Expectations were higher than an ’80s soap actress’ hair as Louis C.K. returned to host the Season 40 finale of Saturday Night Live.
After all, his March 2014 installment scored a grade of A or B from almost 65% of TVLine readers — pretty solid feedback from a notoriously tough crowd.
The good news is that C.K. took some big risks right from the get-go — thank goodness, there was some genuine comic payoff in his extended flights of fancy about “mild racism” and child molesters (the latter of which has drawn some criticism) — and even the sketches that didn’t quite gel at least had interesting concepts.
Below are my picks for the episode’s best and worst:
BEST: SPRINT STORE
C.K. went all out as a cellphone salesman overheard on his first day at work doing an impersonation of his rageful black female boss (Leslie Jones), then spending the next five years pretending he speaks in a similar tone and cadence to her in order to avoid being fired). Cue-card flubs aside, C.K.’s compliment that Jones’ nails were “on fleek,” plus her final-act treachery to expose the big lie, had me howling with laughter — right down to Jones calling C.K. a “Jabba the Hutt-lookin’ white bitch!”
BEST: OPENING MONOLOGUE
Not every joke in C.K.’s monologue landed, but even the clunkiest at least had some interesting edge. Of course, the opening one-two punch of racism and Middle East unrest seemed tame compared to the comic’s riff on the comedic minefield of pedophilia. Noting how Mounds candy bars are his great pleasure — but that he would quit them immediately if it meant going to jail and being hated by everyone — C.K. spouted that child molestation “must be really good, from their perspective.” Yikes. And also LOL.
HONORABLE MENTION: LUMBERJACK ADS
The show gave us two random interludes — one with a trendy restaurant-goer passing on a toothpick, and one with a book-store patron deciding to opt for a downloaded version — that C.K. as an anxious lumberjack, with a single tear streaming down his cheek. Beck Bennett, meanwhile, delivered a corresponding jingle: “If you don’t use wooden things, what will happen to the lumberjacks?”
HONORABLE MENTION: RIHANNA’S “BITCH BETTER HAVE MY MONEY”
I’m still not sure how I feel about Rihanna’s use of bad CGI, a jank hoopty and a bound-and-gagged hostage to build an audience for her latest single, but I’m not gonna lie and say I wasn’t entertained. (“American Oxygen,” meanwhile, was pretty damn good, too.)
WORST: POLICE LINEUP
C.K., Bennett, Kyle Mooney (ugh) and Taran Killam played four struggling actors treating their time in a police lineup like actual auditions. Theoretically? Not a bad idea. In practice? About three insufferable minutes too long.