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‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: “Bruce Willis”

SNL Bruce Willis Preview Katy Perry
NBC

Bruce Willis returns to host ‘SNL‘ for the first time since 1989, which is a pretty huge deal if you ask us. What’s kept John McClane away from the ‘SNL’ stage for so long?! Whatever the reason, we’re glad ol’ Bruno is back to make us laugh, but a lot has changed since his last time hosting. So how did Willis fare on tonight’s episode? Read on for our breakdown of his hosting duties.

Gravity

Taran Killam and Cecily Strong fill the roles of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in ‘Gravity,’ making fun of the way the astronauts’ calls to Houston were never answered. ‘SNL’ continues to make fun of the government shutdown by explaining that their calls were never answered because no one was working at NASA … except for the janitors, played by Kenan Thompson and Kate McKinnon, reviving her awesome Russian accent. The best line, by far, is Thompson taking a message for the science people: “I’m gonna write, ‘Janet from space called.’” Sharp, funny, and right to the point with this one.

Opening Monologue

Willis jumps right in to discussing what’s changed since he last hosted in 1989 — he’s had three kids and there have been six ‘Die Hard’ films (which he jokes are maybe too many). Bobby Moynihan pops in to tell Willis it’s okay he doesn’t have daughters because Moynihan has always considered himself to be Willis’ surrogate son since Moynihan played the baby in ‘Look Who’s Talking.’ And then we get a taste of Willis’ old alter ego musician Bruno! Willis busts out a harmonica and Moynihan sloppily plays along in a moment of father-surrogate son bonding. The opening monologues so far this season have been shorter than usual, which is a great improvement over the drawn out, glorified and obnoxious monologues that became an issue in recent seasons. ‘SNL,’ I’m into you.

24 Hour Energy for Dating Actresses

Exhausted from dealing with the melodramatic and demanding actress you’re dating who is constantly rehearsing and overreacting to everything? Try 24 Hour Energy for Dating Actresses! This fake commercial promises to give you something to chug frantically when your actress girlfriend emotionally and mentally exhausts you. It’ll give you the enthusiasm and supportive attitude you need to get through your life peacefully. And bonus! There’s a version for women, 24 Hour Energy for Dating Comedians. I just wish we’d gotten more of that one, but McKinnon and Strong were particularly great in this.

Black Ops Command Center

Beck Bennett is making sure his Black Ops team has their mission straight, when Willis’ character gets carried away with the hypothetical scenario. All the other guys are straight and to the point with their jobs, while Willis envisions a more theatrical and dramatic experience, describing, in detail, how he’s going to kick all the bad guy’s asses, when in reality his job is to stay in the van. It’s the perfect sort of character for Willis, and he really plays up the drama. Sometimes I think we take Bruce Willis for granted, guys. He can be really funny. Points to Moynihan for his enthused “Yessss!”

Ed’s Barber Shop

Thompson, Jay Pharaoh, and Willis are barbers who love telling stories. They get really, really into it, while Willis’ guy is a man of fewer words and not so great at telling stories. This sketch is kind of a misfire. Pharaoh and Thompson are committed to the bit, but there’s a lot of obvious reading of the teleprompter and Willis feels flatter than he did in the previous sketch.

Boy Dance Party

And here’s ‘SNL’ proving they don’t need Lonely Island anymore. Taran Killam is quickly becoming the go-to guy — he’s proving he can fill the void left by Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, et al. And he’s just one man! The guys of ‘SNL’ and Bruce Willis play men watching football, but as soon as their wives leave to go dancing, the dudes turn the apartment into a boy dance party in this catchy pre-recorded music video. Yeah, yeah, it’s no “Jizz in My Pants” or “D— in a Box,” and ‘SNL’ seems aware they can’t replace or replicate that magic. Boy Dance Party is its own thing, it has Bruce Willis dancing his butt off and shouting “shake that sack!,” and it’s really fun.

Lady Gaga Show

Vanessa Bayer had to find something to do now that Miley is all grown up, right? She gives us a pretty decent Lady Gaga impression (with Killam as her DJ, Sebastian), filled with wacky one-liners elaborating her weirdness (“Turn my face around so I can sit on it”). Her impression is more about the mannerisms and the quirkiness than it is about actually sounding like Gaga. But holy crap, the show-stealer here is Willis, who does a bizarre Michael Kors impression. He sounds nothing like Kors (why does he sound like a guy impersonating a shrill old woman?!) and only vaguely resembles him, which somehow makes this even more hilarious — it’s so hilarious, he cracks himself up. And then McKinnon shows up with a delightful Penelope Cruz impression, and Aidy Bryant as a high school principal who gets a weirdo makeover. Bryant does straight lady in a sea of madness so well.

A Musical Intermission in Which Katy Perry Remakes Tarzan with Furries

Well, that happened.

Weekend Update

Kenan Thompson plays Chaplain Barry Black, who’s been admonishing members of congress during the shutdown. Thompson always plays sassy super well, and his passive-aggressive prayers in character are nutty.

New cast addition Brooks Wheelan stops by with a special message about impulsively getting tattoos, showing off his very real, very cliched tattoos: a nautical star, a tribal arm band, and a weird seascape on his side. Wheelan is pretty hilarious, describing how dumb his tattoos are and mocking the mentality behind them. Why haven’t we seen more of Wheelan? He’s great!

Armageddon

Bobby Moynihan’s weird, regressive, kitty cat-obsessed little Kirby character inserts himself into Michael Bay’s ‘Armageddon.’ Kirby can’t focus on the mission because he’s more interested in baby-talking about his kitty cat. Most hilarious moment: Kirby talking about lifting his cat up like in ‘The Lion King,’ complete with the opening African lyrics of “Circle of Life.” Willis takes a back seat in this sketch, basically phoning in a performance and letting Kirby shine. Wow, is there anything more hilarious than Fuzz Aldrin tonight? There cannot possibly be. Except: Kirby’s cat exploding, then being fine, then Kirby singing “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.” So yeah, this sketch is wonderful.

Centauri Vodka Launch Party

Bruce Willis is the Centauri Vodka mascot — a centaur. I may be biased with this sketch because centaurs seriously crack me up. Torso and head of a man, awkward body of a horse? Comedy gold. Add a long blonde wig to Willis’ head and lines like, “Now I need to find a friend for Vin Diesel so he’ll stop staring at that wall,” and this is a winner. Willis is much better in this episode when he’s going bigger; less so when he’s just playing some lazy version of himself. And who was playing his back legs? That is some serious commitment.

Eddie

Taran Killam is the obnoxious Eddie, whose mom has found a new boyfriend — a florist played by Willis. Eddie intimidates Willis’ more sensitive character, who is easily intimidated by Eddie’s aggressive macho schtick. This feels like a classic ‘SNL’ sketch, with Willis, a fish out of water on the stage, playing a fish out of water character. Willis’ fake mustache is superb, and the pained, awkward look on his face as he slowly loses his temper shows off a side of Willis we rarely get to see. It also reminds me of his character in ‘Death Becomes Her,’ which is such an underrated movie in which he gives such an underrated performance. Go watch it! Now!

Sigma

Another pre-recorded short, this time with John Milhiser and Jay Pharaoh as pledges at a fraternity. Their new frat bros (Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett) explain the really complicated rules of beer pong. It’s a nice marriage of frattitude and unexpected genius. If anything, this week’s episode is showing off some strong shorts with their new cast members, continuing to prove just how great these guys are and how confident Lorne Michaels is in letting them shine. This may be the best new batch of cast members in a long time.

E-Meth

So they’re re-running the E-Meth commercial because why not. Enjoy!

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