Scarlett Johansson Leaves for the Prom, Ends Up at ‘SNL’

Two weeks back we talked in-depth about Jon Hamm’s third hosting appearance on Saturday Night Live and how in the third go-round we often see a distinct sense of adventure, how the host is now comfortable with the cast, the cast is at ease with the host, they’re all on the same page and are willing to try something that might be hit or miss, but is often still entertaining in the attempt.  We also mentioned that this past weekend would be Scarlett Johansson’s third hosting turn, so it’d be interesting to see if she took the same kind of leap as Hamm, or if she settled into a more predictable role, functional, competent but not exceptionally ambitious or outrageous, more along the lines of Drew Barrymore’s SNL resume.  Well, it certainly  wasn’t the former, but not so much the latter either.  We’re kind of confused actually.  Cause, really, more than anything, it seemed like a showcase for Johansson’s hair, her sense of style, her brassy broad persona and her variations on NY-NJ accents.

Judging by her hair it seemed as if Johansson was heading out to the Junior Prom, but the limo somehow got rerouted and she ended up at 30 Rock.  We’re pretty sure our sister received the same cut for her JP in ’95.  Or maybe ScarJo came straight from Yearbook photo day.






OR maybe she came straight from Saturday detention.  Those are the worst!  But then sometimes you wind up having a life-changing experience with a group of people whom you’d never fraternize with normally, and even though on Monday if you see them in the hallway you’ll only deign to offer them a slight nod or, if you’re feeling particularly bold, maybe a subtle wave, you know that you formed a lifelong bond with these people that transcends cliques, that goes beyond high school. Because what you experienced on that Saturday was profound and significant and something you’ll never forget it. Not even 25 years later.  You know, those kinds of days.  Maybe THAT’S where Johansson came from.

OR maybe she was just preparing to be Kristen Wiig’s understudy in a “Surprise” sketch that was cut after dress.

That must have been it.

So anyway, ScarJo came out with her new haircut and launched right into her monologue:

Actually, for some reason, the monologue isn’t available on Hulu.  Maybe because Molly Ringwald claimed copyright infringement (anyone know the precedent for hairstyle plagiarism?)?  But take the Boolser set, throw in some Katharine Hepburn and a jazzy tune and you’ll get the idea.

Once the monologue wrapped up, we launched into what would be a night for Johansson to showcase her wide range of accents, from New Jersey to Manhattan to Long Island.  First, she played Short Hills, NJ native Patti Stanger in a Millionaire Matchmaker parody:

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She followed this up as a more JAP-y Chrysler Building-obsessed New Yorker in this (well-done) Unstoppable trailer:

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(In regards to this sketch, Videogum tweetedSaturday Night Live has wildly over-estimated the American public’s hunger for Denzel Washington impersonations this season,” which basically perfectly encapsulates our feelings, and says it much better than we could, in less than 140 characters to boot.  We admit that Jay Pharoah’s Denzel impression is nothing short of uncanny.  But that doesn’t mean we’re chomping at the bit to see it.  If our desire for impressions was so great then Frank Caliendo would be still be on TV).

Shockingly, it seemed like we were going to be given two well-worn tri-state area accents from ScarJo and neither would be from Lexi, the vacant salesgirl daughter with the thick Long Island accent that originated in the “Mike’s Marbleopolis” sketch, and most recently recurred in last season’s Ryan Reynold’s show.  However, just as we had forgotten about this sketch, it popped up right before 1am, this time hawking ceramic busts at “Mikes Busteria.”  We assumed that this sketch was a foregone conclusion to reappear, as it is Johansson’s most successful (and only?) recurring SNL character, but when it hadn’t turned up by “Weekend Update,” it no longer seemed in play.  So to see it at very end, in the slot usually reserved for the bizarre and avant-garde, was truly weird.  If they planned to revisit the sketch then it was a perfect candidate to appear early in the show, as SNL is never shy about front-loading the telecast with returning “favorites.”  But putting it up last is tantamount to batting your clean-up hitter ninth.  But, then again, something seemed especially off this time around.  It felt particularly joyless, as if it was rushed onto the schedule at the last-minute to fill time and/or that Johansson and Fred Armisen were returning to their roles against their will.  Even more, the audience seemed surprisingly non-receptive.  But perhaps many left early, throwing in the towel and conceding defeat.

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In non-NY/NJ accent work, Johansson also tried out a vapid teen accent in a Super Sweet Sixteen spoof, and a Latin inflection in another entirely unnecessary “Manuel Ortiz Show” (likewise, we think Saturday Night Live has wildly over-estimated the American public’s hunger for Manuel Ortiz Shows ever).

It wasn’t that any of this was particularly bad, but wasn’t it particularly good either.  More than anything, it was kind of perplexing, and on the whole we found Johansson distracting.  Even when she was just playing herself, like in this new “Hollywood Dish”:

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Our show MVP goes to Vanessa Bayer, who demonstrated tremendous range all night, doing a nice job of disappearing into her characters.  She turned in a solid performance as the four-eyed frizzy-haired lovelorn bookworm who seeks Patti Stanger’s help in the Millionaire Matchmaker sketch, and acquitted herself well in her first visit to “Weekend Update,” appearing with Fred Armisen as passengers from the recent Carnival cruise ship that lost power for three days.  For some reason the crowd seemed totally out of this one, or maybe they were just waiting for Armisen’s eventual line (which did kill), but despite that we admired Bayer’s grit and moxie as she soldiered on with confidence, managing to fight the dead air.

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(sidebar: It’s really odd that they named these characters Frank and Gladys Madden when they’re clearly intended to be Jewish.  In fact, Gladys mockingly refers to Frank character as the “Jewish James Bond.”  So if they’re going to  explicitly identify the characters as Jewish than why choose incongruous names like Frank and Madden (we’re not sure we know any Jews named Frank.  Well, except, of course, for Anne.  And Barney).  It’s so easy and obvious that the decision (or lack thereof) must have either been the result of laziness or plain wanton disregard).

Then Bayer went on to out-act Johansson (both as a comedic actress and as the young theater performer within the sketch), in “Stars of Tomorrow,” a rather odd sketch towards the end of the night, which may, looking back, have been our favorite of the night:

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So that was that.  Anne Hathaway’s up this weekend, and, honestly, we’re not sure what to expect.  We’d speculate that Jake Gyllenhaal will pop up to help promote their new movie, but after Ryan Reynolds didn’t show up this past weekend, much to our dismay, we just don’t know anymore.

Oh, and it was super nice for Diane Keaton to come by for the goodbyes.

Or the ghost of Katharine Hepburn.  Your call.

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Filed under Analysis, Makes You Think, Saturday Night Live, Yasmine Bleeth

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