Wow. That hasn't happened in awhile. I actually laughed--a lot--at tonight's Saturday Night Live. With freewheeling, just-happy-as-#$%^!-to-be-here host Gerard Butler and the cast doing barely controlled insanity, it's the most conistently funny SNL I've seen in way too long.
Click here for Gerard Butler SNL photo bumpers and sketch videos!
The night started strong with a political opener that was spot on--President Obama getting so angry at his Republican rivals over health care that he hulks out--into The Rock Obama. Yes, that's right, we got to see Fred Armisen transform into The Rock, who was pretty funny as he combined smooth Obama calmness with angry Hulk arm-detaching.
Gerard Butler then did the monologue, talking about how he generally did two types of films: shirt off (action), and shirt on (sensitive role). To show his range, he sang "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera--then fended off groups of warriors, ninjas, and Kristin Wiig--who threatened him at knife point to take off his shirt. Sadly, he disarmed her and his shirt stayed on.
Next up, Kenan Thompson did a hilarious commercial spoofing rap star cliches, selling extra bubbly wine made for pouring over women's behinds--it's one of those things that can't be explained in print. It was just satirical and crazy and just plain funny--a sketch Eddie Murphy would have been proud of in his SNL days.
Other highlights included the two gay guys from Jersey talking about Obama's proposed repealing of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the military, and then a 300 sketch about the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the Spartan army. Playing on gay themes in 300 isn't all that original, but seeing all the guys in leather panties and chestplates was funny enough, and all the silly puns worked. They also took a playful jab at Butler, with Leonidas' men saying no one was convinced he was even born in Greece--frustrated, Leonidas presented them with a stone tablet birth certificate. (Butler is a great actor, but he definitely is known for his dodgy accents.)
Weekend Update's Seth Meyers tried to ignore the boy in the balloon story since "it wasn't news", until the balloon itself showed up. That's SNL at its ridiculous best, when a helium balloon floats into frame and says "Hi, Seth," in a forlorn voice.
One of the latest sketches had Kenan Thompson giving it his all as a singing talk show host who ignores his guests--one of whom happened to be James Franco--as he continually bursts into song. This was a riot because of everything going on in the background, for each time he launched into a new song, more people would come onto stage--backup singers, dancers, and Gerard Butler pimped out in white suit and big white sunglasses and a cane. And you haven't lived until you've seen Jason Sudeikis in a red track suit and gold chain doing the running man. Sudeikis was doing some serious moves back there, all in perfect white boy hilarious style.
And then there was the Beauty and the Beast sketch, with Wiig and Butler--where the Beast confessed he thought she was the beast. Once again you kind of have to see it to believe it, with trash talk by the clock and the beast, and you don't even want to know what's been going on with the tea pot. Then there's Lumiere, who's only attracted to candelabras--though once in college he dated a menorah.
To add to the fun, sponsor Budweiser was the only one who had commercials tonight--and as a trade for this monopoly of air time, they gave us behind the scenes clips of dress rehearsals of previous SNL sketches. There was Darrell Hammond getting extra friendly with a burro, and Jimmy Fallon and Sean Hayes cracking up even more than they did on the air at Will Ferrell and his mini-cellphone-using character. Even better was Harvey Keitel giggling uncontrollably during a Native American casino sketch, no doubt because it was impossible not to laugh at Rob Schneider wearing long raven hair in double braids--which Keitel was also sporting.
All in all, one of the more entertaining Saturday Night Live episodes I've seen. It was just pure bedlam and that's when it's the best. Since I knew Gerard Butler was ridiculously good-natured and goofy in real life, I was hoping it would transfer over to the show and it did. Here's hoping they bring him back again--he may not be quite as crazy as Alec Baldwin, but he's pretty game for general insanity.
Watch Saturday Night Live on NBC, Saturday nights at 11:30/10:30c.
PHOTO: SNL promo screencap, c2009 NBC.