Jane Lynch really sold her theme song for Glee during the opening moments of this week’s Saturday Night Live. Wearing a fetching off-the-shoulder jacket and backed by Fred Armisen on guitar, Lynch took the Sue Sylvester-centric lyrics and performed them with disarming energy. That opening performance characterized her work throughout the entire show; even during the weaker sketches, she entered into them with a vitality that never seemed forced.
SNL got its Glee out of the way early on, with a parody of the series that hit most of the right notes, ridiculing the show’s repetitive character tics. (Keenan Thompson as Mercedes, Armisen as Artie, and Andy Samberg as Kurt could have pretty much stepped into a regular episode of Glee.) The sketch had a reckless old Mad magazine-style spirit, and didn’t require the addition of Kristen Wiig’s Gilly to be funny.
The ad for the “Dammit, Your Mom Is On Facebook Filter,” with Lynch as a cornball mom, was cleverly executed, as was the evening’s “Digital Short,” featuring Lynch as Samberg’s too-intimate therapist. While the short’s final shot was a funny surprise, I’d give the edge to “Facebook Filter” for funniness.
Lynch upstaged Wiig on the sheer strength of brassiness during the show’s Password parody, “Secret Word.” Although her character had a different name, Lynch was really doing a terrific variation on Phyllis Diller, one that captured Diller’s raucous 1960s-era self-deprecation.
At the other extreme, Lynch proved a team player willing to step back while Jay Pharoah let loose his Denzel Washington impersonation. It was a dead-on approximation of Washington’s intonation and attitude, weakened a bit by the sloppy writing, which lacked a decisive ending.
Bruno Mars, sporting a powder-blue dinner jacket and a Little Anthony pompadour, sounded terrific belting out “Grenade” and his “Just The Way You Are.”
This SNL was heavy on fake commercials, which also included Lynch doing a game parody of Faith Hill’s NFL theme-singing, and Jason Sudeikis running out the clock with the night’s final-weird-moment, a spoof of Patrick Cox’s “Tax Masters” ads, outfitted with a “half-formed twin brother” on the side of his head.
The week’s weakest spots: “Weekend Update” was a wash, and by now, Kristen Wiig has more interest in Suze Orman than anybody else in America does.
But the bottom line is, Lynch sparked an above-average SNL.
She used the show, and the show used her skills as both a performer and, occasionally, an improviser (adding a sharp reaction or edge to a line in responding to another cast member), to better advantage than could have been expected.