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!


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



  1. Aw, I thought it was better than “…a throwaway show.” Anytime I actually guffaw during SNL, it’s at least, B quality. (And I did durring the GOB commercial, and anytime Jay Pharoh was on). You’re right though that JGL was under-utliized.

  2. I love that you’re doing these recaps, Jamie.  I’m going to have to re-add my Tivo season pass now that I can decide on Monday whether or not it’s worth my time.

      1. Celebrity fashion posts are also popular – so are a lot of things. Can we also expect more deleting dissent? For a site that’s for the open web, this is absurd.

          1.  Are you kidding? That happens here frequently. In this item, the comments you see here are a different set than there was when I first started watching this story. One of the now-gone comments was someone asking why the earlier ones had been deleted.

        1. The only things deleted were a) a couple of sneering, hostile comments from people who have never commented before; and b) subsequent handwringing pieties about “silencing dissent” that come down to “I demand that you publish this.”

          This is really just an invitation to be reminded whose blog it is: ours. It’s never impressed anyone here, this idea that we’re obligated to publish comments — or that failing to do so has anything to do with free speech.

          If you don’t know how to exercise your free speech, I will personally set you up with a tumblr account where you can complain your heart out! Don’t forget to link in.

          1. Fair enough: you’re wrong.  It has everything to do with freedom of expression. And if you’re worried about people being critical of posts, I can’t imagine deleting comments will lead to a lot of support. This feels like a politician digging a deeper hole.

          2.  I.e.: “we built this.”  But, much as the GOP slogan is wrong-headed and short-sighted, so is this attitude.  How do you think BB attained its prominent place in the ‘sphere–with whose participation, whose linking, whose reading, whose responsiveness, etc. etc.?  If it is indeed yours, why accept comment at all?

            Things like the deletion of even mildly critical comments wouldn’t be so irksome in another publication, perhaps, but in BB, which seems to portray itself as a home to openness, reason, skepticism, and inquiry, it’s quite outrageous.

            But, “it is ours,” goes the rule. The implication is, “we are answerable to, responsible to, no one.” Only the appearance of a community; are we really just audience?

          3. I couldn’t agree more. After you see critical comments deleted, you start reading the rest with one eyebrow raised. 


          4. “How do you think BB attained its prominent place in the ‘sphere–with whose participation, whose linking, whose reading, whose responsiveness, etc. etc.?  If it is indeed yours, why accept comment at all?”

            For almost all of its history, Boing Boing hasn’t had comments at all. 

            Oh, and you were trying so hard, too!

          5. How the mighty have fallen.
            Long-time reader here. Several years. And with this comment, you’ve lost me, and most certainly a few others.
            Feel free to make a snide remark that casts yourself as having done no wrong.

            …and all over a bubblegum article, too. You must be so proud.
            A simple, “We’re sorry. We’ll do better,” would have sufficed.

            “The truest characters of ignorance are vanity and pride and arrogance.”

          6. Your first comment was in fact about a month ago, you’ve evidently been moderated often since then over sanctimonious, passive-aggressive lording such as “this falls far short of the standard I hold this site to”, “Tired, irrelevant argument”, and “We deserve something better”, and now you’re off?

            Whatever will we do!

          7. Guess it wouldn’t occur to you that one might reserve commenting for when no one else is calling to your attention the rather sudden decline.

            “Oh, and you were trying so hard, too!”
            “Perhaps you should vote us out of Boing Boing office.”
            “If you don’t know how to exercise your free speech, I will personally set you up with a tumblr account where you can complain your heart out! Don’t forget to link in.”

             “[S]anctimonious, passive-aggressive lording” indeed. Good day.

    1. Full recaps of SNL episodes on Boing Boing??  Is there any demand for this?

      Why don’t you just skip the posts in which you have no interest? Complaining that someone wrote about subject matter that you don’t care about is a bit churlish.

  3. Jamie, it’s weird but because of your posts I actually have some clue as to what is going on in the world of TV. 

  4. When can we expect the full-episode recaps of Community, Parks & Rec, 30 Rock, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and the other 30 shows that get mentioned with any frequency here?

    I’m actually a bit puzzled by the fact that it’s SNL Jamie has picked for this, as it’s one of the less-mentioned shows of those that get much notice on this site.

      1. Science Fiction & Fantasy reviews here on BoingBoing are always great because Science Fiction & Fantasy doesn’t get a lot of real respect in the mainstream press.

        But this recap—and Jamie’s writing style & topics—really stick out like a sore thumb here. The topics are not unique, the angle is cookie-cutter & in general it’s not the same level of the other posts here. SNL recaps are done much better elsewhere.

        For example, I am really not that into comics (or comix) anymore, so those pieces don’t appeal to me the way they used to. But the stuff BoingBoing posts on comics really draws me in because it’s always from a unique angle & perspective that set’s it apart from other blogs that do the same.

  5. I’ve been reading boingboing regularly, maybe even religiously for two years- almost never posting comments. But I’ve come to the realization that this comment chain might be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I think I’ll move to a non-blog news source now, it feels like a grown up thing to do. I’ll delete the bookmark, but it will still take time for me to stop reflexively typing the URL, but for the most part- So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish.

  6. Dear dears,

    The melancholy tear, forming as you smile ruefully and say a final goodbye, forever, to Boing Boing; its glistening path, drawn from an eye now clear with understanding at the threshold of our adolescence and your maturity; its gentle fall, echoing the cosmic and irreversible finality of your decision …  leads only into my delicious Martini.

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