Bruce Willis attempted to channel a centaur, a neighborhood barber and even his old Armageddon astronaut in his first Saturday Night Live hosting gig since 1989. The question loomed, though, whether the return engagement would prove to be worth the 24-year wait.
Unfortunately for Willis, most of this week’s sketches left him in straight-man or second-banana territory, while his one chance to truly nail an impression (albeit an oddly circa-2008 one) found him totally whiffing as Project Runway judge Michael Kors — and spoiling the otherwise hilarious concept of Vanessa Bayer’s Lady Gaga Talk Show. (“It doesn’t matter what’s on the out S-I-D-E, it matters what’s on the I.N. side.”) Based on Willis’ performance, in fact, I’d guess he’s never actually heard or seen footage of Kors; and no, trotting out his old “gay stereotype routine” that slayed ‘em in the high school cafeteria back in the day isn’t gonna cut it for evolved late-night audiences in 2013.
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Nevertheless, Willis’ outing turned out to be a middle-of-the-road SNL affair — certainly not one of its all-time greatest, but not coughing up enough clunkers to qualify for the bottom of the sketch-comedy barrel. (Willis, to be fair, had some great reaction shots as a florist with designs on the divorced mother of Taran Killam’s rageaholic Eddie.) With that said, let’s cut to my picks for the week’s best and worst sketches:
BEST: 24-HOUR ENERGY FOR DATING ACTRESSES
Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon — who, along with Killam, are fast becoming the main reasons to watch the show — were uproarious as insecure thespians whose boyfriends needed pharmaceutical help to put up with their women’s professional insecurities. Best bit? Strong’s insane fluctuation between losing a part (“f*** my life!”) and getting a callback (“YES! YES! YES!”).
BEST: WEEKEND UPDATE
Strong and Seth Meyers were on fire with jokes about Prince Harry’s girlfriend Cressida Bonas (“who, judging by her name, is a mid-priced Toyota sedan”) to a timely zinger about the scientific murkiness of box-office smash Gravity (“no way Clooney would spend that much time talking to a woman his own age”). Still, the biggest triumph was the rapid-fire punch lines the co-hosts exchanged about the separation announcement of Bruce and Kris Jenner, which culminated with this side-splitter from Meyers: “The comedy and tragedy masks are getting a divorce.” FLAWLESS.
BEST: BOY DANCE PARTY
When bros are left alone by themselves to watch sports, they…drop it like it’s hot? Apparently so, according to this ridiculous pre-taped bit with Killam spitting rhymes like, “Not homoerotic, just a little brotherly unity/ To dance our stress away, without no womanly scrutiny.” By the time the gents got to the “shake that sack” portion of the video, I was doubled over with laughter.
WORST: CENTAURI VODKA
There was a fleeting moment of funny as the gasping backside of Willis’ minotaur costume popped out of his prison for some air, but otherwise this sketch about a launch party spokesman worried about the health of his actor coworker was a concept without any meaningful payoff. I can’t imagine Nasim Pedrad stuck around for another season just to play a generic scold without a single significant punch line.
WORST: OPENING MONOLOGUE
Based on last week’s Miley Cyrus shrug, and Willis’ nearly laugh-free harmonica duel with inept-but-worshipful Bobby Moynihan, I’m worried SNL‘s writing team is either unable or unwilling to dig past obvious tropes and create some magic with its guest MC and a single mic. Kinda sad, no?