May 17, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Saturday Night Live” with Louis C.K.


After 40 years of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, it’s fair to say that every season is uneven, and so is every episode.  Although it’s generally true that installments hosted by former cast members (this season it was Bill Hader) have the advantage of ready-made comfort zones for the writers and cast, and that hosts with no comedy experience at all (Blake Shelton) are particularly dicey, each week inevitably brings both highlights and winces.

Another generalization with more than a little truth is that when a stand-up comic is hosting, the show at least doesn’t have to worry about what to do with the opening monologue segment (let’s see, a fake Q&A or a song?).  This season gave us Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart and tonight’s finale host Louis C.K., and he killed it, offering what was presumably an excerpt of his current act, and somehow covering everything in a few minutes from 1970s racism and the Israel-Palestinian conflict and how it resembles raising his two young daughters, to the Mounds Bar-like appeal (only for those who find it appealing!) of child molestation.

The opening chunk of the show was a bright start in general.  The cold open gave us a song since the monologue didn’t, and it was a clever bit about Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon in what will soon be her trademark role) who can’t help interrupting vacationers with her obsessive campaigning.  Another cameo from Darrell Hammond as the eternal horndog Bill only made it better.

Eventually, though, the regular sketches had to begin, and the show led those off with one about a pair of elves (Vanessa Bayer and Kenan Thompson) who very much wanted to be dominated by the shoemaker (Louis C.K.) for whom they provided services.  Gags about using plastic sheets to capture the boss’s feces aren’t the sure things that the writers appeared to believe, and aside from some effective green-screen work, there wasn’t much here.  Surprisingly, this being 2015, the sketch used fake toll-free phone numbers for the punchline about viewers texting in to vote whether the shoemaker should go along with his elves’ wishes, instead of making audience participation a genuine part of the bit.

Things picked up with a piece where Louis C.K., as a Sprint store employee, was caught by boss Leslie Jones when he was imitating her, and pretended for 5 years that he actually spoke that way until she finally trapped him.  Jones is still learning about acting on the job, and she botched her cue at the start of the sketch, but she and Louis C.K. were as much fun together as one would have hoped

The show brought back Cecily Strong’s obnoxious Brit girlfriend character (with Louis C.K. as her boyfriend this time) who interrupts the life of Thompson and Bayer, and while this entry didn’t go anywhere new with the bit, Strong’s schtick is one of her better recurring pieces.

A sketch about aspiring actors in a police line-up as robbery suspects who treat the threat they’re given to recite as an audition piece must have gone over big in the writers’ room, and Taran Killam, Beck Bennett, Kyle Mooney and Louis C.K. made much of their variations on oblivious, self-obsessed performers, but it went on far too long.  Another sketch that probably read better than it played was “Whoops! I Married A Lesbian!”, presented as part of the recurring Forgotten TV Gems, the gag being that it was a short-lived sitcom from the 1960s written by men who knew nothing about the subject matter.  For a 12:55AM sketch, it felt too reined-in (even though that was part of the joke), and the performers didn’t seem to be on the same page regarding acting styles of the era.

The pre-tape staff virtually took the week off, with just two brief iterations of a mystifying commercial where Louis C.K. stood silently as a lumberjack with a single tear running down his face (a parody, presumably, of the Native American anti-littering ad from 40 years ago) while an announcer warned against downloading e-books instead of buying paper products.

The season’s final Weekend Update had Killam as a teflon Tom Brady, and Pete Davidson doing his recurring desk piece about his issues, this time on reaching 21 years old, as well as questioning what he was doing on SNL to begin with.  Personally, I would have preferred some more from Colin Jost and Michael Che reading jokes that had supposedly been cut in dress rehearsal from earlier in the season then the return of Bobby Moynihan’s Riblet, but there you go.  The Jost/Che partnership has gotten slightly less flat as the season has gone on, but if changes were made during the off-season, there wouldn’t be many complaints.

And with Season 40 in the books, we’ll now have a month or two for rumors about whether cast members may be leaving, and word of the new, exciting talent Lorne is adding to his seemingly immortal franchise.  After all of that, what returns to the air next fall will look and feel very much like what we’ve been watching for decades, and our whining about SNL not being as good as as it once was can begin once again.


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."