Chris Rock and Prince took the Saturday Night Live stage this week, and both lived up to their larger-than-life personalities with their performances. While Prince shined in a very impressive musical performance, Chris Rock floundered a bit in his hosting role, mostly due to his attempts to be focus on the controversial. While Rock has always been the type of comedian to push the boundary (so much so that he got fired from SNL in the 90’s), his jokes were a bit too dark for my taste, and the overall tone of the show was heavy, leaving me unsatisfied with the episode overall.
The show started out with another less-than-stellar political opening. Sure, Bobby Moynihan played a good Chris Christie, but the writing was just not all that great. Maybe the political scene today is not giving them enough fodder, I’d give them that if it wasn’t for the fact that John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver are all knocking political satire out of the park these days with their respective shows. Maybe Michael Che, who was a correspondent on “The Daily Show with John Stewart”, needs to be involved more in the political writing process and skits. Overall, I actually think Michael Che would be much better suited as a featured player than on the Update Desk, as he would bring a certain savvy to sketches that I think is missing right now, but that’s a thing for the producers to work out as the season goes. Chris Rock came out for his monologue and wasted no time being brash. His topic segued from the Boston Marathon bombings to 9-11 to commercialization, and while it was a smart and clever monologue, it wasn’t really funny. SNL is a comedy show, and while I’m generally ok with dark comedy, it seemed like Rock’s jokes and topics were more about being brash than actually being entertaining. It was an uncomfortable monologue to watch, as the jokes just weren’t funny or entertaining to me. They were all about Chris Rock being Chris Rock, which, I’m sorry to say, does nothing for me.
The first skit of the night was fairly entertaining as Sasheer Zamata and Kyle Mooney starred as teenagers making dance tutorials on YouTube, as Chris Rock played an overbearing father outraged about his daughter dancing for strangers online. While it was topical, modern, and entertaining, I couldn’t help but find it odd that the show would lead with a sketch starring featured players. Everyone on this cast is pretty good, but is there no hierarchy to this show? It almost seems as if SNL is devoid of star players, and seeing second year cast members leading off the show is a sign of the lack of star power. If SNL wants to stay relevant, they’re going to have to find a way to develop their talent into pop culture icons, or bring in new talent with star power. All that aside, the show moved on with a rehash of the “How’s He Doing” skit, first featured last year when Kerry Washington hosted. It was literally a carbon copy of the skit from last year, with the exception of having a few new cast members and a different host. It’s really annoying to see this show resort to copying old ideas almost verbatim when they have so many talented people who certainly have fresh and clever ideas.
To no one’s surprise though, Prince came out to steal the show as he went on to perform one long jam session with 3rdEyeGirl. The show was rumored to be one long session, unlike most hosts who perform two songs, one before Weekend Update and one towards the end of the 90 minute show, and Prince delivered a pretty epic performance. Prince has always had a flair for the dramatic, and this performance was no different as it featured an elaborate accompanying visual show, interesting changes of pace and style, and an amazing performance from his backing band. After the beginning of the show featured a lot of questionable and flat comedy, it was great to have an entertaining musical performance, and Prince delivered a classic.
Weekend Update was pretty good this week, with a noticeable uptick in clever news stories. Even though Michael Che continued to flop with reading his lines, the writing and delivery from the two was pretty good this week and segments from the always great resident young person Pete Davidson and Jay Pharoah with his hilariously accurate Katt Wlliams impression made the Update segment an overall win. Again, I’m starting to think while Che is good on the desk, it’s clearly not where he’s best suited, as his flubbed lines show a lack of comfort. I would suggest the producers of the show bring in someone else to pair with Jost and try Che in skits instead, I think it might be the best use of him on the show going forward.
The show ended solidly, but did so on a rather dark note, similarly to how it started. The Isis Shark Tank skit was hilarious, with Kyle Mooney once again coming through as a terrorist, alongside Chris Rock, looking for an investment from the shark Tank panel. The skit was outlandish and a little morbid, but the cast knocked it out of the park, offering some of the best laughs of the night. Later on there was a pre-taped skit, starring Mooney, Beck Bennett, and Bobby Moynihan as hostage-takers with a good heart. It was an all-right sketch, but the dark theme of the night was becoming over-bearing at this point. SNL is an entertainment show, and all of the dark, violent themes of the night kind of rained on the parade just a bit, even though some of them were executed well. I wish SNL would keep the jokes mostly light-hearted, obviously some dark humor can be great, but when half the show is dark and morbid it starts to lose its luster a bit, and tonight’s show over all was a downer.
In summary, Prince rocked the house on SNL and Chris Rock did his best to make things awkward. It wasn’t the worst episode I’ve ever seen, but compared to the laugh-fest that Jim Carrey’s episode was, this episode was a bit of a letdown. It will be onward and upward for SNL though, as the show’s announced the next two pairings; Woody Harrelson and Kendrick Lamar for the 15th, and Cameron Diaz and Mark Ronson w/ Bruno Mars for the 22nd. Both pairings seem interesting, so I’m looking forward to better shows to come for SNL as its fortieth season continues on.