Bruno Mars Hosts SNL: Best and Worst Sketches

bruno mars snlBruno Mars kicked off his Saturday Night Live hosting gig with a musical number in which he worried about living up to the standards set by another R&B vocalist-turned-comedy-MVP, Justin Timberlake. It turns out the “Runaway Baby” singer had nothing to worry about.

Mars’ impressive array of impersonations and off-kilter characterizations, and his willingness to try on everything from hoochie-girl drag to an eye patch to a giant mouse costume, helped make his one of the funniest SNL episodes in recent memory.

In fact, this was such a terrific 90 minutes that I’m going to switch up my usual format of picking the week’s two best and two worst sketches, in favor of identifying the three best and one worst — and I’m still leaving out a very strong appearance by Stefon (that “or is it piss?” punch line almost knocked me to the floor), and a “Brad Pitt for Taco Bell” ad that had Taran Killam extolling the virtues of “pouring loose meat and cheese into a bag of Doritos.” Without further ado…

Best: “Donkey Punch the Ballot”
I always enjoy Jason Sudeikis and Nasim Pedrad’s Underground Records’ festivities, but this politically themed installment was chock full of random/priceless zingers. From the event location (a KFC in Syria) to the secret ingredient in the homemade salami (“You just ate Rafalca, bitch!”), I had to rewind my DVR to catch some of the punch lines I missed from roaring so hard the first time through.

Best: Sad Mouse
The laughs were much more subdued in this digital short about a depressed guy (Mars) who gets a job working Times Square in a mouse costume, and asks the haunting question, “What if they don’t wave back?” No lie: I’d be the first in line to watch if NBC greenlit this as a series.

Best: Technical Difficulties at Pandora
Here was an excellent (albeit rare) example of SNL‘s writers tailoring a skit to highlight the host’s specific talents. Technical glitches at the internet radio company led to Mars’ plucky intern imitating hits by Green Day, Katy Perry, and Michael Jackson. Young Devin’s impersonations were spot on, but even funnier was the random touches like rhyming “sushi” with “douchey” on “Smooth Criminal.” (Alas, this one’s not available online, probably due to music-clearance issues.)

Worst: Presidential Debate Cold Open
Why is it that SNL almost never throws away the template of closely following what we’ve seen on TV? Wouldn’t it be funnier to see things taken in a more heightened/absurdist direction? Why not let Kate McKinnon bring back her terrific Ann Romney in some sort of pre-debate coaching session? Heck, that could’ve been alternated with Sudeikis’ ridiculous Joe Biden trying to give pointers to President Obama. But nope, all we got were small tweaks on the actual town-hall event, and Jay Pharoah in a suit that was a size or two too big.

What did you think of this week’s SNL? How would you rate Mars as a host? What was your favorite sketch? Sound off in the comments!

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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63 Comments
  1. Cori says:

    I loved Sad Mouse and Pandora. Sad Mouse was so charming. I need to remember to wave to people in suits more often. The Pandora skit made me want to believe that’s how Pandora really works. Pandora is serious business.

    Stefon made me cry because I was laughing so hard. I know Bill always loses it, but he seemed to have an especially hard time holding it together last night which only made Stefon that much more funny.

    I enjoyed the debate sketch, but I totally agree with what you wrote about it.

    I’m never a fan of the under-underground sketches. In fact, I’d put that and the yetti sketch as my least favorites of the night.

    Overall I thought Bruno Mars did a good job. He may not be the best actor, but he seemed game for anything. And wow, can he sing. I really enjoy his voice.

  2. Stephen V says:

    I am not a fan of Bruno, not because I dislike him, but I have never paid attention to his music. However, after last night’s ep of SNL, I will be listening to him! I thought he did an amazing overalll job with what he was given, especdiellay loved Pandora skit. That was hilaraious and well-tailored to him. Some skits as always were duds, but overall, I think he did great and the skits were well-done. To make me want to listen to an artist that I didn’t beforehand, is a great accomplishment in my opinion. Great job for a change, SNL!

    • Arie says:

      I’m in the same boat. Not a fan of Bruno and not real familiar with his music. I only had a slight interest in him because he’s from Hawai’i, as am I. When I found out he was going to be the host and musical guest, I groaned because I know of him and didn’t think he’d be good. Was positive he’d bomb. I watched the episode and was blown away from voice from the opening monologue and his two musical performances. The skits were hilarious — I thought it was hilarious seeing him dressed as a girl, and he brought so much personality to that character. Wish I had seen more of “her.” While watching the Pandora skit, when finding out that he would need to perform as these artists, I was prepared to shield my eyes at second-hand embarrassment, but wow, he killed it! He was very impressive! The only skit that I didn’t like was the Yeti Point one. I do gotta say that he did a great job, it looked like he had a blast, and he gave it his all. Overall, I really enjoyed this episode and I wasn’t expecting that at all.I like him more now and loved his voice so like you, I will be checking out his music. I hope he returns to host SNL once again.

  3. Roger says:

    Sad Mouse was something else. A very touching digital short to say the least.
    Mars made a fan out of me. i am going to check his songs out on youtube now. That guy can sing, which is very rare these days. Both of his performances were good and different. And he isn’t bad at acting either. Hope he comes back to host again.

  4. Eric says:

    There is no denying that this was a fantastic episode. The “Sad Mouse” skit was fantastic. It almost made me feel, at first, that I was watching an episode of Louie without Louis C.K. It was completely different then what you usually see on SNL: it had heart. I’ll admit, I teared up a bit at the end.

    The Pandora skit was good as well. Some of his impressions (like Green Day) were somewhat subpar, but others (like Michael Jackson) were incredible.

    And of course, Stefon gets me every time. What would the show be without Bill Hader?

    Overall, this was my favorite episode of the season so far, just slightly edging out the Seth MacFarlane episode. Good job, Bruno Mars.

    • Megan says:

      I also thought Sad Mouse was like something Louis CK would have come up with! It was funny and heartbreaking at the same time.

  5. Courtney says:

    Why’d the writers not use any Binders full of Women jokes? That was practically handed to them on a silver platter and they didn’t take it! Not even mentioned in weekend update? Come on SNL, come on.

    • mikey says:

      You need to stay up until the end. They had a “binders full of women” joke during the Donkey Punch the Ballot sketch.

      • Courtney says:

        Oh they did? I must of feel asleep towards the end. But I still thibk they should have put it ib the debate sketch. I didn’t think that one was very good and they could have done a better job. Bruno wss a great host though! Hope he comes back!

      • Rachel says:

        ugh that barely counted

  6. Leigh says:

    Sad Mouse was awesome! This was a great episode all around. And the debate was hilarious!

    • Amanda says:

      Yes, I also liked the debate skit. I thought it was great and Jay’s best Obama yet. Yeti point was the worst of the night. Loved Bruno!

  7. @@ says:

    I enjoy the whole episode, I started watching not expecting much. Bruno is just so charming

    • Pat Graney says:

      I wasn’t expecting too much; almost didn’t watch. I thought , Bruno Mars as musical AND host? REALLY? But I am SO glad I did; he was wonderful! The Pandora radio sketch and “Sad Mouse” especially. He is a great singer, given, but also an excellent actor with great potential; I would totally go see him in a movie. This was the 2nd best “SNL” (the best, the opener) this season. Bravo to all.

  8. Bruno’s second performance was amazeballs.

    Great episode all around, and I appreciate that the new kids on the block are getting more screen time. Especially Aidy Bryant and Tim Robinson. Kate McKinnon’s still the breakout star, though.

    And I LOVE seeing Bill Hader break character when he’s doing Stefon on WU. Made my day.

    Also, Louis CK and Fun. in two weeks? I’d kill to get a front row seat to that show. Louis better bring Amy Poehler with him.

  9. 24fps says:

    I enjoyed the show, and thought even the debate skit was the funniest of the three so far.

  10. lulubell says:

    Sad Mouse reminded me of the old “Schiller’s Reel” videos.

  11. Jay L. says:

    I thought it was very interesting how Tom Hanks “just happened to be there.” I think they asked him to stick around in case Bruno bombed. I don’t know why they just didn’t have Tom Hanks host with Bruno as the music guest. I was pleasantly surprised by his hosting (and acting) chops but I still think musicians should be music guests and actors (or athletes) should be the hosts. Obviously the exception would be if the musician has successful acting history (Jon Bon Jovi would be great in my opinion, but he isn’t very relevant right now).

    Stefon is always a riot, and it only gets better when he cracks himself up and can’t hold it together. I was in tears!

    Can’t wait for Louis C.K.!!!!! He is gonna be awesome!!!!!!

    • And what, do you think they were just going to remove Bruno from the show midway and have Tom Hanks in all the sketches? They have drop-in cameo guests all the time, haha.

      • Jay L. says:

        Not at all what I meant by that. What I meant about Tom Hanks is that during the week in rehearsals they could have dramatically reduced Bruno’s screen time and threw in more stuff for Tom Hanks if Bruno was struggling. But since he seemed to have a grip on things Hanks stuck around for a few cameos. The best of which was the Evil Merryville Robots!

    • duranmom says:

      Jon Bon Jovi is ALWAYS relevant.

      I mean, REALLY.

    • Amy says:

      Tom Hanks randomly showed up throughout the show last season as well. (I think the Jonah Hill one??). Maybe after 8 times T.Hanx doesn’t want to host anymore.

  12. cjeffery7 says:

    TOTALLY AGREE about the lack of creativity with election material. literally could not have put it better myself. kind of bitter that you did. but also not surprised because you’re a pro. =)

  13. Brigitte says:

    Bruno seems like a really fun person. I really enjoyed the energy from the first song! Loved Sad Mouse and Stefon the most, but Tom Hanks was also a great touch to the show!!

  14. Michelle B says:

    I literally woke up everyone in my house while Stefon was on in WU. Bill Hader lost it so much, that I had a hard time shutting up, because between that and the jokes I couldn’t stop crying. It was hysterical. But I thought that’s been the best episode since Seth McFarlane’s. Bruno Mars really brought it, and I agree completely with the best and worst, although you should’ve picked Stefon as best too.

  15. Daniel says:

    I don’t know how anyone could hate the debate sketch…that said, I didn’t get Sad Mouse.

    • Totally agreed about the debate cold open. That was Pharoah’s best Obama material to date and got the most laughs out of me for the night. I liked Sad Mouse, though. The worst parts of the show, for me, was when Bruno Mars was singing (minus the second half of the Pandora sketch). His singing is just okay for me and the audience going nuts for okay singing with lousy material was off-putting, like when you see footage of tweens at a Bieber show.

  16. Kathy says:

    I loved the Pandora sketch and the Amusement Park sketch which did use Tom Hanks! Of course, the best was Stefon. Never laughed so hard in my life.

  17. Susan Vecchiarelli says:

    Totally saw Bruno Mars in a new light. He hit it out of the park. Actually, this is a rare occasion that SNL was enjoyable from beginning to end. Great Job Bruno!

  18. kat says:

    I always liked Bruno Mars because he seems just so cute and charming. I thought he was great and tried so hard, I think that’s why Sad Mouse was so endearing. Also, I usually FF the performances, but he was amazing. I think SNL’s sound and stage doesn’t tend to suit/highlight a lot of the bands, but he really kicked it for both songs. I actually like him so much more as a muscian too.
    I liked that Tom Hanks stuck around. They might have asked him, but I don’t know, he’s been a bit randy lately so maybe he just wanted to do it? I have to say I thought it was hilarious when he cursed on morning television.

  19. Karen says:

    A great show, and I host I wanna see again next season. Bruno Mars was just game for everything (plus, he was almost in all of the sketches), which really made it work. And I always love me some Tom Hanks.
    Also, I think Jay Pharoah is doing an excellent job on the show. He might be my favourite (alongside Bill Hader and Jason Sudeikis)

  20. Megan says:

    I liked the debate sketch because we finally got to see more of Aidy Bryant, who did a great job and I am always so happy when a new cast member gets to do their first “live from New York!” intro. You could see how excited he was.

    Other than that this wasn’t a very lady-friendly episode, we didn’t get to see much of Kate McKinnon or Nasim Pedrad, and Vanessa Bayer was playing only wives and girlfriends with no funny lines. I find it annoying when they can’t find balance–did all the Pandora employees have to be men? I dy

  21. Megan says:

    I liked the debate sketch because we finally got to see more of Aidy Bryant, who did a great job and I am always so happy when a new cast member gets to do their first “live from New York!” intro. You could see how excited he was.

    Other than that this wasn’t a very lady-friendly episode, we didn’t get to see much of Kate McKinnon or Nasim Pedrad, and Vanessa Bayer was playing only wives and girlfriends with no funny lines. I find it annoying when they can’t find balance–did all the Pandora employees have to be men? I dying to see more Kate as Ann Romney too!

    • MJFan says:

      Yes, Devin the Pandora Intern had to be a man, because Bruno Mars is a man, and he was the only one who could do all those impersonations.

  22. Jenn says:

    Loved this episode! Why don’t they have Stefon on (sorry!) every weekend? I don’t think any of the other fill-ins they use during weekend update are even funny…except the Nicolas Cage one. The Pandora skit was funnier than hell, I almost cried as well at Sad Mouse, and I loved the amusement park sketch! Bruno was amazing!! #SNL

  23. Ronnie says:

    The debate skit went on too long, but I did love it when Jay Pharoah dropped the mic at the end. Great touch. The Pandora skit and Stefon were hilarious. Sad Mouse was one of the best digital shorts they’ve ever done.

  24. Nick says:

    I honestly thought this was one of the worst episodes. The opening monologue was another unfunny song, i despise the underground festival sketch, the pandora sketch was pointless and only showed off Mars’ karaoke skills. Weekend update and the yeti cabin sketch were the only good ones of the night

  25. Katherine says:

    Bruno Mars was amazing!!! Loved the second song he performed!!

  26. Kim (@AD76) says:

    Am I the only one that wonders why Hader can’t get through a “Stefon” bit without cracking up before anything even leaves his mouth? I thought Bruno did a great job. The only sketch that I really didn’t enjoy – and never do – was the Under Under Ground Records one. The end of the Yeti one saved it for me.

  27. Scarlett says:

    THANK YOU for mentioning the too-large suit in the debate sketch. It was so distracting!

  28. linda329 says:

    I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I’d be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I’ve been doing, Fox70.comCHECK IT OUT

  29. DF says:

    I’m not sure I agree that the writing was THAT good in last night’s SNL, but I think there was a glow conferred by Bruno Mars’s superb performance. Just as SNL helped Justin Timberlake to overcome his boy band image and displayed his comic and acting chops, I think this performance is going to lead to Mars becoming a mainstream star and not just a singer. Whoever decided that Mars should be host as well as the musical act deserves major props.

    My biggest laugh of the night: “We got Cavuto!”

  30. David says:

    Pandora skit needs to be recycled…Bruno was awesome…Timberlake doing it would be awesome too.

  31. Ryan says:

    I actually enjoyed the cold open. Not the worst of the night.

  32. I really liked all the sketches you picked, sad mouse was even good enough to stand on it’s own as a short film instead of just a comedy sketch. However, the Cold Open was one of the best they’ve ever done. I think taking a leap into absurdity is good, but with politics the funniest are when they stay with the “format.” First because they simply do a great job, the exaggerations do more than enough to drive home their satiric points, but also because the realism is the main punchline. They’re making fun of how ridiculous politics on both sides generally is, and the best way to highlight this is to just show it. By only “tweaking” the scene, we can laugh at how crazy the real debate was. Also, it’s funny to see the characters act out what many feel the candidates always wanted to do. For instance when Mitt pleaded with Candy after she corrected him, it was hilarious. I really think you’re missing the point with their political humor.

  33. Evan says:

    To people who can’t always find the funny in the Underground Music Festival Commercials:

    One thing people may not realize is that they’re based off of real infomercials for ICP/Gathering of the Juggalo events. You can find them on Youtube and once you see them, you realize how close to the mark the sketches actually are and that makes them even funnier.

    Though I will say I was surprised it took to that last sketch to do the “binders full of women” joke.

  34. Jen says:

    I never know why they always wait until the end to show the Under Under Ground Records skits…they always make me laugh. My favorite lines were probably “a job interview with Herman Cain (bring a condom)” and “the whole festival is laid out on Apple Maps SO YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE THE F**K ANYTHING IS.” That and Stefon always make me laugh out loud. I didn’t know much about Bruno Mars going into this, but he is seriously talented, the Pandora sketch was crazy. I may have to investigate his music now.

  35. Sarabi says:

    This was better than expected.

  36. ruffy says:

    I don’t get the love for the Pandora sketch… there was no sketch there! What was the joke? Bruno Mars did a commendable job with the vocal impersonations but that’s the extent of it… it certainly wasn’t comedy??

  37. Mstrmike says:

    In Sad Mouse I really appreciated that the Frog never unmasked. By keeping the Frog’s gender unknown, it changed the story’s conclusion from a rom com meet cute to two tired and lonely people who found each other when they needed to do so.
    I also felt that Tom Hanks’ presence served as a safety valve for both Bruno Mars and Lorne Michaels. Since Mars hadn’t really done anything like this before, it would have allowed him to request help without feeling he’d let anyone down. Michaels is famous for both last minute shuffling and keeping his options open. This granted both.

  38. Danielle H. says:

    A great episode that came right when I was about to give up on SNL. Loveeee Bruno! And them god my dear Stefon finally came back. He is hands down the funniest thing ever.

  39. Markus says:

    This and the Seth MacFarlane episode are the two for which I had no complaints. Both were fantastic, and neither had any doze-off close calls.

  40. Vince says:

    I thought the Pandora sketch was hilarious, and Stefon always gets me too (Sydney Applebaum!). I absolutely loved Sad Mouse. One of the best shorts on SNL ever and now one of my all time favorite short films. Definitely reminded me of Schiller’s Reel and other shorts they had back in the 70s. Mars conveyed so much emotion through the suit. Subtle movements, head tilts, even dropping on the ground hitting himself in the head could have been over the top but he pulled it off. Granted it’s all edited so there were probably a number of takes, but the shots chosen worked perfectly. The music was great too, melancholy, reminded me of Jon Brion’s score from Eternal Sunshine. The ending was perfect. I expected a punch line, like either the frog takes off her mask and it’s a guy, or his ex wife, or something absurd, but they didn’t do it. Everything about this short worked. If you haven’t seen it yet, find it and watch it. Just have a box of tissues handy.

  41. lian says:

    I loved bruno mars in every skit, he was amazing and one of my favorite was him playing the drop out teen crystal, this character should be back, crystal is flawless I love her lol.

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