December 9, 2012

THE SKED REVIEW: SNL with Jamie Foxx


It felt like 12:55AM for the entire last half-hour of tonight’s SNL, and that wasn’t a bad thing.  Every post-Update sketch had the kind of oddball conceptualism that’s usually reserved for the last minutes of the show, and while the sketches didn’t all work, they had more imagination and wit than just anything that had preceded them in the duller first hour, despite a huge amount of energy throughout from host Jamie Foxx (that sometimes spilled over into cuecard flubs and breaks).

The final half-hour kicked off with the game-show spoof “Dylan McDermott or Dermot Mulroney?” which mined that particular bit of existential showbiz confusion for all it was worth.  Foxx, Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah (the only time all three were together all night) flailed at being able to tell one from the other–they would have much preferred to guest on the channel’s next show, “Djimon Hounsou or Chiwetel Ejiofor?”–as host Bill Hader politely despaired.  It was capped off by a cameo by… wait… Mulroney, who wasn’t quite sure himself who he was (“I’ve been sleeping with the wrong man’s wife!”), and it was all pretty inspired.

“Dylan or Dermot” was followed by a pre-tape with Thompson as, very literally, a Christmas tree pimp.  This bit never quite found the right tone, but it pushed the premise about as far as it could go, including one tree providing oral pleasure to customer Fred Armisen, and pimp Thompson being observed slapping one of his ladies evergreens.  The best gag had Foxx as Thompson’s competition, showing off his main lady–the Rockefeller Center tree.

“Maine Justice” was downright bizarre, a courtroom sketch where the conceit was that although we were in Maine, everyone except defendant Bobby Moynihan acted like they were from deepest bayou Louisiana, which was ultimately explained as being either because they had left New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, or because they’d stepped through a space-time portal.  In either case, it was an excuse for Jason Sudeikis as the judge, Foxx as the bailiff, and Aidy Bryant as the fan-waving plaintiff (not to mention a cameo by Charlie Day as a jar-likker drinking Congressman) to push their Southern characters about as far as live action permits.

Finally, the real 12:55AM slot went to a mock-commercial for Swarovski Crystal by former porn stars Vanessa Bayer, Cecily Strong and Foxx that was as just plain wrong as it was hilarious, with one explaining that she’d had part of her foot broken off in someone’s butt before discovering crystal, another reporting that she’d once been banged to death before being banged back to life again, and general agreement that the one thing that lasts forever is “Anal!”

The overall spirit of anarchy and what-the-hell commitment of that run of sketches was the most promising sign of life SNL‘s had all season.  On a show that usually forsakes daring for mediocre proficiency, it’d be nice to think that half hour was a portent of the future.

But thinking of mediocre proficiency:  the night’s first hour.

The cold open was a “fiscal cliff” press conference with Pharoah doing his Obama and Sudeikis Bill Hader as John Boehner.  As has usually been the case this season, the show had no interest in any real political satire, and instead presented Boehner as being pantsed and otherwise bullied by other Republicans for even considering a tax hike deal with the Democrats.  Pharoah and Sudeikis were expert, and there were a few laughs, but it was all disappointingly unsophisticated.

Foxx’s monologue was all over the place (it really didn’t need a song), but his comic chops shone, as he mostly delivered a stand-up bit punctuated by “how black is that???” (Obama’s second term, his own upcoming Django Unchained) with a tone very different from the usual staff writer-composed monologue.

The entire joke of the first post-monologue sketch was its title, “Bitch, What’s the Answer?”, which had Foxx as a game-show host asking nonsensical questions and abusing the contestants for not knowing the correct replies.  This was followed by the latest installment of “J-Pop America Fun Time Now,” which… well, it’s better than “The Californians,” as running sketches go, so let’s be grateful for small mercies.  A pre-taped movie trailer for a thriller that combined Tyler Perry’s recent Alex Cross with his Madea character wasn’t as funny as it seemed like it should be.  It arrived a month late, and having Foxx wear Madea make-up on half his body and do the bit as a literally split person never became more than a sight-gag.

Update featured Bryant as a horny Mrs. Santa Claus, with some decent jokes (she watches pay-per-view porn while Santa is delivering his presents, and has to endure his milk farts and cookie sugar rush when he returns) but no particular build.  Foxx, making an unusual host visit to Update, played the Ding Dong put out of business by Hostess’s bankruptcy.  Foxx spent half the bit breaking, and seemed to find it all more uproarious than anyone else did.

So it was a typical SNL in the sense of being a mixed bag, but in an inverse way.  Instead of an episode that started off with the best material and then declined, this one began as routine and suddenly took off toward the end.  One hardly knows what to expect next week, when the year-end show is hosted by SNL veteran Martin Short, with a young newcomer musical guest named Paul McCartney.

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."