• Did Russell Brand play it too safe on Saturday Night Live?

    If you’ve caught Russell Brand’s stand-up on this side of the pond, you know the “I’m more famous in England” disclaimer that he applies to most American crowds is really buildup for explaining his odd hairstyle. But, perhaps because he had so many hats and wigs to don during his night as the host of Saturday Night Live this week, Brand’s signature ratted do was down during his monologue. The joke substituted tight trousers (which actually weren’t all that tight).

    Having begun below the waist, his characteristically rambling joke style naturally led him to reference, numerous times, his favorite topic… his nether-regions.

    I can’t help but wonder whether this was funny to the show’s regular audience. It was funny to tried-and-true Brand fans, of course. And it must have been funny to the kind of folks who book, for instance, British hosts for American awards shows. You know, the patsies who then go on to be thrown under the double-decker bus by American critics and accused of being too mean? Well, the writers may have kept him from being deemed too mean, but they also may have over-compensated and kept Brand too bland instead. In my book, that’s worse.

    If you go no further than his first true sketch of the night, the case is closed. He played a reactionless travel prize winner while Kristen Wiig’s overly excited character tried to elicit a response. In a word: boring. But, if you put it side-by-side with its October counterpart, featuring then-host Emma Stone, you’ll probably find the two scripts close to identical. In fact, only thing worth seeing this time was Brand… American accent, loose grungy clothes and a tame haircut? That’s sorta funny; just not funny enough to waste space sharing the video.

    The fake trailer that followed was decidedly better (and likely better-received), poking fun at films like those directed by Guy Ritchie, featuring thickly-accented British acting.

    Next, Brand played an abusive king, introducing his new royal taster (Taran Killam) to his extremely angry chef (Bill Hader). The resolution was insultingly lame, but there were a few ham-it-up moments between Brand and Hader that warranted chuckles.

    Killam and Brand played opposing roles again — a DJ with a crush and a sex-exuding British guest respectively — as Vanessa Bayer played the host of a talk show allegedly dedicated to “Livin’ Single.” It was cute at best.

    Taking his accent to the next level, Brand came on with a high pitched squeal alongside Hader and Andy Samberg in a Monty Python-inspired drag sketch about tea time.

    Finally, amongst the British-themed humor, “Weekend Update” offered one clip worth seeing — if for nothing else, for an out-of-nowhere amazing impersonation that audibly got the studio audience excited. We may be starting to take Jay Pharoah’s impressions (here as Lil Wayne) for granted, but when Killam finally opened his mouth as Eminem, the appeal was instantaneous.

    Miley Cyrus hosts on March 5 with musical guest The Strokes.

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