Joseph Gordon-Levitt Hosts Saturday Night Live: Best and Worst Skits?

joseph gordon levitt snl stripperIf last week’s Saturday Night Live season premire with host Seth MacFarlane was a delightful comedy smorgasbord, this week’s followup was more like a fetid mystery casserole you might find languishing in a murky Tupperware dish in the back of the fridge.

I worried we might be in for a clunker when the cold open kicked off with Nasim Pedrad’s dismal Kelly Ripa impersonation — Pedrad comes nowhere near capturing the daytime host’s voice, nor does she seem interested in mining anything deeper than Ripa’s standard-operating perkiness — and that apprehension only grew with an opening monologue that inexplicably had Gordon-Levitt doing a thuddingly unfunny bump-and-grind homage to the three-month-old big-screen hit Magic Mike.

Anyhow, in the interest of not turning this recap into a litany of complaints about the entire telecast, let me jump on in and give my picks for the night’s best and worst:

Best: G.O.B. Tampon Ad
“Designed with all the knowledge of a woman’s anatomy that only comes from being a 60-plus-year-old conservative man,” cooed Vanessa Bayer, cheerfully filling her day with yoga and bubble baths. The visual representation of how the product fills the fallopian tubes was matched in gross-out hilarity by Bayer’s description of the “smooth metal applicator” and where it’s meant to end up.

Best: Mumford & Sons
I usually leave discussions of SNL‘s musical guests to more musically minded Web sites, but the band’s one-two punch of “I Will Wait” and “Below My Feet” proved as refreshing as a toothbrush and toothpaste after a bout of car-sickness.

Worst: London Pub
The Mumford guys popped up in the background as “Hey, Dude,” a Beatles cover band, and stunningly, that was probably the most amusing aspect of a sketch featuring Gordon-Levitt as an about-to-be-married American out for drinks in London with three of his buddies. I’m not sure which punch line inserted into the midst of “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” was most cringe-worthy: The one about a vibrator stuck in Jason Sudeikis’ backside, the one about Bill Hader being Jerry Sandusky’s son, or our guest host riffing about sending his orphaned nephew on a one-way bus trip to Mexico. Wait, what? Which part of this was supposed to be funny again?

Worst: “Our Daughter Evelyn”
Gordon-Levitt gamely donned drag as an awkward girl whose parents (Fred Armisen and Kate McKinnon) were so desperate to get her a boyfriend that they performed a musical number presenting her (and all her flaws) to dad’s unsuspecting coworker. There might’ve been a kernel of a good idea in this one, but by the end of the sketch, that promise was buried deep in the bag of birdseed that served as one of the sketch’s props.

Worst: Opening Monologue
I always thought it was the job of the show’s writing staff to whip up at least a handful of funny (or at least not unclever) zingers that can help the host begin his or her night feeling like there’s a shot at comedic success in the ensuing 90 minutes. But after this slipshod intro, I’m pretty convinced Team SNL decided to cut out of work early on Friday and merely recycle Channing Tatum’s “take it off” intro from last February.

What did you think of this week’s SNL? Were you as disappointed with Gordon-Levitt’s episode as I was? Hit the comments with your thoughts!

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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51 Comments
  1. Mark says:

    This is the problem when SNL does Weekend Update Thursday, the regular show suffers. It happened the last time they did that show as well.

    • Antincumbent says:

      Last night 09-22-2012 was Seth Meyers at his very finest! I especially loved how he chastised the President over the “I can’t Change Washington from the inside” remark. Does anyone have a recording of this brilliant skit?? I want a copy desperately!

  2. Pedro says:

    No love for Kate McKinnon’s brilliant take on a deranged Ann Romney singing Beyonce’s “Countdown”? That was superb.

    • ed says:

      this was the first time…. ever…. that i found her funny. i hope she keeps it up.

    • John says:

      Agreed! Highlight of the show, and a very strong Update overall.

      • Schmidt says:

        Agreed. A surprisingly non-partisan bit with Ann Romney that took pointed, funny shots at both sides and didn’t paint her as anything other than a woman worn down from the absurdities of this campaign. Bravo, SNL.

    • John says:

      I agree. this was the best part of the show. i had my doubts about her, but she was excellent as Ann Romney

      • Jo says:

        They should do a post-death skit with Mitt and Ann. Since they believe Mitt will be god of his own planet and Ann will eternally give birth to spirit babies, it could make for a funny skit! Or they could do a skit where Mitt and Ann are
        stealing the souls of dead people in their sickening baptism for the dead rituals. There are tons of funny possibilities with her playing Ann.

    • Carrie says:

      She did do an excellent job.

    • Pearl says:

      This was so funny! Too bad they cut the song out of the skit on the web. I would like to see it again!

  3. I enjoyed the opening monologue. Not that I found it funny, but JGL is…well, quite attractive.

  4. Ginger says:

    “Game” is right – Joe is up for anything and walks into every situation like it is the most excellent challenge he’s ever faced. Unfortunately, that charm and winning personality doesn’t a comedian make. He depends on good writing (and probably some rehearsal) to pull off comedy well. He’s not inherently funny. And that’s not a dig on JGL, a lot of people aren’t, I just didn’t realize it until now because he makes you smile so much you forget you’re not laughing. As usually seems to happen early in the season, it seemed SNL blew their load on the opening episode and it will take them a few weeks to get some more good jokes in the tank. And even though they were spotty the last couple of seasons, I find myself really missing the SNL Digital Shorts.

    • HerroThereGentlefolk says:

      He’s one of those people who is extremely talented in most every way, but there’s always one thing…and for him, it’s comedy. It’s not, like you said, that he’s not funny. He held his own pretty well at quite a young age against his adult co-stars on 3rd Rock From the Sun. I think he just brings so much energy, and it would work SO VERY WELL, if what he were saying were even remotely funny. It’s an unfortunate thing, because it can make people just look gloriously unfunny when that happens. The man’s funny in real life, and he can be funny in movies/TV shows, but in the case of the latter, if the writing isn’t funny…in pretty much anything except the kind of comedy SNL deals in, he’ll manage to make poor writing seem at the very least, okay. But this kind of comedy demands both good writing AND a good performer, and it’s like he knows the writing isn’t that funny, so he uses charm to make up for it. Unfortunately that doesn’t work. Because that’s how bad the writing is.

  5. stephen says:

    I think JGL did the best he could with what Ge was given. While clearly it appeared that Lorne et al were not present for this week’s brainstorming (which led to mostly crappy skits and very little funny), it is obvious that JGL is a good actor. He did well becoming each role, even when the roles were not written for humor. I rate this week well below last week.

  6. Weekend Update was great, once again. Kate McKinnon just got herself another year on the show with that Ann Romney impersonation. She is really good.

    I also liked the hypnotist sketch. Other than that, mostly blah. JGL was underused.

  7. Eric says:

    Yeah, I agree on all points, Mike. I knew from the horrible opening monologue that this was going to be a clunker. I’m not complaining about seeing JLG, Taran Killam, and Jay Pharoah take it off, but it was completely random.

    I agree with the above posters about Kate McKinnon. Her Ann Romney had me rolling on the floor and she was the best thing in that Daughter sketch. I can definitely see her rising to Amy Poehler/Maya Rudolph/Kristen Wiig status if given the chance. I also laughed really hard at the ending realtor sketch, but that is probably because sometimes I devolve into my thirteen year old self. Here’s hoping the writers are a bit more inspired for Daniel Craig next week.

    • Pat Graney says:

      I’m very heavy myself, and I was sort of cringing for Bobby Moynihan in the “Magic Mike”-ish number. I don’t blame him for having still a vest on and not shirt off, but I really overly-emphasized how un strip-worth his chest must be. He shouldn’t have been in the number. He’s very talented and has a great singing voice, I’ve noticed, and maybe he was just overly shy…
      Joseph Gordon-Levitt is very talented but no: not funny. He was good in “Third Rock” ’cause it was such a bizarre character. I think he’s a great dramatic actor. Have NO idea why they picked him to host. Agree that Kate McKinnon as Ann Romney was superb; probably the best thing in the sohw. I had a sinking feeling after the great first episode, this one would be downhill. Better luck next week, everyone.

  8. JR says:

    The best was definitely Kate McKinnon’s Ann Romney. That performance alone puts her in the running to be the breakout female cast member now that Kristen Wiig is gone.

  9. mj says:

    JGL. He isn’t exactly anything except to the fanboy, I’m a geeky wheenie and it gets me all hot to see a guy who is creepier than I am make it on tee vee/movies/whatever contingent. Why would you think he’d be good, again?
    Don’t mind me. I thought Inception was idiotic too. Been there, done that, big yawn…

    • jill says:

      JGL is popular with a lot of people who consider him talented and, yes, attractive, and not remotely creepy. He’s a good actor who isn’t a very good sketch comedian and wasn’t given great material here. I’m glad that he’s succeeded in movies and “tee vee” (and I happen to agree with you on Inception). But he’s been a in a lot of other things that are great too.

  10. Line says:

    worst: Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg not being there!! :(

  11. Me says:

    you should ask real SNL fans to review the episodes, they’re way better in reviewing the episodes!!

  12. Heather says:

    I enjoyed it! I thought JGL did a great job!!!

  13. amy says:

    Snl just needs better writers who are actually funny..why when great hosts like Jimmy fallon or better yet Justin Timberlake host their skits are remarkable funnier than the whole season??!

  14. Lena says:

    None of the skits were very well written. You know it’s pretty bad when you can look at a sketch and say “oh, I know how he got that idea–he walked down Times Square and saw the cartoon artists.” But it benefitted from Joseph’s charm, acting ability, and good looks! I thought Taran Killam was great in this episode, I hope they use him more!

  15. leigh says:

    I thought the Tresequis Beer commercials here great. Other than that it was kind of lame.

  16. Mary Beth says:

    Yes, I was also disappointed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s episode as well.

  17. ktbanks says:

    I think it was a very uneven episode. I really enjoyed parts of it, while some of the later sketches were rough. I definitely enjoyed the monologue…being a female and all. haha. I LOVED Kate McKinnon’s Ann Romney. I had to rewind and watch it again right after she left the desk. Also really like The Son of the Most Interesting Man in the World bits.

    Also…can it be Tuesday yet? I need me some new Mumford & Sons, stat!

  18. topsyturvy says:

    Come on. Was Poehler any better at “capturing” Ripa vocally? And did she do anything but spoof her perkiness? (Ditto for Poehler’s Hillary voice? She sounded NOTHING like her.)

  19. mawhi says:

    How is it that SNL has hired three new female cast members (I’m including Kate) and still somehow gotten more guy-centric and dumb? HOW?!

  20. Ryan says:

    I laughed pretty hard at the hypnotist sketch, but that’s all due to Taran Killam. It went a bit too long but him stripping and running off the stage had me in tears. Ditto on the GOB tampon and the tresequis commercials.

  21. The opening monologue was a mess. We’re into the end of September. What made them think a movie that didn’t even place first in July would still be relevant now. This just felt like an opening they wish they could have done when the movie came out.

  22. Julia says:

    I thought Weekend Update was hilarious! The funniest it’s been in a long time. Everything about it was hysterical. I actually didn’t like the Tampon ad at all, but I thought the London Pub was decently funny. My favorite, besides Weekend Update, was the hypnotist sketch with Taran Killam. He killed it in that sketch. The Tres Equis commericials were also pretty funny.

  23. John Grose says:

    I thought it was uneven, but hardly worse than the average SNL fare these days. My favorite were Ann Romney and the “What Are You Doing?” – John

  24. Eli says:

    Worst Sketch: Weekend Update. This was not a comedy sketch but a campaign commercial for Obama.

  25. matthew says:

    No praise for Jay Pharaoh’s Stephan A. Smith that was hilarious!

  26. JAO says:

    I liked most of the show (except the opening) and thought JGL was pretty funny. The MM act reminded md of the old Patrick Swayze/Chris Farley skit. But not done as well.

  27. florence says:

    Well JGL always gives 110% and I respect him and his level of commitment, plus it’s like someone said “He makes you smile so much you forget you’re not laughing” he’s got this magnetic charisma that just makes me wanna talk him up all the time, and even though the show wasn’t great I still felt warm and fuzzy throughout the entire thing just by looking at him lol PS: I had NO problem with that opening monologue at all… in fact the only way it could be better is if it was happening in my living room.

  28. A says:

    Agree with most of these comments. I love JGL, but this episode was disappointing. I though the funniest part was the Tres Equis spoofs, and Mumford and Sons were AMAZING.

  29. Sarabi says:

    Unfortunately (for JGL), the Weekend Update was the bast part of the episode for me. Obviously I liked Kate McKinnon. :)
    And I thought that “Our Daughter Evelyn” sketch was really creepy, but I kind of liked it. :D
    The XXX beer commercial was just okay.
    I didn’t like the opening monologue. JGL could do so much better. Come on, writers!

  30. Jen says:

    Could not be more wrong on this one. Usually I agree for the most part but I thought this episode was hilarious and the London Pub sketch was one of the funniest I have seen in a long time. The monologue was great and I am truly shocked by the negativity of this episode.

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