Saturday Night Live: Andy Samberg and St. Vincent
May 18, 2014 8:36 AM - Season 39, Episode 21 - Subscribe

The 39th season ends with a huge homecoming, two Digital Shorts, and a non-political cold open.
posted by Etrigan (42 comments total)
So! Many! Cameos!

So many cameos, not enough time for jokes.
posted by meese at 9:27 AM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

So many cameos, not enough time for jokes.

This. It started out really well, with Maya (and an heroic prop guy giving her her very own wind effect) and Seth and Bill (and, weirdly, Martin Short, who I swear has gotten more air time this season than Noel Wells), but then... well, I dearly love Kristen Wiig when she's not doing a character, but frankly, the high point of the cameos after the monologue was Fred Armisen absolutely losing his shit in the still-painfully-unfunny Vogelchecks skit.

St. Vincent sold at least one album with this appearance, though, so that was good.

After an unbelievable six appearances over the course of the last 34 episodes, the Former Porn Stars Commercial skit should be put into the Hall of Fame and then never done again, thanks.

The AV Club recap is betting on 4.5 out of 8 of the new cast members returning next year, with Noel Wells, John Milhiser, Brooks Wheelan clearly going and hopeful fence-sitting for Mike O'Brien and Kyle Mooney. I can't disagree with those, but man, do I wish they'd reconsider Colin Jost. Let Cecily do Update all by herself (and get her out of the other sketches to let her focus on it and really make it her own (and I say that as a huge fan of her other sketch work)).
posted by Etrigan at 9:37 AM on May 18, 2014

Etrigan, you won't regret the St. Vincent album purchase, I promise. It's awesome.

I mean...I don't know which one you've bought/are going to buy. But it doesn't matter.

It's weird seeing someone on SNL so shortly after having seen them play in person...
posted by Ipsifendus at 11:34 AM on May 18, 2014

That happened with me and Janelle Monae this year.

I love St. Vincent but my partner said her face reminded him of the coked out Jami Gertz from Less Than Zero when she performing and I couldn't unsee it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:31 PM on May 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

"Let Cecily do Update all by herself (and get her out of the other sketches to let her focus on it and really make it her own (and I say that as a huge fan of her other sketch work)"

Absolute full agreement. I mean I'm neither anti-Jost nor pro-Jost but it sure did feel like the producers just said, "Well, Strong can't handle it on her own" but I absolutely believe she can, and should. How many times has Weekend Update been held down by a single individual? Plenty. By a single woman? Not since Jane Curtin in the late 1970s.
posted by komara at 8:54 AM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I mean I'm neither anti-Jost nor pro-Jost but it sure did feel like the producers just said, "Well, Strong can't handle it on her own"

To give Lorne some credit, the Head Writer (or one of the Co-Head Writers) has been an anchor of Weekend Update since Tina and Jimmy took over in 2000 (minus a few weeks when Tina was on maternity leave, but she was still credited as anchor). I'd say that it was less "Cecily can't handle it" than "WU is a perk for Colin, per precedent."
posted by Etrigan at 9:31 AM on May 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm finding that I'm also neither pro- nor anti-Colin, which I have to interpret overall as being anti-, since it means that so far he's left virtually no impression. Even when he's given the chance to interact with other characters doing editorials, he's just kind of a blank slate...Which, to be fair, Seth Meyers pretty much was also, but I think that my acceptance of Meyers in the chair was just that...acceptance, rather than anything approaching real enthusiasm.

In comparison, I was pro-Cecily from her first WU episode (positivity that was set in stone later from her drunken Scottish fish line -- "Yuh duhn't knoo MEH!").
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:16 AM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Why get me excited with a Tatiana Maslany cameo in the Digital Short, only to have her disappear completely after only two or three lines at the very beginning of it? They must have only had her for an hour or two to film...But still.
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:22 AM on May 19, 2014

still-painfully-unfunny Vogelchecks skit

God, yeah, why was that in there? Totally unnecessary, leave the past in the past. Wiig, Hader, Armisen...this is not their show anymore. Cameos are one thing, and I understand that having a former cast member as a host means that their characters come back too but that whole sketch was a bigger step backwards than usual to me. I guess I wouldn't have been so annoyed if that sketch was their only appearance, but they were all over the place. There are a ton of new writers and cast members this year, I'd much rather see what they can do.

That said, of the new cast, here are my guesses:
Beck Bennett - will return
Colin Jost - will return, even though he's bland
John Milhiser - not returning, I forgot this guy was even on the show
Kyle Mooney - will return
Mike O'Brien - not returning, back to the writer's room, Tim Robinson-style
Noël Wells - not returning
Brooks Wheelan - not returning
Sasheer Zamata - will return
posted by troika at 11:17 AM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

I really want to see Mike O'Brien return to the cast, but I wouldn't be surprised if they do Tim Robinson him.

Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney have their Good Neighbor-style shorts (which I've been warming to) in their favor, but yeah, Wheelan and Milhiser and Wells have been busts. At the beginning I thought that Milhiser might have at least Chris Kattan-level potential as a manic physical presence, but the best showcase for that ended up being as the back half the Bruce Willis horse, which unfortunately for his profile meant that we couldn't even tell for sure who it was back there.

Brooks Wheelan must have had something in his audition that was special, but nothing of it has shone through in any of his brief appearances on screen, outside of the 1 or 2 bits of stand-up material he presented on Weekend Update...Which of course wasn't character work, which you absolutely need to excel in to stay afloat in sketch comedy. And poor Noël Wells peaked with her Lena Dunham impression in the first ten minutes of the first episode of the season.

Of this new class I'd mark Kyle Mooney and Sasheer Zamata (already!) as the biggest breakouts.
posted by doctornecessiter at 11:41 AM on May 19, 2014

It's been a while since the last episode of the season wasn't in the top few of the entire season. I didn't dislike this one, but it flat out didn't compare to the back-to-back-to-back Lena Dunham, Louis CK and Anna Kendrick ones.
posted by DigDoug at 12:25 PM on May 19, 2014

Those last few season finales, ironically, also included a lot of the people that we're blaming for this one being crap. The homecoming/big-sendoff vibe just eventually collapsed under its own weight, I think.
posted by Etrigan at 12:59 PM on May 19, 2014

For comparison, here are the host/music from the last few season finales with departing cast in parentheses:

2010: Alec Baldwin/Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (Will Forte, Jenny Slate)
2011: Justin Timberlake/Lady Gaga (none?)
2012: Mick Jagger/Mick Jagger (Andy Samberg, Kristin Wiig, Abby Elliot, Paul Brittain)
2013: Ben Affleck/Kanye West (Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Tim Robinson, Jason Sudeikis)
2014: Andy Samberg/St. Vincent (TBD)
posted by troika at 1:14 PM on May 19, 2014

"Brooks Wheelan must have had something in his audition that was special, but nothing of it has shone through in any of his brief appearances on screen, outside of the 1 or 2 bits of stand-up material he presented on Weekend Update...Which of course wasn't character work, which you absolutely need to excel in to stay afloat in sketch comedy."

From Family Feud (CBS vs NBC):

HARVEY: "And finally we got Mister [squints at card] Brooks Wheelan. And ... uh ... what do you do, Brooks?"
WHEELAN: "I ... uh ... I'm on Saturday Night Live."
HARVEY: "I doubt it."
HARVEY: "You sayin' I can turn on SNL and see you on there?"
WHEELAN: "Uh ... yeah, yeah ... I mean ... sometimes. Not a lot, but ... it's cool."
HARVEY: "Hey, well, fair enough, fair enough."
posted by komara at 1:25 PM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just for the record, Paul Brittain was already gone before that finale. His tenure is notable primarily for opening up a slot for the emergency hire of Kate McKinnon.
posted by Etrigan at 2:06 PM on May 19, 2014

And thank God for that. McKinnon is my absolute favorite. At this point she may be my favorite SNL cast member ever.
posted by komara at 2:16 PM on May 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

My random thoughts on that last episode: I would have liked more Andy Samberg. I thought the speed impressions opening was great, but I agree: too many cameos. I did like seeing what St. Vincent would sound like on SNL (I'd only heard a few of her songs before and liked them) and I was impressed. She was my favorite musical act of the season. Other than too many cameos and that, nothing stood out; a middle-of-the-pack show. And I want to know what Hader was doing to Armisen to make him lose it. Other than that, I'd rather see the "I chew your food for you" sketches than the Vogelchecks.

My random thoughts on the season in general:

Jessamyn and I watched every show this season. Best episode I can recall was Drake, I don't remember particulars, but I remember thinking, "wow, that was awesome." Melissa McCarthy's, Louis CK's, Jonah Hill's, Seth Rogen's and John Goodman's returns as host all left me wanting -- pale in comparison to preious hosting gigs by them. Kerry Washington was good. I think Charlize Theron killed it, especially in Nasim's "Heshy" sketch. And as much as Fallon annoys me, his return was fun. Timberlake should be a cast member. And my favorite sketch, I dunno why, was the "Les Jeunes de Paris" with Anna Kendrick. Also, I am sick as hell of musical openers. But I think, for a rebuilding season, it was promising. It showed some fun new facets, and interesting future directions.

Random thoughts on this year's cast:

I was rooting for Brooks all season. I don't think they gave him a chance, or maybe he didn't advocate for himself enough. Apart from his WU segments, which were hilarious, I can only really remember the Family Feud appearance, and playing one of the three musketeers in the "Les Jeunes de Paris". Whenever he came on the screen, Jessamyn and I would cheer.

Milheiser, yeah, I forgot he was on the show, too. I was hoping for any kinda vibe from him that would belie his appearance, but I got nothing. Same with Noel Wells: no strong impression. Both are cute but forgettable.

O'Brien was great, had a dry impish quality. Mooney was a loveable schlub.

Beck Bennett fills that hole Jason Sudekis left behind. His baby-executive character is funny, but ultimately a one-trick pony. er, baby.

Sasheer Zamata seems like she'll be great but needs time to settle in and find a voice. She was a much better utility player than Noel Wells.

I warmed up to Colin Jost after a while, I think he found his stride, and he is good at keeping it dry but not losing the levity. I think Cecily has a great rapport with the audience, and is quick on her feet, like when Killam's 19th-century critic character flubbed a line. (My favorite anchors were always Colin Quinn and Norm McDonald.)

The repertory folks, I like them all. No complaints. I am not sick of any of them yet (I got sick of Fallon and Wiig), they play off each other well, are great carrying a sketch as well as contributing their own stamp on large-ensemble bits. I like Kate McKinnon a thousand times better than Kristen Wiig.


I miss Paul Brittain's "Sex" Ed seminar guy, and that foppish character. He had a Kazurinsky-meets-Carvey kinda vibe.

I also got seasons 9 and 10 from usenet and am slowly going through them. They're fun time capsules to see (plus 1980's bands are so funny). I forgot that Rich Hall and Jim Belushi were both surprisingly awesome, and that Eddie Murphy was all but checked out during season 9, even when he appeared on the show. (His return as host in season 10 was brilliant, though.) I also forgot how hamfisted Piscopo was. (I still like him.)
posted by not_on_display at 12:09 AM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Something I only just realized (and may be totally wrong about) -- there seemed to be much less corpsing this season than in several previous ones. I had said on Twitter or Facebook during S37 or 38 that Jimmy Fallon must watch the show these days and just scream at his TV, "What the hell were they giving me shit about?!?" Fred losing his shit in the Vogelchecks was weirdly out of place, where in his actual tenure on the show, it wouldn't have been at all (not by him so much, but by anyone).
posted by Etrigan at 4:11 AM on May 20, 2014

Fred losing his shit in the Vogelchecks was weirdly out of place, where in his actual tenure on the show, it wouldn't have been at all (not by him so much, but by anyone).

I think that Fred Armisen and Bill Hader specifically target each other to make the other lose it. I know that Hader has said that he's particularly susceptible to corpsing in general, and you can see instances in the past of Armisen really going after him...particularly in "The Californians" sketches.

In a show like last Saturday's, they might as well have been thinking along the lines of, "What are they going to do, fire us?" I kind of want to know what Hader -- or possibly someone else on that couch -- was doing during Armisen's medium shot that made him crack.
posted by doctornecessiter at 7:06 AM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not one mention of Aidy Bryant? She's been pretty good to awesome this season. And this last epi, she was hitting that stride (the summer camp skit with her and Kate McKinnon was hilarious; I hope to see more of that bit). I hope she, McKinnon (who can make me laugh at pretty much ANY of her characters), Strong, Bayer, and Pedrad all come back -- this is, in my opinion, one of the strongest group of female cast members in SNL history. If not THE strongest.

And "(Do It On My) Twin Bed" was the BEST song done all season. Shit, it was better than "Dick in a Box".
posted by grubi at 7:40 PM on May 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think any of the non-new-this-year cast are in danger. Aidy Bryant in particular is clearly not going anywhere. Nasim Pedrad will probably be gone next season now that Mulaney got picked up, which is maybe the only thing that will keep Noel Wells on, but I doubt it.
posted by Etrigan at 7:47 PM on May 20, 2014

Splitsider's 24 best sketches of the season (more accurately, the 12 best video sketches and the 12 best live sketches/Update characters).
posted by Etrigan at 7:50 PM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I totally forgot about the dog food commercial wih Cicely Strong and Seth Rogan. Oh my lord, that was one of the funniest SNL skits of all time.

"I. hate. everyone."

Fucking genius.
posted by grubi at 8:38 PM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, man, it's not from this season but this sketch is where I absolutely fell in love with Cecily Strong: Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party
posted by komara at 9:35 PM on May 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just had an idea about how to keep Colin but still make Weekend Update work better -- play up a big-sister/little-brother dynamic. She gets exasperated over his tiny mistakes, she pokes at him about stupid stuff, and she clearly just doesn't want him there but defends him viciously when anyone else makes fun of him.
posted by Etrigan at 4:52 AM on May 21, 2014

i really hate kyle mooney. why are people saying that he's going to stay? none of stuff he's been a more featured character in have been funny. ugh. he needs to just go away.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:52 PM on May 22, 2014

Mooney's on a lot of Maybe lists, because he's seen as strong in taped sketches, especially with Bennett, who's at or near the top of most people's Keep lists. Even if they take him out of the cast, they'll almost certainly keep him on staff as a writer (with Dave McCary) to get him to crank out more Good Neighbor stuff for another year.
posted by Etrigan at 3:11 PM on May 22, 2014

As far as I can tell, Mooney's acting is limited to quiet, uncomfortable, nervous, and dorky. Maybe that's all they've given him to do, but I doubt it. Still, I've liked a lot of the end-of-show digital shorts that he's put together, and that's clearly his skill. I agree that he might head back to the writers' room but be kept around.
posted by komara at 6:21 PM on May 22, 2014

I'd like to see Leslie Jones get more Weekend Update and/or sketch time. I really liked her and Brooks Wheelan's stand-up bits, and it reminded me that in the 80's they would regularly have stand-ups as special guests doing a five-or-ten-minute set -- Steven Wright, Kinison, Joel Hodgson, Harry Anderson before Night Court, I think Paula Poundstone was on and Penn and Teller maybe too...
posted by not_on_display at 10:43 PM on May 28, 2014

Nasim Pedrad is probably the first casualty, though a willing one.
posted by Etrigan at 9:42 AM on June 9, 2014

Brooks Whelan is out. His stand-up didn't translate well to sketches.
posted by Etrigan at 5:05 AM on July 15, 2014

Was five seconds away from posting, "Well, at least Brooks Wheelan has that sweet AT&T commercial money" before I realized I was confusing him with Beck Bennett, which is actually a much better joke and commentary on last season's new crowd than anything I would have come up with actual facts.

While we're discussing mid-season SNL news , the Emmys are horrible and I hate them and they probably get more things wrong than right for tons of reasons -- but I'm so glad to see Kate McKinnon get nominated anyway.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:25 PM on July 15, 2014

Noël Wells and John Milhiser are out as well. We're down to 13, with Mike O'Brien a possible return-to-writers-room and Kyle Mooney still a possible keep-around-to-work-with-Beck-Bennett.
posted by Etrigan at 8:18 PM on July 15, 2014

Damn; I liked Milhiser. And I rather hope Mike O'Brien sticks around.

AND HELL YES Kate McKinnon got *two* nominations if you count the "Twin Beds" nod (I've had trouble finding a properly detailed list of all the writers for that nomination — thanks, Emmy folks).
posted by grubi at 7:58 AM on July 16, 2014

Speaking of shout outs, I would just like to point out that troika's predictions from two months ago are looking pretty spot on.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:47 PM on July 16, 2014

(Oh gods why did they have to pit Bill Hader against Cecily Strong.)
posted by Etrigan at 9:25 AM on August 21, 2014

I don't know, but as much as I loved Kristin Wiig, I favor Kate McKinnon. Wiig has a bad habit of mugging, and often corpsing (which I only find endearing in doses), whereas McKinnon makes me laugh every time (seriously; no other cast member has made me laugh out loud 100% of their appearances) and has a sense of self-control. Wiig leans towards mania; McKinnon towards a thrumming insanity just under the surface. Wiig goes for zany; McKinnon seems to play her zany characters with a sense of honesty. Wiig does caricatures; McKinnon does characters.

To wit: Kristin Wiig (as Dooneese, my favorite character of hers) vs Kate McKinnon ("Damien is a feline sociopath. It's not that he's evil; he lacks empathy and he goes into a dissociative state and commits atrocities.")

That's my two cents anyway.
posted by grubi at 9:48 AM on August 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

grubi: absolute and full agreement. McKinnon is a force of nature.
posted by komara at 10:03 AM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am in 100 percent agreement. I love Kristen Wiig when she's being a normal human being, but Kate McKinnon is hilarious doing fucking anything, including characters that I am absolutely positive I'm sick of until she kills me again (e.g., depressing Russian or Ellen).
posted by Etrigan at 5:32 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cecily is off the WU desk in favor of Michael Che, a move she allegedly requested to get more sketch time. Che is the first full-time non-white WU anchor (Horatio Sanz subbed for Tina Fey for two episodes after she had a baby), but oddly, this is the first time two men have anchored WU.
posted by Etrigan at 5:27 PM on September 14, 2014

Viva la Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party!!!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:51 PM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

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