After last week's pretty dismal episode, "Saturday Night Live" fans had cause to worry about what a Martin Short episode might bring. While he's a talented comedian and memorable player from "SNL" seasons of yore, his offbeat characters often meet with polar opposite reactions. Tonight turned out be a success for the show, however, as the host frolicked through amusing sketches with endless holiday cheer and plenty of surprise guest stars.
Best of the Night
"Saturday Night Live" did a respectful tribute to the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School at the start of the show, having the New York Children's Chorus sweetly and beautifully sing "Silent Night." After a slight pause, the children smiling happily as they announced "Live from New York, it's Saturday night!" provided a nice segue into the rest of the holiday episode.
The monologue began with Paul Shaffer tickling the ivories and Short singing about how amorous everyone gets at the holidays, all the while trying to find a way to comfortably cross his legs. "How does a man sit on a piano? Clearly I don't know," he quipped, before jumping down and dancing his way backstage. There he met, and joyfully kissed, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Fallon, Kristen Wiig, and Lorne Michaels--who was standing next to Tina Fey, by the way. Kissing Samuel L. Jackson? Not gonna happen.
Supposedly Kenan Thompson had retired "What's Up With That?" from "Saturday Night Live," but possibly due to Jason Sudeikis' imminent departure from the show, the sketch was revived. The repetition of all the crazy elements of this "talk" show is what makes it funnier for longtime viewers than someone new to the bit, but everyone can appreciate Sudeikis' track-suited dancer doing the most enthusiastic Running Man ever. Kenan also managed to hold it together with a smiling admonition to swearing guest Jackson: "That's costing us money."
Short had deliriously good fun acting as a royal liaison instructing Bill Hader's doctor on how to address Princess Kate's, well...Chelsea Handler would call it her "kaslopis." As usual, the "SNL" regular had trouble keeping a serious expression as the host went through all the hilarious protocols, including acceptable alternate names like "The King Maker" or "Her Downton Abbey." Don't even get him started on when there's a tiny hat involved.
The beauty of the show this week was that the amusing sketches far outweighed the duds. Extra credit goes to Vanessa Bayer for her young Jacob impression, who was on hand to read his Bar Mitzvah speech and explain the meaning of Hanukkah to Seth Meyers. Watch it and all the best "Saturday Night Live" sketches, including some Alec Baldwin as Tony Bennett, on their video page.
Worst of the Night
This "Saturday Night Live" really only had one bad sketch, and that had the host and Fred Armisen as old friends who meet in a Restoration Hardware. They then say all kinds of weird, random things to each other that illustrate what losers they are and how little they actually know about each other. Possibly funny in theory but not at all in practice.
I have to say again that I'm also done with the Armisen-as-woman gag. With so many female players on the show now, it's a waste to have them sitting on the sidelines while a guy gets one of the few women characters. I'm just going to keep repeating this complaint until something changes or Armisen leaves the show. I'm guessing the latter will happen first.
As is often the case on "SNL," the host was underused, and he didn't really get to revel in nostalgia the way Dana Carvey did when he had the spotlight. Still, "Saturday Night Live" was leaps and bounds better than last week, and Short was so exuberantly invested in every sketch that his enthusiasm carried us through any weaker moments.
Paul McCartney also got in on the fun, playing a sad sack triangle-player who has to put up with his ranting and egotistical singing partner, played by the host. The iconic musician nailed the comedy aspect, and then transitioned right into "Wonderful Christmas Time" with the band and the children's chorus to close out the show.
Sir Paul does struggle a bit in the upper registers these days, but otherwise he sounded much the same as ever on "My Valentine," with a grooving Joe Walsh on guitar. I'm not a huge fan of that whole grinding, head-banging Dave Grohl vibe, but it was cool to see the former Beatle rocking it out on stage with the remaining members of Nirvana for "Cut Me Some Slack."
What did you think, "Saturday Night Live" fans? Was this one of the better episodes, or were you disappointed we didn't get more Ed Grimley?
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