March 12, 2016 – Ariana Grande (S41 E15)

Cold Opening – CNN Election Center

  • What’s with the mic issues with Beck’s Jake Tapper early on?
  • Ugh, I’m really starting to get more and more tired with this snooze-inducing Trump impression from Darrell, it is too bad that his eventual replacement won’t be any better…
  • Ah, here comes Larry David to inject this cold open with much-needed energy and laughter with his always-hilarious Bernie Sanders.
  • Larry’s Bernie is as hilarious as ever here, and absolutely slaying it with me and the audience alike.
  • I love the whole bit where Larry’s Bernie lists the age of his supporters, being mostly teens and from much younger demographics than Hillary’s.
  • A big laugh from the return to Larry’s Bernie while he’s wearing his pajamas & brushing his teeth.
  • Overall, a pretty solid cold open helped by how extremely funny Larry was in it, somehow even moreso than usual.

Rating: ***1/2


  • I love Ariana’s voice, it feels so old-school to me, and strangely endearing.
  • A musical monologue. Well, It is a given due to who our host is.
  • Kenan’s whole scene isn’t doing anything to me, despite the expected commitment and professionalism by him. The shoutiness at the end also wasn’t needed.
  • These whole interruptions by the cast are really derailing this monologue for me. So, you either do a full-fledged musical monologue, or have the cast in the monologue. Doing both here makes this monologue appear like a mess to me, and I’m sure Ariana can handle herself perfectly here without the cast’s assistance.
  • No comment about the Ariana + Pete moment.

Rating: **1/2

Hillary For America

  • Ah, always great to see Kate’s Hillary Clinton, this was back when SNL knew how to parody and satirize female politicians in a way that is both funny and non-pandering.
  • Very fun & clever conceit with Kate’s Hillary Clinton slowly turning into Bernie Sanders in order to appeal to younger voters.
  • I’m loving how slowly Kate’s Hillary is turning into Bernie. Kate’s subtle & increasing Bernie Sanders impression is great.
  • Good tagline at the end.

Rating: ****

Kids’ Choice Awards Pre-Show

  • For obvious reasons, Taran is beyond perfect for this sketch.
  • Vanessa & Taran are doing an absolutely spot-on job with their impressions of a typical kids show hosts.
  • Ariana looks fantastic in that blonde wig, and is blending seamlessly into the SNL format.
  • Not that bad of a premise with the mistiming of the countdown clock, as I know that it fits with this sketch’s general atmosphere.
  • A big laugh from the countdown clock counting back upwards after counting down to 0:00.
  • I’m loving the desperation of the anchors as the countdown clock counts back upwards.
  • Solid laughs from the close-ups, and the subtle desperation of Ariana, Taran, and Vanessa is excellently performed.
  • Bobby is FANTASTIC with his close-up and absolutely steals this entire sketch for me, and provides me with my biggest laugh of the night so far.
  • Solid ending.

Rating: ***1/2

This Is Not a Feminist Song

  • A good concept of this potentially feminist song being claimed as not feminist.
  • Ariana, much like her previous appearances earlier tonight, is fitting perfectly into this short and feeling like a cast member.
  • Beck’s very brief involvement is both hilarious and absolutely steals this entire short. Beck’s been displaying some hidden sketch-stealing abilities in these earlier seasons of his.
  • Good ending with the song turning out to be, in fact, a feminist song.

Rating: ***1/2

True Tales From The Sea

  • Casting Ariana as a mermaid is a no-brainer.
  • A very hard role for Kate to take, this sketch is a primary example of her true fearlessness as a performer.
  • Pretty solid laughs from Kate’s characterization in contrast to Cecily & Ariana’s. Kate is, of course, absolutely selling this sketch’s premise, with the usual sharp line deliveries.
  • Beck’s a very solid straight man to Kate here, and he always excels in selling a character’s despair and inner turmoil, such as in the fantastic Roast short earlier in the season.
  • I love that when each of the other mermaids start to sing a song, Kate starts to sing the opening chant from “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King movie.
  • Pretty solid sketch, and our second strong showcase for Kate in tonight’s episode alone.

Rating: ***1/2

Musical Performance – “Dangerous Woman”

  • Jesse Nathan: An absolutely priceless intro to this performance, where Larry David fucks up Ariana’s name, makes a comical “Darn it” gesture, and fails to correct himself before the performance starts. Great audience reaction.
  • Ha, as soon as the performance starts, you can see Ariana stifle her laughs from that gaffe. Hell, she even giggles once she starts singing.
  • I dig the guitar to this song.
  • Boy, that’s a rather…appealing outfit that Ariana’s wearing.
  • Ariana’s vocals are kinda hard to hear.
  • Okay, they’re getting better once the song gets to the pre-chorus.
  • Good chorus, and I dig the raw feel of it. However, I’m not 100% sure if Ariana’s the right person for this song. She’s not convincing enough.
  • Meh, even though her vocals are more audible, the words still sound like gibberish when she’s singing them.
  • The post-chorus was poorly mixed.
  • Cool lighting, at least.
  • I like this guitar solo, as well as the guitarist’s interaction with Ariana.
  • Nice use of the talkbox near the end. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the hell she’s saying.
  • I like Ariana’s genuine joy at the end.

Rating: ***

Weekend Update

  • Michael’s whole stand-up-esque piece on Trump supporters is excellent.
  • Geez at that Trump video, just WOW. This man was really the President?!
  • Cecily’s doing a solid job as this drunk contestant, yet I’m quite surprised that I barely remember this commentary of Cecily’s. She’s doing a very good job with a pretty thin premise.
  • An overall decent commentary from Cecily, probably one of the better things she’s done in this stage of her tenure.
  • Some really great jokes from Colin & Michael in this Update, I especially love Michael’s Women’s History Month joke.
  • Riblet! Sadly, this ends up being the character’s final appearance behind the desk, despite Bobby having more than a season left in the cast.
  • The usual laughs from Riblet, performed flawlessly by Bobby.
  • I love the change with us having a supposedly-live remote segment report from himself.
  • Great Update overall, for the second episode in a row.

Rating: ****


  • Bah, a blatant rewrite of the classic Pandora sketch. Yes, I’m assuming that Ariana probably requested to do a variation of it to showcase her impression skills, but couldn’t the writers do something else instead of pretty much doing the original classic with almost no real changes?
  • Great Britney Spears impression from Ariana, which is actually making me tolerate this unbelievably lazy rehash.
  • Hey, at least this sketch ended differently than the aforementioned classic, which at least makes this sketch a little better than other lazily rehashed material, but not much to make it earn a higher rating than the one I’m going to give it right now.

Rating: **

Family Feud

  • I always enjoy these sketches, even when I don’t like them as much as some, they’re still harmless fun and a good impression showcase for the cast.
  • Fantastic Jennifer Lawrence impression from Ariana, almost uncanny.
  • Very funny Tilda Swinton from Kate, which is fitting as Tilda is one of my personal favorite dramatic actresses, and Kate is not only near the top of my list of personal favorite SNL cast members of all time, but one of my favorite comedic actresses in general.
  • As expected, a solid Quentin Tarantino from Taran, and is capturing modern Tarantino’s essence and personality well.
  • A surprisingly dead-on and funny Martin Scorsese from Jon, which is weird as we’re approaching his short-lived tenure’s end, and I barely mentioned him positively in anything. I did hear that he is a supposedly a strong impressionist, yet we almost saw nothing of that throughout his tenure on the show.
  • Good Woody Allen voice from Kyle, whose casting here is a no-brainer.
  • Kenan’s Steve Harvey’s comments are giving me good laughs, despite the sketch’s formulaic and obvious approach. The performances by the cast too carry this sketch and enhance it with lots of energy.
  • Taran’s whole spiel about possibilities and Kenan’s response was a solid end to this harmless sketch.

Rating: ***

Musical Performance – “Be Alright”

  • Jesse Nathan: As Larry David starts the performance, he prefaces his intro with “Ok”, as if to say, “I know I messed up, but it won’t happen again”. And then, once he introduces Ariana, he follows it up with a facial expression that says, “Look people, I got it right this time”.
  • And just like before, Ariana shows to be a good sport about it, as she is soon heard giggling as soon as Larry says her name.
  • Good opening vocals from Ariana.
  • I like the usage of dancers for this performance.
  • Ariana’s vocals are better to hear here than they were in the last performance.
  • I like the choreography from Ariana and co. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure if this song works for me.
  • Why use pre-taped vocals while Ariana’s singing live?
  • The way Ariana sings her lyrics makes them sound like gibberish. If I didn’t have captions on right now (which I do), then I’d have no idea what she was saying.
  • This song is starting to feel a bit repetitive the more it goes on.
  • I’m a bit surprised it’s over already. I was kinda hoping there’d be more for me to say.

Rating: ***1/2

The Sound of Music

  • How many parodies did SNL do of The Sound of Music?
  • Meh, this sketch is focusing on humor I can’t STAND, with Ariana’s character acting in a modern, sassy way in this period setting, in contrast to how the nuns, played by our female cast members, still acting and sounding old-timey.
  • Cecily’s pronunciation of the the supposed other Maria gave me one of my very few laughs from this sketch. This has been quite the solid season for Cecily in general. I’m surprised by how better she’s been doing after being passed over as the show’s star after how unwatchable she was in the previous two seasons than I did previously. I also recall her being really reliable till the end of season 45, with very few bad sketches that will sadly dominate her work from season 46 and onwards, officially making her a bad cast member. In my view at least.
  • Aside from the good energy and commitment by the performers, nothing in this dull sketch is working for me.

Rating: **

Cut For Time: Cinema Channel

  • The beginning of this sketch with Taran’s character is reminding me of those TERRIBLE The Essentials sketches with Jason Sudeikis from the previous era, and this one seems to be a bit of a knock-off of those horrible sketches, not a good sign.
  • “Daniel O’Dance”?? Don’t tell me which two writers penned THIS sketch.
  • Very solid Judy Garland voice from Ariana, yet again displaying her strong impression skills in another sketch.
  • Really? We are having gay assistants to Ariana’s Judy Garland? What’s the point of all of this?
  • This HAS to be an Anderlette sketch.
  • A very dull, lethargic sketch so far, with a pretty depressing, dead atmosphere. I’m not enjoying this sketch AT ALL. Not even the committed dancing & singing is doing anything to me.
  • What’s with Jay’s character’s accent? Why is he speaking in what seems to be an African accent? Is that supposed to be amusing? Also, Jay’s performance is a bit more energetic than the others in this lifeless, dull, lethargic sketch.
  • Am I supposed to be laughing at this sketch? I’m more than halfway through and I can’t find any discernible comedy nor do I understand where the comedic through line of this dull, laughless tripe is supposed to be coming from.
  • So far, these dance & song sessions from Ariana and the stock gay stereotype companions are nearly putting me to sleep, and there’s no shred of any entertainment to be found so far in this sketch, which I’m still patiently waiting for.
  • (*sigh*) Aside from Ariana’s & the cast’s commitment, NOTHING in this dull, lifeless, depressing sketch is working for me. Please just end this sketch already, SNL.
  • Wait, why did Taran break just now? Is he flat-out giving up on the sketch when it’s almost over? Man, he must’ve felt embarrassed being part of this, at least this one is not as bad as another one soon-to-come from this episode…

Rating: *1/2

Cut For Time: March Madness

  • A variation of the sketch from Ronda Rousey’s episode.
  • Like last time, Beck & Kyle come off as so relatable and likable as these characters, as well as their cluelessness is providing good laughs throughout the sketch.
  • Good straight man reactions from Ariana, something about her characterization here feels old-school to me, in a good way.
  • The whole purge line from Beck is hilarious, as well as Kenan’s reaction to it.
  • Beck’s very random “Is my dad alive?” absolutely SLAYED me.
  • A solid ending. This sketch should’ve replaced either Tidal or The Sound of Music in the live show.

Rating: ***1/2

Cut For Time: New Studio

  • fyodoren: This one is all Anderlette; you can tell right away from the meandering, disinterested way the cast is getting itself set. No one seems too interested in setting up anything funny, mostly just milling around and giggling at the wigs.
  • Gah, that “I might just have to end it” gag between Taran and Ariana just died a sickly death. Amazingly, the stupid dramatics didn’t save it with the already-bored audience. Kenan comes along right after with a funnier version of it, but it’s pure Kenan – no help at all from the scribbled-down “dialogue.”
  • Ugh, my GOD, now the always-reliable Vanessa bombs HORRIBLY with her own version of the same gag. Yes, that was three near-identical “touch Taran’s face” gags within 10 seconds.
  • Nothing funny has happened yet, and not one ounce of comedic skill has been tapped yet. You’ve got Taran, Kenan, and Vanessa on a stage together – how is it possible? Not even a guilty chuckle?
  • Goddamn, there’s plenty of comedic mileage to be had from the “awful musician thinks he’s good” pool, but it feels like the writers here intentionally missed all of them. Taran’s strange singing isn’t doing anything, and the nonsense song he’s working through is almost aggressively unfunny. Jesus Lord, get me out of here!
  • I can’t express how much I’m hating this fake song! Sometimes these fake songs are so silly, and the performer so invested, that I can’t help but laugh. For example, I’ve almost always dug the “Here’s a song everyone knows! Wait, no one knows it? Ohh, know they all do!” pieces that popped up a lot around this time. (Woody Harrelson unsurprisingly did it best in S40, in my opinion.) But this one… there’s no real intention to make it subversive or funny. It’s literally just Taran yell-chanting garbage, and not even he can punch up this non-attempt.
  • Kenan, Ariana, and Vanessa all have legit great stone-faced reactions here. Unfortunately, we’re seeing them over and over with the Patented Anderlette Pan-Repeatedly-Across-Everyone’s-Unhappy-Face Technique and I can’t even chuckle at them.
  • The closest I’ve come to a laugh thus far comes from Kenan’s antics. I liked his attempt to compliment the song – “I am amazed… at how long that took!” – and his gag at the phone was decent. Still not enough to cause a reaction, though.
  • If you STILL had any doubt that this is an Anderlette piece, there’s your obligatory gay-sex joke to seal the deal. Look, it’s not that that joke can’t be funny, but this one just wasn’t. Just shoehorned in to have something, anything to talk about. I’m not sure why Taran is breaking at it, but I’m willing to bet the laughter comes from a place of desperation.
  • Now everyone is breaking, but make no mistake – this is no Debbie Downer or Hot Tub Lovahs classic. This breaking feels forced and desperate. You simply can’t convince me that seasoned, talented comedians like this are honestly finding this tripe SO FUNNY THEY JUST CAN’T EVEN.
  • Now more desperation with Leslie bursting in shouting, hoping to kill the last 30 seconds or so. (Again, this is a barely-written sketch, so most of the “action” only exists to kill time.) I know Leslie isn’t exactly Phil Hartman, but it’s depressing to realize SNL so rarely came up with anything for her besides Leslie Shouts!
  • Ugh, here comes the final bit of desperation: Leslie mugs and gets a “SHE’S KEEFA!” tagged across the screen. This obviously wasn’t designed to launch a recurring character (thank God), since it pops up at the ass-end of the sketch, so all we can realistically assume is that the “SHE’S KEEFA!” was added for a cheap, late laugh. It did not land, I don’t mind telling you, and just serves as clunky confusion. What the fuck even is this?!
  • Overall… yikes. Sometimes a sketch bombs but you can respect it: maybe it started funny but crumbled under its weight, or maybe the concept was great on its own but the writing/casting went awry. Michael Keaton’s Smart House from S40, for example, had an intriguing idea and good bones, but was ultimately done in by The Cecily Of It All. Chadwick Boseman’s Warehouse Fire piece in S43 was a disaster, but could’ve been salvaged with a proper comedian front and center. Not the case here, however, where nobody does good work and none of the elements are funny. Just another Anderlette meander through the cornfield, hoping for someone to break into laughter or some prop to malfunction in the hopes of any laugh, anywhere, from anyone. Ultimately, this turd dies a slow death, and thank God.
  • There’s so little to like here that I don’t know where to start. There’s almost no dialogue; this sketch seems to have been written full of holes, with 10-12 clapter breaks built in for some ungodly reason. Most of the lines get repeated from character to character, and zero are clever. No one aside from Kenan even bothers to perform it; Taran can only weave so much out of garbage, and both Vanessa & Ariana seem resigned to running out the clock. The reliance on character-breaking, shock-value stuff, and Leslie’s pitiful storm-on tells me there was nothing planned here, just a desperate hope for something funny to accidentally happen. The performers tried their best to milk all that (forced) breaking and salvage SOMETHING, but no dice. I want those six minutes (yes, this shitshow rolled on for nearly six minutes) of my day back.

Rating: *

Segments Ranked From Best to Worst

Hillary For President

Weekend Update

CNN Election Center

CFT: March Madness

True Tales From The Sea

This is Not a Feminist Song


Sound of Music


CFT: Cinema Channel

CFT: New Studio

Final Thoughts:-

  • An ok episode, if not very forgettable and dull at certain parts. Ariana Grande impressed as the host, providing tons of fantastic celebrity impressions & solid performances all night long, blending perfectly into the SNL format. I just wish she was given better sketches in the 2nd half. And aside from two cut laughless sketches (particularly the disastrous New Studio sketch, a nadir of this era), the lowlights in the live show weren’t that frustrating, but man were those two cut sketches fucking BRUTAL to sit through. Oof.
  • Thanks to the magnificent fyodoren for his impeccable writeup of the disastrous New Studio sketch, which is seriously amongst the very best deconstructions of a trainwreck that I’ve ever read, and knowing what fyodoren has for me next episode, I’d consider him doing this torturous sketch to review a certain sketch tomorrow as the prize at the end of the tunnel. Keep it up!

Up Next:-

  • Peter Dinklage hosts with musical guest Gwen Stefani.

3 Replies to “March 12, 2016 – Ariana Grande (S41 E15)”

  1. Huh, I recall kinda liking that Garland sketch. Only time will tell, though…

    Yes, Ariana is solid, but that’s to be expected with actors from the “Disney Channel/Nickelodeon” camp, or for anyone who’s watched Victorious. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve watched A LOT of Victorious (and I assume you have no familiarity with it). In fact, I’ve also seen iCarly and Drake & Josh. And to be honest…I actually like those shows.

    Yeah, the Tidal sketch is a completely inferior rehash. Everything that that sketch does was done far better in the Pandora sketch. That, more than anything, illustrates the difference between a performer like Ariana and Bruno. One who has stage presence, and one who doesn’t.

    I can’t wait for tomorrow’s episode, as it’s a personal favorite of mine.

    And as always, the averages:
    Cyrus – 5.5
    Schumer – 6.6
    Morgan – 8.2
    Trump – 4.2
    Banks – 8.3
    McConaughey – 5.8
    Gosling – 7.2
    Hemsworth – 6.0
    Fey and Poehler – 7.1
    Driver – 7.7
    Rousey – 6.5
    David – 7.8
    McCarthy – 6.6
    Hill – 5.0
    Grande – 6.3

  2. Monologue ***
    Cute for the most part but Kenan stole the Monologue for me.

    Hilary for America ****
    Solid Performance from Kate her as Bernie always cracks me up.

    KCA Pre-Show ***½
    The constant gags throughout the whole sketch was incredible and Bobby was hilarious in his role

    Feminist Song **½
    Ehh not much for me Beck was funny though

    True Tales ***½
    Pretty good not much else I can say

    Tidal ****
    Prefer the first one but still good like the meta moment with her not being an Ariana fan.

    Family Feud ***½
    Great impressions from everyone and a very funny sketch

    CFT: March Madness ****
    Always a sucker for idiot characters from Kyle and Beck and this was a frickin blast.

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