‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: “Kevin Hart”
Jay Pharaoh's Barack Obama explains what the recent budget cuts mean by letting everyday people explain how the cuts affect them -- like Cecily Strong's airport security worker saying that they'll have to watch 20 seconds of Taco Bell ads before they can access their security screens, and Jason Sudeikis' zoo worker saying they'll have to fire three monkeys. Aidy Bryant's exasperated teacher is a real treat, but the sketch builds to an awesome Village People gag as the main punchline, and man, it soars as soon as Pharaoh starts saying, "I'll just have to tell these people, uh, young men..." A nice, snappy little opener. Let's see if the rest of the show can keep the momentum.
I should note that I still have no idea what the hell a Macklemore is because, like the Harlem Shake, I've avoided this internet phenomenon, and I think I'm happier for it. So tonight is the night I find out about this whole "Macklemore" thing. I'm growing up so fast, you guys.
Oh, right, Kevin Hart is hosting 'SNL' tonight. Let's talk about his opening monologue! I love when 'SNL' lets comedians just do their thing in the opening monologue. It worked well with Zach Galifianakis and Louis CK, and it's good to see them letting Hart do some stand-up here. His stand-up is solid, but his rhythm is a bit too frenetic. I'm not familiar with Hart's stand-up work, so I'm not sure if this is how he normally operates, or if he's just worked up and nervous. It's kind of reading like someone who hasn't done a whole lot of stand-up, but his jokes are earning a few chuckles from me, so I give him a pass. It's also a great sign that they haven't brought any cast members out or gotten a bigger name to do a surprise cameo.
Steve Harvey Show
Kenan Thompson's Steve Harvey hosts a segment on his show about phobias, with Hart as his guest, a guy who's scared of horses. Hart is on fire already on the typically weak Steve Harvey segment, with a joke about how horses make pee come out of his hole... but not the front one. Hart goes off the rails talking about how horse hoofs hide scary fingers that steal your rings, to which Thompson responds, "I seen the same kind of thing happen at Colonial Williamsburg." I cannot tell you how hard I laughed at this joke. Nasim Pedrad is a doctor specializing in phobias, who brings out a fake horse to help Hart overcome his fear, but winds up having to help Harvey as well. Hart is doing a great job so far reading the prompter and communicating his lines very naturally, which makes it easier to laugh at some of the sillier jokes in this bit.
The Situation Room
Jason Sudeikis is the mumbling Wolf Blitzer and Cecily Strong is reporting on the prospect of the possible new African pope (Thompson), but it turns out that the Catholic church has chosen Quvenzhane Wallis as their new leader. Hart walks out all grins and waves in a replica of Wallis' Oscar outfit, complete with puppy purse. This entire sketch is automatically a winner -- they don't even need to tell actual jokes. Watching the fake wig and tiny pope hat flop around on Hart's head as he does silly dance moves is so great, only made better when Fred Armisen, as Pope Benedict, tries to imitate Wallis' dance moves. Cutie Pope-tootie, indeed.
A fake commercial featuring the Starbucks home coffee/espresso machine, which has the capability of acting just like a barista, by printing your name on the cup entirely wrong, judging your order, and taking way too long to serve you. Also, when you order Verismo and the "Verquonica," you get accessories like discarded wooden stirrers and sugar smashed into a puddle of cream. So brilliant.
Barnes and Noble Staff Meeting
Hart is the manager at a Barnes and Noble and is holding a store meeting when Bobby Moynihan and Cecily Strong's retail employees start calling everyone out, one at a time. This was such an amazing concept the first time it aired earlier this season with a McDonald's staff meeting sketch, and it continues to delight. It's one-note, sure, but Strong and Moynihan's matching mannerisms and sass light up the set. Their smackdowns are so fantastically stupid and mean and arrogant. Just like internet commenters!
Hart is probably the weakest he's been so far in this sketch, more visibly reading the prompter and not getting a whole lot of funny material, but it is Strong and Moynihan's sketch.
Dennis Rodman (Pharaoh) and Kim Jong-un (Moynihan) stop by to talk about their new friendship, which just reminds us that 'SNL' doesn't have any Asian cast members so we get to sit through another white impression of an Asian person. That said, the jokes are funny and focused strictly on how small Kim Jong-un is, including one on how Kim is Yoda and Rodman carries him around in a backpack while he does Jedi training.
"Really?!" returns with the help of Kevin Hart, as he and Seth Meyers tackle the Voting Rights Act. Hart's attitude is so perfect for "Really?!" and he handles a stumble really well, but it doesn't make me miss Amy Poehler any less.
The Walking Dead
Bill Hader as Norman Reedus on 'The Walking Dead' is so perfect that I wonder how long they've been waiting for the right idea to take on this show. Taran Killam is Rick, Nasim Pedrad is Carl, Kate McKinnon is Maggie, and Hart is a black guy who may or may not have gotten bitten -- the sketch is a great satire of the show, which often gives its black characters minimal, useless roles and kills them off. The entire joke is that Hart thinks the group is being racist by accusing him of being "one of them," but their white guilt makes them act like idiots, letting him kill people and get away with it because he has an explanation for everything. It's a great example of when 'SNL' really hits the mark on a smart sketch that doesn't earn a lot of obvious laughs, but such is satire sometimes.
Sudeikis, Thompson, McKinnon, and Hader play the hosts of 'Shark Tank,' the NBC show that asks entrepreneurs to pitch ideas to millionaires in the hopes of winning an investment. Hart plays a guy named Brian, pitching sunglasses for lampshades, to help dim light bulbs that are too bright. The name of his company is the atrocious "We Put Sunglasses on Lamps... Crafters." Hart plays desperate really well, and McKinnon's almost steals it with her spot-on (presumably, I don't watch the show) impression. Overall, it's probably the weakest sketch of the night... so far.
Robinson and Hart play two 90s-ish and very annoying "cool dudes" selling Z-Shirts, which are... shirts that are cooler than T-shirts because they exist? And replace the T with a Z? It's a really absurd bit that allows Hart to show off this ridiculous rad guy character. It's one-note, but okay.
Dove Chocolate Commercial Auditions
Armisen and Hader (best team ever) host auditions for a Dove chocolate commercial, where Vanessa Bayer is the obvious choice, but the guys love Hart's boisterous reading better, even though he's still clearly reading for a woman's part. But yeah, it's really great hearing him pronounce "bubble bath" and describe the chocolate as "smooth as hell." But the great writing in this sketch lies in the skewering of female stereotypes in commercials -- we love bubble baths, men, a good book, flowers, and lots of chocolate.
Z-Shirts at a Funeral
Hart's Z-Shirts character pops up during a somber moment at a funeral. Yup, that's really it, it's 30 seconds long, and it's kind of hilarious.
Hart hosts a news show with eight cameras, views from every angle, and news stories delivered in one sentence -- the hitch is that his neck is broken and he struggles to turn to face each camera. The last sketch is the biggest hit or miss of the night, but it's always the riskiest because people have stopped tuning in and the writers feel like they can really push it with the material. Stuff like Z-Shirts and this 360 News feel looser in conception and execution -- qualities that can work for or against any given episode. I'm not sure 360 News entirely works because it doesn't wholly "go there" with the absurdity, but it's a fair sketch to end the night.
Next week: Justin Timberlake hosts, and I'm going to go ahead and call that episode perfect right now.