You’d think it would be a privilege to host the first installment of Saturday Night Live in 2014. But thanks to a baffling array of setups — a square dad fending off a “teenage” girl’s slumber-party come-ons (yuck); the unwelcome return of “Mornin’ Miami” promos; Nasim Pedrad aimlessly stumbling around a Disneyland set saying “I am Rahat” — rapper/actor Drake might’ve wondered if he was instead suffering some cosmic punishment in his hosting debut.
Not to say the erstwhile Degrassi High star didn’t try gamely — his impressions of Kat Williams, Jay Z and a horny high-school student were fairly amusing — but this was yet another instance of the show’s writers not giving the host a lot with which to work.
Below, my picks for the week’s Best and Worst:
BEST: NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION/REVOLUTION
Taran Killam, Drake and Jay Pharoah — with backing support from cast newcomer Sasheer Zamata — rapped about the frailty of new year’s resolutions in the face of temptation. Killam’s donut frenzy and Drake’s drunk-guy antics, though, were merely appetizers for Pharoah’s raucous sex with a blowup doll. And for dessert? Cosplay, of course! Good stuff.
BEST: JACQUELINE BISSET
While barely uttering a word, Vanessa Bayer — marooned in the balcony seats — hilariously skewerd the Golden Globe winner for Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series, Miniseries or Movie, gasping, mauling audience members and even combing her hair to guffaw-inducing effect.
HONORABLE MENTION: “I KNOW”
Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney starred in an oddly meditative piece as a long-suffering friend and his know-it-all buddy. A few of Mooney’s retorts were mumbled to the point of inaudibility, but the whole thing was nevertheless bizarrely compelling. I’m still not sure why I laughed at this urinal exchange — “Mine’s a little bit bigger than yours.” “I know — ’cause I actually like mine a little bit smaller.” — but laugh I did.
HONORABLE MENTION: HIP-HOP CLASSICS
An inconsistent segment at best (Kenan Thompson pretending a cat lives in Sway’s trademark hat was as lame as it gets), but Rick Ross as the original red Teletubby and Eminem shouting his way through a whispery episode of Felicity were pretty tasty bits.
WORST: INDIANA JONES AT DISNEY WORLD
Nasim Pedrad played a foreign-born girl named Rahat chosen to play the role of Indiana Jones in a theme-park adventure show. Maybe this would’ve scored some laughs had Pedrad developed the character beyond blank stares and a catchphrase? As Drake’s theme-park employee barked, “I’d love to know what’s going on in Rahat’s head!” I wondered the same — about Pedrad and the show’s writing staff.
WORST: PIERS MORGAN COLD OPEN
I love Taran Killam, but his twist on the CNN host is nothing more than a high-pitched British accent, and rarely results in a joke that doesn’t wind up getting shaper-eyed treatment on Weekend Update. Yeah, Kate McKinnon’s Bieber posturing was pretty spot-on, but that should’ve been spun off as a separate/funnier entity.