'Saturday Night Live' recap: Zach Galifianakis, bursting with wit, energy, and shaving surprises

I think we have a new candidate for the Saturday Night Live best-host hall of fame: Zach Galifianakis turned in a pretty flawless succession of performances this week. And the man sure knows how to make the most of the show’s final good-night-everybody sign-off segment.

Galifianakis began with a sturdy chunk of stand-up comedy, a string of jokes all the better for being so artfully disconnected (“The only good time to yell out ‘I have diarrhea!’ is when you’re playing Scrabble”), and culminating with him stripping down to reveal a Little Orphan Annie costume and lip-synching to “Tomorrow.” Galifianakis’ style — clever non sequiturs regularly interrupted by loud vocal explosions — wouldn’t necessarily seem like a good fit for SNL, but this week, he was an oasis of good comedy. A burly, bearded oasis, I tell you!

In a sketch that must have brought tears of grateful joy to Les Moonves, CBS’ The Talk was parodied for what it is: as Vanessa Bayer’s Sara Gilbert put it, “a show like a book club  where no one’s read the book — or any books.” This View rip-off, which hasn’t exactly taken the country by storm, received a big plug here, and Nasim Pedrad deserves special mention for doing an impeccable Sharon Osbourne. (SNL had the right take on Osbourne: a patent faker passing these days as “lovable.”) Galifianakis sat in the the audience wearing a View t-shirt and expressed amusing resentment. The only bad thing about it was Wiig/Chen’s announcement that Holly Robinson Peete would not be there because she was on vacation. Translation: There are no black women in the SNL cast.

The Digital Short was “Zach Looks for a New Assistant,” a wonderful, semi-improvised-looking segment featuring Galifianakis interviewing children for the position. Pairing Galifianakis with kids was inspired; this least paternal-seeming of performers was both funny and charming with them.

At the other extreme, Galifianakis’ Hannibal Lecter-ish prisoner, paired with Kenan Thompson in one of SNL‘s “Scared Straight” segments, got away with some close-to-filthy good lines about what can happen to naughty boys in prison.

Seth Meyers inserted a serious plea for donations for relief efforts in Japan. As far as the “Weekend Update” comedy went, there was a brisk, kick-her-while-she’s-down Julie Taymor embodied by Kristen Wiig, rattling on about The Lion King to try and avoid discussion of her fallllll-tering Spider-Man musical.

The weakest segment was “Celebrity Scoop,” a Canadian version of an Entertainment Tonight-style show hosted by Wiig and Fred Armisen. Canadian talk-show humor was done definitively by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas on SCTV in the 1980s, so this just seemed like a cold, pale ghost of better comedy; the few laughs could only be attributed to Galifianakis’ absurdist noises.

Musical guest Jessie J had some fun hiphop-soul to purvey with B.o.B. on “Price Tag,” and did some spirited, unselfconscious belting during her second appearance — American Idol contestants, take note.

What am I forgetting? Well, the cold-open at the top of the show was a “March Madness” bit in which Bill Hader scored both big laughs and applause for his Charlie Sheen. Hader did Sheen last week, but this time, his Sheen-gone-over-the-edge was even better: He captured the extent to which we’re all pretty sick of Sheen’s showy, endless breakdown. And I’m a sucker for almost any piece of comedy that satirizes comedy itself, such as the “Original Kings of Catchphrase Comedy” commercial.

Oh, right: The final sign-off. Galifianakis appeared onstage with the cast, swatches of hair shaved from both sides of his head, and mock-apologized for not having time for “the Mr. T sketch.” The surprise from the audience and the admiration from the cast seemed genuine verging on awe-struck.

What did you think of Galifianakis and this week’s SNL?

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (206 total) Add your comment
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  • lostforever

    Even with the time change, glad I stayed up for this SNL., Very funny week.

    • Serenity is one of the Greatest movies this century

      I think Nathan Fillion should host, the man is the most charming on screen personality since James Garner in the Rockford Files and he is hilarious. Captain Malcolm Reynolds was a billion times cooler than Han Solo ever was

      • nathan fillion is the man!!!!

        Shiny

      • Joe

        I would absolutely love to see a firefly bit if Fillion hosted SNL, but he’s not a comedian style actor so I highly doubt he’d ever do it.

        I don’t like Zach one bit, he’s only famous from the hangover. Pissed me off that he’s the reason Mel Gibson didn’t do the cameo in new Hangover flick, that would have been epic.

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      • carpette

        Nathan Fillion was dreck in Waitress. I never want to see him in anything again.

      • Lia

        I miss me some Captain Tightpants but I don’t know if he’d do well. Going on Letterman completely freaked him out, SNL might kill him. But he was in a sitcom…

      • Aly

        Joe. #1 His role in Dr Horrible was totally comedic. And it’s not exactly lacking from his work on Buffy and Firefly, albeit in the darker comedic end of the spectrum.

        #2. Most hosts on SNL are not comedians. That’s part of the fun. Christopher Walkin is one of their best recurrent hosts, and most of his work is in drama. In fact, he did comedy on SNL long before he did it in film.

    • Sally

      Dumbest episode of SNL I have seen in a long long time.

      • rac

        agreed–did NOT laugh at all and the News was embarrasing

      • Shawn

        seconded – I love Zach and was really excited for this episode, but all the sketches fell really flat for me – easy jokes, uninspired characters, lots of rehashing. Good host, bad episode

      • Ted

        Yeah, but too bad Ken Tucker loves anything that is put on TV. This guy wouldn’t know what bad television was if the entire cast of Jersey Shore knocked on his door.

      • joblo

        I also did not laugh. Wiig’s Julie Chen impersonation was the only thing I found funny this episode – her unsuccessful attempts at being hip with her slang. Galifianakis’ monologue was painful and awkward. Best Host Hall of Fame, Ken? Seriously?!?

      • Alex

        Thank God some people have good sense in this world. I am not an SNL hater and I watch every week. I’m also a Zach G fan, but that had to be the worst (or one of them) episodes I have ever seen. I was literally embarrassed and wincing for the actors as I watched. It was as if they had no script and it turned out to be a bad improv. Did anyone notice the unnatural pauses at times during the sketches? Ken, I don’t know what you were smoking Saturday night but it must be strong enough to put down a bull elephant.

      • Delon

        The best bits were the dog auto-erotic asphyxiation sketch and the fake corn syrup commercial. Both of which this old fart Tucker didn’t mention!

    • Sam

      This show is so gaay.

      • Matt

        So, you thought it was good?

    • The REAL Charlie Sheen

      Ummm guys, whos this Galifinakis loser? Don’t you think you should be talking about ME? I mean really, I AM the one whos winning here.

    • Cygnus

      The opening segment about the Craziest Person Tournament was amusing. The monologue was funny. The Scare Straight skit was hilarious, and the Digital Short was cute. Otherwise, the rest of the night was boring. Kristen Wiig is killing SNL. She plays the same crazy, boring characters, and each skit seems long and drawn out with hardly a chuckle. The Talk skit was painful to watch.

      • Nerd

        Agreed 100 percent. Time for Wiig to move on. I hope she takes Fred Armisen with her.

  • johnc11

    You forgot to mention about the family dog tragedy. It was pretty funny too.

    • LOL

      Noodles (the dog sketch) was one of the better ones.

      • Barbarino

        Yes. I’m surprised Ken didn’t mention the dog auto-erotic asphyxiation sketch. It totally surprised me, which is something rare for SNL these days. And adding Kenan as the voice of the dog put it over the too.

    • Dean

      Boring.

    • V

      The Noodles dog skit was whenever I turned the channel.

    • Alcide’s Lover

      Not a single mention of the “High Fructose Corn Syrup” fake commercial? I thought that was the funniest thing of the evening, but maybe that’s because I know someone who is EXACTLY like the “so, you really don’t care what you feed your kids” character . . .

      • LoliRyder

        I LOVED that commercial…Nasim’s take down of Wiig was so awesome. More judge-y parent jokes!

  • Jayme

    I think Jay Pharoah could have been a pretty spunky Holly Robinson Peet. Zach had the best monologue of the season!

    • ChaCha

      You’re right about Jay Pharoah. If they gave him more to do he’d be a breakout star the likes of which we haven’t seen since young Eddie Murphy. I wish Fred Armisen would leave so Jay could do his Obama impersonation–it’s waaaay better than Fred’s could ever hope to be. Check it out on You Tube.

      • abadstroller

        Adding my voice to the call for bringing Jay Pharoah in to play Obama! His Barack totally rocks. Fred was okay when there was no one else who could do it, but now Jay is in the house. Let him do it. Have Armison’s Obama look into a mirror and see Pharoah as Obama, go through the looking-glass into Pharoah Obama’s alternate universe, and let Jay take over. Problem solved. Jay is good, very good. SNL: Don’t squander his talent by just having him do rappers or, Garrett Morris forbid, wear a dress.

    • Jeff C.

      Yes! Jay Pharoah is SO talented. Definitely hoping SNL gives him more to do. He has the potential to break out big.

      • abadstroller

        Exactly! Give Jay something good to do. Develop and showcase his talent, and keep him for a while. Don’t do to him what they did to Michaela Watkins: Feature, then fire, with the explanation being “so talented…deserves her own show.” (WHUCK?!)

      • Barbarino

        Taran killam and pharaoh need more to do on this show. Which is why I repeat my call to let people off who’ve been there 9 (armisen) and 8 ( Thompson ) seasons. I would ask for Meyers (10 seasons) to go as well but he’s head writer and it won’t happen. There really is no more comedic gold to be mined from armisen as Obama( not that there ever was to begin with)

      • Color Me Impressed

        @Barbarino: I second letting Armisen go. I cannot remember the last time he made me laugh. Honestly, the only two people on this show that are consistently funny are Andy Samberg and Bill Hader.

    • Shawn

      Jay Pharoah is an amazing impressionist, but his comic timing is so painfully off..he seems like a great kid and all but his sketches are often cringe-worthy.

    • Cygnus

      SNL is so crammed with Kristen Wiig sketches, that the associate players don’t get much coverage. Nasim Padrag is hilarious and cute, and can hardly get a role. She needs to be made a main player, and the other associates need a little more coverage.

      • Mexican

        you’re an idiot

      • katy

        Not an idiot at all. I agree wholeheartedly. all of the supporting players are killing it. wiig is stale as last month’s bread. Samberg too.

  • Richard

    I think that Zach was amazingly funny…my stomach is sore this morning from laughing. He takes it to an entire new level. I absolutely love him.

    • Tim

      He isn’t really funny as much as he is trendy with the hipster wannabes.

    • Michele

      the bits weren’t terrible this week, but I saw that same Little Orphan Annie bit when I saw him live 5 years ago

    • Chris

      Zach is hillarious. The people who think he isnt are likely to have Dane Cook’s name tattooed on their tit.

      • sharon

        dumbass

      • Dean

        I already told Dane’s fan to come here to read this you jerkface.

    • Linda

      It’s the hipsters and their unfunny Mr Potatoehead.

      • Dean

        yeah I don’t understand the affinity for mr potatoehead up there.. I guess I need to be high or whatever?

  • Shay

    Too many rape, masturbation and auto erotic asphyxiation jokes. After the monologue the show went downhill fast for this viewer.

  • Maria

    I loved it! I thought Zach was amazing and his monologue was one of the best ever (only tied with the monologue Zach did the last time he hosted).

    • Dean

      If you are starving, even saltine crackers are great.

      • Ronnie

        Dean I would normally agree…BUT this week WAS funny…its like someone finally unplugged the wax out of their ears…Good Material + Good Host= Good Show

      • Ronnie

        AND add a surprisingly GOOD Musical GUEST…great voice AND fun songs

  • kat

    He was amazing. And I feel like it was contagious, because the cast, esp. Kenan T., were really on their game too. First time I ever liked the scared straight thing.

  • Bob

    He was fantastic. He’s a great straight man at times for these sketches and easily one of the best hosts in a very very long time. My side still hurts

    • Tony

      He is overrated, and I have no idea what people see in his performances as being funny.

      • sharon

        i agree

      • Colonel Angus

        The people that like Galifianakis have a sense of humor. Mystery solved

  • bringbackrocky

    Except for The Talk sketch – which almost sent me for the remote with its awfulness – it was a very good show. Zach is as good a host as Jon Hamm has become and fast approaching Christopher Walken hosting brilliance. (And Ken, you owe Amy Poehler a big apology. She owns Sharon Osborne and Nasim wasn’t even close to Amy’s greatness).

    • Kristen

      I know, that sketch was terrible, and the whole time I kept thinking of Amy Poehler holding that little dog!

    • Missy

      Nah, Nassim was really good. Just because Amy did it well, doesn’t mean no one else can’t.

    • Blame Leno!

      I think that sketch showed how terrible the female cast is this season. Just not funny. I LOVED the comedy sketch. That was hilarious!

      • katy

        No way! Pedrad and Bayer are genius.

  • jk

    I really liked this week’s SNL, Zach was awesome. Did anyone else think that the studio audience was kind of weak though? There were a couple of Weekend Update jokes that I laughed at but they didn’t, and they really didn’t seem to get “The Talk” sketch. Abby Elliot’s Leah Remini was so dead-on, and the Julie Chen “Hello” running joke was hilarious. I don’t know if it’s that a lot of people haven’t seen “The Talk” or that the audience didn’t know what to do with women being funny (not to get all soapbox-y), but I was surprised by their reactions.

    • Fabe

      I know Abby Elliott sounded just like Leah Remini. “The friggin’ view!” haha. Perfect.

      • Brit

        I totally agree! If you weren’t actually watching, I would have said it was Leah!!

    • charlotte

      I too noticed the audience’s lukewarm reaction to most of the skits/comedy and couldn’t understand it either.

    • Doremifah Solatido

      When an entire studio audience is silent, but you’re laughing, did it ever dawn on you that you’re the easily-amused idiot, rather than the entire audience being at fault?

  • Shay

    Show went downhill after the monologue. Too many rape, masterbation and auto erotic asphyxiation jokes. Just bad.

  • gerritv

    Not enough cowbell and too much Kristen Wiig. Did not enjoy this show at all. I guess I must not like Galifianakis because there was anything he did that I thought was good.

    • Tony

      I didn’t think anything he did was funny. This show has become so lame. Don’t tell them that though..

    • stef

      I didn’t really like it either…Zach was just placed into really underwritten sketches (what was the point of The Talk?) and played some generic weirdo, like he does in everything he does. His opening monologue was pretty funny, but I thought the rest of this episode was one of the worst of the season!!

  • Marion

    Jessie J was amazing! The girl can sing! It’s so much fun to see her sing because her performances are filled with such exuberance and attitude. I hope she blows up in the states like Adele has.

    • Kevin

      I agree, Jessie J blew it out of the water! What a voice :) What a performance on Mamma Knows Best. I immediately pre-orfered the albim on itunes.

    • Rois, Ireland

      I love her

  • Molly

    Anyone notice that Seth Meyers was in the Kings of Comedy sketch? That had to be his first acting skit in years. I was pleasantly surprised to see him away from Weekend Update.

    • elena

      Me too! Boston Powers for the win. That whole kings of catchphrase comedy was so random yet so hilarious. More please, SNL!

      • Lisa London

        I caught that too! It was great to see him up there with the rest of the gang. That said, I’ll watch him in anything… especially that white shirt her wears in the WU opening credits. :-)

    • Jennifer

      I DID see that! He was one of the best parts of that skit!! I’ve wondered why he’s not in more, maybe SNL forgot he can do more then Weekend Update.

    • Linda

      God that part was boring.

    • Color Me Impressed

      Same! I’m always pleasantly surprised when I see Myers in something other than Weekend Update.

  • deedee

    I dont get all the fuss over Zach; he and the whole show was just okay.

    • Tony

      I don’t understand either. He is hyped up so much, and when he actually does his routine, it’s seriously gotta be the most boring comedy ever.

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