SNL With Russell Brand: Best and Worst Skits?

Picking the best skit from this week’s Saturday Night Live, with host Russell Brand? That’s easy: A hilarious “Weekend Update” enlivened by the presence of Taran Killam’s Eminem, Jay Pharaoh’s Lil Wayne, and Bill Hader’s New York nightlife correspondent Stefon. Awarding the dubious honor of the night’s worst skit, however, is a much tougher task, as three separate segments — “Royal Taster,” “A Spot of Tea,” and “George Washington” — couldn’t muster up a single decent laugh among them.

I’ve embedded “Weekend Update” in three parts. Seth Myers was batting pretty close to a thousand in the anchor’s chair — scoring big wins with jokes about Dick Cheney presenting a “Defender of the Constitution” award to Donald Rumsfeld at CPAC 2011 (“yes, the irony was lost on them”) and AOL’s purchase of Huffington Post where a spokesperson for the former company was quoted as making the antiquated “dial-up” sound. Still, I howled hardest when Myers showed a shirtless Craigslist ad photo of resigning U.S. Rep. Chris Lee, and noted, “Say what you want about Hosni Mubarak, but at least you don’t know what his nipples look like.”

The Eminem-Lil Wayne bit centered on the rappers attempting to shed their misogynist reputations by recording a Valentine’s Day single for the ladies. The punch lines weren’t revolutionary — the song’s verses ended with uncomfortable words like “throat” and “knife!”– but Killam’s unvarnished aggression as Eminem was absurdly spot-on.

And as for Hader’s Stefon, I won’t spoil any of his choicest bits. Let’s just say the segment was hilarious enough that I can’t hold it against the guy for breaking character a couple of times to suppress a fit of the giggles.

If I had to single out one sketch as the evening’s worst, I guess I’d have to choose “A Spot of Tea,” mainly because the should’ve-been-great premise of Brand, Hader, and Andy Samberg as elderly British ladies hosting a talk show was reduced to a single weak formula — hot tea + fault line x shrieking British accents — that didn’t get any funnier with continuous repetition.

It’s a shame, really, because Brand seemed like a wacky and willing participant all evening — he was uproarious in the spoof trailer for Don’t You Go Rounin’ Roun to Re Ro — but for the most part, the material failed him.

What did you think of this week’s SNL? What were your favorite and least favorite skits? Sound off below, and for all my TV coverage, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Andy says:

    I rarely watch SNL, and last night’s episode reminded me why…

    I thought the only funny sketch was the Spider-Man lawsuit commercial.

    OK, Chris Brown’s performances were both pretty funny too. (Can we please NOT make him happen again?!)

    • forrest says:

      so that’s who the musical guest was – all I saw was the commercial break flashback to the stage with some guy with his finger in his nose. Talk about no class. I agree though, this episode showed why I don’t watch SNL on a regular basis.

    • Joanna says:

      I’m with Andy on this one & I love Russell Brand, just not last night.

  2. My revered colleague, Mr. Slezak….

    I’m on board with what you found funny this week – after all, I have mused whether Stefon is big screen-worthy – but I think some of your “misses” deserve reconsideration.

    “Royal Taster” fell into the category of Obvious As Heck SNL Concept, but was sold by the performances, namely Brand and Hader’s vicious quarreling.

    “George Washington,” though lacking an ending, I thought raised a valid issue: Who’s to say that a POTUS plucked from the past via a time machine wouldn’t completely freak out instead of calmly offering us wisdom? They could have taken the concept further, in fact, but that’s probably why it got tacked on toward the end.

    “Spot Of Tea” was redundant/weak/shrill.

    I also second your props for the digital short noting that some well-regarded, fancy-shmancy British films are oftentimes impossible to comprehend. That was pretty on the mark.

    Matt Mitovich

  3. Danielle Notaro says:

    Another witty guy lost to SNL material. Too bad. I wish Craig Ferguson would go on SNL and show them how to do it. I thought Stefon was a wee bit lacking last night. And I could only watch Chris Brown perform once.

  4. Tyler says:

    Besides Stefon on Update and the British films digital short, I don’t think I so much as cracked a smile this week. Did the Living Single sketch with Vanessa Bayer feel like a lost episode of the Miley Cyrus Show, or was that just me? At first I literally thought that was what it was supposed to be.

  5. Matt Webb Mitovich says:

    Oh, one more thing: That “Vacation Giveaway” sketch has never ever been funny. They need to take that one behind a shed and shoot it.

  6. chloe says:

    SNL is never funny. They need new writers.

  7. Jon says:

    I think the character breaks by Hader as Stefon are rehearsed in advance. That character needs to be killed off, as well as the Weekend Giveaway skit. But I have a feeling that they might push it off a cliff themselves by making it a feature film.
    Best of the night was the digital short about British films.

  8. Rudi says:

    I thought that this was one of the stronger SNL episodes in a long time, due in no small part to Russell Brand’s forcing the rest of the cast to raise their game.

    “Weekend Update” was stronger than usual, loved Killam’s Eminem impersonation and Stefon (though this was one of the weakest Stefon performances, to my mind). The digital short was spot on, but if folks can’t get the plot of modern British films, then some myopia treatment is needed, stat!

    I liked the “George Washington” and “Royal Taster” sketches because Brand made them a bit more chaotic than a lesser host would – as I said earlier, it made the others (especially Hader and Killam) raise their game a lot.

    As for misses: Wiig is becoming too predictable and unfunny. Armisen’s talent is lost on SNL, especially seeing how brilliant and fresh his work is on Portlandia. The Bayer talk show sketch was okay due to Brand’s presence, but she is so…. meh to me in terms of talent.

    Agreed with the suggestion that Craig Ferguson show up to give the SNL folk a lesson about how to do things, but methings Lorne Michaels wouldn’t allow the formula to bend all that much.

    Also: I’d love to see Michaels take a stand in the 2011-2012 season and ban lip-synch and autotune from all musical performances on the show. Seriously: if an artist has to lean so much on both tools, then I question whether they deserve to be called “musical artists.” Live music should include flubbed lyrics and bum notes.

  9. Jaimie says:

    One of last night’s funniest sketches from dress rehersal was cut for time – The Hypnotist. Brand as a 3rd rate hotel lounge performer and Killam, showing his talent (and his undies) as a hapless guest playing along. Hope they will ressurect it with another host. That said, one of the night’s most uncomfortably funny moments was Chris Brown’s extremely un-subtle innuendo in his 2nd performance.

  10. Lee Harvey says:

    I’m hoping for a human suitcase tomorrow for Valentine’s Day.

  11. Monie says:

    What an absolutely dreadful episode of SNL. Really thought that with Russell Brand as the host, the sketches and the material would have been better. The opening monologue was long and boring. Does having a British host mean that every other sketch must deal with the British? The only bright sides of the show were the short about the British movie where no one understands what they say and Weekend Update. SNL is on its last legs.

    • Andy Sandberg says:

      You’re a real judgemental douche aren’t ya?

      Guess you don’t get humor, you just want that black kid doing that show where he doesn’t allow the people interviewed to speak, so they can dance.

  12. The two best skits last night: The Spiderman lawsuit and the British movie trailer. The worst skit? Absolutely everything else. I literally fell asleep during his monologue. Russell Brand is probably the least sexy any person with a British accent could possibly be, and also not funny. Weekend Update is always good, so that’s not a surprise. But Brand brought down every scene he was in by just sucking the energy straight out of the room. Absolutely awful.

  13. Chance says:

    Best: Stefon
    Worst: Everything else
    Creepiest: Chris Brown singing a song where he says “I’ll leave it in.”

  14. Jules says:

    Hate to admit, I have not missed a show since SNL began way back when the not ready for prime time players ruled the roost…(and when it was funny). I stick with it, but in the past couple of years, I find myself TiVo’ing it and doing a lost of FF throughout.

    The whole show tanked from the opening monologue. Brand was simply not funny and the writers were obeviously absent this week. Meyers Weekend Update was the best, as was Stefon.

    The Spiderman commerical was decent, but went a bit too long.

  15. chianne says:

    This show is truly over-the-top stupid. The tea ladies did strike MY funny bone, if not others. And the Being Single skit was much more disgusting than Chris Brown’s lovely crooning (though that song is a bit too much for a non-RnB audience)

  16. Daniel says:

    Living Single was funny.

    The problem with Brand is that most of his characters ended up being British, which made for sketches skewering British.

    For people complaining about the writing, the problem is that most people hold the first 5 years as standards for what an SNL sketch should be. Times have changed. It’s not 1975 anymore…even some of those shows had weak sketches.

    As long as January Jones is never allowed at 30 Rock ever again.

  17. moxie says:

    They should have done a skit with Chris Brown trying to teach some of those awkward cast members his dance moves

  18. fmhvfv says:

    I loved Stefan, George Washington, Living Single, and the faux British film trailer. Chris Brown’s choreography for his first song was great (although the tune itself really wasn’t to my liking.)

  19. fmhvfv says:

    Oh yeah, and the Old Ladies thing was probably a Monty Python homage but it did fall flat.

  20. Jamie says:

    I thought it was an OK epi. Seth M and weekend update was the best of the night–and I just love Sefton. Hilarious!!! Sefton is my fave recurring character. I thought the British movie ad was very good. I enjoyed the King’s Speech skit as well. Silly–but I laughed.

    I don’t think Jason S does a good enough ORiley impression for the opening bit. It didn’t work. The sweepstakes thing was the absolute worst thing last night (Well, I FF thru Chris Brown–so maybe it wasn’t the worst–LOL)

    I know a lot of people give SNL a hard time. But, there have always been weak sketches and entire shows throughout it’s history. Plus, it is very difficult to make Obama funny. There really isn’t much funny about the guy. No funny accent or foibles–I bet it sucks for the writers. If you think about it, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and George W were a wealth of comedy gold. It’s just not going to happen with Obama. The best skit they ever did with Obama was when all the reality show loonies were interviewing him a couple years ago. That worked cause the interviewers were hilarious and Fred A’s Obama was just a straight man looking horrified.

  21. Lauren says:

    The British movie trailer was really funny, and the Spider-Man ambulance chaser. I liked Russell Brand’s monologue, too, with the tight pants motif. Totally agree about the Vacation Giveaway sketch…awful. Why in the world do they think Kristen Wiig is funny?

  22. Jill says:

    I wonder what it’d be like if Andy Samberg & The Lonely Island took over for an episode. They need new, fresh writing. More cutting edge.

  23. ErixN says:

    I am beginning to wonder if Stefan is supposed to laugh at his own suggestions because he knows how ridiculous they are. At first I thought Hader was breaking character, but as I watched him he seemed to laugh on purpose. I don’t know. Maybe I am reading too much into his performance.

    • Andy Sandberg says:

      He gets his jokes on the prompter from Seth. The reason he laughs is because he has to read them live.

      • Jessica F says:

        When “Stefon” skits first started, I thought that they were just so funny, Bill was breaking character. But, I watched it a few times over on Saturday, and really started to wonder if Bill is getting the jokes live via cue cards or prompter, and that’s why he cracks up so much. If I had to read jokes about human suitcases/parking cones/fire hydrants, I would react the same exact way Hader does during Update. lol

  24. that was a fabulous events at the night fractionating the eventually artist and many more host and party premiere at the night.

  25. Juliet says:

    The best part of the show was Russell’s opening monologue, which sounded like his own material–not from the SNL writers.

  26. João Amaral says:

    Taran Killam impersonation of Eminem was awesome.

  27. Janie says:

    i have to say the old english ladies having tea.. i think that was british humor.. my dad watches shows on BBC that have that same kind of humor… the funniest part to me was that russell brand kept forgetting he was wearing a dress and had his legs spread wide apart showing his ‘spanks”

    also the george washington skit at the end..i actually thought that was hilarious and again a bit of british humor.. because whenever someone shows time travel, the people coming through time area always willing to give sage advice.. but in actuality they would freak out!! and at the very end when you hear jason sudeikis say after he left the room.. oh thats not good and then it shows the white house flying the british flag.. that was hilarious!

    the british movie where you couldnt understand anyone was funny.. it reminded me of any movie with jason Statham in it…

    the one i really didnt like was the sweepstakes winner.. Its not funny to hear kristin wiig go woooohhh wooooo ahhhhh trying to get the winner to crack a smile.. it wasnt that funny the first time they did it with emma stone and it wasnt that funny now..

    the Monologue was awesome.. and Taran Killums impression of Eminem was spot on!
    oh and the opening spot with jason sudeikis as bill oreilly was hilarious!!

  28. SNL loyal says:

    Not a terrible show overall, but the writers could’ve come with a bit clever material to put in good use russel brand’s stand-up talent. The monolougue was ok, so were broadway spiderman commercial, british films digital short and the george washington skit cause that’s exactly how a person draged in the future should react. Weekend Update was strong as always and I would be glad if Seth Meyers shared his comic/ironic skill with the other sketches.
    The king speech sketch was sort of spot obvious but hader’s performance made it a succes, as for vacation giveaway i liked it but i suggest that the next time they use it they should write an unpredictable turn of events. Always loved Kristen Wiig, she’s stil the MVP of the show and hope they write stronger material for her. Didn’t like the british tea party and living single sketches as there wasn’t any clever humor in them.
    The feature players aren’t that talented and they shouldn’t be given any leading roles yet, especialy Bayer.

  29. Rosamond says:

    I am a russell brand fan… But he just isnt as funny anymore…he’s lost his funny bone since getting married.
    Also, I now remember why I rarely watch SNL anymore… Its been a long time since I looked foreward to SNL and planned to watch.
    The writing on in this episode might seem funny to a 10 year old. L.M.cant have thought any of it was good. Just being on SNL does not make it funny…. I long for the first 5 seasons…. And Im smoking better cannabis now…. But not funny is not funny….

  30. Aunt Queen says:

    It would take much stronger drugs than pot to make SNL funny anymore.
    Possibly a lobotomy.