Taylor Swift returned to SNL this past weekend, this time as both host and musical guest, after appearing as just the latter on a Neil Patrick Harris hosted episode this past January (in which she also played Annie in the funny and topical Save Broadway sketch). And, if you can possibly believe it, they only made one reference to the Kanye West incident, just a brief “Kanye West is not here,” at the end of Swift’s monologue (while we’re on the subject of Kanyegate, please, please, take this opportunity to view Justin Bieber’s defense of Swift on the VMAs. If you’ve watched it before watch it again, and if you haven’t then you have my permission to watch it now and return here after). To be honest, I was a little disappointed they didn’t mine the controversy. Sure it would have been obvious, but that’s to be expected. No Kanye cameo? No Kanye impression (by Fred Armisen?)? Not even Bobby Moynihan storming the stage to let Taylor Swift know that her monologue is good but Megan Fox’s was the best of all time (followed by Moynihan dropping the mic, of course)? At the very least I expected an appearance from Mike Myers, himself the victim of a famed Kanyebomb. Perhaps they could have all met backstage.Vodpod videos no longer available.
But no, there were none of these things. What we were given instead was a fairly decent episode with an average but enthusiastic host.
A lot has already been written about this episode (and for better commentary check out Ken Tucker’s blog and EW‘s PopWatch), but we’ll indulge ourselves here with a few thoughts. First, Taylor Swift: some viewers seemed to be thrilled with her performance. Others found her wooden and awkward. What I found surprising was that she seemed most ill at ease when singing, which, last time I checked, is her day job. I’ve only heard her sing one song, and it was live inside a NYC subway car, but it sounded pleasant enough. However, she seemed apprehensive singing during her monologue (“La La La“), like an actor stepping out of his comfort zone to deliver a song, not vice versa. Ditto for her impression of Shakira in the night’s last sketch, the ensemble friendly and musically heavy “Bunny Business.” Once again, Swift appeared nervous, afraid to really belt out the notes, perhaps preoccupied with the lyrics and the intricate dance moves. Indeed, vocal amateurs Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig seemed significantly more comfortable than Swift in their respective Adam Duritz and Natalie Merchant impressions (and for my money I would have been satisfied if all the songs from the Bunny Business soundtrack were performed by Fred Armisen’s Randy Newman). However, to her credit, Swift certainly was eager and capable, and at just 19 years old we will grade her on a curve. Plus, in donning dental headgear for once sketch and a goatee for another she proved willing to dispense with her vanity in a way others, maybe Megan Fox, would not.
It was the third installment of the “Scared Straight” sketches in which Swift put on said goatee, as well as cornrows and prison suit to play a convict alongside Kenan Thompson’s Lorenzo McIntosh. This recurring sketch provided our favorite moment of the season thus far, the first moment we had to rewind and watch again. And it was not Swift or Thompson who delivered it, but rather Jason Sudeikis as Officer Sikorsky (another example Sudeikis taking something simple and turning it into something hilarious). The sketch itself is worth watching in its entirety, but Sudeikis’ moment comes at 5:50 (and his earlier reaction shots are nearly as priceless):Vodpod videos no longer available.
The other standout was the digital short, a superbly produced Twilight parody substituting Frankensteins for vampires. It was a nice straight-ahead, old school movie take-off, instead of the usual digital short absurdity.Vodpod videos no longer available.
The rest of the show was pretty standard, the aforementioned headgear’d Swift, along with Sudeikis and Wiig in a PSA warning of the dangers of parenting while driving, Swift and Nasim Petrad as roommates with a rather uncomfortably close relationship, and a surprise “Really?! With Seth and Amy” (side note: I love Amy Poehler, but how many times is she going to come back to the Update desk? We keep saying goodbye only to say hello again. Quit playing games with my heart, Amy). The show also featured, unfortunately but inevitably, the sixth appearance of the grating, borderline psychotic, uber-competitor Penelope. My vitriol for the character is tempered only by the fact that the show managed to go 5 episodes into the season before trotting her out. Still, like with Wiig’s other painfully unfunny recurring character Gilly, I’ll be happy when I’ve seen the last of Penelope.
And finally, while I will rail against Penelope and Gilly for blog posts to come, both because they’re frustratingly bad characters and because SNL will continue to bring them back as long as Wiig is in the cast (as I do hope she is for a while yet) I am a hypocrite and will never tire of Fred Armisen as political comedian Nicholas Fehn. Lucky for me, Fehn visited the Update desk once again this past week.Vodpod videos no longer available.
If I’m ever bedridden, please just bring me a compilation of Nicholas Fehn sketches on a loop.
Up this weekend: January Jones. Bring on another Mad Men parody!