Fans hoping that Saturday Night Live might close out its lackluster 38th season on a strong note probably abandoned that sense of optimism after the evening’s first three sketches (not counting the opening monologue or that amusing, pre-taped Xanax: Gay Summer Weddings ad parody) proved about as funny as running your winning Powerball ticket through the washing machine.
Yet while Ben Affleck‘s introduction into the “Five-Timers Club” certainly won’t go down as a particularly good episode, there were some rewards in store for those who didn’t shut off their TV sets and call it an early night. (Be honest: Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong’s brain-damaged former porn stars are always worth the price of staying up late: “One time I got banged through a glass ceiling. I changed everything for women. Turns out I’m a feminist!”)
The installment also served as a farewell to Bill Hader (who earlier this week announced his intent to exit SNL) and (presumably) to Fred Armisen, who bade a sentimental (if not in any way funny) adieu in a musical number featuring Carrie Brownstein, Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, Kim Gordon, Steve Jones, and J Mascis. (Call me grouchy, but I say if you’re going out, go out with a laugh, dammit!)
Oh, and a random thought: Am I the only one wondering about Tim Robinson and Jay Pharoah’s SNL fates, too? The former made almost no impression in his debut season, while the latter has appeared so infrequently in recent weeks I wonder if he’s picked up some lucrative side gig that’s pulled him away from Studio 8H. Only time will tell, I suppose…
Anyhow, below are my picks for the week’s best and worst sketches:
BEST: New Beginnings Camp
Affleck played an “ex-gay” camp counselor fruitlessly attempting to inflict “reparative therapy” onto a group of LGBT teenagers. I loved the total lack of expression on Bayer’s face after awkwardly kissing her hubby, but Taran Killam stole the show as Affleck’s former “roommate” and fellow camp employee whose rendition of “I Love the Straight Life” proved too fabulous not to reinvigorate the dormant romance. (Video embed sadly not available.)
BEST: Stefon’s Wedding
Oh how I’m gonna miss Stefon — especially since his final Weekend Update report gave us the rundown on just one “New York’s hottest club.” (My fave part? Stefon’s aside about making the “dean’s list” at “UTI”: “Dean Cain’s list of homeboys not to mess with!”) After Seth Meyers’ admonishment, though, Stefon stormed off in a huff, declaring he’d met someone else — and was headed off to get married. Cue romcom “chasing your man to the altar” montage, but when Seth got to the church, it was filled with the freaky-deaky clubbers Stefon’s been chatting about for years — along with groom Anderson Cooper! True love always wins in these scenarios, though, and after Cooper got his clock cleaned, Seth and Stefon (with the help of DJ Baby Bok Choy and a fluffy Gremlin) raced back to the Weekend Update set to be showered with rice and announced as “Seth and Stefon Meyers.” Mazel tov!
WORST: Al Sharpton Cold Open
Here’s hoping the Season 38 finale also means a goodbye to Kenan Thompson’s aggressively unfunny Sharpton impersonation. Actually, is “impersonation” too strong a word for donning a wig and acting smugly satisfied by your own tired zingers?
WORST: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Bengo F*&% Yourself
On paper, this could’ve been funny: The Iranian president directs and stars in a film about the making of Affleck’s Oscar-winning Argo, simply to expose it as so many lies. But really, when the best punch line is a tired diss on the lameness of Gigli, then you know the writers already had their brains on their summer vacations. (And no, I didn’t laugh once at Armisen’s Ahmadinejad muttering “pahk the cah in Hahvahd yahd” before every line he delivered as Affleck.)
WORST: 1930s Grifters
Hader as a layabout conman, a totally underutilized Kate McKinnon as a baby-faced prostitute and Ben Affleck as a businessman who becomes their potential mark. Did somebody lose the cue cards before the trio took the stage? I’ve got no other explanation for how or why this went down. Excruciating!
What did you think of Affleck’s hosting gig? What were your picks for best and worst moments? Will you miss Hader and/or Armisen? Would you miss Robinson or Pharoah if they left, too? Happy to see Stefon finally get his man? And what would you do to make Season 39 better? Sound off in the comments!