Everyone loves Jon Hamm, and why wouldn’t they? He’s attractive and charming and is on a hit television show. Moreover, he has a sense of humor and being able to turn that sense of humor on himself. It is just a very winning combination. But it’s actually kind of crazy that he has hosted Saturday Night Live three times in the past three years. That is so many times! Just add him to the cast if you love him so much. Actually, that’s really not that bad of an idea. It might be just the thing this show needs. For one thing, this show is a lot different, and arguably a lot better, when the host is willing to actually DO something. On this weekend’s episode, there were multiple sketches in which Jon Hamm played straight up characters, an almost unheard of demonstration of the skill that is ostensibly the reason so many hosts make it onto the stage in the first place. ACTING! Did you know that Jon Hamm does a pretty amazing Robin Williams circa 1984 impression? Now you know. There were plenty of misses mixed in with the hits, but at least the misses were trying. So, while it does seem like maybe Jon Hamm is gobbling up hosting time that could be going to someone who’s never hosted before (Danny McBride? Freida Pinto?), at least he’s making the most of it.
To give a sense of how this episode seemed to be working harder than the previous episodes of the season, there was the audition sketch right near the top of the show, which was weird and funny in the way that sketches usually are at the end of the show. Not the beginning! Haha. That’s all upside down!
This “go for it” attitude carried all the way through to the end of the episode when they finished up with this Darlique and Barney sketch, which is great, and which really features Jon Hamm going for it. Can you imagine? A Saturday Night Live host still going for it at one in the morning? “Sorry guys, I’d love to take this seriously and actually perform a character in a comedy sketch on your famous landmark show, but it’s past midnight, so I’ve got to be in my dressing room doing cocaine and screaming at my agent on the phone about the Taylor Swift parody song I TOLD you I didn’t want to sing. See you at the after party!” No. Not on Hamm’s watch. Keep going for it.
A highlight of the episode that is not available on-line was the Back to the Future audition tapes (UPDATE: now on-line) which featured lots of funny impersonations (and finally gave that new cast member a reason to bust out his random, always decontextualized impressions of popular black actors and comedians from the ’80s and ’90s) and was very much in the spirit of the Star Wars audition tapes that Saturday Night Live did a bunch of years ago and which were also great. Anyway, not on-line. If you want to see it, just use your imagination and now it is in your mind’s eye. Oh look, Vincent Price!
If this whole season has felt like its been treading water and trying to float on previous successes, this week’s episode was no different, except that at least this week it seemed to kind of work. Like, yeah, it’s definitely hanging on your own coattails to bring Shy Ronnie back, but also Shy Ronnie is great, so who cares? Hi, Shy Ronnie!
And Garth and Kat might have been the best thing of the whole episode. They should get their own movie. Night at the Roxbury 2: Garth and Kat at the Roxbury.
Even Rihanna’s performances were decent. (EVEN RIHANNA’S PERFORMANCES.) At the very least, I am a fan of the way this season, starting with Kanye (and kind of ending with Kanye, but anyway), has allowed the musical guests some visual freedom to make their performances look more interesting and less like they’re on the set of a Very Special Grand Central Station Episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Of course, Rihanna’s performances, like the Back to the Future auditions, is not on-line. Back to the wonderful world of Your Imagination!
And so: best episode of the season so far. Whether or not that is saying much, that does not make it any less true.