Be thankful: Will Ferrell and a slew of other stars deliver an excellent ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Will Ferrell & King Princess
November 23, 2019

When it comes to judging hosts, it’s unfair to compare regular actors, sports figures, musicians or even other comedians to former cast members. For former hosts, this was their job for years — they understand how to play to the audience; they aren’t afraid of a live performance; they, better than probably most actors, understand comic timing. This is how they became household names. And among those who have been invited back to host Saturday Night Live, Will Ferrell might be one of the funniest and most talented cast members of all time. So to compare him as a host to a Harry Styles or a Kristen Stewart, it’s just not fair. They aren’t on the same playing field.

Will Ferrell returned to Saturday Night Live for his fifth time hosting and delivered easily one of the funniest — if not the funniest — episodes of the season. Ferrell’s big golden retriever energy makes every sketch just that much funnier, even sketches that by all rights should have just been mediocre. And while I can’t be certain, it certainly felt like the writers held back on the last couple of episodes so that they could give Will Ferrell the choicest material. And honestly? I don’t blame them in the least. He knocked it out of the park.

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‘Saturday Night Live’: I blame you, Harry Styles.

Saturday Night Live
Harry Styles
November 16, 2019

Most of the time, I don’t blame the hosts for a shitty show. When an episode of Saturday Night Live is weak, it’s most often the fault of lazy or bad writing. Sometimes a lackluster performance from the cast can doom things — or just way too much Alec Baldwin, that never helps matters — but in large part, the hosts — who are usually actors or comedians — are doing their best with the material they have been given.

The exception makes the rule, so the expression goes, and pop singer and former boy bander, Harry Styles, he is that exception. I don’t want to be too hard on Styles: he seems like a nice enough guy. He’s obviously very handsome and oozes charm; he clearly has a sense of humor and does not take himself seriously. But your boy, he can’t act, much less deliver the comedy. And his inability to act really was the difference in several of these sketches from being kinda funny to straight-up clunkers.

And what I’m saying, SNL, is feel free to invite Harry Styles back as a musical guest, but please please please keep him away from the sketches.

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Kristen Stewart helms the weakest ‘Saturday Night Live’ of the season so far

Saturday Night Live
Kristen Stewart & Coldplay
November 2, 2019

Kristen Stewart returned to host Saturday Night Live for the second time this week and it was not great. It’s not Stewart’s fault. Despite her stand-offish, awkward persona, she has good comic timing and a willingness to be silly. Unfortunately, the material they gave her to work with didn’t allow any of that to really shine through, and so the night felt like more like a Kristen Stewart wig showcase than an actually funny episode of Saturday Night Live. Better luck next time, Stewart.

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Chance the Rapper continues to be a natural on ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Chance the Rapper
October 26, 2019

The impossible-to-not-like Chance the Rapper was back to host Saturday Night Live for a second time, and it turns out that he’s just one of those irritatingly talented people who can do everything. He’s charming, he has impeccable comic timing and delivery and when given good material can pretty much sell anything. Fortunately, aside from one particularly weak sketch and one terrible transphobic joke, most of last night was pretty good material. Is this season going well so far, or am I becoming a big dumb softie? It’s really six of one, half dozen the other, honestly.

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David Harbour and Oscar the Grouch keep a good ‘Saturday Night Live’ streak alive

Saturday Night Live
David Harbour & Camila Cabello
October 12, 2019

David Harbour is famous now for Stranger Things, but he’s been around for a long time (fun facts: he was in Brokeback Mountain, that Fox/Greg Kinnear series, Rake, and The Newsroom before finding success as Jim Hopper). He also has a wicked sense of humor, and a willingness to both be goofy and play to type — which makes him an ideal guest host for Saturday Night Live.

While this week failed to live up to last week’s, it was still pretty good — particularly for this grab bag of a show. And though nothing this week was as brilliant or daring as the racial news sketch of last week, this week’s Joker spoof will probably go down as one of the best sketches of the season.

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In which my imaginary girlfriend Phoebe Waller-Bridge hosts the best ‘Saturday Night Live’ in a while

Saturday Night Live
Phoebe Waller-Bridge & Taylor Swift
October 5, 2019

Full disclosure: I am helplessly in love with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the creator and star of the best show of the year, Fleabag, and writer of Killing Eve, the sexiest show about a psychopath ever made. (AND YES, I LOVE HANNIBAL, SO BACK OFF.) And so, I’m not going to be impartial here. But knowing all that, I think it’s fair to say that this week’s Saturday Night Live starring my imaginary girlfriend was one of the strongest episodes in recent seasons that hasn’t been hosted by my imaginary boyfriend John Mulaney.

A suggestion for Lorne Michaels: How about from here on out we just pass hosting duties back and forth between Phoebe Waller-Bridge and John Mulaney? And if you wanted to mix it up a little you could throw Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Melissa McCarthy or Paul Rudd in there every once in a while. No need to thank me for this genius idea, JUST DO IT.

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‘Saturday Night Live’ returned with Woody Harrelson, a bunch of other stars and a nod to Rice University. And it was OK.

Saturday Night Live
Woody Harrelson & Billie Eilish
September 28, 2019

Welcome to the 45th season of Saturday Night Live, a season that was marred before it even began by a casting controversy after the show cast a “conservative” comedian whose “humor” involved making fun of Asians, women, and homosexuals. Hilarious! He was fired, but not before everyone and their racist uncle decried “cancel culture” for a solid week.

I’m just going to put this here for no particular reason:

The show returned last night with two new cast members, Chloe Fineman and Bowen Yang, the show’s first Asian-American cast member ever, and both acquitted themselves quite nicely in the episode.

As for the episode itself: it was fine. It was fine! There wasn’t any one particular sketch that made me angry (with maybe the exception of Woody Harrelson’s monologue, but to use the word “angry” here is strong — it mostly just left me irritated), but there weren’t any knock it out of the park, A+ sketches either. Instead, everything felt comfortable and predictable — not boring, exactly, but also not memorable in the long haul, either.

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Paul Rudd is the consummate professional on ‘Saturday Night Live’s’ season finale

Saturday Night Live
Paul Rudd & DJ Khaled
May 18, 2019

Paul Rudd is a Goddamned gem and he should be contractually obligated to host Saturday Night Live at least once a season, the end.

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Emma Thompson is a natural on ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Emma Thompson and The Jonas Brothers
May 11, 2019

Emma Thompson is a very funny woman. Because her international fame began after she appeared in movies like Henry V, Howard’s End and Remains of the Day, I have her stuck in my head as a Very Serious Actress of a Particular British Type, no matter how many interviews I’ve seen where she is charming and hilarious, no matter how many award ceremony speeches where she puts her full “fuck it” attitude on display. It turns out despite what my broken brain might think, Thompson got her start in comedy — in fact, her first acting awards, BAFTAS even, were for her work in two different British comedy series. And I guess what I’m getting at here is why the hell is this the first time she’s hosted Saturday Night Live? Emma Thompson is a God damned hoot, and needs to be back sooner rather than later.

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Adam Sandler’s return to ‘Saturday Night Live’ was just all over the damn place

Saturday Night Live
Adam Sandler & Shawn Mendes
May 4, 2019

I’m going to be honest with you before we get into this: I am not a fan of Adam Sandler but for a few — no, make that one — exception, that exception being Happy Gilmore. I HATED Sandler when he was on SNL, and did not think it was a huge loss when he was fired 24 years ago. But Sandler has matured since his time on the show, as people are wont to do, and so while I came into this episode expecting to hate it and him, I was surprised to find I hated neither. Sandler, having become a huge movie star, seems more comfortable in his own skin, willing not to laugh more at himself than with himself, which is a huge relief.

All that said, it’s not a great episode, and in fact, one sketch — and an early one at that — received a dreaded F. You know what you did, Kyle Mooney.

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