April 4, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Review: “Saturday Night Live” with Michael Keaton


It wasn’t until the last few minutes of tonight’s SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE that the show seemed to figure out what to do with this week’s host–which was weird, because Michael Keaton, making his return to SNL after decades, much as he returned to public consciousness with last year’s Birdman, has a wide range that runs from dark drama to slapstick comedy.  For whatever reason, it wasn’t until 12:55AM that the show finally clicked, giving Keaton an Easter version of the Halloween sketch that Edward Norton had done in 2013.  The set-up is simple–a dad sits in an easy chair and delivers one-liners based on holiday objects before him–but the gags were sharp and funny (Keaton’s message to his Jewish friends:  matzoh, unlike Jesus, doesn’t rise, so Jesus 1, unleavened bread 0), and Keaton brought out every bizarre edge to them, with the help of Kate McKinnon as his strange daughter (“she has all the signs,” dad ruefully noted), and Bobby Moynihan as a nutty pal.

Before that, Keaton was only the focal point of two other sketches, and they weren’t the night’s best.  One was set at an ad agency, and had him as the firm’s CEO, who–perhaps (or perhaps not) because he was woozy from a botched navel-piercing–kept giving his team the worst ideas in the world.  It wasn’t a parody of Mad Men, it never reached any kind of point, so what was it?  A later piece wasn’t much better, featuring Keaton and Cecily Strong as a suburban couple happily telling neighbors about their plans for a “smart” toaster that would have human eyes, and a couch that would send a tube up its inhabitants’ rear ends so that it could recognize them.

Otherwise, Keaton was mostly in the background.  That even went for his monologue, which was built around Taran Killam and Moynihan singing their wish that Keaton would do Batman or Beetlejuice for them, building up to the last few seconds, where he finally delivered his taglines from both.  There was a CNN parody that felt like a discarded Daily Show piece, poking fun at the news network’s threadbare reenactments where it didn’t have relevant footage, with Keaton showing up toward the end as a member of a dance troupe doing a number that purported to show what would happen under the Indiana “religious freedom” law.  The best part of that one was its visual punchline, with a YouTube-type cat playing Hilary Clinton deleting her personal e-mails.

Keaton showed up late again in a sketch about making holiday calls to annoying grandparents, where Sasheer Zamata had the lead as the phone-sex line-like spokeswoman urging the family calls.

Neither of the night’s pre-tapes quite worked.  One was a very technically adept “Church of Neurotology” parody of the Scientology music video seen in HBO’s Going Clear documentary that aimed at extremely low-hanging comedy fruit.  (And even so, it stayed away from any Tom Cruise or John Travolta gags.)  Another was an odd update of the 1999 high school comedy She’s All That with Keaton as a spin on the Rachael Leigh Cook role, playing Mike O’Brien’s (in the Freddie Prinze, Jr part) nerdy teacher, but choosing to ignore the same-sex and age disparity aspects of the recasting.

The cold open was a Final Four piece that played on the silliness of pretending that college players are “scholar-athletes,” but that’s a subject that’s already been addressed just about everywhere (not just The Daily Show but Last Week Tonight, to name just two), and SNL had zero original spin to put on the issue.

Aside from that final sketch, the night’s highlight, surprisingly enough, was Weekend Update, where Colin Jost has really begun to pull his weight as co-host, and which featured two fairly strong desk pieces, one from Pete Davidson about how his generally stoned demeanor might get him killed by accident in case of a zombie uprising (the cameo from Norman Reedus was fan-fodder, but didn’t really add anything), and by Killam in his franchise role of poisonous critic Jebediah Atkinson, this time attacking TV, including Mad Men, Game of Thrones and SNL itself.

If SNL can’t figure out how to make use of next week’s host, Empire goddess Taraji P. Henson (musical guests are Mumford & Sons), perhaps it’ll be the cue for an early vacation.

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."