• SNL kicks off 38th season with a new Obama, Gangnam Style and more (14 videos)

    The long-awaited thirty-eighth season of Saturday Night Live kicked off this weekend, with Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane hosting and musical guest Frank Ocean. This season is one of change; Kristin Wiig, Andy Samberg and Abby Elliott are gone, and a trio of new players (Tim Robinson, Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant) are in. And while we glimpsed the new faces – mostly Robinson and Strong – we’ll obviously have to keep tuned in each Saturday to see how they’ll be utilized. Historically speaking, it sometimes takes a few years for newbies to break out.

    In that spirit, the season premiere found Jay Pharoah as Barack Obama in the cold open. It seems like the amount of screen time he was given in that bit, alone, was more than he had during the entirety of last season. So, now in his third season Pharoah will not be underused. With the presidential election just two months away and with the apparent success of the below cold open, the 24-year-old’s Barack Obama will no doubt be a centerpiece for weeks to come. On Saturday’s episode, the show’s version of our president admitted to mediocrity, presented himself as the choice that’s “barely working” and used both Mitt Romney (Jason Sudeikis) and Paul Ryan (Taran Killam, in what will no doubt be a series of appearances as the GOP vice presidential nominee) as effective foils. Check it out.

    MacFarlane’s monologue proved to be a combination of everything he does. He was himself, he was Stewie (and others) and he, unfortunately, crooned.

    In a somewhat ballsy move (liberals admitting their failings?), this mock-political ad finds real-life testimonials from regular Joe-types (played by Bill Hader and Kenan Thompson) drawing out the absurdity of those who seem to believe Mitt Romney lives to purposely destroy people’s lives.

    In the next sketch, Fred Armisen plays Rodger Brush, a crass producer who fills in for the host of a sex advice show geared toward the over-50 crowd. But more importantly, its where we see two of the three new featured players in action. Tim Robinson plays Seth MacFarlane’s younger, gay lover and Cecily Strong is looking to get a breast lift. It’s a simple, yet effective sketch with a few good laughs.

    Although it was weeks ago, Clint Eastwood’s ridiculous unscripted performance at the Republican National Convention, wherein he had a one-way discussion with an invisible Barack Obama who told Clint to go fuck himself (among other uncharacteristic things), people are still talking about it. And justifiably, SNL had some fun with it, as we see Hader’s Eastwood take the show to Broadway. Well done.

    I have to admit that I had to do some Googling before I even understood the next sketch. Perhaps I’m not a great consumer of pop culture, and spend too much time listening to and watching proper comedy? Regardless, this is just all-out silly, but that seems to be what “Gangnam Style” and its Korean pop sensation owner PSY is all about. The Internet viral sensation, himself, even makes an appearance in this dance-happy sketch about a trio of guys working at mall staple Lids.

    In what turned out to be one of my favorite sketches of the night, MacFarlane plays an instructor of a puppet class, wherein his students create and then bring to life their own felt characters. Kenan Thompson and Vanessa Bayer’s characters have the right attitude, but Bill Hader’s character and his puppet Tony have some dark history that apparently no amount of therapy could help them through. Hader is brilliant. Check it out!

    And here’s some quick Weekend Update highlights — including Obama, Chris Brown, a gay football player, the film Innocence of Muslims and free hair cuts — brought to you by Seth Myers.

    Meyers also welcomed reality stars Honey Boo Boo and Mama (Bayer and Bobby Moynihan in sadly accurate depictions) to the Weekend Update desk.

    Multiple Olympic gold medal winning swimmer Ryan Lochte (MacFarlane) visits Meyers at the desk to announce the new television shows he’s most excited about watching– first two of which are aired on NBC (very slick, SNL). Of course, the bit centers around the fact that Lochte consistently struggles to string three words together.

    Finally, concerned citizen Mimi Morales — Strong’s first extended time onscreen — along with her silent, touchy boyfriend (Pharoah) take to the desk. You seem, Mimi’s trying to encourage her fellow Latinos and Latinas to get out there and vote in the Presidential election come November. Of course, she’s not enormously educated on the topic.

    SNL‘s writers take the cliched rhetorical “Do I stutter!?” — screamed by so many television and movie drill sergeants — and turn it into a nuanced, comedic tool. As the troop’s leader (MacFarlane) delves deeper into his past with an actual speech impediment, his crew, played by Moynihan, Robinson, Armisen, Thompson and Killam — find it increasingly difficult to respond appropriately. I especially like Armisen’s exasperated reaction near the end.

    Like the Gangnam sketch before this, I have to admit I haven’t watched Steve Harvey’s new talk show, so I can’t attest to the accuracy of this bit’s parody thereof. From what I can tell, Harvey enjoys being black, like, a lot and tries to force everyone to also enjoy being black, even if they’re not black? MacFarlane plays the victim of a Steve Harvey fashion makeover while Bayer is the willing girlfriend. Not the strongest sketch of the night.

    And to cap things off, the traditional we-have-a-few-seconds-to-fill sketch, which features Robinson and MacFarlane as Amish craftsmen selling wooden spoons online.

    So, were you impressed with the first episode of the new season? Were you disappointed? What are some of the things you’re looking forward to in season 38? Sound off in the comments section!

    Dylan P. Gadino

    Dylan is the founder and editor emeritus of Laughspin.

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