‘SNL’ Scorecard: Woody Harrelson Wins the Quarter Quell
Woody Harrelson’s third time as host of ‘SNL’—and his first since way back in 1992 (he hosted just a few weeks after Jason Priestley)—was actually pretty great. Anticipation for an ‘SNL’ host is a fickle beast. Now, one might circle the calendar when he or she sees, say, Chris Rock’s name show up as host, then that show winds up being a bust. I suspect that not a lot of people were thinking, Oh, man, Woody Harrelson is hosting ‘SNL’! I need to cancel all of my plans because that will be one I can’t miss. Then Harrelson goes out and is everything we want out of a host: funny, up for anything, looks like he’s having fun, willing to sing a song about apples that is still stuck in my head. Anyway, he hosted the best show of the season so far and here is your ‘SNL’ Scorecard.
Sketch of the Night
‘Campfire Song’ (Harrelson, Bayer, Jones, Moynihan, Mooney) Everything about this sketch is wonderful. First, there’s a completely infectious earworm about apples. But there was also a group camaraderie that was used for a sketch that, at its heart, is nice. It’s hard to write a “sweet” comedy sketch; it’s much easier to be mean. (Mean is funny, too, by the way.) But it just feels like a treat when something like this can be pulled off … in the usual waaaaaaaaaay, in the usual waaaaaaaaaay, in the usual waaaaaaaaaay, in the usual waaaaaaaaaay, in the usual waaaaaaaaaay, in the usual waaaaaaaaaay, in the usual waaaaaaaaaay, in the usual waaaaaaaaaay…
‘Match’d’ (Harrelson, Strong, Bennett, Mooney, Killam) It was nice seeing the Bennett-Mooney dynamic they’ve used pretty well in pre-recorded material on display here in a live sketch. (This is one of those sketches I would have loved to watch in the pitch meeting.) And this is also a sketch that looked like it was going nowhere until Woody Harrelson reveals the twist that he’s Cecily Strong’s father, then the whole dynamic changed… this is just really good sketch writing.
‘Weekend Update’ (Jost, Che, Jones, Harrelson, Killam) Sometimes Leslie Jones looks like she can take on the entire world by herself. Maybe she should be a ‘Weekend Update’ co-host? The entire proceeding just worked on a different level while she was on stage. She owns ‘Update’ more than anyone else right now. Also, Taran Killam does a great Matthew McConaughey (I now want to hear the real McConaughey attempt to sing the ‘Super Mario Bros.’ theme song.) As for Jost and Che, they were fine. It’s weird though, their chemistry seems less than it was during the first show of the season. How is that possible?
‘The Dudleys’ (Bennett, Harrelson, McKinnon, Thompson, Aduba) This is a good concept for a sketch because people love to be outraged. And here’s a new show that listens to every complaint and reacts accordingly, eventually winding back up in the same place it started. It’s a wonder that anything exists anymore. (And I get the irony as I sit here writing a review of ‘SNL.’ What can I say? ¯_(ツ)_/¯)
‘Woody Harrelson Monologue’ (Harrelson, Hutcherson, Hemsworth, Lawrence) What a mess! But it was hilarious. And one of the biggest laughs of the night came when Woody Harrelson screamed “It’s the real Taylor Swift!” when Jennifer Lawrence walked on stage. With almost all of Harrelson’s ‘Hunger Games’ co-stars on stage with him, no one plays “I’m not sure who you are” better than Woody Harrelson.
‘Football Halftime Speech’ (Harrelson, Pharoah, Killam, Bennett, Davidson, Thompson) This sketch made me feel awkward! Kenan Thompson is soooo funny as a veteran professional football player who is trying to give a pep talk to a high school football team but is incoherent because of too many concussions. Also: the look on Jay Pharoah’s face as Woody Harrelson demonstrated the new tackling procedure. I think I’m going to stop typing about it and just leave it right here.
‘Last Call’ (Harrelson, McKinnon) OK, yes, we’ve seen this before. What I liked about this version of a sketch we’ve now seen many times is that Kenan Thompson treats it as, “Oh, here we go again.” Plus, who knew that one piece of plastic wrap could bring a whole new identity to a recurring sketch?
‘Old New York’ (Moynihan, Thompson, Killam, Harrelson) I can’t help it: every time Woody Harrelson started talking about the kind of crack that he misses, I laughed.
‘New Marijuana Policy' (Davidson, Killam, Moynihan, Jones, Bryant, Harrelson, Bennett, Thompson) There’s something about this that I still admire, even though the payoff was just “stoned people like cartoons.” It looked beautiful, there just wasn’t a lot going on. The best moment was the look of approval that Kenan Thompson’s police officer gives Pete Davidson right before warning Davidson that the marijuana can’t actually be smoked.
‘Cold Open: A Drink at the White House’ (Pharoah, Killam, Zamata) This sketch feels this closeto being something really good. It’s a great idea for a sketch—Obama and McConnell getting plastered together—and both Pharoah and Killam are great in their roles, it just felt like this needed a little more “oomph.”
‘Young Tarts and Old Farts’ (Ensemble) It’s the “Can anyone do any musical impressions?” sketch. The thing is, we’ve seen this same sketch many times before, only done better. (The Michael Bublé version from the Jimmy Fallon hosted show was about as good as this can get.) Everyone was fine (Jay Pharoah was the standout), but I hope next time when this sketch is done, there’s a little more originality put into it … in the usual waaaaaaaaaay, in the usual waaaaaaaaaay, in the usual waaaaaaaaaay, in the usual waaaaaaaaaay, in the usual waaaaaaaaaay, in the usual waaaaaaaaaay, in the usual waaaaaaaaaay, in the usual waaaaaaaaaay…
(Not online due to song rights issues … in the usual waaaaaaaaaay…)
Average Score for this Show: 6.75
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ. He is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.