When Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosted for the first time in 2009, he instantly showed that he was game for anything, by recreating the entire “Make ‘Em Laugh” scene from Singin’ in the Rain during his opening monologue, probably one of the show’s most ambitious monologues. These kinds of guests always make the best hosts, surrendering themselves to the writers’ will and doing whatever they want them to do. On his second hosting gig, Gordon-Levitt still showed he’s one of SNL’s most emphatic recent hosts, agreeing to strip, cross-dress and play the biggest tool in the world.
“Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Mumford & Sons” starts off with an odd choice for a cold open, a “Live With Kelly & Michael” bit that just plays out with Michael not able to believe that hosting this show is an actual job. Bill Hader as a brooding Robert Pattinson seems like it might add some life to the skit, but it only hits on the usual points of a Twilight joke.
Gordon-Levitt had a lot to live up to with his opening monologue, and his parody of his “favorite superhero film of the summer” Magic Mike had more laughs than the usual monologue. Levitt dancing to “It’s Raining Men” was funny enough, but then seeing some of the male cast strip brought the greatest laughs, especially when Bobby Moynihan ripped off his vest to reveal another vest underneath.
This was followed by two successful commercial parodies. The first was a political ad from the undecided voters, who want information about the hard-hitting questions like “when is the election?” and “can women vote?” Next was Levitt as the Dos Equis guy’s son, who is exactly the opposite of his father. His skills include almost being able to do a 180 on his Razor Scooter and toasts “to boobies!”
After a short skit in which Hader plays private detective Sam Flint, a man whose undercover photographs turn out to be carnival-style caricatures that he’s drawn, another Equis’ son commercial popped up. The son is peddling his beer Tres Equis (XXX, of course), before his father (a great impression by Jason Sudeikis) shows up.
The highlight of the night was based around the idea of Levitt as a Vegas hypnotist, who brings Curtis, played by Taran Killam, onto the stage for his act. As Curtis’ wife can attest, he can be a bit of a ham. While the hypnotist believes he has successfully put Curtis under, Curtis consciously plays along, eventually leading him to strip to his tighty-whiteys and hump Kenan Thompson while pretending to be a dinosaur. It’s so odd, and Killam makes the skit by going all-in.
Another very good commercial parody, one for tampons made by the Republican party, preceded the first performance by Mumford & Sons. Their first song “I Will Wait,” is OK, but man does it sound exactly like “The Cave” in terms of style and structure. Their second song, “Below My Feet,” didn’t really sound any different either.
Weekend Update had its share of ups and downs. First the ups, which included a “What Are You Doing?” segment where Seth Meyers ran off a list of reasons why Obama should just keep quiet at this point in the election. Winner of the best performance of the night goes to Kate McKinnon as Ann Romney. There aren’t that many truly strong political impressions on SNL right now, but McKinnon needs to pull out the Romney as much as possible. She plays Ann wacky and open, and that approach would great to see alongside Sudeikis’ Mitt. Now the downs: Fred Armisen and Vanessa Bayer as Assad’s best friends growing up is the same as ever, just replacing the name of the most recent world menace, with some new facts. The weakest moment of “Weekend Update” came from the usually solid Jay Pharoah as Stephen A. Smith, whose basically just hates Tim Tebow.
The highlight of the last third of the show was another usual, the idea of four guys sharing stories at a bar, accented by a band performing. This time, it was Mumford & Sons as a Beatles cover band “Hey Dude!” It’s a great premise that is highlighted by how weird these guy’s stories are, such as Thompson lying to a girl that he’s Michael Phelps, with a gold medal made of an old CD, and Hader as Jerry Sandusky’s son. It’s always great to see the musical guests get involved with the jokes and also always fun for the skit to be taken to the audience, both of which helped make this one of the night’s best.
Thompson and Pharoah as hosts of a hip-hop fashion show “The Finer Things” didn’t really have anywhere to go after the first few minutes. Levitt as Evelyn, a girl whose parents force their daughter on an unsuspecting co-worker was only successful for how insane Armisen and McKinnon decided to get with it. Finishing off with the night’s “weird” skit was two real estate agents whose billboard ads have been defiled by butts and wieners, and it was short enough to be funny.
“Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Mumford & Sons” was another strong episode for Saturday Night Live’s 38th season, even if Mumford were a bit underwhelming. Let’s hope Daniel Craig’s hosting gig in two weeks will show him being equally as open as Levitt and MacFarlane have been this season.
Best Lines of the Night:
-G.O.B. tampons know exactly what women need: “The smooth metal applicator makes it easy to insert directly into my butt, where it can hook into the ovaries, and also my boobs.”
-Meyers nails exactly how Americans can help Obama fix our country: “You want us to fix it? Look, if you make a Facebook page, we’ll ‘Like It’. It’s the least we can do. But it’s also the most we can do.”
-Meyers highlight of the night: “A New York man who dresses as Elmo in Time Square was arrested this week after allegedly going on a anti-Semitic rant. Though what’s most shocking about this story, there are people in those costumes and not, as I had assumed, a hundred rats working together.”