Ben Affleck Hosts Saturday Night Live: What Were the Best and Worst Sketches?

Saturday-Night-Live-Ben-Affleck-Gay-KissFans hoping that Saturday Night Live might close out its lackluster 38th season on a strong note probably abandoned that sense of optimism after the evening’s first three sketches (not counting the opening monologue or that amusing, pre-taped Xanax: Gay Summer Weddings ad parody) proved about as funny as running your winning Powerball ticket through the washing machine.

Yet while Ben Affleck‘s introduction into the “Five-Timers Club” certainly won’t go down as a particularly good episode, there were some rewards in store for those who didn’t shut off their TV sets and call it an early night. (Be honest: Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong’s brain-damaged former porn stars are always worth the price of staying up late: “One time I got banged through a glass ceiling. I changed everything for women. Turns out I’m a feminist!”)

RELATED | Bill Hader Announces Saturday Night Live Departure: ‘It Has to Happen at Some Point’

The installment also served as a farewell to Bill Hader (who earlier this week announced his intent to exit SNL) and (presumably) to Fred Armisen, who bade a sentimental (if not in any way funny) adieu in a musical number featuring Carrie Brownstein, Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, Kim Gordon, Steve Jones, and J Mascis. (Call me grouchy, but I say if you’re going out, go out with a laugh, dammit!)

Oh, and a random thought: Am I the only one wondering about Tim Robinson and Jay Pharoah’s SNL fates, too? The former made almost no impression in his debut season, while the latter has appeared so infrequently in recent weeks I wonder if he’s picked up some lucrative side gig that’s pulled him away from Studio 8H. Only time will tell, I suppose…

Anyhow, below are my picks for the week’s best and worst sketches:

BEST: New Beginnings Camp
Affleck played an “ex-gay” camp counselor fruitlessly attempting to inflict “reparative therapy” onto a group of LGBT teenagers. I loved the total lack of expression on  Bayer’s face after awkwardly kissing her hubby, but Taran Killam stole the show as Affleck’s former “roommate” and fellow camp employee whose rendition of “I Love the Straight Life” proved too fabulous not to reinvigorate the dormant romance. (Video embed sadly not available.)

BEST: Stefon’s Wedding
Oh how I’m gonna miss Stefon — especially since his final Weekend Update report gave us the rundown on just one “New York’s hottest club.” (My fave part? Stefon’s aside about making the “dean’s list” at “UTI”: “Dean Cain’s list of homeboys not to mess with!”) After Seth Meyers’ admonishment, though, Stefon stormed off in a huff, declaring he’d met someone else — and was headed off to get married. Cue romcom “chasing your man to the altar” montage, but when Seth got to the church, it was filled with the freaky-deaky clubbers Stefon’s been chatting about for years — along with groom Anderson Cooper! True love always wins in these scenarios, though, and after Cooper got his clock cleaned, Seth and Stefon (with the help of DJ Baby Bok Choy and a fluffy Gremlin) raced back to the Weekend Update set to be showered with rice and announced as “Seth and Stefon Meyers.” Mazel tov!

WORST: Al Sharpton Cold Open
Here’s hoping the Season 38 finale also means a goodbye to Kenan Thompson’s aggressively unfunny Sharpton impersonation. Actually, is “impersonation” too strong a word for donning a wig and acting smugly satisfied by your own tired zingers?

WORST: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Bengo F*&% Yourself
On paper, this could’ve been funny: The Iranian president directs and stars in a film about the making of Affleck’s Oscar-winning Argo, simply to expose it as so many lies. But really, when the best punch line is a tired diss on the lameness of Gigli, then you know the writers already had their brains on their summer vacations. (And no, I didn’t laugh once at Armisen’s Ahmadinejad muttering “pahk the cah in Hahvahd yahd” before every line he delivered as Affleck.)

WORST: 1930s Grifters
Hader as a layabout conman, a totally underutilized Kate McKinnon as a baby-faced prostitute and Ben Affleck as a businessman who becomes their potential mark. Did somebody lose the cue cards before the trio took the stage? I’ve got no other explanation for how or why this went down. Excruciating!

What did you think of Affleck’s hosting gig? What were your picks for best and worst moments? Will you miss Hader and/or Armisen? Would you miss Robinson or Pharoah if they left, too? Happy to see Stefon finally get his man? And what would you do to make Season 39 better? 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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  1. Quattro says:

    My belief is that with imminent exits of Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Jason Suedekis, and Kenan Thompson we’re going to see a lot more of Tim Robinson and Jay Pharaoh. Personally, I feel like they were the victims of being the lowest men on the todem pole and with likely a new crop of up and comers taking over some spots, Tim and Jay will actually get a chance to shine next season because both have the talent to shine — especially Pharaoh who has the breakout ability in him.

  2. Josh says:

    SNL has mostly become background TV for me. The Zach Galifianakis episode was the only one that has actually made me laugh recently, and I usually can’t stand the guy.

  3. Bad Burger says:

    Keenan must realize he has no future in entertainment beyond this stint. Still, I wish he’d stop polluting the airwaves and leave with everyone else.

    • Julie says:

      Agree completely. Never have really found him funny, and not sure why they’ve kept him there this long.

    • Craig Hansen says:

      I tend to disagree… I wouldn’t mind seeing Keenan doing another live-action Fat Albert movie. (With Cosby’s involvement, perhaps, as a script supervisor.)

  4. Rook says:

    I thought that ending was weird. If you get an option of picking your send off, they should have gone funny or sentimental like Kristen Wiig did.

    • “It’s been alright; I’ve had a lovely night with you” was the final lyric of the song. The sketch was sentimental, it was just more of a thank you from the departing cast (Fred in particular, it seems), to the audience. Wiig’s send-off (which I admittedly adored) was all about how wonderful she was. It didn’t seem like something she came up with, and I very much got the sense that it was Lorne’s idea.

      • Rusty says:

        Did you see the writing on the guitar strap during Armisen’s performance… it said TY LM I <3 U; one can only assume it meant Thank You Lorne Michaels, I love you… meaning Fred is out too…

    • hader, the only one who’s said he’s leaving yet, said he wanted to go out with no fuss and no fanfare. so he did get the option of picking his send off, and it was exactly what he asked for. as for the others who are likely leaving, as they haven’t announced yet… no picking.

  5. Hannah says:

    Stefon is my favorite character!! I loved the wedding sketch and was crying & laughing at the same time!! Best way to send off a character”

  6. Allie says:

    Back in the beginning you had 4 men and 3 women – and at that point they under utilized Garret Morris and Laraine Newman. This year, there were 4 women and 8 men. Very much in excess.

    Aidy and Tim are decent, but just not a fit. With Fred, Seth, Bill and likely Jason gone, that leaves Taran, Jay and kenan. The question is more about the writers and making sure the material is better.

    The women are excellent. I’d hire anothe pair of decent male writer/actors, then give each cast member more to do.

  7. andy j says:

    Loved that Stefon came full circle. In Stefon’s first appearance, Ben Affleck played his brother, so it was nice to see Affleck play his brother again in Stefon”s (presumably) last appearance.

  8. Chuck says:

    Speaking of people whose fates should be called into question, how is it that SNL’s one Persian cast member can’t make it into a sketch set in Iran? Nasim Pedrad needs to follow the career paths of Casey Wilson and Abby Elliot, who are doing OK for themselves with people who actually want to use them.

    • Marc says:

      I’d include Jenny Slate in that list. She was great this season on Parks and Rec.Talent and strong writing are a great combo.

  9. Beanie says:

    I actually liked Fred Armisen’s send-off. It was a sweet, positive way to say goodbye without drowning everyone in tears (a la Kristen Wiig’s farewell last season).

    • ES says:

      It fit for Armisen’s musical background. I could totally see him preferring this and having his musician friends in on it.

    • Kim R says:

      I agree. I really liked it. It suited him and I thought it was sweet. I liked Stefan’s exit as well. :) And I kind of liked the HBO special about the making of Bengo. I did not like the New Beginnings camp much though. It might have been funnier if there was more from the kids sitting there. I love Really with Seth and Amy and the Hermes purses. :)

  10. Roi says:

    The only thing that will make next season better will be giving Kate McKinnon and Vanessa Bayer more air time.
    oh, and better writing…

  11. amy says:

    Hopefully with Seth Myers leaving for the late show, Lorne will just hire av while staff off Better Writers

  12. Ben says:

    I’m going to miss Bill Hader but I think it is time to reinvent the cast. With great bench strength from Taran Killam and the strong potential of Cecily Strong i think SNL has a great opportunity to once again focus on up and coming talent.

    • Craig Hansen says:

      Ben, I kind of agree. Whenever there’s huge turnover, people say “SNL isn’t what it used to be” for a couple seasons, but then the new cast grows on people.

      I remember one such cast that had a rough start, and the “new blood” that came in at that time included folks who became pretty big names: Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, Colin Quinn, Chris Kattan joined Norm McDonald, Tim Meadows and Molly Shannon (among others) that season, and after a year or two of people getting over the exits of Chris Farley, Chris Elliott, Adam Sandler and Kevin Nealon (among others) as well as the still-missed Phil Hartman, Rob Schneider, Julia Sweeny and Sarah Silverman exits from the previous year.

      Yet Ferrell’s a superstar now, Hammond became almost as valuable a utility player as Hartman had been, and those many of those cast members from season 21 on are now fondly remembered.

      I think this off-season of high turnover will be healthy for SNL in the long run. Michaels can scour Second City and The Groundlings and dig up some fresh new talent to come in and liven things up, add some freshness, etc.

  13. Tears were streaming down my face during the Hermes Handbags sketch. That whole thing was amazing. Even outshined Stefon’s sendoff IMO. And that one was pretty great too.

  14. Olive says:

    It was one of the better episodes of the season. I don’t get the hate.

    • JLK says:

      Agreed. For some reason, people seem to hate Affleck though, which translates into hate for whatever he does.

  15. Jaclyn says:

    Amy Poehler came back! That was most certainly the best part of the night, combined with Stefon’s wedding. Every single joke landed beautifully and that woman was a ball of sunshine! One of my favorite updates ever

  16. kt says:

    Amy Poehler was there and you didn’t mention it once??

    • JLK says:

      He seemed like he just wanted to rant for awhile, rather than actually report on what happened on the show. And in doing so, he forgot to mention Amy…who’s in the headlines elsewhere.

  17. Sad to see Bill Hader leaving SNL on a high note and the same goes to Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis if they’re willing to join Hader as well. As for Seth Meyers leaving SNL to host Late Night in 2014, it’s going to take months to find out who’s going to replace him for the vacant Weekend Update anchor spot. My suggestion: Kate McKinnon & Cecily Strong (bring back the co-anchors). Saturday Night Live will rebound for Season 39 but let’s hope it could end in 2015 until it reaches 40.

    • Thea says:

      I’d love co-anchors again! Kate and Cecily would be a fantastic choice, but it would mean the others would have to seriously step up their game as characters being interviewed. And I’d miss Cecily’s “Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Met.”

  18. Hermes Handbags sketch. was FREAKING PRICELSS!!!!!!!

  19. Darby says:

    Sadly, in the past two or three years SNL has gradually degenerated into a series of tired repetitions of one-joke skits that were generally not all that funny in the first place: Wiig’s large headed, tiny fingered singer, and moronic student who did terrible things; drunk uncle, Stefon; the stoned marketers; “What up with that?”; Californians, and so on ad nauseum. No real point in watching them because you can anticipate the entire skit. Yes, Timberlake can successfully recap the originally hilarious boom box street vendor, but most performers aren’t that talented–there are far too many unfunny hosts who sleepwalk through their alleged performances. The writing is frequently terrible and uninspired. (I used to excuse the shoddy work as the result of having to come up with an hour and a half of material every week, but recently the show seems to appear irregularly, and the copious ads take up a substantial amount of the time slot.

    The only bright (and often brilliant) spots in recent years have been the videos, pseudo commercials, and surprise guest appearances. I wonder who watches the show any more. My college students don’t, my colleagues don’t, my parents and their friends don’t. I watch it on Sunday morning in about ten minutes–fast forwarding through the tired skits, the non-musical music acts, the cheap spacers designed to squeeze in even more commercials, in hope of finding something worthy of the show’s heritage. Such moments are fewer and farther apart.

    • Mitch Manor says:

      “Sadly, in the past two or three years SNL has gradually degenerated into a series of tired repetitions of one-joke skits that were generally not all that funny in the first place…”

      It’s been longer than that. “Ren and Stimpy” were still on the air back when Krusty the Clown hosted and they had that horrible 13 minute long sketch about the “Big Ear Family” — or am I thinking of that other show that was like SNL? Fridays?

  20. inthe915 says:

    Maybe one reason why the writing has been so uninspired that the writers will not mock the Obama Administration like the way they would have under Ford, Carter, and Reagan. Either Lorne does not want to labeled a racist or get audited by the IRS. That he does not want to anger his fellow hardcore libs.

  21. Amanda says:

    It felt very off. They could have done so much more with Ben Affleck than what they did. It would have been great if they had brought Jimmy Fallon and Rachel Dratch on and did the Boston teen skit. I hated saying goodbye to Hader and Meyers but their “Stefon’s wedding ” was the highlight of the show

    • JLK says:

      I was hoping for the Boston sketch too. They had Poehler…how could they NOT at least get Fallon? I know Dratch has a young child, so it might be harder for her to say yes to popping in at SNL these days, but I would think they could have written her out…or gotten one of the other talented ladies to step in her shoes.

  22. Amber says:

    Seth isn’t leaving yet. He announced he’s staying on until winter hiatus.

    I thought it was a good episode myself, and I’m not an Affleck fan.
    <3 Stefon

  23. Chablis says:

    No mention of Kanye? He was awesome .

  24. OK. You are grouchy.

  25. Mike says:

    The only enjoyable bits were Weekend Update, and gay to straight camp, otherwise it was dud finale.

  26. Ruby says:

    I haven’t been this upset at a cast member departure since Jimmy Fallon. Stefon is my favorite character that has ever been on SNL and part of the fun of watching the show is waiting to see if he’ll be on Weekend Update. Sigh. And I just love Bill Hader over all…he’s the funniest cast member by far. The show would be intolerable without him.

    • Jason says:

      Stefon Was good but a little overused! What was brilliant about many of Dana Carvey’s characters like Church Lady and Angry Old Man was that he retired them after a few appearances or at least only id them a couple times a season because he wanted to create new ones which he always did.

  27. Darby says:

    The first Kanye appearance was astounding. The second was just a repetitious and boring version of the first. The Stefon/Seth video was hilarious–loved “The Graduate” references.

  28. Cindy says:

    Please help. What was Stefon’s UTI reference? It went over my head :)

    • Kim R says:

      Well one of the things it stands for (which made me laugh) is Urinary Tract Infection. :)

    • Jenny says:

      UTI stands for Urinary Tract Infection. It’s not a college.

      • paula says:

        It’s also Universal Technical Institute. They have ads all the time, and I always think, hmm someone didn’t think that acronym through.

    • paula says:

      UTI is one of those for-profit technical institutes. UTI also stands for urinary tract infection, which is what I always think of when I see a UTI commercial. So that may be it, not sure.

  29. Cindy says:

    I thought it might be urinary tract infection but seemed too obscure. Thanks. Glad I’m not the only one that wasn’t 100% sure ;)

  30. dude says:

    after Hader leaving only Jason and Seth. last night sucked imo

  31. DavidSask says:

    Other than Stefon goodbye I never laughed once!!!

  32. DavidSask says:

    Kanye is a ranting mess where is the rapping? And the background music is like hipster fail trying to be NIN/ Marilyn Manson!

  33. Terry says:

    time to cancel this tired…tired show!

  34. Sarabi says:

    The Weekend Update was the best part of the episode! It’s always wonderful to see Amy Poehler! And we’ll all miss Stefon! :( The gay to straight sketch and the porn stars commercial were just okay.
    With the shift in the cast, it will be exciting to see Kate, Taran, Cecily, and the others take front stage. Good luck!

  35. Val says:

    @ Chuck- You’re totally right about Nasim Pedrad in the Persian sketch BUT she did have a tiny voiceover part. Clearly that’s not enough but thought I’d mention it anyway.