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by Nummer and H-Bomb
Episode 10: Paul Giamatti / Ludacris w/Sum 41 (1/22/05)
CONEY RATING SYSTEM
0-10 Coneys – Garbage
OAD = Original Air Date*
(*To be fair, coneys will be awarded the same as they were the first time they aired)
This is more like it. Because Paul Giamatti doesn’t have a type-casted role for the writers to work into every sketch, this character actor helped SNL deliver one of the most consistently funny episodes in a long time. Credit for this also goes to the standout performance by Amy Poehler. Poehler appeared in seven segments tonight and hasn’t been this outright funny since her Season 27 hot streak (which nabbed her a promotion from featured player to cast member after only nine episodes).
The episode began with the best cold opener since the Presidential debate spoofs earlier this season. Fey and Poehler extended their “drunken talk” impersonations usually reserved for Weekend Update and incorporated them into new Bush Twin caricatures. Although Fey seems to have a personal mission to bring up her recurring Weapons of Mass Destruction, 9-11, freedom, the War on Iraq and Saddam jokes every single time she talks about Bush, Poehler’s humor kept Fey from getting too annoying. Poehler as Jenna, or “J-Bird” as she is referred to by Bush, simply dominated this sketch. “Suck it Vanessa Kerry. I’m livin’ large!”. Let’s hope she makes this impersonation a common sight.
Giamatti then launched into one of the most genuine monologues of recent seasons. No cast member assistance. No Q&A with the audience. No song and dance numbers. What we got tonight was one man talking with the audience and telling jokes about dipping fingers in Clint Eastwood’s soup. So best.
Additional highlights tonight were numerous: Caitlin and Rick made another appearance with Giamatti doing a wonderful job as Uncle Chaz and Poehler spiced up a US Senate Confirmation sketch as a California Democrat relying on props to get her message across. Keeping pace was a send up on the variety shows of decades past that gave Armisen the opportunity to try out a new southern accent and Forte successfully revisiting the concept of non-stop annoying habits (see “Courtroom Bullhorn” – Eric McCormack/Jay Z 11/2/02) with his “Oh No’s” during a financial sketch. It was also nice not seeing Seth Meyers in sketch after sketch. Nothing against Meyers, but there has been so much of him this season already!
Ludacris surprised me tonight as well. Not only did I not hate the first song with Sum 41, but I didn’t hate his second performance either. Never judge a rapper by the cover (I’m talking to you “Chicken-n-Beer” artwork).
Weak points were the third appearance of the British tabloid “Spy Glass”. I’ll still argue that this sketch has potential, but the jokes are becoming increasingly predictable. Tonight’s Weekend Update also had the luke warm feel. Dratch’s new Weather segment (although obviously thrown together quickly since the winter storm hit less than 24 hours earlier), felt too much like the frequently borrowed formula of Al Franken’s old correspondent bits. Hammond as Schwarzenegger also felt a bit unnecessary. Probably because this was the fifth time we’ve seen it since he ran for Governor?
Other complaints tonight were small. Besides the aforementioned recurring Bush jokes Fey continues to pound on us, I really felt Dratch and Armisen deserved a slap for the “Franklin the Cat sketch”. Now I’ll be the first to admit that these characters in the “Jasper the Parrot” sketch a few episodes back were great. However, tonight’s new oversized cat pet was such a blatant rip off of the always talked about “Delco Cat Toys” sketch (Vince Vaughn/Lauryn Hill 12/5/98). Armisen kept my interest early on with his constant “meows”, but once they brought out the cat dancer, déjà vu hit me really hard. Shame on the usually resourceful Armisen. And even more blame to Lorne for letting this slip through.
By the closing credits, these annoyances were outweighed by tonight’s positive moments. Thank you Paul Giamatti for helping deliver a solid episode of Saturday Night Live. Here’s hoping you’ll be back to do it again.
SNL returns live on 2/5/05 with Paris Hilton (who made her SNL debut during a cameo in the Al Sharpton/Pink episode back on 12/6/03). The English darlings Keane will be act as musical guest.
Let me just start off by saying how wonderful it was to watch a recent episode of SNL where the host, cast and writers ALL delivered a steady stream of distinctively funny sketches. I was extremely impressed with Giamatti’s enthusiastic hosting skills, although I had hardly a doubt that he would put on a spectacular show. As with any episode, there were a few exceptions as far as less desirable skits go, but all in all, I thoroughly enjoyed most of the offered material.
The Cold Opener with Fey and Poehler as First Daughters Barbara and Jenna, respectively, was by far one of my favorite skits of the night. Poehler definitely stole this sketch, as she did most of the evening. Her overall portrayal of “J-Bird” was completely hysterical! She not only makes out with Dick Cheney’s daughter at her father’s Inauguration, but also goes so far as to be appalled by her Fey’s reaction, exclaiming, “What?! Not the gay one! DUH!!” BEST!! Such a great way to start off the show!
Poehler’s comedic streak certainly didn’t stop there. She went on to appear in six of the remaining ten sketches, including Weekend Update, clearly marking as the star for this week’s episode. Besides the cold opener, these other prominent sketches were the Condoleezza Rice Confirmation Hearings, Caitlin at the Music Store, the Lundford Twins Feel Good Variety Hour and Reinhold Investments.
Both Poehler and Giamatti were excellent in the Condoleezza Rice Confirmation Hearings skit. Giamatti had me chuckling as Sen. Richard Lugar with his “bullet points” and “tickets to the Lion King.” Poehler had the edge in laughs, however, as Sen. Barbara Boxer, with her ridiculous use of props. I especially loved her “Truth vs. What You (Condoleezza) Say (a.k.a. Lies)” chart where the “blue bar (lies) is crazy higher than the yellow (truth).” The Caitlin Music Store segment, which I usually find totally annoying, was also rather humorous, thanks again to Poehler’s and Giamatti’s great chemistry. Even Giamatti seemed to be cracking up at Poehler’s antics! “Drummers are douchebags. They steal wives.” Obvs.
The Lundford Twins Feel Good Variety not only boasted Poehler and Giamatti once again, but we also saw the welcome faces of Armisen and Forte. Armisen’s obviously forced attempt at a southern accent was highly amusing. Forte’s extreme moves and facial expressions as the bartender in the Honky Tonk Saloon only added to the humor of the skit. Forte really stood out, however, as the stressed out receptionist in Reinhold Investments. Forte’s voice is one of the more versatile in the cast and I couldn’t imagine anyone else pulling off those, “OOOHHHH NNOOOO’s” better than him!
Weekend Update, although far from terrific, supplied a few decent comedic moments. Poehler continued her rant about Angelina Jolie, this time blaming her for breaking up Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. While I didn’t find this jokes quite so funny last week, this time around had me chuckling. “Damn you, Angelina Jolie!” Other notable bits were Hilton’s Blackberry (mostly because of the exceedingly long camera shot on Poehler) and Poehler’s request for Diet Snapple Rootbeer for musical guest Ludacris. “Well, she better find it, it’s for Ludacris.” I could’ve done without Hammond’s appearance as Schwarzeneggar, as well as Dratch’s “Weather on the Ones.” I’m all about making fun of newscasters who get all crazy about every little snowstorm. I’m from Michigan after all, where we’ve been at subzero temps for months and have already seen what feels like 10 feet of snow this winter. All I’m saying was that it just wasn’t funny.
There were only a couple of sketches that I just didn’t get into and those were Spy Glass, which I’ve never been a fan of, and Franklin the Cat. Spy Glass persisted with the same old routine of celebrity gossip via word play and British accents. Giamatti provided a bit of relief, however, with his Teen Beat correspondent Rupert Smythe Pennington. Franklin the Cat, while funny because of Armisen’s obnoxious meows and cat antics (being a cat owner myself, he was right on with his portrayal!), was just too close to the Jasper the Parrot skit, seen a mere three episodes ago. True, I did see the high similarity to the Delco Cat Toys sketch, but I think my real fear is that this idea is turning into yet another overused skit, exploited to the extreme simply because it’s debut received some laughs.
As for Ludacris’ sets, they were decent in that the sound was alright and it was definitely interesting seeing him with Sum 41 as a backup band, but, plain and simple, I just don’t like those songs.
By and large, this episode surely lived up to what I had hoped for. Giamatti was a fantastic host! His animated approach to every skit was refreshing, made even more so by the fact that he can pull off live comedy. He was even able to get through an amusing monologue that was actually that, a monologue!! Add to that a hilarious cast, especially Poehler who came through big-time this week, along with some creative and solid sketch material, and this show will definitely be one that is remembered.
1. Cold Opening: Jenna and Barbara Bush after the Presidential Inauguration
2. Monologue: Paul Giamatti
3. Sketch: Condoleezza Rice Confirmation Hearings
4. Commercial Parody: Gaystrogen
5. Sketch: Post-Golden Globe Award Night
6. Sketch: Caitlin/Rick at the Music Store
7. Music: Ludacris (with Sum 41) “Get Back”
8. Weekend Update
9. Sketch: Lundford Twins Feel Good Variety Hour
10. Sketch: Reinhold Investments
11. Music: Ludacris, "Number One Spot"
12. Sketch: Spy Glass
13. Sketch: Franklin the Cat
33 / 52 Coneys
29 / 52 Coneys