Monday, March 31, 2014

SNL 39.15 Review - Lena Dunham, The National

Original Airdate - 3/8/14

Coming into this episode, I'm not sure how many people in the general public knew who Lena Dunham was.  I'll be honest, I knew Lena Dunham as the weird girl that randomly won a Golden Globe last year.  However, Dunham is becoming a household name as her hit HBO series Girls continues to rise in popularity.  SNL even parodied this show in one of the first sketches of the season.  How well would she perform on the live stage though.  Well, it turned out she did pretty well.  The material seemed to be fresher than it had been in recent episodes, which may have something to do with Lena Dunham being a writer as well.  Here's how the episode went.

Cold Opening

There's a lot of stuff going on in the world around us.  One of the biggest controversies out there right now is the situation in the Ukraine and the reaction of Russian president Vladimir Putin.  You know it's an important news story because SNL decided to use their cold opening to talk about it.  President Obama has tried everything to get Putin under control, so he had to bring in some outside help: a man with a particular set of skills.  It was a perfect cameo for the perfect moment.


Much like Kerry Washington's monologue earlier in the year, they decided to use Lena Dunham's monologue to explain to the average viewer why their host is culturally relevant.  In the show Girls, Dunham is naked a lot (apparently ... I've personally never seen the show ... However, when they take two different opportunities to make light of this fact, it must be true.).  Since she is naked so much, many people ask her advice about their own sex lives like cast members and her grandmother.  It's not a particularly funny bit (until Kate McKinnon opens her mouth), but it is effective in letting people know who she is.

Weekend Update

This was a fun Weekend Update.  With Colin Jost's sophomore turn at the desk, you can tell he is settling in nicely.  In fact, the fresh blood has infused some new life into the segment.  Jost is willing to be a little edgier than Seth Myers was, which will be a great breath of fresh air moving forward.  The two groups of guests to come to the Update desk made this one of the stronger Weekend Updates of the season.  First was Matthew McConaughey brought to you by Taran Killam.  The recent Oscar winner that was also starring in the new hit show True Detective is an easy target for SNL with his southern drawl, many eloquent acceptance speeches, and a character on True Detective that makes a habit of speaking in a way that makes you unsure whether he is the smartest man or dumbest man in the world (mainly because you can't figure out what he's saying half the time).  Killam does a great caricature of Mr. McConaughey.  Following him was a comeback of Fred Armisen, now working just down the hall with Seth Meyers, teaming up with Vanessa Bayer as Vladimir Putin's friends from growing up.  It's a bit that really never gets old.

Best Sketch

The tone for the show was set with the first sketch following the monologue as it became the best sketch of the show.  Four friends got into the car and were singing along with a song playing through someone's cell phone.  However, that phone was also giving directions to their destination, and the directions would always come whenever Lena Dunham tried to sing along.  It was a funny premise and a solid sketch, however it's twist ending no one saw coming took this one over the top.

Worst Sketch

You know you have a solid show when the hardest thing to do is pick a bad sketch.  For shows like this, the category turns into the least good sketch because none of them were really bad.  The closest thing to a bad sketch was Mike O'Brien going to his girlfriend's women's group where it is revealed that he is an men's rights activist.  As you can imagine, this news does not go over well.  The sketch still has its moments, but it just didn't deliver quite like some of the other sketches did.

Dark Horse Sketch

I have to be honest, I don't know who Katt Williams is.  I've heard about him, I've seen some video clips of him, but I really have no idea what is significant about him.  However, Jay Pharaoh hosting the Katt Williams Show "Pimpin, Pimpin, Pimpin" showed me what he was all about.  This sketch was great because of the impressions that were brought to it.  First, Pharaoh's Katt Williams is scary good.  Next came Brooks Wheelen's Jared Leto accepting his Oscar.  It wasn't a great impression, but he said what everyone had on their minds, "I'd like to thank me band 30 Seconds to Mars for not being good enough to keep me away from acting."  Lena Dunham's take on Liza Minelli was just fun, but my favorite came last: Taran Killam's Harrison Ford.  If you haven't heard, Harrison Ford has become quite old and senile in his public appearances recently, and Killam brings this to life to perfection.  This is the type of sketch in past episodes that they would try to feature as one of their first sketches of the show and be disappointing.  Putting this sketch at the back end puts a sketch like this in the perfect spot to succeed, and it shows the strength of this episode.

This show surprised me.  I did not expect it to be this fresh and funny, especially considering some of the lack of originality that had been coming out through the recent episodes.  However, with Shasheer Zumata now firmly apart of the cast, Colin Jost settling into his new role, the show finally has stopped worrying about transitioning and adjusting and started with this episode to focus on being funny.  That's what this episode did.  Let's hope this is a trend and not an anomaly.


View the entire episode here:

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