Even though rumors were running rampant that Eddie Murphy would make a surprise visit to “Saturday Night Live” to support his “Tower Heist” co-star, guest host Ben Stiller, the former “SNL” cast member didn’t show.
Neither did Tina Fey, who some hoped would reprise her Sarah Palin impression now that the former Alaska governor has dropped out of the race.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t surprises for the audience during what was the best episode of the young season. Hugh Jackman popped on stage in a sketch that made fun of his dual entertainment personality (more on this in a second), and smooth-jazz saxmeister Kenny G accompanied musical guest Foster The People on the song that can best be described as “The Song That’s Not ‘Pumped Up Kicks’.”
Highlights from last night include:
Cold Open: Mitt Romney – Chris Christie: Though it seems like old news now, the cold open still did a nice job encapsulating how dissatisfied the media is with Romney as a candidate and how in love they were with the blustery New Jersey governor. The only issue was that, while Jason Sudeikis played Romney to blow-dried perfection, Bobby Moynihan’s Christie felt more like a Tony Soprano impression than anything else. Not all chubby Jerseyans sound the same, Bobby.
Monologue: In perhaps the funniest moment of the night, Stiller comes out a little peckish, claiming he’s suffering from some Yom Kippur fasting weakness. He envisions a Jewish Willy Wonka (Andy Samberg) — “So, basically, Gene Wilder, right?” — who takes him to the salty, cholesterol-laden paradise of the delicatessen, all sung to the tune of “Pure Imagination.”
Lincoln Financial: This was a series of three ads that parody the financial company’s schmaltzy spots where a person meets his future self. In the first ad, Sudeikis’ 20-years-older self wants to have sex with him, and in the third ad Stiller meets himself as a woman. But it’s interesting that the best and oddest of the lot — Bill Hader meeting his fatter, more suicidal self from two years from now — was the second ad. Usually in series like this, the situations get more ridiculous as things go along.
Fox & Friends: Hank Williams Jr.: This was an attempt to make fun of both the Fox News morning show — which, if you just knew it from the clips shown on “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” basically consists of three hosts who say anything they want, whether it’s right or not — and the “Hank Williams calling Obama ‘Hitler'” situation at the same time. It did a better job with the first thing than it did with the second, though we later got a bonus of Sudeikis as Bocephus singing us into the break.
Hugh Jackman: Best of Both Worlds: In a very clever, “why didn’t they think of this before?” kind of sketch, Samberg plays Jackman, who’s both a tough action star and a Broadway showman. He hosts a talk show with guests who display “Both sides!”; the best was Jackman himself, playing Daniel Radcliffe. It took awhile for the audience to realize who it was behind those Harry Potter specs, but his objections to Sandberg’s version of Jackman saying that he takes Botox injections in both his face and his butt pretty much let everyone in on the joke.
Weekend Update: Much better than in the first two weeks, the highlight was the return of not only Bill Hader’s signature character of Stephon, but the return of Derek Zoolander. It was weird to see a 10-years-older Stiller trying to pull off the dim male model role one more time, but it worked because it played off Stephon’s utter tone-deafness about what tourists would actually want to see in New York. What are the odds that Stephon’s move of putting his hands over his mouth is just Hader’s way to cover himself cracking up at the ridiculous events Stephon talks about?
Shanna: Halloween Party: Kristen Wiig tried a new character during “Update,” shy party planner Nan Washington, that didn’t quite work. But she dragged out the gregarious and gross Shanna for a Halloween party sketch. As with most Wiig characters, it was hit-and-miss, though there were some fun touches of Wiig’s physical comedic timing in this one.
Tinyballs: A takeoff on the trailer for “Moneyball,” it more than implies that the success of many baseball teams in the early 2000s was more about what the players were putting in their bodies than how the general manager was finding players. Also watch for a sighting of the elusive Jay Pharoah, who only seems to appear in pre-taped bits so far this year.