• Jesse Eisenberg, Nicki Minaj push SNL to one of its best episodes of the season

    Too often SNL feels like it’s made up of recycled parts, as if more time was spent trying to fit the week’s guests into already planned parts rather than putting together sketches specifically for the guests on hand. This week, however, was different. While it wasn’t a non-stop laugh-a-thon, and the best moments came from premises we’ve seen (but not too many times) before, the way the material was written felt fresh and worked in some fun semi-surprises, beginning with the monologue.

    Host Jesse Eisenberg — Oscar-nominated for playing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network” — played up his self-deprecating awkwardness, referring to himself as a “freight train of confidence.” Nothing new if you’ve seen him on any talk shows lately, but the monologue soon took a cute turn, delivering a triple-Zuck treat. Andy Samberg, who often portrays Zuckerberg on the show, and Zuckerberg himself joined Eisenberg on stage.

    Eisenberg soon used that exaggerated awkwardness to better effect in the show’s first sketch. As a youngster with a one-track mind, he and Nasim Pedrad kept Bill Hader’s Mr. Wizard on his toes as the Nickelodeon After Dark show turned a little dirty.

    Hader and Eisenberg teamed up in another repeat sketch that worked really well. The reporter so ancient he just doesn’t care, Herb Welch interviewed Eisenberg as a reluctant on-the-scene witness to a college pot bust. As he tried to get more information from a school resident assistant (Kenan Thompson), Hader actually had to fight to keep a straight face… and no wonder considering the line he finally delivered.

    In an example of absolutely perfect casting, John Waters made a cameo in this week’s Digital Short, introducing the dance craze that will hopefully not sweep the nation. Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island Boys brought us “The Creep,” augmented by a well-timed and well-placed appearance by this week’s musical guest, Nicki Minaj.

    Minaj also took the next sketch well past funny. Jason Sudeikis, as the host of Turner Classic Movies segment, introduced the hilariously hip blaxploitation horror film “The Bride of Blackenstein.” Jay Pharoah played the mad scientist, a perfect cross between Doc Brown and Bootsy Collins. Kenan Thompson was the monster. Eisenberg was a terrific sidekick as Igor and Minaj returned as the Bride with a big, bad monster booty. It was the best of the night overall and also included the best line of the night, as the doctor and Igor compared notes about dating overbearing women.

    Next week, funny man Dana Carvey returns to the show with musical guest Linkin Park.

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