Michael Keaton has hosted “Saturday Night Live” twice before, but hasn”t hosted since 1992. It was a full decade between that and his original hosting gig. The man does not rush things when it comes to hanging out in Studio 8H. And while the iron may not be quite as hot on his career as it was during the recent Oscars season, that”s no reason not to have him host now. His off-kilter persona and unique energy are still perfect for the show, and there”s little reason to think there”s every chance for a great episode tonight.
As always, I”ll be liveblogging each segment as they air. As always, a few of you will not understand that it”s OK if my opinions don”t line up with yours. As always, most of you understand that and enjoy sharing your opinions along with mine in real time. Here”s hoping musical guest Carly Rae Jepsen shows up as Robin to Keaton”s Batman in one sketch. Actually, I”d be OK if it were Keaton”s Robin to Jepsen”s Batman. “Call Me Batman,” anyone?
Come back at 11:30 pm EST when things kick off in earnest.
Final Four Cold Open: While the opening moments refer to the big Wisconsin win over Kentucky that happened less than half an hour ago, the sketch is actually about Duke player Jahlil Okafor being held back by Coach Mike Krzyzewski from the championship game due to his biology test on Tuesday. Instead, Coach K will use Steve (Bobby Moynihan), a 36-year old continuing education student. Charles Barkley agrees with the academic rigor enforced by Duke, noting he missed free throws one game because he was too concerned about his volcanoes. (“And I majored in volcanoes!”) Not much here beyond the initial joke, and Lord knows there wasn”t enough time to destroy the NCAA”s “amateur” status in five minutes the way John Oliver did over twenty in a recent episode of “Last Week Tonight.” But this was a fine, if forgettable, cold open. [Grade: B]
Monologue: Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan arrive onstage, rather creepily, to ask a favor of Keaton. That favor takes a musical form as the two describe how much Keaton influenced them as kids, asking him to play Batman and Beetlejuice with them. Unfortunately, we only get 1.5 seconds of Jay Pharoah”s amazing Batdance costume, which feels like a crime. (But at least he takes his shirt off during the “Beetlejuice” gag, so he wins in the end, I guess.) Moynihan”s explanation for why he has six weeks to live might be one of his best jokes during his “SNL” run. The Killam/Moynihan combination is stellar, and it seems odd the show hasn”t exploited it more during their time together. Their recreations of their favorite films combine high-production value with the silliness of “Laser Cats”. Throw in a “Gung Ho” reference plus Keaton actually saying “I”m Batman” AND “It's showtime!”, and you have the best monologue of the year. I”m not sure it”s even close. [Grade: A]
CNN Newsroom: Daytime CNN relies on weird recreations, according to this sketch, including bad animation and puppetry. (Right as I type out a “Money For Nothing” visual reference, the sketch beats me to the punch. CURSE YOU, SHOW.) Keaton eventually appears as part of a dance troupe protesting recent legislation in Indiana, and something about Keaton in a chef”s hat waving his finger is funny for reasons I can”t adequately explain. The combination of his seriousness, the simplicity of the moves, and the old-school Casio keyboard music just hits me in the funnybone. [Grade: B+]
Prom Bet: The latest Mike O”Brien pivots off movies like “10 Things I Hate About You” and “She”s All That,” with his six-year student asking Keaton”s science teacher to the prom to win a $200 bet. The O”Brien/Keaton stuff is fun, but I almost wish the sketch had been about Vanessa Bayer”s character: What does she do after 7:30 pm? How can she wear that many layers and not be sweating? I have so many questions! [Grade: B]
Grandmother Call Line: I”ve been patiently waiting for Sasheer Zamata to get something approximating a lead role on the show since she joined the cast, and while this isn”t quite it, it”s great to see her confidently front and center here. She delivers a great mix of sexy and silly. (“Why not spice things up by talking at the same time for the rest of the phone call?”) Props also to Killan for nailing the rapid descent from “happy grandson” to “oh right, this is why I only call twice a month”. Half an hour in, this is a really solid, fun show so far. [Grade: B+]
CEO Lunch: Keaton”s CEO feels he”s missing out being in the corner office, and wants to get back into the action. He has lots of opinions, and they are all horrible. (“Houston, we have a boner!” is a representative suggestion.) Things go from bad to worse when his belly-button piercing starts to bleed mid-meeting. There”s a lot of energy here, but it”s pretty slapdash in terms of comedic construction, and the end result is a sketch trying way too hard. [Grade: C]
Church Of Neurotology Music Video: I guess calling out Scientology directly is too risky. On the other hand, it”s not exactly hiding its target, so why not go directly for the jugular? A joke late in the sketch notes this is definitely not Scientology, but rather a knockoff. I guess Lorne Michaels doesn”t want to get thrown off a boat? Still, that”s a small quibble, as the production values here are off-the-charts: The grainy video coupled with the catchy song coupled with the hysterical “updates” (“In A Hole”, “Lives In Hospital”, “Chained To Toilet As Punishment”) makes this a worthy response to HBO”s “Going Clear.” [Grade: A-]
Weekend Update: Pete Davidson drops in to talk about the season finale of “The Walking Dead.” He”s spooked, as his smoking habits might make his response to the eventual zombie apocalypse a little less than ideal. Not only will his reaction time be muted, but he might himself be mistaken for a zombie thanks to his glazed eyes and slouched posture. Norman Reedus, who walks an oh-so-fine line between caricature and total badass, eventually comes on in-character as Daryl Dixon after shooting Davidson with an arrow. Jebediah Atkinson later arrives to dispel the notion we are in a Golden Age Of Television. “All TV is excrement!” he opines. The game between Killam and the audience is great at this point, with both feeding off each other in faux antagonism. Jost/Che Update: They hit a stride mid-“Update” in which punch line after punch line landed like roundhouse haymakers from a heavyweight boxer. That type of intensity wasn”t matched throughout the segment, but man it was something to behold while it was happening. Slow start, but everything post-Davidson was really good. [Grade: B+]
Smart House: Keaton and Cecily Strong are a Southern couple who want to “add science” to their household objects in order to make them more user-friendly. This includes a floating toaster and a sofa that recognizes you by shoving a metal tube inside you each time you sit. (“That”s bigger than a sports drink straw!” exclaims Bayer”s confused neighbor.) This was awkward as hell, and truly painful in the beginning. On the other hand, the sketch worked through its initially, intentionally awful introduction section and came out the other side, essentially dragging the audience through the awkwardness until it became somewhat funny. That”s a pretty remarkable turnaround, so props to Keaton/Strong for having the confidence to let the sketch unfold at its own, odd pace. [Grade: B]
An Easter Message: This is the spiritual sequel to Edward Norton”s Halloween sketch from last season, and I couldn”t be more delighted. “How cute is she? The answer is: “Kind of.””) Keaton”s eyebrows have rarely been put to better use. It”s just a series of demented one-liners, but man are the one-liners fantastic. (I can”t repeat the one about hollow chocolate bunny for fear this site will be blocked from most offices.) The fact that it”s actually Michael Keaton delivering this missive is a perfectly odd, therefore perfect, way to end this improbably recurring sketch. [Grade: A-]
Best Sketch: Monologue
Worst Sketch: CEO Lunch
How Was Carly Rae Jepsen? Look, former “SNL” recapper Myles McNutt will probably read this, and I”d never dream of insulting Jepsen in full view of him. But Jepsen”s stage presence doesn”t match the quality of her songs, which made her almost disappear in wide shots of the band. Still, I wouldn”t turn off either song she performed if I heard them on the radio, and since I wasn”t planning on seeing her live anyways, this is all that matters.
Next week: Taraji B. Henson and Mumford & Sons
What did everyone else think? Sound off below!