Spoilers for the excellent latest episode of "Saturday Night Live" coming up just as soon as I once and for all abandon my dreams of a Hawaiian vacation...
Dwayne Johnson is, in many ways, the ideal "SNL" host. He combines the game-for-anything attitude that most pro athlete hosts bring to the show (think Peyton Manning hitting underprivileged kids with footballs, or Tom Brady sexually harassing people in his underwear, or, here, the musical monologue about how Hollywood has changed him) with the kind of versatility (at least, as versatile as a guy built like The Rock can be, like his Dennis Rodman impression in the "Celebrity Apprentice" promo sketch) you get out of the better actor-hosts.
Because of those two traits, and some decent premises to go with them, Johnson was at the center of one of this season's stronger episodes. It may not have had some of the highs of the Jon Hamm or Anne Hathaway shows, but it was more consistently funny throughout. And I don't think it's a coincidence that the few sketches that didn't work -- the Tim Geithner cold open (which had a decent idea but took way too long to get to it and then went on too long with it), another Jamie Lee Curtis Activia commercial -- didn't feature Johnson at all.
(One Johnson-less bit that did work: the return of MacGruber vs. MacGyver, this time actually playing off the rivalry instead of using it to sell a soft-drink. Or did the Pepsuber incident ruin the character for those people who didn't already hate him?)
The Rock Obama was the first really funny Obama sketch they've done in a long time (probably going back to the first Obama/Clinton debate bit), in part because they sidelined Fred Armisen for most of it in favor of Johnson (who did a nice blend of Armisen-as-Obama impression and '70s comic book Hulk impression), and because there was an interesting idea behind it. Also, you can kind of tell that the "SNL" writers are just as frustrated with Obama as Rahm Emmanuel was in the sketch, maybe not because he won't get angry, but because he won't give them any kind of personality quirk that's easy to parody.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the point in the review where I have to remind you of this blog's No Politics rule. If you can't discuss the sketch and only the sketch, don't comment. Period.)
Johnson was mainly a straight man in "Gametime with Dave & Greg," which started off with what seemed like a lame presence (alien not-so-secretly co-hosts a sports-talk TV show) but embraced that premise with such insane abandon (helped by a great Bill Hader performance) that I laughed harder at that than any sketch in recent memory.
Johnson and Armisen as bitter entertainers at a Hawaiian hotel also seemed like a premise that could have gotten one-note quickly, but had enough variations within that note, plus the image of Johnson doing a good grass skirt dance, to carry it. And the lighthouse sketch was the sort of amusingly weird thing they can throw up at 12:50 a.m. just for the hell of it. (It also featured a classic element of live sketch comedy, dating back to Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca in "From Here to Obscurity": seeing actors try to keep a straight face when they're getting repeatedly doused with water.
The two best things in Weekend Update unfortunately aren't up. One was Seth Meyers' list of things Iran would have to apologize for before America apologized for "The Wrestler," proving once again that Meyers is often at his best when he's just getting mad. The other was the bit with Andy Samberg as Cathy from the comic strips, and then cameos by Justin Timberlake as Irving and Jessica Biel as Jessica Rabbit. (See, it's funny because they're both named Jessica...) Samberg's Cathy isn't as good as Tina Fey's Cathy ("Chocolate chocolate chocolate! Ack!"), but Timberlake was brilliant as usual, and I can't figure out why this one's not available on-line. (Though if you poke around on YouTube, you might find a version before the NBC legal team goes to work.) Unlike the Timberlake/Beyonce sketch from the Paul Rudd episode, there aren't any music rights issues at work.
What did everybody else think?