Who says you shouldn’t take time during finals week to watch SNL? That’s right, no one (aside from my parents, faculty advisors, and my GPA). This week, we were treated to a terrific pre-Christmas episode with host Martin Freeman and musical guest Charli XCX. At only 5’6”, Freeman was like a little British gingerbread man come to life, bringing a lively energy to every sketch he performed in. And one thing that really made this one of the best episodes of the season was the originality, having only one recurring character in Jacob the Bar Mitzvah boy. SNL is always at its best when it’s refreshing and unpredictable, and the writers brought both elements to the table this week. And while obviously not every sketch landed this week, I’d much rather watch an episode where the writers take risks over having Tonkerbell, Drunk Uncle, and the rest of the gang return for the millionth time. Let’s take a look at the highlights.
Christmas Mass Spectacular
SNL continues to kill their pre-recorded sketches, this one highlighting the beloved once a year Christmastime mass, where Jesus forgives you for 364 days of sin in one spectacular church-a-palooza (or at least that’s how I think it works). This was by far the best sketch of the night, with pretty much every character spot on. Only thing I would have added would be old lady aggressively singing every hymn and guy who uses the kneeler cushions as a footrest.
So apparently, this is a parody of a real talk show, which begs the question why haven’t I seen this talk show. Some critics have argued that this sketch lacks a main focus, but regardless, while neither premise was terribly strong, the acting is what made the sketch. There’s just something about Taran Killam and flamboyant gay guys that just works. His facial expressions, his change in tone, his hair is just brilliant every time he performs and it really helps elevate the sketch. And the overly long cuts to Louie are terrific. Freeman really captures the discomfort felt when one is shoved in front of the camera, as he does his little British jig to happy music.
Cold Opening: Torture Reports
This was the first sign that this was going to be a good episode. Rather than go with the predictable Obama press conference, the writers focused on the two guys who were paid to think of torture methods. It was a unique angle to this issue, that allowed the sketch to be topical, but yet still lighthearted and funny. Kyle Mooney and Bobby Moynihan were terrific bouncing jokes off of each other, reminding the audience that “there’s no ‘I’ in torture.” “There are eyes sometimes, though!”
This week marked a big step forward for Che, who brought a high energy, light hearted performance to every joke he delivered. He seemed much more confident and it showed. He even got Jacob the Bar Mitzvah boy to lighten up! The Update guests did a great job as well, with Sasheer Zamata covering so much using only emojis and Cecily Strong’s One Dimensional Character from a Male Driven Comedy deciding to stay with Colin at the record store. And per usual, Vanessa Bayer’s Bar Mitzvah boy killed. Every time he comes out I don’t think there’s anything left to talk about, but then he goes and thanks his Bar Mitzvah dancers Tornado and Sky and I die. Overall a great Update that hopefully Che can build off.
Middle Earth Office
This was a difficult blend to make work, putting the world of Hobbits and dragons in The Office workplace, but it did thanks to its witty puns and Taran Killam. Once again, Killam played his role to perfection, this time as an Office Golum. And Bobby Moynihan’s Gandalf was terrific, landing pretty much every sexual pun he had.
A Few More Thoughts
This episode showcased what a terrific actor Martin Freeman is. His slight mannerisms and subtle head cocks really helped add to every character he played. Also it was hilarious watching him stand next to Leslie Jones, who at 6’ tall towered over him.
I’m done trying to guess the success of an episode based off the host. It’s a waste of time and I’m sick of it. I don’t think anyone was overly excited when they say Martin Freeman or Woody Harrelson’s name on the host list but they both did a terrific job. Then you have big time stars like Chris Rock or Cameron Diaz who just kinda suck. From now on, I’m not gonna say anything about an upcoming episode unless it involves Justin Timberlake or Justin Bieber.
Happy Hanukkah and good luck with finals! Next week we have the last episode of 2014 with Amy Adams and musical guest One Direction.
Need more holiday SNL in your life? Take a look at this roundup of the show’s best holiday sketches!