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by Nummer and H-Bomb
Episode 6: Luke Wilson / U2 (11/20/04)
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)
“Saturday Night Live. Nothing like it. No where else. Saturday Night Live Live Live Live” exclaimed Bono at the end of an unprecedented closing credits performance of the 24-year-old “I Will Follow”. This performance saw Bono jump into the lap of a gushing female audience member followed by extended hug with a crying Amy Poehler. “One more”, Bono then added as the band launched into, deciphered with the help of some U2 fansites on Sunday morning, “All Because of You” over the closing Broadway Video and NBC logos. So seldom is a band asked to do three songs, let alone trying to get away with four! Plain and simple, U2 commanded this show. The episode had been treading the 1 to 2 coney pool for about 30 minutes and then U2 (complete with awkward camera shots) turned in a great performance of “Vertigo”. Like a shot in the arm, the episode’s overall tone took off from there and never looked back. The band later did another track from the upcoming “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” before closing with their classic first single from “Boy”. I’ll admit that for most of the last 10 years, I had fallen off the U2 wagon and even sat out (very vocally at times) the entire “All That you Can’t Leave Behind” phenomenon of 2000. However, this alone was enough to get me excited about the band again and I’m now pretty anxious to see how this next World tour plays out.
On to the comedy: As mentioned above, the first half hour of the show was pretty boring. The Bush “Apprentice” sketch was easily the weakest political humor Season 30 has thus far cranked out and the monologue reminded me of the one Johnny Mosely did in 2002. I really got nervous for the fate of the episode when the first full sketch of the night was another appearance of Debbie Downer. Again, the only reason this sketch was popular after the May 2004 Lindsay Lohan episode was because of the uncontrollable cast laughter. Doing this sketch straight and relying on the feline AIDS catchphrase isn’t going to carry it into recurring heaven. Give it up.
Following Debbie Downer was The American Trainwreck Awards that gave SNL the chance to poke fun at Tara Reid for the second week in a row. I must say the only thing that earned this sketch a coney was Armisen’s brilliant imitation of Tony Danza and the inclusion of the Detroit Pistons/Indiana Pacers brawl (which occurred just about 24 hours earlier). Otherwise, it was a trainwreck itself.
Riggle and Wilson then gave us a weird sketch about two male friends feeding each other finger foods. Is it me or did the shock value of men acting this way on SNL go by the wayside a few years ago? Riggle had some great lines during this sketch, but it was clear the potential laughs were built around the men acting so effeminate. That said, this sketch did raise the a classic question “heat hot or spice hot, HEAT HOT OR SPICE HOT?”
At this point in the show, U2 did their first musical spot and the rest of the show built off the energy they started. First off was Weekend Update highlighted by Armisen bringing out a new toy similar to “Bop It”. Over audience laughter, Poehler demonstrated the use of the toy which required her to simulate sex acts. Also noteworthy was a hilarious bit about the awkward moments shared between janitors and desk workers when its time to empty the trash cans. So best.
Next up was the one-two punch of “The Coolest Teacher in Benton Township High School” and the long awaited return of “The Falconer” (last seen 11/15/03). In each of these sketches, Luke Wilson’s comedic ability was finally pushed to the levels we have seen in his best movie moments. His portrayal of the new cool teacher (albeit it only by disguise) was great and so was his performance of the yodeling “Phil” in the Falconer. Perhaps the biggest laugh came when Wilson had to force the dog he was working with during the Falconer to remain in frame with him. Aren’t live animals and SNL such a timeless combination?
Last but not least was the Business Meeting sketch which wasn’t horrible, but reminded me way too much of the old Bill Brasky sketches. However, Keenan and Seth (“WE PLAY SPORTS”) both gave their roles a ton of energy and gave what I thought was going to be a fitting finale to the episode.
In closing, if the first 30 minutes had been better, this episode no doubt would have tied or surpassed the Jude Law/Ashley Simpson episode for Season 30’s current top spot. If there was ever any doubt that a musical guest could change the show for the better, tonight was that night.
To be truthful, this episode with host Luke Wilson wasn’t as quite up to par as I had anticipated it being. Granted, there were some hilarious moments, but I was pretty surprised by just how many sketches fell only into the 1 coney range. U2, on the other hand, was just plain awesome. I already couldn’t believe they got in a third song during the goodnights, but was completely dumbfounded when I heard Bono announce “one more,” as the NBC logo popped up to end the show. I knew U2 would bring out some great performances, but their talent and vigor on-stage still continue to amaze me. They have, by far, given some of the best and liveliest performances ever to be seen on the SNL musical stage.
Besides U2’s fantastic sets, the only sketch that even made me laugh out loud was the American Trainwreck Awards and most of that was from Armisen’s Tony Dana impression. I haven’t seen an impersonation done that well in a long time! Again, his facial expressions were what really got me. He gets so into it!! Totally best!
As far as the rest of the show, it was mostly just okay to me. The Falconer was a nice surprise, since we haven’t seen that sketch in well over a year. As always, Donald’s high-pitched screams had me chuckling, especially during the roller coaster scene! Weekend Update was also worth noting, specifically due to Armisen’s Dan Schwartz and his “Bump It” toy review. It was easily predictable that Poehler would end up “pulling” on the toy in an imitation of a sex act, but the voice over guy was enough to make the bit quite humorous.
On the other hand, I thought the cold opener featuring the President Bush / The Apprentice hybrid idea was rather weak. Does The Apprentice still have that much buzz to warrant another sketch around it? The return of Debbie Downer had me literally sighing and shaking my head. The feline aids joke has officially worn out its welcome, if it was ever welcome in the first place. However, the turkey walking away at the end was strangely amusing.
Other sketches I didn’t really care for were the Coolest Teacher at Benton Township High School, the Business Meeting and the monologue. They weren’t exactly terrible, but they seemed to copy a lot of other skits we’ve already seen in the past. This was exceptionally apparent in the Business Meeting sketch, which I agree was way too reminiscent of Bill Brasky. I did get a laugh out of Thompson’s comment about purchasing a pot roast and eleven hotel bathrobes and charging it to his corporate card. “Whap smack! Company card!”
Overall, it was clear that U2’s performances really made the show this week, which was quite a turnaround from past episodes where the musical guest usually brought the show down. I personally wish the sketches would’ve been funnier as they all seemed pretty uneventful, but I’m still happy with the overall progress of the show. The recent host and musical guest selections, along with the more original sketch writing really seem to be paying off and it’s a trend I’d definitely like to see continue.
1. Cold Opening: Bush’s Apprentice
2. Monologue: Wilson
3. Sketch: Debbie Downer
4. Sketch: American Trainwreck Awards
5. Cartoon by Robert Smigel: Unity
6. Sketch: Old Friends
7. Music: U2 “Vertigo”
8. Weekend Update
9. Sketch: Coolest Teacher at Benton Township High School
10. Sketch: The Falconer
11. Music: U2 “You Can’t Make it on Your own”
12. Sketch: Business Meeting
13. Closing Credits/Music: U2 “I Will Follow”
29 / 52 Coneys
23 / 52 Coneys