We’re in the homestretch of SNL’s 39th season, and the series makes a lively return with Spider-Man’s Andrew Garfield. Real-life girlfriend and Spidey co-star Emma Stone has hosted the show before, but this will be our first opportunity to see what kind of comedic chops Garfield has to offer. The Social Network actor seems ready for anything and is quite likable. The featured players take a backseat in the episode, and SNL invites some new talent to the “Weekend Update” segment. The series has had weeks to refresh its repertoire, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a few familiar faces. See what risks paid off, and what didn’t, below.
“Donald Sterling Press Conference Cold Open”
Bobby Moynihan takes on the role of Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers who was banned from the NBA after his racist comments went public. The sketch tackles the unpleasant issue head-on and brings the cold open back to its topical roots.
“Andrew Garfield Monologue”
Garfield’s high energy is an uplifting way to start the show. SNL wastes no time bringing Emma Stone to the stage. The actress has great delivery and presence, but it would have been nice to see Garfield shine on his own. The actor winds up feeling like an adorable, yappy pup bouncing around for attention. And yes, Spider-Man is indeed British.
“Celebrity Family Feud”
Another celebrity game show sketch means more cast impressions — always a welcome addition to the lineup. I suspect Justin Timberlake would be a good sport about Garfield’s impression, which is damn near spot-on and captures the performer’s swagger. Kate McKinnon’s Shakira and Taran Killam’s Russell Crowe aren’t as engaging, and I guess Noël Wells was only good for one line spoofing Reba McEntire (ugh, that’s the real spelling of her last name?). Can we have an entire sketch of Kenan Thompson’s Steve Harvey flirting with Aidy Bryant’s Adele, but done Chris Kattan and Cheri Oteri’s horny-couple-who-can’t-control-themselves-style?
Yes, yes, yes.
“Weekend Update: Olya Povlatsky on the Ukraine, Leslie Jones, Jebidiah Atkinson Reviews Broadway Plays”
Oh how I missed you, Olya Povlatsky. The feisty Russian villager makes her return to the “Weekend Update” desk for the first time post-Seth Meyers to discuss the Ukraine conflict. Instead, she celebrates the fact that Full House is airing for the first time in her hometown. Then, “in-house image expert” Leslie Jones arrives. She’s the comedian who was hired alongside LaKendra Tookes to join the writing staff. Jones has been doing her thing for a while now and was featured in her own comedy special on Showtime called Problem Child. Her energy and presence instantly perk things up, and the topic is edgier than anything SNL has done in a while. Jones’ performance feels like a throwback to the show’s wilder times. I hope she’ll be back soon. Jebidiah Atkinson also makes a return to spew some nastiness about Broadway plays. “Weekend Update” has been on a slow decline since Meyers left. Overall, it often feels as though Cecily Strong requires a pitch-perfect routine to truly shine. She does an adequate job at holding down the desk, but Jost is still wooden as hell and forgettable.
“The Bird Bible”
This one’s a repeat from the March 2 episode. SNL couldn’t find time to come up with something original after nearly a month off the air? Not good, writers.
From the makers of Spanx comes Stanx. This is the meta version of SNL‘s old reliable: the fart joke.
Cecily Strong is Deirdre — the adult, American woman who somehow happened to find her way inside the Oliver Twist orphanage and wants more gruel. Confusion and a weak character do not a good sketch make.
The Spider-Man series’ dark secret is that Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy and Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker don’t know how to kiss. It was goofy fun for a hot minute — but then SNL added Coldplay’s Chris Martin into the mix for another lame isn’t-it-hilarious-when-two-men-kiss bit. Enough already.
Garfield’s character interrupts a wedding to confess his love for new bride Britney. She declines, and things get awkward when we learn that he’s actually the best man, and his wife, also in attendance, is the maid of honor. Garfield tries his damnedest, but the material just isn’t there.
Cold Play Performances: “Magic” & “A Sky Full of Stars’