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‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: “Zach Galifianakis”

Zach Galifianakis SNL
NBC

Zach Galifianakis returns to host ‘SNL‘ and hopefully revive the show after a couple of episodes that weren’t so great. But how does the bearded funny man do on his second go-round? Read on for our review!

Fox & Friends

It’s not often we see the Fox & Friends sketch pop up as the opening bit (have we ever, actually?), but it’s good to see Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan, and Vanessa Bayer do these characters so early in the show — especially when they’re skewering the Fox team for making fun of NBA player Jason Collins, who just came out. Lots of silly jokes about which athletes they thought would be gay and plenty of Moynihan goober behavior, and a pop-in from Fred Armisen as mayor Michael Bloomberg. Armisen’s Bloomberg just about steals it with a spot-on impression, but the main trio are so great at pretending to be people who think they’re funny that they don’t let Armisen hog all the laughs.

And of course, that delightful “fact-checking” crawl, which features notes like “Lena Dunham is not a girl ventriloquist” and “Zach Braff is not the sound a trumpet makes.”

Opening Monologue

The piano is out! Yes! If you guys are familiar at all with Zach Galifianakis’ stand-up stuff, then you know that his piano jokes are fantastic — it’s in line with what Demetri Martin does, coming up with clever one-liners, and using a musical instrument to give it some layering. Last time Zach hosted ‘SNL,’ he was given an extended opening monologue and allowed to stretch his legs a bit with some jokes and a piano segment. It’s always wonderful when ‘SNL’ allows comedians to do what they do best. (Also, that episode gave me one of my favorite jokes: “Sometimes I do something and I think, ‘That’s So Raven,’ and other times I do something and I think, ‘That’s not very Raven.’”)

Zach starts off by telling us not to get our hopes up (a great line), before segueing into stand-up. Not much to say here — his jokes are great and a reminder that he’s so much more than ‘The Hangover.’

Game of Game of Thrones

Oh, ‘SNL,’ you know just how to woo me tonight. Bill Hader hosts the fake E! game show “Game of Game of Thrones,” with Zach, Killam, and Aidy Bryant answering trivia questions about ‘Game of Thrones.’ Killam is dressed like some kind of knight, Zach is a dragon, and Aidy is just a dorky girl. Zach does this great lispy-retainer voice where he spits everywhere, so it almost doesn’t even matter what this sketch is because seeing him do that in a dragon costume is bliss. Things get really wacky when Hader starts asking the contestants questions that aren’t about the show, like, “What is a Roth IRA?” (In all fairness, I can’t answer this question, either.)

And then holy crap, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (aka Jamie Lannister!) shows up and I’m probably geeking out as hard as Zach’s fake nerd character is right now.

Match.com

The ladies of ‘SNL’ do a fake commercial celebrating Martha Stewart’s arrival on Match.com, with Kate McKinnon doing a lovely, off-kilter Stewart impression. It’s no Ana Gasteyer Martha Stewart, but it’s still pretty good.

Jennifer Aniston Lookalike Competition

Jason Sudeikis hosts the 15th annual Jennifer Aniston Lookalike Competition, featuring Zach as last-place contestant Paul Nevins, a dude with a full beard and an Aniston wig, with a ‘Friends’ t-shirt — and he’s pissed he didn’t win. Zach flubs a couple of lines, due to how excitable and agitated his character is, so he’s kind of getting ahead of himself. Actors who apparently look more like Aniston than Zach in a wig: Cecily Strong, Bobby Moynihan, Kenan Thompson dressed as Whoopi Goldberg, and — surprise — Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms in Aniston wigs.

But the best part is when Vanessa Bayer and Nasim Pedrad show us some AMAZING Aniston impressions.

Weekend Update

It has been too damn long since Bill Hader brought out his James Carville, and it’s good to see him back on Weekend Update tonight, with commentary on background checks and the gun control debate. Hader hams it up real proper and almost moves me to tears with his jokes about his dead ghost grandma.

Fred ArmisenĀ pops by next as Weekend Update technology correspondent Randal Meeks, sporting the new Google Glass glasses and showing us how ridiculous these things are going to make everyone look, presumably. (Is there any doubt? Not really.) Especially if you end up watching porn in public.

And finally, The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party (Cecily Strong) — aka the young woman’s answer to Drunk Uncle — stops in to talk about her summer plans, and how she’ll be thinking about Syria a lot over her break, obviously.

M&Ms Store Meeting

Zach is the new greeter/mascot at the M&Ms store in Times Square — a soft-spoken bigot and racist, who goes down the line of the store employees and doles out some passive-aggressive “apologies.” Highlights include Zach apologizing to his gay co-workers (and one isn’t gay), comparing them to how unattractive his wife is, and when he talks to “Black Joe” and a co-worker he groped in the break room, referring to her butt as “Puerto Rican, but her boobs didn’t get the memo.”

It’s a so-so sketch that works thanks to some solid writing, but it’s not particularly as joyful as some of the earlier sketches.

Knoxville Cable Access Presents Darrell’s House

Oh thank goodness, things are getting weird. Zach plays a local Knoxville guy named Darrell who has a cable access show about having friends over to his house for the first time and what you should do to entertain your own friends in a similar situation. The whole bit is about Zach stopping to tell his videographer to edit objects, sounds, and images in after the fact — like replacing Kenan Thompson with Jon Hamm or the audience of ‘Showtime at the Apollo’ for a reaction shot. For being a cable access bit, which immediately calls to mind guys like Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, but where’s the absurdity?

Michael Jordan’s Wedding Reception

Zach and Jason Sudeikis play brothers and jugglers trying to liven up a wedding reception for Michael Jordan with their comedic juggling routine, that’s mostly crass, base-level observations. The mullet-sporting pair are followed by Kenan Thompson’s fun Charles Barkley bit, and Bill Hader and Aidy Bryant enter as the Hispanic parents of the bride. Jay Pharaoh makes what I think is his first appearance of the night as Dikembe Mutombo, and if it’s his only appearance of the night, it’s totally worth it. Does this wedding take place in the early 90s, by the way? The juggler brothers keep returning with more and more cocaine on their faces and everything is really fuschia. This sketch is so silly and half-baked! It’s definitely a thing I just watched, that’s for sure.

New Balance Commercial

Another fake commercial, this one purports that New Balance shoes are made for athletic activities but are really worn by overweight guys in khakis in their mid 30s to early 40s. It’s one of the most brilliant observations ‘SNL’ has made this year — just the idea alone is enough to make you giggle for a while.

Knoxville Cable Access Presents Darrell’s House Part Two

Ah! There’s the absurdity! Galifianakis has appeared on ‘Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job’ before, and his humor is definitely in keeping with that awkward cable access humor mentality. Have you guys watched cable access in the middle of the night? Stuff gets real weird. — Anyway, that sketch from before was all a set-up for this brilliant payoff, where we see the “edited” and “finished” version. There’s lots of jittery overlap between lines and a special appearance from Jon Hamm, poorly edited over Kenan Thompson’s body with split screen. If you stick it through and watch both sketches, your patience is most definitely rewarded here — it might be my favorite sketch of the night.

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