Saturday Night Live recap: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Mumford & Sons

The last time Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosted Saturday Night Live, he turned out to be a great host -- genuinely funny, happy to be there, ready to do anything that was thrown at him, and then doing it well. And he even did a Donald O'Connor-style song and dance number in his monologue. This time, he was a bit wasted in mediocre sketches, but at least they weren't bad. The enthusiastic host with the clear comedic talent just could have been put to better use. Far from a bad show, but I like to see a bit more from such a cool guest.

Mumford & Sons was the musical guest, and they sounded great. But I'll abstain from reviewing their sets, since I'm writing about a comedy show and not a concert. They did, however, show up in one sketch, and that is always fun.

Cold Open: Live With Kelly and Mike

Jay Pharoah debuts his Michael Strahan, and I liked the premise: Michael Strahan can't believe he gets paid to say "Yum" for about an hour every day after spending 15 years in the NFL getting his head knocked around! Not totally sure it's an exact impression, but it was entertaining to watch him just sit there and be amazed that he gets to have so much fun at work. (I know how he feels!) Also: Kelly Ripa (Nasim Pedrad) is small and efficient, but dense as a moon rock. She might be an alien, and they could have touched on that. tl;dr: Yay, they're using Jay Pharoah for things!

Monologue

Part of me loves that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is smitten with the idea of doing sketch comedy on television all night. The other part wishes he could laugh about it a little bit less, but it's Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and it's charming, and he knows this. I feel like he's been wanting to do his Magic Mike crotch-focused dance in front of a camera all summer long, and I'm truly happy for him that he got the opportunity. tl;dr: JGL took his shirt off and laughed about it. That's the spirit!

Political ad: Low-Information Voters

About 96 percent of people who intend to vote in this year's presidential election are still undecided. They are the "low-information" voters, and they have never once been on the internet or seen a TV set. Maybe they don't even deserve to vote. tl;dr: If you know such a voter, I'm so sorry you have to drink so much in order to deal with that.

Tres Equis

He is The Son of The Most Interesting Man in the World, so he is exactly half as interesting as his father. But he doesn't let that stop him, because he knows not to look a nepotistic horse in the mouth. It doesn't matter that people don't like him, and he lacks his father's charisma -- he still has some interesting DNA, and he's going to use as much of it as he can. And make his father's beer better with... something. tl;dr: Spinoffs suck, but spinoffs have a built-in audience and don't care that they suck.

Detective Agency

I love it when Bill Hader plays snappy, noir detectives, and his unfulfilled caricature artist detective is no exception. JGL is an equally snappy foil trying to find out if his wife is cheating on him, only to be presented with silly sidewalk drawings instead of photographic evidence. It's a simple, formulaic sketch, but short and sweet, and fun enough. tl;dr: Cute.

Tres Equis: The Return of Dos Equis

The Son of the Most Interesting Man in the World is a cut-rate loser, and his father (Jason Sudeikis) shows up to tell him, and they reach an emotional boiling point. Played straight, it ends on a hilariously "shit got real" note. It could have ended as soon as Dad showed up, but the fact that it led into an extended, shouty argument that brought up a whole sea of issues turned it into a different sketch altogether, in a good way. tl;dr: I like watching Sudeikis yell. And, apparently, dysfunctional families.

Curtis Isn't Hypnotized

JGL plays Hypnotist Tommy Bergamont and tries to hypnotize willing participant, Curtis (Taran Killam). But while Curtis can't be hypnotized, he is willing to make a fool out of a hypnotist! JGL has some fun doing a silly character, but the star is Killam (and later, Vanessa Bayer, playing his wife), and it's fun enough. When the funniest part of a sketch is a mustachioed man stripping down to his underwear and screaming like a velociraptor, and then humping Kenan Thompson, it feels a little cheap... but I don't know, sometimes I'm a cheap date. I laughed. tl;dr: I enjoy both hearing and making sounds like a velociraptor.

GOB Tampons

It was fascinating to find out over the course of the spring and summer that conservative male Republican lawmakers don't have any idea how women's anatomy really works. So, a feminine hygiene product -- in this case, tampons -- made by these men was actually long overdue. Tons and tons of gloriously, dangerously wrong information-turned-jokes are packed into this brief commercial parody starring Vanessa Bayer. tl;dr: This was probably the most necessary commercial parody about women's health that I've ever seen.

Weekend Update

Excellent, on-point segment by Seth Meyers, "What Are You Doing?" was addressed to Barack Obama, echoing last week's cold open that proved that all the president has to do is sit back, watch the "Romney Follies," and keep his mouth shut. But once again, he's completely upstaged by a guest to the desk, Ann Romney, played by Kate McKinnon. It's great to see the candidate's wife turned into a character like this, and it's a really funny take on a woman who has been mostly viewed as uppity and out of touch with anyone outside of the upper-upper class. McKinnon's Romney says that the campaign is hard because Republicans don't get to hang out with cool people like Beyonce and Jay-Z (instead they have to shake "Jon Voight's cold lizard hand"). Ann Romney is officially a character, and that's going to be great. Now, if only we can get a good Michelle Obama for an imagined First Lady debate... tl;dr: Some great jokes for Meyers, but McKinnon is the star this week.

Four Guys Reminiscing

Accompanied by a Beatles cover band (played by musical guest Mumford & Sons), four guys visiting London tell truly depraved stories about themselves and loved ones while singing "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away." One of SNL's recurring sketches, which usually plays well for its shock value, this was a decent chapter in the tale of more guys who should probably be locked up in prison. tl;dr: A standard, which is usually welcome.

The Finer Things

Hip-hop dudes into bling and such (Pharoah and Thompson) discuss Fashion Week and get surprisingly excited about it! JGL is their white guest, and I'm pretty sure he's just doing an overexcited version of Justin Bieber. I feel like this sketch could have been a shorter bit on Weekend Update and didn't need to be its own show. The concept is funny, I just didn't need to see a whole sketch about it. tl;dr: Too long for a short story.

"We Present Her to You"

Okay, so, JGL in drag, looking not-actually-unattractive as a girl, though it's a little weird right off the bat that the choice was made to have him play a girl, or even do this sketch when he was the host. But that aside, we got to see McKinnon's musical skills -- piano and vocal -- and that proves there is a lot of potential for her to pair up with Fred Armisen in other sketches, and I really hope they do. Shades of Will Ferrell's and Ana Gasteyer's music teachers, Bobbi and Marty Culp, were there, but in a more bizarre context: parents trying to get their daughter a boyfriend by performing a musical number for potential suitors. I wonder if this has ever resulted in a date, because it's clear they've tried this before. I don't know, the choices didn't make a lot of sense, like putting a wig on Tim Robinson's captive audience-maybe boyfriend. tl;dr: Everything about this sketch is weird, and it makes me want different things from it.

Powers Real Estate

Burt and Blair Powers (Robinson and Nasim Pedrad) made the decision to take the picture for their real estate ad with their mouths open, and now, everyone is drawing penises on their billboards. Spoiler alert: It's their son (JGL), even though the end of their joke is totally cut off, as are the goodnights.

I was looking forward to Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosting again, and while he wasn't a disappointment, he could have been put to much better use. It was great to see Jay Pharoah doing a lot more than usual, and Kate McKinnon's Ann Romney was a breakout this week. Both the political ad and the commercial parody were highlights. Not a lot of screen time for the new players, except for Tim Robinson; Cecily Strong was only in a pre-recorded sketch and Aidy Bryant was grinded upon by the host in the cold open. But it's only the second show of the season, so there's plenty of time for them to burrow through. My fingers are crossed for Bryant, since Strong had a character on Update last week. tl;dr: Excellent host in a throwaway show.

Photo credit: NBC