January 18, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Review: “Saturday Night Live” with Kevin Hart


Kevin Hart has been tirelessly promoting his The Wedding Ringer–even if we know from the Sony hacks that he charges extra for some of his marketing duties–and tonight, nearing the end of his campaign (which has had only medium results at the box office), he still had a super-charged burst of energy reserved for his hosting duties on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, which helped keep a typically uneven show on its feet.

Hart came to the rescue after yet another weak cold open, this one themed to the Martin Luther King, Jr holiday, with Kenan Thompson as King’s ghost come to visit teen Pete Davidson and learn about the changes that have taken place over the past decades.  Apart from a topical joke about Selma‘s lack of Oscar nominations, the theme of King’s work being subsumed into pop culture was handled much more wittily by last week’s Black-ish.

Hart’s monologue wiped away the taste of that.  He ignored the conventions of SNL monologues–the songs, the faux audience Q&As–and just did part of his stand-up routine, about being terrified by a raccoon lurking outside his new house and sending his 7-year old son out with the garbage so he could avoid the beast. It all killed, and it was a reminder of how much better his own comedy is than the movies he does, even the hits.

The host and Vanessa Bayer did yeoman service in the thin Why’d You Post That? sketch when the monitor went dead, preventing the Instagram photos that were at the center of the piece from being seen.  Hart and Bayer covered well, but the sketch itself was just Hart railing against the dumbness of each guest’s photo before sending the sofa where they were sitting backwards into his hidden dungeon.  A James Brown, 1971 bit felt random (and would have been better timed for the opening of Get On Up last year), not to mention that any SNL star doing James Brown is challenging the ghost of Eddie Murphy in his genius days, but Hart was so stoked that he pulled off the character, and there were nice moments for most of the 9 cast members playing his band and back-up singers, especially Cecily Strong as a singer whose marriage had unaccountably led her to change her first name and who had a fondness for chicken parmigiana with mustard.  (The night remained technically uneven when one of the studio cameras occupied the center of an extended shot.)

On the other hand, even Hart as the show sound engineer who claimed not to understand English couldn’t save a talk-show sketch where the only joke was that in the reunion of a soap opera’s stars, all the rest of the cast got lovely theme music to play them on, but Vanessa Bayer’s was accompanied by a fart song, which no one but she acknowledged.  Weirdly, it took until the last half-hour of the show to pair Leslie Jones with Hart in a sketch, and that was a parody operetta (or parody Galavant episode, which is already a parody) that had medieval royalty refusing to run from a dragon until they finished singing, despite Hart’s best attempts as their squire to hurry them along.  Jones didn’t arrive until near the end of the sketch as Hart’s wife, but they were still tremendous together.  They had more to do in another piece where she was Hart’s ex-girlfriend whose son (Jay Pharoah, doing his Hart imitation) was his previously unknown child.  The night’s final sketch wasn’t well-written enough for its promising premise:  Hart as a rap star whose new song revealed all his entourage’s darkest secrets (although the fact that two of them had murdered a third and were carrying him around a la Weekend At Bernie‘s was a nice touch).  Again, Hart delivered the song with unquenchable energy that helped sell the bit.

Colin Jost should never, ever attempt a New Jersey accent again, but tonight’s Weekend Update was one of the tightest and sharpest since Jost and Michael Che became a team, with good gags about Mitt Romney, the Pope and Charlie Hebdo, the NFL, the Oscars and a Chinese woman who cut off her husband’s penis twice.  The only desk piece came from Kate McKinnon as an apartment house resident who complained about her neighbors by leaving courteously insulting notes for them.  It was funny, but seemed to lack a punchline, since the set-up established that she was supposed to live in the same building as Jost, but then that didn’t figure into the bit.

McKinnon also got to reprise her spectacular Justin Bieber in not one but two pre-taped Calvin Klein parody ads.  They were simplicity itself, just McKinnon being Bieber and Bayer as an unimpressed model, and that’s all they needed.  The other pre-tape of the evening was an oddly jarring piece that parodied the gentrification of Bushwick at great length before a punchline of Hart’s character shooting someone while walking his dogs.

Next week:  host and musical guest Blake Shelton, no doubt utterly coincidental to the return of NBC’s The Voice the following week.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."