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‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: “Paul Rudd”

Paul Rudd SNL
NBC

On tonight’s all-new episode of ‘SNL,’ Paul Rudd returns to the stage for his third outing as host — this time around, he’s promoting ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,’ which has us excited for the possibility of some very special additional guests. Things have been looking up for ‘SNL’ this season, and with Rudd on board (who touts some pretty solid comedic chops, given his time spent with guys like Will Ferrell and David Wain), this should make for a pretty great evening. So how did he do? Read on for our review!

The Sound of Music Live

In the cold open, ‘SNL’ recreates a condensed version of NBC’s live version of ‘The Sound of Music,’ which aired earlier this week. Kate McKinnon and Taran Killam take the lead before the rest of the cast trots out as the Von Trapp children … and we get a very, very special surprise: Kristen Wiig as Dooneese! Wiig is, of course, in ‘Anchorman 2,’ and it seemed pretty obvious that they’d have some of the cast members and friends of ‘SNL’ appear on Rudd’s episode tonight. It’s also December, so Merry Christmas to all of us, and hot damn, have I missed Kristen Wiig and awkward, inappropriate Dooneese so much. FYI, tea is a drink that comes from the toilet. And because ‘SNL’ especially loves us, Fred Armisen shows up to join Wiig in officially welcoming us to tonight’s episode. Can we just keep them?! Just for tonight?!

Opening Monologue

Rudd opens by joking about how Beyonce and Paul McCartney overshadowed him during his first two hosting gigs on ‘SNL,’ and he’s not going to let One Direction do the same, so out come his ‘Anchorman 2′ co-stars: Will Ferrell, David Koechner, and Steve Carell. The whole group, One Direction included, perform an a capella rendition of “Afternoon Delight” as “Nine Direction” and we’re off to a pretty wonderful little start here.

Politics Nation

Kenan Thompson’s Al Sharpton hosts Politics Nation on MSNBC. Tonight’s topic is the healthcare website, and his guest is an “unpaid Huffington post contributor,” played by Paul Rudd. Rudd does the straight guy thing that he’s pretty good at doing, while Thompson acts it up as Sharpton. The sketch is thankfully short, being as one note as it is. The Sharpton act has always been suitable for a few laughs, but always feels like a filler sketch.

One Direction’s #1 Fan

In this pre-recorded short, Rudd plays One Direction’s number one fan: Dan Charles, a grown, married man in a sea of pre-teen girls who is obnoxiously obsessed with the boy group. Dan goes toe to toe with little girls to prove his fandom, spouting facts and bragging about the song he wrote for the group, and even misses the birth of his own child to be at the concert. It’s a pretty great satire of adult fandom, highlighting how an endearing trait in kids can become out of control in adults.

Divorce Settlement

Rudd and Vanessa Bayer play a couple meeting at a diner with their lawyers (Thompson and Nasim Pedrad) to discuss their divorce settlement. There’s something about this sketch that I like, and I know it’s going to be divisive. It feels like something from ‘Mr. Show’ — it’s just kind of goofy with its word play and the way the willful misunderstandings between this upper class couple lead to all the digs at each other. And then there’s the use of Fleetwood Mac’s “I Don’t Wanna Know.” Every time they hear the song, they start doing the whitest white people dancing and forget their bickering, united in their mutual love of the Mac. It’s not hilarious, but I admire the commitment to just going for something so off-kilter.

Weekend Update

Yay! Vanessa Bayer drops in as Jacob the Bar Mitzvah boy! And he’s brought some ointment from his dad for Seth’s athlete’s foot. He’s also brought his book of jokes, fresh with new ones about Hanukkah. Aww, Jacob is so eager to land those punchlines and so adorably awkward. Jacob also reminds us that Seth will be leaving soon and he’s very nervous to be interacting with Cecily Strong since she’s a girl. Too cute!

Also this week, we get a return from Jebediah Atkinson, the 18th century newspaper critic played by Taran Killam. He first appeared last month during the Lady Gaga episode and became an instant favorite, so I’m stoked to see him again so soon. This week, Jebediah is sharing his negative reviews of heartwarming Christmas classics, like ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ and ‘The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.’ We’ve gotten a lot of great new stuff this season, but Jebediah is definitely a standout.

Michelangelo’s David

Rudd plays Lorenzo, a 16th century Italian man who served as the model for Michelangelo’s David. Killam is the famed artist who proclaims that the sculpture is 100% anatomically accurate, down to the very last, ahem, detail. And Cecily Strong plays a royal lady whom Lorenzo is desperately trying to impress, if only he could convince her that, you know, his penis isn’t so little — or, in his words, a “baby’s pinky.” Putting such crass talk in the mouths of proper 16th century people is pretty funny, but I think the best of it goes to Bobby Moynihan’s Leonardo and Nasim Pedrad’s Mona Lisa cameos.

White Christmas

Will there be anything funnier tonight than Paul Rudd dressed as Madea and saying her signature phrases? Man, ‘SNL’ is really nailing it in the fake trailer department this season, especially with the false pull-quotes (Essence calls it “The Macklemore of movies”). Anyway, if you couldn’t tell, this is a trailer for a black holiday movie for white people — it has all the hallmarks of a holiday movie with black people, like Madea, the big focus on families coming together and faith, a guy wearing a necklace over a turtleneck, etc. But the catch is that it only stars white people, and Rudd is playing a Madea character. It is absolutely hilarious. A+.

Santa’s Workshop

Rudd plays Santa, who has just lost 150 pounds and reintroduced himself to a workshop full of elves, played by most of the cast. Turns out, Santa is great friends with Michelle Obama, and she inspired him to lose weight, but along with it, he’s also become kind of a jerk — he met his sexy new girlfriend (Kate McKinnon) at Whole Foods, and the elves are weirded out by all these changes. This is definitely one of the dimmer spots of the evening, just above Politics Nation, but not even with the weirdness of the Fleetwood Mac divorce sketch or with the flat-out silliness of the Michelangelo sketch. A disappointment, sadly. Rudd deserves better. As we approach the back end of the episode, here’s hoping things get good and weird.

Haunting Memories

Cecily Strong plays a woman, reminiscing over her past romances and sexual encounters, with the male cast members as the “ghosts” of her sexy past. But then there’s Rudd as Victor, the guy who worked at the airport Papa John’s, who keeps showing up in her living room, invading her memory with his insistence that they hooked up and he gave her some free garlic knots. Now this is more like it — I love the play on the idea of a woman recalling all the hot guys she hooked up with and indulging in these wonderful memories, only to have this creepy weirdo pop up in her mind over and over again; this dude she obviously intentionally forgot. It’s a really simple “take this funny idea and make it literal” approach.

Bill Brasky

‘Anchorman’ writer and director Adam McKay did tease on Twitter earlier that he was working on a little Bill Brasky action, so it’s no surprise to see Will Ferrell back to help resurrect this old favorite with the help of Rudd, Koechner, and Taran Killam. The rosy-cheeked, buck-toothed drunks have a whole new batch of hilarious tall tales about Brasky, sending out tonight’s episode on a high note. I’m just sad we didn’t get to see Fred Armisen again!

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