Episode five’s host Chris Rock pushed boundaries this week. His monologue began with a topic that the audience was nervous to respond to: terrorism. He brought up the Boston Marathon Bombing and 9/11, but the audience eventually warmed up to the jokes and his monologue was exciting and successful.
Another part of this episode that stood out was how all the writers utilized all the black cast members, perhaps because of the hosts and musical guests Chris Rock and Prince. This week’s sketches were great, making us wonder why “SNL” doesn’t put these cast members together in the spotlight more consistently. Yes, Jay Pharaoh appears as Obama in almost every episode, and Michael Che has already proven himself on Weekend Update, but what makes this particular episode unique is that there were sketches with not one white cast member.
One of these that generated a lot of laughs was “How’s He Doing?” where Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharaoh, Sasheer Zamata, new cast member Leslie Jones and Chris Rock debated what Obama would have to do to lose their votes. Spoiler Alert: He never loses their votes. They also threw in some jokes about white people, Ebola, and Mitt Romney, all of which were well received.
The terrorism theme came back when a sketch showed ISIS on the TV show “Shark Tank” making a business proposal to a panel of potential investors. Again, the audience was a bit slow to respond, and the jokes only timidly made it through. The jokes should have been way funnier than they were in order to make the audience forget about ISIS’s actual threat to America.
Some of the most experimental sketches were also the worst of this week. “Shark Tank” floundered, and two of the all-black cast member sketches where Chris Rock played a protective father or an argumentative husband just didn’t have strong enough jokes to pull them through. In the one where Leslie Jones played Chris Rock’s wife, the two had an awkward, stumbling chemistry that made the whole scene uncomfortable to watch. Even if the jokes had been landed, the sketch wouldn’t have recovered from its awkwardness. Sasheer Zamata starred in “Vlog” as a pre-teen who gave dancing tutorials on the internet, when her father (Chris Rock) walked in and tried to teach her older, less provocative dances, which she immediately made provocative. This one again just didn’t have it. There were no particularly goofy characters, no great jokes, and it went by slowly and with little reaction whatsoever from the audience.
The best scene came at the very end: “Women in The Workplace,” which had Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon in shoulder pads telling working females how to handle “diverse people” in the workplace. Strong and McKinnon were wonderfully awkward, and they played well off of each other. It was reminiscent of Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon in the Delicious Dish (most famous for “Schweddy Balls” with Alec Baldwin). The sketch will be a memorable one, with Vanessa Bayer and Aidy Bryant making out as fake-lesbians at the end, and it has the potential to reappear with a new spin in a future episode.
The most anticipated part of this episode was Prince as musical guest. His name popped up in every promo. Prince appeared on stage wearing sunglasses with a third lens on his forehead, referencing his band, 3rdEyeGirl. He played for eight straight minutes, featuring new songs from the albums Plectrumelectrum and Art Official Age. For the song “Clouds” on the Art Official Age album, Prince sang a duet with La Havas.
Next week will be a rerun, but SNL returns on November 15th with host Woody Harrelson and musical guest Kendrick Lamar. As always, you can watch this week’s episode on Hulu or at http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/episodes.