Lady Gaga had been the musical guest on “SNL” twice before last night, the last being back in May of 2011. On that last appearance, she showed up in a couple of sketches during that Justin Timberlake-hosted show and really overdid her performance. As in “the more I overact and ham it up, the funnier I will be.” Thankfully, it appears that someone explained to her that wasn’t necessary, because she, comparatively, really dialed it back for last night's episode -- which resulted in the most consistent show of the season so far.
Sketch of the Night
“4th Grade Talent Show” (John Milhiser, Lady Gaga, Aidy Bryant) First, it’s nice to see John Milhiser break through, finally, and it’s great that it’s with something that isn’t a just a disposable cultural reference. Watching the parents at their daughter’s dance recital act out what the daughter was supposed to be doing onstage is such a great idea that I can’t believe this hasn’t already aired on “SNL.” It feels like something that Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri would do together and I mean that as the highest compliment.
”Weekend Update” (Seth Meyers, Cecily Strong, Kenan Thompson, Taran Killam) There has yet to be a dud of a “Weekend Update” so far this season. For as good as Seth Meyers has been over the years, nobody can be on every single night. I don’t know if Meyers just hasn’t had an off night so far this season (as he sometimes did flying solo, as anyone would) or if the presence of Cecily Strong prevents Meyers from having an off night. Regardless, “Weekend Update” has been top notch this season. Speaking of top notch: Last night we were introduced to the wonderful Jebidiah Atkinson –- the man who panned Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. I would watch a Jebidiah Atkinson movie.
I appreciate that Kenan Thompson attempted to do something different by going out on the street and getting “real people” reactions, but for whatever reason his segment didn’t have the “oomph” that I think he thought it would.
“Future” (Lady Gaga, Kenan Thompson) It’s a shame that this sketch isn’t online because it’s an interesting character study of Lady Gaga. She most certainly didn’t write the sketch, but the fact that she agreed to do it is fascinating, especially considering that I could see most people in her position right now not wanting to explore how fame is fleeting -- and that in her old age someday she might be living a lonely life on Manhattan’s Upper West Side telling anyone who will listen about her number one songs from the early 2000s. And not only that, she plays the part relatively straightforward and plays it well.
”Cold Open: Rob Ford” (Bobby Moynihan, Taran Killam, Jay Pharoah, Kate McKinnon) Well, we knew this was happening. Bobby Moynihan should send Rob Ford a fruit basket or a drug basket or whatever it is that Rob Ford likes for bestowing this wonderful gift. And if I’m Moynihan, I pitch a new Rob Ford sketch every single week. Heck, pitch two or three sketches. Maybe Rob Ford appears in every sketch next week? Why not?
“Anti-Depressant” (Jay Pharoah, Taran Killam) What’s remarkable here is that “SNL” aired a critical sketch of Obama, which rarely happens. Though, instead of taking anti-depressants, Obama could probably also just think to himself at any point, “At least I’m not Rob Ford.”
”Lady Gaga Monologue” (Lady Gaga, Aidy Bryant, Kenan Thompson, Bobby Moynihan) This is when I started to worry, because Lady Gaga was obviously nervous at the beginning of this monologue and her delivery was way too fast. Perhaps the purposely cheap applause actually did settle her down because she did recover and this turned out to be nice … and an actual production instead of the more recent “let’s just get this over with as quickly as possible,” monologues.
(This clip is not online due to song rights issues.)
“Blockbuster” (Beck Bennett, Bobby Moynihan, Mike O’Brien, Taran Killam, Noel Wells, Lady Gaga, Aidy Bryant) It’s weird, I have a feeling that by the end of the season this might be one of my favorite sketches, but I need to watch it a dozen more times over the period of a few weeks before I’m ready to make that decision. In other words: I have a feeling this one will grow on me the more I watch it. Though, if nothing else, it’s nice to see the Matthew Perry vehicle “Fools Rush In” get attention.
“SpotLightz Acting Camp” (Vanessa Bayer, Lady Gaga, Taran Killam, Kyle Mooney, Noel Wells) Vanessa Bayer single-handedly saved this sketch because the only person who can properly do “a child who is not a good actor” is Vanessa Bayer.
“Waking up with Kimye” (Jay Pharoah, Nasim Pedrad, Lady Gaga, Ensemble) Good grief Pharoah does a great Kanye West. On the other hand, I’m not saying Nasim Pedrad’s Kim Kardashian is bad -- it’s just that this impression has never been something I’d deem “enjoyable” to watch, which has everything to do with the subject of the impression, not the person doing the impression. Also, Lady Gaga’s self-referential comment about wardrobe came off way too hammy -- with the camera lingering on her face after that joke for what seemed like an hour -- to the point that it came off as almost vaudevillian. Miley Cyrus did this same thing the week she hosted and it’s a trend that I wish would stop.
“Cover Song Collection” (Taran Killam, Noel Wells, Kenan Thompson, Cecily Strong, Bobby Moynihan, Aidy Bryant, Lady Gaga, Jay Pharoah, Kate McKinnon) Ah, yes, it was time for the “let’s all take whatever person we can parody and throw them into one sketch,” which I feel “SNL” has been leaning a bit too hard on this season. It’s starting to feel ham-fisted. (Though, Aidy Bryant’s Adele covering the theme to “L.A. Law” was pretty fantastic, though not enough to save the sketch.”)
(Nope, this one isn’t online either because of song rights issues.)
“Red Zone” (Cecily Strong, Vanessa Bayer, Aidy Bryant) A NFL RedZone channel for reality television. I mean, sure. This feels like a sketch that should have aired in 2005. (I realize that the NFL RedZone channel did not exist in 2005, but, whatever.) My best guess is that this is one of those “we will play it if we have extra time”-type sketches and apparently there was extra time.
“Co-Op Board” (Cecily Strong, Beck Bennett, Vanessa Bayer, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, Nasim Pedrad, Lady Gaga, Kate McKinnon, Kenan Thompson) I like to be supportive of these type of sketches because I think “SNL” is drifting further and further away from sketches that aren’t pegged to some sort of cultural event. But, this one feels like it was still a couple of rewrites away from being ready to air. There seems to be a funny premise here that just isn’t fully realized for whatever reason.
Average Score for this Show: 6.06
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter. Click below for this week's "SNL," Not Ready For Primetime Podcast featuring Mike Ryan and Hitfix's Ryan McGee.
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