'Saturday Night Live' recap: Gwyneth Paltrow was country weak and comedy strong

To all of you who complain that Saturday Night Live doesn’t do anything new, well, SNL has been listening. The show, with the help of host Gwyneth Paltrow and music guest Cee Lo Green, tried out a few novel notions this week. After a cold-open that took a toothless bite at Fox News, Paltrow’s monologue involved the decision to make jokes predicated on the idea that she knows nothing about country music. I guess with Country Strong bombing at the box office, Paltrow and the SNL writers thought it would make her look like a good sport if she ridiculed its subject. Still, bringing out Jason Sudeikis as Kenny Rogers, having Paltrow feign forgetting the lyrics to “Islands In The Stream” and referring to Dolly Parton (Kristen Wiig) as “Boob Lady” didn’t quite cut it as either critique or comedy.

Next was a fake commercial scoffing at NBC’s new show The Cape, suggesting further NBC programming such as The Scarf, The Smock, and The Scrunchy. The tag-line, “NBC: Take It Or Leave It,” probably hit close to home in many Nielsen box-equipped houses and probably left the producers of The Cape joining the producers of Country Strong in feeling irritated.

Andy Samberg did more to raise Pee-wee Herman’s profile than Pee-wee himself has been able to do in recent years by having the squeaky-voiced hero co-star with him in a “Digital Short.” Andy and Pee-wee got royally drunk and smashed chairs over the heads of Anderson Cooper and a cop, followed by an intervention with some of their closest friends. (My favorite moment: Cooper trying to sit down on Chairy and being cursed out by the talking furniture.)

After that terrific short film, Twitter was aflutter with calls for Paul Reubens to host SNL.

In what was probably the longest intro to a music number in SNL history, a sketch turned on the idea that “forget” is the f-word that can’t be said on network TV when Cee Lo Green performs his latest hit. Paltrow, Sudeikis, Samberg, and Green all spat out insults such as, “Shut the forget up” and “You mother-forgetters.” The weak joke was extended to “My Nintendo” for the n-word and — getting in a jab at Paltrow’s movie again — describing someone as a “world-class country-strong.” Playing a record exec, Paltrow crowed, “They’re gonna let [Green] say ‘forget’ on national television!” Then she turned to the camera and introduced Green’s performance of “Forget You.”

Paltrow did the best she possibly could when she was wedged into SNL stand-bys such as the 1960s game-show spoof “Secret Word” (her socialite character, perhaps modeled on Kitty Carlisle, was by far its funniest element), and, during “Weekend Update,” she joined Wiig and Fred Armisen in one of their by-now too familiar Garth and Kat bits. “Update” also tried something a little bit different, having Vanessa Bayer doing a fake remote from the Golden Globes interviewing Christina Aguilera (Nasim Pedrad), Cher (Bill Hader), and Cher’s child Chaz Bono (Bobby Moynihan, in a role he was born to play).

The night’s two funniest sketches were its rockin’ bar mitzvah¬† and a Shakespeare parody. The bar mitzvah bit featured a number of muscial impersonations, including Paltrow doing a nice Taylor Swift, Jay Pharoah as Jay Z, Abby Elliott as Katy Perry, and Cee Lo singing “Hebrew” instead of “F— You.” The parody lyrics for all of the songs were cleverly written. So was the Shakespeare sketch, with Hader (who had a very good night all around, in many sketches, guises, and voices) narrating amusing “previews” of Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet to a baffled Globe Theatre audience.

Cee Lo Green’s second song, “Bright Lights Bigger City” sounded very good indeed, in part because he sang well and also simply because it wasn’t “Forget You,” whose novelty has worn off. The all-female band was a gimmick that worked musically as well.

There were a couple of times when SNL was interestingly obscure. Does anyone outside of New York City recall Jimmy McMillan (Kenan Thompson) of The Rent Is Too Damn High Party? And how many of you have been closely following the rumors that Kathleen Parker may be ousted from CNN’s Parker Spitzer?

Still, I’d rather have studied obscurity than the usual over-familiarity. Which is why, overall, I give SNL and Paltrow credit for a show that tried to be different and occasionally adventurous.

Agree? Disagree?

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (214 total) Add your comment
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  • Bill Chuck

    I agree with you Ken, this was one of the better episodes with this cast. I hope you noticed that what you liked didn’t involve Kristin Wiig and Fred Armison and what you didn’t like, included them. Let’s hope this is the last season for those two overused, overly redundant, one-note actors.

    • Deb

      Thank you! I have always been irritated by Kristin Wiig! I don’t see why the critics praise her, I just find her annoying.

      • Jason

        Kristen Wiig is hilarious! She’s the reason I watch the show!

      • Michael Jackson

        This was the funniest episode in a LONG time. I think every sketch actually brought something to the table for a change.

      • Liz

        Oh, Deb. Give Kristen a try. Granted,she’s not as funny as the previous ladies of SNL but she’s holding her own.

    • Deb

      Thank you! I have always been irritated by Kristin Wiig! I don’t see why the critics praise her, I just find her annoying. Fred has a few good moments, but is also overrated.

      • Deb

        sorry, my first comment had an error message, I didn’t realize it posted :(

      • deegeezee

        …and yet your probably *loved* Will Ferrell. as soon as anyone mentions SNL, one of you immediately has to post “Wiig sux!!” guess what: you’re in the minority. you’re just tired of her because she’s been the only person writing new characters, and thus carrying the show for the past 3 years.

      • Sandi

        Hated.. it wasn’t funny. It was like hey I am Gwenth I am on Glee and a Sining Movie lets do endless bad parody songs.

      • Michael

        @deegeezee

        Since when has KW invented new characters? They’re all slight variations of each other. Her impressions are awful. She’s barely a step up from Keenan who uses the same voice to convey 10 different characters. Say what you want about Will Ferrell, but the cast gelled better and the writers created funnier material when he was there. This show has been astoundingly awful for a while now and Kristen doesn’t rise above the material in any way.

      • Bette

        deejeezee… I loved Will Ferrell on SNL as well, but for your information, Will is still ranked as Hollywood’s most overpaid actor in movies in relation to what their movies earn at the box office.

      • Spike

        Deegeezee: There’s a reason why people rush to type “Wiig suxs!”

        BECAUSE SHE DOES.

      • Jon

        its not so much that Kristen Wiig sucks as much as she has worn out her welcome, just like others have: Jon lovitz, victoria jackson, sandler, farley, spade, rob schneider, cheri oteri, tim meadows, chris kattan, darrell hammond, rachel dratch, jimmy fallon, horatio sanz all were once fan favorites who wore out their welcome just like kristen wiig & fred armisen are doing now.

      • carpette

        Wiig’s problem is that she’s the most gifted of the few femme players on SNL so she gets trotted out for everything. Abbie Elliot is a (bad) joke. Nasim & Vanessa show potential, but lack authority. Mad TV had strong female talent… SNL seems to have fallen into a hotness trap…

      • l

        c’mon kids. first of all, the best Will ever did was his Alex Trebek. Kristin needs to stop anything that is like her Aunt Linda skit. bring back Penelope! NO GILLY! the rest of the girls are not half bad but need to get their chance…. there was no freaking reason for Wiig to do the cleaning lady on Paul Rudd’s ep for an example. a little less Wiig. a little more Padrad. that is all i am asking. or bring back Maya. :)

    • SJ

      Yay! So good to learn that I’m not the only one with that opinion.

    • EWinMD

      Bill is correct in his opinion of Wiig and Armisted, two of the worst cast members in decades. Wiig should have stuck with the Target cashier because the rest of her materials is either a variation of “The Secret Word” actress or an over-the-top parody (e.g. Sustrand). Armisted hasn’t done anything good since Prince.

      Who decided to place “The Secret Word” so early in the show? It was awful the first time and they’ve repeated way too many times.

      Yet: nice call back to Paltrow’s Oscar with the Shakespeare skit; I’m not sure of the purpose of the ESPN Deportes sketch but it was funny; and while the Bar Mitzvah sketch was just an excuse for more impressions, the lyrics made it worthwhile (although they should have used subtitles).

      • tony

        The purpose of the ESPN Deportes sketch was that in American ESPN, whent the announcers speak a Spanish player, they try to use a Spanish accent, so the role was reversed.

      • Mas Macho

        It was also an excuse for Gwyneth Paltrow to speak Spanish for everyone.
        Last time she did that, she was “misquoted” as saying how she hated being an American.

      • SirLizard

        tony, that may have been part of the inspiration for the sketch, but it is indeed true that Spanish-speaking anchors on news programs on Univision, Telemundo, and Telefutura will change alter their pronunciation to sound more Anglo when they’re saying English-based words, phrases, and names. It sounds just as funny when they do it as it does when English-speaking broadcasters try to be accurate with their Spanish pronunciation.

      • Adam

        Yeah, the real reason of the SNL Deportes sketch is that obviously there is no Spanish translation for people’s names and often American slang phrases are not changed so they stick out like a sore thumb in a Spanish broadcast. They were just over emphasizing this fact.

    • Frank Anderson

      Wigg usually drives me nuts, but I think they have been a smudge better at pacing her appearances than last season. Every role she has is just her scrunching her face up and repeating the same joke over and over again, but when she is a but player and not the focus she can really shine. I thought the cold open was a great change from Armisten’s weak Obama and hated the Bar Mitzfah sketch. I also thought the singers at the end of Weekend Update was completely unfunny. I guess they got put in because the cast thinks it is funny. It’s not. Otherwise I thought this episode was in line with last weeks excellent show. I had some gripes, but laughed more in the last two eps than I did in most of the last few seasons. The Pee Wee sketch was killer!

    • Peter

      She just keeps writing the same character over and over again. How many times do we have to be subjected to the one-note joke of the Broadway actress saying the secret word as the clue. This was funny when Felix Unger did it on Password, but no longer. The comparison to Will Farrel (or Cheri Oteri/Molly Shannon) is accurate. Do a funny voice and absurd body movements and the audience will laugh. But it’s really cheap comedy at best.

      • l

        my husband and i still laugh at the secret password. no idea why. maybe because its only on their once or twice a telly season?

    • Jason

      Ah, more “I hate Kristen” drones!

      • Frank Anderson

        Ah, more “I love Kristen” dipsticks!

      • Todd

        LOL @ Jason. Kristen haters who go on and on do so because they have no other interesting things to say.

      • Amanda

        Ha, I’m totally with u Jason & Todd. It’s the same predictable nonsense every week here. If these people actualy stopped and paid attention instead of just going along with everyone else, they’d see how idiotic their comments are. But whatever. People love to swim in their own ignorance, apparently…

    • brandy

      Meh. I love Kristen Wiig. EVERYTHING she does makes me laugh. Can’t say that for many other cast members.

      • SirLizard

        brandy, I’m with you. I love her too. It’s OK that other people dislike her, but it amazes me that they often get really vicious about it. It’s just a difference of opinion.

      • VOR

        Kristen is a fantastic performer. Anyone with a working brain can see that. Posters with little or no ability to think for themselves just love to get on a bandwagon so they can feel smart. No doubt.

      • RobinL

        I agree with Brandy. I always enjoy Kristen Wiig. I’m surprised so many people don’t like her.

      • D

        Agreed! I love Kristen Wiig!

  • Lauren

    I thought the show was pretty good overall, but I loved the Shakespeare skit. My husband and I actually laughed out loud several times which is pretty rare when watching SNL these days.

    • Yeah but…

      I really liked the Shakespeare skit but I felt like I heard that voice and/or character from Hader before.

      • SirLizard

        Um, yeah, he was doing a parody of the voice-overs that are done for movie previews, so, yeah, you’ve heard it before… that was the point of the joke.

      • Camry Engine

        Exactly, SirLizard. Why are a lot of these posters such morons?

    • Shannon

      I just watched it on DVR and this was the first time in a very long time that I actually laughed out loud a few times during the episode! It was good.

    • Jayme

      There were many funny bits during the Shakespeare skit. Often times I find things funny, but just smile through it, but the “Watch out Hamlet, there’s a ghost behind you” shout fit a funny stereotype that I spontaneously laughed out loud (although people in major cities or urban areas may understand that reference). There was the silencing the falcon, no exits and no recording painting, that had this pegged as my favorite sketch of the night. Well done SNL.

      • Rick

        Jayme, I too laughed out loud at the “Watch out Hamlet” shout while the rest of my family looked at me wondering what was so funny. They don’t get out much!

    • squishmar

      Definitely one of the funniest of the night… unfortunately, couldn’t see it on the replay at Hulu and had to seek it out at youtube (I assume because of the “I’ve Gotta Feelin’” snippet they sang. It’s very frustrating they don’t show whole episodes on there.

  • Jessica

    Gwyneth was great last night. However I think you missed one of the best sketches. I thought the Fresh Prince DVD was hilarious. Jay Pharaohs Will Smith is hilarious every time!

    • Nadine

      So true!

  • impressions

    I am so baffled by SNL becoming a parade of impressions. The premises are pointless and the jokes are few. We’re expected to laugh at a showcase of costumes and accents. Are we tuning in now to see who will become the next Rich Little?

    • anonymous

      SNL’s Shakespeare skit was a very humorous parody, The whole point is to send up culture and politics. Nothing is off limits, including NBC. But beware SNL…don’t bite the hand that feeds you. LOL!

      • ML

        Uh, like 80% of 30 Rock these days is making fun of NBC. And for all of Fox’s craziness, they generally let the Simpsons and other shows get away with making fun of them. It’s all about getting viewers really (as long as the shows don’t piss of the FCC)

  • Chris

    Jimmy McMillian is pretty well known outside out NY, man…this new internet thing has this video of him and stuff.

    • Lauren

      Truth. We live in South Carolina and my husband’s favorite quote of the last few months has been “The rent is too **** high!”

    • rick

      The guys fame outside of NY is a moot point. Kenan’s impression has made him memorable to SNL audiences.

  • Randi

    The Bar Mitzvah skit was hilarious and can’t find it online at all! NBC put up almost all sketches but this one!

    • Al

      I thought the best part of it was Vanessa Bayer’s silent embarrassment.

      • Amanda

        I agree…her faces were priceless, and looked like what an awkward teenaged boy would do.

  • Maggie May

    best weekend update in quite a while (and I thought the Jimmy McMillian was great – and I’m not from anywhere close to New York)

    • Ari Silver

      Seth meyers I Love Lucy joke was awesome.

  • Joenamherst

    SNL started to go down the tubes when tina fay was head writer and the descent continues, sad…….

    • Amanda Kiwinerd

      Go screw, Teabagger!!!

      • Clem

        Screw yourself, Amanda. There, I fixed it for you.

        Apolitically (if that’s possible for you, Amanda) and focusing just on the comedy, I think Joe in Amherst is spot on. It was Fey who brought political snideness to new heights and ramped up the snarky, elitist, holier than thou mentality which seems to click with leftists but which lacks any real comedic skill and only serves as a marker for people out of ideas. Else, why the personal attacks if one can debate merits?

        Just like you, Amanda. Just like you.

      • Tarc

        Because, fo course, anyone with six cooperating brain cells and a education beyond high school is a ‘liberal elitist’ these days. The cattle seems to ignore the fact that the ‘elite’ always has been – for recorded history in the west – rich, white, and conservative. Being a well educated, pragmatic moderate, I *always* enjoy Fey’s snark – because it’s always (always, always) a dead hit politically.

    • adksdlak

      You mean when Tina Fey AND Seth Meyers were co-head writers.

    • dakfjadfk

      You mean when Tina Fey AND Seth Meyers were co-head writers.

  • Jane

    I thought Bayer was great as the little Jewish kid…”I just wanted a modest luncheon!”

    • Lauren

      She was actually my favorite part of that whole sketch. I wouldn’t mind seeing that character again.

  • Rosie

    Used to be a great fan but have found no humor to relate too, find it stupid,sometimes vulgar and in poor taste. Watched parts of it last night, the bar was raised a little having GP on, but neeeds major overhauling to get me back.

  • Lauren

    Great show! I thought Jim Carrey was good, but Gwyneth might have been better. The cast really seemed to shine.

  • nbflowers

    Great episode. Loved the show from top to bottom, especially the Shakespeare skit and Paltrow as the record executive. Even the Spitzer sketch at the end was strong. Good, good week.

    • Bette

      The Spitzer skit at the end was so cringe-worthy, but so funny. How did he ever get a show on CNN anyways.

    • Caryn

      Agree. I only watch SNL when there is someone on that I’d like to see and I figured GP would be a good sport. Maybe I’m just in a good mood but I laughed out loud through the whole show.

  • Lyn

    Gwyneth was good or adequate in all her skits. Problem is, the writing on SNL currently is so dull and humorless that a guest host has to be freakin’ brilliant (e.g. Jim Carrey in “Swan” parody last week) to transcend the material. Found the “Shakespeare” and “Spitzer” skits mildly amusing.

    • Jayme

      She was excellent…watch her in the ESPN Deportes skit….that takes skill. She also pulled off a brooklyn, country, and british accents and spoke French and Spanish…admit it, she has talent.

      • SallyMayNot

        Absolutely she has talent! Like Anne Hathaway, Gwenyth’s own range and depth are formidable.

    • barnhillism

      I thought Gwyneth was an excellent host. She looked comfortable and was able to make the weaker sketches enjoyable and I loved the Bar Mitzvah sketch.
      I used to love Wiig, and I still kinda do, but they overuse her and Fred way too much. And I think these past few episodes have shown people that some of the featured cast members are just as strong as the veteran cast members, especially Vanessa and Nasim. I really hope that SNL will give them more material in the future.

  • ThatWould

    My DVR cut out in the middle of the Bar Mitzvah sketch, and it was looking really funny! On a side note, does anybody else think Bill Hader should get a Best Supporting Actor Emmy nod this year?

    • mae

      i think so too! bill hader is consistently funny (plus i think he is so hot)

    • Karen

      I also agree….Bill deserves an Emmy !….I love his Italian talk show host with the cigarette and over flowing ashtray talking to the stage hands eating spaghetti !….LOL, love it !…Also, “What up with that” !!

    • sasha

      Do you have AT&T uverse? Mine cut out right at the bar mitzvah skit too – during Katy Perry song!

  • Bramasoleflorida

    SNL stopped being funny about 1998. We stopped watching then. Glad to hear there was an effort to turn things around.

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