'Saturday Night Live' recap: Host Elton John, plus Tom Hanks, Carmelo Anthony, Jake Gyllenhaal... oh, and a few jokes, too

Saturday Night Live was hosted by Elton John, but the cameos by Tom Hanks, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Carmelo Anthony regularly upstaged him — not that the genial John seemed to mind. After proclaiming, “The bitch is back!,” Johns’ opening monologue about fatherhood hit the notes you’d expect: the infant boy “rejects the breast… taking after both his parents” as well as self-deprecating yuks about his former drug and alcohol usage.

What followed was one of the more shambling versions of SNL, with familiar faces  popping up as though serving as replacements for actual attempts at humor.

There were good moments, to be sure. Tom Hanks and New York Knick Carmelo Anthony put in cameo appearances in an ESPN Classic sketch that featured the welcome return of Will Forte as the blissfully dumb co-anchor Greg Stink, with Jason Sudeikis making most of — and the most of — the KY Jelly jokes. It’s always the best use of vulgarity on SNL every time the show chooses to do this sketch.

A sketch involving London being attacked by a dragon (good job, Paul Brittain, as a BBC news anchor) featured Hanks doing a Michael Caine impersonation, with Andy Samberg dressed as Bono so that Elton could make fun of the Spider-Man musical — “Can you smell a bomb tonight?” he crooned, to the tune of a song from his esteemed hit The Lion King.

The British humor continued with one of SNL‘s occasional glimpses behind the scenes of the British Royal Family, with Armisen and Hader as the Queen and Prince Philip. Elton slid in as himself, and the flimsy sketch disintegrated into  some fun punk-rock yelling, as various people pogo-ed to music from John, Armisen, and Hader. It was like Monty Python meets the Sex Pistols, if rather less awesome than that team-up sounds.

The Digital Short was a musical variation on “Laser Cats” in which Andy Samberg and Bill Hader were almost  obscured by guest stars Elton, Hanks, and Carmelo. “Laser Cats” is always Samberg’s loopiest, most absurdist Short (which is part of the joke — it’s why Lorne Michaels always “rejects” it), and this one was more fun to watch for the guest stars than the craziness.

“Weekend Update” was pretty terrible, the terribleness interrupted briefly by Samberg’s well-done Nic Cage impersonation (good voice, good make-up) paired with Jake Gyllenhaal showing up to give his  new movie Source Code an opening-weekend box-office plug.

The lazy recurring theme was Elton John’s homosexuality, whether he was playing a queen-y movie critic with Taran Killam (a sort of white version of In Living Color‘s old “Men on Film” stand-by) or sauntering into  an Old West saloon in a bright turquoise cowboy outfit. Elton himself was fine — frequently, in fact, very good — delivering his lines, but, sheesh, those lines… I did like the Claudette Colbert jokes during the film-critic session, though.

Hanks and Anthony each introduced musical segments featuring Elton playing dueling pianos with Leon Russell, who  pounded out some fine example of what we used to call rock & roll.

What did you think of this week’s Saturday Night Live? I was entertained without actually laughing very much. Agree? Disagree?

Twitter: @kentucker

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  • Larry

    I enjoyed it, but I’m a big Elton John fan and have been watching SNL since the beginning. I’m wondering why Leon Russell did not sing during the first number. As I recall from their CD, he and Elton trade lyrics on that song and from the camera work last night it looked like the director was expecting Leon to sing. I do agree that the show was entertaining, but not funny. The show hit a high for humor with Zach Galafinakis a few weeks ago, but otherwise the comedy has been lackluster this season.

    • MN

      I agree. I’m a big Elton fan and have been watching SNL since the 70s but last night wasn’t the best effort of the show. Sir Elton brought his A Game but it seems like the writers didn’t know what to do with thim. Perhaps they didn’t think he would be as talented non-musically as he clearly is.

      • Denise

        HORRIBLE SHOW. The only funny part was Nicholas Cage.

        It’s like the writers tried to praise homosexuality every two seconds. What is with being gay? Just cause your born different means you get it all?!? If all the gays married, should I just rot alone?

      • Ron

        Wow, Denise. Bitter much?

      • MultiPass

        Denise, that made no sense. And here is a similar line of “thought” …imagine if all guys had a choice, they probably WOULD be gay. Sex would be easier to obtain, they wouldn’t have to listen to women or pretend to listen, no more talking about feelings, lots of sex, drugs and music and being hot. open relationships, no pressure to have kids, supportive parents instead of annoying inlaws… the ultimate boys club, really. So… just be happy no one has a choice. Because for me, being gay would be a much easier and more fun choice. Then YOU would definitely rot alone. Or perhaps rot as an unhappy lesbian with your cats.

      • Hi

        @Multipass: Um, if all the men were gay what they’d get it stinky sweaty balls, messy homes, no clean underwear, kids who raise themselves & nightly TV dinners. Face it, there’s a payoff to “putting up with women,” that’s why most men WANT to.

      • Rhys

        @Multipass: “…lots of sex, drugs and music and being hot.” Yes, because these are all staples of homosexuality, clearly. You forgot something though (if we are to follow this logic): AIDS.

      • Keith

        Agree totally Denise, except the part where homos are born that way. Sorry, no single shred of evidence states such a lie. Also, stop calling homosexual people GAY. They are not gay, Gay means happy. I am not going to let perverted people claim a word that has nothing to do with sexual perversion.

    • LOL

      Brittan’s Sting/jizz joke was the line of the night during the dragon attack sketch.

      • Keith

        That comment was so reprehensible for TV. This is not a cable show and there was and is no excuse for such perversion period.

      • Matt

        Lighten up Keith the joke played after midnight! If your poor children’s ears were still awake and watching TV that late than the parents are to blame not the show.

    • sandra

      I love Elton too, and although it wasn’t the “best show ever” it was great to see him in different forum other than a concert or interview. And Elton of 30 years ago would have never hosted. It just shows how much he’s mellowed over the years.

      • Azteca Moore

        Except he did host it 30 (or 29) years ago.

      • Jen

        No, he performed. He never hosted until this past weekend.

    • Tom

      One of the worste shows of the year right up their with Russel. Love or hate Elton is not really relavent. His opening monoloue was almost like he was begging for laughs. I am sure he delivered his lines perfectly, they were just bad bad lines. I actually turned it off half way though the deleted it off my DVR the next morning because after the first 40 minutes of just non entertainment why suffer though more. AND NO it had nothing to do with anyones sexual orientation I could care less it just was NOT funny. I see EW went out of there way not to make any comments of their own wimps

      • Carly

        I could not agree with you more. I a huge Elton John fan and I too could hardly stomach watching this show.Whatever happened to SNL when it was filled with great comedians? Oh wait I know, some 30 years ago.

    • Jen

      Leon does not share the lead vocals on “Hey Ahab”. However, he could NOT be heard on the backing vocals, which was too bad because his part is pretty cool…

    • Keith

      I had to turn it off only 3 skits in. Normally I enjoy SNL but this was disgusting and perverted. I guess that is what you get when you usher a pervert onto the stage who proudly proclaims an abomination is a good thing.

      • jefferson

        TROLL alert.

      • Cookie

        I heartily agree with you Keith. Man we get it, Elton is homosexual and rich. Apparently his sexual preference is the only thing that defines him as a person any more. I can remember when he was a talented musician and that was all that his fans, including myself, cared about. I thought the SNL show was nauseatingly vulgar. My heart goes out to his son. All Elton’s money won’t buy him morality which is something that he certainly can’t teach him.

  • Jerry

    I had trouble watching. The technical goofs and flat jokes that got no laughs made me squirm.

  • as

    Elton Benny Hill John !!!! Love him…loved the silliness.
    In answer to the Leon question….I’d guess he missed his cue or forgot the lyrics….saw him live a few years ago…loved him as well when I was a kid and he was playing ‘live’ with a recorded sound track….

    • David D

      But it looked like the lyrics were right in front of him on the laptop. I wondered why he was mixed so low, but maybe the four backup singers and two drummers (Nigel Olsson! 40 years with Elton! And Davey Johnstone too!) drowned him out.

      • Larry

        I saw Elton and Leon a week ago in Philadelphia – Leon was on stage performing with Elton for about 30 minutes and his voice was fine! I think last night he may have been up past his bedtime.

    • LOL

      I couldn’t hear Leon at all in the mix. I wonder if his mic was even on.

  • TorontoTom

    As usual, WAY TOO MUCH KRISTEN WIIG. Her recurring one-note characters were tired long ago yet they keep trotting them out as if familiarity means it has to be funny. The deformed girl in the Lawrence Welk skit? Not funny. Just like Wiig herself – NOT FUNNY.

    • Unassuming Euonym

      Toronto Tom, i think you’re obsessed with kristen wiig. i see u here every week and you say the same thing. it’s getting old.

      • TorontoTom

        See ya next week!

    • PJ

      Jealous much?

      • sam

        There wasn’t much Kristen last night.

    • BobS

      Thank goodness someone else is actually saying what I have been thinking for a very long time. Kristen Wig’s appeal is extremely limited and WAY overused. There are other women on the show. Perhaps have them play the “saloon girl” or any other female character. If I have to see the Target Lady one more time, I am going to destroy my TV!!!!!

    • J.B.

      You’re a loser, TorontoTom

    • tigree

      I agree TT – Kristen Wiig just doesn’t hit my funny bone – hasn’t for a few years, and BobS, I agree with you, too, there are other women on the cast whose talents need more air time. By the way you folks who attacked TT – grow up, this is a public forum where people share opinions…to each his or her own.

  • john

    I thought it was terrible. The humor was missing and so was the singing. Could hardly hear leon singing. Overall Elton should stick to singing (he is the best) and not be dragged down to 3d class comedy.

    • Cade

      I thought finding this would be so ardouus but it’s a breeze!

  • javi

    they should get more british hosts for a change sir elton john was a cool host.

    • ChaCha

      I agree…Elton did better than most of the other hosts this year. And I loved his ad lib after his cowboy hat fell off. While he, like others, was “married” to the cue cards, he did a nice job of going off script with a silly quip. Most hosts don’t even dare bother to try.

      • sandra

        good point about the ad lib. I thought Elton did a great job, lets be clear, its SNL not shakespeare.

  • Melvin

    I actually enjoyed it, and it the first time I watched a entire episode of SNL in years. I asked my wife could Elton have done this same show just a few years ago, I mean men kissing over and over again OH MY!!(I admit I did not know whether to laugh or turn my head at the jokes and kissing), my daughter was having a great time seeing her favorite singer. It just seemed he wanted to have fun even at his own expense. It was like Elton was saying I am happy being myself, I am tired of singing the same old Elton John songs so watch the show tonight and tried to have a good time with me. There going to be a day maybe the next generation when our kids who have children will say you guys were so paranoid over homosexual people and marriages. This was like when I saw Adam Lambert last year in concert I did not want to go at first, but a hour into the show I realized that Adam was a great entertainer and I almost brought a shirt afterwards ALMOST!! my wife and daughter brought theirs.

    • adamfan

      well, i DID buy an adam shirt! and i’ve got several elton john shirts from concerts over the years. i still think the thing with leon is a favor to him and sort of an indulgent act (as simon cowell would say). it looked like they just propped leon up. elton was great, especially as the gay movie critic. he always will be adorable in my eyes.
      - and yes, i’m a woman.

    • Keith

      The next generation is going to call Homosexuality a sin just like it always has been. Sadly, our generation is too chicken to stand up for God and proclaim that this is indeed a sin. I look forward to the day when people will rise up and speak with boldness and tell this untoward generation to repent from your wickedness.

      • jefferson

        Keith is a TROLL.

  • John Kwok

    I thought Elton did a great “Benny Hill” impersonation and as such, was quite funny. But he saved his best for both songs from “The Union” (Just to correct David D, Nigel Olsson has worked alongside Elton now for approximately 30 years. He was part of the original band until shortly after the recording sessions for “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy”. Then Elton replaced him and original bassist Dee Murray with a new lineup. Both Olsson and Murray would rejoin the band in 1980 and stay with Elton and Davey Johnstone (who would be with Elton almost continuously from 1972 to the present) until Elton fired both again in 1984 (Murray died in 1992; both would appear briefly on one of Elton’s later 1980s albums backing vocals, with Olsson doing similar honors for Elton’s 1992 album “The One”.). Olsson didn’t rejoin the band until 2000 and has been the sole drummer since 2001; the other drummer was percussionist John Mahon, who has been with Elton since 1997.). Guitarist Davey Johnstone has been the musical director of the Elton John Band since the mid 1990s if not before.

    • David D

      Thanks for the info (honestly), but all I said was “40 years with Elton.” He plays drums, for instance, on “11-17-70,” which is well over 40 years ago.

      • Larry

        11-17-70 was the first EJ album I bought and in many ways is still my favorite. And in spite of their comings and goings it’s great to see and hear Davey and Nigel backing him up again.

  • memi

    This episode was one of the better shows of the seasons. I acutally laughed out loud several times…and that hasn’t happened much this season. Weekend Update was bad. Carmello, Tom, and Jake were also pleasent surprises.

    • memi

      Also…SNL totally missed an opportunity to take a stab at Elton John week on American Idol. I could see Elton playing Steven Tyler and Andy Samberg playing the horrible mentor having the contestants screw up Elton’s songs.

      • Barack Palin

        I thought the same thing-missed opportunity.

    • tvwatcher

      Thought the show was hilarious through weekend update. Laughed out loud at the shot put and Nick Cage segments. After that it fell off the cliff. But Elton John, wow! That he would even do SNL is awesome.

  • Brit

    Tom Hanks did a great job but other than that, did not laugh at all.

    • Katie

      Tom Hanks should host at least once a season. He’s a great comedian

  • C Evert

    I am ashamed to say that I laughed out loud during the ladies shot put skit. The K-Y jokes were embarrassingly funny. I was disappointed at Elton’s music pieces. I was hoping for some “oldies.”

    • Roland

      Elton is contractually obligated to promote The Union right now. so that’s why he and Leon played those two songs last night. Leon only sings harmony during the chorus of “Hey Ahab,” so if you wondered why he wasn’t singing, that’s why.

      Personally, I thought the show was a riot, being a big enough EJ fan to get all the jokes that had personal ties to him (other than the gay jokes, those were funny enough, though).

    • m

      dont be embarrassed. Comedy should be judged by whether or not it’s funny. nothing else. It’s not the type of genre where pretentiousness should come into place. Like “oh I won’t laugh at that because it’s low brow.” Funny is funny. Stupid funny and smart funny are nonexistent concepts

      • Amanda Kiwinerd

        You are stupid.

    • Rich

      You had to be there as after the show Elton brought the house down with “The Bitch is Back” which had everyone, Cast, Crew and Audience on their feet singing and dancing and left you wanting more.

  • Scarlett

    Maybe not THE funniest SNL ever but I enjoyed seeing what they’d do with Elton. Yeah, it was rough here and there but I still liked it a lot. The Queen E skit kills me every time Armisen switches over to the Liverpool accent, but I still can’t believe they used the line “Candle in the Wind…Oh boo hoo!” in front of Elton. Yikes. And yes, there is too much Kristen Wiig. Enough already. Hanks as Michael Caine cracked me up.

    • Derek

      Scarlett, you nailed it with the Candle in the Wind line. That was shocking, hilarious, and refreshing that Elton would let that be in the show.

  • Lauren

    I thought it was a good showing by Elton. I wish he would have done some of his more classic songs, but he was a strong host. When you reach “legend” status it’s hard to break out and stretch your persona and I think he nailed SNL. This cast seems to be reaching new heights together.

    • Larry

      You hit it on the head. Hosting is Hard Work. It’s hard to do the job well and Elton John was much better than “Okay” all night long. I was very, very surprised at how strong he was in the skits.

    • Larry

      I know this is going to drive some people crazy but I think this is probably the Most Talented CAST SNL has ever had. Of course the writing isn’t there like in the “old days” (see original cast) but this cast ROCKS. Also I’ve got box sets from the “old days” and believe it or not there’s a lot of junk mixed in with the good stuff as well. This old “shark” bit isn’t funny and never was. With A. material this cast would kill big time.

      • Michael

        Bingo. That’s what everyone forgets…the shows from the ’70s “glory days” were just about as good as they are now, sometimes better, sometimes worse.

      • Tom

        Your out of you mind. The one thing about the “good Old day” Heck 8 years ago. The cast always had one funny go to go person. Rather it be Eddy Murphy, Molly Shannon, Will Ferrel, Hell Even Tina Fey doing the news. They got NO ONE right now not one actor or actress that can just take over the show. dont get me wrong the writers still suck too

  • Omacolt

    It was pretty bad. Elton is a good sport though making fun of his sexuality. Maybe the most gay jokes in a single episode ever. I think the show tries to capitalize off current events and there weren’t enough to use and include Sir Elton. There were no commercial parodies, that Italian Charlie Rose Hader does would of worked. I think the writers were too busy writing for Charlie Sheen show in Detroit last night.

  • Rusty Shackelford

    Yeah, we got it, Elton is gay.

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