‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: Season 39, Episode 2 with Host Miley Cyrus

By October 7, 2013

SNL - Miley Cyrus Bumper

The second episode of the 39th season of “Saturday Night Live” hit the small screen this weekend, albeit with an annoying delay due to football, and many might be surprised to hear that the episode as a whole was actually better than the premiere with seasoned veteran Tina Fey.

However, much of the success of Miley Cyrus as a host hinged on her career and presence in the media spotlight following her controversial and silly performance at the MTV Video Music Awards just a little while back. Thankfully, there were some great laughs to be had and the new cast members really strut their stuff after being held back last week. So let’s recap the sketches from the show:

The Best


We Did Stop – Utilizing the chart-topping single We Can’t Stop from the host and musical guest’s most recent album, this music video parody takes aim at the Republican Party and their recent success in shutting down the government as part of the protest to the enactment of Obamacare. Taran Killam plays an orange and scantily clad  John Boehner while Miley Cyrus plays a seductive, slutty Michele Bachmann, singing all about how they shut the government down. There’s hilarious cues taken from the original music video and a fantastic job by Killam as the House Speaker. You’ll probably have, “La-da-dee-da-dee, Republican Party,” stuck in your head for the whole week.


Fifty Shades of Grey Auditions – After months of searching, Sony announced the leads for the gestating adaptation of the erotic romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Taking cues from previous sketches like the lost auditions for Star Wars, this time we get the audition reels from actors who also tried out for the lead roles in the film. These kind of sketches are a parade of imitations and Taran Killam, Kate McKinnon, Noel Wells, John Milhiser, and pretty much everyone else do incredible impressions of Christoph Waltz, Jane Lynch, Emma Stone and Jon Cryer, respectively. Aidy Bryant and Vanessa Bayer seemed wasted in this one, but it’s bound to happen every now and then.


Miley Cyrus Sex Tape – This sketch was simple in execution, and actually felt like it could have been an “SNL Digital Short” from the mind of Andy Samberg, with the departed cast member in the lead role. But Kyle Mooney makes a solid substitution in this unbelievable opportunity for him to have sex with Miley Cyrus, and he really made the sketch work better than it otherwise might have with another cast member.

The Average


VMAs Backstage – The biggest problem with this sketch is the strange frame of an apocalyptic New York in the fallout of the media circus surrounding Cyrus’ scandalous performance on MTV, but Vanessa Bayer salvaged it as best she could as old Miley Cyrus beside the sexually charged new image of the singer as she prepares to go out for the performance backstage. Seeing Bayer beside Cyrus really shows you just how great her impersonation of the singer has been, and having them sing together and do the morning routine in unison was applause worthy.


Mornin’ Miami – It took one round to get an idea of what was going on, but the start and stop of the sketch made for a fun experience, not to mention some of the nonsensical stories that the crew of Mornin’ Miami had lined up. This was easily the best sketch that featured Miley Cyrus not as some form of herself, and the early set up for the name gag at the end was a nice touch.


Piers Morgan Reviews the Clinton Biopics – The titles of the faux shows about the Clinton family were better than some of the “clips” that played out, but what was really interesting about this sketch was how it could have easily served as a test as to who should play Hilary Clinton when/if she becomes a prominent figure in the Presidential race in 2016. Kate McKinnon would be the frontrunner in my opinion, but we’ll see what happens if that comes to fruition, and if they can top Amy Poehler.

The Worst


Girlfriends Talk Show – Sometimes this sketch works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Aidy Bryant is always amusing as the girlfriend confused and frustrated by her friend’s constantly changing personality and last minute changes to the show, but this attempt was just a dud. Cyrus didn’t offer much in this sketch, and though Strong really sold her character to the max, the laughs were few and far between.


Cheer Squad  – Well, not only was this sketch lacking more than one single decent joke (the solitary laugh went to the cheer from Taran Killam), but it was sloppily executed as one of the crew members was visible in wide shot as he was hooking up cast members to the harnesses to be raised off the ground and into the off-camera spaceship. This was just a complete disaster, and not even goofy alien Kenan Thompson could save it at the end. It was just awkward for everyone involved.

The Weird


Poetry Class – Remember that weird doesn’t necessarily mean bad, but it also doesn’t mean good either. This sketch featuring a very animated Vanessa Bayer would have fallen flat on its face if it wasn’t for this clearly defined character that just had to be inspired by someone in the comedienne’s past. Much of the laughter just comes from the oddity of it all, along with Kenan Thompson’s perfect haiku about his missing weed, and if there was just a little more cleverness to go with the weird, then it might have been better.

Weekend Update


Winners/Losers – It’s an easy target, but the back and forth between Cecily Strong and Seth Meyers for this send-up of the GOP and the government shutdown was perfectly executed, witty and was easily the best part of Weekend Update beyond the news story. As a whole, the duo also seemed much more comfortable with Strong improving since her debut at the desk last weekend.


Pat Lynhart – You can always count on a great character from Kate McKinnon, and she makes this Grand Theft Auto obsessed mother work. If only everybody’s Mom was excited about killing hookers and becoming a Latino druglord.


Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy – This character has always seemed a little more adorable than laugh out loud funny, but that’s to the credit of Vanessa Bayer as she delivers the cheesy jokes and awkward demeanor of a young Jewish teen flawlessly. The best part is when Jacob is introduced to Cecily Strong for the first time.


Shannon Sharpe – As a mostly non-sports guy, this turned out to be nothing more than a silly gag featuring Jay Pharoah speaking quickly and spitting over himself. I’m sure the impression is top notch and there’s something to be said about his wording on various sports tropes, but this wasn’t in my wheelhouse, so I didn’t enjoy it very much.

The Host


Surprisingly, singer and occasional actress Miley Cyrus worked out much better than anticipated for the sophomore episode of this predictably rocky season. While much of the comedy relied on her public image, controversial sexuality projection and career, the writing was still clever enough to make it work (with some brief help from Bobby Moynihan and a wrecking ball in the above monologue). It might have been easy, but it helped Cyrus be a lot more comfortable than some musicians who end up in sketches. Cyrus didn’t quite match Justin Timberlake levels of success, but few hosts will ever be that good. Kudos to Cyrus for not stumbling over her lines and pulling off a solid episode as host and musical guest.


SNL - Taran Killam - We Did Stop

This week was a tough choice with Vanessa Bayer putting in so much effort, but Taran Killam had many more laugh out loud moments in the sketches that were much better as a whole. From his amazing John Boehner music video appearance to his spectacular Christoph Waltz impersonation, Killam just nailed it. For me, the clincher was the fact that he caused my single laugh in the terrible Cheer Squad sketch. On an important note, the MVP could easily have gone to the new cast members as a whole since they successfully brought the laughs this week.

The Final Word

Though there were many groans across the Internet when Miley Cyrus was announced as a host, Cyrus came through with the comedy (and some solid musical performances). Bringing her in as host was a smart move if only because of the attention she’s been receiving in the tabloids and everywhere else, but this episode turned out much better than when they tried the same move during Lindsay Lohan’s more troubled times. Cyrus did well enough that she’ll likely be back again, but hopefully the writers will do more with her than just playing different versions of Miley Cyrus.

Next week we’ll be recapping the October 12th episode with host Bruce Willis and musical guest Katy Perry.

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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.