SNL Ranked: Julia Louis-Dreyfus Deserves Better Material, Yada Yada Yada
It’s been six years since Julia Louis-Dreyfus hosted SNL, but with her hilariously irreverent HBO series Veep entering its fifth season, it’s about time for the former cast member / Seinfeld star to make her return. After poking fun at her forgettable SNL tenure in the monologue, it’s unfortunate to see Louis-Dreyfus given so many forgettable characters in sketches that are mostly vanilla and that feel written for a target demographic made up entirely of suburban women with Activia dependencies. That said, the usual wacky antics of the last 15 minutes combined with the undeniable greatness of Louis-Dreyfus and the occasional moment of hilarity save this episode, taking it from a four up to a solid six.
Read on for our ranking of this week’s sketches from best to worst.
God Is a Boob Man (Killam, Rudnitsky, Bayer, Zamata, Mooney, Thompson, Bryant, Moynihan, Strong, )
In a time when states are voting on anti-LGBT legislation, this satire of God’s Not Dead is required viewing — not that it’s particularly deep or provocative, but laughter is fun. So is the idea of a gay couple trying to make Vanessa Bayer tell everyone that God is gay:
Heroin AM (McKinnon, Bennett, Louis-Dreyfus, Moynihan)
A form of heroin for the productive, privileged suburbanite on the go. What’s not to love — oh, but NOTHING is as hilarious as the gummy bear version. The little sunglasses! It’s like someone asked, “Okay but what if the Kool-Aid man was a tiny red gummy bear made of heroin and cocaine?”
Match.com Event (Bennett, McKinnon, Louis-Dreyfus, Killam, Mooney, Strong, Bayer, Rudnitsky, Pharoah)
It only took an hour and 20 minutes into an episode that felt bizarrely aimed at middle-aged suburban wives and moms, but hey, SNL finally delivered something weird — obviously, because Bennett and Mooney are involved. McKinnon and Louis-Dreyfus play crazy alien vampire succubi (or something) who hit up a dating event at a bar to find a human mate and reproduce.
It’s exactly the sort of ’80s movie you’d watch on USA’s Up All Night after your parents went to bed. And I want it to be real.
Huge Jewelry (Louis-Dreyfus, McKinnon, Strong, Bryant, Bayer, Zamata, Jonas)
Take the Former Porn Star informercials and reimagine them as Long Island trophy wives with gaudy style trying to hawk horrifically oversized jewelry, add a dash of Fred Armisen and Scarlett Johansson’s own Long Island emporium commercials, and you pretty much have this — a fairly humorous if overlong sketch that makes me want a movie starring McKinnon and Louis-Dreyfus, or at the very least for the former to make a guest appearance on Veep.
(Side note: apparently we haven’t had a new Former Porn Star ad sketch on SNL since LAST MARCH. Unacceptable. 100 percent not cool.)
The Pool Boy (Davidson, Louis-Dreyfus, Jonas)
Of course Davidson’s pool boy is named Chad. Of course. Davidson masterfully plays indifferent bro in this sketch, in which Louis-Dreyfus’ suburbanite must regretfully dump her side-piece. Like much of this week’s episode, this pre-recorded sketch feels a little safe and familiar, but it’s worth it for her excellent line at the end.
Weekend Update (Jost, Che, Thompson, Pharoah, Bryant, Strong)
I’m no sports person (clearly), but I’m always entertained by the reliably amusing pairing of Thompson’s Charles Barkley and Pharoah’s Shaq — the latter in particular, whose portrayal of Shaq as a cartoon character hit in the middle of the head with a frying pan is consistently impressive.
Bryant pops in with a new character, an animal expert named Annie with an unfailingly optimistic attitude, even as she casually drops depressing biographical info into her “fun facts.” Is it a formulaic Weekend Update character? Yes. Is it still charming? You bet.
Not as typical is the return of A One-Dimensional Female Character From a Male-Driven Comedy, a glorious takedown of every terrible female movie trope, played to robotic perfection by Cecily Strong. If only more Update characters were as sublime as hers.
Who Works Here? (Louis-Dreyfus, Killam, Bayer, Zamata, Strong, Bryant, Moynihan, Davidson, Thompson, McKinnon, Jones)
Louis-Dreyfus hosts a game show in which contestants try to guess who actually works in a CVS and who does not. The contestants are bland (albeit intentionally) and Louis-Dreyfus does fine work as a generically insincere host, but it’s the wacky cast of potential CVS employees that make this sketch work; every minute in between is just biding time until Aidy Bryant punches paper towels or Bobby Moynihan does a cartwheel.
Cinema Classics (Thompson, Louis-Dreyfus, Killam, McKinnon)
Thompson’s Reese De’What is usually the best part of Cinema Classics (save for anytime McKinnon is involved), but this one is just goofy enough with Louis-Dreyfus as a Golden Age film star who inelegantly hides her lines all over the set and spends most of each scene dramatically looking for her next response. It’s just flat-out silliness.
Monologue (Louis-Dreyfus, Hale)
Oh my god I cannot believe we are watching a clip from Troll on SNL. Bless you, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, you national treasure. She delivers a solid “good sport” monologue revisiting her forgettable roles on everything from SNL to Soul Man, and we get a cute pop-in from Tony Hale, though Louis-Dreyfus saying “effing” just doesn’t have the same efficacy as “f—ing” (see? Happens to the best of us).
Brooklyn Democratic Debate Cold Open (McKinnon, David, Bennett, Thompson, Louis-Dreyfus, Bayer)
Smart move to table Larry David’s Bernie Sanders for a while after David hosted back in February — though I’d much rather see him reprising his role as Kevin Roberts (“Can a bitch get a donut?!”). This is also okay, and watching McKinnon and David play bickering cartoon versions of Clinton and Sanders is always mostly amusing. But then it turns into a ’90s NBC sketch with Louis-Dreyfus’ Elaine Benes and Vanessa Bayer’s delightful Jennifer Aniston-as-Rachel Green, and I am suddenly much more fond of this cold open and yada yada yada, you know.
New Mercedes (Louis-Dreyfus)
It’s a Mercedes that runs on thousands of AA batteries. That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Maybe they played this one a little too straight, or maybe this concept is just a bit too simplistic.