The stars came out to help Paul Rudd host Saturday Night Live this week, but the veteran funnyman wound up shining brightest of all — scoring genuinely big laughs in roles as varied as a One Direction fan, a male model in 1500s Italy and Santa Claus in the middle of a midlife crisis.
Granted, the writing was (in typical SNL fashion) a mixed bag, but Rudd — along with Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, David Koechner, plus Harry, Zayn, Liam, Louis and Niall — worked overtime to ensure an above-average installment. Below, my picks for best and worst sketches:
BEST: DAN CHARLES, ONE DIRECTION’S #1 FAN
The concept of a fortysomething dad freaking out over the world’s most popular boy band was a brilliant one, but Rudd upgraded it by nailing the ecstatic facial expressions and breathless enthusiasm of his fellow grade-school girls. And that “you don’t know your basic facts” taunt (to the tune of “You don’t know you’re beautiful”) was the funniest moment of the whole episode.
BEST: MICHELANGELO’S DAVID
Rudd served as the centerpiece of a sketch about a male model careening from excitement to humiliation after the unveiling of Michelangelo’s famous sculpture and the revelation that he’d served as “the exact replica down to the atom” — including David’s tiny penis. Sure, the jokes were obvious, but Rudd’s complaint that his future kids would someday see the work, followed by Taran Killam’s Michelangelo responding, “I don’t know if you’re gonna be able to have children” had me guffawing in spite of myself.
HONORABLE MENTION: OPENING MONOLOGUE
Rudd’s self-deprecating shtick about having been upstaged by the show’s musical guests during his prior two hosting gigs yielded amusing results when the members of One Direction ambled onto the stage behind him to the roaring approval of the crowd. But the wackiness quotient doubled when Rudd was joined by his Anchorman costars, insults began flying (“sit on Santa’s lap and ask for a pair of balls”) and everyone joined forces for a “Nine Direction” cover of “Afternoon Delight.”
WORST: SOUND OF MUSIC COLD OPEN
Here’s a prime example of how SNL misses the mark when skewering topical pop-cultural events. Instead of mining the rich comic territory of Carrie Underwood’s, um, unexpressive acting (opposite stunning Broadway vets) in NBC’s high-rated live musical, the show trotted out Kristen Wiig’s tiny-handed Dooneese as one of the von Trapp kids. When, “Ray, the guy in the bar that tries to lay on me,” is your best “Do-Re-Me” tweak, it’s time to retire the character.
WORST: AL SHARPTON’S POLITICS NATION
Why Kenan Thompson is allowed to keep bringing back his unfunny impression of the MSNBC host is a mystery worthy of an entire Dateline episode. The introduction of Rudd as “unpaid contributor to the Huffington Post” was pretty damn funny, but the actor was totally squandered with punchline-free dialogue thereafter.
What did you think of Rudd as SNL host? Grade the episode in the poll below, then sound off in the comments!