October 26, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Review: “Saturday Night Live” with Jim Carrey


The material didn’t always keep up with the cast, but tonight’s SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE was one of the more enjoyable recent episodes.  Host Jim Carrey obviously knows his way around uninhibited sketch comedy, and the advantage to his not being anywhere near the center of the comic zeitgeist lately was that his mannerisms aren’t nearly as overexposed as they used to be.  (His presence on SNL was tied to the upcoming release of the sequel to Dumb and Dumber, which just happens to be released by ComcastNBCUniversal.  Not coincidentally,  Jeff Daniels made a cameo tonight, more or less in character.)  Carrey worked well with the other performers, but it bodes well for SNL that it’s getting strong contributions even from new cast members who had little or nothing to do with him, like Weekend Update co-host Michael Che and freshly-minted regular Leslie Jones.

It’s unfortunately become the norm that some of the weakest parts of SNL are the first 15 minutes, with bland cold opens and laughless monologues, and that was the case tonight as well.  You’d think a live comedy show broadcast from New York would be able to get terrific comic mileage out of the discovery of an Ebola victim in town, but the cold open was just another chance for Jay Pharoah and Kenan Thompson to do their Obama and Al Sharpton imitations, with Taran Killam as the new inexperienced Ebola czar appearing between them.  The briefly pointed bit where Killam’s character tried to turn the disease into a plus for Democrats in the midterm elections wasn’t written well enough to work.

The monologue was–surprise!–a musical number, which started promisingly with Carrey costumed as a Halloween-themed “Helvis,” but unaccountably turned out to be a song about pecan pie.

The rest of the first half hour was up and down.  A “Carrey Family Reunion” sketch allowed most of the cast to trot out their Carrey imitations, some of which (Killam, Kate McKinnon) were better than others (Pharoah).  Carrey was Matthew McConaughey in a 3-part runner parodying the actor’s Lincoln commercials; they did a beautiful job of recreating the look and feel of the ads, and they successfully built from one segment to the next, with the final one featuring “McConaughey” running his Lincoln into Thompson’s Dennis Haysbert while the latter was in the middle of an Allstate commercial.  A bit about a haunted graveyard where singing and supposedly spooky ghosts were annoyed by the much more casual ghosts played by Carrey and Killam went nowhere, although the two actors seemed to be having fun together.

Weekend Update is quickly becoming unbalanced between its Michael Che segments and its Colin Jost bits.  Che was terrific as the foil for Vanessa Bayer’s rom-com expert, who was the embodiment of every cliche of the genre, very much including instantly falling in love with Che, who was having none of it.  The other desk piece came from Bobby Moynihan’s crowd favorite Drunk Uncle, whose best bit was his instant refusal to deliver his piece alongside Che, rolling his chair back to Jost’s side of the anchor desk.  SNL probably doesn’t have the nerve to really play out the Che/Jost dichotomy, but it could be missing a real opportunity.

The show’s last half-hour was remarkably wacky.  A Secret Billionaire sketch was an overelaborate premise that existed so that Carrey, as a contestant who was practically a Bond villain, wheelchair bound and with an electronic metal hand, could spout utterly strange anecdotes about masturbating while flying over Utah in a balloon and convening a 10-hour long gathering of 200 men named Dennis and one named Brian.  As a sketch, it wasn’t much, but the Carrey segments showed impressively weird imagination.  A pre-taped Ghosts: Fact or Fiction? parody of Ghost Hunters was a showcase for Leslie Jones, as a team member who didn’t want to be anywhere near overworldly phenomenon.  A bit of momentum was lost with a Walking Dead parody where Carrey played a dad who wouldn’t admit his son (Pete Davidson) had gone zombie; its highlight was Davidson trying not to break up when Carrey kept hitting him on the head with a bat.

That was redeemed, though, by the night’s final two sketches.  A seemingly routine “Office Costume Party” bit went completely wild when Carrey and Kate McKinnon, both dressed as the dancer from Sia’s “Chandelier” video, did a dance-off that roamed through the entire studio, including on the sets of the previous sketches, and even incorporated enthusiastic musical guest Iggy Azalea, who under her tear-off costume was wearing the “Chandelier” outfit too.  After that came a simple but inspired piece where Cecily Strong and Bayer’s commercial for the local Halloween costume shop where they worked was constantly interrupted by Carrey as their demon-possessed boss.  Their blase attitude toward his speaking in tongues and vomiting blood completely sold his craziness.

The current cast is really clicking, and next week, apart from featuring Prince as musical guest, almost guarantees a first-rate monologue as well, because the host is Chris Rock, making a triumphant return to SNL after his Toronto Film Festival smash with Top Five, which opens in December.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."