'Saturday Night Live' recap: Charles Barkley shows some bite

It was a measure of how much fun Charles Barkley was as the new year’s first Saturday Night Live host that I couldn’t tell whether he was reciting a joke or ad libbing when he said during the opening moments, “Some of [the show] is great; some of it we’re gonna do anyway.”

While not “great,” it certainly had its good moments. Barkley did his share of saving some mediocre sketches, such as the “Reel Quotes” game-show, which asked two contestants (Barkley and Kristen Wiig) to complete famous film lines. Wiig was supposed to be funny for answering with excessively long responses; me, I laughed when Barkley’s character completed “Life is like a box of… ” with “dead people,” as well as, “May the force be equal to mass times acceleration.”

Barkley, Kenan Thompson, and Jason Sudeikis made the latest variation on SNL‘s “Scared Straight” parody amusing in two ways: Thompson rattled off the baroque prison punishments with aplomb, while Sudeikis and Barkley each offered some excellent reactions to the craziness this sketch always seems to stir up in both the performers and the audience.

Weekend Update: Seth Meyers got off a good Lady Gaga/Polaroid spokesperson punchline, and made a so-so Jay Leno/Tonight Show joke (“It’s a little weird to start The Tonight Show at a time when it’s no longer tonight”). The best stuff came from Fred Armisen wheeling in as New York governor David Paterson and emitting a stream of anti-New Jersey jokes:

I’m afraid the “MacGruber” bits were grimly unfunny, hinging solely on Will Forte’s MacGruber blabbing racist idiocies to Barkley’s character. But much worse was the endless “Shana” sketch, with Wiig reprising her supposedly-sexy-then-gross character. Watch it if you dare:

Alicia Keys’ singing exuded what seemed like an effortless power — even when the lyrics in the second song, “Streets of New York,” were just a string of cliches, she sounded terrific. And Keys took part in a pretty funny Digital Short, drunk-dialing Andy Samberg’s weird nerd for a booty-call:

Delayed over 30 minutes by a football overrun, Saturday Night Live betrayed live-show jitters only once, late in the show, when a Charles Barkley-as-a-banker sketch seemed to cut off before its completion. You can’t tell it from this edited version, but it sounded to me as though Barkley continued talking as the show went to a commercial.

Sure, Barkley did a lot of distracting reading off the cue cards, and once again, SNL behaved as though the only woman in its cast who can recite long passages is Wiig. (Nasim Pedrad in particular is being wasted.) Still, maybe it’s the optimism of a new year, but I thought this was one of the more likable editions of the show in recent months: SNL took on some of Barkley’s loose affability.

And, see the bonus moment that could have made mast night’s show a great one: Barkley as Keys!

Comments (144 total) Add your comment
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  • Hannah

    Yea, it was enjoyable. Barkley tries and he is funny just by nature of being Charles Barkley. I wish the show would do some tv/movie parodies. They also should have a skit about those phone commercials.

    • Joe Malik

      Ken Tucker, you are an old, politically correct fuddy duddy.

      • Stephanie Tanner

        Agree, the MacGubber skits were hilarious. I find guys like Ken Tucker who are overly politically correct are the ones covering up for their true nature. Would not be surprised if he is in fact a little racist himself. Its like when MacGubber said he “now tells his jokes in private”.

      • Martha

        Ken Tucker p.c.? Then why is the comment Marisa left here last night noting the sexist view Tucker repeatedly shows now AWOL? And would EW care to explain how that comment — on topic — disappeared?
        Ken Tucker’s the main reason I stopped reading EW and when my sister called to tell me about that comment last night, I went straight here. Now, at work, I tried to show my cubicle neighbors but Marisa’s quote’s gone. Good thing I did a screensnap and can post it to a blog.

      • Mike

        What made the MacGruber sketch funny wasn’t that he was saying racist things, but about how he was trying to cover it up, only to let it explode out when he was the least bit threatened. It was actually fairly good social commentary by SNL standards. But I wouldn’t expect someone who liked the booty call sketch to get it.

    • so fresh, so hilarious!

      Barkley’s not hilarious to me, but then I don’t find black men acting ignorant, crass and uneducated to be amusing. I find it to be reminiscent of mistrel shows actually.

      • sparkle the gym bag

        “lawsy..master..you sure be..taking thangs serious and all..have adnother doe-c-do oft uself

      • saintofE69th

        sparkle that is the funniest thing I have seen on here in years!!! agree time for people to lighten up!

      • wavedeva

        @ so fresh–totally agree. I turned off the show after the lame monologue. Especially didn’t like the jokes about the “jewish beauty” and the “black nerd”. If nothing else, I saw why Tiger Woods is in the situation he is in. With “friends” like that…

  • Liza

    Charlie Murphy was on Howard Stern last week saying he wants on the show, why not get him, Lorne?

    • Liza

      To clarify, he wants on as a cast member, not a host.

    • gigi

      Charlie Murphy on SNL!?! Why isn’t Loren Michaels jumping on that opportunity? C’mon Loren!!

  • Well….


  • nicole

    The Reel-quotes skit made me and my husband laugh out loud and he NEVER does that with SNL. He watched for Charles and I thought he was funny.
    I don’t understand why the new girls are on the show. I find them unfunny and apparently so does Lorne because they are never utilized.

    • info

      My husband and I laughed out loud at the Reel-quotes game show bit. It was very funny.

      • amj

        So did we…! And, agreed, he never laughs at SNL.

      • gigi

        My 11 year old laughed so hard during that skectch. It was pretty funny.

  • TorontoTom

    Watched the show this morning in a record 4.5 minutes.
    Might as well call it The Kristen Wiig Show. She fits all three comments above yet they insist on acting like she’s the new Tina Fey or Amy Poeller. She’s NOT.

    • Brian

      Calm down, nerd.

      • £€€

        Kristen Wiig, is that you?

    • UMC

      There’s no way you can watch a show and give it a fair critism in 4.5 minutes. Even if you pressed fast forward and watched the entire show without sound, it would be more than 4.5 minutes. In conclusion, you are a LIAR!!! You never even watched the show! For shame!!!

      • ger

        I’d call not watching the show smart, not lying.

    • sparkle the gym bag

      her and loran are doing it

    • Dana

      I find Kristen Wig’s acting to be the same regardless of the skit. I do not find her funny at all in fact she makes me want to reach through the screen and choke her just to make her shut up

  • nicolefink

    Call me crazy but I thought the MacGruber and the “Shana” skits were the funniest of the night. In fact, I laughed hysterically when Wiig got on that pole

    • V

      I totally agree, especially Shana. I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard at SNL. Maybe it appeals to women more than men? If Wiig is going to repeat the same character over and over like she tends to do, I’d like to see more of Shana!

    • LR

      i agree!! i think kristen wigg is so talented but the fact that she is in EVERY skit has created a backlash toward her, so no matter what she does people are irritated. the shana skit was really funny and if she were used more sparingly people would focus on what she is actually doing rather than just thinking “oh great, kristen wigg again”.

    • josh

      I thought SNL w/ Barkley was one of the funniest in years, i was laughing my a$$ off at the game show skit and the McGruber ones…great ep.

      • bedtimeforbonzo

        Same here.

        Forte in the African attire had me laughing before they began talking.

        Saw something in HuffPo that said this skit said more about race relations than the current Harry Reid and Bill Clinton controversies. Agree.

        Charles Barkley is just a funny guy — and best when he is making fun of himself. You can see the guy just enjoys life.

  • Chris

    Don’t know why all the Wiig hate, she’s quite good. Its not her fault she is by far the best female cast member. All that said, this show was extremely subpar.

    • Marc

      her characters are weak, IME she makes me laugh only about 20% of the time. Also maybe because they use her too much to the point where I feel that I should go kick Lorne Michaels in the nuts and tell him to stop

      • too long

        SNL’s problem is that they always run with a joke until it is not funny. They deliver the punchline and you laugh. Then they keep regurgitating the punchline over and over, until the end of the skit.

    • Sherry

      I thought shanna was hilarious. Ken is a grumpy old dude.

    • wino

      she’s overused…and as a result, they are throwing her in numerous unfunny bits as opposed to keeping her for a couple quality skits. thus her presence gets annyoing to the viewer as her charm wears off. thats whats up with the wigg “hate”.

      • so fresh, so hilarious!

        Agreed. They’re ruining any prospects she has for a future career by wearing out her welcome in the homes of America. Using her up like a n** rag.

    • Matt

      The problem is they use her way too much, Nasim Pedrad is hilarious, but they rarely give her a chance. I’d be much happier if the other girls got some more time and Wiig got less…She’s getting old real fast.

  • Sara

    The MacGruber skits were hillarious. I have a new joke to tell people now. SNL hasn’t been very funny for a while but compared to other episodes this was one of the funniest since Taylor Swift was the host.

    • P.

      I agree, MacGruber skits were great

      • ledonatella

        Me too. Love MacGruber. I liked the Reel Quotes or whatever sketch too, Barkley was good in it.

  • Jessica

    Lorne never should have fired Casey Wilson. She was great, and one of my fave skits, Cougar Den, is no longer on because of it

    • Hannah

      I’m pretty sure cougar den was a skit before she came.

  • DVaRmy

    The golf sketch was hilarious…Charles can obvoiusly laugh at himself.

    • thin

      For my money, that was the funniest bit of the night. I was laughing so hard I could hardly breathe.

  • Anthony

    I really thought the jokes were half way written well, but, man, was the delivery painful. PAINFUL. And Ken, I hate to say this, but Ken Tucker, you are 100% wrong about MacGruber. It was, and always will be, a great sketch!!

    • so fresh, so hilarious!

      Yeah, no matter how many times they do it, for however many years they do it, it is one joke that never ever ever ever gets old at all. MacGruber is so clever and so original that it could never get old. Maybe they should start doing A-Team skits every week right after the multiple weekly MacGruber ones.

  • Kevin

    during “football night in america” they played a clip of Barkley dressed like Alicia Keyes playing the piano. it looked hi-lar-ious. what happened to it?

  • toma

    Are they hard up for hosts or what? No offense to Charles Barkley, but he hasn’t been relevant for 10 years other than getting arrested.

    • tomasnuts

      barkley was famous for basketball. you clearly don’t know or watch basketball. he is and has been one of the top basketball commentators for years and many of us love his honest self-deprecating commentary. he has MUCH more air time as a commentator than he did as a player and his commentary influences the entire league. get a clue. hater.

    • %

      CHECK and MATE!!

    • so fresh, so hilarious!

      Not only is he not relevant, he’s decrepit. He looks, sounds and acts like he’s 150 years old.

      • spankmaster

        sounds like you may need to take a poop. Barkley is beloved by millions and has something you obviously do not an ability to laugh at himself.

  • Marc

    Wiig, in my opinion is like an ball that has been thrown around too much and its still being thrown around even without air. I honestly think that Elliot, Pedrad and Slate should have a little more air time than Wiig. Also Wiig seems to have the weakest characters (ex. Shana, over-excited lady, Gilly, and Kathy L. Gifford) only Penelope is her good character, while the other three girls are told to sit on the bench while we see Wiig struggle (much like JaMarcus Russell).

    • Tony

      Poor Marc, your insight is worthless! Wiig is great, just overused. Last night, she was in just enough of the sketches. You agree with that dated blue-hair Ken Tucker. I’m pretty sure he’s not content unless Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In comes back.

      • sparkle the gym bag

        rowan and martin are coming back awesome! but aren’t they dead or something?

    • so fresh, so hilarious!

      If you think Wiig is weak in her sketches, imagine how godawful they would be with one of those other amateurs trying to carry them and compensate for a complete lack of competent writing by the SNL staff. Maybe Elliot should get her daddy to write her a sketch if she wants more airtime.

  • Jason

    I have to admit, the Reel Quotes sketch really made me laugh. It was about the only part that did, but that skit was very funny.

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