December 15, 2013

THE SKED Review: “Saturday Night Live” with John Goodman


The most inventive part of tonight’s SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE really wasn’t, because it was almost certainly unintentional.  Nevertheless, it was sort of brilliant, in a “found art” sort of way.  Soon after the monologue, there was a negligible piece about a suburban group performing a snowflake dance for the Christmas pageant at their local theater, the joke being that we heard their thoughts in recorded voice-over as they realized just how ridiculous and pathetic they looked in front of everyone, and how badly they’d miscalculated how cool this would be.  The very next sketch was “Three Wise Guys,” an utter embarrassment with cameos from Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro (plugging their new Grudge Match movie) and host John Goodman as New Joisy types on the way to see the baby Jesus on fake camels, heaving creaky Goodfellas schtick at each other along the way.  It was impossible to watch this thing, especially DeNiro’s slumped, resigned body language, and not think that these veterans had exactly the same thoughts going through their minds as those snowflakes, namely How On Earth Did We Get Here?

Nothing else on the show had that kind of (accidental) subversiveness.  In fact, just about every sketch felt like it could have been written for the last time Goodman hosted, in 2001.  The cold open that riffed on the sign language translator at Nelson Mandela’s funeral was a gag that went all the way back to Garrett Morris and “News For the Hard of Hearing” (except not as funny).  The opening monologue, with Goodman and Kenan Thompson singing “All I Want For Christmas Is Booty,” allowed everyone to remember that Goodman once starred in Blues Brothers 2000, and would have fit into an episode to plug that movie when it was new.

The night had more than its share of returning franchise sketches.  Bobby Moynihan brought back his Guy Fieri impersonation, this time in a pre-taped promo for Fieri’s Christmas special that brought on most of the cast to do celebrity impersonation bits (mostly characters from reality shows)–it played as a less funny version of the old sketches promoting tenth-rate rock concert festivals that featured Moynihan as Ass Dan, like Crunkmas Carnival.  However, Kate McKinnon, not for the last time this evening, had an inspired moment of her own, this time playing Big Ang.

Also back:  the sketch about the schoolchildren led by Nasim Pedrad who get exactly the wrong message from whatever guest came to class to advise them on public safety (this time it was to jump into the fireplace on Christmas Eve before Santa arrives, despite fireman Goodman’s attempts to convince them otherwise).  It’s still a recent enough franchise to pull some laughs.  And it’s been a while since we had a return of the specifically 12:55AM franchise where the last two at a bar put on some heavy alcohol goggles to romance each other.  This rendition was broader than the best versions of the sketch like the one with Louis C.K., but McKinnon and Goodman gave it their all.

Weekend Update, too, had a retread, this week of Bobby Moynihan’s Drunk Uncle–although it appears that Update is deliberately giving a victory lap to the characters who’ve interacted with Seth Meyers over the years before he departs for his own late night home, so it was a bit more justifiable.  Update also featured Thompson as the black Santa Claus of Megyn Kelly’s nightmares, an amusing enough bit.  It was hard, though, to watch a Christmas-themed Update and not miss Bill Hader and Stefon.

That didn’t leave much space for anything original.  There was a Goodman-in-drag sketch set in a courtroom, which was less adorable than the show seemed to think it would be (again featuring Thompson, this time as the judge, in what was a very heavy week for him).  A black-and-white piece about an angel’s annoying Christmas whistle seemed to have no point at all, although McKinnon again had her moments, doing her own 1930s Hollywood parody as Goodman’s wife–she didn’t seem to be in the same universe as anyone else in the sketch, but hers was funnier.

Aside from the Guy Fieri bit, there were two pre-taped pieces:  a Hallmark Channel parody promo for silly Christmas movies that wasn’t appreciably crazier than the real movies Hallmark puts on the air in the holiday season, and an elaborate H&M commercial that was an effective showcase for Jay Pharoah and had a few good sightgags, like Goodman attempting to try on the store’s absurdly small clothes.

Can SNL redeem itself with its last show of 2013?  We’ll find out next week with the all-star line-up of host Jimmy Fallon and musical guest Justin Timberlake.


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."