Jim Parsons Hosts Saturday Night Live: Watch Video of the Best and Worst Sketches

“How long is this elevator ride?” Jim Parsons desperately asked, bringing to a close a wretched Saturday Night Live sketch about an executive trying (and failing) to hastily exit his office building while clutching a bag containing his soiled underwear.

Alas, that question could’ve applied to the Emmy winner’s overall experience hosting an episode of NBC’s sketch-comedy series that featured not one but two unwelcome recurring segments (those inane cowboys and Spotlightz Acting Camp); multiple bits where the writers didn’t bother to concoct a plausible ending; and (aside from the 12 Years a Slave casting session and a so-so Johnny Weir on Ellen bit) very little emphasis on current pop-cultural or political happenings.

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Putting it another way, Parsons tried gamely — committing to even the lamest setups — but you can’t squeeze blood from a rock.

POLL | SNL‘s New Weekend Update Team: Grade ‘Em!

Below, my picks for the week’s best and worst sketches, and if you want to dish Colin Jost’s “Weekend Update” debut, click here for my colleague Matt Mitovich’s review:

BEST: 12 YEARS A SLAVE OPEN CALL
Newbie Brooks Wheelan got a rare moment on camera — and proved quite funny — as an actor coming in to read for the role of a friendly guy in a field, but then asked to portray a “hostile slave owner.” Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong also killed it as the breezily oblivious casting agents, but the MVP here was Jay Pharoah as a camera guy serving up such sternness that Parsons’ thespian almost couldn’t bear it.

BEST: THE BIRD BIBLE
SNL‘s pre-taped ad spoofs all too frequently trump its live segments, and this bit about a feathery, kid-friendly twist on the Bible proved no exception. “See that talon coming down from the sky?” asked Kate McKinnon (brilliant as always). “That’s God!”

BEST: CHARLES BARKLEY & SHAQUILLE O’NEAL
Pharoah’s impression of a profoundly infantile, possibly post-head-injury Shaq is beyond brutal — but undeniably guffaw-inducing. And Kenan Thompson has so much fun playing off his partner as a bemused/horrified Barkley — “when he says long words, his mouth just gives up!” — just adds to the laughs per minute.

WORST: COWBOY’S BIRTHDAY
I really thought we’d seen the last of the cowboys when Christoph Waltz hosted, but nope, they were back again here — with Parsons’ dimwit character determined to springboard naked from a pile of earth to surprise a fellow cowhand for his birthday. What exactly was supposed to be funny about this sketch? And — ay dios mio! — is it possible that there were even less funny setups during dress rehearsal that were cut in favor of this?

WORST: MURDER MYSTERY TOUR
Parsons got saddled playing an uptight guy uncomfortable with being asked to play the character of a “harmless oversexed nutball” at a Murder Mystery Dinner. Press play below, then hit the comments and share if this made you laugh even once.

WORST: SPOTLIGHTZ ACTING CAMP
Spotlightz wasn’t exactly a classic the first time SNL introduced it, but it’s clearly becoming a case of diminishing returns watching Vanessa Bayer do her “enthusiastic kid” shtick while reenacting scenes from The Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyers Club.

What did you think of Parsons’ SNL outing? Grade the installment in our poll below, then sound off in the comments with your picks for Best and Worst!

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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58 Comments
  1. Morgan says:

    I love Jim Parsons but this episode was just unfunny- the sketch concepts themselves were bad, never mind the writing. So unfortunate because Parsons is actually really talented and better than the writing he’s given on TBBT.

    • ann anderson says:

      I agree 100 % . Jim Parsons is such a gifted actor and deserved decently written and actually comedic skits to show off that talent in. He gave 100 % on material that was 50
      % funny at best.

      • ann anderson says:

        I absolutely cringed during the whole elevator sketch. It was crude and in poor taste. And then it wasn’t even funny.

      • benis says:

        i’m not hating on the guy or big bang, but “a gifted actor”? really? the dude has one character and thats the reason these sketches failed just as much as the poor writing. and the author left out the only sketch that was even remotely funny, the dance floor killer! the only other role i can see parsons doing would be a rapey-socially awkward killer or something.

  2. Eddie says:

    Awful episode. Goes to show that without toilet/nerd jokes every 30-seconds and without the moron that is Chuck Lorre not holding his hand every 5 minutes, this idiot is not funny.

    • Will says:

      Actually, I think it goes to show that no matter how talented an actor you are, sometimes the material is too terrible to do anything with. Even you admit that he’s funny on Big Bang (since you said that he’s not funny WITHOUT Chuck Lorre), and fwiw, Big Bang is a million times better written than SNL, so it doesn’t really stand to reason that you can judge his abilities as a comic actor based on far lesser material. Now, if he weren’t able to make a *better-written* show than Big Bang funny, that would be another story.

    • Linda says:

      The writers for SNL are terrible!! What passes for humor now is stupid and crude for the most part. I imagine that Chuck Lorre (who is, no doubt, older than most of SNL’s writers) has employed writers with a similar sense of humor to himself. I feel sorry for the guest hosts of SNL. This show has long ago ‘jumped the shark’ and should have been put to death 20 years ago!!!

      • David4 says:

        Yeah the problem is never the hosts, it’s always the writing and the writing was HORRIBLE! don’t watch every week but the whole episode was terrible.

      • MC says:

        The only thing I liked was the spoof of the Ellen Show. That was decent, but the rest of the episode was atrocious. Idiotic does not always equal funny. I especially hated the Tonkerbell, Murder Mystery and Cowboys sketches. I had low expectations and this episode was still a disappointment.

    • JS says:

      I was excited when I saw Jim Parson’s was going to be on it and then about 3 sketches in we said it was too terrible to watch. I am sorry but the quality of the people on the show is at a low point and the writing for this show was terrible. Jim Parson’s could not have risen the level of this show no matter what he did.

      • Saabgirlatx says:

        The writing was just bad. Jim parsons us a great actor but wasn’t given decent material. Bird bible one of the best? Please! That was a head scratcher for sure. Murder mystery could’ve been great but it went south at the end. Who was the guy with Cecily Strong on weekend update? He could be good if they move jus TelePrompTer -his eyes were way distracting- reminded me of the guy who does watch what happens live and his eyes look blank.

      • ann anderson says:

        I know . The only reason I watched at all was because of Jim. That poor guy. He had to know how awful the skits were and yet he gave them his best shot. I won’t be tuning in to SNL again. I didn’t realize how truly terrible it became in recent years. It used to truly be funny. Wth happened ?

    • CherylM says:

      Yeah, blame the actor for following the cr@p that was written for him by God awful writers–that makes perfect sense–oh wait, no it doesn’t. SNL has fallen so far down the rabbit hole, that Jim Parsons was the only reason I turned it on. He did his best, but sadly the show failed him.

  3. Tran 2.0 says:

    I give the Jim Parsons episode a C. I think Colin Jost should do a good job as Update co-anchor but I hope someday Cecily Strong should do it all by herself or perhaps if Kate McKinnon was going to be named Seth Meyers’ replacement as the NEW Update co-anchor. There will be GIRL(S) POWER next week with Lena Dunham as host for the very first time. Got an idea for next week’s show: the women of SNL should do another Digital Short music video like the Twin Bed sketch they did with Jimmy Fallon. MAKE IT HAPPEN SNL

  4. Jon says:

    Three “Best” segments? Please, maybe the 12 Years a Slave casting, but that’s only one. Last night’s episode can go down as probably the worst of the year.

    • The Beach says:

      It was truly awful. The only bit in the entire show that elicited a chuckle form me was the movie critic (Jedidiah?) on Weekend Update.

  5. Ali says:

    I didn’t vote in this poll as it wasn’t Jim Parson’s fault that the SNL writers totally botched this episode and wasted Jim’s talent on mediocre, unfunny skits. I’ve all but given up on SNL. It’s just so blah lately.

    Jim is a funny, talented actor and he should be upset with the material SNL gave him. I am a math teacher and I think at this point that I could have come up with funnier material then the challenged writers did (that was said tongue in cheek by the way.)

  6. Susieqt79 says:

    It always seems that they get some of the best talent but they just suck at all of the sketches. I remember when they got Betty White to come onto the show and they just wasted her on so many unfunny sketches. I don’t know if they are just too worried about offending someone or what but they need new writers.

  7. david says:

    First of all I really like Jim Parsons. He can do characters outside of Sheldon (which he proved when he was on Judging Amy – a seriously underrated performance). However this episode was just bad – one of the worst of the season which really says a lot. Nothing really worked at all and it was a huge disappointment seeing how talented Parsons is. Weekend Update was kind of blah too. I know this is considered a “rebuilding year” for SNL but it’s just not going well.

  8. JB says:

    The past couple of episodes, I’ve felt like the “joke” went on too long. The elevator was that way. I thought the 12 Years a slave went on too long, there was no pay off. It was all the same joke.

  9. chrisf says:

    I think Jim Parsons did as good as he could with what he was given. But the sketches were a return to mediocrity. I wouldn’t even put the Bible skit in the “best” category. The flat, no-payoff musical number in the opening monologue pretty much set the tone. I think Colin Jost could do ok as co-anchor. But right now he reminds me too much of Jimmy Fallon cracking himself up at his own jokes.

    • Outis says:

      I agree on several of your points, particularly that not even Parsons could breathe life into those DOA skits. Awful writing. I also found the Bird Bible skit horribly unfunny. I’m not religious per say, so it didn’t offend other than offending the definition of funny. I don’t think Jost reminded me of Fallon at all. If anything Strong suffers from Fallon syndrome. Not sure when this became so accepted, but Phil Hartmann is rolling over in his grave. Instead, Jost reminded me a lot of Norm MacDonald. Always with a wry smile on his face trying to evoke sort of a smug sense of silliness. It worked for MacDonald to varying degrees, we’ll see if it works for Jost but it didn’t bother me.

      Only thing watchable last night was the 12 year skit and Pharoah’s hilarious imitation of Shaq. Everything else sucked. Felt bad for Parsons.

    • ann anderson says:

      I think that the opening song was a way for Jim to not have to do a monologue. He has stated before that he hates to speak to a large live audience as himself. I didn’t think the catchy song was that bad. But what an awful waste of Jim Parsons talent. They need new writers asap. Another few episodes like last night’s and this will be the last season of SNL.

  10. majamabe says:

    Jim Parsons is great on BBT – not so much here. Blame that on poor writing. Too bad – such a waste of good talent all around. Very disappointed in the show tonight.

  11. Brandy says:

    The show had some really unfunny sketches (and I personally think this season has been pretty consistent on having at least semi-funny things all through its episodes). Although I disagree on the kids’ acting camp. It cracked me up! Also love Jebidiah.

  12. Kinzie says:

    The whole show, including the musical guest, especially the second song just seemed off. The skits just weren’t funny. WU was OK but Cecily giggling was a little annoying and Colin needs to loosen up just a little.

    • ann anderson says:

      I don’t mind Beck’s music in the right setting. But this wasn’t it. If there had been an interesting more lively musical guest it would have helped keep the audience’s interest between such terrible sketches. The haunting tone of the songs just didn’t work.

  13. John T. Grose says:

    You gotta learn to stick the landings, SNL writers. Your sketches still just…end. That ain’t funny. – John

    • Marc says:

      But, it’s been like that for 30 years. I assume that Lorne doesn’t ask for an ending in the pitch so he winds up with 25 sketches that just stop from which to choose each week. Even the worst sitcom writers end every scene with a joke.

  14. Cassandra says:

    Please explain to me what was funny about the bird bible sketch? The talon comment was mildly amusing, but the rest was awful.

  15. Cassandra says:

    My favorites last night were the 12 Years casting and the Shaq and Charles Barkley visit on WU.

  16. Standleft says:

    I think Parsons is extremely talented, but unfortunately was in the position of guest-hosting a show where the writing is still finding its footing. It was almost painful to watch. A lot of the old guard is now gone, the new kids need to get themselves sorted.

    • DJ says:

      After being on their air for 100 years, it shouldn’t still be “finding its footing”. It’s been going downhill for years and it’s really reaching rock bottom

      • David says:

        Very accurate assessment! There are very funny comedy and sketch writers out there looking for work. Lorne Michaels just doesn’t seem to ever hire them. It’s time for Michaels to retire from this show so that NBC can put in someone younger with a better sense for sketch comedy who won’t feel the need to repeat sketches that didn’t work the first time!

  17. DJ says:

    Once again, SNL wastes great talent with lousy writing. It’s time for this show to bid adieu.

    • David4 says:

      It doesn’t need to be canceled, just reboot it. Fire a lot of the them, hire more woman because the SNL woman are always better than the men in recent decades. Some minorities would be nice too, do more political BS because it’s easy and no one likes any of them.

  18. Dan says:

    Jebidiah was the best thing on the show, along with Charles Barkley and Shaq. Also liked Aidy Bryant’s bad Tinkerbell, even though the rest of the skit wasn’t funny. Colin was ok in his Update premiere. I agree with the poster above that he reminded me of Norm McDonald. Jim Parsons tried hard with bad material. Add me to the list who didn’t like Bird Bible. I thought it was stupid.

  19. Jake says:

    No mention of Tonkerbell? I thought that was probably one of the best sketches of the night… and there weren’t many good ones.

    Yes, the writing this week weren’t great, but I also had a problem with Jim Parsons. He never seemed to full inhabit any of the characters. It seemed that he had a hard time doing any impressions or changes to his voice (most notable as Johnny Weir). Many times he seemed like he was still channeling Sheldon too, which took me out of the sketch. So i dont think the episode can fully be blamed on the writers.

    It was also good seeing Brooks Whelan appearing in sketches! Two appearances this week!

  20. David says:

    If this show was an example of what we can expect from the new head writer…then the show is in very serious trouble. It was unfunny from start to finish. And none of it was the fault of the host.

  21. Magali says:

    Painful, just terribly painful…

  22. GuessWhat says:

    The writing is horrible. I agree with your bests. And would add Jebidiah Atkinson’s WU appearance, too — that was at least topic with the Oscars being tonight.

  23. A says:

    I am just happy to see Jebidiah and Ellen. I love those two reoccurring sketches

  24. Morisot says:

    The cast list was so long when they announced it—after watching the episode I got to thinking they would have been better off just making a cast list that lasted 70 minutes to announce.

  25. bird bible as a best? wtf?! wrong. you fail. go home you’re drunk.

  26. DavidSask says:

    I did not laugh once almost with Ellen sketch. Jim no matter how to break out still has that same voice identified with Sheldon if you can’t do characters with new voices you screwed! It will be interesting to see what he does in Normal Heart!

  27. raftrap says:

    That was terrible episode, really bad, SNL is in desperate need of new blood (mostly writer blood, and also a more relaxed in-studio audience, cause I know the jokes have been pretty terrible this season, but come on, try acting like you enjoy them, what’s the worst that could happen?), Taran and Kate do most of the heavy lifting and it’s not enough, also Cecily Strong is really great but she shouldn’t be doing Update, I say keep Colin and try a new co-anchor.

  28. AnnieM says:

    I love Jim Parsons. I felt really bad for him last night, because I think this may just be the worst episode I’ve seen since the 80-81 season (Charles Rocket, Denny Dillon, et al). Totally unfunny. I liked his song, though.

    Also, I must say, I like Cecily Strong very much on WU. The new guy came across to me like a fill-in anchor on someone’s local tv news. Maybe that’s what he was going for, or maybe he was terrified to actually be ON camera after so many years with SNL. Incidentally, why does the Head Writer always have to be an anchor? This Colin fellow seems to have no experience in front of an audience. Someone elsewhere said that Beck Bennett should have been given the chair – I agree.

    And finally, WHY does everyone think Lena Dunham is so great? I don’t get it. Is it because I’m old (40s)? :-D

  29. xx says:

    Ugh, Parsons was basically Sheldon in the Johnny Weir, Peter Pan, and Murder Mystery sketches. Poor ep, disappointing host.

  30. Stewart says:

    I gave it a C. Seth Meyers is gone, so a new head writer is in place. I didn’t catch the name. For me, the show went down hill when Tina Fey left, as well as a couple of others. The Seth Meyers years didn’t please me. I actually smiled a couple of times during some sketches, which is rare. I’ve never seen Jim Parsons in anything but “Big Bang.”

  31. Olive says:

    Well, I liked the episode. I actually thought Parsons was more of the problem than the writing. He sounded like himself in every role especially in that awful Weir impression. Just because he plays Sheldon great doesn’t me he has a whole lot of range.

  32. AnnieM says:

    I wonder what a remake of ‘Harold & Maude’ with Jim Parsons & Betty White would be like. Not an SNL sketch; it’s just a thought that popped into my head. ::shrug::

  33. Most impressive by far was”12 yrs casting skit”; as for the “elevator stench skit”,sorta grossed me out ’till big guy Kenan Thomson enters & comments bout aroma’,suddenly i’m laughing out loud ! Think it’s how he said it(so natural yet a touch of innocence like that of a child speaking theTRUTH) that pulled it thru to save the skit !!

  34. Archie says:

    The best skits were the Dance Froor Killer, 12 years a slave and the shaq bit. The ellen bit was mildly amusing but seemed to go on a little to long.
    The burd bible, murder mystery, peter pan, spotlights, the cowboys, the elevevatorskit were painful to watch.

  35. Florence Henderson says:

    SNLBlows! It’s as bad as when Joe Pickapo (sp -my point, Charles Rocket, etc) were cast members. PLEASE pull the plug on this MESS and let Lorne retire and come up with ANYTHING new in the time slot aka even Mid night Special-ANYTHING else. Baluchi is spinning in his grave.

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