SNL Ranked: Michael Keaton Gets Wonderfully Weird
Coming off the major acclaim (and major awards buzz) for Birdman, Michael Keaton returns to host SNL for the third time in his long and varied career. Keaton possesses a great deal of comedic sensibility, and his hosting gig this weekend almost seems a bit tardy given his recent career resurgence. Better late than never, but it’ll be hard to top Dwayne Johnson’s near-perfect episode from last week. How did Keaton fare back on the SNL stage? Read on for your weekly sketch rankings!
Neurotology Music Video (Bryant, Mooney, McKinnon, Strong, Killam, Ensemble)
Did you watch Going Clear on HBO last weekend? If so, you’ll distinctly recall this amazingly horrible Scientology music video called “We Stand Tall.” It’s like a Tim and Eric video. So this is basically that, only using the satirical religion of Neurotology, who made a music video in 1990, which has been updated to reflect new info about their church. The fact that SNL slapped this together in the last week is fantastic, and I see Mooney’s fingerprints all over it. The updates are so hilariously Scientology-accurate! I’d like to see an actual sketch with Killam’s David Miscavige, though. Let’s make that a recurring character.
Prom Queen (Keaton, O’Brien, Davidson, Ensemble)
A Mike O’Brien Picture! The absolute only way this could have been more perfect is if they were able to use Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” when Keaton walks out at the end. It’s great that O’Brien has stuck around as a writer, and it’s even greater that we still get the occasional O’Brien short. He really nails the She’s All That satire — it’s weird and cute using Keaton’s math teacher as the Rachael Leigh Cook stand-in, but it walks that line between sweet and odd so beautifully, as O’Brien’s shorts always do. And how many layers does Vanessa Bayer need for bedtime? Those are some seriously suburban sleeping layers.
Easter Candy (Keaton)
Edward Norton basically did this exact sketch and character (with the same set and everything) when he hosted in 2013, but Keaton dials into something far more eccentric and insidious as a nightmare suburban dad who probably has some f—ed up secrets that I don’t even want to consider. There’s a Jack Nicholson quality in how gleefully inappropriate he is, but we should also appreciate McKinnon as his weirdo daughter and Moynihan as his weirdo friend.
Easter Hotline (Strong, Zamata, Mooney, McKinnon, Killam, Jones, Keaton)
Applying the steamy late night chat hotline concept to the notion of calling your grandparents on a holiday (let’s be real — that’s when you call them) is clever, though it doesn’t need to rely so heavily on that framing device. McKinnon, Strong and Jones’ grandma impressions are so impeccable, just barely outdone by Keaton’s nearly witless grandpa. It’s some very specific, very funny observational humor. Grandpas are always outside when you call. “I sent you 50 pears.”
Michael Keaton Tribute Monologue (Keaton, Killam, Moynihan, Pharoah)
This is the second week in a row that SNL has won me over with a musical number in the opening monologue. Killam and Moynihan’s man-children asking Keaton to help fulfill their childhood dreams is pretty funny, but not nearly as amazing as Pharoah showing up dressed as Prince from his Batman album (never forget). The entire thing is an escalating Keaton tribute, complete with a montage featuring awful Photoshop, a cameo from the shrunken head guy in Beetlejuice (!!!), and Keaton delivering his Batman and Beetlejuice voices. It’s basically a parade of recognizable stuff from your childhood, but it is so, so awesomely weird.
Ad Agency (Jones, Strong, Thompson, Bennett, Keaton)
Keaton’s easy, sleazy CEO sitting in on an ad pitch meeting is so juvenile, but that’s the charm. His naturally mischievous facial features and his verbal rhythm lend themselves so well to playing this perverted, socially-inept and wealthy guy. You could almost believe these are things Keaton might actually say in real life — he’s just that good at it. There’s a hyper Jack Donaghy vibe to this character, too.
Weekend Update (Jost, Che, Davidson, Reedus, Killam)
The jokes are there, but Jost’s delivery just isn’t quite on the level. It’s one of those weeks where I’m still not sold on the Jost and Che pairing — Che wins me over more often than Jost, but there’s just something missing. Jost always takes a few minutes to get more comfortable, but should that be happening at this point?
Resident stoner/young person Davidson stops by as himself to talk about The Walking Dead and a zombie apocalypse. Get that young demographic, SNL. I’m glad we live in this weird reality where Norman Reedus — of The Boondock Saints and Gossip (remember Gossip?!) — has become a major star.
We also get a visit from Killam’s Jebidiah Atkinson, commenting on current television — he hates all of it, of course. I am a sucker for his prissy disses.
CNN Newsroom (Strong, Zamata, Moynihan, Keaton, Thompson, Bryant, Pharoah)
Can we get Michael Keaton to dance in every movie from now on, like Sam Rockwell? CNN fails to get legit footage and instead uses a succession of re-enactments including puppets, an improvisational dance troupe, and a cat standing in for Hillary Clinton…using a computer. It plays with all the laughable reporting devices, but for as great as Keaton’s dancing is, Strong brings it home with her performance as lead anchor. Not surprising.
Smart Home (Keaton, Strong, Bayer, McKinnon, Mooney, Bennett)
Upper-class, eccentric southerners are something I should find more humorous, given certain relatives of mine in the south, but this sketch is really, so very flat. That stilted delivery and off-beat rhythm is intentional, but it only sporadically lands. It’s too bad because there’s a great sketch in here somewhere — they’ve got the details right, but it could’ve used some more work.
NCAA Tournament Cold Open (Bennett, Thompson, Pharoah, Killam, Moynihan, Ensemble)
I guess the Final Four is a thing that’s happening right now. Sports may not be my thing, but Kenan Thompson’s Charles Barkley is always fun and Killam does smarmy white guy really well. The idea that academics interfere with college sports is a joke within a joke (albeit basic), since we all know that’s not really true, right?