Because of the recent slump of familiarity that Saturday Night Live has found itself in, there was a lot of pressure on comedian Zach Galifianakis (who most people probably recognize from his role in The Hangover, but he's also a great, great stand-up comic) to pull out a terrific, memorable episode. That didn't happen. As excited as I was about who I consider to be one of the funniest comedians currently working getting the chance to host SNL, I couldn't shake a nervous feeling -- would the show have any idea what to do with Galifianakis? His bizarre comic sensibility couldn't be more different than the familiar, safe humor being cranked out by Saturday Night Live week after week. I couldn't imagine a way in which the two would mesh in any satisfying, successful way.
I was right, and they didn't. Instead, Galifianakis was sidelined for most of the episode, reduced to either cameo appearances in repeat sketches or, in worse cases, literally just standing there on camera (at least the Digital Short found a way to make a joke of this phenomenon). The two best pieces of the night, not surprisingly, were two of the only original sketches and the only two in which Galifianakis was given something -- anything -- to do (the bidet sketch and another late episode piece about a pageant dad; did Galifianakis shave his beard for that one, by the way? It was back during the "goodnights," but looked fake...). Unfortunately, the episode can be chalked up to a failed experiment at best. My weekly disappointment continues.
- "Cold Open: Obama" - Yikes. The night got off to a rough start with this cold open in which Fred Armisen once again plays Obama, this time speculating on the chances of reelection for Nancy Pelosi (Kristen Wiig) and Harry Reid (Will Forte). This was a sketch without any real comic point of view and hardly any jokes. It's not that it wasn't funny (even though it wasn't), it's that it didn't even attempt to be funny. The writers were sitting this one out. (Watch the "Cold Open: Obama" video)
- "Zach Galifianakis Monologue" - Along with the cold open, the writers got the first two sketches off tonight, with host and comedian Zach Galifianakis doing material from his stand-up rather than the traditional monologue. He's a great comic, so there was a lot of funny stuff, but it felt a little...lazy...and helped establish early on the divide between Galifianakis and the show that existed throughout the evening. (Watch the "Zach Galifianakis Monologue" video)
- "Kissing Family" - Another one of these sketches, which gets almost all of its mileage based on how much male cast members are willing to make out with one another (turns out Will Forte and Fred Armisen are willing to make out a lot). Host Galifianakis wasn't used in any way here, basically getting one line and one joke; unfortunately, it was the same joke that had already been made six or seven times in the sketch. (Watch the "Kissing Family" video)
- "Bidet" - I recognize that this piece wasn't great -- that it was based on saying the word "bidet" over and over and that it had no direction or punchline. I still kind of liked it. It was the kind of dialogue-heavy, absurdist sketch I could imagine Steve Martin doing in the late '70s (something about Galifianakis' timing on repeating the word). Plus, I liked that most of the jokes had to be created in your imagination. Maybe I'm reaching because this was one of the few original sketches of the night. (Watch the "Bidet" video)
- "Digital Short: Zach Drops by the Set" - Amusing, but not hilarious. In this week's Digital Short, Galifianakis photobombs (videobombs?) a bunch of NBC shows, even including a classic SNL show (a joke that was unnecessarily underlined -- and weakened, in my opinion -- with on-screen text). His appearance on Law & Order was my favorite, mostly because he pretended to shoot at the stars. (Watch the "Digital Short: Zach Drops by the Set" video)
- "Today Show" - Using a callback/carry-over from the previous sketch, this umpteenth version of the Hoda Kotb/Kathy Lee Gifford-hosted Today Show was also hijacked by Galifianakis. Some of Kristen Wiig's mugging can be funny in these sketches, but they're always the same. Plus, Galifianakis continues to be wasted -- he's a presence in the sketch, but that's literally it. What's with him getting the January Jones treatment? (Watch the "Today Show" video)
- "What Up with That?" - I've gone from really liking this sketch the first time it was done to downright loathing it now. It's utterly lazy to do it week in and week out, never changing even one bit of the formula. I got a little kick out of grown-up Baby Jessica still dancing in the well, but that was just proof of what the sketch falls back on -- little absurd cameos -- to score its only laughs. Maybe if there more of them, it would work better. They need to retire this one for a little while. (Watch the "What Up with That?" video)
- "CNN Reports" - Another waste of Zach Galifianakis, who doesn't have a single line and is once again relegated to just being a presence. Apparently, CNN is disorganized and terrible. That's true, but The Daily Show makes that point at least twice a week and all they have to do is show actual footage from CNN. It's hard to make fun of something that's funnier on its own.
- Original Air Date: 3/6/10
- Host: Zach Galifianakis
- Musical Guest: Vampire Weekend