didn’t have much luck enlivening Yes Man or Fun with Dick and Jane.
So maybe the show enlivened Carrey somehow? Because his episode was pretty much just as much of a delight as his last time around. In contrast with the amiable but half-there Jeff Bridges last month, Carrey was front and center; the writers seemed to really enjoy building goofy sketches around his elastic talents. So we got Carrey in the Mila Kunis role in Black Swan; Carrey as a psychic medium and ex-impressionist who conveniently only “contacts” bizarre celebrities; Carrey as a deranged animatronic in an old-timey amusement park ride. It was all pretty much physical shtick in service of a big central joke, but these sketches proved how effective that can be when the sketch is direct and the comedians really commit.
Yet as much as the episode showcased Carrey (who popped up back up to promote the excellent I Love You Phillip Morris, though he didn’t actually mention it on-air), it also brought out strength in the rest of the cast. Almost everyone got a shot at something hilariously silly in the “Worst of Soul Train” bit, while Jason Sudiekis stole that psychic sketch with his sheer delight at Carrey’s impressions, and Andy Samberg shined as a man who claimed to tell off his boss but actually burst into tears in that talk show parody. Even Taran Killam, probably my least favorite cast member, showed off an uncanny, Carrey-matching ability to mimic animatronic movement in the Merrymen amusement park bit
The only recurring character was Kenan’s jolly old-man sexpert Grady Wilson; they’ve done it a few too many times at this point, but I imagine resisting the opportunity to let Carrey contort his way into nonsensical sex positions was as difficult as it was for me to resist laughing. And the only really off sketch was the “Taste of New York” homeless band at the end of the episode: the one solid concept that didn’t really pay off in a decent-or-better way. Add in some energetic Black Keys performances, and you’ve got one of the best, highest-energy episodes of the season.
Episode Grade: B+
1 comment January 9th, 2011