November 4, 2012



Add to Louis C.K.’s remarkable list of recent achievements the ability to intermittently brighten up a routine episode of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

They weren’t all gems, but a couple of tonight’s sketches were among the season’s best so far.  Chief among them was “Lincoln,” which wasn’t just a letter-perfect parody of Louie, but one that was beautifully thought-out and completely consistent within its own comic universe, with C.K. as Abraham Lincoln as Louie.  Lincoln’s uneasy interactions with freed slaves, and his borderline-hostile stand-up act (referring to his own assassination, he suggested that the suspects might include “I don’t know, everyone from the middle of the country down?”) were downright brilliant, and while C.K’s Lincoln may not compete with Daniel Day-Lewis’ , it melded surprisingly well with the world-view of his Louie (even if his Lincoln looked a little weirdly Chassidic).  In addition, the 12:55AM sketch, usually a wasteland of oddball concepts, was one of the highlights of the night, not just because C.K. and Kate McKinnon were totally committed to their barflies with beer goggles (or in this case, goggles of bellinis and tequila with egg whites), but due to some really smart writing, as both drunks made it clear that they might be desperate, but they weren’t blind.  It’s a vast overstatement to say that this was what The Iceman Cometh might look like as a late-episode SNL sketch, but it’s not crazy to say so.  And naturally, the host killed in his monologue, which was merely a 5-minute stand-up bit about the hazards of helping out little old ladies, but a stand-up bit from the current best in the business.

Not as laugh-out-loud funny but still worth noting was another last half-hour sketch, with Bobby Moynihan trying to check out of his hotel while desk clerk C.K. droned through all the charges on his bill, with increasingly surreal billings for argon, diamonds and an extremely expensive viewing of The Avengers.  The nice thing about this bit was that it never overplayed the joke, just quietly, gradually racheted it up.

The rest of the night was more typically SNL.  A sketch with C.K. in a Game of Thrones-type setting, blowing a ram’s horn in search of a fantasy character and annoying the neighbors, felt like a 12:55AM sketch plugged into an earlier hole, and got its only laughs from C.K. muffing the sync of his horn-blowing with the pre-recorded sound and then going up on one of his lines.  The two Hurricane Sandy-themed sketches were very mild.  There was a pleasant cold open that played on Mayor Bloomberg’s sign-language interpreter, with Cecily Strong as Lydia Callis, and then on Chris Christie (Bobby Moynihan) and his sudden pro-Obama stance.  A little later, one of the Fox and Friends parodies (with C.K. only marginally registering as a FEMA official) was highlighted, as these usually are, by the end-of-sketch crawl of corrections, this time including such wise statements as “Not all pigs are born with human feet” and “Michael J. Fox does not have “multiple sandwiches.'”  Rock buttom was an “Australian Screen Legends” sketch in which McKinnon seemed to be doing a bad Kristin Wiig imitation and which featured a Brokeback Mountain parody that was at least 5 years out of date.

For an SNL airing 3 days before a presidential election, the show was shockingly non-political–a few gags in the Hurricane Sandy sketches (Jason Sudeikis as a very sub-Darrell Hammond Donald Trump in FOX and Friends), and then “Weekend Update.”  The latter included an OK Romney desk piece by Sudeikis, and also had Aidy Bryant as a social media expert whose bit was basically about how dumb Facebook and Twitter postings are, because that’s an original topic.  Oddly, there was no sign at all of Jay Pharoah’s Obama.  “Update” also brought back Cecily Strong as The Girl You Wished You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With At a Party, this time built around, more or less, the election.  Strong delivers the character well, but in only its second rendition, it’s already starting to feel fairly predictable.

So:  a few glints of gold deep in the SNL mine tonight, but not quite enough to make it a memorable episode.  Next week Anne Hathaway returns as host, and she’s done very well on the show in the past.  Rihanna is the musical guest.

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."