Saturday Night Live - Jon Hamm (And, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros)
I was going to write a blog about Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, whose debut album I just picked up yesterday, and currently has me quite aurally satisfied despite a litany of lukewarm reviews around the internet. It's a fun, '60s/'70s-influenced album that is not nearly as forgettable some have called it. In fact, Up From Below is just the kind of throwback, big-group album that balances out all of the colder, electronic-infused music I've listened to in greater quantities over the last two years. Certainly just acting as an opposing musical force does a not great album make, but there are few songs like "Home," which creates a near perfect folk-rock, Cash/Carter-like duet. The song is enjoyable and beyond even that, rousing, and motivating. Then, there's "Desert Song" nearly matching the complexity and dynamic of the '60s second-most-interesting supergroup Blind Faith. You could swear in listening to that track that a young Steve Winwood is on the mic. These songs are ultimately all heavily influenced, and lacking a lot of total originality, but that doesn't make them bad. The lyrics, unlike musical-abortion Owl City, are great, poet and down-home. And the music itself is enjoyable. "Black Water" sounds like David Bowie singing the blues. And because Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros excels at emulation, they are better than a band that cranks out shit calling it original. I'd never call it the best thing ever, but it's not a low F, or a 3 out of 5. It's a solid 4, a B- at least, and it's fucking fun. I realize that qualifying this post with a claim that I wasn't going to write about what I just spent a long paragraph on is a bit discrepant. I'm vast. I contain multitudes. Sue me.
This post is about last night's SNL hosted by Jon Hamm. Saturday Night Live falls under as much constant scrutiny as the late-seasons of The Simpsons. All that, "it used to be better" and "that show is shit" talk haunts every episode of every season. In retrospect, they become classic, but our expectations are so high that we aren't blown away anymore. We are predisposed to disappointment. Will Ferrell had plenty of unfunny shows on SNL. There have been gems scattered throughout the show's history, so it's unfair to say that it's mojo is permanently lost despite several mediocre episodes this year. But, last night, Jon Hamm hosted his second time and it was maybe the most absolutely hilarious episode of SNL that I've ever seen. I'd nearly call it transcendent. When James Franco hosted earlier this season it was funny, but some sketches were flat, or pointlessly drawn out. Not so for the Hamm episode. It opened strong and only got better, until a final sketch that was not only funny, but also divinely self-aware and meta. SNL deserves congrats for putting together an episode that tied together, and not only because the same guy was the host all night, but because there was a bit of a narrative there.
First, the monologue introduced a comfortable and charismatic Hamm discussing his previous acting roles in three short filmed sketches, culminating in a perfectly delivered Def Jam joke that literally had me laughing out loud before the first commercial break. Then there was a 1920s sketch, where the likable and very talented Kristin Wiig played an irritating spotlight thief to Hamm's pianist. The dancing cats were the saving grace. That and Will Forte's disgusted expressions. The sketch wasn't great. Wiig can do better, and has. Then came a Digital Short crafted after the Stephen King novel Thinner where Andy Samberg is cursed to have every gust of wind bring an oiled up, shirtless, sax playing Hamm to interrupt his life. Two things: Hamm's arrival via exploding psychiatrist Jason Sudeikis and the amazing ending made this sketch not just a repetitive set of "oh, he's doing something funny" jokes, but a long setup for a massive payoff. They wrote a good show here. Hamm playing new senator Scott Brown was fantastic. Laugh out loud again. And high marks for the Sports Show sketch that gave Kenan a chance to shine while Bill Hader made absurd alien noises and converted former-quarterback Frank Reich. The key part of last night's episode for me, though, was the exceptional Hamm & Buble commercial (pictured). Jon Hamm comes across as charming and secretly, but completely, insane. And Michael Buble, who was awesome as a musical guest, is also one fucking excellent actor. His look of fear and worry as he sings sweetly throughout the sketch is fantastic. Not everything there was a winner, but the Closet Organizer sketch, that mocked the As Seen On TV formula wonderfully (while giving Forte another great chance at physical comedy) was perfectly rounded up in the final bar sketch. SNL referenced itself, within one show, without all the undue winking and mugging. It came off as an honest sketch, that somehow populated the same world that the commercial came from. Just excellent. Update was okay. More Jersey Shore stuff, and good work by Seth Meyers as usual. But. But! SNL is still good. This shows how it can still be a riveting hour of television. It won't be so every night, but it's still possible. Watch Jon Hamm's episode on Hulu, here.
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