Well, we've all been wondering what it would look like if Louis C.K. hosted Saturday Night Live (I have been wondering this for as long as it has been announced, which is at least two or three weeks). Now we know what that looks like. It was pretty much as strange as I expected it would be, and though the results were mixed, I'm certainly not upset that the collaboration took place. It was an interesting 90 minutes of television.
It's telling that the two most successful sketches of the night (one of which wasn't really a sketch) depended pretty much entirely on CK and weren't about him playing a "character," per se. His monologue, which was really just a short routine about helping an old woman, was one of the funniest things in the episode. That's not a surprise, since C.K. is the best stand-up comic working right now. Just as funny (or funnier) was "Lincoln," a parody of C.K.'s sitcom Louie with him cast as Abraham Lincoln. There was a very funny scene in which he argues with Mary Todd, and an even better scene in which he tries to get credit for freeing the slaves from a guy he meets in a bar. I could have watched that sketch for the entirety of the episode.
Everything else was mixed at best, with C.K. either not having a whole lot to do or else stuck uncomfortably into sketches in which he really didn't fit. Sometimes, his not fitting was part of the conceit. Other times it just called attention to something we all already know: C.K. is a brilliant stand-up comic, and that is a very different animal from sketch comedy. Stand-up is done totally solo. It's written alone, it's performed alone, and the comic lives or dies on his or her own material. Sketch comedy has a lot of different factors, and being funny in one thing does not automatically mean one will be funny in the other. I'm glad I got to see C.K. host SNL, but I'm not all that sure I need to see it happen again.
(Read the full SNL Louis CK recap)
Photo courtesy NBC