Justin Timberlake Leads Saturday Night Live to 14-Month High: Watch the Best/Worst Sketches

justin timberlake steve martin chevy chase martin shortThere’s no denying that Saturday Night Live is in the midst of a lackluster season, so the question surrounding the return of All-Star host Justin Timberlake this week (his fifth time in the role) raised the question: Would the former N’Sync-er inspire the show’s writing staff to whip up some decent punch lines or would JT get dragged into the “Californians”-style muck?

UPDATE: At minimum, Timberlake put big numbers on the tote board — a 5.9 rating among metered-market households and a 15 share, the show’s best scores since Charles Barkley circa January 2012.

Timberlake also worked his multihyphentate butt off: Single-handedly taking charge of a pretty amusing Elton John-at-Hugo-Chavez’s-funeral cold open (whereas most hosts don’t appear till the opening monologue); riffing during said monologue with A-listers including Steve Martin, Martin Short, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd and Candice Bergen; and even pulling double duty as musical guest.

RELATED | Saturday Night Live: Your 25 Dream Host Picks!

And the good news is, the hard work paid off: Sure, the episode had a few serious clunkers, but the laughter-to-groans ratio was more than acceptable (and even brought us the return of Martin and Aykroyd’s Festrunk Brothers, and Timberlake and Andy Samberg’s “Dick in a Box” singers, all in one skit). Below are my picks for the night’s best and worst.

BEST: Moet & Chandon Ad
Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong brought back what could be a one-joke concept — former porn stars doing ad testimonials to score free product — and once again elevated it to pure hilarity with their slurry line readings and increasingly absurdist details. From the botched pronunciation of “effervescence” to Strong’s character’s tale of getting “banged into a sinkhole,” I roared with laughter from start to finish. (Bonus points via JT’s feminist pornographer dropping Friends references, too.)

BEST: Vegan Ville
Timberlake in a giant tofu costume, extolling the virtues of meatless burgers and brown rice in song parodys so deeply stupid you just had to laugh. My favorite line: Starting “We Found Love in a Meatless Place” with the phrase “yellow quinoa.” Amazing. [Video unavailable, likely due to song-clearance issues.]

HONORABLE MENTION: Stefon
From that opening zinger about the Weekend Update nightlife correspondent writing for Smash to an impression of Donald Duck having a Vietnam nightmare, it was a relief to have Bill Hader’s wackiest character back in the mix.

WORST: Tales of Sober Caligula
Bad enough that Timberlake was forced to deliver exceedingly lame jokes about his emperor’s 12-step recovery, but that ending about lopping off and ingesting Bobby Moynihan’s testicles? Totally repugnant.

WORST: Maine Justice
Maybe you have to be from Maine — or New Orleans — to get this extended joke about Cajun crazies like Jason Sudeikis’ judge (and JT’s badly wigged bailiff) ruling the roost of a courtroom in the furthest state east, but gags like a crocodile puppet eating andouille sausage leave me slack-jawed with befuddlement.

What did you think of Timberlake’s fifth time as host? What were your picks for best and worst moments? And are you digging JT’s new music? (I gotta admit, I’d rather listen to “Sexyback.”) 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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85 Comments
  1. Dee says:

    I basically concur with everything you said!! They definitely are in the middle of a lackluster season. Several times this season I have had to just start watching and stop because it wasn’t funny. Last night, everything was great with the exception of the two sketches mentioned. The second they started I just shrugged because I knew the writers were gonna inevitably have a few clunkers in there as well. The fact that they managed to bring back Festrunk brothers and Andy & JT as their singing duo, all in the same sketch tho!! Amazing! JT definitely held his own tho, introduced himself as the musical guest and Vegan Ville had me rolling!! I love the Bring It Sketch when he hosts! Dressed like tofu..lmao!!

  2. Jaime says:

    This was def better than anything else they’ve had this season. I could’ve done without Sober Caligula, but everything else was great. Veganville may be my new fave “ville” sketch from him. Would it be too much to ask the writers of the show to keep this up the rest of the season?

  3. Danny says:

    They really went balls out on this one. Aside from Maine Justice(wich was beyond horrible) I liked it. You can’t deny JT’s charisma.

    • Josh says:

      It’s strange because he’s great on SNL but I found him pretty drab in movies(The Social Network, that movie with Amanda Seyfried)

      • ec says:

        I totally agree – I think it’s probably that his few film roles have mostly had him playing more serious characters in dramas or thrillers when what works for audiences is him playing comedy. It can be subtly acknowledged that it’s kind of ridiculous that this pop star is foraying into acting and that he’s in on the joke.

      • Still A Fan says:

        If you haven’t seen Friends with Benefits than you should. JT and Mila are awesome. He is definitely a better comedic actor than a drama one.

        • Josh says:

          I haven’t heard good things about that movie….and it just made me think of the Asthon Kutcher film and I never like to think about Asthon Kutcher when I’m watching a movie :p.But I do like JT and I LOVE MIla so I should check it out.

          I agree…I think he should stick to comedy…at least for now.

          • Still A Fan says:

            Without going completely off topic I must say that Ashton Kutcher’s movie No Strings Attached pales in comparison to Friends with Benefits. Also Woody Harrelson is in it and man is he funny. About JT on SNL … I wish they would put all of his spots together maybe in a special. My favorite skit on Saturday night was definitely the dating game one.

  4. Best episode of the season, hands down. But it does suck we need these all-star hosts and a bunch of returning cast members to get a good show.

    Stefon was hilarious, Seth also delivered a few great zingers. The final sketch with the former porn stars, I agree, was absolutely brilliant.

    And JT doing the “Bring it on down to…” sketches gets me every time.

    Also, I thought his performance of Suit & Tie last night was better than the performance at the Grammys. The more intimate setting and smaller stage kinda suit the song. No pun intended. xD

  5. Amanda says:

    I agree about Maine Justice… I didn’t get it the first time, and I still don’t. Other than that, this was a solid episode. I laughed more than in recent episodes, including at Sober Caligula.

    • Alichat says:

      That Maine Justice skit was one of the few times I’ve watched SNL and was just dumbfounded. Usually you know where the idea for the skit came from historically, how it ties into current pop culture, or what they are trying to accomplish, but this was the first time I’ve ever been completely lost during a skit. And it was such a waste to use Samberg in that skit.

      • zaza says:

        Oh good, I’m glad I’m not the only one confused by Maine Justice. If they want to make fun of Lousianna stereotypes, why not call it Louisianna Justice? If you want to call it Maine Justice, then make fun of Maine stereotypes. I just don’t get the combination.

    • Thank God I’m not the only one who didn’t get that skit. I came here just to see if someone explains the joke.

  6. Bettina says:

    I’d like to be the first to congratulate Justin on winning his third Emmy for hosting SNL.

  7. Trent says:

    The Maine justice skit is really funny if you’re from the South (particularly the lowland swamp country of deep East Texas, Louisianna, or Mississippi). I would imagine the rest of the country wouldn’t find it as close to home.

    • Amanda says:

      I actually I’m from New Orleans and found Maine Justice insufferable. Maybe it’s because I’ve suffered through true blood’s horrific accents long enough…that could be just me, but I rolled my eyes through most of the skit.

    • Bob says:

      I still want to ask the writers: WHY DID YOU CALL IT MAINE JUSTICE???

    • Really hate maine justice says:

      Then why is it called Maine justice and not Louisiana justice? Have none of the writers ever been to Maine and just assume thats what it’s like there (which I assure you, it is not)? Or is there some sort of ironic joke in calling it Maine but having it set on the Bayou that I just don’t get?

  8. Abe says:

    I completely agree! The season has been pretty crappy, but I definitely looked forward to JT. And aside from Caligula and Maine Justice (which were both absolutely horrible), the rest of the episode was pure fun! It’s always good to have JT on SNL.

  9. The “Bring it On Down” skit is sorta blah for me now… And Maine Justice was just weird and unfunny.

    Stefon was great, as always. And the former pornstars made me laugh as well.

  10. KND says:

    I seriously don’t get Maine Justice. That and the Caligula sketch were horrible. The rest was great especially Stefon.

  11. alex says:

    I think this review is spot on for once. Maine Justice was awful this time. Maine Justice should have remained a one time sketch. The first time the sketch was done, I thought it was funny because it was different and original. This time, the joke was supposed to be that it was already played out. Unfortunately it did not work.

    I also found myself bored watching the sober Caligula sketch. I wonder how that made it through rehearsals. I did not laugh once.

    My favorite of the night was definitely Moet & Chandon Ad. I don’t even think I need to explain why.

    • Annie says:

      Maine Justice is OK… I actually get a few laughs out of it… it’s more due to the absurdity of it and the energy that they all bring to the sketch (energy that is sorely missing from most of the usual lazy, cue-card-reading skits). I’ll give it to you that MAYBE it should have been a do it just once sketch. But I always smile in a Cheri Oteri “Simmer Down Nah!” kind of way.

  12. Tran says:

    We already know that Season 38 of SNL is having a lackluster but Justin Timberlake by far was really bringing the laughter back to SNL in a VERY big way. The Vegan Ville sketch was the best and they didn’t mention that hilarious Nuva Bling commercial which was making fun of the Nuva Ring ad. But I was so bummed that Jimmy Fallon didn’t make a return appearance if the writers wanted to bring back the hysterical Barry Gibb Talk Show and of course JT is going to be on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon all week long. Guess we’re going to wait until April 6th when Melissa McCarthy makes a return trip to SNL as host for the second time and hopefully, she’ll do better the first time around. :-)

    • Gertrude says:

      I doubt we’ll be seeing the Barry Gibb Talk Show again now that Robin Gibb is dead.

      • JLK says:

        I agree. I always enjoyed those sketches, but considering how recent Robin’s death is, it would have felt inappropriate to pull it out last night. I won’t say they’ll never do it again, but it’ll be awhile.

  13. Karen says:

    I agree with Mr. Slexak on the two worst skits of the night. But I have to say that those two were the only bad apples during an otherwise great night.
    I was only missing some Jimmy Fallon in there somewhere.

  14. Ruby says:

    I just loved that they brought back so many people. Seeing Dan Ackroyd for the first time in forever was wonderful, I’ve always been a fan of his. And how awkward Chevy Chase was (not intentionally) was pretty funny. And the Three Amigos! I liked the dating skit the best, and the “monica and chandler” skit of course…I think Cecily Strong is one of the best they’ve got on the show right now, she’s always so dead on no matter what she’s doing. They need to promote her to regular status and give her lots more screentime. And Justin, as always, was great. He always seems to be in his element when he does this show. I’m not crazy about the songs I’ve heard from his new album though, which is disappointing.

  15. Jea says:

    I agree with most of this review but I thought the Moet and Chadon ad was bad it was slow and was just not funny.

  16. Amanda says:

    I really loved the episode. I found the energy kind of died in te back half but was still strong. And like I said above, I’m from New Orleans and absolutely LOATHED the Maine Justice skit.

  17. Esaul says:

    I’m glad to see Jay-Z popping up for Suit & Tie. :D

  18. forwarddad says:

    JT great…..loved JT & JayZ duet. All and all a solid B for the show.

  19. They made Justin wear his old hair for the Maine Justice sketch

  20. WW says:

    I am one of the few people it seems that love Maine Justice- I think it just the absurdist in me – overall the show was top notch – I laugh extra hard at the Stefon bit because i watched an interview with Bill Hader and he said hi co-writer tosses things into the cue cards that he didn’t rehearse so his cracking up is spontaneous and then he has to cold read it.

    • TM says:

      Many people loved Maine Justice, including me. Those who go (finger in mouth) “Uhhh, I don’t get it” are morons and I want to smack them with my large penis. The whole point of it is it’s nonsensical-like, making no sense, get it now, dimwits?

      • V says:

        Couldn’t you just explain it to us without being insulting? There is no reason to stoop to name-calling.

        • TM says:

          The entire point of Maine Justice is there is no need to explain it. There is no explanation necessary. Got it? It’s a good example of what’s known as absurdist humor. I suspect you needed someone to provide an explanation for pretty much every scene in every episode of 30 Rock, then?

          • Julie says:

            You REALLY come across as a complete douchebag, whether or not you intended to (though I suspect that was your point). People are allowed to not like it or even to not get it- humor is very subjective to personal taste. But it’s so easy to insult people from behind a computer screen I guess.

          • flutiefan says:

            my goodness TM is rude.

  21. PutAForkInIt-NotSoFast says:

    Best show in a long time.

  22. madhatter360 says:

    The Veganville sketch is available, just not on it’s own. If you watch the full episode on hulu it’s in there (around the 18 minute mark).

  23. Line says:

    IT WAS AMAZING!!!!!!
    simply the best episode this season

  24. Sg. Grant says:

    I thought this was one of the best episodes of the season.

    Though I think the writers dropped the ball by not bringing back the Pandora intern skit that Bruno Mars did earlier in the year. Timberlake could have been awesome in it.

  25. Tran says:

    I really don’t know if Timberlake’s gorgeous wife Jessica Biel may host SNL sometime in the near future but my fingers are crossed.

  26. Mike says:

    Definitely the best episode of the season, but its not saying much, this season has been dreadful. Timberlake definitely lived up to expectations.

  27. V says:

    Can someone please explain to me exactly what makes the Stefan sketches so funny. To me they are as unfunny as the Gilly skits.

  28. kate says:

    I ALSO DON’T GET THE mAINE JUSTICE THING WHEN IT IS SOUTHERN JUSTICE THEY ARE DOING. CALIGULAR COULD HAVE BEEN FUNNY BUT IT REALLY WASN’T. STEFAN, OKAY BUT NOT THE BEST. MOET AND CHADON SKIT, HYSTERICAL BUT JUSTINS ROLE IN THAT UNCLEAR. SEEING THE OLDTIMERS THE BEST PART OF THE NIGHT. BRUNO MARS SHOW HAD TO HAVE BEEN THE BEST SO FAR. HIS PANDORA SKIT BEATS THEM ALL. OVERALL GLAD I STAYED UP LAST NIGHT TO WATCH.

    • TM says:

      Kate, next time you post, do you mind dialing back with the capital letters and adding coherence to your thoughts as you type them out? Thanks.

  29. Leondre says:

    It was a funny episode, but I didn’t like Vegan Ville. Also, the Harlem Shake is getting old.

  30. Brandon says:

    This whole episode was fantastic EXCEPT the two worst sketches you pointed out. The momentum of the show came to a screeching halt during those, and it was a shame. I would’ve preferred whatever they cut in dress rehearsal for those. JT is better than that.

  31. r lareaux says:

    Absolute pile of garbage! Overly sexualized episode. Pretty embarrassing and awkward television. 90% of the skits made reference to genitalia, or beastiality! Pretty disturbing how all of you praise this pathetic episode. It is a clear indication of the shift in society, and it’s obsession with sex, and the breaking down of moral boundaries. Sex is a weak substitute for ‘quality’ comedy. Although Timberlake is talented, this episode was absolute trash, and all of you soaked it up, which is rather odd and concerning.

    • Jarroyo says:

      Shut your mouth you judgmental pr*ck. Get off your high horse and get with the program. Guess what? The world revolves around sex. It’s LITERALLY how we’re here.

      • Georgia says:

        Whoa. Settle down there, cowboy. It’s just an SNL skit we’re talking about here. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Now go wipe that foam off your chin.

      • Joe says:

        After he gets off his high horse he’ll probably jerk it off.

  32. Karen MT says:

    I turned it off at Maine Justice. I was tired, and that was boggling enough that my brain just said “No”. But other than the Caligula sketch, I thought it was funny. It was mostly worth staying up for, especially when I very rarely watch the show.

  33. JJ says:

    This episode was great for many reasons, but the #1 reason: almost no Kenan.

  34. r lareaux says:

    Hey, sex is great! I’m also human. But to base an entire 1.5 hours on sex, porn and beastiality, is weak! You thought it was great, good for you, you animal! I thought it was ass! Why so defensive anyways? Are you that insecure about what entertains you? Go laugh it up, when you here someone say “jerking off a horse”, or “eat your testicles”! What ever floats your boat, Gizmo! Young Influencial adolescents do watch the show, so it is a shame that it contained so much garbage! As someone mentioned earlier, wipe the foam off your mouth, you moronic mad dog!

  35. Tina B. says:

    I liked the whole thing, why not list the best as the game show? The game show was the funniest, and I always like the “bring it on down” skits. I liked the whole thing except for the weakest for me was the greek gladiator sexaholic, it wasn’t repulsive though. I do not like JT’s new music though, I am still trying to like it. JT is better with Timbaland than Jay-Z & Jay lives in New York, it’s not really a surprise he was there.

  36. Jake says:

    Funny show. Agree with your best, and definitely agree with Maine sketch as one of the worst (didn’t think the Roman one was that bad), but the opening monologue, if you can call it that even, was pretty poor – so many funny guests with nothing to do.

  37. Bill says:

    I was amazed the “Monica and Chandler” champagne skit got through the censors. Probably the funniest one all night.

  38. Kim (@AD76) says:

    I agree with the two worst sketches. Other wise, it was a rather great episode, the best one this season since Bruno Mars really IMO.

  39. Olive says:

    The show needs to use Kate Mckinnon more often.

  40. Britta Unfiltered says:

    They did the Fiver Timers’ Club? That is actually really awesome. Wait, they did the Festrunk Brothers too??? That is so cool!!

  41. MBallard says:

    `Him and Bruno Mars have been my favorite hosts so far this season.

  42. dude says:

    Maine Justice was definitely the worst. Sober Caligula had some snicker-worthy moments but it basically was a test of “how raunchy and crude can we make a sketch on broadcast television?” The ending was just totally tacked on because they had no idea what they were doing.

  43. John says:

    The first half was FAR better than the second (post-‘Update’), but that Donald Duck bit with Stefon just killed me.

  44. ✨Don Draper (@UnspokenMedia) says:

    Was hard to watch the Maine Justice skit as I still had Jamie Foxx’s rendition of this, still fresh in my head, from when he hosted while promoting Django Unchained. Great show, overall….

  45. Danielle H. says:

    Thank God!!!! Finally an episode that make watching this show so worth it.
    But how was the Blind date show not a best skit? It was epic. You nailed the 2 worst, although I don’t mind Maine Justice. Caligula was the only realy misfire of the night. Thank God we finally got an outstanding episode. Wonder why Drew and John didn’t show up to be part of the opening monologue? Maybe scheduling conflicts or the like.
    And I am so happy Stefon finally came back..it’s been too long.

  46. richardgo says:

    I like Maine Justice, but its a little confusing.

    Because if the conceit is that Maine is the state whose culture is most unlike that of Louisiana that’s just not true. And I’m still not sure if the sketch’s creators know about Acadia or not. So some jokes are weird because if there’s any state where you WOULD expect to find odd pockets of Cajun culture it would be Maine. But I don’t think that’s the point. I think it would work better as Verm

  47. richardgo says:

    ont Justice or Delaware Justice..

  48. Sarabi says:

    The writing wasn’t great. But still, Justin should host every year! I’m looking forward to Melissa McCarthy’s episode, too.
    I say this every time: can we see a little bit more of Kate McKinnon? She was used in only two sketches this episode, and two of them were pre-taped. Lorne, what gives?

  49. JASon says:

    MArtin Short’s episode the was the best of the season. Seth MAcFarlane did as good as Timberlake as well. MArtin and Ackroyd stole the show!!1 And no mention of the Three AMigos Reunion?

  50. Corinne Ruskowski says:

    I cannot believe that so many did not like the ‘Maine Justice’ skit. I am 75 and my husband is 78 and we laughed so hard! It is so ridiculous that it is funny, and not vulgar.