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‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: “Vince Vaughn”

SNL Vince Vaughn Preview Miguel
NBC

It’s been 15 years since Vince Vaughn last hosted ‘SNL‘ in 1998, and tonight he finally makes his return — but was it a triumphant one? Read on to find out!

Presidential Address on Gun Control

Jay Pharaoh returns as Obama with a special address on gun control, and in order to explain why he’s not making progress, he introduces Senators Mansion (Jason Sudeikis) and Toomey (Bill Hader), who hilariously illustrate just how fruitless the gun control legislation is — the number of guns you can fire at once has been limited to two, and when you buy a gun, the seller must ask if the purchaser is a good person. Sounds about right. The writers hit the nail on the head with this wonderfully exaggerated opener.

Opening Monologue

And… we’re not off to a good start here. Vince Vaughn establishes that the most important people tonight are the audience members, so he sets about with his typical talky, schmoozing routine, talking to individual audience members and doing a little improv, asking them to be supportive of him and the other actors all night. The ambition to do something different is admirable (and I almost want to bite my tongue because it could’ve been worse — he could be singing), but Vaughn’s shtick isn’t really working in this format. I’m pretty sure I checked out about halfway through all this babbling. Let’s hope for better things when the show gets rolling. (And some Stefan? Can we get some Stefan tonight?)

Al Pacino HBO Biopics

Bill Hader graces us with his amazing Al Pacino impression for this pre-recorded segment which acknowledges that Pacino has twice played convicted murderers in HBO biopics. So now HBO is bringing us a whole series of Pacino as convicted murders in biopics, ranging from the Menendez brothers to Amanda Knox. We get to see Hader pretend to be Pacino pretending to be a whole host of other characters, and it’s great. It’s exactly the level of talent you want to see on ‘SNL,’ and it almost feels like Hader showing off — in a good way, of course. Bonus points for Hader as Pacino in black face as Dr. Conrad Murray, the doc accused of killing Michael Jackson.

Stormy Skies

A Weather Channel original soap opera starring weather forecasters who play their parts like, well, weather forecasters. Vaughn and Cecily Strong lead the cast, including Taran Killam, Kate McKinnon, Bill Hader, and a delightful Aidy Bryant as the pedestrian trying to get some attention in the background. What seems like a lackluster premise quickly exceeds expectation with strong performances from Strong and McKinnon in particular. There are some very funny penis puns, and I especially enjoyed McKinnon’s “Tropical Bitch Maria” joke, and while Vaughn fares okay, he’s a bit obvious reading that prompter.

History of Punk: Ian Rubbish and the Bizzaros

Is it a good sign when there are already two pre-recorded segments this early in the show? This time around it’s a faux documentary on fictional punk band Ian Rubbish and the Bizzaros, led by Fred Armisen. Among the interviewed are Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols (yup, really him), Bill Hader and Taran Killam as former bandmates, and a wonderful “vintage” interview with Moynihan as a talk show host. It’s awesome to see Armisen in punk mode, given his own history with music (Google it), and it’s sketches like this that feel like Armisen’s really getting some ‘Portlandia’ into ‘SNL’ — and I’m always down for more weird, subversive humor. The central conceit is that the band fell apart when Ian started singing fondly about Margaret Thatcher. Given Thatcher’s recent death and the angry punk music she inspired in real life, this sketch is subversive in a really simple and effective way.

Short Term Memory Loss Theater

Hader leads a cast of local theater actors who all suffer from short term memory loss, so he has to guide them by feeding them lines. Bryant, Pharaoh, and Armisen play the actors and deliver solid work, though it seems like Vaughn isn’t really trying. He’s just kind of standing around and saying lines, while Armisen and Hader crack each other up. It’s a mediocre sketch that’s only slightly resuscitated with the crack-ups and the sudden appearance of Pharaoh. What begins as a promising sketch ultimately becomes forgettable. But hey, there’s been a lot more Armisen and Hader tonight than usual, and that’s never a bad thing.

Weekend Update

Jason Sudeikis and Kenan Thompson drop in as Brad Paisley and LL Cool J, defending their “Accidental Racist” song — they admit it’s not good at all, but that it’s just meant to start conversations about assumptions. The pair are great bouncing off each other, and I love the way this bit addresses the oversimplified, ignorant attitude of the song lyrics and these two musicians, who seem to think they’ve ended racism with one song.

Next up, Marina Chapman, a woman who published a book about supposedly being raised by monkeys. McKinnon kills it as this Colombian woman, describing what it’s like to be raised by monkeys, and randomly making monkey sounds. For all those who believe McKinnon is the new Kristen Wiig, this is the kind of stuff that lends credence to that theory. She’s so committed to these specific characters and plays them so well that it seems impossible that she only spent a few days learning them.

Unfortunately, there was no Stefan tonight. During the commercial break, let’s all go back and watch last week’s amazing Drunk Uncle bit again for fun.

North Side Junior High Prom

A rich man who lives on top of a hill donates a large sum of money to a junior high prom and makes a special appearance at the prom, where he has to get the kids to stop being shy and start dancing. Vaughn is the rich man, with Hader, Bryant, and Thompson as the starstruck teachers, impressed by his Ray Bans and Liz Claiborne jacket. But things get weird pretty quick when the guy starts dancing with teen boys and tries to make a girl jealous. Killam, Moynihan, Pharaoh, and Nasim Pedrad play the students, and everyone is, once again, passable, with Vaughn awkwardly reading lines and just playing another version of himself, the same way he’s played his entire career. Maybe I’m being really hard on Vaughn, but I keep feeling like these sketches have potential and Vaughn is sucking it all out.

And I’m not sure I get the joke. He’s rich and eccentric! He’s dancing with young boys! He has a problem with women! Okay…?

NBC Sports Offices, 1990

Vince Vaughn, Kate McKinnon, and Kenan Thompson are executives at NBC Sports, where John Tesh (Sudeikis) and his brother (Tim Robinson) stop by to help create a new theme song for the show. Robinson is perfectly enthusiastic, with his lyrics to a typical opening sports show theme that sounds like something you’d probably make up yourself when goofing off. The sketch is fun thanks to Sudeikis and Robinson’s gameness to get super crazy with this weird story of the long-lost Tesh brother. It’s not great, but after a string of unexceptional sketches, this one is a welcome relief.

Donnelly’s Bar

OH YES. We needed something good — Kate McKinnon reprises her role as Sheila Sovage, the drunken lady with the bad one-liners and over-shares, with Vaughn as her prospective evening companion. This exchange absolutely killed me:

Vaughn: “What’s on your birth certificate?”

McKinnon: “Besides ‘blended genitals?’”

It’s not as great as when Louis CK paired up with McKinnon for this same sketch, but the writing is so great on these and McKinnon is, as always, very game to get really weird. Even with Vaughn’s distracted prompter-reading, this bit’s a win, and it actually feels like Vaughn is playing a character and not just hanging out in a sketch.

It makes me wonder how much Vaughn’s lackluster performance is to blame, and how much we should blame the writers for not pushing him hard enough. Unfortunately, that’s the last sketch of the night. We got two great pre-recorded bits sans-Vaughn, and one great sketch with Vaughn at the very end. Overall, tonight was a very forgettable episode of ‘SNL,’ but I’ll see you guys back here on May 4 when Zach Galifianakis returns and hopefully gives us a much better show.

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