‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: Season 40, Episode 5 with Host Chris Rock

By November 3, 2014
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With a “Saturday Night Live” veteran as revered as Chris Rock returning to host the staple sketch show, you hope for the best, and the ratings clearly prove that lots of people were excited too. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the worst episode of the season so far with sketches feeling awkward, poorly paced, and just plain unfunny. But hey, that eight-minute jam session with Prince was just incredible, and you should go out of your way to track that down. Anyway, let’s get down to the sketches themselves.

The Best

 

Robbers – Easily the best sketch of the night (which wasn’t hard when you see the rest of the show), this was a great short. Almost like a “Key & Peele” sketch, it was shot cinematically, like The Dark Knight bank robbery with a silly twist. Kyle Mooney and Bobby Moynihan were great, especially when they start giving that Civil War lesson. Just a solid piece of comedy.

 

Swiftamine – Perfectly timed after Taylor Swift came out with her latest album, 1989, this past week, and it seems to be undeniable that the singer and songwriter is just like an infectious disease when it comes to her music and likability. Speaking of Taylor Swift, it would be nice to have her come back and host.

The Average

 

Chris Christie – Another shaky cold open, but this one was saved marginally by Bobby Moynihan’s great take on Chris Christie. I love that he’s just turned him into this cartoonish street goon, which isn’t too far off from how the politician acts sometimes. It’s just a shame the sketch itself wasn’t a little funnier. It seems like we’ve exhausted all the comedy we can get from the Ebola panic.

The Worst

 

GoProbe – A camera that goes in your butt! That’s funny, right? Not really. Great characters though.

 

How’s He Doing with Chris Rock – This was a sketch that didn’t really hit home the first time, and it doesn’t work any better the second time. The only amusing part from this sketch came from the scenario where they talk about Barack Obama not reprimanding his daughters for talking back. This is like an unfunny version of McLaughlin Group.

 

Shark Tank – Though the impressions of the panel from this reality show are great, the material was just abysmal. For some reason, it’s really hard for comedians to find something funny about ISIS and make it work. No topic is off limits in the comedy world, but some subjects are harder to crack, and ISIS certainly seems to be one of them, at least on “SNL.”

 

The Couple – I have no idea what was going on in this sketch. This felt like a deleted scene from a sitcom no one has ever seen before. However, while it was poorly paced and struggled to gain momentum, there was still something fascinating about the style in which this sketch was written. Jones and Rock were dedicated to their characters, and their dynamic was provocative, but the sketch itself just fell apart magnificently.

 

Vlog – Following a killer monologue from Chris Rock, this first sketch back from the commercial break just killed the momentum and energy with which the the show began. Rock did his best with his own energy, but I felt like I was actually watching a bad YouTube sketch or something like that, and they just happened to get Chris Rock to star in it.

The Weird

 

Women in the Workplace – The only thing that might have made this better was if it looked like it was an old VHS tape. But the two characters Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong played were fantastic, and Vanessa Bayer was great opposite Rock. Not only was this the weirdest sketch of the night, but it was definitely one of the funnier ones because of that.

Weekend Update

 

 

Colin Jost has some great delivery in this, especially the “I think I’ll try sex” line. And Michael Che was on point as well, and although he had a line flub that completely ruined one of the jokes, his recovery made up for it. Just goes to show you why it’s important and fun that this show is live. Anything can happen.

 

Pete Davidson on STD Preparation – For a featured player, it’s kind of amazing that Pete Davidson has been featured at the Weekend Update desk three times as himself. But at the same time, it just might be too much. Right now he kind of has this urban, street smart Adam Sandler vibe going on, which is what really got people to notice Sandler when he was on the show, and it’s working. But it could get old if it happens too often. Still, his bits are pretty great.

 

Katt Williams and Suge Knight – Katt Williams was in the news, so of course Jay Pharoah had to get out his impression. It’s a top notch impersonation, but it just seems to be hinged on the fact that Pharoah is good at the impression, and beyond that, the writing just wasn’t all that great for this segment. But Pharoah and Kenan Thompson do look great as this duo.

The Host

 

As an “SNL” veteran, you would think that Chris Rock would help make the show go much smoother. However, this was one of the clunkiest episodes yet. Rock’s stand-up monologue (which was fantastic) overshadowed 80% of the sketches from the evening, and not just because the subject matter was edgy. Rock just didn’t feel comfortable, and was clearly out of practice as far as blocking and reading cue cards is concerned. But that’s come to be expected on the show from time to time. When it comes down to it, Chris Rock is pretty much just good at being Chris Rock, so there aren’t many characters for him to play.

The MVP

Saturday Night Live - Kyle Mooney

Kyle Mooney – Not only was Mooney part of the best sketch of the night and knocked it out of the park, but in this episode, he even made me laugh in the bad sketches. When Mooney first joined the cast, I wasn’t sure he was going to last, but he’s proven to have a unique comedy style all his own, and lately he’s been starting to blossom in sketches without needing his comedy cohort Beck Bennett by his side, and that’s awesome.

The Final Word

It’s a shame that this episode was the highest rated of the season, because it was not a good episode for casual fans to see. It’s an episode like this that gets people thinking that this show is irrelevant, isn’t funny anymore, and will keep them from watching again for another year. And while the sketches in this episode were bad, it’s still absolutely fascinating to see a show like this come together. If you go back and look at old episodes of “SNL” that people always cite as being the better years (it could be any decade), there were just as many bad sketches then as there are now. People just only remember the good ones. Sadly, most of the sketches from tonight’s episode will be forgotten pretty easily.

I’ll be back in a couple weeks after Woody Harrelson hosts “SNL” on November 15th.

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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.