Due to my coverage of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, we missed the first new episode of “Saturday Night Live” of 2014 with Drake doing a great job as host and musical guest. That means we also missed the first episode featuring new cast member Sasheer Zamata. Thankfully, the new featured player fits right in with the cast, and that’s all that needs to be said. As for the new episode featuring the return of The Wolf of Wall Street star Jonah Hill to Studio 8H, let’s get to the breakdown.
Jonah Hill Monologue – With all the talk of Leonardo DiCaprio in this monologue, it would have been a shame if the Titanic star didn’t show up. Thankfully, the guest appearance delivered the kind of comedy that is rare with DiCaprio as he poked fun to his iconic role as Jack Dawson in the aforementioned James Cameron-directed Best Picture winner. This also is proof that DiCaprio needs host “SNL” at some point, and it’s a real shame that he hasn’t done so yet.
Spike Jonze Trailer – There have been countless parodies of Spike Jonze’s Best Picture nominated film Her, all of them taking the obvious and easy path of Him. However, the writers at “Saturday Night Live” took a much better route by making Me. Using Jonah Hill in place of Joaquin Phoenix, the Theodore Twombley character finds his new operating system voiced by himself, and it makes for some solid spoofing of some of the key scenes of the actual film. Plus, it’s awesome to see Superbad co-stars Jonah Hill and Michael Cera back together again at the end.
Lamborghini – This recurring sketch always delivers with Cecily Strong and Vanessa Bayer as seemingly perpetually drunk/drugged former porn stars. But this was truly one of the funniest iterations, especially with Jonah Hill rolling on screen in a rascal, speaking with a slight western twang. Plus, this also seems to be one of the most risque versions of the sketch, especially with the blunt mention of a rim job. The Wolf of Wall Street joke in this sketch is perfect too.
Benihana – It seems a strange coincidence that this time Jonah Hill finds himself at Benihana as six-year-old Adam Grossman, mostly because of the fantastic one liner that the Oscar-nominated actor spouts about the restaurant in The Wolf of Wall Street. While we miss Bill Hader in this recurring sketch, Bayer did a nice enough job filling in to make this work well.
The Hit – This plays like an adorable short film, with Kenan Thompson and Taran Killam as thugs ready to kill suddenly taken aback by the beauty of a big snow. Jay Pharoah keeps things in check until he finds something to marvel over as well. The dichotomy of these thugs with their infatuation with the wonder of nature was adorable, and made for a sweet but funny piece.
Men’s Figure Skating – With all the buzz around Vladimir Putin’s opposition to gay rights during the Olympics in Sochi, this cold open sketch hit right on the money. The heterosexual figure skating competition goes exactly as one would expect with Bobby Moynihan, Jay Pharoah and Beck Bennett playing three of the most straight male figure skaters we’ve ever seen. This is a physical comedy bit through and through, and it’s a good bit before the Olympics truly kick off next month.
Boss Dinner – The idea of this sketch is simple, but Hill really sold it with his trademark yelling. It’s certainly a one-note joke, but the things that Hill yells while he thinks the dinner attendees can’t hear him keep it amusing.
Inside SoCal – Normally when Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett get together for a sketch like this, it works pretty damn well. But this faux TV show, which is like a boring, skater version of Wayne’s World without the flare just didn’t land. Maybe the characters were just a little to real (you can find “shows” like this all over YouTube) and didn’t exaggerate the concept enough for comedy. Whatever the case, it just didn’t work.
Willow the Horse – Lucky for you, this sketch isn’t online. Sometimes slapstick works on “SNL,” but in this case, we have one that should have been dropped after dress rehearsal. There had to be something better than this sketch that relies on a fake horse hitting and Jonah Hill and Cecily Strong with its hooves. Hill and Strong make it somewhat tolerable with their odd western characters, but it’s not enough.
Couples Quiz – At first, this seemed like just another game show sketch, but in a brilliant turn of events, this turned out to be about a clogged toilet. The entire sketch is spent figure out who clogged the toilet, as Hill tries to dodge the blame. Kenan Thompson as the enforcing game show host at least mixed up the formula so he just wasn’t simply hosting a faux game show again.
The spontaneity of laughter between Seth Meyers and Cecily Strong after the headline about the whiskey dump in the ocean was so damn funny, especially with Meyers repeated Strong’s hilarious punchline. We’re going to miss him when he leaves next month. But otherwise, the best part of Weekend Update were the guests…
The Officer Who Arrested Justin Bieber – Kenan Thompson’s excitement about being on TV and famous after arresting Justin Bieber. That’s all that needs to be said. Just the way Thompson kept repeating “Cecily” was entertaining, but the entire segment was a solid one.
Olya Povlatsky – If this wasn’t relegated to being part of the Weekend Update recap, this would be one of the best sketches of the night. Kate McKinnon was an absolutely laugh riot as this Russian woman talking about the desolation of her homeland in spite of the presence of the Olympics. This one had me laughing really hard, and McKinnon gave 110%.
Jonah Hill is more than comfortable on “Saturday Night Live” and he’s the perfect kind of comedy star to host time and time again. Though he hasn’t hosted as frequently as Justin Timberlake, his presence is just as consistent with hilarious jokes. There were only two truly disappointing sketches, so you can tell the writers really bring out their A-game with hosts like this.
As I’ve said, Jonah Hill is one of those hosts who is just as good as Justin Timberlake, Jon Hamm, Steve Martin or Alec Baldwin. We wish his schedule allowed him to come back to the sketch show more often. Usually I try to give The MVP to a cast member, and it was really hard not to give it to Cecily Strong this week, but Hill was just a superb host, and made this one of the best episodes of the season, probably just behind the Jimmy Fallon episode from the end of last year.
The Final Word
There’s not much more to say except Jonah Hill needs to convince Leonardo DiCaprio to come host “Saturday Night Live” himself. Besides that, it’s getting harder to accept the fact that Seth Meyers will be leaving the show soon. But we’ve got head writer Colin Jost stepping up to co-anchor Weekend Update with Cecily Strong starting on March 1st.
We’ll be back next weekend to recap the February 1st episode with host Melissa McCarthy.
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