January 31, 2015 – J.K. Simmons / D’Angelo (S40 E13) 

Cold Opening – Super Bowl Shut Down

  • Great Richard Sherman voice from Jay, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to any.
  • Kenan is hilarious as Marshawn Lynch too.
  • Jay’s pretty solid in this open, and is carrying himself very well, showing tons of energy and charisma.
  • For a sports-related open, I’m enjoying this one, even when I barely know who these people are outside of Sherman, and the energy here is fun.
  • Taran’s stealing this whole open with his own energetic, fun performance as Pete Carroll.

Rating: ***


  • Ah, it feels so good to review J.K., considering how much of a fan I’m of his excellent work. A real shame that this is his only time hosting SNL, much like Taraji P. Henson & Michael Keaton in few episodes from now, I expected all three to become recurring hosts, but alas.
  • Lovely applause for J.K. at the beginning.
  • I’m enjoying the premise of J.K. reprising his fantastic character from the great movie Whiplash. Come to think of it, 2014 was damn strong year for film.
  • Great self-deprecating line from J.K., in response to Kyle’s comment about his own hair, “I think all hair is ridiculous” which gets a great audience reaction.
  • (*Blood stares at his screen as Fred Motherfucking Armisen appears for his obligatory cameo #37378 since leaving SNL not even two full seasons ago. And with total resignation and no second thoughts, Blood spills gasoline all over his bedroom and on himself, burns his whole world and life for the ever eternal pain of burning alive, gleefully smiling as he’s burning and dying on the spot, finding it more enjoyable than sitting through this fucking cameo*).

Rating: ***

Totino’s Super Bowl Activity Pack For Women!

  • The debut of the fantastic Vanessa-starring Totino’s trilogy of ads. It will be lots of fun to review this era-highlight trilogy in these three upcoming seasons.
  • Ah, here comes Vanessa’s first utterance of “my hungry guys” which will become an iconic obligatory line in these commercials.
  • I’m LOVING the various ridiculous, demeaning activities that women can do during the Super Bowl, the sticky-hand-on-the-fridge always stuck with me as a particularly standout moment from this standout trilogy.
  • Fantastic commentary on suppressive misogyny in this commercial, reminding me of the legendary Chess for Girls commercial from the 1995-2002 era, another era, much like this one, that had MANY outstanding, brilliant, and sharp commercial parodies.
  • Vanessa’s natural innocence and likability are phenomenal here, and sells her character’s inner turmoil and despair perfectly. A great showcase for Vanessa, and knowing her trajectory in her two final years, this is only the beginning.

Rating: *****

Miss Trash 2015

  • Good, cheap laugh from the reveal of the pageant’s title.
  • J.K. is just perfect as the host here, and his straitlaced, comfortable delivery is elevating the shaky material.
  • J.K. is an excellent straight man here, particularly his pretty deadpan, calm reactions to the contestants.
  • This sketch, while not bad or mediocre as a whole, to me at least, feels cliched and not up to thr standards of this solid season. Yet, the performances, are selling the hell out of this sketch.
  • I recall reading somewhere that this is a Kelly/Schinder sketch. If so, it feels WAY different than their usual work & comedic style, this one is nowhere near as solid as their usual work, but certainly not bad. This one is more on the average side.

Rating: ***

Cinema Classics – Casablanca

  • Because I didn’t review the debut of this great, era-defining sketch, I’ll say it here: Ladies and gentleman, we have major recurring segment debut!
  • The usual, always-funny “Worst. (insert event here). Ever.” from Kenan’s Reese D’What.
  • Strong Ingrid Bergman voice and accent from Kate.
  • Fantastic twist to this sketch, with the spoof of the memorable airplane scene in Casablanca.
  • Big laughs from Kate’s Ingrid Bergman jumpiness to get on the airplane when told that she’ll otherwise end up in a concentration camp is a freakin riot. Kate is excellent here.
  • I’m enjoying the digs at classic movies here, particularly how fast-talking the performers are, you could tell the writer/s of these Cinema Classics sketches are huge fans of classic cinema.
  • Overall, this has been always one of my favorite Cinema Classics sketches, and amongst Kate’s finest moments. This has been a strong season for her in general, and she’s beginning to deservedly reach her superstar status as the season continues.

Rating: ****1/2

Teacher Snow Day

  • Another installment to these types of music videos, much like Boys Dance Party and Office Christmas Party.
  • While the concept of these shorts is wearing thin to me by this point, the energy here is more infectious and the fun conceit of this short makes it well… far more fun the drab previous installment.
  • Very fun usuals through this short, particularly of Cecily breathing out the smoke, Aidy in the hallway, and J.K. in his car.
  • J.K. is stealing this whole short with his very fun & infectious energy, and is coming off incredibly well as expected, blending into the cast.

Rating: ***

Musical Performance – “Really Love”

  • Jesse Nathan: I rarely say this in my musical guest reviews, but…I honestly have little-to-no familiarity with this artist and the music he makes. I know I said in a comment that I’ve seen this episode in full, but to be honest…I kinda skipped these performances. So with all that said, this should be good. Let’s see.
  • For some reason, J.K.’s perfectly Simmons-esque intro of D’Angelo made me chuckle.
  • Already off to a good start with the cellos.
  • Boy, the lady at the beginning was poorly miced. At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a YouTube problem.
  • Is that lady speaking Italian? I can’t tell.
  • Ooh, I like the use of Spanish guitars.
  • Man, I’m loving this intro the more it goes on.
  • Nice falsetto from D’Angelo, but part of me wonders what he sounds like in a lower range, and whether or not he’d sound better in that range.
  • Wait, are we on the verse or the chorus? I honestly can’t tell.
  • Oh, okay, that was the verse. So with that said, I kinda like this chorus, but it also sounds kinda lazy.
  • I like the integration of different genres throughout the song.
  • D’Angelo’s falsetto is almost reminding me of Barry Gibb.
  • Okay, the chorus is starting to sound a bit repetitive as the song goes on.
  • Man, the Spanish guitarist is really having at it as the song nears its end.
  • That was awesome!

Rating: ****

Weekend Update

  • Some surprisingly awkward delivery from Michael of few jokes at the beginning of this. I guess he’s still growing as anchor despite showing some solid job these past few Updates.
  • A good stand-up style rant from Michael, even when it’s not as strong as his usual rants, which shows how damn strong Michael’s stand-up pieces are behind the desk.
  • The return of A One Dimensional Female Character From A Male Driven Comedy (boy that’s a long ass name), which is good as she’s one of the very few solo characters from Cecily that I tolerate.
  • This commentary seems to be treading in the same water as the previous one, and Colin’s befuddled reactions are almost identical to how he reacted last time. Yet, I’m enjoying this, and this commentary has several funny lines, and good characterization from Cecily, which is very rare for her character work.
  • Jebidiah Atkinson, on if he’s excited about the Grammys: “ Oh, yes. Who wouldn’t be excited for a night long tribute to the Spotify playlist of a 12 year old girl?”
  • Jebidiah Atkinson on the 57th annual Grammy nominees in general: “This year’s Grammy’s nominees make me wish I lived in a soundless vacuum of space!”
  • Jebidiah Atkinson, on Iggy Azalea: “Hey, Iggy, wake up and smell the azaleas – YOU’RE WHITE! The last time anyone stole THAT much from black people, everybody still dressed like me!”
  • Jebidiah Atkinson, on Celine Dion: “Celine Dion. Someone turn her Celine Di-off! My heart will go on? This song is bigger disaster than the actual Titanic. And I should know, I was there!”
  • Jebidiah Atkinson on being on the Titanic as it was sinking: “ I certainly was. And if you ask me, there were too many life boats. (*audience reacts in horror*) Save it! That’s just the tip of the iceberg!”
  • Man, Jebidiah is going HARD in this commentary of his, even more so than usual, and I’m loving every single second of this.
  • A strong Update in general, with another ruthless, hilariously brutal, and expertly-performed Jebidiah Atkinson commentary by Taran as usual.

Rating: ****

Microsoft Assistent

  • A very out-of-ordinary sketch concept & presentation, I’m already onboard with this one.
  • Bobby is perfect as the Clippy-esque annoying assistant.
  • Yet another sketch tonight that utilizes J.K.’s great straight man abilities as his various reactions to Bobby’s Pushie are slaying me here, as well as Bobby’s solid, perfect performance.
  • A great, emotional turn with Bobby sadly instructing J.K. on how to activate the “Disable Pushie” feature.
  • A strong, creative sketch in general, keeping this episode’s hot streak in quality.

Rating: ****

The Jay-Z Story

  • Always great to see another Mike O’Brien short, considering how reliable his shorts are, and that the last one (Grow-A-Guy) saved me from jumping out of my bedroom window to my demise, when I was reviewing the wretched James Franco episode.
  • An absolutely hilarious idea of having a Jay-Z biopic starring Mike O’Brien, of all people.
  • Love Mike’s reaction when told that he’s great at rapping.
  • Hilarious reaction shot from Pete as the star-struck, shocked fan of Mike’s Jay-Z as he walks past him.
  • Ah, it feels so good to see Jason back at SNL here, a cast member who actually WAITED for his time to cameo, and what a welcomed cameo from him in this excellent piece.
  • J.K. is perfect as Nas here, and I absolutely love the part with his heated fight with Mike’s Jay-Z.
  • An overall yet another excellent Mike O’Brien short, and another outstanding segment in this great episode.

Rating: *****

Musical Performance – “The Charade”

  • Jesse Nathan: Nice intro.
  • I like how this song sounds almost entirely different from the last one.
  • I like the messages on some of the backup singers’ shirts.
  • The guitar sounds nice.
  • Good chorus.
  • Once again, I like D’Angelo’s falsetto.
  • Oh HELL YEAH to that guitar solo.
  • Oh, now D’Angelo’s starting to get into his lower range. Awesome!
  • Man, I’m finding myself really vibing to this song the more it goes on.
  • Since I really enjoyed both performances, I have to ask: how have I never heard this guy’s music before? This is some strong stuff.

Rating: **** (that last ⅓ brought my rating up half a star)

Career Day

  • Ah, HERE WE GO!!! A very famous & highly-acclaimed sketch from this season.
  • I LOVE J.K.’s casual delivery of his now-immortal line, “I am a Japanese messy boy” as well as Cecily’s perfect reaction to it.
  • J.K. is absolutely hilarious here and the dumbfounded reactions by everybody here is selling this already-fantastic premise even more.
  • I’m loving J.K. here, and his straitlaced, casual description of his job is excellent, especially how he delivered the following: “Well, there is a small group of rich powerful Japanese women enjoy watching muscular older American men eat messy food in a sloppy almost childlike way. And I do that for a living.”
  • I absolutely love the part were J.K. proudly displaying his bib that says ‘Lil Missy’ & particularly his smile after showing his hat, a visual that always stuck with me from this sketch.
  • Strong disturbing, subtly-dark reveals throughout J.K.’s disclosure of how his normal workday is like, particularly the part about being driven into a huge empty mansion and disrobing and putting little boy’s underpants.
  • Pete’s performance here, while not groundbreaking or anything, is FAR better than his giggly, unprofessional one in a certain upcoming Career Day sketch.
  • Bobby & Leslie’s reactions here are perfect.
  • A great ending to a great, memorable sketch, An SNL masterpiece.
  • Overall, one of the finest 10-to-1’s in recent SNL history, if not of all-time.

Rating: *****

Cut For Time: Grandpa

  • Interesting characterization from J.K.
  • This is fine so far, but the setting reminds me of an awful sketch in Kumail Najiani’s hosting stint in season 43.
  • Big cheap laugh from J.K.’s comment about his dead wife’s having a big ass.
  • Vanessa is not convincing me AT ALL in her role, much like Taran, both are very young-looking. And this is coming from a 25 year-old baby-faced guy.
  • J.K.’s “colored” part gave me cheap guilty laugh.
  • Kenan, as always, is a great straight man here.
  • Ok, the bits about the ass are being repeated to death here, despite J.K.’s always on-point delivery.
  • Not caring about the cheap visual at the end.
  • An ok sketch overall, despite some shaky portions, yet it was elevated by J.K.’s commitment & Kenan’s great straight man work.

Rating: ***

Segments Ranked From Best to Worst

Career Day

Totino’s Super Bowl Activity Pack For Women!

The Jay-Z Story

Cinema Classics – Casablanca

Microsoft Assistant

Weekend Update


CFT: Grandpa

Miss Trash 2015

Super Bowl Shut Down

Teacher Snow Day

Final Thoughts:-

  • A fantastic episode, lots of great sketches, including THREE that I gave a perfect rating to, and are widely-hailed and highly-regarded as SNL masterpieces and definitive pieces for this era, and with the weakest material not even dipping below three stars. The post-Update half, in particular, was phenomenal with every single sketch rated between 4-5 stars, rivaling the fantastic post-Update half of the Liev Schreiber episode. Ah, pretty much the episode consisted entirely of solid, premise-driven, one-off, silly, and fun sketch concepts, the template of a perfect show. And, not the last time that this will happen in this new era, which is why I absolutely love it, even with the shakier material as it moves forward.
  • Unsurprisingly, J.K. Simmons was an outstanding host, coming off game, energetic, and incredibly charismatic. I especially loved how the writers utilized his fantastic, reliable delivery, and great straight man work, particularly by having him lead the phenomenal Career Day sketch by the episode’s end. Also, the great music by D’Angelo deserve a special mention, as it also contributed to how damn much I absolutely loved this episode.

Up Next:-

  • Sadly, the great vibes won’t continue, as Dakota Johnson hosts with musical guest Alabama Shakes.

10 Replies to “January 31, 2015 – J.K. Simmons / D’Angelo (S40 E13) ”

  1. Cold Open ***
    Totino’s Super Bowl Activity Pack for Women! ****
    Cinema Classics ***½
    Teacher Snow Day ****½
    The Jay-Z Story ****

  2. I’m not a huge fan of Fred Armisen, but I feel that his cameo in this episode is a bit more tolerable than other ones, mainly due to the fact that he’s not quite as insufferable here as he usually is whenever he’s in a sketch or Tina Fey’s infamous Season 43 monologue, and the fact that he’s extremely good at the drums. Probably better than I’ll ever be, and that’s coming from someone who used to regularly take drum lessons from 2012-2019. That being said, I’d probably feel one’s pain if I were watching this in the context of when it originally aired, which I don’t.

    Ah, yes. The debut of Totino’s. I just love these shorts so much, though I’m definitely in a minority of preferring the one with Larry David over the one with Kristen Stewart. I think I may have mentioned that in my “And Now for Something Completely Different” post, but I’m not entirely sure.

    “Because I didn’t review the debut of this great, era-defining sketch, I’ll say it here: Ladies and gentleman, we have major recurring segment debut!” Isn’t that kinda cheating?

    “you could tell the writer/s of these Cinema Classics sketches are huge fans of classic cinema.” Not exactly what I would expect from James Anderson and Kent Sublette.

    By the way, have you ever paid attention to the way J.K. says “goof troop” in that Pushie sketch? That alone is hilarious.

    That Career Day sketch is pretty much a hidden gem for me. Sometimes, I just turn it off after the reveal, and yet it’s still a masterpiece. Speaking of which, after the reveal, when you turn the volume up, you hear what sounds like a cat meowing (at least to me).

    And finally, even though I said before that I get amusement from your pain, I also enjoy seeing you endlessly praise an episode and give out many high ratings like here. It’s kinda sweet…and I HATE sweet. I need photos! Photos of Spider-Man! (Sorry, that was a bit uncalled for)

    As for tomorrow’s episode, well…if the episode is a supposed trainwreck, then let’s thank God for two things: 1.) Dakota is an extremely attractive person to look at, and 2.) Alabama Shakes’ performances.

    And as always, the averages:
    Pratt – 5.3
    Silverman – 6.2
    Hader – 6.4
    Carrey – 7.2
    Rock – 5.3
    Harrelson – 8.4
    Diaz – 6.0
    Franco – 4.8
    Freeman – 8.0
    Adams – 6.0
    Hart – 5.9
    Shelton – 6.8
    Simmons – 7.9

    Overall average (so far): 6.5

      1. “She’s so pretty and her smile is so cute” You’re just scratching the surface, Imbiased. It seems like you’re talking about “awww” cute, but that’s not what I mean. I’m talking “so gorgeous to the eyes it makes one think weird thoughts while their legs are shaking” cute.

        1. I was talking about that not puppy dog cute (I call it that instead of awww cute) and also

          “Imbiased” was that a pun on my name or did you just get my name accidentally wrong

  3. “Isn’t that kinda cheating?”

    Well, as the author of this blog, I can cheat as I want! Kidding but yeah kinda of. Glad you enjoyed this review Jesse, and I’m not surprised by the strong average that this great episode got, and if my memory serves me right, the Dwayne Johnson (a very acclaimed episode), and the Michael Keaton ones might even surpass it. This season is a KILLER when it comes to fantastic, memorable episodes.

    “As for tomorrow’s episode, well…if the episode is a supposed trainwreck, then let’s thank God for two things: 1.) Dakota is an extremely attractive person to look at, and 2.) Alabama Shakes’ performances.”

    Well. You’ll see my reaction when I eventually review it, as I do remember that episode VERY well Jesse, and I bet you could already predict my reaction to several sketches in it. Thankfully, only two more average-to-weak episodes after it.

    1. One more thing to note: this is more of a minor observation, I find it kinda odd that this season would have two hosts with the same last name (Johnson). Not only that, but both have the same first initial (Dwayne and Dakota). For these reasons, when I mentioned the episodes from this season I’ve seen in full, I had to say Dwayne’s full name instead of just his last.

  4. In my eyes, this is the strongest episode of a VERY strong season.

    Cold Open: Super Bowl Shutdown **1/2
    A harmless CO that doesn’t annoy me, and I’m glad it’s kept nice and short. Doesn’t make me laugh, though. The impressions here aren’t really impressions, though Taran does kind of get the gum-smacking, seems-30-years-younger-than-he-really-is energy of Pete Carroll.

    Monologue ****
    He has a great, meta rapport with Kyle (“This is not one of your weird videos!”) and Pete. And I love Aidy getting yelled at: “I miss Blake Shelton!” Of course Leslie’s part has to include a screaming outburst that undermines the whole premise by BECOMING the joke itself for a moment. But it doesn’t take away from a GREAT reboot of Simmons’ incredible work in Whiplash. Unlike Blood, I love Fred’s walk-on here because (a) it’s short and not self-indulgent, (b) Fred’s a fantastic drummer, and (c) I still love the dude overall in spite of the second half of his SNL tenure.

    Totino’s ****1/2
    They did a nice job elevating this concept in the two later versions of this, but the original remains my favorite, with the focus on Vanessa and not on a premise. Blood is dead-on that we’re building up to her SNL peak. It’s hard to call Vanessa any kind of legend; she wasn’t as versatile as even several of her castmates, and she didn’t leave much of a character legacy. But she specialized SO WELL and fit into a number of grooves with her ability to play uncomfortable. Like the great character comedians of the era who can ACT comedically, she can take “uncomfortable” to all sorts of places and twist it around a ton of ways as needed. Here she shines dicking around the insulting activity pack – my favorite is the word search – and sells it all so well. This could easily be a ***** sketch – maybe it lost half a star from me just standing in comparison during a legendary episode.

    Miss Trash 2015 **
    This and the cold open are the only of tonight’s pieces to just sort of wash over me. I think it’s because I rarely love these awards-themed sketches*, and also because my brain somewhat associates this with Amy Poehler’s m’eh Amber character that typically bored me. Not much to say here, really. Overall it feels like a recycled Frankenstein pieced together from 5-10 other similar sketches from the era. Not much more than a breather as we bounce from one classic piece to another in this RELENTLESS episode.

    *A notable exception is the FANTASTIC Psychic Awards In Memorium from S37.

    Cinema Classics: Casablanca *****
    These are always hit-or-miss; some, like Will Forte’s and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’, are general wastes of time. But this and Mulaney’s Birds installment are sheer classics. This one puts on a sketch comedy clinic: the timing of the dialogue, the brisk pacing, the understated exaggeration of the source material. It’s just flawless. JK does great here, but Kate just explodes off the screen in one of her best pieces ever. The dark take is great on such a classic, beloved scene, and every line is impeccably delivered. It’s crazy just how stacked this episode is; this would be the hands-down best sketch of just about any other.

    Teacher Snow Day ****
    This is my favorite Pete-starring rap video, thanks in large part to Pete not rapping in it. He does a great job in the straight role here, though I could’ve done without the cheesy closing line. There’s a lot that works here, from the sheer production value (the beat is incredible) to JK continuing to go all-out tonight. God I love when acclaimed actors come onto SNL and go absolutely shameless. Cecily has a great quick gag of her own, and even Leslie is in her element here.

    Weekend Update ****
    Colin is no longer QUITE as blank and vanilla as this, and thank God. Stooge often called out Seth Meyers as indistinct I’m the anchor role, but I disagree wholeheartedly, and personally I’ve always seen Colin that way. As usual here, he’s going as far as each individual joke will take him.

    OOH, biting my tongue as Colin NAILS (what I believe to be) the first of his recurring “Oh sure, but when I…” gag. LOVE the Quinceanera line.

    Also loved Michael’s stamp rundown and witchcraft joke. ODFC is best as a one-time bit and this one wasn’t great, but I loved the twist with Colin. This may be my least-favorite Jebediah Atkinson installment, but it’s still solid and packed with good lines – that character set a pretty high bar. I especially dug the Beatles/Yoko comment.

    Overall a very, very solid Update.

    Microsoft Assistant ***1/2
    Just like Totino’s at the top of the show, this is a perfectly fine sketch that just suffers in comparison to the classics. The whole thing works – it’s just more “chuckle consistently” than “laugh out loud.” Several great gags though, particularly the random changes Pushie keeps making to the letter. (“Dear Goof Troop, Happy Birthday Goof Troop!”)

    The Jay-Z Story *****
    Pitch-perfect in every way. It sounds cheesy but this feels like the culmination of all of Mike’s excellent SNL work peaking right down the stretch of his on-camera time. The concept alone is enough to make you piss yourself, before even considering the fantastic . Where to even start?

    – Mike sheepishly selling dope

    – Taran just kills it with just a handful of words; he was always good for that

    – “I’m Beyonce.” “I know who you are… *soft giggle* PS you are so pretty..”

    – Hoo boy. Sudeikis with an all-time great ex-cast cameo. I absolutely love the botched handshake they laugh off – this is really well-edited like all of Mike’s shorts – almost as much as I love…

    – “Oh great, Nas”

    I can’t say enough about what might well be the best sketch of this standout season.

    Japanese Messy Boy *****
    (Not to be negative, but leave it to Leslie to flub the opening line, yeesh.)

    I know this is a big favorite of Blood’s, and rightfully so. SNL usually hits it out of the park with Career Day sketches; they have an odd but fun knack for these. And this one is the gold standard, thanks to two factors: the oddly unsettling premise, which is shot at us like a spitball RIGHT off the bat, and JK’s ALL-IN performance. You’d think he was gunning for an Emmy here; he’s not fucking around. (“Do you get a napkin?” “Ha! I wish!”) He is ON BOARD with this ridiculous material, and good for him! The result is yet another subversive 10-to-1 that plays with our expectations and produces a laugh with every line in the process. I particularly love the reveal that he makes $45,000 a session at this – it’s unsettling to realize that every one of us watching would jump at it.

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