The Best and Worst of Last Night’s ‘SNL’ with Ed Norton

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Edward Norton isn’t exactly known for his comedic talent — despite a fun turn in films like the underrated Death to Smoochy. The star of Fight Club, American History X, and Spike Lee’s 25th Hour immerses himself in his roles wholeheartedly, but he’s known as an assertive personality — an actor who has his own vision of how a character should be played. In other words: people wondered all week if Norton would be too boring, too inflexible, and too serious for SNL. It seems they were partly right. This week’s episode felt like a lame backdrop for a series of Norton’s best impressions — most of which weren’t very good. However, last night also boasted one of the strongest digital sketches we’ve seen in a long time. Find out more, below.

The Best

“Edward Monologue”

Norton addresses his uber serious persona immediately, letting us know that he was asked to host SNL thirteen years ago, but his intense Method acting approach delayed his debut until now. Alec Baldwin shows up to offer advice to the newbie and feed Norton a few lines to prompt the first of many impressions we’ll see during the night (meh). You can almost hear Baldwin straining not to take over the monologue, but he does pimp his new MSNBC talk show. SNL is milking the Miley Cyrus thing for dear life, because the singer also makes an appearance to announce a tour and wish Norton good luck.

“Autumn’s Eve”

From the makers of Summer’s Eve feminine products comes Autumn’s Eve, feeding our culture’s obsession with all things pumpkin during the chillier months of the year. I loathe finding another SNL gag about vaginas and women funny, but the ladies sell it.

“School Visit”

Officer Rosen (Norton) from the cops and classrooms program visits a school to discuss stranger awareness. Things spiral out of control when Nasim Pedrad’s student doesn’t understand why it’s bad to take candy from strange men in vans. Pedrad takes over the sketch, but that’s the reason I’m including it. Where the hell has SNL been hiding her this season?

“Halloween on the Steve Harvey Show”

Norton plays a great dorky character (himself?) – as evidenced by this sketch, in which he stars as the owner of a Halloween party supply store. He’s a guest on the Steve Harvey Show and has joined the host to discuss his love of costumes based on puns (cereal killer, face book, groan), but the pervy and clueless Harvey (Kenan Thompson) just doesn’t get it. Nothing spectacular here, but the bit has its moments.

“New Horror Trailer”

Ahhh, SNL, we could have just watched this Wes Anderson parody and called it a night. The “Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders” finds Norton playing Owen Wilson (with Noël Wells as Gwyneth Paltrow), who is being stalked by very cordial, masked intruders (they even write him a note on charming stationary, natch). No eye rolling at this Norton impression. And thanks for narrating, Alec Baldwin.

“Halloween Candy”

By far the weirdest, and maybe the best, sketch of the evening. Norton plays a John Waters-esque father who examines his Halloween candy with snarky asides aplenty. “Razor blades still in the pack,” he observes. “This time they’ll have to arrest me for generosity!”

The Worst

“Critter Control”

Norton and Brooks Wheelan play possum-loving yokels investigating a critter problem at an office building. Next.

“Drug Deal”

Here’s Norton’s Rain Man impression, which feels like it goes on forever.

“12 Days Not a Slave”

Awkward, inappropriate, and totally off, this spoof on Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave was the worst idea of the evening — particularly when the SNL writers used Aidy Bryant to make a “black guys love chubby chicks” joke. Miley makes her second appearance of the night, too.

“Weekend Update: Anthony Crispino”

I’d be ok with Bobby Moynihan retiring this character.

“Ruth’s Chris”

Everyone who works at Ruth’s Chris is a virgin, but the staff busts out their best sex moves in awkward fashion. Unfortunately, it wears thin almost immediately. (Points for Cecily Strong’s “sexy Dracula,” though.)