‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: Lena Dunham
Tonight's new episode of 'SNL' offers 'Girls' star Lena Dunham as its host, which should be interesting. Though Dunham is an award winning actress, writer, producer and director, she's not known for her work on stage, and -- as this is a live show -- her appearance could lead to some awkward moments. Read on for our review of tonight's episode!
Presidential Address Cold Open
Jay Pharoah is here to talk about the trouble in Ukraine and Russia, and notes that Putin mocks the POTUS for the Iraq war. It turns out that Obama's big weapon is Liam Neeson (playing himself), who makes fun of his role as the lead in 'Taken.' And that means that, yes, he mentions that he has a particular set of skills. Neeson(s) then presents a video to show Putin that America means business ,and it has Pharaoh's Obama riding a horse shirtless, doing karate, breaking rocks, fighting bears and arm wrestling. Though this open isn't all that funny, it's the perfect time for a somewhat amusing cameo, and this sort of silliness is probably the best way to wring jokes out of the situation. Also, it feels sort of MacGruber-y, which I like.
Lena Dunham seemingly has little experience with live theater or television, but as past guests have shown, reading isn't all that hard, nor is setting up the tee for the comedians around you. Dunham jokes about the sex scenes and being naked on 'Girls,' which leads to Vanessa Bayer coming on stage to talk about her sex life -- in which she uses a car metaphor to talk about her boyfriend's junk -- and then Aidy Bryant comes on stage to talk about losing her virginity, which leads to Bobby Moynihan coming on stage to get medical advice from Lena. The punchline is that Dunham says her grandmother (played by Kate McKinnon) is in the audience, and her nana also wants to talk about sex. All things considered, this was solid.
GPS and iPods Don't Mix
Cecily Strong, Taran Killam, Dunham and Kenan Thompson are carpooling when Strong puts "Ooh Child (Things are Gonna Get Easier)" on the iPod. Everyone starts singing along but GPS keeps interrupting, specifically when Dunham sings. The punchline? Their destination is where they plan to bury Brooks Whelan, 'Prisoners'-style. Though the payoff isn't all that great, as someone who's been listening to things while also following directions, this gets a nod smile.
Sasheer Zamata, Beck Bennett, Pharoah, McKinnon, Strong, Dunham, and Killam parody the popular show. Dunham plays Kelsey, the new girl in the office, and someone who's totally in over their head, while everyone else plays series regulars. The sketch focuses on the preposterous nature of the show, which has problems that would normally take twenty four hours are solved in a minute. For people who don't know the show, it's not all that funny, though the tropes of 'Scandal' are familiar enough that even the uninitiated might chuckle. But it's not a particularly strong sketch to lead with.
Pharoah's Lil' Taint Anthony and Thompson's LeGod Williams host a show about modern hip-hop and their first guests are rising rap stars Mike O'Brien, Strong, Dunham and Bryant as the band "That's a Rap." It turns out they're new age-y, and pretty terrible. The joke here is self evident, the group does bad sing-songy white rapping, while the real hip hip fans get more and more annoyed. This looks like another off episode with a host who's only as good as the material. In situations like this you hold out hope for a good last sketch or two.
Adam and Eve Trailer
This fake trailer has Dunham as Eve, who spends all her time naked, Killam as Adam Driver playing Adam, and Bayer as the snake (as Zosia Mamet) and it's the show's big 'Girls' parody, which is short and sweet (though it does cover some of the same ground as the monologue). As Dunham is keenly aware of her persona as Hannah, it's a sharp mocking.
What Are You Even Doing? You're Being Crazy
Nasim Pedrad, Moynihan and Dunham host a live-stream about tween girls who just found out about sex. They get Kyle Mooney as tween football player to show up as their guest. The girls act awkward and Pedrad holds hands with him until it gets too weird. Then Jon Hamm shows up as himself. He has no idea why he's there, and feels uncomfortable. The episode wraps with everyone flirting to the camera, which pays off well.
Colin Jost, take two! Though Jost hasn't established himself as a personality-- which he may never do -- he had three of the best jokes on this week's Update, which helps. The first guest is Killam as Matthew McConaughey, and his impression is spot on. Killam plays him as a nutter, which... fair. It may be the only joke, but it works. The second guests are Bayer and Fred Armisen as Vladimir Putin's best friends from childhood. 'SNL' loves re-runs, and this covers familiar terrain, even if it's good to see Armisen back (though, considering he works nearby, it's not like a real "get").
Men's Rights Activist
Dunham, Bryant, Strong, Bayer, O'Brien and Pedrad are having a jewelry party where Strong is from Venezuela (and plays the accent), and tells everyone else about how O'Brien brought her to the states. He's a men's rights activist, which leads to Dunham (and everyone else) questioning him until his relationship falls apart. As twitter suggests that O'Brien and Strong are very close, this comes across as partly an in-joke as it's a good subject for mockery but it never gets beyond the concept.
Pimpin' Pimpin' Pimpin' with Katt Williams
Pharoah whips out his Williams again (he's great at it) to talk about the Oscars. He brings in Wheelan as Jared Leto -- which lasts for a couple of seconds but is excellent -- and then Dunham as Liza Minnelli, Dunham's first impression of the night! She's okay, though she's playing a much younger Liza. Killam comes in as Harrison Ford, who he plays as very high. The sketch ends with Noel Wells doing her Dunham impression, which.. eh.
Will Smith Concert
Bennett, Mooney, and Wheelan find out about a Will Smith show that Wheelan doesn't care about, and as the days go by Wheelan shows how much he doesn't care about it, while Mooney and Bennett love to email about this. The sketch is clever-ish without being funny.
Like last week, there are some good ideas here and there, but the new cast hasn't congealed, and it shows. Dunham does a good job with the material, and comes across well, but this doesn't feel all that memorable, with the biggest problem being that 'SNL' seems happy to be a personality-free sketch show, as half of the cast feel like they haven't established themselves. Though this is a B- show overall, it feels like buying the generic brand 'Saturday Night Live.'