November 23, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Review: “Saturday Night Live” With Cameron Diaz


Cameron Diaz has had an extremely busy year, already starring in the hit The Other Woman and the flop Sex Tape, and with a featured role in the rebooted Annie (as Miss Hannigan) still to come.  Her promotional duties on the latter brought her to SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE tonight, where like most hosts she was greeted with uneven material to play, with surprisingly little use made of the goofy comedy that’s part of her big-screen stock in trade.

The cold open and monologue have become the weakest parts of SNL, and that was true tonight as well.  The open at least had a more clever concept than most:  updating the Schoolhouse Rock “How A Bill Becomes A Law” cartoon to accommodate President Obama’s executive order on immigration.  Apart from Kenan Thompson repeatedly voicing the defunct bill as Obama kicked it down the Capitol steps, though, there wasn’t much going on here.  For a brief moment, it looked as though Bobby Moynihan’s executive order might actually dare to poke fun at the content of the order itself, but… nah.  That led into a particularly witless “audience questions” monologue, with bits like “Is Shrek grumpy in real life?” passing for jokes.

The first live post-monologue sketch wasn’t much better, the inevitable Annie piece (although somewhat surprisingly with no cameos from the real movie’s co-stars).  The idea of Leslie Jones as a loud-mouthed, middle-aged black Annie sounded a lot funnier than the execution of the sketch actually made it, and rather puzzlingly, the writers gave Diaz little to do, even though the whole reason for the sketch was her presence in the movie.

Not for the first time, this section of the show was bailed out by the pre-taped segments.  First came a bright Back Home Baller hip-hop number which combined all the women in the cast as college students home for the holidays who take over their respective houses while they’re in town.  After the Annie sketch, a bizarre but engaging parody of Nespresso presented the Nest-spresso, which somehow hatches birds instantaneously, a process that even chirpy owner Vanessa Bayer found impossible to explain.

That pre-tape, however, was followed by a fairly painful sketch about a middle school production with pretensions to being radical political art.  Drawing actual comedy out of bad comedy is always tricky, and this sketch didn’t pull it off.  It didn’t help that the rhythm of the piece was constantly disrupted by cutting to parents Kenan Thompson and Bayer as parents in the audience, telling us that their kids’ show was terrible as though this might have somehow been unclear.

Can Kate McKinnon appear as Angela Merkel in every Colin Jost-hosted episode of Weekend Update?  McKinnon’s Merkel is an inspired creation to begin with, a wholehearted Teutonic mix of cluelessness and bawdiness, but she also managed to make Jost seem genuinely engaged for one of the rare times in his Update era.  A desk piece about Charles Manson (Taran Killam) and his 26-year old fiancee  (Cecily Strong) was mostly a miss, never capitalizing on its one funny bit:  that the groupie/girlfriend thought Manson was in jail for income tax evasion.  Michael Che, for his part, effectively gave a more personal touch to the night’s Bill Cosby gags than the Update format usually allows.

Post-Update, we got the return of Baby Boss, in which Beck Bennett did pretty much the same shtick that he’s done in every other iteration of this franchise, the only innovation being that this one was set in the boss’s home instead of at the office.  (Diaz, underused again, was Bennett’s wife.)  What seemed wildly ingenious the first time Bennett did the sketch is now completely familiar.   Dr. Dave & Buggles’ Animal Hour really only had one joke, host Kenan Thompson’s fury about the fact that the show’s monkey had torn off his penis and testicles in the previous week’s show, but Thompson’s disbelief and bitterness toward his monkey co-host got remarkable mileage out of the bit.

You’re either a fan of the Kyle Mooney low-tech pre-tapes or you’re not, and I’m on the “not” side.  This one had him as a high-schooler sort of fighting fellow student Bennett, with lots of tape library inserts of car crashes edited in, and it might have hit the mark of “mildly amusing.”

A late sketch set in a poetry class took a long, long time to get started, but finally gave Diaz probably the most that she had to do all night, as the class’s guest poetess, whose composition was one innuendo after another about her UPS delivery man.  The 12:55PM sketch was a less funny variation on the ex-pornstar commercials franchise, this time with Diaz, Strong, Bayer and McKinnon as sex phone workers who all wanted their callers to do them favors.  Best was Strong, who was hoping for help in scaring her grandmother to death (she offered a clown mask as a prop, “even though she’s the one who’s really a clown”) so she could have the old lady’s chair lift.

SNL is taking Thanksgiving weekend off, before returning with 3 shows in a row before the holidays, starting with host James Franco and musical guest Nicki Minaj.


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."