‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: Season 39, Episode 15 with Host Lena Dunham

By March 10, 2014
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Without being behind the camera, writing the script, or appearing nude (for the most part), we’ve been wondering how “Girls” creator and star Lena Dunham would fare with her debut as host on “Saturday Night Live.” Thankfully, Dunham made for one of the better shows of the whole season, and there were even some fantastic surprise guest stars for added fun. Let’s run down the night’s sketches below!

The Best

 

Ooh Child – With the spirit of the SNL Digital Shorts that Andy Samberg and his cohorts from The Lonely Island made famous, this was a great recorded sketch that’s a fantastic standalone short film on its own. The initial concept by itself is something we can all relate to in an age when we rely on GPS and our smart phones to give us directions as we drive, but it’s the ending that takes it to next-level greatness. Thank goodness music rights didn’t keep this one from being online.

 

What’s Poppin’ – When this sketch first started, I literally rolled my eyes and wondered how yet another talk show formula was going to work. But then it shifted into absolute hilarity when the last minute replacement rap group started busting their rhymes. Mike O’Brien was undoubtedly made for the Bird Bible sketch last week, but this role is a close second to the best thing he’s done all season. Everyone who was in this rap group was incredible, and made for a weird meshing of some kind of “urban” version of The Partridge Family that earned some big laughs.

 

Scandal – As someone who hasn’t gotten caught up in this ABC drama series, I was worried that the sketch wouldn’t land. But thankfully, anyone who has seen other shows like “24” or “Person of Interest” or any show with an ensemble cast tasked with seemingly easily but truly complicated tasks will find some comedy in this one. Dunham looks so weird with long hair, but she does a great job as a deer-in-headlights new employee completely lost in her new job.

The Average

 

Obama Ukraine Address – If it wasn’t for the lame Obama video meant to intimidate Vladimir Putin, this sketch would have been one of the best of the night. This is the kind of guest appearance I love on “Saturday Night Live,” and utilizing Liam Neeson’s role as an action hero the weekend after Non-Stop hit theaters was a funny move. Neeson should be a hostage negotiator from now on.

 

Biblical Movie – Since Lena Dunham had her show “Girls” skewered with this season’s premiere featuring host Tina Fey, it seems only fair that she get in on some similar fun. Take the HBO series and mix it with the story of Adam and Eve during a time when Biblical films like Noah and Son of God are hitting the box office, and you’ve got an excuse for all the nudity the Dunham puts on display (though she doesn’t really need to justify it to the grumpy critics). Taran Killam does a fantastic Adam Driver impression too, so that’s cool.

 

What Are You Even Doing – I would take this over “Girlfriends Talk Show” any day of the week, especially if guest stars like Jon Hamm are going to keep popping up. However, since Dunham is one of the hosts of this faux show, they’ll have to get one of the other female cast members to step up to the plate. Plus, Bobby Moynihan looks like a majestic unicorn in this sketch.

The Worst

 

Jewelry Party – How did anyone think this would work with Mike O’Brien playing the sheepishly dickheaded men’s rights activist? He just seems way too awkward and nice for it to work. Kudos for Cecily Strong for that amazing Spanglish voice, but it didn’t help the sketch enough to save it. If Taran Killam had been used in place of O’Brien this might have worked a little better, but there’s likely a much better sketch that can be written skewering these weird chauvinistic men.

 

The Katt Williams Show – Hey, Jay Pharoah can do a Katt Williams impression, so can we figure out a way to shoehorn that into the show? Oh, another talk show format sketch? Yeah, let’s throw some half-hearted impressions of celebrities from the Oscars into the mix and that should work right? No, it doesn’t.

The Weird

Saturday Night Live - Concert Tickets

Concert Tickets – When Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney deliver one of their recorded shorts, it’s almost always weird, but when they miss, they miss pretty hard. This one just went on for too long, and the only joke comes across pretty well in the first minute, and doesn’t need to be beat into the ground. Sorry, Brooks Wheelan, keep trying.

Weekend Update

 

Colin Jost definitely felt more comfortable in his second episode behind the Weekend Update desk, and actually seemed to outshine Cecily Strong a little bit this time. His interaction with one of the “guests” at the desk was even better this time too. Speaking of which…

 

Matthew McConaughey – This should have been the only reference to the Oscars on last weekend’s show, mostly because it was infinitely better than the lame Katt Williams talk show focusing on the awards broadcast. Killam’s McConaughey is subtle, making this appearance that much more hilarious. Playing up the odd conversation topics and metaphors McConaughey has been known to spout, this was a win.

 

Vladimir Putin’s Best Friends from Growing Up – Hey, look, it’s Fred Armisen. The recent uproar about Vladimir Putin being an asshole during this new situation in the Ukraine is the perfect time to revive this recurring duo that Armisen brought to life with Vanessa Bayer plenty of times before. It’s a one-note joke, but the sudden quiet whispering always works, and it’s what they say under their breath about the subject at hand that changes things up enough to land firmly.

The Host

 

Though Lena Dunham was a bit nervous at first (the monologue wasn’t all that great anyway), the actress seemed to feel very comfortable reading from cue cards and being a very natural and energetic performer. She rarely felt awkward, and seemed to fit right in with the entire cast. Maybe it helps that she’s both an actress and writer, but there wasn’t a single time when I felt like Dunham brought a sketch down because of her limited experience on live television, and that’s hard even for the most experienced of actors and actresses. Plus, it’s always a delight when the hosts are willing to make fun of their public persona and work.

The MVP

Saturday Night Live - Taran Killam - McConaughey

Taran Killam – Between his impression of Adam Driver and that awesome appearance on Weekend Update, Killam was the clear top player on this episode (though Dunham did such a great time with her first time in Studio 8H that she almost took the title). It’s a shame the cast is so big, because Killam would otherwise certainly emerge as one of the top talents on “SNL.” He works as a leading man, has great impressions, but can still get weird. More Taran Killam, please!

The Final Word

Though this cast is still scattered all over the board (Kate McKinnon, John Milhiser and Noel Wells were just a few names that had pretty much nothing to do), Lena Dunham still made for a rather entertaining show, certainly one of the better episodes this season. Dunham should definitely come back for another go around, especially since the sketches didn’t just rely solely on her public persona or famous TV role for comedy.

Come back for our next episode recap after Louis C.K. returns to host “SNL” on March 29th.

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Ethan Anderton
Some of his favorite films include Ghostbusters, The Empire Strikes Back and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, while his favorite TV series include LOST, Mad Men, 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, Arrested Development and Saturday Night Live.
  • Tran

    Disappointment for Dunham. Hope she doesn’t come back to host SNL if they don’t want her to.

  • Roy J Evans

    Agreed. I hope that the powers that be at SNL have not hit their proverbial bottom of the barrell.