May 5, 2013

THE SKED REVIEW: SNL With Zach Galifianakis


There was an inspired, unexpected piece of comedy toward the end of tonight’s SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, although it was pretty lonely in the mostly bland context of the rest of the episode.  Early in the post-Update half-hour, host Zach Galifianakis did a sketch called “Darrell’s House,” where he played an intense guy named Darrell who pre-taped a public access show about having a guest–he said it would be Jon Hamm–come to his house.  The gag was that it was all going to be “fixed in post”:  the platter of snacks was empty, he didn’t know what song he’d clear for air, and he had to hire someone (Kenan Thompson) to stand in for Hamm, leaving the unseen director to cut it all together for air.  (Darrell didn’t even know how to wink under his own power–he could only blink.)  It was mildly imaginative and had a few laughs, but nothing special.  The surprise came in the 12:55PM slot, when we actually saw the edited version of “Darrell’s House,” complete with inept cut-ins of the snacks and a split-screen with the real Jon Hamm grafted on to Kenan Thompson’s arm (not to mention an insert of Darrell’s open eye placed next to the closed one that turned his blink into a wink).  This was funny and original, a step beyond the running sketches that SNL sometimes threads through a show.

The rest of the evening was less exciting.  The idea of kicking off the season’s last three episodes with Galifianakis, a two-time host with his own distinct comic style, seemed promising, but the material wasn’t there (and Galifianakis didn’t help by stepping on too many of his own lines).  His monologue was a highlight, though, with his non sequitur stylings front and center. (“Sometimes when I’m at a restaurant I’ll order a beet salad, so when the waiter brings me my beet salad, I just look at them and go, ‘Thanks for laying down those funky beets.'”)

There were a surprising number of celebrity cameos, none of them particularly well used.  A Game of Game of Thrones quiz-show sounded like it should be funny, but the repeated joke was that Galifianakis kept being asked questions about the real world when he only knew about Westeros, and the appearance by the Kingslayer himself didn’t have any wit to it (you could imagine the SNL booker calling the agents for every cast member till he/she found one who was in town).  Even worse was a painfully outdated Jennifer Aniston lookalike contest that was almost redeemed by some expert Aniston impressions–until it fell in a hole with appearances by Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms, who just happen–hey!–to be Galifianakis’s co-stars in The Hangover Part III, coming to a theater near you later this month.

There was a time when the sketch with Galifianakis as an M&M Store greeter forced to apologize for being incessantly racist and sexist to his co-workers could have been transgressive and daring, but that’s not the kind of comedy SNL does anymore, and the scene went nowhere.  A bit set at Michael Jordan’s wedding turned out to be one of those sketches where half the cast gets to come on for 30 seconds or so to do a celebrity imitation (best was Jay Pharoah as Dikembe Mutombo), and weirdly featured Galifianakis and Jason Sudeikis as increasingly coked-up jugglers.

As for the non-Galifianakis parts of the show, the Fox and Friends cold open was, as usual, highlighted by the list of corrections that made freeze-frame worthwhile (“Pot pie is legal in every state.” “Number 2 pencils are not sad that they lost.”  “Aretha Franklin and Patti Labelle have been in the same room together.”)  Update featured the return of both Bill Hader’s James Carville and Cecily Strong’s Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started A Conversation With At a Party, both well-performed but offering nothing new.  Fred Armisen’s desk piece as a tech guy showing off his new Google Glasses wasn’t a franchise character, but it felt awfully like a leftover piece from Portlandia.

The show was light on pre-taped segments, with faux-commercials for (Kate McKinnon’s strong Martha Stewart) and New Balance (Galifianakis, Bobby Moynihan and Taran Killam as chubby guys wearing sports sneakers).

Music critique-ing is outside the scope here, but let me get this straight:  Of Monsters and Men aren’t The Lumineers?

Anyway, the show is back next week with an reunion episode hosted by Kristen Wiig, with musical guest Vampire Weekend, and then Ben Affleck takes the stage for the season finale, with musical guest Kanye West (who according to Fox and Friends is not an African American vacation destination).


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."