Jon Hamm hosted one of the best episodes of the 34th season, so why wouldn't he host one of the best this season? Well, er, um, hmmm. As this week's episode of Saturday Night Live got underway, I found myself thinking we were living the exact opposite of the popular saying that it's not about the destination but about enjoying the journey. Wait. What? WTF? Who is reviewing this show anyhow? Some sort of dingleberry? What's a dingleberry? Let's try doing this like a normal person and not some comedy nerd. I'd try that this week, but this week's SNL offered comedy gold for comedy nerds, so maybe next time when Twittertard Ashton Kutcher hosts we can try reviewing this show for people who don't know what words mean. This week is for the rest of us.
The cold open. Oh, SNL. Why do you insist on writing political sketches that are so inside baseball that even baseball players cannot find the humor in it? There were funny things that everyone agreed happened this week, from Apple's overhyped iPad, to President Obama's showdown with Republican Congress members, but what we got was a version of the State of the Union address that took seven minutes before it got to a single joke. Seriously? Seriously. The vast majority of it was about what? As VP Joe Biden (Sudeikis) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Kristen Wiig) looked on and said nothing, Obama (Fred Armisen) ranted against Martha Coakley for losing the special U.S. Senate race to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts seat. Also, for some reason a look back at where he was a year ago, he talked about how the Bushes literally left the White House a mess, with dishes piled up and wrappers left on the ground, and an unpaid cable bill. When they cut to Supreme Court Justice Alito shaking his head, this time, I agreed with his decision. But when they’d lost me, Armisen got me interested minutes later by reading individual job listings. I liked this. Just wish it had gotten here quicker. And the random cut to Brendan Fraser’s Golden Globes yippee-yay clappity clap was a nice surprise. But still. Seven minutes for this? It would have been funny at two minutes. Ominous.
Jon Hamm was back for round two, after a spirited hosting effort last year. That was a dream come true, he said: “So honestly, this time it’s just for the paycheck.” He said people connect him so much with Don Draper, they do not realize he had acting roles for years before this. If they had pulled together real clips, this could have been really funny. Instead, they wrote some fake clips for him. Here’s “Late For Class,” a teen show with Andy Samberg, Abby Elliott, and Hamm as Bonzo, who is more like Don Draper. See where this is headed. Or when he did QVC, with Kristen Wiig selling turquoise, and Hamm as, well as a domestic abuser. “I actually had sex with that woman.” Or Def Comedy Jam, smoking a butt with a glass of scotch in his other hand, in which Hamm’s bit is eerily reminiscent of Martin Lawrence’s SNL monologue from 1994 that got him banned. It's one of SNL's 10 most outrageous moments. Again, I liked the ending, but not how they got there.
The second segment opened at an apartment party in NYC from 1928. Kristen Wiig hosts it as Lydia in a voice I feel I’ve heard before but cannot place. The guests include Elliott, Bill Hader, Will Forte, Fred Armisen and Hamm. There’s a piano. They all want Hamm to play a song. Lydia keeps begging no one in particular not to force her to sing. “You’re making me sing?” Except she really does not hit her cues after willing it to happen, and blaming it on Hamm. Is this an allegory for Jay Leno? I’m stretching. Or am I? Oh, don’t make her dance? If this isn’t an allegory for Leno, then it’s most certainly an allegory for every character Wiig plays on SNL. Tell me I'm wrong.
Now we have an SNL Digital Short – ooh! After seeing Landline TV try to take Samberg on this week, I wondered if SNL would respond, and if so, how. I don't know if you'd consider this a response, but they definitely didn't fall into one of the two major categories Landline had accused them of, and went for the weird. Samberg steps out of a limo in a suit and breaks a sacred talisman, and Armisen’s sidewalk squatter curses him. At a business meeting, Samberg is interrupted by a topless Hamm in a ponytail playing the sax. Sergio! I love it. Samberg on a date with Jenny Slate. Sergio! With his therapist, Jason Sudeikis. Sergio! Samberg tries to reverse the curse. And…well…Wiig and Hader are there, but. SERGIO! FTW. Even funnier was how quickly my friends found a pop culture inspiration for Sergio. From The Lost Boys, even.
In segment three, we opened on Sen. Harry Reid’s office, with Forte as Reid? Armisen (Barney Frank), Hader (Robert Byrd), Wiig again as Pelosi (no need for a wardrobe change!) and Nasim Pedrad (Barbara Boxer). So it's all Senators except for Frank, who is from the House. This seems awfully convenient, as they get interrupted by newbie Sen. Scott Brown (Hamm), who has Boxer distracted thinking about him in his boxers, so to speak. More shirtless Hamm, this time uttering seductive catchphrases, such as “I just found a lump in my underpants.” “You worried about a filibuster? Because I’m about ready to filibust out of these jeans!” Now you see why Frank was included in this skit. It's dumb, really, but what sells it is Hamm, not just his straight-faced winking, but really his dancing and crass innuendos in everyone else's imagination.
Michael Buble sings his first song. He is wearing a shirt. It looked like he was going to crack up laughing halfway through it. “Haven’t Met You Yet.” You can hear it now if you'd like. Look at him smiling so much!
We're back, and it's Weekend Update with Seth Meyers. iPad joke? Check! Apple released something new that does stuff its other products already do. His jokes about the GOP’s televised Q&A with Obama makes me think this would have made a better cold open than what they went with. Did Meyers want to save it for Update? I don't know.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (Pedrad) on her colleague Alito’s silently mouthing disapproval to Obama during his SOTU. “For a dork like Alito, that’s as 8 Mile as it gets.” She says what they do in the Bronx if they don’t like you. She also talks about the lack of diversity on the court. She's got a certain something that translates on camera.
Jersey Shore has a second season. They're getting paid for this? Nice joke by Meyers. As Snooki, Bobby Moynihan is back in an even deeper orange glow. S/he is so busy sometimes she sends a traffic cone to a public appearance in her place. Like the red plastic “S” cup. “We may be stupid, Seth, but we’re not friggin’ stupid!” They’re making the most of it, and so is Moynihan. He's great when you give him an over-the-top character to lampoon like this. Hader bounces into frame as “The Situation,” with an appearance by his mom (Jenny Slate) as “The Predicament.” Definitely fake abs. Where can I buy some of that?
We head into the final half-hour, aka weirdtime, but we start with a recurring character sketch in Game Time with Randy & Greg, where Randy is Kenan Thompson and Greg (Bill Hader) is not an alien. Hader is obvs an alien. We all know it. He is excited about the Super Bowl.A first-time caller asks if Greg is an alien, and wonders why don’t they give him eyebrows if they wanted to hide him. Greg interviews Colts QB Coach Frank Reich (Hamm) on the field, attacks him as the screen cuts out. When he appeared onstage, he looked and acted like Greg. And they both have tails. And then, like rabbits or a 1970s Breck shampoo commercial, they're telling their friends and multiplying.
When Hamm hosted the first time, they gave him an absurdly funny sketch in which he pitched his own line of toilet paper called Jon Hamm's John Ham. I thought they might try to go to this well again, but they did not take my suggestion of heightening the sketch as Jon Hamm's Ham John -- a porta-potty built entirely out of pork. Nope. Too cost-prohibitive, maybe? Not enough ham? Too much ham? Instead, they opened with musical guest Michael Buble singing in a restaurant, and it turns out Hamm was pitching a restaurant called “Hamm & Buble” in which all of the menu items combined fine pork and bubbly champagne. Meh. Did enjoy the fact that Hamm sold Buble out as the joint's nightly entertainment. Singer? No, try ventriloquist for the early show, one-man performance about William Faulkner for the 11 p.m. late show. Buble is a goofball normally, so why would anyone be surprised that SNL would rope him into a sketch? Roll it.
Fake ad! That's Jason Sudeikis providing the crazed voiceover for an infomercial about the "Closet Organizer," with Wiig as the person who cannot organize her closet, and Will Forte in blue tights as the organizer. How is catching random items thrown at him and tossing them about organizing? Why are you trying to figure this out? It's silly. Do you like silly? Might as well have Hamm sport a goatee as an unnamed testimonal-giver to talk about getting it on with a mustachioed-lady. Sure. Why not. Just give the Closet Organizer two meals a day and a bucket to do his business. What?!?
Next up, it's a courtroom murder trial, and Hamm as an attorney is getting some critical information from the witness (Wiig). But our focus is on the court report, Alynda Nade (Armisen). She uses a typewriter as she doesn't know how to use a stenography machine for shorthand. This is going to get awkward, eh? Slow your roll, SNL. Slow your roll. Just as you think it's too slow, Armisen digs through his purse and keeps muttering, "I can't find my crackers." More silly random weirdness. At this hour, it's a good thing. We'll take it.
Michael Buble's second song features Sharon Jones in a duet. Want to see and hear that? "Baby (You've Got What It Takes)"
If you're really a comedy nerd, you're about to nerd it to the umpteenth degree. Because this next sketch takes place in a bar where only characters with comedy names drink. Tarky Fensington? Resdin Boner? C'mon now. But seriously. Hamm's Boner thinks he recognizes Forte's Fensington, and asks if they went to high school together. Nope. Fensington is from Salt Lake City, and Hamm attended school in Jerusalem. Sure. Why not. Mormon, meet Jew! The real payoff is in the callback, something we rarely see in SNL which makes it so delightful here, as Hamm's Boner recognizes Forte's Fensington as the guy from the "Closet Organizer" ad! Roll this clip and watch it unfold, then find a permanent place for it in your brain.
Our last five minutes gives us a fake CNBC business profile into the beginnings of Barnes & Noble, and we're transported back to New York City, 1917, and a meeting between William Barnes (Hamm) and G. Clifford Noble (Hader). The joke is how they came up with their idea. Turns out they knew all along what this city and country really needed was a place for the homeless to get a free bathroom stop! Also, just for fun, I guess, they tell us that Wiig's voiceover narration was provided by Madonna. Um, OK. Not neccessary.
Goodnights! Hamm had fun. We had fun. Did you have fun? Do it again next week with Ashton Kutcher, Twitter Tweeter.