Aziz Ansari and Big Sean pull Saturday Night Live from the brink

NBC

Vladamir Putin Cold Open

So the first Saturday Night Live after Trump’s inauguration chose not to start the Cold Open with Trump? Curious choice but hey, we all need a break right? Instead starting with a statement from Putin and a testimonial from a Russian citizen on how great living in Russia is, Kate McKinnon wore a pink hat in solidarity with the Women’s March towards the end, a nice little gesture. Some cute lines here but overall kind of a bore.

NBC

Aziz Ansari Stand-up Monologue

Aziz Ansari unsurprisingly took a stand-up approach to his monologue to pretty good results. I can’t say it was the funniest, or even one of the best by a stand-up comic in recent memory. His jokes were amusing but nowhere near the level of Chappelle or Louis C.K.’s. What Aziz did do well was amuse while delivering a message. He made several points that while not everyone might agree with the content they can’t deny he spoke with conviction and passion about what he believes. It was a quality monologue from the young comedian.

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Beat the Bookworm

“Beat the Bookworm” was the first sketch of the evening and I literally called out the “twist” eight seconds in. That being the genius who competes with a contestant is completely pop culture illiterate. From the uninspired and predictable premise to Aziz’s incredibly annoying voice and cliché take on a smart person this was a miss. Also what’s with SNL’s recent obsession with Game Show Network parodies? Is that channel just running in the background 24/7 at 30 Rock nowadays? If so, can’t we get better satire than this?

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La La Land Interrogation

Slightly better was a police interrogation confronting a man’s middling review of La La Land. As Ansari’s character criticizes the film for dragging and even putting him to sleep, the cops’ reactions are very much what we’ve all gone through with our friends when we don’t agree on a show or movie. Frankly I’m surprised this angle hasn’t been mined more by the writers on SNL but they did a decent job here. They could have gone further with the race stuff, touching on how the white cops speak well of Moonlight without even seeing it. Then having Kenan brought in for not liking Westworld was a cute button. Amusing but could have been so much more.

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Kellyanne Conway

Now this next one really appealed to me, and full disclosure, I’m a sucker for musicals. But the Conway/Roxy parody was such a pitch perfect take on Chicago’s big number, I don’t know how they pulled this off unless they’ve been working on it for weeks. The song, the dancers, the giant neon sign … just fantastic. Even slipping in some real facts about Conway’s former support for Ted Cruz and disdain for Trump, wow. One of the best produced pieces of the season by far. Managing to be a parody, political satire, and educational while making us tap our toes is a true feat.

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Attorney Ad

“Broderick and Ganz” was a very silly one-note lawyer commercial. One is great and gets her clients huge settlements, the other a simpleton who is terrible at his job, yuck yuck. Aziz was fine but added almost nothing while Bobby Moynihan’s Ganz was the only thing making me laugh here.

NBC

NBC

Weekend Update

“Weekend Update” returned to form this week, no giant segments of suck like we’ve had in the past couple of weeks. For the most part Jost and Che were in fighting form though a couple jokes fell flat on the live audience. I did however think it was in bad taste showing the video of a conservative pundit getting punched in the face. It just doesn’t help anyone’s cause. Leslie Jones rant on Hidden Figures was great and weird and random. Her line about ”Space is where Predator comes from” had me rolling. The only thing I laughed harder at was Che’s reaction to her rant: “That was about Hidden Figures, right?”. Even the Friend Zone piece at the end, while it started so-so, I eventually came around and enjoyed it. Not their best but very solid.

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Bedroom

Melissa Villaseñor has up until now not made much of an impression on me, that is until this week’s sketch about a couple’s Sunday night sex routine. The awkward and weirdness of her dirty talk was absolutely hysterical, and the whole sketch would live or die on how good she was. Man this lady is real good at being a total weirdo, and I mean that as a positive. From pretending to have a learning disability to being in sixth grade, they hit every creep factor for dirty talk. Even her Owen Wilson and Wanda Sykes impressions had great timing and just the right amount of “what the?”. A bizarre and entertaining bit that gives me new hopes for her.

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Five Stars

An Uber reviews short was, like the interrogation sketch, actual timely and contemporary commentary on where our society is heading. Funny that the driver and passenger so obsessed with ratings bring up Black Mirror as the sketch very much mirrors one of its episodes. It never got more than a smirk and a chuckle but I still liked it quite a bit for letting itself just be amusing and not going for the big laugh until the driver hits him at the end which, by the way, I found to be the weakest part.

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Pizza Town

“Pizza Town” suffered from some bad cutting but otherwise this was a simple one note sketch that managed to be one of the evening’s funniest, featuring a Chuck E Cheese type animatronic band in the background while police try to catch a criminal. Weird songs, pre-recorded dialog intercut with obvious name drop ins, the bad puns, oh it was glorious! The level of cheese was completely appropriate. This one reveled in its sauciness and you’d have to be pretty crusty not to enjoy.

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To Sir With Love

Cecily Strong and Sasheer Zamata sang “To Sir With Love” as a goodbye to Obama, and while the intent was appreciated, I’m sorry to say it did little for me. Cecily was terribly off key through most of the song and trying to harmonize with Sasheer did not make it less noticeable. Plus Kate McKinnon’s rendition of “Hallelujah” after the election was such a stronger performance, both technically and emotionally, that this just seemed like a copycat effort.

NBC

NBC

Big Sean

Musical guest Big Sean performed “Bounce Back” and “Sunday Morning Jetpack”. I have never listened to Big Sean before but is he normally on Ambien? These were two of the most drowsy, boring performances I have ever seen. A smoke machine, some lights and rectangles adorned the stage as he sleepily drifted through two of the most boring SNL musical numbers ever.

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While a huge step over last week’s abysmal outing, this week was still far below the fall’s stellar shows. Aziz Ansari was barely a presence and the biggest laughs belonged to the cast. While entertaining overall, I would definitely rate this as average at best.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Tell us in the comments below!

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