The announcement that comedian Louis CK would be hosting SNL was kind of a big deal because not only is CK one of the biggest names in comedy right now, but he’s such a notorious control freak (he writes and directs every episode of his TV show, of which he is also a producer, and only in the third season did he hire someone to share editing duties, not to mention the control he exerts over his live tours) there was always a question of if he would be able to give up the control needed to host SNL where he would not be the one calling the shots.
So how did he do? Pretty well, especially given no one was sure of CK’s abilities as a sketch comedian. He admitted to Jimmy Fallon that SNL was far outside his comfort zone, to the extent that he wanted to keep a sketch he hated in the show in order to push himself. (It had to be the mountain people/Zorg sketch because holy GOD that was an awful, awkward bit.) Overall, this was like pretty much every other SNL episode of the past few years—a little bit funny but mostly just okay. CK acquitted himself well as a host: he was present, he was game, and he was, for the most part, committed. His monologue consisted of his stand-up routine, mostly revolving around an old lady in the airport while stranded due to Hurricane Sandy. Lainey told me this bit didn’t work for her, but I think it was a nice introduction for people who might not be familiar with CK.
Speaking of Hurricane Sandy, though, I didn’t understand why the whole show wasn’t hurricane skits. The cold open was a press conference set up with Fred Armisen serving as Mayor Bloomberg and Bobby Moynihan as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The sketch wasn’t brilliant but it did feature one genius stroke—Bloomberg, speaking in Spanish, asking Latino citizens to have patience with the white people who can’t watch Homeland because they’ve lost power. Right there they were onto something real and borderline painful about the aftermath of the storm and the sort of post-disaster race relations and class differences that emerge. The only other Sandy sketch was a weak FEMA/Fox News bit that was not nearly as pointed or funny.
A large portion of the writing staff was stranded outside NYC, but surely someone in the building had a decent Sandy sketch in them. You would barely know anything of such magnitude had happened in the area at all. SNL isn’t particularly known for being topical, but when there is a once in a lifetime event in your own backyard, you should do more than just wave dismissively at it, right? It sort of felt like SNL saying, “Oh yeah that happened, but we weren’t inconvenienced at all.” Which…isn’t that the joke they made in the cold open? About the disparity of experience? That’s your material! That’s what you’re mining!
Although, to be fair, this episode did feature one of the most brilliant sketches SNL has produced in recent memory -- the Lincoln/Louie parody written by Seth Myers. CK has long been a comic’s comic—he’s one of the few comedians most everyone can agree is a cut above the rest—and Myers clearly wanted to do justice to his reputation. The sketch was a send up of CK’s show Louie, but it starred Abraham Lincoln. The material is hysterical, and it’s a spot-on take on CK’s show and his control over it (check out the fake credits). It’s a beautiful piece of comedy, and Louis CK hosting SNL will forever be justified by this four and a half minutes.