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Monday, November 18, 2013

Saturday Night Live: Lady Gaga

This was a pretty solid episode: a few sketches I liked less than others, but nothing completely awful or deeply flawed in conception, everything generally amusing on some level and quite a few sketches I genuinely enjoyed. In terms of Lady Gaga, I recall thinking, when she'd pop up in sketches during her various turns as a musical guest, that she'd make for a decent host. She passed my first test for any celebrity with an air of pretentiousness about them: the ability to display a sense of humor about themselves. Beyond that, while most of her sketch work played off her image to one extent or another, preventing her from disappearing into roles the way, say, Kerry Washington did, she acquitted herself well. 

Other Thoughts
The cold open was fine (I especially liked the way it covered both Rob Ford and the 60 Minutes false story) but suffered from two things: A. Chris Farley is sadly not with us to play Rob Ford and B. Rob Ford is already pretty much a caricature, so it's hard to wring much more humor from him via satire.  

I know it's low hanging fruit and all, but I never tire of the Kardashians being mocked.

Ditto the Prozac: Second Term Strength ad, which was a clever (and funnier) way of mocking the ongoing healthcare imbroglio outside the realm of a standard sketch. 

The "Greatest Cover Songs" bit seemed like something built just to get to the "Express Yourself/Born This Way" gag (which I loved), but as "cram in celebrity impression" sketches though, these are usually more impressive just for the added difficulty of impersonating someone while singing. That said, I'd have liked to see more actually-covered songs and their accompanying cover singer, but I suppose the writers had to work with whomever they could get reasonable impressions for. 

Another seemingly-short Weekend Update, but I enjoyed both of the guests. Mr. Senior's diatribe may very well have been inspired by my wife (whom I'm not entirely sure hasn't angrily run out of a department store, early Christmas decorations in hand), and Jebediah Atkinson, the snarky critic, was a pretty great sendup of the internet's ability to crap on everything, and was wonderfully played by Taran Killam. If not for the fact that he blew through a ton of material in this appearance, I wouldn't mind seeing him again (perhaps critiquing other media).

The back end of the night was filled with sketches that worked on some level even if I didn't love them outright: the short co-op sketch (I particularly enjoyed Kate McKinnon eating her brocoli baby), the broad child actors bit that went on a bit too long, and the stage parents sketch built around a single idea (that largely worked because we never saw the child in question).

The final sketch of the night was more wry and surprisingly-melancholy than outright funny (though some of Keenan's straight-man reminders of the future setting were pretty funny in a "so dumb they're funny" kind of way), but again, it was nice to see Lady Gaga willing to explore her image and have some fun with it. 

Least Favorite Sketch: Probably the co-op meeting, mainly because it didn't go far enough and felt like a "it'd be funnier if you were a New Yorker" sketch, but it wasn't terrible or anything. 

Favorite Sketch: I'm really reluctant to keep awarding this spot to a pre-recorded bit, but I have to single out the Blockbuster Video eulogy, simply because it's only a matter of time before the show has to do something similar for Barnes and Noble, and I need to laugh about it while I can...

(In terms of actual live sketches, the Kim/Kanye one takes the honor) 

Kanye: Between the two of us, we’ve earned 19 Grammys, sold over 21 million albums, and won Best Male Artist at the NAACP Awards.
Kim: Yeah, we did it!

Mr. Senior: It’s 60 degrees outside and I already have to decide which black Christmas movie I want to see!

Jebediah Atkinson: Oh, was that too soon? Get over it, he’s on the five

Atkinson: And don’t get me started on that beard. What was her name, Mary Todd?

Aidy Bryant (on the Rose Zone): I don’t care about their backstories. I want to see women destroy other women.

Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 2/6
Episodes Featuring a Talk Show: 5/6
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 2/6
Episodes with a Monologue Technically Featuring a Song That Is Not a Song for the Purposes of "Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song": 1/6 


  1. Right there with Kerry Washington for my favorite show of the season, I have to say I was shocked how much I enjoyed this. It was everything I wish the Miley show had been. Jebediah Atkinson made me laugh enough that I had to pause it, something that doesn't happen outside of Stefan. I'd be shocked if they don't find a way to bring the character back. The cover songs and co-op boards sketches didn't really work for me, although both still had funny moments.

    I loved the acting camp bit, although maybe it's my own acting background. I remember in college working with a freshman who had done some camps like this and thinking "Jesus, this guy's awful. He's going to have to un-learn all of this" (he did get better, in case anyone was worried). That said, I loved all the parodies, and would watch a variation of this every week at 12:50 (EST) for the foreseeable future. My favorite quote that you left off:

    Gaga (as child actor): Who do you think you're fiddlin' with I'm the mother-fiddlin' po-lice King Kong ain't got doody on me!

    The talent show sketch was a great example of a simple one-joke premise actually working. I think the key was just the build. Too many "strange character" sketches just get stuck at that same level and don't really have anything to end on.

    I also enjoyed the blockbuster sketch, mostly because any sketch that showcases Mike O'Brien, my favorite of the 15 new white guys, is okay in my book.

    The 2063 sketch was a great mix of humor and pathos, with a really dark end that I loved. I liked most of Kenan's "the future" lines, too.

  2. @Dobson: I have to say I was shocked how much I enjoyed this.

    Ditto. I even had a hard time coming up with a "least favorite sketch" (and that's rarely difficult), because even the stuff that I didn't enjoy as much still had something working in its favor,

    I think the key was just the build. Too many "strange character" sketches just get stuck at that same level and don't really have anything to end on.

    I think you're right. Too often the sketch ends up being the strange character hitting the same beat over and over, then ending.


  3. I still think Kerry Washington outranks Lady Gaga in terms of what the host brought to the table, but this was probably the best episode yet this season from the point of view of SNL's own creativity. One thing that made it stand out for me was the way her song "Applause" was used in the monologue and the final sketch of an elderly, forgotten Gaga to cap the show; SNL rarely uses recurring gags within a single episode and even less often has any kind of narrative through-line (although despite the fact that two points does technically establish a line, in geometry anyway, it's really more of a bookend than a through-line). While I've heard it since then, I actually didn't know back when the episode aired if the song was an album cut of hers or written for the monologue to make light of her attention-getting shtick.


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