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‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: “Melissa McCarthy”

SNL Melissa McCarthy April 6 Phoenix
NBC

Melissa McCarthy returns for a second time to host ‘SNL,’ but can she give us a better episode than her so-so first outing? Read on to find out!

Kim Jong-un on C-SPAN

Bobby Moynihan is Kim Jong-un, addressing North Korea about the recent re-opening of the Yongbyon nuclear facility, but the joke is that he’ll also be lifting the nation’s ban on same-sex marriage after his nephew comes out of the closet. It’s a great parallel to our own country’s right-leaning politicians and how they often change their mind on same-sex marriage when one of their own family members come out. As Moynihan rambles on, he explains that he killed his nephew anyway because he was hosting a book club, but not because he was gay, and that he himself has given great pleasure to many women — you know, so you don’t think he’s gay, too. Kudos to Moynihan for playing it straight and reigning it in with the facial expressions and mannerisms. He’s also pretty great at faux-Korean, the flaws in which are hidden well by Nasim Pedrad’s voice over translation. (Side note: I will miss Nasim Pedrad dearly when she departs for John Mulaney’s new sitcom.)

And what’s that? Dennis Rodman — the real deal — shows up for an assist, welcoming us to tonight’s episode. It’s not particularly funny, but a crowd-pleaser nonetheless.

Opening Monologue

Here we go — what could be a horrible sight gag, with McCarthy entering the stage in heels she can barely walk in, turns great when she starts using a band member’s chair as a walker and gives us some signature McCarthy physical comedy. My biggest concern with McCarthy, and with this episode, is that she and the writers will rely too much on her weight for inherent comedy, but we’ll see how it goes. The truth is, heels are SO hard to walk in, regardless of your size, and hats off to ladies who can do it with ease because they have mad balance. Taran Killam comes out and tries to do a song and dance number, but McCarthy can’t walk, so she has to roll around on the floor. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the excessive use of musical opening monologues this season, so at least she has that going for her. Her awkwardness is adorable, too.

ESPN Outside the Lines: Sheila Kelly

While Mike Rice came under fire for cursing and yelling at players this past week, ESPN’s host (Bill Hader) wants to investigate another coach — a women’s basketball coach played by McCarthy who abuses her players by threatening them with a baseball bat and makes them cook her dinner. This is an easy sketch, relying on McCarthy’s usual obnoxious and crass antics — but you can’t deny that when it works for her, it really works. I just wonder when this stops becoming her strength and starts becoming a gimmick, but maybe reviewing ‘SNL’ isn’t the time to start contemplating that. There’s also a great sight gag involving Jay Pharaoh giving an interview while McCarthy peers at him through a window.

The Voice

Taran Killam plays Carson Daly, the host of ‘The Voice,’ with Melissa McCarthy as a delightfully awkward country-style contestant performing for Hader as Adam Levine, Kate McKinnon as Shakira, Pharaoh as Usher, and Jason Sudeikis as Blake Shelton. Hader is in top form as Levine, making me wish Hader stood in for Adam Levine the week Levine hosted ‘SNL.’ This sketch seems less about McCarthy, whose performance is fine but relies mostly on dialogue, and more about the actors playing the judges, who are great cartoon versions of the real judges. McCarthy seems to be the audience proxy in some ways, acting as genuinely confused as I’m sure most people are when they watch ‘The Voice.’

2013 Honey Baked Ham Bake-Off

McCarthy is Jean, a woman competing in the Honey Baked Ham Bake-Off, with Sudeikis as the pseudo-creepy host — the kind of guy who probably collects figurines from the Home Shopping Network and “has an interest in gardening.” McCarthy’s doing a great desperate housewife, using major theatrics to introduce her ham to the judges, consisting of a dance number with Moynihan and Tim Robinson. This dance totally calls to mind the golden era of Cheri Oteri and Ana Gasteyer, two women who were great at busting a move in the most wonderfully awkward fashion, and both able to take a mediocre sketch and elevate it with insane commitment.

Bathroom Businessman

A fake commercial for a workplace you can put in the bathroom stall to help you make sure you’re not wasting time in the bathroom all day — you’re a busy and important person, after all. Kenan Thompson is our protagonist, inadvertently trapping himself in the stall after he tries in vain to construct his “Bathroom Businessman,” which leads to the actual punchline: this is a PSA for decency — stop texting and using the phone on the toilet. Uh? Okay? The fake commercial says we waste 15 minutes every day on the toilet, and I just wasted two minutes of my life watching this fake commercial. They can’t all be gems.

Phoenix Performs “Entertainment”

I don’t usually talk about the musical guests, but Phoenix are amazing and you should definitely at least check them out here, playing “Entertainment” from their forthcoming album. The lead singer looks like the conjoined twin Wes Anderson had removed and never told us about out of deep embarrassment because this one doesn’t wear scarves.

What’s even better is that the longer you look at him, he starts to kind of remind you of a much more stylish, talented, and enjoyable Michael Bay.

Weekend Update

Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy returns to explain the Passover tradition! Vanessa Bayer is so damn precious and hilarious as Jacob, with his carefully-planned essays and corny jokes about his family, always stopping to deliver an expectant look at the audience after a punchline. And then Bayer breaks! Bayer never breaks! There’s something in the air at that Weekend Update desk because EVERYONE breaks eventually.

Kenan Thompson pops in as Charles Barkley to discuss the NCAA championship games. Thompson usually ends up with the weakest Weekend Update characters — they’re all kind of the same characters, aren’t they?

But hey! Drunk Uncle saves the day! Just when I was wondering where he’s been, Drunk Uncle shows up to talk about tax season. There is nothing to say other than it’s amazing as usual, and a wonderful shout out to Huey Lewis and the Jews and King Joffrey, the jerk king. But that’s not all. Peter Dinklage shows up as Drunk Uncle’s brother-in-law, Peter Drunklage and YOU GUYS, oh my god. Watch this immediately. You will cry from happiness.

Million Dollar Wheel

Hader is the host of a tacky rip-off of ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ where McCarthy is a shrill mall Glamour Shots version of Vanna White. Oh, and there’s Fred Armisen, who’s been conspicuously absent this entire episode. McCarthy gets to break away from her usual schtick and play a dumb blonde, clearly raised on pageantry. Honey Boo Boo, if you’re lucky, this is your future. Watching McCarthy spiral out of control is great fun, and for the first time since the first sketch, it feels like this her showcase.

Barb Kellner Applies for a Loan

McCarthy reprises her Barb Kellner character from last season — if you’ll remember, her last appearance involved a wonderful interaction with a bottle of ranch dressing. This time, Barb applies for a loan for a leftover pizza business. She’s like a character straight out of ‘Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job.’ This Barb character is such a specific one, and the kind of person you know you’ve encountered somewhere in real life. Some of the best comedy comes from specificity — at least the best absurd comedy does, and I’m quite partial to absurd and wacky humor. There’s a great moment at the end of the sketch that’s so laugh-out-loud funny even though it’s such a simple, goofy moment from McCarthy. The second half of this episode is definitely turning out much more hilarious than anticipated.

Have You?

I assume that’s the name of this sketch — another weird, very specific sketch starring Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon as late 80s/early 90s-style hosts, providing relationship advice by showing a “what not to do” video of a woman (McCarthy) trying to hook up with a guy (Killam). The dialogue between the latter is the kind of forced stuff you’d see in self-help video scenarios, and hearing McCarthy say “So I can do the splits on your face” is fantastic. The last 10 minutes or so of ‘SNL’ can be so great sometimes, especially when they get mega weird and go for very distinct and peculiar characters like these.

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