It was a great night to be a beer-drinker or the kind of person who always loved watching the bloopers at the end of Smokey and the Bandit movies. Anheuser-Busch sponsored most of Saturday Night Live this week, to promote its Bud Light Golden Wheat brand. The beer company also introduced never-before-seen dress rehearsal outtakes from earlier SNL seasons — the company was as much the host of the show as Gerard Butler was. If you’d been yearning to see a 1998 clip of Will Ferrell laughing while sitting on a donkey, this was your week.
The rest of the time, you probably needed to drink a lot of the sponsor’s product to find much else that was funny. The weekly cold-open attempted to find something funny about President Obama resulted in Dwayne Johnson making a return cameo as The Rock Obama, hulkingly asking things like, “Why health care bill no have public option?”
Following the bad-luck pattern SNL has followed this season in booking hosts with poorly-received movies opening the same weekend (Megan Fox, Drew Barrymore), Butler was a smiling, friendly presence but he wasn’t used well. As with Fox and Barrymore, Butler’s current product wasn’t mentioned. Instead, we got a 300 parody in which all the soldiers were gay with a drawn-out “don’t ask, don’t tell” punchline. The sketch wasn’t funny — especially since “Weekend Update” had made at least two other “don’t ask, don’t tell” jokes preceding it.
Butler had to compete for screen time not only with Bud Light, but also with Kristen Wiig, who seemed to be everywhere. Sketches would begin with one premise — say, Butler as an ad-agency rep coming up with ideas about how to make cottage cheese sexy — only to have Wiig enter and take over the sketch doing one of her 25 interchangeable nervously-awkward characters. I’m not saying Wiig isn’t talented; it’s just that she’s being stretched too thin. Couldn’t Abby Elliott, Jenny Slate, or Nasim Pedrad have been used more prominently to give her (and them) a break?
The night’s real missed opportunity, though, was a fake BET talk-show called “What Up With That?” hosted by Kenan Thompson as an R&B-crooning host. His guests included Bill Hader as Lindsey Buckingham and James Franco as James Franco. But those two said not a word: The joke was that Thompson’s character sang and talked so much, time ran out. A red jump-suited Jason Sudeikis did some highly amusing dancing in the background, but — well, all I can say is, I was really looking forward to seeing Hader do his Buckingham impersonation. Too bad…
Oh, I almost forgot: I liked Seth Meyers’ “Update” joke about the new cast of Celebrity Apprentice reducing the meaning of “celebrity” to “mammal.” And I always laugh at Hader as the alien sportscaster, which he did early in the show.
Musical guest Shakira shook various parts of her body with great vigor. Twice.
What did you laugh at on the show this week? Did SNL succeed in making you want to buy beer?
And I think I’m federally mandated by law to say you can follow me on Twitter.