Matthew McConaughey headlines a consistent and solid episode of ‘SNL’

Matthew McConaughey and Adele Bumper PhotosI have to be honest, I’m not a big Matthew McConaughey fan. I understand he’s our Paul Newman and all, but I always found his charm rather slick and oily. Still, having said that, I recognize the guy’s a talented performer, and he’s got a solid sense of humor. After the high of Elizabeth Banks’ episode, I was prepared for some disappointment with McConaughey’s turn at bat, but was surprised that I enjoyed the episode thoroughly, and thought the actor handled the material – most of it good – very well.

His monologue was interesting because it eschewed the usual “movie star sings a song” route, and instead, McConaughey talked about his much-imitated “Alright, alright” catchphrase, by telling an anecdote about his filming Dazed and Confused (which, if you haven’t seen – go  Netflix it now!) The monologue worked because it was funny and it harked back to a great movie, and McConaughey’s inflated sense of self, actually worked for him and not against him. Kudos to him and the writers who put it together for him.

Best sketches of the night

In a night filled with some strong sketches, it’s hard to choose, but one clearly stood out – and that’s the Thanksgiving gathering that goes awry when family members start to argue over politics. It’s a relatable sketch (which is why I don’t go to family gatherings for Thanksgiving), but it’s also funny because the family’s dinner is repeatedly saved by playing Adele’s new hit “Hello,” which causes the family to stop fighting and to immediately start lip syncing to the instant-classic. Again, even though it’s called Saturday Night Live, the show has some of its best moments during the pre-taped segments. The cast does some great work – especially Aidy Bryant who plays a tight right-winger (who swears she’s seen “ISIS at the A&P”) and Vanessa Bayer, who rivals Kate McKinnon for best suburban mom performer. The peace-making capabilities of Adele’s music is great, especially when it interrupts Bryant’s endorsement of Dr. Ben Carson – and once the characters all slowly morph into various drag/nondrag versions of Adele, Bryant gets to collapse the world by doing a borderline Adele impression when her character transforms into Adele, and conveniently looks just like the British chanteuse. It’s a very funny video and one of the strongest things done on SNL.

The cold open – another Fox & Friends sketch, was also good – mainly for Moynihan’s gleefully clueless Brian Kilmeade. McKinnon pops up as an indignant and increasingly rageful Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and though not as strong as her Hillary Clinton (who makes a brief cameo – but more on that later), is still very funny. It’s always great to see McKinnon channel the rage of self-righteous liberals who have to watch nutso conservatives capture the imagination and heart of the public (because they know they’ll have to do the cleanup once the bubble bursts). A nice deviation from the usual scrawl of mistakes is Leslie Jones, who is inundated with facts she must correct and snaps, “Ya’ll will have me up all night!” Jay Pharoah also brightens the proceedings with his on-point impression of Dr. Ben Carson – the comic captures Dr. Carson’s sleepy cadence and soporific demeanor perfectly, and unlike his sharp impression of President Obama, with his needling of Carson has some bite to it.

Another strong entry is the Should You Chime in On This? sketch, where Kenan Thompson does another excellent job playing an exasperated game show host (he took over for Bill Hader masterfully). The conceit of the game is that three dummies are invited to answer whether they should weigh on on a particular topic – the refugee crisis, Charlie Sheen’s HIV status, women’s reproductive rights, breast feeding, etc. Bryant, McConaughey and Kyle Mooney play three variations on the kinds of doofs who feel that they have the answer to solve the world’s problems – Bryant’s character is similar to the Thanksgiving/Adele video, a prim and entitled right winger, while McConaughey plays a spacey truther. And so that SNL doesn’t get slammed for its political bias, Mooney gets to play an insufferable NYU college student. And the end of the game, McKinnon strolls out as Hillary Clinton as a test to see if the contestants could stand silently by and not make a comment, and of course they all fail within seconds.

Slightly less funny, but still effective is the recurring Right Side of the Bed sketch that has Killan play another variation on his prissy gay guy character. He’s not doing the gay community any favors by leaning so heavily on this characterization, though I have to admit, in this sketch, it is funny. As his wife, Cecily Strong is also very funny. As a DL hubby, Killan’s character, Corey, overcompensates, and is uncontrollable in his “desire” for his wife, Gracelynn. McConaughey is a Ducky Dynasty-inspired chef, who is slowly breathing toxic fumes from oven cleaner, and becomes increasingly bizarre and spacey (so, basically, increasingly more McConaughey-esque). And McKinnon does her usual pop star impression, this time a befuddled Ed Sheehan. Yeah, the sketch was a tiny bit meandering, but Killan and Strong were aces.

Worst sketches of the night

There were no dogs this evening – though, some sketches didn’t work, in spite of the great work of the cast.

The Amtrak in Benson sketch was a nonstarter – McConaughey’s turn as a paranoid and off-putting opponent of Amtrak’s expansion into his town was strong, but the writing just had him find imaginary slights and self-conscious digs at his supposed working class background. It wasn’t bad and the actor nailed his performance, but the sketch as a whole went no where.

Slightly better was the Star Wars screen tests, though this was merely another one of the show’s excuses to get cast members to parade their impressions, while also throwing in some famous pals. All of it was okay, though Jon Hamm’s nervy, Hamm Solo spot was pretty awesome.

Weekend Update was Weekend Update – the less said the better, though Bayer livened things up with her patented showbiz kid – this time, her showbiz kid was auditioning for a spot as a newscaster and was delivering such devastating news like Charlie Sheen’s HIV status with the over-rehearsed and over-enthusiastic cadence of a child ignorant of the weight of what she’s saying. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before from Bayer, but she is able to cut through the slightly-unpleasant chemistry between Colin Jost and Michael Che and brighten the sketch up immeasurably.

The blues bar was decent. Again, Thompson slayed as a blues singer whose blighted life informs his music. Mooney, Jones, and Pharoah supply strong support as backup musicians, each with his/her own tale of woe. McConaughey’s guest performer (who looks like a weird blend of Matthew McConaughey and Pee-wee Herman) gets in on the act, but his life is pocked with mere nuisances like sporting a bad haircut.  It’s great that the show is trying to highlight white privilege (it did so in the Elizabeth Banks episode with the excellent “So Ghetto” sketch), but it’s not enough to just have white characters have privilege – there needs to be more elaboration and development. This sketch stopped short, when it could really explore what it means for a white cis man to place himself in one of the few settings in which black folks dominate – and what’s more, perform an art form that is a result of years of oppression and discrimination. None of that was shown, which is a shame, because there was the germ of that in the sketch.

The only “bad” sketch – and even then, it wasn’t terrible, was the 3-D printer man sketch that had McConaughey outclass some mediocre material, as the first man created from a 3-D printer – essentially, he played a robot. But he did a decent job, and managed to wring laughs out of a so-so sketch.

So overall, a surprisingly strong showing by McConaughey in his second time hosting (his first time was 14 years ago).

Random notes:

  • Alan DeGeneres got the job hosting Should You Chime in On This? by accident.
  • I love the #AllLivesMatter siren
  • Fox & Friends can’t tell the difference between refugees and crazed shoppers on Black Friday
  • By the way, #AllFridaysMatter
  • Dr. Carson’s solution to sussing out Muslims from the crowd of refugees: have them “eat bacon while singing a Christmas carol”
  • Though an eh sketch, I loved that Salt N Pepa’s “Whatta Man” was playing during the runway walk portion of the 3-D Printer Man sketch
  • Can we just agree now that any Maggie Smith impression is just an old English lady impression?
  • Leslie Jones got Star Wars and Star Trek confused – I hear you, sister, I do that all the time.

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Filed under Celeb, celebrity, Comedy, movie, Television, TV

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