Just Kidding Simmons usually plays a terrifying leader or intimidating father figure, with Farmers Insurance and M&Ms ads thrown in for good measure. So how did he do in his first (and long deserved) hosting a comedy gig?
Simmons was obviously hosting on the heels of Whiplash, which you seriously have to see, guys. Joining him was very new-to-the-spotlight R&B man D’Angelo. Dude made a nice statement with the band’s shirts in the second song, but this column isn’t about politics or music.
So let’s break this down. People like numbered scores, so I’ve chosen to rate every sketch at 0, 1/2, or 1 point. A sketch not worth watching at all receives a 0, a sketch that doesn’t stand out but didn’t totally flop gets a 1/2, and a sketch that does its job of entertaining and delivering a few laughs will earn 1 point. A standout sketch that goes above and beyond will receive the normal point plus 1 bonus point. Cool? Cool. Let’s talk about it!
Super Bowl Shut Down Cold Open
First off, I have to mention that SNL basically aped Key and Peele with this opener. Then I have to say that this sketch really didn’t make many jokes, and instead relied on media catchphrases. At least the dreadlock football was a good sight gag. 1/2 point
For a second, I thought the writers had fallen into the musical monologue trap again. Luckily, the (predictable to some) Whiplash subversion made this one a winner. Simmons had some zingers (“I think all hair is ridiculous!”), and the Fred Armisen cameo was smart — this is how cameos should be, people! 1 point
Totino’s Super Bowl Commercial
Always’ Super Bowl commercial made everyone uncomfortable, but this sketch might actually make people think. And Vanessa Bayer was perfect as the naive housewife. 1 point
Miss Trash 2015
This was a very well written sketch (up to the end), with zero reliance on cheap gags. Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong, and Kate McKinnon killed it as different types of “trash,” perfect foils to Bayer’s sweetheart. A shame it had no real payoff though. 1 point
You may not remember, but this “classic move redo” sketch has appeared on the show before. Regardless, Keenan Thompson and McKinnon were hilarious with their respective trans-Atlantic accents, and McKinnon’s pronunciation on a few odd words was golden. 1 point
Teacher Snow Day
Can you say “filler?” Too few notable lines, and not worth sitting through…even for a half naked Simmons. 0 points
Colin Jost and Michael Che’s jokes weren’t the best this week, although the Black History Month section was pretty great. Strong’s One Dimensional Female Character wasn’t as a good as her debut, but it’s nice to see Taran Killam’s Jebediah Atkinson return. NEXT! 1/2 point
Escaping the post-Update dead zone, this sketch had some good lines from Simmons and Bobby Moynihan. Plus, it’s always fun to roast Clippy. 1 point
The Jay Z Story
Mike O’Brien is on the same list as Leslie Jones: let them write and lead a sketch, and it’s fantastic. O’Brien’s body language was perfect, and the casting of Simmons and SNL alum Jason Sudeikis was brilliant. O’Brien cutting of Jay Pharoah’s impression was icing on the cake. This is a complete package of a sketch. 1 point + bonus point
Fun fact: this is the same set (and possibly the same costumes) as Bayer’s recurring poetry class sketch. It’s such a bizarre closer, but entertaining nonetheless. I’d love to know where this borderline fetish sketch came from. 1 point
Total: 9/10 possible points
J.K. Simmons is a fine actor, so you’d expect him to perform well. With solid writing was there to support his talent, the episode turned out pretty darn good. Insert Whiplash rushing/dragging joke here.