'Saturday Night Live' recap: Kevin Hart joins 'Walking Dead,' dresses up as Pope Quvenzhane Wallis

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Ben Affleck hosts the twenty-first episode of "Saturday Night Live" Season 38.

"Saturday Night Live" - Episode 21 Ben Affleck /Kanye West

You'd think a stand-up comedian would bring the funny to "Saturday Night Live."


In fact, though he's a veteran stage performer, Kevin Hart seemed quite jittery hosting the show, messing up lines and fumbling his timing throughout the night. The writing didn't help him either; after seeing they could raise the wit a few notches with Christoph Waltz, it's disappointing to see the writers return to such bland jokes.

Hart's evening didn't start out on the best note with his monologue, which was energetic but oddly delivered. He told a story about auditioning for "SNL" (his three impressions at the time were Avery Johnson, Robert De Niro, and Denzel Washington). But the host seemed to rush through his lines, taking very little time to let jokes breathe or even allow the audience to laugh.

(Warning: The following clip contains adult language.)

The rest of the night didn't get much better.

BEST: "The Walking Dead"

Is he a zombie or just the victim of racism? Hart plays a guy who's turning, but pins his group's horrified reaction on racism. While not as on-point as the "Homeland" sketch a couple months ago, the sketch nailed the emotional disturbance of young Carl. And what can't the "Thriller" dance make better?

RUNNER-UP: "The Z Shirt" Parts I and II

Wow, have we ever seen a sketch have a sequel later in the show? There was just one joke, really "Is it a [insert letter] shirt?!", but Hart's manic energy really sold it. The fact that he didn't have to read cue cards for the pretaped first part probably helped. What the sketch really proves is that they can do one-joke bits well.

WORST: "360 News"

Ugh, we don't expect much from the last sketch of the night, but this one was even clunkier than usual. Hart is a news anchor whose broadcast usually has eight cameras, but he's in too much neck pain to swivel to each one. You could almost hear this sketch land with a loud "thud."

(Warning: The following clip contains adult language.)

DECENT: "New Pope"

This was a good outing for "The Situation" room sketch, with Hart playing the newly elected pope -- Quvenzhane Wallis, the 9-year-old Oscar nominee. Armed with her puppy purse, the new pope did her signature muscle man pose and rode a cardinal "like horsey." That led to the evening's most biting line, "Horsey rides in the Vatican: That's gotta be a first, but probably isn't."

READY FOR RETIREMENT: "Barnes and Noble Firing"

Bobby Moynihan and Cecily Strong reprised two characters we could really do without -- the obnoxious, profane employees who yell at everyone else in their workplace. This sketch has pretty much never been funny, so why do they keep bringing it back?

WELCOME RETURN: "Weekend Update: Really?! With Seth Meyers"

Oh man, we love when Seth trots out this segment. It's so rare, but almost always funny. His back-and-forth with Hart about the Voting Rights Act is sharp and brisk. Hart's best line of the night: "Look, the Constitution used to say I'm three-fifths of a person. Don't get me wrong ... I'm short, but I'm not that short."

HOST'S BEST SKETCH: "Dove Chocolate Commercial"

Hart really shone here, as a voice-over actor auditioning for a Dove chocolate commercial against Vanessa Bayer. He's confused about why he's even up for the gig because the script is clearly meant for a white woman, so his tone becomes more and more ridiculously mismatched to the words.

What did you think of Hart's hosting effort? What were your favorite (and least favorite) sketches?

"Saturday Night Live" is new next week with host and musical guest Justin Timberlake. It will mark his fifth time hosting the show.