‘SNL’ Orbits Around a Red-Hot Bruno Mars
Elton, Mick, Taylor, and Justin, you've got company. Bruno Mars may be "Locked Out of Heaven," but he was instantly ushered into the very small pantheon of musicians who've successfully pulled off dual hosting/singing duties on Saturday Night Live.
Mars was shoehorned into nearly every sketch, a risky gambit that paid off painlessly. It's a wonder Lorne Michaels didn't take the Obama impression away from Jay Pharaoh so Mars could get a prominent spot in the opening debate sketch, too. But from that point on, in every bit but "Weekend Update" and the deliciously vicious Brad Pitt commercial spoofs, this season's fifth episode was intelligently designed to revolve around Mars. (And Jason Sudeikis, too, since SNL seems to want to squeeze the most possible out of him if this proves to be his final season... but even more so Mars.)
His standout sketch was a bit that imagined the Pandora web radio service being run by a team of engineers carefully monitoring each user-driven channel. When the system broke down and vocals began disappearing from different artists' channels, it was up to "Devin the Intern" to jump in and impersonate Steven Tyler, Justin Bieber, Louis Armstrong, and (at great, impressive length) Michael Jackson. The host did such a good job of faking Billie Joe Armstrong's fake British accent on "Basket Case," maybe Green Day could tour with Mars filling it while Armstrong completes rehab.
Aside from an expertly performed (if only mildly funny) musical monologue, the other sketches didn't require Mars to croon. But he gave good mugging, and occasionally more. Best of these non-musical moments was a short film, "Sad Mouse," that had a Mars stricken by grief donning a mouse costume and being driven to further melancholy by the failure of (presumably real) Times Square tourists to wave back at him. The skillful body language that we'd seen when Mars approximated Steven Tyler's leaning-to-the-left posture or Michael Jackson's shoulder-shaking worked even when he was just hunched over as a furry.
Even in the sketches that didn't work, he acquitted himself. For no good reason whatsoever, the incomprehensible "Haters" bit was the first post-monologue skit. Wait, what are we saying, "no good reason"? The producers always think that putting a host in drag is a draw, and they're probably right.