‘SNL’ Recap: Even John Goodman Can’t Distract Us From One Big Problem

It’s official: SNL has a Kenan Thompson problem. Some will respond to that with, “He’s been a problem since the day the show hired him,” while defenders will argue, “FILE NOT FOUND.” He’s never bothered me before, mostly because What Up with That? is one of my all-time favorite things, but of the twelve sketches in last night’s John Goodman-hosted episode, Thompson appeared in a staggering eight of them, including “Weekend Update.”

Some of his performance were strong, like Black Santa and the disgusted bartender in “Last Call,” but with so many cast members on the show, including approximately 91 newbies, it’s a shame that ALL the screentime is going to a guy who’s been around for 11 (!) seasons. And that Kenan hasn’t done “What Up with That?” in forever.

As for Goodman, he was good, obviously. Not staggeringly so, but as a person, he’s so damn likable that even in duds like “Three Wise Men,” enough of his I-wish-Dan-Conner-was-my-dad personality shone through to keep it from being a total bomb. A weak beginning led to a stronger second half, and it’s not unreasonable to assume the writers knew Goodman’s charm could save them; they were likely already preparing for next week’s JF <3 JT 2013 finale.

Cold Open

In November of last year, there was Cecily Strong’s Lydia, Michael Bloomberg’s sign language interpreter; last night, we had Kenan as the sign language interpreter who “spoke” gibberish at Nelson Mandela’s memorial. It was better than a lot of the political cold opens this season, especially the political cold opens about Obamacare this season, but not by much. Too much stiffness, not enough Thriller dancing.


I’M SEEING DOUBLE: FOUR JOHN GOODMAN’S. The entire time I was watching the cold open, when I wasn’t looking at those damn fine coats, that is, I kept thinking, “Please no one make Booty Brothers 2000 with John and Kenan, please no one make Booty Brothers 2000 with John and Kenan.” Though Goodman is one hell of a singer.

Guy Fieri’s Full Throttle Christmas Special

Guy Fieri parodies hit me right in the comedic sweet spot, especially when reindeer punch explosions, Kate McKinnon as Big Ang, and Mimi from The Drew Carey Show are involved. (Whatever happened to Mimi, you’re not asking? Well, according to IMDb, a few years ago, she was in Lenny the Wonder Dogs, so life happened to Mimi.) Plus, “For desert, we’re gonna turn a fruitcake into a straightcake.” De-lightful.

Dance of the Snowflakes

Did I nearly shout, “NOPE” when I saw John Goodman dressed as a giant snowflake? YUP. But luckily, so was this sketch, which was the entire point. I wouldn’t go so far as to call “Dance of the Snowflakes” meta, but at least now we know what the internal monologue of a cast member in a dud sketch sounds like. And that like so many others before him (mostly Chris Kattan and Jim Belushi), Kenan gets on-stage boners.

Three Wise Guys

This may come as a surprise to anyone who’s lived and loved Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, which should be everyone, but Sylvester Stallone has the comedy timing of Estelle Getty’s corpse. He more than once left Goodman and Robert De Niro hanging, which killed any momentum “Three Wise Guys” tried to gain. I wonder which cost more: those prop camels or years off De Niro’s life when he saw that camel toe joke in the script.

Too Hot

Because John Goodman in drag has always been, and will always be, its own punchline.

Fire Safety

In her many years on the show, Nasim Pedrad has never been able to develop a strong original character to call her own. Shallon is the closest she’s gotten. We first saw her in the Ed Norton episode, and now she’s back, making John Goodman’s job as a firefighter miserable. (Related: John Goodman was born to play a frustrated fireman.) The premise of the sketches was similar, i.e. a bunch of grade-school kids have terrible, life-threatening ideas, but the jokes built around the concept are different enough that Shallon shouldn’t fall into the same black hole that swallowed, say, the Target Lady whole. At least until the next she’s on, in which case: NOOOOO.

The Christmas Whistle

Did anyone else have to turn down the TV while “The Christmas Whistle” was on? Damn neighbors apparently don’t understand the irony of being mad at a sketch about neighbors being mad at a loud noise. Anyway, “The Christmas Whistle,” in all its piercing black-and-white idiocy, eventually wore me down and I kind of enjoyed it (while also hating myself). It’s no The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t But Then Was, but what is?


This was good and spot-on enough that somewhere out there, an H&M manager believes it was a tribute, rather than a spoof of his and her company, and he or she is going to try to convince management to blast it 24/7 in their store. It wasn’t evil, but it got the bright-neon specifics down very well, from the tiny pant sizes to the clothes on the floor rather than the shelves. Nice of Wale and the Fly Girls to show up, too.

Last Call

Never not good, never not “oh so THAT’s why Kate McKinnon in a lesbian.”

Kings of Leon

Who knew they made cardigans in the color of Sunny Day Real Estate?

(To watch “Drunk Uncle” and “Black Santa,” click on the links.)