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‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: “Louis C.K.”

 

NBC

This week Louis C.K. takes the ‘SNL‘ stage in New York post-hurricane and pre-election in one of the most highly-anticipated episodes of the season. So how did the subversive comedian do?

A Message from Mayor Bloomberg

Fred Armisen as Mayor Bloomberg gives us a post-Hurricane Sandy report, and Bobby Moynihan pops in as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Did it work? Cecily Strong as sign language interpreter Lydia Callis is a surprising delight, over-exaggerating her signs and making some up for words like “EMT” and “Obama.” And does Strong actually know sign language? Most of it is legitimate and I highly doubt she could learn all of that in less than a week. Moynihan’s Christie is the kind of role he’s best at, but Nasim Pedrad’s Jersey sign language interpreter pales in comparison to Strong’s. Armisen caps off the sketch by giving a condescending speech in Spanish to his hispanic citizens, including telling them they won’t have Seamless Web or be able to watch ‘Homeland.’

Monologue

Bravo to ‘SNL’ for letting Louis C.K. do five minutes of stand-up and just be himself. It sets such a great tone for the episode because it’s like, hey, these guys really respect what he does and who he is. And with CK being so famously hands-on with his own show, maybe he can infect ‘SNL’ with more CK-ness. But the stand-up/monologue is fantastic, with CK bemoaning having to help an old lady at an airport and explaining how he connects with little old ladies on a deep level. What begins as a risky monologue where he complains about helping someone during the week of a hurricane becomes something more subversive and even funnier, somehow. CK really has a knack for presenting bold material injected with heart and raw humanity, which has always set him apart from some of his more crass brethren.

FOX and Friends

Taran Killam is Steve Doocy, Vanessa Bayer is Gretchen Carlson, and Bobby Moynihan is Brian Kilmeade on an episode of ‘FOX and Friends,’ the FOX News Network talk show. Jason Sudeikis pops up as Donald Trump, and the topic, of course, because this is FOX News, is that Obama is terrible.

Did it work? Sudeikis’ Trump is spot-on as usual, and the sketch finds a great balance by letting the “guests” shine, but also act as facilitators for Killam, Bayer, and Moynihan to make even bigger asses out of themselves. CK plays a FEMA officer named Dave Pryor who tries in vain to provide post-hurricane safety tips. The biggest concern going into this week’s episode is that CK is a stand-up comedian and actor (who plays a fictionalized version of himself), but he’s not a guy that typically does characters. Here he proves himself by giving us a believable FEMA officer with that perfect nasally, neurotic voice, and the character feels real — I buy it. CK thankfully isn’t concerned with being over-the-top (so far…), and it works to his advantage.

Quote it: “I have it on good authority from an African national that I met at a Rainforest Cafe that President Obama has been texting with some of the world’s top terrorists, including Abu Nazir, Jafar, and The Riddler.”

“What about piranhas with AIDS, which I call PirAIDS.”

Lincoln

A spoof of CK’s show ‘Louie,’ in which CK plays Lincoln — stand-up comedian and president who freed the slaves.

Did it work? I would have loved to be in the room when this idea was born. Topical — taking the imminent release of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ biopic and mashing it up with ‘Louie,’ consistently one of the best shows on television. But what sounds like a minor joke about a fake show you might imagine while chatting with your friends over some beers (part of the brilliance of this bit) becomes something more hilarious than you hoped. Aidy Bryant gets to play Mary Lincoln, and hopefully it’s not her only appearance on the show this week (my issues with them giving her the short end of the stick have been well-documented here this season) — her scene with CK hits that sweet spot of highlighting an everyday annoying conversation, where the joke is just that it’s genuine, not that it’s exaggerated. The tiny stinger with Jay Pharaoh as a freed slave and Lincoln is pretty fantastic, too.

Quote it: “And they’re like, ‘No, but I like owning people.’”

“If I could own a couple of people, I’d own a couple of people.”

Australian Screen Legends

Armisen is Edward Dunlop, the host of ‘Australian Screen Legends’ on an Australian cable network, where he examines some of the greatest scenes in Australian cinema history, with a focus on Tess Davies (Kate McKinnon) and Graham Dixon (Bill Hader). CK turns up as a fellow actor in two of their films, including a ‘Brokeback Mountain’ riff.

Did it work? The whole gag is about these really serious moments in acting punctuated by stereotypical Australian phrases and kookiness, like mentioning kangaroos and Foster’s beer. McKinnon is usually pretty solid, but her Australian accent is atrocious. Surprisingly, Louis C.K.’s accent is amazing. He’s really nailing it with these more subdued takes on characters, and I know I’m starting to sound like a brown-noser, but here’s the thing: the sketch isn’t great, at all, but CK is three-for-three in letting the writing speak for itself by not going overboard with his characterizations. It’s not something that could work for the rest of the cast, but it’s smart because CK isn’t a character actor, and his more subtle portrayals are making him and the actors around him funnier.

Quote it: “I’m Edward Dunlop, but you can call me maybe.”

Weekend Update

Topics this week include, of course, post-hurricane New York and the election. Sudeikis as Mitt Romney stops by to promote himself. Aidy Bryant (!!!) guests as Kourtney Barnes, a social media expert. Cecily Strong is “the girl you wish you hadn’t started a conversation with at a party.”

Did it work? When does Weekend Update not work? Sudeikis as Romney is fun and delightfully douchey, dismissing women and lying about his stance on FEMA. “Nothing I’ve said in the past should be any indication of my positions in the future!” — spot-on, Sudeikis. Spot-on. The guys cap off his appearance by staging a photo-op where Seth Meyers hands Romney a can of soup. Bryant is really fun as Kourtney Barnes, but the character doesn’t have the kind of staying power as most recurring Weekend Update characters. It’s cute watching her as this bubbly nerd personality reading crude Facebook and Twitter messages, and it’s a fun commentary on the way anyone can establish themselves as a “social media expert” if they’re on the internet enough.

I can’t complain too much — Aidy Bryant has shown up twice this week, and that’s a miracle.

Strong is perfect as the girl you wish you didn’t start a conversation with at a party — that superficial party girl who thinks she’s smarter than she really is because she went to college for a little bit. I have met too many of this girl and I love it. ‘SNL’ needs to embrace more of these specific characters — the more specific, the better.

Kylarian Mountain Pass

CK is a guy who goes up a mountain with a magic crystal and a ram’s horn and asks for Zog. Keenan Thompson, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Moynihan, Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, Taran Killam, and Fred Armisen (pretty much the rest of the cast?) are fellow mountain people with weird names. Honestly, I have no idea what is going on in this sketch.

Did it work? You know, oddly, yeah — this works. It’s utterly silly and who the hell knows what inspired it. This week Louis C.K. spoke about making the writers keep a really awful sketch that he loved and they hated, and I’m assuming this is the one. CK cracks a couple of times while trying to read the cue cards and you can tell he just loves how ridiculous this sketch is. It’s not really that funny, but the fun these guys are having makes it worth the watch.

Hotel Checkout

CK is the hotel checkout worker standing in Bobby Moynihan’s way of checking out of this absurd hotel.

Did it work? A sketch based on the silly list of charges we incur at hotels and their costliness, and while most of them are funnily familiar (like toothbrush, breakfast, and room service), some are bonkers, like 65 square feet of argon fabric and six diamonds hand-delivered on oriental silks, or choosing between a $7 or $100 rental of ‘The Avengers,’ where the only difference is the price. It’s a bit one-note and wears out its welcome about halfway-through.

Donnelly’s

CK and McKinnon are the only patrons left at a bar called Donnelly’s, where Thompson is the bartender.

Did it work? These two as drunken fools who think they’ve met their soulmate is maybe the most delightful sketch of the night next to Lincoln. They both do that great thing where you’re drunk and your mind is blown by everything the other person is saying and you think you have everything in common when nothing you are saying is similar to what the other person is saying at all. And the crowning achievement: CK and McKinnon have the most disgusting make-out session ever. The weirdest and risky sketches are always saved for the end of the night (except for that weird ram’s horn thing), and you always hope it ends on a high note — tonight’s episode definitely does.

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