Entertainment, Music, Saturday Night Live

SNL Season 40, Episode 8 Review

On the latest episode of SNL, master thespian James Franco returned to host, with pop star Nicki Minaj as musical guest. As with anything he does, you can never wrong watching Franco, the man has humor and charm for days, and the cast and writing really complimented his humor. James was all over the skits on the night, but Franco overload actually really worked for me in a way that seeing too much of some other hosts have not. Overall, it was another great episode.

The show started out with a cold open of Kenan Thompson portraying Al Sharpton. It was ok, but at the end of the day I really can’t into any of Kenan’s impressions, so skits with him tend not to do much for me. James Franco came out for his monologue later, and of course was joined by Seth Rogen as the two discussed how hackers leaked pictures of them. The two of them are such gold together, on film and on TV, as their chemistry and spontaneity just adds a little extra to the humor that could have been bland with any other actors together. The first skit of the night followed a quick commercial break, as SNL spoofed NBC’s live production of Peter Pan. It was fun to see an NBC show poking fun of another one, as a lot of people on social media were in agreement that the whole Peter Pan performance was a bit over the top. Cecily Strong did great with Allison Williams’ role as Peter, continuously making remarks about being a real boy and not a grown woman, Franco was great poking fun at Christopher Walkens’ take on Hook, and we even got a return appearance from Aidy Bryant’s Tonkerbell. The whole thing was brilliant and hilarious, and was a great skit for them to lead with.

The Star Wars parody trailer they aired created a decent buzz, as it poked fun of the age of the characters, but it didn’t really pique my interest to any real extent. Sure it was funny, but the whole Star Wars redux seems extremely corporatist to me, and as such a spoof of it just wasn’t doing anything for me in the same way them bringing back Stars Wars isn’t currently something I’m excited about. Luckily, the next live skit was more my pace, as we saw a performance of Hip Hop Nativity, as told on MTV’s Jingle Ballerz, hosted by a hilariously accurate MTV host impression from Pete Davidson. This was another great chance for some of the impressionists on the cast to come out and create some magic, especially Sasheer Zamata as Rihanna, Kate MacKinnon once again reprising her brillianr Justin Bieber impression, and Jay Pharoah playing Yeezus himself. After this sketch, we were treated to a short film by former castmate and current writer Mike O’Brien. It’s really unfortunate that he’s not still on the cast of the show, but I’m glad they’re still giving his ideas some air time because he’s a very fun, weird comedy writer. His short pre-taped sketches have been great over the last few years, and this Grow-a-Guy one was very much the same.

Weekend Update had some really stellar moments this week, as Che and Jost dug deep to bring some cynical comedy on the topic of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and the Eric Garner choking death in New York. Che in particular was strong, channeling the bitter sarcasm that he and other former Daily Show correspondents are well known for, and Jost played off Che’s sarcastic anger with his own sense of calm, vanilla sarcasm. This kind of interaction is what I’ve been clamoring for all season, since the couple times we’ve seen these two go back and forth on topics it’s been great comedy, and I hope they realize how great this kind of interaction is, and write it in weekly. Also, Leslie Jones came back to the Update desk as their Relationship Correspondent, one of my favorite new recurring Update bits. Jost and Jones really have great interviewer-interviewee chemistry, and I look forward to hearing what kind of new, awkward adoration she will throw at Jost. The two of them seem to be teetering on the edge of braking character together, and I always love when that happens for whatever reason. I would be amiss if I didn’t give some props to Nicki Minaj, who jumped into some of the comedy on the night, and held her own with some decent impressions. Her Kim Kardashian impression on Weekend Update was funny, and decently on point for someone who isn’t a comedian, and her earlier performance as Beyonce during the Jingle Ballerz skit was also admirable. I don’t really care much for Minaj’s music, and didn’t care much for her performances on the night, but I was glad to see her try her hand at some acting.

The skits toward the end of the show did fall off a bit, but one of the best skits of the night was the Jeremy’s Brain sketch after Update. I absolutely loved the concept of this one, as James Franco played the role of brain coordinator for Pete Davidson’s character as he needed to remove all the useless information in his head to make room for a new password. What followed was a hilarious parade of pop culture randomness, as many of the thoughts leaving his mind included the words to Savage Garden’s “I Want You,” the judge from the O.J. Simpson trial, the “Bye Bye Bye” Dance, and Ashley Parker Angel. In its randomness, the skit ended up being one of the most genuinely funny bits of the whole night. The show eventually ended with another installment of the Ex-Porn Stars skit, but at this point, it’s just sort of become too much retread for me to enjoy it overly much. It’s still funny, but it’s lost its luster, and isn’t quite the show closer that it once was.

Overall, this was another really solid episode of SNL and James Franco was outstanding as host. There were a lot of really funny and clever ideas realized tonight in the skits, and both Franco and musical guest Nicki Minaj played some great characters. I think James Franco is one of the funniest actors out there, and it’s great to see him on SNL really killing it all night in everything he’s in. This coming Saturday will be another interesting episode, with Martin Freeman hosting, and up and coming pop singer Charli XCX performing. Neither of them have the star power of tonight’s guests, but both are terrific at what they do, and I have high hopes for the episode. SNL is on a roll at this point, I’m sure they’ll keep on rolling.

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