Cold Opening – Hillary & Bernie
- Ah, while I would’ve loved a different-feeling open for our big finale, I certainly cannot complain about having a one with Hillary & Bernie, played flawlessly by Kate & Larry, respectively.
- Great setting to this open, with Hillary and Bernie talking at a bar. Especially after the primaries were almost done, and it was becoming more and more clear that Hillary will be the Democratic nominee at the end.
- Great back-and-forth between Kate & Larry, and that trademark, infectious Hillary laugh never fails to make me burst out laughing.
- Oh, I’m loving the epic feel to this cold open, with the whole dancing sequence between Kate & Larry as they travel through the studio, reminding me of the legendary Office Costume Contest sketch from last season.
- Great ending with Larry’s Bernie being tricked into getting into the elevator.
- Excellent, full cast LFNY, back in the days when these group LFNY were truly special-feeling.
- Before I start with the monologue review, I want to share my history with Fred as a performer in general. Back in my early days as an SNL fan, I’m talking here about the Summer of 2014, I absolutely HATED Fred in everything I saw him in, as my memories of him were from his final four years, where he mostly abandoned what made him such a strong, creative, and unique performer in his first seven seasons on the show, gone were the anti-comedy pieces behind the Update desk, and the fun one-off character pieces that dominated the majority of his work on the show, and all of those were replaced by the hammiest, hackiest gay stereotype & annoying one-note sketches & character pieces. So, naturally, I was annoyed whenever I saw him cameo (and would remain so in the future), and be baffled when some would compliment him. Fast forward few years in the future, and now being more familiar with Fred’s work pre-SNL, and watching his entire tenure on the show, as well as Portlandia, made me such a fan of his early and subsequent work that made his lowlights seem like nothing when we see the bigger picture. So, even when I will critique Fred in both this review, and in his future cameos, I still enjoy a lot of his work on & outside of SNL. I would personally say that Fred, Will, and to a lesser extent Rachel were the saving graces of SNL in the post-Ferrell slump years (2002-2005), and without them, I would’ve had a very hard time getting through those seasons, and I’ll never forget that, and I still appreciate all three to this very day.
- Back to the monologue, I absolutely LOVE the idea of Fred doing a one-man show regarding his history with SNL, it feels just like his brilliant work from his first seven seasons, and the typical comedy that I loved Fred from before & after his SNL tenure. A comedy that caters perfectly to my comedic tastes.
- I’m enjoying how intentionally-inaccurate some of Fred’s impressions are, especially how he impersonated Lorne.
- Fred’s general appreciation & love for SNL is heartwarming, especially his talk about how he couldn’t believe it that he auditioned for the show in the very first place.
- Very charming interaction from Fred with an audience member.
- I’m loving the bit where Fred talks about his town, and the two guys saying that they are proud of him, after years of making fun of him, is really quite touching.
- Great ending with Fred’s whole bunch of demands to the lighting manager, between dimming and lighting up the stage.
- Terrific monologue in general. Not only charming, creative, and funny, but serves as an important piece to understand Fred’s history with SNL, and the way he opened up in this great monologue is nothing short of excellent. My favorite monologue from this entire season, and Fred was both lovable & outstanding here.
- Why in the world is this sketch the lead-off of the night?? This has been a recurring issue throughout this season, as this sketch has no business being the very first post-monologue sketch in the big season finale.
- I’m not really enjoying where this sketch is going so far. Not even Aidy’s usually fun straight man work is making me laugh as much as I hoped it would.
- Aaaaand we now get unnecessary & cheap homoeroticism with the whole Kyle & Fred on the teacher’s desk bit.
- Boring sketch overall, even when it wasn’t as disastrously bad as I feared it would. This sketch had no business being the lead-off sketch of the big season finale.
- Andy Samberg!!! The Lonely Island!!! Freaking awesome!!!
- I recall reading that this short is supposed to be a companion piece/promotion to The Lonely Island’s then-upcoming movie Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, which was released just a few days after this finale.
- Great concept to this music video, with it mentioning the killing of Osama Bin Laden, of all people.
- Vanessa is absolutely PERFECT here, and this short serves as a perfect capper to her phenomenal season, such an epic turnaround from how underused & misused she was in the previous two seasons.
- I love the “terrorize that (cat emoji)” part in this short, a one that always stuck with me.
- Man, Fred’s able to get good laughs out of me with his facial expressions alone as Bin Laden.
- Very funny, mock-romantic scene with Fred & Beck as Bin Laden and Uncle Sam, respectively.
- A pretty catchy & funny chorus towards the end of the short, epic & fun.
- An overall terrific music short as expected from The Lonely Island
- OH, NO.
- If they wanted to do a nostalgia sketch to celebrate Fred’s return to host, couldn’t they just do the great closing sketch & be done with it? As that one is a great throwback to Fred’s music band sketches, instead of this forsaken character.
- I should be happy to see another Jason Sudeikis cameo this season, but I wished he would cameo in a sketch that’s not THIS one.
- Ugh, this sketch is not only boring me to death, but is so by-the-numbers to a baffling degree, with the whole sensual acts & mugging storms by Fred, to the rest REACTING & being weirded out.
- Aaaaand we get our obligatory breaking, with Fred causing Aidy & Vanessa to crack up near the sketch’s end, and Fred just giving up beforehand and giggling through half of his lines.
- Aaaand we also get the same exact bit with Fred’s Regine angrily wanting to storm out of the house. Good God, this sketch is the epitome of laziness.
- Awful ending.
Farewell, Mr. Bunting
- Ah, yes, yes, YES!! A very memorable and beloved short from this era!
- Such a great idea for a Dead Poets Society parody, an all-time favorite movie of mine being turned into an all-time favorite SNL short of mine, just perfect.
- Very solid, stern dramatic acting from Bobby as the powerful, conservative principle, who serves as the perfect setup for our impending twist.
- Ah, and here comes Mr. Bunting, played so subtly, perfectly, and charmingly by Fred. His understated kindness & care for his students here is sold by Fred’s surprisingly solid dramatic acting.
- Aaaaaand here comes the twist, with Pete’s character getting his head chopped off clean by the fan. My GOD. This is hands down, HANDS DOWN, one of the most priceless visuals in SNL history. And I’m getting such a kick from the audience’s initial reaction to this twist.
- SO MANY hilarious visual gags throughout the short, now that the whole conceit of it is finally revealed: the blood spraying on Kyle’s face, Beck’s yelling, Bobby holding the severed head and panicking which leads to throwing it out of one of the classroom’s windows, the head being crushed by a lawnmower outside the classroom (good God!), and the blood spraying all over the classroom’s windows. Freaking priceless!
- Terrific ending with Fred’s Mr. Bunting breaking the long, tense silence after what just transpired, and his little “Go Windemere” chant at the end is the perfect icing on the cake. Perfect way to end such an outstanding short, an all-time SNL highlight.
Musical Performance – “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party”
- Jesse Nathan: Knowing Fred’s real-life musical tastes, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a hand in picking this woman as musical guest.
- Already off to a good start with the intro, and I love the drummer’s rapid drumming at the start.
- I’m liking Courtney’s vocals, but they’re also a tad bit hard to understand.
- I love the sarcastic tone of the lyrics, made even better by Courtney’s delivery of them.
- Courtney’s vocals on the chorus were poorly mixed.
- I’m detecting slight hints of her natural Australian accent in several parts of this performance.
- Boy, the mixing on Courtney’s vocals is getting worse the more this goes on.
- I love the whole instrumental bridge, and I love how Courtney starts moving around the stage during it.
- I’m having a bit of a hard time trying to come up with stuff to say while I’m rocking out.
Rating: ***½ (the mixing on the vocals brought my rating down half a star, which is a damn shame)
- While Trump is such an easy target for quick, cheap laughs at his expense, it is so difficult, in hindsight, to laugh at these jokes knowing what will happen toward the year’s end with him.
- A good laugh from the Hillary/Bernie Mortal Kombat joke.
- Very random Maya Rudolph cameo, which actually makes sense as this is a Fred Armisen-hosted episode after all.
- Maya is hamming it up to a full eleven here, which is not shocking at all to me. Yet, I’m not going to lie and deny that I’m not being amused and provided with some good laughs from her loose portrayal of Dilma Rousseff.
- Ugh at the Jared Fogle mention & joke, but I did get my solid laugh from it; a guilty one that is.
- Willie!! Great to see him close this season of Update!
- Solid, timely topic for a Willie commentary, with him talking about the Summer.
- Disturbing, yet funny bit from Willie about being tied at the back of a pickup truck, as a way to describe his summertime.
- The usual guilty, dark laughs from Kenan’s Willie, his candy van bit stands out to me as amongst his best.
- An overall great commentary to end another great season for Weekend Update.
- Solid sketch concept; a one that feels old-school and different for modern-day SNL.
- Holy hell, is this Taran’s first appearance since the cold open?! Man, did his value on the show deteriorate as the 2nd half of the season progressed, with him becoming more and more invisible & useless, and Beck just getting his roles and providing energy while he became more and more visibly tired & miserable on the show. It is no wonder that the poor guy got axed without second thoughts during the Summer of that year.
- The more this sketch goes on, the more I’m really liking it, and Fred is simply perfect for this sketch, as his personality & delivery is really complementing the material. This is the type of work that made me finally a big fan of many of Fred’s pieces throughout the years. Whether in his SNL prime years (seasons 28-34), Portlandia, or his brilliant man-on-the-street pieces & talk show appearances.
- I love the question about choosing the entrée.
- A clever, solid twist ending.
- Always great to see the return of this recurring sketch, and Fred is perfect for it, due to how much he perfectly mocked pretentious people in his work.
- The usual solid laughs from all the “deep” social commentaries that these acts are supposedly invoking.
- As expected, Fred is doing a great job here, and his lines are standing out to me, as enhanced by his reliable delivery.
- Nothing much to say here, but that this is the usual solid & fun Theater Showcase sketch, even when this piece is not amongst my favorites, it is still fairly solid. Fred’s leadership & command of the stage here is elevating the material in extant.
Musical Performance – “Pedestrian at Best”
- Jesse Nathan: Great lighting.
- Another intro that my inner rockhead is digging.
- Oof, Courtney’s vocals, while cool, were both inaudible and unintelligible, rendering them to complete gibberish.
- Hmm, the more this goes on, the more this seems like a complete mess, as the arrangement is starting to get worse, and Courtney’s pretty much just wailing as if she was drunk off her ass.
- What’s the point of adding effects to Courtney’s vocals?
- Boy, these lyrics are starting to feel rather rambly and unfocused.
- To say something positive, at least the guitarist and drummer are killing it.
- Okay, this performance is starting to feel way too overboard.
- Overall, (*sigh*) I wanted to like these two performances more than I actually did, especially seeing as how I have a soft spot for this type of rock music. Maybe Courtney Barnett just wasn’t ready for live TV, and I should probably listen to the studio recording to give this the proper judgment. Either way, I wish the season ended on a better note with its musical performances (though the next season’s finale isn’t any better).
The Harkin Brothers
- Ah, such a very fun, unique way to end a season of SNL with a full cast sketch, including even Colin & Michael!
- Yes! A Carrie Brownstein cameo! A one that feels quite fitting in a Fred Armisen-hosted episode.
- This sadly ends up being the final appearance of Taran & Jay on the show, as they’ll be fired after the season after a six-seasons tenure. And yes to a lesser extant of sadness, Jon’s final sketch ever before being fired after his one and only season on the show. While words cannot describe how shameful & unnecessary Lorne’s decision was in firing these two reliable, consistent, and professional vets, at least they both ended their tenure with style.
- Such a catchy & warm tune to this musical sketch, I’m 100% confident that this is a Fred Armisen-written or at least co-written piece, as it serves as a companion to his many music band sketches from his tenure, and an aspect that I always loved from him back in his days on the cast (with very few exceptions, of course), which has always made me happy to witness, and this HAS to be one of the most genuinely fun, charming, and epic season-closing sketches in SNL history.
- This sketch is so much fun that not even our SECOND Maya Rudolph cameo tonight is ruining it for me. It simply adds to the epic, warm, family feel to this sketch.
Cut For Time: Coat Check
- I’ve never seen this sketch before doing this review, so it will be interesting to break it down.
- A pretty slow sketch so far, and the audience is barely into it. While I get where the comedy in this sketch is supposed to be coming from, a further edit or two could’ve improved the pacing a little bit.
- Why is Cecily nearly cracking up? An inside joke or niche reference perhaps?
- Some laughs from the various absurd looking fur coats, and Fred is executing the sketch quite well, and Kyle is proving to be a solid straight man here.
- An actual funny & charming ending that put a big smile on my face, with an edit or two this overall average sketch could’ve been a little bit better.
Segments Ranked From Best to Worst
Farewell, Mr. Bunting
Hillary & Bernie
The Harkin Brothers
CFT: Coat Check
- A very strong season finale. Leaving two sketches that I didn’t care for aside, EVERYTHING else was great and received a rating in the 4-5 stars range from me, including four extremely strong pieces (Hillary & Bernie, Monologue, Finest Girl, and Farewell, Mr. Bunting), one of which (Farewell, Mr. Bunting) is a standout all-time SNL highlight. Those pieces most certainly make up for the lowlights in the episode, which were thankfully kept at a minimum. Fred was also a great host, and provided strong, fun performances all night long. I also loved the variety & uniqueness of the sketch concepts presented tonight, some of which catered not only to my comedic tastes, but also perfectly suited Fred’s strengths as a performer, in particular the Escape Pod & The Harkin Brothers sketches.
- This great season finale continue the tradition of this new era of having an absolute banger of a finale, much like the great season 40 finale with Louis C.K. and the also-great upcoming season 42 finale with Dwayne Johnson. It is too bad that the tradition is cut short with the season 43 finale, but we’ll get to that upon eventual review.
- Season 41 wrap-up with overall thoughts, hot takes, and data. Stay tuned!
3 Replies to “May 21, 2016 – Fred Armisen / Courtney Barnett (S41 E21)”
Fred Armisen is so great at making fun of one-man shows. I feel that at his best, he’s great. But at his worst, he’s fucking unwatchable. I too enjoy some of his musical pieces, mainly the one from his final episode, which is so enjoyable and feel-good for me.
Farewell Mr. Bunting is a goddamn classic for me. The long, serious set-up is perfect for when it finally gets to the head being chopped off. I don’t understand why my 11-year old cousin finds it traumatizing, as I’m pretty sure I would never find that traumatizing at that age.
And yes, Regine is awful. But I do feel that Jason almost salvages it, but not enough to make it good. That being said, his delivery of “Hey!” has always stuck out to me, as evidenced by the edit that I made on my YouTube channel.
Great job once again, and I can’t believe that we finished this season.
And now, the final calculation of 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
Dinklage – 8.3
Crowe – 5.5
Louis-Dreyfus – 7.5
Larson – 6.6
Drake – 6.1
Armisen – 7.6
Best Episode: Elizabeth Banks / Peter Dinklage – 8.3 (tie) (Runner-up: Tracy Morgan – 8.2)
Worst Episode: Donald Trump – 4.2 (Runner-up: Jonah Hill – 5.0)
Overall Average: 6.7
Musical performance averages:
Miley Cyrus – 6.5
The Weeknd – 7.0
Demi Lovato – 6.0
Sia – 8.0
Disclosure – 8.5
Adele – 7.0
Leon Bridges – 6.5
Chance the Rapper – 8.0
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – 8.3
Chris Stapleton – 8.5
Selena Gomez – 4.5
The 1975 – 5.5
Kanye West – 8.0
Future – 4.0
Ariana Grande – 6.5
Gwen Stefani – 5.5
Margo Price – 9.0
Nick Jonas – 5.0
Alicia Keys – 7.0
Drake – 5.5
Courtney Barnett – 6.0
Best Performance: Margo Price – 9.0 (Runner-ups: Disclosure and Chris Stapleton – 8.5)
Worst Performance: Future – 4.0 (Runner-up: Selena Gomez – 4.5)
Overall Average: 6.7
Hilary and Bernie ****
Loved this, it was also alot of fun.
Farewell, Mr. Bunting *****
The classic reveal is what makes this sketch well….. A CLASSIC.
Escape Pod ***
This was good, the ending was really funny.
CFT: Coat Check **
Ehhhhhh, didn’t care much for this.