'Saturday Night Live' recap: Dana Carvey brought his old characters, some old friends, and Justin Bieber

Dana Carvey brought along some old friends, including Mike Myers and Jon Lovitz, and a new one, Justin Bieber, in returning as the host of Saturday Night Live. In the process, he proved that some old routines hold up well, and others are wobbly from familiarity.

The show’s cold-open was a “Wayne’s World” sketch with Carvey and Myers giving their Oscar picks, which consisted of a lot of Winter’s Bone sniggering (“Anne hath a way of giving me a bone”). Hey, it sure beat yet another Obama parody.

Carvey’s opening monologue turned into a song about how his years as a regular cast member (1986 to 1993) were the best in SNL‘s history. The host’s Ross Perot impersonation and the running joke that he didn’t know the names of the current cast (calling Bill Hader “Rainn Wilson,” for example) did not bear out a claim to greatness. But Jon Lovitz was pretty terrific. Looking these days like a happy banker, all Lovitz had to do was shout in his stentorian manner, “ACT-ing!” and he raised smiles and laughs.

And the oldies kept on coming. A “Church Chat” sketch was helped by a return appearance by Abby Elliott, Vanessa Bayer, and Nasim Pedrad as the Kardashian sisters. Carvey’s Church Lady was a bit worse for the wear, her catchphrases, including “Isn’t that special?” hammered home with the vehemence of a vaudeville comedian. It was here that Carvey most clearly demonstrated the limitations of SNL‘s signature strategy: the creation and repetition of recurring characters. One of the things that’s been interesting about some of the best SNL cast members throughout the history of the show, whether it be Gilda Radner or Phil Hartman or Lovitz or Jason Sudeikis, is that they could be funny even when they weren’t doing their signature characters. Carvey is very talented indeed, but it’s a talent rooted in making his own identity disappear — a neat trick, but also a limiting one.

Bieber showed up again long enough for the Church Lady to talk about the “tingle” the kid gave her “naughty parts” and to hear Carvey deliver the line, “I want a taste of that sweet Bieber.” Boy, I’ll bet Justin’s never heard that one before…

As for Bieber, he was practically the show’s shadow-host, popping up in an excellent, brief Digital Short parody of the new movie The Roommate, with Andy Samberg as a loony rooming with Bieber.

Earlier this week on Jimmy Fallon’s talk show, Carvey said the SNL cast wanted him to do his Mickey Rooney impersonation, and so he did it, very briefly and with minimal accuracy, in something called “VH1’s Celebrity Teen Crisis Center.” I’m afraid Carvey was upstaged by Bill Hader’s terrific Alan Alda impersonation.

That spoof, along with an excruciating one featuring Kenan Thompson and Carvey as hosts of a beauty pageant revealed the night’s key weakness: The show relied too heavily on our nostalgia for Carvey without providing strong punchlines and sketch structure. Kristen Wiig almost saved a kinda flat “Regis & Kelly” sketch. Carvey did his Philbin (as Regis might yell, “Who DOESn’t!?”), Pedrad barely approximated Kelly Ripa, but Wiig’s Kathie Lee Gifford is one of the best caricatures she contributes to SNL. (I also enjoyed the too-rarely-seen Taran Killam as producer Michael Gelman.)

Speaking of rarely-seen, it was nice to have Paul Brittain on “Weekend Update,” doing a clever James Franco telling Seth Meyers about all the future occupations he wants to try, including rabbi and taxi driver. (“I love jobs!”) Meyers had a good night himself, wringing some sharp humor out of the situation in Egypt, including the line, “You cannot punch the handsome off Anderson Cooper.”

I actually think the night’s best moment may have been its final sketch, one of those end-of-the-night silly ones: Carvey, Fred Armisen, Hader, and Brittain as the Fingerlings, a Flock of Seagulls/Pet Shop Boys melding that confounded a bar filled with stupefied Super Bowl fans.

Linkin Park sounded surgingly strong on two beat-heavy performances.

Oh, and one quick mention of the cast-onstage-waving-bye-bye moment: Did you catch the way Myers would barely look the effusively friendly Lovitz in the eye? Myers’ stand-off-ish body language, attributable to — you pick one — a) frostiness, or b) awkwardness was fascinating.

What did you think of Carvey and SNL‘s cavalcade of the old and the new?

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (222 total) Add your comment
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  • Maggie

    Agree about the Church Lady sketch. It did not hold up well. But I loved the Wayne’s World opening. Almost makes me want a Wayne’s World 3

    • TorontoTom

      I kept waiting for Church Chat to get going – it didn’t. Carvey could’ve put a twist to it by replacing “SATAN?!?” with an updated “PALIN?!?” Most of his stuff felt kind of flat. Was disappointed. But something’s remained the same……
      KAREN WONG IS NOT FUNNY!!!

      • Jack

        @torontoTom: obsess much?

      • Really?

        @TorontoTom – that would be an appropriate update? Get over it and stay in Canada please. Considered counseling?

      • sinefile

        KAREN WONG?

      • TorontoTom

        @Jack: Umm, yes I do. When they shove Kristen Wiig down our throats week after week, I feel justified in reiterating that KRISTEN WIIG IS NOT FUNNY!
        @Really?: Since, basically, SATAN = PALIN, it is appropriate. (Wild guess – you’re a fan of hers?!?) And they already did the drool over Bieber skit with Tina Fey last season so having CL get tingly over him was lame.
        @sinefil: Let me translate….
        KRISTEN WIIG IS NOT FUNNY

      • Alan of Montreal

        Karen Wong is my cousin. Do you mean her?

      • TorontoTom

        No, your cousin is funny. Kristen Wiig is not.

      • Tim

        Too long of a winter there Toronto Tom? Please do us a service and post less. Thanks, have a nice day!

      • Doremifah Solatido

        TORONTO TOM = DUMB D!CK

    • RT

      Sigh. I guess you really can’t go home again. Neither Wayne’s World nor Church Chat really went anywhere and came anywhere near their past glories.

      • DeLorean Time Machine

        What are you guys talking about? Both sketches were topical, creative, and reminiscent.

        I was expecting the worst, but Carvey did a great job this week.

        The real question, week after week, is for Lorne Michaels: why do you keep looking for the next Will Ferrell on your show when you have the next Eddie Murphy? Use Jay! He is awesome!!

      • S.

        I actually like Church Lady, but Wayne’s World was painful. It’s amazing how well Bieber does on this show. Favorite line is still the weekend update concerning the car tattoos – “I’m enjoying my free suburban”.

      • Boo Radley

        I thought Wayne’s World was hilarious, but Church Chat started to drag. The difference is that Myers and Carvey can still riff off of each other to keep it fresh, while Carvey had to resort to repeating catchphrases during Church Chat to keep the ball rolling. Just goes to show it’s not just the talent of the individual cast members that made the magic of SNL past, but the chemistry between them as well.

      • Jane

        @DeLorean. I totally agree they should use Jay more! His impressions, especially Eddie Murphy, are some of the best I’ve seen on the show in a long time.

      • Doremifah Solatido

        Mike Myers must have had a humor-ectomy, ’cause the guy hasn’t been funny since the second Austin Powers movie.

      • Zea

        I think that the veteran ’80s castguys reliving their famous characters kinda fell a bit flat, but more as a sign of how culture is duller now compared with the quick wit of the ’80s. Carvey’s Church Lady is always spot-on for me; but it was almost like when the Kardarshian girls came on, they symbolized the dumbness of America today, that they wouldn’t event get the humor in Church Lady even if they tried. So the old characterizations ended up seeming a bit out-of-place ’cause of it. PS: I think Wiig rocks as Kathie Lee. lol

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    • O’Snap

      Spot-on review, Ken. Seeing Myers and Lovitz, both expert comic actors, playing backup to Carvey’s self-amused character schtick, made everything even more painful. Grade: C+

      • fojoy

        That’s what I didn’t like – he seemed to find himself much funnier that he/the skit actually was.

      • Doll

        AKAIK you’ve got the aneswr in one!

    • Rob

      I thought the opposite: Wayne’s World was very out of date (Wayne and Garth would have evolved at least a little by now). The church lady, though, will never change, and her take on today’s latest sleaze was refreshing.

  • madduxfan

    Loved Wayne’s World,maybe would have been better to have Church Lady pop up on Update to deliver a commentary. I have to agree with the song Dana and Jon sang about their cast…they were pretty great. Kudos to Justin Bieber..he was pretty good. Mike Myers looked pretty uncomfortable on stage at the end..maybe it was because he thought everyone was thinking about how badly the Love Guru flopped. Bottom Line: Loved seeing Dana again.

  • tim

    Terrible review. The show, even with what you view as sub performances by Carvey was 10 times better than what SNL has been force feeding it’s viewers the last 15 years. SNL jumped the shark at least that long ago.

    • Trolly McTrollerson

      GOOD DAY SIR!

      I SAID GOOD DAY!

    • Vana

      You’re 100% right tim. Best show in a looooong time.

    • Paula Pae

      Agreed. SNL was much funnier than usual. Waynes World was funny. The Church Lady skit was a bit long, but good. I was thrilled that they didn’t do an Obama skit. I thought Carvey worked well with Bill Hader. Even Weekend Update was better than usual. Why won’t they use Jay Pharoah more often? His Eddie Murphy is hilarious. Kristen Wiig needs to go.

    • carpette

      Shows high pts higher than usual and low pts lower by comparison. But no one’s mentioning the one sketch that had me & pard nearly suffocating with laughter — for the first time in eons. Keenan’s “black noise” skit. An old lady complaining about her feet… etc.

      • electricgrl

        Thats because we’ve seen it once before…Whats up with them repeating their fake ads all the time. I saw that Bosley Hair Restoration one 3 times!

  • Jayme

    I enjoyed the show last night. Waynes World made me smile and Mike Myers awkward arm crossed end of the night was noticed, but he has been out of the spotlight for a while (his divorce and rumors of him being gay may have him being a bit stage shy). I thought Jay Pharoah’s Eddie Murphy was hilarious.

    • ODM

      It’s funny you mention the gay rumors-it seemed like he was acknowledging that with the Mark Wahlberg reference during “Wayne’s World”. Pretty funny!

    • ChaCha

      I enjoyed it too…I’m not sure what Ken Tucker watched at the end, but I don’t think he saw all of the goodbyes. Mike and Jon shook hands and did the A-frame man hug. Jon was so chummy with so many people, maybe Mike was just waiting his turn. Perhaps with all the gay rumors, Ken was hoping for a little liplock from the guys?

    • brandy

      Agreed! I thought it was the funniest episode in a while. The whole cast was really good.

    • laylagalise

      Yeah, I think Mike Myers was just incredibly nervous. He hasn’t done anything live in a long time. If you watch the Wayne’s World sketch, you can see he has a couple of nervous ticks in his hand and his Wayne wasn’t as confident as it used to be (but I still loved it).

      • PixxieTrixxie

        I remember reading an article about Mike Myers which said that he is basically a shy person (very different from his onscreen characters) and is really not a hugger. Didn’t know about the gay rumors – does this come from his acting in the movie Studio 54?
        I found this to be one of the best shows in a long time – loved all the skits – Church Lady always ran a little too long but it was good to have her back.

  • TP

    It was better then most lately. But, ENOUGH WITH JUSTIN BIEBER!!! I am so tired of seeing him every single time I turn the tv on.

    • maryann

      Too bad-You will
      see alot more of him! He is promoting a Movie!!!

      • kayla

        you must be 12. Or you have a serious problem. Oh wait, I forgot my exclamation points!!!

    • Jennifer

      I am so with you on that one!! I have never been so sick of seeing or hearing about anyone except maybe Timberlake. I don’t care what he’s promoting Bieber needs to get off the tv, he can’t act anyway.

    • PixxieTrixxie

      I agree – seems like he was on every show I watched this past week. Overexposure will not do him any good unless you’re 12 years old and had a snow day off to sit and watch all the daytime talk shows.

  • jay

    You are an idiot. I can’t believe you actually write for a magazine. This was the best snl in recent memory. Carvey is a genious and you sir are not. I’m fascinated how you always love the worst bits the most like Franco on update. That was an awful impression. Church chat was spot on. What you call vaudvillian I call a master playing to his audience.

    • ahhailnaw

      Dana Carvey is not a genius, or even a genious. He may be a genus, but I don’t know enough about science to confirm that theory. He had some funny moments last night, but he was no master. Let’s be real now.

      • aaron

        Dana Carvey is amazing. At sketch comedy, the man IS a master. Maybe it didn’t translate to movies and maybe his humor isn’t as relevant as it was 20 years ago, but he was still amazing. He’s the kind of host SNL needs. No more stiff athletes and mediocre actresses. This was a huge step in the right direction and I hope Carvey gets another sketch show from it. The Dana Carvey Show was brilliant.

      • Crystal

        I *love* the Dana Carvey show and Dana Carvey. (Leftover Beatles Memories anyone?) He has to be my favorite performer from SNL on SNL (I love Bill Murray, but he did his best work off SNL). It was great to see Lovitz again too. I have to say, one of the impressions that made me laugh the most was Armisand’s Ice T. It surprised me, and it was really funny!!

    • fada

      Totally agree. The Franco impression was awful and the Packers sketch was the worst of the night, not the best.

  • cindy

    I thought that maybe Mike Myers was letting Dana have his moment as the star.

    • webgoil

      Maybe Mike’s an introvert and finds group situations like waving bye bye to no one you can actually see uncomfortable and stupid.

      • Dexx

        He CAN see the audience in front of him.

      • pastafarian

        this wasn’t his first time on that stage btw.

  • M.Crown

    re: Carvey is very talented indeed, but it’s a talent rooted in making his own identity disappear — a neat trick, but also a limiting one-

    I don’t think that the above is a fair assessment of his talents: by an odd coincidence, about the time that SNL was airing tonight, I happened to watch the Larry Sanders Show episode where Carvey guest-hosts that show. I found him hilarious while identifiably (although perhaps exaggeratedly) himself.

    • Snsetblaze

      I had to disagree with that statement myself. I’ve seem him as himself on the talk show and he’s been hilarious.

      • Snsetblaze

        ooops I meant “on talk shows”.

  • RoeLuv

    Never knew I wanted another Waynes World..until last night

  • JP

    Gotta say, I smiled so hard when Wayne’s World opened : D. . .

    • dee dee1

      Me too JP. Pure fun. Love Dana and Mike.

      • Carver

        The Wayne’s World opening just made me sad to hear Phil Hartman’s voice again…

  • Stephanie

    The beginning was the only good part of the show. The best sketches were the cold opening, Church Lady, and uh….the digital shot. …Yeah two sketeches that featured Justin Bieber were the best of the night. Yikes.
    …and boy, does that kid look like a girl. But he was a good sport, so good for him.
    Oh and the James Franco impersonation was hilarious, I actually ended up expecting him to pop up throughout the rest of the snoozefest that the show veru unfortunately became. That said, Dana Carvey was a fantastic host. But the writing material was, as per usual, the weakest link.

    • MelindaB

      “I actually ended up expecting him to pop up throughout the rest of the snoozefest that the show very unfortunately became.” Now THAT would have been hilarious. It was the first SNL in a long time that I’ve watched, and it wasn’t the complete disappointment that I’ve experienced in recent years when I’ve watched for a specific host, but I can’t say that it was a resounding success, either. The woman who does the Kelly Ripa “impersonation” needs to watch her some more, because her voice isn’t screechy and high-pitched. The show made me want to see some of the old episodes.

      • PixxieTrixxie

        I agree that her voice wasn’t exactly right for the Kelly Ripa impersonation but the mannerisms were eerily the same. I thought it was a good job.

  • Jeff from Jersey; yes new Jersey

    Have to say that the Church Lady sketch was the best of the evening. The Kardashain sisters opening line gave new meaning to the phrase siren call. Note to SNL: wouldn*t the ladies be perfect as the three witches in a parody of that Scottish play?

    • Saturday Night Dead

      Jeff are you an actor? Only superstitious actors refer to Macbeth as the “Scottish play.”

      • Doremifah Solatido

        Actors and a$$holes.

      • Santosh

        Please tell me that youre going to keep this up! Its so very good and so important. I cant wait to read atididonal from you. I just really feel like you know so significantly and know how to make people listen to what you’ve to say. This blog is just too cool to be missed. Good things, really. Please, PLEASE keep it up!

  • ZF

    Dana Carvey’s timing was a little off throughout, but even his weakest moments were better than half the sketches SNL usually subjects us to. One question: didn’t they just use that same “black noise” fake commercial last week?

    • Jayne

      That’s a mold-braeker. Great thinking!

  • Mish

    I love how you could see Jesse Eisenberg at the table during the “Diedra Wurtz: Downsizing Expert” sketch. So, the sketch wasn’t good enough to put on his episode so they unload it on poor Dana Carvey’s? Dana Carvey did a great job and deserved better sketches (I thought The Church Lady was great and pretty funny for such an old sketch). But please get rid of Abby Elliot. Why do the two featured player women get used triple the amount of time that she does, a main cast member? Either the writers hate her or she isn’t talented enough to pull off anything they need her to do.

    • ben

      I think Abby Elliott is amazing!

      • kayla

        she isn’t.

      • RW

        I agree with Ben. Abby is awesome, as is Vanessa Bayer. I am so sick of Kristen Wiig.

    • ZF

      I just watched the Diedra Wurtz bit again…didn’t see Jesse Eisenberg at the table.

      • Mish

        In the first wide shot of Abby standing in front of the conference table talking to everyone he is the first person on the right hand side (you see him twice).

    • DGM

      Pish, Mish.

      • Mish

        I think I just did…

    • pastafarian

      her Anna Faris was the funniest thing of the night.

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  • ZF

    One more thought: instead of having him do the Mickey Rooney bit, which a large portion of the audience wouldn’t get, why didn’t they go with one of his non-celebrity characters like Massive Head Wound Harry?

    • LOL

      The sports bar sketch was the best of the night. The song was actually pretty good which made it all the funnier.

      • SueN

        I loved it, too. The ending really made it. Most SNL skits have terrible endings, but this one worked.

      • Melissa

        I couldn’t stop looking at Bill Hader in that sketch. That’s talent when you can pull focus just because you have a hilarious look on your face.

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