SNL Recap: “Edward Norton”

One of my favorite things to do on Sunday morning is read the multitude of Saturday Night Live reviews and recaps that pop up across the internet. Typically, I read 3-5 different recaps, and everyone is different. Very rarely will you find concensus amongst those reviews about how good the show/host/musical guest/cast was that evening. But that’s what I love about this show. Everyone has a different sense of humor, and it’s fun to see what appeals to different people. I’m throwing my hat into this crowded ring, bringing you my thoughts and opinions about the episode overall. I won’t touch on every sketch, there are plenty of other place on the internet for that, but rather, I’ll be looking at the episode from a broader perspective.

The Host:
Ed Norton did a fine job in his first stint as host. He pulled out some decent impressions in the opening monologue and really threw himself into every sketch. I would definitely be interested in seeing what he could do if he’s invited back when the cast is a little more established.

The Cold Open:
Think of the last memorable cold open the show did. I can’t think of anything after Will Ferrell’s Bush addresses. It has been a problem plaguing the show for far too long. I don’t know what the secret recipe is. Presidential impersonations seem to be a slam dunk, but as accurate as Pharoah’s impression is, it’s almost too good. He’s strictly impersonating Obama without adding any of his own flair. He isn’t embellishing any aspect of Obama to give his impression personality. Darrell Hammond could trump up the womanizing, laid back, cool guy aspects of Clinton and Ferrell could induldge the goofball side of Bush, but Pharoah is simply reading lines as Obama.

The point of that tangent is that it is very telling when they have Kate McKinnon come on to kick off the show to talk about the failings of the Obamacare websites, rather than Pharoah as the POTUS. And in all honesty it’s a good thing that’s the way it went down, because McKinnon has crazy amounts of energy. So even if a majority of the jokes were fair at best, she was able to bring everything up a notch to get the show started on the right foot.

Weekend Update:
Good thing about this week’s Weekend Update, only one guest. Compare this to the season opener which had three. I’ve never minded the guests, but I always thought the segment is stronger when it focuses on telling good topical jokes, rather than overusing a rotating cast of hit and miss characters. And as much as I’ve enjoyed seeing Bobby Moynihan come into his own as a player, the Anthony Crispino schtick is wearing thin.

Which brings me to my next point. Part of the reason characters became so prominent during Update is because Seth Meyers needed someone to bounce jokes off when he was on the desk solo. Now that he has Cecily Strong, the writers should be working on building a rapport between the two of them. The weirdest thing is that Meyers and Strong don’t even seem to acknowledge each other when they go through the sketch. The reason the Fallon/Fey, Fey/Poehler, Poehler/Meyers era was so good is because each pair knew how to play off of one another. I want to say the issue is that Strong and Meyers are settling in, but there doesn’t even seem to be any effort to work on it. Of course, another reason could be that Meyers is planning on leaving for Late Night and so it doesn’t make much sense to build that relationship. However, if that is case, then they need to do a better job building up Strong’s presence. Right now she is simply telling jokes written for Meyers and it’s not working very well. She needs to be able to find and develop her own voice at the desk, and she hasn’t gotten that opportunity yet.

The 10-1:
For those unfamiliar with the 10-1, it’s the final sketch of the night. The one that has the most likelihood of being cut, and the one that often tows the line between funny and weird more than any other sketch of the night. Here, Norton plays a man making jokes about the candy he is handing out for Halloween. It’s very dry humor mixed with some good word play and visual gags. Throw in Moynihan playing an awkward antsy kid, and you have a decent sketch to close out a decent night.

The Star:
Easily the Wes Anderson horror piece. Confession: My favorite actor in middle and high school was Owen Wilson, and while my man crush has faded a little, I love a good Wilson impression. After watching this it looks like Norton could give Tom Hiddleston a run for his money for best celebrity Owen Wilson impression.

Outside of that, the sketch hits all the right Wes Anderson beats and getting Alec Baldwin to come in and do the voice-over narration was simply the cherry on top.

The Stinker:
I can’t really pick out a single sketch that really turned me off this week. There were certainly ones that were funnier than others, but for the most part everything was at least mildly amusing.

The Music:
I had not heard of Janaelle Monae before she was announced as the musical guest. I did not take any time to look up and listen to any of her music before the episode aired. I wish I had been a little better prepared. Not being familiar with her work, or even her style of music, made it difficult to latch onto the energy she was pumping out on stage. She certainly brought a lot of flash to her performance, I’m just not sure how much substance there was underneath it.

Overall:
Perhaps the most even episode the series has put on in quite a while. Nothing too spectacular, but nothing that made me cringe sitting through it.

Impressed, Unimpressed or Satisfied? Satisfied.

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