It’s the Season 41 finale, and bringing it home is returning cast member Fred Armisen. So how was his return to the ol’ stomping grounds?
Fred Armisen was part of SNL for more than a decade, so if you watched the between 2002 and 2013, you’ll know him. If not, maybe you recognize him from his own sketch series, Portlandia. On musical duty was Courtney Barnett, whom I know best from this wicked Cannonball cover. She plays some cool stuff. And with that, let’s get to the sketches.
Hillary & Bernie Cold Open
For being the last political opener of the season (but certainly not for SNL), this sketch was definitely bolstered by the bar metaphor. The jokes got a little low-hanging-fruity when Hillary and Bernie started drinking, and the whole thing went just a tad too long… but for this season’s political sendoff, it got the job done.
This might be the most monologue-y monologue I’ve ever seen on SNL. It’s 100% personal to Fred (as they should be), and the one-man-show setup was smart. Fred’s take on one-man shows was perfectly corny too. Gotta love all those non-pauses between lines. “The wheels didn’t even touch the track!”
So we get three great setups in a row. It’d be one thing to just have Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea negotiating sex while on the trail, but staging it as a play in front of a classroom of kids kicks things up to 11. Gotta love the sight gag of Fred spreading Kyle Mooney atop a desk too.
SNL Digital Short: Finest Girl
With The Lonely Island’s new movie hitting theaters soon, it makes sense that Andy Samberg would return to SNL with a new short. And sure, they’re never gonna top “Dick in a Box,” but this short still had a great hook. Vanessa Bayer was the perfect choice for the Bin Laden-obsessed nympho.
Maybe it’s because we haven’t seen Fred’s Regine character in so long, but she seemed more boisterous than ever before. Jason Sudeikis’ bit with the guacamole was brilliantly improvised — because if that was written, it was written perfectly — and it’s nice to see returning cast members in general.
Farewell Mr. Bunting
Who doesn’t love a good Dead Poets Society spoof — especially one that answers the question, “What if one of the kids stood up into a ceiling fan?” There was a lot of buildup here, but definitely more than enough bloody payoff.
It’s the last Weekend Update until next season, but Colin Jost and Michael Che didn’t exactly have their best jokes ever. They were good, sure, but this was more of a B-game than an A-game situation. Keeping the cameo train rolling was Maya Rudolph as impeached Brazilian president Dilma Rouseff. It was definitely a funny diversion, reminiscent of Kenan Thompson’s David Ortiz bit. And speaking of Kenan, he came to desk with his character Willie, who… didn’t do anything different or terribly interesting. A fair Update, but not the heavy-hitting sendoff I expected.
The post-Update sketch is always a weird one, but this one was a little on the tamer side. The twist of a pampering escape pod is funny enough, but this didn’t quite hook me like several of the other sketches this week.
High School Theatre Show with Fred Armisen
If I never hear that stupid, bumping transition music again, I’ll be the happiest man alive. This sketch has aired I don’t know how many times, never changed, and never been very funny. If only I could have swapped places with Larry David and just left this sketch a minute in.
The Harkin Brothers
This sketch wasn’t about being funny so much as an excuse to get the full cast, all the cameos, and Fred’s comedic partner Carrie Brownstein all on stage together to send the show off into summer. As such, it won’t be figured into the final grade.
It’s always great to have a former cast member host, and Fred Armisen did his darn best. Things definitely went downhill after Weekend Update, but it wasn’t a total write-off like some final episodes can be. I guess I’ll see you all back here in the fall!
Tony’s job of grading SNL each week is coming to a close for this season. Look for some other cool stuff soon, and follow him on Twitter while you’re at it.
2 thoughts on “SNL Viewers Club Finale: Fred Armisen with Courtney Barnett”
Thanks for always doing these Tony. While I don’t always agree with you I feel you’re usually on point. Please let this be the last time we ever have to witness that high school theatre sketch, unless they bring it back one last time to send it off Farewell, Mr. Bunting style. If post update had been as good as the rest, this probably would’ve have been the best episode all season.
I don’t blame you for not liking the high school theater shows, but I love them as post-update sketches. Well-observed bad live theater is an endless source of comedy for me. I remember being at a live theater show for a friend where either half the stage-hands weren’t there or no one had ever discussed whose job was moving what for scene transitions, so we’d have literally a minute of quiet conversation and furniture moving. It was the best thing in that play.