• Saturday Night Live delivers laughs despite emphasis on Paul McCartney’s presence

    Host Paul Rudd’s monologue on this week’s Saturday Night Live was a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy. Of course, when a Beatle is in the studio, you’ve got no delusions that you’re the center of attention. And if you’re a cast member, you probably feel you’re even lower on that food chain. And thankfully, the reality of guest musician Paul McCartney’s overwhelming star power was handled beautifully in a well-delivered opening including all the Pauls, clarifying their relevance.

    On the other hand, while it was understandable, brilliant even, that the show’s structure allowed for three full musical performances (plus a cut-off quickie during the closing call), it didn’t seem like there was a lot of effort by the writers to give Rudd, or the cast, a fighting chance to genuinely contribute to the episode’s success.

    We got more inappropriate and (completely uninspired) kissing from The Vogelchecks. Fred Armisen gave the same unsympathetic advice as the gruff stand-in host on “Sexually Speaking.” Some of these decisions just seemed lazy. Still, a few sketches managed to hit the funny bone in between songs. This week’s Digital Short, for example, may have felt a little long and actually was (intentionally) repetitive, but it had some moments of brilliance. Unfortunately, no clip is specifically available, so you’ll have to search to see McCartney performing a solo on a tiny harmonica.

    Similar to last week’s Cold Open, Bill Hader’s Julian Assange (the founder of WikiLeaks) hacks into an announcement, this time from behind bars to describe the series of threats the world faces if he’s not freed from jail. Hader’s definitely got a winner with this impression!

    In fact, Hader had most of the best hits of the night As the host of What’s That Name, he badgered contestants Rudd (a corporate CFO) and Vanessa Bayer (a Senior Partner in a Real Estate Agency). All they had to do was provide the names from pictures and special in-studio appearances by Kenan Thompson and Kristen Wiig, but it’s not as easy as it sounds for bigwigs like them. The first twist is great. The final punch line is perfection. SNL game shows are rarely good enough warrant serializing, and this one seems like a premise that’ll only be funny once.

    Finally, a seasonal special appearance on Weekend Update by Hader’s niche club specialist Stefon was full of holiday cheer. In other words, Hader just couldn’t keep a straight face.

    Next week’s show features the Dude himself, host Jeff Bridges with musical guest Eminem.

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