‘SNL’ Scorecard: Chris Rock’s Show Was, Well, At Least Prince Was Good
Chris Rock’s hosted ‘SNL’ was, well, a bit of a mess. Which all seemed even more surprising after the obviously fired up Rock’s monologue – there just seemed to be so much energy! And then there wasn’t. ‘SNL’ has been really great so far this season, so of course after the first what can be called a misfire of the season, there were all the naysayers on Twitter, lamenting how ‘SNL’ isn’t funny anymore. Oh, puh-leeze. The reason ‘SNL’ is like nothing else is that it can go wrong; it’s what makes the show interesting.
Having said that, oof, no, this was not a particularly good show. And I’m STILL trying to figure out what that Uber sketch was all about. (I do wonder if they were thrown off by not having two musical segments, though, it’s not like that hasn’t happened before.) Here’s your not very happy ‘SNL’ scorecard…
Sketch of the Night
‘Swiftamine’ (Rock, Strong, Killam, Bennett, Thompson, Bayer, Jones, Bryant) It’s funny because it’s true. Swift’s new album is unbelievable catchy! (Though, I openly admit there are pre-‘1989’ Taylor Swift songs that I like.) And it introduced us to one of the best ‘SNL’ names in some time, Dr. David Doctor.
‘Robbers’ (Mooney, Bennett, Moynihan, Thompson, Zamata, McKinnon, Killam, Bryant) This aired right after the disastrous ‘The Couple’ sketch, and I do wonder if that was always the plan. This had aired at dress rehearsal at least once before last night, maybe even twice. Anyway, this was pretty good! The “intense” score is perfect. Some of the figures of speech that became literal were a bit of a stretch, but, still, it’s a pretty solid concept and everyone does a good job selling the whole thing.
‘How's He Doing with Chris Rock’ (Rock, Thompson, Jones, Zamata, Pharoah) This wasn’t quite as good as the first time this sketch aired, which probably had more to do with Obama not currently being up for reelection, as opposed to the first time. Still, it’s remarkable that this sketch can even air on ‘SNL,’ with five African Americans all on stage at once. This is a far cry from where we were even a year ago.
‘Women in the Workplace’ (Strong, McKinnon, Rock, Bayer, Bryant, Killam, Pharoah, Bennett) This was really weird! Thank goodness this was weird. After a, let’s face it, bizarre show, I was in the mood for something weird. And funny, it helped that this was funny, too. After watching this sketch, I’m now convinced the entire show could have used more Vanessa Bayer.
‘Chris Rock Monologue’ (Rock) Well, no one ever accused Rock of picking easy subjects to joke about – and here his topics were the Boston Marathon bombing, the new World Trade Center, and Christmas. It was a mostly solid set, although I’m not sure the studio audience knew how to react. It is weird hearing the Boston Marathon bombing mentioned in a comedy set – so that was new – but it was mixed in with some duds, like the concept of a 9/11 sale, which is not an original or new joke. Regardless, Rock seemed so excited.
‘Cold Open: Christie' (Strong, Moynihan, McKinnon) It’s too bad we don’t see more of Bobby Moynihan’s delightful Chris Christie. I suspect we will as we head into presidential primary season. Anyway, this was a more focused way to address the Ebola scare than the all over the place cold open that aired last week.
‘Weekend Update’ (Jost, Che, Davidson, Pharoah, Thompson) For whatever reason, this seemed rushed and a bit abbreviated. The highlight was Jay Pharoah and Kenan Thompson as Katt Williams and Suge Knight. I’ve enjoyed Pete Davidson as the “Resident Young Person," but this was the weakest of his three efforts. And maybe the fact that we’ve seen Davidson do this bit three times in five shows is spreading him a little too thin. Jost was fine, and I do believe he’s actively working on his delivery. Plus, he’s not smirking as much. I appreciated Che’s, “Prince, ladies and gentleman,” ad-lib after flubbing a line. I wish there was a little more of that kind of thing, actually.
‘GoProbe’ (Killam, Bennett, Mooney, Moynihan, Thompson) There’s just something a little too obvious about a GoPro used for colonoscopies. (Though, Taran Killam’s “adventure guy” was great.)
‘Vlog' (Zamata, Mooney, Rock, Pharoah) First, it was great to see Zamata get her own sketch, but also one that aired in such a prime location. It really is one of the first sketches in which Zamata’s personality has come out. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough to this -- Janelle wants to dance on the Internet and her dad doesn’t want her to dance on the Internet. Seems fair.
'Shark Tank': (Rock, Bennett, Thompson, Mooney, Killam, Davidson, McKinnon) Well … I guess we knew this sketch was in trouble when we heard an audible groan from the studio audience once ISIS was mentioned. First, I get ‘SNL’ is in a weird spot with ISIS because it’s one of the first international villains that is difficult to mock. ‘SNL’ has successfully mocked Bin Laden, Sadam Hussein, Kim Jong-un – but this seems different. And I get that they want to do it – it’s part of the show’s DNA – but as we saw last night, they really haven’t cracked this one yet. Boy, this seemed to last forever. And then the weird ending when federal agents storm the set, it’s almost as if that was tacked on just to prove that nobody on the show was pro-ISIS in a “Hey, we don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea here,” kind of way.
‘The Couple’ (Rock, Moynihan, Jones, Zamata) It’s always a guessing game what the actual title of any ‘SNL’ sketch is until they pop up online the morning after a show. Usually I can do a pretty good job of guessing. Since starting ‘SNL’ Scorecard in 2010, this was the first time I ever labeled a sketch as “???” – I honestly still have no idea what this sketch is about. Part of me wants to honor it for being so different. Was this a drama? It felt like a drama! Littered with missed cues and awkward pauses, this was at the same time hard to watch and yet fascinating.
Average Score for this Show: 5.38
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ. He is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.