Tough times for New York. Well, sort of.
After the departure of Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, and Fred Armisen this past season – and the still-fairly-recent departures of crowd favorites Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg – there’s a gap left in the Saturday Night Live line up as big as the gap in next year’s Yankees line up. Our new featured players and the returning newcomers (sophomores?) like Kate MacKinnon have big shoes to fill, and the season premiere made it no secret. The upside, however, was that the sketches dealing with our newest cast members were among the strongest of the night.
Without further ado, the five best sketches of the season 39 premiere:
1. Classic Cinema and Taxidermy
Only barely skidding in to number five, it made me laugh more than the ‘Cars for Sale’ sketch that followed shortly after. This sketch had a really funny idea that just wasn’t executed as well as it could have been, relying too heavily on the comedy inherent to taxidermy as a practice (I mean, there is something naturally comical about a stuffed dead squirrel holding a basketball) and on the narration. I would have said too much exposition but Keenan’s monologues contained the most laugh-out-loud moments in the sketch.
As ever, this episode started strong and petered out as its viewers decided to go to bed.
This sketch both perplexed and excited me in its recall to the classic (I mean, first seasons classic) SNL voice and structure. To me, while not the funniest sketch of the night, this sketch showed off the writing team’s prowess in acknowledging a voice and structure that is endemic to SNL and adapting it to fit a modern concept.
A special mention I’d like to add at 3.5, less a sketch but I’m counting it because it encompassed the hardest any of my friends laughed for the evening, was Bobby Moynihan’s Drunk Uncle on Weekend Update.
Overall, I’m glad to have Cecily on Weekend Update (which has been my favorite segment throughout the years) but I was disappointed that the content she was handed seemed to focus on fluff pieces and sex jokes. It felt a little like Veronica Corningstone before she complained. But I guess that’s just how the cookie crumbled.
3. New cast member or Arcade Fire?
OK, full disclosure – I’m friends with one of the new Featured Players on Facebook and am therefore not completely unbiased. Alright, you’re right, I’m totally biased; every time the new people were on screen I made unearthly gurgling noises of joy. Plus, as a Canadian-born, plaid-sporting lady, I’m more familiar with (read: obsessed with) Arcade Fire than most. And as a comedian with and a lady, I love Tina Fey in a way that borders on illegal.
That said, I thought this sketch was empirically funny, if a little under-justified. It leaned meta and made fun of pretty much everyone in it, but never really answered why Tina Fey had to determine which was which – The Arcade Fire and the fresh blood. What was she on this game show for? Does she win something concrete, or just her way out of Featured Player-Canadian Indie Band purgatory? Seeing Lorne Michaels’ flawless face always make me gleeful, however, so overall it’s a win.
4. The Worst People Board First
This was probably the funniest, most traditionally written sketch of the evening. A simple game, played out well, with Bobby Moynihan’s face doing things and relatable funny details about airplane passengers and crew.
I lost it when they talked about laptop guys needing to make graphs. Because seriously, what are those guys doing? And did anyone else ever worry that their attempts to use the internet, successful or not, were going to crash the plane? That’s a longstanding fear I have. That, and fan death. Just kidding, tape worms.
The first sketch of the night and the real winner was a parody ad for HBO’s Girls. In all honesty, I briefly thought it was just a real ad and that the series had gone in a weird direction with it. Even after Tina Fey arrived as a poor Albanian I thought, “Woah, this next season is going to be way kookier than the last ones! I can’t wait to watch it.”
I’m dumb sometimes and I’d had a couple glasses of wine, but I would also say that the way the blended the ethos and aesthetic of the show with the jokes was seamless. It hit all the criticisms of Girls at once without diminishing the successes of the show. Plus, Tina Fey’s dating advice, “You will never find a man better than him. He is strong like ox and you are weak and soft and dressed like a baby,” may haunt me the rest of my life.