‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: “Bruno Mars”
This week's 'SNL' host is pop singer Bruno Mars, who pulls double duty as the musical guest. The last two weeks have been underwhelming, but can Mars prove himself a solid comedic presence and turn this season around? Let's find out!
Presidential Town Hall Debate
Hey you guys! It's Aidy Bryant and she's actually getting to do something substantial as the moderator of the presidential town hall debate, with Jay Pharaoh as Obama and Jason Sudeikis as Romney.
Did it work? This is way better than both presidential debate sketches in previous weeks, with Romney and Obama threatening each other throughout the debate and moderator Candy making jabs at the audience members. Kate McKinnon and Bobby Moynihan are real standouts as audience members asking questions, but the best line comes from Pharaoh when Sudeikis asks him what he's going to cut next, and Pharaoh responds, "I'm gonna cut you!" Tom Hanks randomly shows up as an audience member with his awesome new mustache for the upcoming Walt Disney film, and though I have no idea how Bruno Mars is as a host yet, I'm really wishing Tom Hanks were hosting this week.
Bruno Mars acknowledges that he's never acted before and breaks into song about his apprehension, obviously.
Did it work? Um, you guys, this guy can really sing, in case you had no idea. The song is cute, though, and he name-drops Justin Timberlake (another singer to wow 'SNL' with his acting) and refers to himself as a Phillipino girl before telling Kenan Thompson to get the hell out of his face. Just from this monologue, I'm starting to think his name-drop of Timberlake wasn't coincidential. He is a legit entertainer, and his song to sell us on how he's capable of hosting the show is totally doing its job. I'm pumped. Bring it! Let's do this!
Brad Pitt for Chanel
Taran Killam is Brad Pitt in a black and white commercial for Chanel.
Did it work? The conceit is that he's just babbling to himself because they've given him no direction, resulting in even less coherent words and phrases from the actor. Killam does a great Pitt impression, and even nods to how homeless the actor often looks. It's a solid, small, pre-recorded bit -- nothing spectacular, but a nice one-note appetizer, if you will.
Cecily Strong is Sunny Taylor Tompkins, the host of a show called Haters -- a sort of mix between Maury and Jerry Springer, I guess? Bobby Moynihan is Melody, a woman jealous of her daughter, played by Bruno Mars. Chris Robinson is a psychologist who tries to help the women.
Did it work? It bodes well when Mars' first sketch has him dressed as a woman and he's really working it, but the running booty-shaking joke gets a little old fast. Mars only gets a couple of lines when he's first brought on, and the sketch seems to wrap itself up before it can even get going -- almost as if it's an unfinished sketch. Still, points to Bill Hader and Pharaoh as exceptional audience members interacting with the show.
Brad Pitt for Chanel Part 2'
I have never seen the commercials on which these bits are based, but it's about how I would imagine them. More senseless pontificating from Pitt in black and white -- you know the drill.
Did it work? This time around, Killam is describing running through a sandy, hot desert for your entire life before you finally make it to the border... because Taco Bell! Much better than the first bit, and I like where this is heading with Killam's babbling wrapped up neatly with a sharp punchline. More of these to come!
Sudeikis runs the Pandora headquarters with workers tending to various artists' stations, including Moynihan, Hader, and Robinson. Mars plays an intern who has to replace the songs with his own voice when there's an emergency and the stations are cutting out, leaving the transmissions silent.
Did it work? Oh my word. Mars does incredible impressions of other singers, starting with Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, throwing in "cha" before words to really emphasize the snottiness. With his Steven Tyler, it's more about the flourishes than actually sounding like Tyler, which is a brilliant way to make that one work. His Katy Perry and Justin Bieber impressions are adorably poppy and punchy, and then he's thrown a curve with the Louis Armstrong, and we see Mars briefly crack up at what he has to attempt -- but it's so good! The crowning moment is his Michael Jackson which is, seriously, uncanny, and has him cycling through Michael Jackson songs, making up words to "Smooth Criminal" and "Beat It."
A pre-recorded bit starring Mars as a guy who's talking about his girlfriend breaking up with him to Sudeikis, who is employing him to dress up in a mouse costume to entertain tourists in Times Square.
Did it work? Look, I want to tell you guys, I'm an easy crier. I cry at something like 70% of the movies I see, so this sketch is making my heart feel some things right now. It's funny, sure -- like watching Mars sneak a cigarette under his giant mouse costume head, kick over a trash can, and writhe around on the ground. And then it gets super cute when Sad Mouse meets Sad Frog and the two walk off together -- in fact, this may be one of the most adorable, surprisingly meaningful sketches 'SNL' has ever accomplished. I'm moved! Genuinely moved!
The big topic this week is, of course, the debates and the upcoming election, with a special round of Dos and Don'ts. And Bill Hader's Stefon stops by for a long overdue appearance for the hottest spots on Halloween!
Did it work? When does Stefon not work? Instead of telling you how great this was, I'll just pick the best lines to share with you below. You should also know that Hader cracks harder than ever this week:
"Hobo Cops?" "Homeless robot cops."
"My dog, Bark Ruffalo."
"This place is gonna have everything -- ghosts, ghouls, goblins... MY SON."
"Have you heard of Blacula, the black Dracula? Well they have Jewish Dracula." "What's his name?" "Sidney Applebaum."
"What is the human pinata?" "It's that thing of when a Mexican midget eats a lot of candy and then he dances until he throws up."
"I'll pick you up at seven. Where do you live?" "You know the Radio Shack between 23rd and 7th?" "Yes!" "I live in a garbage can."
The Merryville Brothers
Vanessa Bayer and Jay Pharaoh are on a haunted house ride when they run into the Merryville Brothers, the animatronic singing carnival brothers. As usual, the couple get stuck and are tormented by the brothers.
Did it work? The brothers are better than ever this week with the addition of Tom Hanks, who tries repeatedly to grope Bayer's breast. They also get more active with a bunch of weapons, wisely minimizing Hader's part -- he's the creepiest one -- by having him only pop up twice, briefly. You really don't want overkill with something that intense, especially when you hand Hader a chainsaw. Mars is really fantastic at the robotic movement thing, but Hanks steals the show.
Brad Pitt for Chanel, Part 3
What is Brad Pitt selling us this time?
Did it work? He talks about a yearning for love and passion forever -- for Franklin's dog condoms. "Let your dog keep his balls," he whispers seductively. These faux commercials are surprisingly not getting old at all.
Mars is a hippie kind of dude with an eyepatch working the desk at a wilderness lodge, welcoming the Johnsons (Sudeikis and Bayer) and warning them against hiking up to "Yeti Point."
Did it work? It's called Yeti Point because there are Yetis up there and they point at you before they kill you! Mars isn't great in this sketch, but it never looks like he's obviously reading the prompter, either, which is impressive. I'm really not digging the intense close-ups and weird faces every time they say "yeti," which just feels dated, given then internet's proclivity for a certain suspenseful squirrel. Hader shows up with Doc Brown hair to talk about how he was molested by a yeti, and this wouldn't be as funny without his bizarre characterization.
The entire sketch builds to Hader falling in love with a yeti post-molestation in the background while the couple gabs about Yelp reviews. The pacing was just a little too slow to make this sketch work as a whole, though.
Brad Pitt for Chanel, Part 4
One more time!
Did it work? It's Killam listing off different symbols -- the Chinese symbol for water, an anchor that says slut -- leading up to the punchline of Dr. Zizmor, the New York subway doctor! Slow clap, 'SNL.' You win.
Donkey Punch the Ballot
The ICP spoof sketch is back -- and hey, there's Nasim Pedrad for the first and only time this week. This time, the ghetto fans are promoting an underground political festival, featuring such acts as George W.'s Bush and Todd Akin and the Legitimate Rapes.
Did it work? These always work on me, personally, because I love how trashy Juggalo culture is, and these sketches always nail the spirit of really white midwestern people embracing this crusty trailer park rap music. See if you can pick Jon Hunstman out of a line-up of Sears catalog models! And watch as Ass Dan is reunited with his twin brother Butt Dave and they both die. Kate McKinnon does Ruth Bader Ginsburg doing a Borat impression, and there are binders full of women that are really dudes. These sketches are almost like the embodiment of a Stefon monologue -- they have everything. And that's not a complaint. The more and the more absurd, the better.