‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: Season 40, Episode 17 with Host Michael Keaton

By April 6, 2015
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It’s been 23 years since Michael Keaton hosted “Saturday Night Live,” and the writers and cast of the late night sketch show treated it like he might not be back for another long stretch of time. Not only was there an amazing tribute and funny sketch for Keaton’s monologue, but the actor was clearly having a blast playing some quirky characters, showing that his comedic chops are still in perfect order, even though he hasn’t hosted in over two decades. So let’s see what Keaton did for laughs over the weekend.

The Best

Easter Candy – At first, I had no idea where this sketch was going, but then it became clear that this was just a strange Easter greeting from some weird dude that feels a lot like one of Keaton’s personalities from the comedy Multiplicity and his disturbed daughter. And it just got better and better until it progressed, right up until the end when you learn that Michael Keaton was playing himself the whole time. It was delightfully odd, and positively hilarious.

CNN Newsroom – Considering how CNN goes out of their way to showcase their unnecessary technology on the air, from holograms to drones with cameras, this was right on the money. But rather then heighten the presence of advance technology in the newsroom, this segment goes low budget with some terrible computer animation, the use of puppets and a cat dramatization. Take that, CNN!

Ad Agency – This is the polar opposite of “Mad Men” in every way. While the pitch meetings in the AMC drama set in the world of advertising show these incredible ideas to sell Kodak or ketchup, this one just has some hot shot ruining his team’s ideas with the addition of women with big knockers and terrible comedy. Keaton’s earnest attitude in the sketch is what really sells it and made it stand out.

The Average

Prom Queen – This is one of those shorts that’s an infinitely better short film than recorded sketch comedy. It’s a high quality production and it has a great idea, but it just didn’t make me laugh too much. If anything, the sincerity of the story in the short may have actually made it a little less funny. But again, Keaton’s dedication to being genuine in the sketch certainly elevated it to another level. I just didn’t think it was one of the best.

Easter Hotline -With the attitude of a sex hotline, this faux commercial tries to convince you to call your grandparents on Easter, since it’s like one of five times throughout the year you’re supposed to talk to them. This is definitely one of those “it’s funny because it’s true” sketches, especially that scene with Taran Killam and Michael Keaton as his grandfather always talking at the exact same time.

Neurotology Music Video – This is one of those sketches that’s only really funny if you’ve seen what’s being parodied. This is a flawless recreation of a real Scientology promotional video that appears in the HBO documentary Going Clear, which just debuted last week. The problem is that the real video is just ridiculous enough by itself that a parody like this isn’t entirely necessary. The updates about where the people in the video now is a funny touch, but otherwise, a parody of something that’s already goofy as hell just doesn’t make for huge laughs.

The Worst

NCAA Tournament – While this was a timely sketch, complete with the kind of NCAA tournament detail that only a live show can provide, it just doesn’t skewer the NCAA enough for just how insane their rules and regulations are for how student athletes get treated. Over at “Last Week Tonight” on HBO, one of their top stories a couple weeks ago dove into this topic not only with comedy, but with some great investigative journalism, and anything else since then just seems too soft.

The Weird

Smart Home – I’m not sure what the impetus for this sketch was, but from my perspective, it was the characters that made this one fall flat. There was no perspective as to where we were, why these characters were so weird, and why this all made perfect sense to them. And their neighbors just compounded those questions, which really just took me out of the sketch completely. This was a funny idea, especially a butt rod with googly eyes, but it just didn’t land in the end.

Weekend Update


There’s some solid update jokes from Michael Che and Colin Jost this week (the latter’s bit on US and Israel relations is stellar), but this week we’re back to these two lacking in any real interaction or chemistry. They need something to bring them together like Seth & Amy or Tina & Amy or Jimmy & Tina had for years. Jost and Che are supposedly great friends and work well together, but you wouldn’t know it by watching them on TV this week.

Pete Davidson On the Walking Dead Season Finale – I was worried this was going to be another Pete Davidson stand-up style segment. It’s not that Davidson isn’t funny, but “SNL” has relied on him and Leslie Jones for these segments, and they just seem lazy, no matter how funny the material is. Thankfully, this one was livened up with a cameo by Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon from “The Walking Dead,” so that’s fun.

Jebediah Atkinson Reviews Television Shows – I may never get tired of this character, and it’s nice to see Taran Killam have so much fun with him. From interacting with Michael Che to taunting and reacting to the audience, it’s just a perfect character. Here’s hoping he never runs out of things to review.

The Host

Michael Keaton hasn’t hosted “Saturday Night Live” since 1992, and before that he hosted in 1982. But with the way Keaton was treated in his monologue above (which should be counted as one of the best sketches of the night too), you would think he’s one of those hosts who comes by all the time and has legendary status. But this monologue shows just how influential Michael Keaton was in the 80s ad 90s (and thankfully he’s back on top again), so much that he influenced a lot of these cast members with his roles. It made me realize just how much Keaton influenced my movie tastes as a child of the 90s too. All in all, this was not only a funny sketch, but a great tribute to an actor who may not host “SNL” for another decade again. Though I hope it’s not that long again.

The MVP

Saturday Night Live - Taran Killam - Michael Keaton - Bobby Moynihan

Taran Killam & Bobby Moynihan – It’s not often that a single sketch results in a particular cast member getting the MVP title, but that Michael Keaton monologue felt so genuine and charming with these two in charge, and I just loved it. Plus, it also helps that Killam had a Jebediah Atkinson segment on Weekend Update and Moynihan had a kooky bit part in the Easter candy sketch. Well done, gentlemen.

The Final Word

Bringing a host like Michael Keaton back for the first time in about 23 years made for some fun, and the cast didn’t need to rely on parodying any of his well-known roles from the past beyond the monologue. And even then, it wasn’t done in the way you would’ve expected. The writing staff didn’t even try for another Birdman spoof, because that’s been beaten into the ground by everybody. Michael Keaton got to play some goofy characters, and really seemed to be enjoying himself, and it showed with some solid sketch comedy.

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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.
  • hansolo

    I was lucky enough to be on the plane with some of the cast on the way to NY the night before this. Was increadible!

    • I bet they were all riled-up and ready to go. How fun?!