Tina Fey Hosts Saturday Night Live: What Were the Best and Worst Sketches?

Tina-Fey-Saturday-Night-LiveSaturday Night Live‘s 39th season started off with a stumble much bigger than the one Tina Fey experienced as she took the stage for her opening monologue. Indeed, a cold open with Jay Pharoah as President Obama — an impression that’s fairly accurate but just not funny — managed to squander appearances by five additional reperatory members, one of six brand-new featured players and Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul (!)– without scoring one serious laugh.

Thankfully, though, once Fey took the stage, the episode recovered as quickly as she did from her on-stage trip. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that one of the sketches Fey headlined was funnier than anything SNL staged during the entirety of Season 38.

With that bold statement in the books, let me get to the business of naming the night’s best and worst sketches. (Naming “Best” was harder, since it meant leaving out the excellent Airport Check-In Romance and E-Meth, which would’ve made the cut almost any other week.)

Just what Lena Dunham’s HBO series about navel-gazing Brooklyn gals needed: Fey’s “Blerta,” the Albanian roommate with OCD (Old Cow Disease, the reason behind her rubber hand). She slaps Shoshanna sideways, tells Hannah she’ll never get a better man than Adam since she’s “weak and soft and dressed like baby” and spits harsh truths at Jessa like, “you are unpaid prostitute — you are lower than dog!” Throw in the anecdote about her ex-boyfriend’s skull peeking out of his shallow grave on windy days — plus the perfect response to discovering Hannah is 24 (“what the f*** is wrong with you?”) — and you’ve got an instant SNL classic. (Props, too, to newbie Noelle Wells for a very funny Dunham impression, and Vanessa Bayer, spot-on as Zosia Mamet — right down to the hair donut.)

Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong’s former porn stars “Breckie” and “you can too” are back, this time extolling the virtues of “Manual Blondicks” in an attempt to score free product. You’d think this recurring sketch might be starting to get threadbare, but then Strong drops a brutally funny bon mot like, “I thought I got banged into a solar eclipse — but I was really just locked in a trunk looking through a keyhole” and suddnely you’re laughing so hard you can’t breathe. And thanks to Bayer, I’ll never look at Kia’s rapping hamsters the same way again.

Not as funny as the night’s top two sketches, if I’m being honest, but at least this spoof of an early car ad by an energetic owner-spokesman (newbie Mike O’Brien) and his mentally unhinged wife (Fey) attempted to mine something a little different from the SNL norm. And it speaks volumes about Fey’s comic prowess that she has you giggling at punch lines like “I gave all my babies to the well” and “I think I killed that Navajo girl” before you have time to think about how totally, appallingly wrong they actually are.

As described above, this bit about President Obama calling on “real folks” to help him sell the Affordable Care Act was so bloated with clichés, so void of any truly fresh jabs or observations, that it seemed a very odd way to kick off the season. Heck, when Jess Pinkman can’t save a scene, you know it’s time to call “time of death.”

There might’ve been a kernel of a good idea in newcomer Kyle Mooney’s bit about a mediocre comedian whose egde expired about 10 years before the dawn of Seinfeld, but it played like two minutes of shtick from a guy who’s never gonna be truly funny, but maybe isn’t smart enough to realize it. And, alas, that’s the kind of thing that invokes sadness more than laughter.

What did you think of Fey’s hosting gig? Were you stoked by the fact that Aaron Paul appeared three separate times? What were your picks for best and worst moments? 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. Saabgirlatx says:

    Arcade Fire-omg-was the sound not mixed right or what? That was excruciatingly bad. Agree with the above. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one wondering about the “comic” on weekend update, but was impressed with the new anchor gals inaugural run.

  2. Carolyn says:

    The season opening if Saturday Night Live did the seemingly impossible…it made Tina Fey unfunny. Hope may spring eternal, and I tune in every week hoping it gets better, but it is eternally bad. The problems are numerous, but the biggest can be summed up in 2 words, NO STEFAN.

  3. Paul says:

    Even though the premise was thin, I thought the Kenan/Tina sketch “New Featured Player or Arcade Fire Member?” was hilarious—especially what came in the wake of the Lorne Michaels cameo.

    Cecily should be fine on WU, but it’s good that they’re easing her in with Seth still at the desk. Was hoping for a surprise cameo by Jane Curtin, but she probably never even thinks about SNL anymore.

    I’ve never seen them make such a big deal, inside the show itself, about new castmembers. The whole night was basically spotted with moments of a bright flashing neon light with “NEW CAST MEMBER” whenever one of them was onscreen. I wonder if all six will hang around for the new season.

    Even though the cold open was mostly flat, Kate McKinnon may have turned in my favorite bit performance of the whole night as the ER doctor who’s tired of the excuses people make for putting things in their butts.

    • Patrick says:

      I noticed that the new guys had a lot of focus. But they lost A LOT. In the last two years they have been gutted talent wise. They have added some talent, but SNL probably wanted to highlight the new guys.

    • dude says:

      I think it was mostly because they lost so much talent last season and had to repopulate with so many new faces. Usually it’s just two or three newbies.

  4. Rob Horine says:

    The reason for the Obama Open is that since NBC is a arm of the Democratic Party, it’s their sworn duty to shove ObamaCare down our throats. This is a main reason that SNL isn’t funny no more. People watch it to get away from the politics, and just make fun of them (both sides).

    • Paul says:

      Please go back to Drudge.

    • JR says:

      “This is a main reason that SNL isn’t funny no more.”

      ^This is why people think most conservatives are uneducated hicks.

    • Drew Melbourne says:

      People watch SNL “to get away from the politics”???

      • John Madden says:

        I know, Drew. Here’s a guy who doesn’t watch a lot of TV and then he goes on the internet to act like he knows a thing or two about it.

    • Steve Ungrey says:

      I thought the ObamaCare sketch was funny, mainly because it made fun of just what everyone’s been saying about it that doesn’t like it. SNL definitely wasn’t carrying the White House’s water here. As for the show, I was glad to see the new players get some funny stuff (the Model-T ad and the game show come to mind). Not the best opening show, but no disaster either.

    • Jo says:

      Please go find some GOP site where you can discuss how much God loves rape and how horrible it is that fewer poor and brown people will die due to the affordable care act.

  5. Babygate says:

    I thought the Obama opening was pretty funny. It wasn’t great and the transition to the ‘live from N.Y.’ fell flat but there were funny moments when the audience laughed. I particularly liked the father and son and the doctor with the cigarette. Maybe it didn’t resonate as much because it is a very serious topic that is being debated right now and it was rather critical of the president and maybe that made people feel uncomfortable. Now, the Tina Fey opening where she’s dancing around with the newbies was bad, bad, bad. Painfully bad. I was expecting big laughs and there was nothing…

    • contrarian says:

      It wasn’t funny because people are afraid to laugh at this president. And there is plenty to laugh at. I am impressed that they even went out on the line to mock his habit of bringing “regular people” to every damn press conference he ever does. I am sorry they didn’t go further down the line, but not at all surprised. And the smoking doctor was funny, but the line about the son having no incentive to get a job is maybe the most honest moment I have seen in this debate and am truly proud that someone had the balls to say it.

      • Ann says:

        I agree. The cold open was funny. I like when SNL takes jab at the president, no matter who it is. I wish SNL would take larger jabs at Obama. He does many things that are funny, but because the writers like him…they’re unwilling to mock him. But comedy knows no politics and everyone should be open season for being mocked. I like Jay Pharaoh’s impression…a vast improvement over Fred Armisen’s impression…and I hope he’s takes the role further.

  6. LOL says:

    Manolo Blahnik was hilarious. Biggest laughs of the night. If you were underwhelmed by the sound for Arcade Fire during the show, I hope you stuck around for the special afterwards. It was a performance (not live) and sounded much better.

  7. Cassandra says:

    I don’t think I’ll ever understand what is funny about those girls doing the Manolo Blahnik’s sketch. The Girls sketch was the funniest thing I’ve seen on this show since the puppet sketch with Seth MacFarlane and Bill Hader from last year’s season premiere. The new cast members show some promise so I’ll be back after the Miley episode next week.

  8. Brandy says:

    I actually thought the comedian during WU was hilarious. (In the intended no hilarious way). And the Brookies is my current favorite recurring sketch. Definitely not as bad of an episode as you say.

    And like I always say, we NEED MORE KATE MCKINNON. And what’s with Nasim’s zero airtime every week??

  9. DJ says:

    The whole episode was a solid “meh”. Tina Fey while good on 30 Rock was never a very good sketch player. Also every time I saw Beck Bennett I was waiting for one of his AT&T commercials to come on during the breaks.

  10. cuius says:

    Given how they keep telling us how funny it was in the past, can we assume that even they don’t believe it’s funny now?

  11. Dr. Bombay says:

    The political cold open is so tired. They’ve had over three months of material from which to choose. The Girls spoof was pretty good but the rest was just not very good.

  12. Despite the iffy cold open, the premiere was better than any episode last year, with not a terrible sketch in sight … until Update. I have high hopes for Cecily Strong, who I think is more suited for sketches (unless she’s the Jimmy Fallon type, minus the constant breaking) but Seth still SUCKS. Too much Kenan, not enough Taran, who is supposed to be the next star of the show, but not at this rate. Drunk Uncle is same old same old, so overrated. Bobby is just a fat Chris Kattan.

  13. EJ says:

    I thought the airport sketch was stupid but funny. Kenan Thompson’s carry-on sight gag was terrific.

  14. Kim R says:

    I liked the episode except for the open. I am tired of politcal opens. Just move on. But other than that I actually laughed at Keenan a couple of times and I liked the bad comedian on Weekend Update. He was so bad but I got it. :) LOVE Drunk Uncle and the new Weekend team. I laughed a lot throughout so I think it was good. :)

  15. David says:

    Not a good episode and not a good sign for a rebuilding year. The new girl in weekend update want funny so hopefully she can find her footing before he leaves. I kind of miss Madtv lol.

  16. Jinny says:

    Not enough Aaron Paul, to be honest. When’s he gonna host?

  17. DisappointedCaucasianPerson says:

    Porn stars – funny. Girls sketch – funny. Rest of the show – not funny. Big disappointment for me.

    What is up with Lorne Michaels? It’s tough enough to get that man to add women to the cast, but once again, the minorities are avoided. It’s like “5 more pasty white guys who, even though they are physically different, pretty much come across appearing the same, if you know what I mean”. Diversity Mr. Michaels. It’s the 21st Century and people of other races are funny. Honestly. They are. 5 white guys and a white girl. Sounds like the name of a terrible sitcom.

    Of course, I will continue to watch the show, but I hoped for so much more. What a waste of Tina Fey.

    • DisappointedCaucasianPerson says:

      Oops. How could I forget Aaron Paul. Enjoyed his little cameos (the guy deserve to be a guest host……. both he and Cranston). I can only assume they didn’t use him in a Breaking Bad spoof because he or Cranston or both will show up later in the season. Oh and Cecily did pretty good with the news. Looking forward to Miley Cyrus next week – not. I’m OD’d on that chick. About as excited as if the guest host were Justin Bieber.

    • jeff says:

      Good point. The fact that they highlighted it during the opening was telling. Lorne always has the same role in a skit, I don’t know the castmember. He referred to Kenan as the black guy. Only funny because it is probably true. Maybe he should retire and Fey become the show runner.

    • buckyr64 says:

      I think Lorne Michaels isn’t the sole problem for the lack of diversity. The writers are mostly Hipsters and they write for what they know, so casting reflects the writing. Right now Hipsters are what is considered “in” or current.

    • scorpo says:

      I could not agree more. I am a pasty white guy myself but damn where is the diversity in this show?!! When was the last time they had an black female, the 80s? I do hope that when casting that funny always wins out over race and gender but come on lets mix up the palette a bit.

      • greg says:

        It’s the show that has never employed an Asian. Or an Indian. Or anything.

        Except for a token black guy once in a while. I thought there were TONS of asians in Canada?

  18. jeff says:

    The season is off to a bad start. At least Kenan and Taran are funny. Fey and the rest, not so much. I thought the Girls spoof was great, opening and monologue were bad. Im glad the ATT guy is on the cast, funny in the commercials, but unused. It seems like the first show of the year should be great, but maybe writers don’t think of new ideas during hiatus.

    Samberg, sudeikis are going to be missed.

  19. Rob Olivier says:

    This makes me miss MadTV so much more. They were funny, fresh and diverse. I hope there will be a reunion so SNL and Lorne Michaels can re-evaluate the direction in the future.

  20. Liz says:

    Did not laugh once, not even a giggle.

  21. tara17 says:

    I was disappointed, but I had high expectations for the season opener and from Tina Fey.

  22. Patrick says:

    I also liked the smokeless meth skit. That was hilarious. All the different names for meth were great.

    There were several good sketches. The Girls was the best. There weren’t any BAD sketches. The comedian on WU was the worst.

    I feel bad for WU. Funny news is now the go too for every late night talker. I heard several good, if obvious, jokes from various late night outlets this week. That doesn’t leave a lot for WU to mine at the end of the week.

  23. Tammy says:

    I thought the Girls promo was hilarious! Anything with Aaron Paul was great. I expected more with Tina hosting, that’s why this was sort of disappointing.

  24. Morisot says:

    The airport check-in sketch = C+ (with the carry-on bag getting an individual A+!)

    Blue Meth electronic cigarette ad sketch = C

    Everything else = Fail

    …so sad…

  25. Don’t know why people still getting “mixed reactions” about SNL all the time and what’s up with all of that hatred towards the show. They need to respect SNL not to be unbiased or anything like that but I’m a true believer of SNL than everybody else and the new season was anything but laughter and sketches who like and dislike. Tina Fey was great, the six newbies gave it their all and Cecily Strong killed it in her debut as Weekend Update co-anchor with Seth Meyers (Ms. Strong will always be my dream funny girl). We’ll see how the rest of the season plays out whether you guys like it or not and of course how will it affect the outcome of Meyers’ departure now that he’s hosting Late Night in 2014. Really hoping if Saturday Night Live is going to reach 40 and if it does, it could very well be the end for it. :-)

    • tara17 says:

      Even when it falls short of my expectations, SNL is still a great show that deserves its place and longevity. It’s also a great platform for comedy talent to evolve. I’m on board with 40 more seasons.

  26. Erica says:

    I thought the Obamacare opener was super funny and it’s what all the news articles are talking about this morning. The writer of this article sounded downright hostile about it. The frazzled doctor telling people to stop putting things up their butt was hysterical. And the failed comedian skit was kinda of funny, I mean it was the guys first night on the show and that’s freaking brave of him. It was the opening night with a lot of new members and it was a more solid episode than all last season…you were a little hostile about it.

  27. Does Season 39 feels like Season 38 all over again? Will SNL ever reach 40 and will it be the last next year? :-(

  28. Linderella says:

    The opening was sooooo bad. Granted, I only watched for Fey but I couldn’t make it past 20 minutes.

  29. FanOfTheShow says:

    This episode was funny for the most part. I didn’t like the airport sketch, and the comedian on WU oh almost forgot the classic movie one wasn’t funny at all. Other than that it was fairly decent.

    Really looking forward to this season.
    I expect great things from this new cast.

  30. asm says:

    I love all of it except the manolo blanik. Your worst is actually my favorite from the newbies. I like most of the newbies. And I’m sorry, but you’re always almost biased. Last season you always praised Bill Hader, while I thought he’s not always that good. He’s good, but not good like you always exaggerated. I sorta dont believe your ‘worst’ & ‘best’.

  31. Babybop says:

    Why did I laugh at the taxidermy thing?

    • Patrick says:

      Sometimes the skit is just so absurd, that even if it doesn’t work, you can’t help but laugh. Even with a bad premise, sometimes SNL just keeps hammering away at it until you can’t help but smile.

  32. MrsB says:

    I straight up will not even watch Miley Cyrus. Twerking aside she bugs the sugar out of me. Ugh!

  33. Dangeruss says:

    I think the night would have been better if they would have scrapped Fey and just let Aaron Paul host. He was great in all 3 appearances but I felt bad that they seem to think he could only pull off being Jesse Pinkman.

    I thought the cold open was amusing, not nearly at the level of ‘Bad’ claimed above, for me that honor went to ‘Cinema Classics’ a terrible sketch where Fey’s impression of a 40’s movie actress just seemed like a poor imitation of Kelly Coffield’s Black and White woman from In Living Color.

    Fey just fell flat for me most of the night. I agree the best sketch was Mahnolo Blahniks but Fey had little to do with it’s success. The fact that the sketch came at the end of the evening made created a feeling of ‘too little, too late and the Girl’s promo was only mildly amusing as someone who doesn’t watch the show. Everything else just seemed like old hat and filler and only spoke to the level of talent they lost at the end of last season. Fey was spot on in one instance though, it’s definitely a rebuilding year.

  34. Jessica says:

    It’s Noël Wells, not Noelle.

  35. Jamie says:

    Are you kidding me?! The cold open was hilarious, while the Manolo Blahniks and Rick’s Model T’s were absolutely horrendous. Who writes these reviews?

  36. Finch says:

    I personally enjoyed the episode overall, but I can see how others didn’t. Airport sketch was great, and The Girls spoof had me crying laughing. I was lucky enough to see Mike O’Brien at the UCB a few times in the spring, so it’s great to see him off to a good start as a cast member. I also really loved Cecily as an anchor. She had great delivery for her first update, and I can’t wait to see her get better and better each week.

  37. lily says:

    WTF is wrong with you all in the comments? Tina was the BEST part of last night, okay the monologue was poor, but all her skits were hilarious, especially the GIRLS promo. I don’t understand all this negativity toward her and her work, she was fantastic and her and Aaron Paul saved the whole episode for me… But tbh, I didn’t liked Arcade Fire, I didn’t know this band and I didn’t liked their songs, but they seemed nice.

  38. Kalvin says:

    The episode was good, but I didn’t care much of Arcade Fire on there. I mean it’s not the worst opening episode like everyone are arguing on here.
    But as I thought, choosing Cecily Strong would be a bad choice at the start when I heard she was coming to be co-anchor with Seth Meyers. But man…I can’t believe she actually bomb for her first night on Weekend Update (with exception of three jokes). And both Seth and Cecily’s chemistry for Update seemed like they’re soul-less when trying to interact with eachother.
    And plus giving more airtime with an Arcade Fire special after this episode was a deal with the devil because it had unfunny parts featuring great comedic actors, with some music in between. (but the devil part is really a farfetched thing to say about that)

  39. LD says:

    I agree with the comments by Erica and contrarian that the cold open was indeed funny and the writer of this article seems to have let his own political views affect his critique of the show. For him to state that there was not one serious laugh is just false. Maybe he did not laugh, but the audience sure did. The rest of the show was above average and worth a second look.

  40. Ray says:

    Started out great with the Girls parody. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.

  41. Darren says:

    hopefull this isnt another 94-5 season 20 thing all over again

  42. Massic says:

    I’m at a loss for all of the negativity here. I grew up watching this show, and now, at 28 I caught the opener in a coffee shop earlier today. It is classic SNL. This is what the show is. It’s not a dramatic departure from any earlier seasons- the jokes and characters are all in the same vein, so all this quibbling makes little sense to me personally, but whatever. The real reason I read this analysis was to see mentions of Arcade Fire and how absurd they appeared and sounded as a band. I never particularly cared for them but this new direction from James Murphy feels so contrived and a bit idiotic. Anyway, seeing Keenan get time was awesome (he is their best asset) and the new guy during weekend update was great (he was even pretty funny during the arcade fire skit). I think this will be an interesting season.

  43. Can we retire the phase “SNL used to be good.”? Every generation thinks the SNL cast they had when they where teenagers is the best SNL. It was said about Will Farrell’s cast, Kristen Wig’s cast, and I’m sure people said that during Dana Carvey and Mike Meyer’s years on the show also.

  44. Magically Suspicious says:

    I completely agreed with your picks, except the Used Car ad was my favorite. I did a spit-take at “I gave my babies to the well.”

  45. LD says:

    Maybe the author of the article did not laugh at the open, but the audience seemed to enjoy it. To say that it did not elicit one serious laugh is simply not true, and the bias of the writer may be showing itself with that comment. Overall, I thought it was a solid show and it will probably get better.

  46. Tina says:

    The 2013 season opener had to be without a doubt, the worst SNL I have ever witness and I have been watching the show since the show began in the 70’s. The musical guest, Arcade Fire was God Awful!!! What was with the painted on Lone Ranger mask? They sounded awful!!! The most redeeming moment of the night was “Drunk Uncle”. The new “talent” was so lackluster that it left me wondering how much longer this mess of a cast can keep this show afloat. From now on I will be recording the show and will watch it while fast forwarding through the bad parts which will probably take all of 10 minutes. So sad…..

  47. greg says:

    I thought the cold open was pretty good, a fresh take compared to Maher and Stewart that I had seen that week. The black guy doesn’t play Obama funny, which is a sad shame.

    The manolo blaniks skit I SKIPPED, and will ALWAYS SKIP. Time to write something new, dunderheads. I’m embarrassed for the reviewer that they put themselves through more than two seconds of that boring skit.

    Also the girls thing was WAY too late. Would’ve had to have to done that during the first season for it to be funny, it also played like a skit from the 80s.

    Tina Fey was always pretty bad, but the cast was definitely worse, as was the writing. I covered my eyes when they did the stupid ‘compare a cast member to a member of Arcade Fire’, yuck. Her open with the new cast members dancing was amusing, I suppose.

    And Arcade Fire, never have I hated a band so much as I did when the show turned into a half hour hip-o-thon by over the hill hollywood actors and a hilrious–quite simply–Michael Cera (apparently he can speak spanish? haha!). Who knew disco was back? Took thirty-six years but apparently it’s back. Arcade Fire can’t live down their careers, so disco should be but a short blemish on the scat trail.

    All of their songs are just GodspeedYou BlackEmperor done pop lite, with bridges and chorus lasting for fifteen minutes after a second and a half of pretending to have written a connectable intro for them. And I actually thought The Suburbs was getting back on track? WTH?

  48. 420brain says:

    I am honestly shocked to read this. With the exception of a few sketches, I thought this episode was AWFUL. you liked Manolo Blaniks, honestly? I am SO TIRED of that sketch. The “banging” jokes are shockingly gross and unfunny. Tina Fey was in this episode as an NBC novelty and not a comedian, which was a real shame.

  49. Lauren says:

    Kind of off topic, but does anyone know the song that plays during the “Girls” sketch, when Marnie’s character says, “My ex-boyfriend is an internet-millionaire”?