Does anyone watch Saturday Night Live anymore? Yes. I do. And it’s been terrible all year (except for Taylor Swift, who was surprisingly excellent.) So, what do you do when a franchise is languishing? When nothing seems to be working? When fans are constantly comparing your current subpar results to your previous glories? I’ll tell you what you do! You reach out to a Hall of Famer to join the team and help turn things around.
And that is what happens tonight at 30 Rock. Charles Barkley is hosting. Alicia Keys is musical guest, and SportsCracklePop will take you all the way through.
12:05: So.. not a great start. SNL is delayed half an hour because the Cowboys took their time kicking the Eagles ass.
12:06:Â Our first skit of the night focuses on Yemen-based humor. It is as funny as it sounds. Fred Armison occassionally makes me laugh. But for the most part, he just does bad accents and makes obvious jokes. I will give the writers credit, though. At least they didn’t stand him up at a podium speaking gibberish while a voiceover person acted as a “translator” and made the jokes for him. They’ve done that like four times already this year. Grade: D
12:12: Charles! His monologue starts with jokes about gambling, drinking and getting arrested. Then he has to make black jokes about It’s Complicated that the shitty writers wrote for him. Then he calls a guy a black nerd and kenan Thompson does his Barkley imitation. Grade: C+
12:15: Creepy stalker insurance commercial.Â Good idea. Bill Heder makes me laugh. While we’re here, let’s rate the current cast members.Â Bill Heder and Jason Sudeikis are the two best. Samberg is above average. Kristen Wiig is funny, but overused and over-reliant on playing creepy chicks which gets annoying, Kenan Thompson is funny in the same way that stereotypes about black people are funny. Abby Elliot will eventually be good. Everyone else I can take or leave. Except Armison. He makes me mad.
12:19:Â Barkley on a talk show with a high top fade and a members only jacket. Two people donâ€™t know famous movie quotes. Kristen Wiig plays the other person.Â This skit is going to be too long. In fact, 2 minutes in and I think it should be over. Barkley knows his lines, but so far, heâ€™s not much of an actor. I donâ€™t remember much from Barkleyâ€™s first hosting gig. Just him beating up Barney. And Nirvana was on. Grade: D
12:26: McGruber is racist and canâ€™t pronounce Darrell.Â These skits are short and packed with joke after joke. Thatâ€™s how they should all be. Grade: A.
12:29: Commercial break look in.Â The next skit appears to take place in a ski lodge. I will predict itâ€™s a â€œblack people donâ€™t skiâ€ skit.
12:31: Nope. Itâ€™s a stupid recurring Kristen Wiig character skit. â€œSexyâ€ girl who says dumb shit and sounds like Betty Boop and is actually not sexy but Barkley digs her anyway.Â The new girl, Jenny Slate, will be the featured wet blanket in this skit.Â I did not have high hopes when I heard she had been added to the cast. She used to be on Best Week Ever and was worst commenter ever. Then she said fuck during her first skit. But since then, sheâ€™s become servicable if not exactly funny. I like that Samberg kept saying â€œme too, as wellâ€ during this skit. That made me laugh.Â Kristen Wiig did not.Â Shit jokes and stupid voices. grade: C-
12:37: More McGruber! Now heâ€™s a reformed racist who took sensitivity training that didnâ€™t take. Still awesome. Grade: A.
12:38: Itâ€™s an NBA on TNT skit. Excellent. Barkley as himself, Sudeikis as a nameless play by play guy, and Samberg as a kid who only yells sportscaster cliches.Â Itâ€™s simple yet it works. Then Barkley calls him a baloney head and Samberg dies. Four minutes. In and out. I liked it. Grade: B.
12:42: and MacGruber is back.Â And heâ€™s in a dashiki. and he says Martin Rufus King.Â And heâ€™s still racist. Grade: A
12:44: Next weekâ€™s host is Sigourney Weaver and the musical guest is the Ting Tings. I donâ€™t know who they are, but they were supposed to play a show a couple of months ago in the lunchroom at my office. Then they cancelled.Â I work at a radio station, so itâ€™s not as weird as it sounds to have a band play at your office.
12:45: Alicia Keys.Â Sheâ€™s perfectly acceptable.Â I usually watch the first minute of the musical guest, then flip through the channels to see what else is on. The goal is to get back in time for Weekend Update, which follows the next commercial. Tonight, though, I will list my favorite weekend update hosts in order.Â (This starts at Dennis Miller, because thatâ€™s when I started watching)
1. Norm MacDonald
2. Amy Poehler/Tina Fey
3. Dennis Miller
4. Tina Fey/Jimmy Fallon
5. Amy Poehler/Jimmy Fallon
6. Kevin Nealon
7. Colin Quinn
12:54: Weekend update time.
Thereâ€™s a lot to talk about with underpants bombers and Rudy Giuliani forgetting 9-11. Those jokes could have been stronger.
James Carville imitation is not great.
Samberg does a good Nicholas Cage imitation. Two problems though: 1. They do it every week. 2. Nicholas Cage is no longer relevant. And hereâ€™s a bonus problem: I fucking HATE Nicholas Cage.
Armison does his David Paterson imitation. This is actually funny every time.Â And I especially like that the real Paterson hates it and calls it offensive to blind people. So they just do it more and more. It seems strangely subversive. Like what SNL was in â€œthe glory days.â€ (NOTE: Have you ever actually seen any old SNLâ€™s with the original cast?Â Itâ€™s terrible. Not even a little funny.)
1:06: Weekend update is over. Grade: C-
1:06: Do you remember the first episode of SNL you ever saw? I remember some details. It was during the Dana Carvey/Kevin Nealon/Nora Dunn days. I donâ€™t remember the host or any of the skits. But I remember that Terrence Trent Dâ€™arby was the musical guest. And I watched it while sleeping over at famed SCP commenter BShrekâ€™s house, because the babysitter let us stay up. Her name was Brooke.
1:08:Â Barkley in a golf channel skit, playing himself. And yet, he somehow seems uncomfortable with the part.Â But the rest of the skit is pretty funny. He has the same hitch from his golf swing in every other aspect of his life. Except this is a one joke skit and itâ€™s already 2 minutes long. Grade: B-
1:14: Digital short with Alicia Keys. Samberg as a nerd who she booty calls.Â He’s in a diaper and using a cell phone from 1997. and he’s at an intervention. And it made me laugh out loud 3 times. Grade: B+
1:17: BRIAN MCKNIGHT HAS A SHOW? That’s unrelated to SNL, but I just flipped through the channels and saw it. Good for that guy. I know his name but I have no idea how or why.
1:19: More Alicia Keys. This time she’s playing the piano. I prefer it when she plays the piano. As a stand up singer she’s dime a dozen, but as a musician she’s really top notch. And they’re doing her version of Empire State of Mind. I can’t help but love it. It makes me think of the Yankees winning the World Series. Also, I love Jay-Z. I’m a very white gentleman, yet somehow Jay-Z is right there among my five favorite artists. Springsteen, Dylan, and Jay Z. Who says I’m not well-rounded?
1:26: So, they got back from commercial late. How does that happen? And it’s happened a lot this year. The SNL producers and directors should all be fired. They’ve been forced to have musical guests do extra songs or they’ve had extra long waving goodbye parts. Inexcusable. And when they did come back it was for the Kenan Thompson scared straight skit. I hate that this makes me laugh. It’s the same concept with new ass rape jokes every week. What can I say? Ass rape=comedy. And Barkley made a blow job joke.Â Again, I really do hate myself for laughing at this every time. Grade: B
1:34: Barkley’s Bank.Â He either doubles your money or loses it all.Â And then they go to commercial in the middle of a skit! What the fuck is going on over there? Do they not have clocks or stopwatches?Â Seriously. This show is supposed to be the gold standard in live TV, and it’s become inexcusably sloppy.Â Also, fuck you NBC for not just firing Jay Leno. he’s not funny. He’s neverr been funny.Â Don’t screw Conan cause no one watches Leno.
1:36: And it’s over. Barkley says thanks and that’s it. They clearly ran out of time and didn’t realize it until it was too late. Again, inexcusable.
Overall, I give this episode a C. McGruber and the Digital short were funny. Nothing else was particularly good, but nothing was astonishingly bad either. And in this, SNL’s 35th season, not astonishingly bad is pretty much what they should be aiming for.