Chris Hemsworth has way more talent than his pretty boy exterior may suggest. In his second Saturday Night Live hosting gig, he crushed in multiple prerecorded and live sketches. The episode suffered its worst lulls of the night when he was offscreen. The biggest highlight happened in the first ten seconds with Will Ferrell returning to reprise his role as George W. Bush in a wholly noteworthy episode.
The cold open was a total surprise when Will Ferrell hit the stage to “address the nation” about the current crop of GOP presidential candidates. He had something to say about nearly every one of them. Carly Fiorina: “She’s not qualified for the office of president. She reminds me of me.” Ben Carson: “He’s a brain surgeon. Running the country is not brain surgery.” His brother Jeb: “You have to admit that it’s a good plot twist that I turned out to be the smart one.”
Ferrell’s Bush was a force of nature on SNL, and really still is. Like Darrell Hammond before him with Clinton and Dana Carvey before that as George H.W. Bush, actors have made their presidential impressions some of the most famous characters in the show. Fred Armisen’s, and more recently Jay Pharoah’s, impression of Obama never reached that same critical mass. McKinnon’s Clinton could get there if she ends up reaching office.
Hemsworth’s monologue focused on him being a brash bully backstage to the rest of the cast. The joke played off the fact that the Hemsworth brothers have a reputation for being roughhousers behind the scenes of their Hollywood films. Seeing Hemsworth terrorize the men and women of the cast like an older brother was great, especially for the women in which he would always say “Ah, you’d hit it, wouldn’t ya” following his prank. Of course, they always reply with, “yeah, yeah I would.”
In the typical placement for a fake commercial, this week’s SNL ran a fake ad for Star Wars toys for kids. Well, they were toys for kids, but are being enjoyed by grown men who are Star Wars fans. The joke was that old collectors never want to play with the toys or even take them out of the box. Taren Killam, Kyle Mooney and Bobby Moynihan’s work as the grown men-children was spot on to the usual Star Wars fanatics.
The show was off to an excellent start with a killer cold open, monologue and commercial, but then a shoehorned political sketch brought momentum with a halt. They already checked off the political box. There was no need for a Fox News sketch that featured the republican presidential nominees, but that’s what they did with the McKinnon-led Greta Van Susteren Show. McKinnon’s impression was the best part of the sketch, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough substance to sustain in. It featured Taran Killam as Ted Cruz, Moynihan’s Christie and Pharaoh’s Ben Carson, but there was nowhere for the sketch to go. It was just one interview after another with no real comedic writing in between.
Things got back on track with the show’s second prerecorded segment in the sketch entitled “Time to Bleed.” Sasheer Zamata and Hemsworth play typical television police detectives chasing down a perp. Hemsworth’s character gets shot, but, as he puts it, he doesn’t have time to bleed. He gets a medal or honor, hits the gym and does his desk work all with his bullet wound oozing blood, despite Zamata’s suggestions to go to the hospital. Hemsworth character gets loopier as the bit goes on and as he loses more blood. As digital sketches go, it was solid thanks to Hemsworth’s strong physical comedy.
Then came Hemsworth’s recurring sketch and fake Disney show “Brother 2 Brother” in which Taran Killam and Chris play twin brothers. The two concoct a plan to switch places and have Killam take Chris’ place in the big wrestling match. It goes according to plan until everyone instantly sees through the ruse. The rest of the wrestling team and coach point out all of the obvious physical difference between them. Taran trying to cut them off with the dejected “I guess the jig is up” is the funniest part of the idea. Otherwise, it’s pretty formulaic and identical to the last time they did the sketch.
The sketch of the night was the Christmas party hosted by Hemsworth and Cecily Strong’s characters. The group is gathered around the piano, hoping to sing classic Christmas carols. But Hemsworth and Strong keep suggesting a song nobody’s heard of called “Deborah’s Time.” The two then break into the melodramatic faux-broadway song, much to the confusion of everyone at the party. It’s a perfect example of musical theater. If you’re not privy to that world of entertainment, the sketch won’t do much for you. But if you are, it was a clear highlight of the night. Cecily crushed every overly emotional line for Deborah’s Time.
Weekend Update was a serious success this week. Both Jost and Che came out swinging with some smart writing about Donald Trump’s racism. Jost and Che don’t think Donald Trump is a racist. They just think he’s selling racism. As Che puts it, “He doesn’t see race. He just sees dollar signs floating in cologne.” You can tell when Che and Jost write jokes they really believe in. It shows in the writing and tone, and Update is at its best when they employ this tactic. McKinnon joined them with her Angela Merkel impression, which is always a crowd favorite. Leslie Jones also came on to talk about how Breaking Bad got snubbed in this year’s Golden Globes nominations, even though the show ended last year.
Hemsworth crossdressed for the next sketch in which he played a girlfriend in a group of girls. The twist was that he was playing himself just trying to infiltrate girl talk about hunky actors. While the other girls talked about other actors, Hemsworth kept trying to bring the conversation back to Chris. The girls eventually see through the costume, and he reveals that he’s just an insecure actor. The ending makes the sketch when he asks if “C. Hemmy” still has it. The girls say yes, until Aidy Bryant exclaims, “No, this was weird. You’re weird now.”
Featured player Jon Rudnitsky got his first showcase in the pirate sketch. The premise had numerous typical pirate characters, except Rudnitsky who played a pirate that just keeps things fun. Kind of like an office cutup. It was a surprisingly strong sketch for a later one in the night.
The final live sketch of the night took place in a male strip club. Hemsworth and the other three cast members took the stage at the strip club, but instead of stripping they just performed a broadway-type performance about going to New York. It was funny, but too similar to the earlier sketch “Deborah’s Time.” Both are a play on stage humor.
SNL has strong momentum going into Christmas break in two weeks. Now bring on Amy Poehler and Tina Fey next week. That should be a good one!
Last Night On grade: B+