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‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: “Kristen Wiig”

Kristen Wiig SNL
NBC

Former cast member Kristen Wiig returns to the ‘SNL‘ stage tonight for the first time since her departure last year. But can she live up to the hype? Read on for our review of tonight’s episode.

C-SPAN Benghazi Hearings

Bill Hader, Kenan Thompson, and Taran Killam lead the oversight committee hearings in regards to the attack on the consulate in Benghazi last year. Nasim Pedrad is Jodi Arias, the woman recently convicted of murdering her boyfriend — the purpose of her inclusion is to boost the ratings and media attention for the hearings, which the general public seems not to care about much. It’s a funny concept on paper: let’s try to bring tabloid attention to hearings that people should be paying attention to, and drum up the ratings with a convicted murderer, asking her questions about attacks she herself knows nothing about. It’s all very one-note and fine, I guess, but not quite the uproarious opening I was hoping for with the return of Kristen Wiig.

Opening Monologue

It’s been a year since Kristen Wiig went off and left ‘SNL’ at the height of her popularity. It was a smart time to leave the cast — her star is bright, she’s loved by many (both viewers and co-stars alike), and it would be hard for her to continue juggling a film and television career. I mean, she’s no Chris Messina. Plus, starring on ‘SNL’ every week and in a new movie every few months would lead to Peak Wiig Saturation, and no one wants to get sick of her.

For her opening monologue, Wiig treats us to a fun ‘SNL’-themed rendition of the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited,” wherein she tries to prove that she still knows everything about the show and the people she used to work with — only she’s not very familiar with any of it. Plus we get special cameos from Jonah Hill and a super pregnant Maya Rudolph, who are hiding in a closet. And Gilly! Now that we have (a thankfully small dose of) Gilly out of the way, we likely won’t get a Gilly sketch, which would be kind of lame without Will Forte anyway.

1-800-Flowers

We’re off to a great start with this fake commercial for 1-800-Flowers, in which Wiig buys flowers for her mom (Kate McKinnon), but is thanked with typical mom “moments,” like criticisms, neediness, over-sharing, and useless tabloid conversations. MOMS, RIGHT?! But really, this one should hit close to home and provide plenty of laughs — I know it did for me. (Hi mom, I love you even though I didn’t buy you flowers.)

The Californians

Oh boy. I am not as big a fan of The Californians as most people seem to be. It’s just the same thing over and over, and the only real joy comes from Armisen and Hader cracking up during each installment. (Also, if anything, Hader’s blonde hair in this sketch reminds me that I’d love to see him do a Michael Shannon impression.) Wiig returns, of course, brightening the sketch as her character who has apparently faked her death and is pretending to be a Mexican gardener. As much as I find this sketch to be so-so, Wiig was always the best part of it for me, and their continuation of the sketch after her departure always seemed sort of silly. The sketch seems to be more in service of the actors than the audience, and they are obviously having a blast revisiting these characters together, but let’s hope there are better things in store tonight.

I will say, Armisen has one line that killed me: “Get on the five, go up to Magic Mountain, get on Riddler’s Revenge, and never get off!” Maya Rudolph’s appearance and her delightful array of reaction faces was also pretty fun, so it’s not a total waste of time.

Aw Nuts! Mom’s a Ghost!

What… what is this amazingly weird sketch?! Cecily Strong and Bobby Moynihan are tweens on a fake Disney channel series where their mom (Wiig) has an affair with a South Korean official, who drowns and kills her to keep her from spilling important secrets, turning her into a Korean water ghost. She returns in typical Asian pale, stringy-haired ghost girl form and shenanigans ensue. That Asian ghost stereotype was ripe for comedy in the early 00s, and should be tired by now given the flood of horror movie spoofs, but damn it if this sketch didn’t press the right buttons for me. Moynihan and Strong do great impressions of your average Disney kid stars — a lot of over-acting and enunciation — and Wiig gets to be extra silly with horrible puns and sight gags. Loved it.

The Lawrence Welk Show

Not everyone was as big a fan as I of this recurring sketch with the Maharelle Sisters, a singing lady group featuring Wiig as Dooneese, the weird sister with the big forehead and the tiny baby hands. This time out, Jason Sudeikis leads the ladies as the male crooner, joined by Nasim Pedrad, Vanessa Bayer, Cecily Strong, and Wiig, of course, who obviously has kept this character (along with her others) close to her heart. Also close to Wiig: a crab, who found her “down there.” Look, this sketch is definitely as divisive as The Californians, and you either love it or you hate it. Personally, Dooneese’s weird sexual gags and proclivity for inappropriately licking/touching things always cracks me up.

Something else this sketch shows is the way that former cast members are able to revisit previous characters and sketches with renewed zeal. After some time off, Wiig is back and going really big with this stuff. It’s not like she can play these characters whenever she wants anymore, so points to her for making it count.

Weekend Update

Bobby Moynihan does his Anthony Crispino character, a guy who delivers second-hand news — he thinks Chris Christie is going to be giving lap dances as a stripper instead of getting lap band surgery, and he thinks a cop arrested a Reese’s peanut butter cup. It’s super goofy and fun (especially Moynihan’s impressive, progressively squeaky voice), but no Drunk Uncle.

You guys! Garth and Kat return! Wiig reprises her role as Kat, one half of Garth and Kat, folk singers with matching vests and hair, here to serenade us with songs for Mother’s Day. You know the drill — it’s an improv-heavy sketch that relies on Armisen making up the lyrics as he goes along, and Wiig pretends to know them and tries (and mostly fails) to sing along. The fun these two are having is just making this bit even funnier.

Target Lady

I have to admit something up front: Wiig’s Target Lady character has always been my favorite of her arsenal with her quirky cadence and over-excitement for her job. Also, this sketch gives us our first Aidy Bryant appearance of the evening — a cast member I feel is often under-appreciated. Wiig’s glee over learning that not all lesbians wear vests and discovering that Coca Cola is dark brown is so wonderful. Excuse me while I re-watch this sketch.

And this just slayed me: “I own every issue of Sassy magazine. I like to cut out the models’ eyes and put them on my eyelids so when I’m asleep the birds never feel alone and the ghosts always think I’m awake!”

Acupuncture Therapy

Sudeikis visits an acupuncture center, where Wiig is walking trainee Aidy Bryant (yes!) through the acupuncture process, with some rather disastrous and abundantly bloody results. This sketch is just downright wacky — lots of geyser-like blood spurts and grossed-out faces. The silliness reaches peak levels when Wiig tries to get Sudeikis to replenish his own blood by making him drink it, telling him it’s an herbal tea. I don’t know how they did that amazing bubble burst effect, but huge kudos to the ‘SNL’ make-up team for going big (literally).

Double Date

Two air-headed adult women (Wiig and Strong) are on a double date with two sixth grade boys (Moynihan and Tim Robinson). I love how the women are consistently impressed with things like how the boys play soccer or how one of them rode on his dad’s jet ski once. It’s an interesting and pretty funny play on how oblivious people can be when dating and how we often think immaturity is cute and endearing. It goes on a bit too long, but it’s good awkward fun.

Classy, Sexy, Elegnace

Nope, that’s not a typo. This compilation CD of reality show stars singing bad pop songs was thrown together so thoughtlessly that “Elegance” was spelled wrong. Wiig, Strong, and Bryant sing songs about catchphrases, fashion, limos, their ignorant husbands, and their catty run-ins with plenty of auto-tune, obviously. It’s not as ballsy and weird as most of the show’s final sketches, it’s kind of fluffy, and it’s not the best sketch of the night by far, but it’s passable.

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