Bruce Willis returned to “Saturday Night Live” for the first time since 1989, and he played the harmonica. Willis doesn’t have a new album coming out or anything, but it set the stage for a night that showed the normally serious actor was up for anything. Sadly, the episode as a whole didn’t deliver a lot of stellar material, but Willis thoroughly enjoyed himself, which made it a bit easier to tolerate even the terrible sketches of the night.
Boy Dance Party – There was plenty of worry that upon Andy Samberg’s exit from “SNL” that the absence of the Digital Shorts would be a big loss. However, there have been plenty of recorded segments with the heart of the trademark digital short sketches, and they really just lack the title card. Such is the case with Boy Dance Party, a hilarious music video featuring a group of guys, led by Bruce Willis, who just want to have their own dance party while the girls are out of the apartment. Seeing Willis dance around and sing in this video is hilarious, and Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan sell it just as well as The Lonely Island.
Beer Pong – In yet another entry that feels like an SNL Digital Short, featured players Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett make their mark as a couple dudes in this strange fraternity with a different kind of beer pong. There’s basically no drinking, but who doesn’t want to design their own dream roller coaster? This was original and hilarious, showing that the new cast members are catching on pretty quickly, and seem to have a promising future.
NASA Shutdown – This sketch has a solid premise, but it doesn’t really go anywhere special. Having Kenan Thompson and Kate McKinnon as custodial employees at NASA during the government shutdown is funny by itself with Taran Killam and Cecily Strong as two stranded astronauts in space (see Gravity). The government shutdown was the big punchline, and it feels like there should have been more to make this a funnier sketch, but it worked for a fun cold open, especially since it was the only politically charged sketch of the night, and it didn’t really take any bi-partisan shots at the government.
24 Hour Energy Drink – Kate McKinnon, Noel Wells, Cecily Strong make this one work as high strung aspiring actresses, and knowing a few of these kinds of people, this hit home some pretty accurate traits. It seems like this could also be done for douchebag aspiring actors, but the end of the commercial gives a quick tease of 24 Hour Energy for dating comedians to try and even the playing field.
Armageddon – If you don’t like this character, then the sketch doesn’t work for you. Bobby Moynihan’s dedication to this strange guy who loves his kitty cat is a one-note joke, but his reaction to the cat exploding was a great moment. Honestly, the more disappointing side of this sketch is the fact that it uses the characters from Armageddon, but then it’s not actually an Armageddon sketch. It actually makes me wish Willis had hosted “Saturday Night Live” again sometime before now so some of his other big films could have been lampooned more properly.
Black Ops – This sounds like a good idea on paper, but the execution felt flat and lacked energy. Hearing Willis spouting off a lot of army movie tropes is mildly amusing, and of course, Moynihan’s childlike excitement waiting for the next moment did illicit some laughs from me. In the end though, this just didn’t work.
Protective Son – Props to Taran Killam for keeping the energy high for this whole sketch, but this just wasn’t funny enough for as long as it lasted. Also, how was there no Street Fighter joke by using the name Chun Li? And how was this the sketch where there was a Die Hard reference?
The Ol’ Barbershop – Using the frame of a talkative, urban barbershop that we’ve seen on TV and films so many times and throwing a cleancut, conservative storytelling white guy into the mix is amusing, but this sketch really missed the mark. I almost wish this solely featured Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah telling more and more outlandish stories, but oh well. Really, the funniest part of this sketch was Pharoah drinking the blue liquid that combs usually sit in, because that stuff always looks like delicious Kool-Aid.
The Lady Gaga Show – The weirdness of Lady Gaga isn’t exactly an unknown part of her public persona, so there’s not really anything funny about giving her a weird talk show. Plus, it’s not as if there’s anything particularly unique about the way she speaks or acts in order to make her hosting a talk show all that entertaining. Though Bruce Willis was having a blast as the flamboyant Michael Kors and Kate McKinnon whipped out her fantastic Penelope Cruz impression, their efforts were wasted on a lame sketch. This sketch is not available on Hulu.
Centauri Vodka – Strange but hilarious. It was short and sweet, and the physical comedy from John Milhiser as the back half of Bruce Willis’ centaur body was perfect. His gasps and thumping to the ground with Willis dragging his body around while nobody seemed to care just worked.
Jenner Divorce – While normally extended segments like this get their own introduction, similar to Really?! with Seth and Amy, it was a nice touch to just have Cecily Strong and Seth Meyers just go back and forth, repeating the same opening line and adding a new punchline. And they really did save the best for last.
Brooks Wheelan – While this segment was certainly entertaining, it didn’t feel like a Weekend Update segment. It seemed like Brooks Wheelan doing a stand-up bit, and those kind of segments are very hit or miss on Weekend Update. It’s funny to see Wheelan pull from his real life, especially with all those goofy tattoos that he got as a younger guy, but it just didn’t feel like it belonged on “Saturday Night Live.”
Chaplain Barry Black – Kenan Thompson almost seems to work best in Weekend Update segments, as that’s where most of his more memorable recurring characters come from. This one wasn’t particularly amazing, but his super specific prayers were just ridiculous enough to bring a good amount of hilarity.
As a whole this episode of “Saturday Night Live” was pretty lackluster, but one thing was clear: Bruce Willis was having a blast. He put so much energy into every character and really dedicated himself to the comedy. Seeing a guy with the stature and big screen presence of Willis do something like Boy Dance Party, not to mention his over-the-top portrayal of Michael Kors is just fun, even if not all the sketches were top notch. Plus, since Willis is bald, it was clear the make-up crew had fun giving him a bunch of different wigs to wear (most of which made him look like a pedophile). Because of all the stories going around about how stern Willis can be, it’s just nice to see him cut loose like this.
Bobby Moynihan – Though he only appeared in one of the best sketches of the night, his presence – even in the less than stellar sketches – consistently brought the laughs. From his kitty cat obsessed character to his rapping in Boy Dance Party, it was a good night for Bobby Moynihan. Plus how many people can say that they got to “play” harmonica with Bruce Willis?
The Final Word
This was the worst episode of the season so far, but that’s not to say it was abysmal. One thing that really helped was that Willis seemed to be hosting just for the hell of it. He doesn’t have any movies coming out in the near future, so there wasn’t anything to promote. We just wish that there was as much variety and quality in the sketches as there was in the wigs that Willis wore throughout the night. Plus, I’m really surprised that Katy Perry wasn’t utilized at all this time. At the very least, Cecily Strong was even better at the Weekend Update desk this time, and we know Willis does have a sense of humor.
Our next review will be for the October 26th episode with host Edward Norton.
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