April 7, 2013

THE SKED REVIEW: “Saturday Night Live” with Melissa McCarthy


SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE usually benefits from having a host with the confident comic talent that Melissa McCarthy brings to the table, but even with a 3-week hiatus in its pocket, the writing staff came up with little that was up to her level.  The result was a very long 90 minutes.

Almost everything that worked was strictly a function of McCarthy’s off-kilter physical humor, starting with the monologue, which was basically a one-joke sketch with the hoary premise that McCarthy didn’t know how to walk in high-heeled platform shoes.  (It felt like a cast-off from the old Carol Burnett Show.)  But McCarthy pulled it off, gingerly balancing herself on a bandmember’s chair until it… slipped… a little too far away.

The funniest sketch of the night wasn’t all that different, a bit with McCarthy “presenting” her honey-baked ham at a county fair, which she did as a full-blown musical act with back-up dancers (dressed as pigs) Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan.  Their absolute deadpans worked with McCarthy’s eagerness to please, and it was all silly but legitimately giggly.  Also giggly was the 12:55PM sketch, a dating advice show featuring hosts Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong and reenactments by McCarthy and Killam that knew how to get its laughs fast and get out (even if it all felt oddly like one of the ex-porn star bits that have also been running in that slot).

A later piece, obviously meant as a showcase for McCarthy, was less successful, with McCarthy as a loan applicant trying to convince bank officer Jason Sudeikis to lend her funds for a “business” that involved eating leftover pizza.  She and Sudeikis were good together, but the sketch felt like an improv bit that didn’t know where to stop.  The night’s biggest disappointment was a parody of ESPN’s Outside the Lines expose of ex-Rutgers coach Mike Rice, with McCarthy as an even more sadistic coach (she throws toasters at players she thinks are toast, barges into classrooms to continue berating them, and drives a golf cart onto the court).  There were plenty of funny ideas kicking around in there, but the mix of pre-tape and live sketch (with Bill Hader as the ESPN interviewer) was awkward, and with no punchline, the piece just drifted away.  A toothless parody of The Voice with McCarthy as a contestant who can’t understand why the coaches want her was notable only for McKinnon’s incomprehensible Shakira.

But hey, you want topical?  How about a parody of Wheel of Fortune, with McCarthy as an incompetent replacement for the Vanna White letter-turner who can’t turn a single one right?  How funny would that have been in, say, 1986?

The show’s more deliberately topical sections were weak.  The cold open, with Moynihan as Kim Jong-un, inexplicably became a gay marriage gag, with a five-second “Live From NY” cameo by Dennis Rodman.  Update featured three, count em, three desk pieces, all of them returning characters.  We had Vanessa Bayer’s Bar-Mitzvah Boy, which is one of those bits that feels like it repeats itself almost to the word each time around (this time built around the story of Passover); Kenan Thompson as Charles Barkley, the joke being his gambling habit; and Bobby Moynihan’s Drunk Uncle, which was somewhat livened up by a substantial cameo by Peter “Drunklage,” who should definitely be a host himself one of these days.

Apart from portions of the Outside the Lines sketch, the only pre-taped piece was a commercial parody that started as an ad for a system that would let businessmen work while on the toilet, then (after a sequence of Thompson soiling himself) became a PSA for businessmen not working while on the toilet.  Good times!

Next up:  Vince Vaughn, with musical guest Miguel.

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."