Saturday Night Live is finding its rhythm with its largely new cast. This weekend's show, hosted by Lady Gaga, started out particularly strong, with the inevitable send-up of Toronto's crack-smoking mayor, Rob Ford.
Ford's already essentially a walking punchline, "so this was a 'go big or go home' moment" for SNL, says Gwynne Watkins at Rolling Stone. "Fortunately, Bobby Moynihan can do big." The jokes — Canadian accents and successive disastrous press conferences — are funny, but "it's Bobby's impression that makes this one work." Seriously, Watkins says, "if people aren't comparing Moynihan to Chris Farley yet, prepare for them to start now."
It's more than just Moynihan's physical comedy and willingness to turn the dial up to 11. It's that "beautiful sort of kismet" that hits SNL every once in a while, where "a public figure goes off the rails and an SNL comic is perfectly positioned to mock them mercilessly," says Gawker's Gabrielle Bluestone. "It happened for Will Ferrell with George Bush and Tina Fey with Sarah Palin." Moynihan was quite simply "born to play Rob Ford."
The juxtaposition of the polite Canadian news anchor and Moynihan's increasingly rambunctious Ford is worth sitting through the commercial for, but the ending really brings it home. As perfect as Moynihan's Ford is, compare Kate McKinnon's Lara Logan to the original, right down to the faint South African accent.
Changing gears: Many reviewers found the sketch below, a send-up of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, to be the highlight of the show. Lady Gaga plays an Apple Genius Bar employee on the power couple's morning talk show, Waking Up with Kimye:
Showing off the vocal talents of SNL's cast, this informercial for the worst cover songs of all time, featuring Taran Killam as the Counting Crows' Adam Duritz, is pretty good, too.
But the funniest non–Rob Ford moment of the show was Killam's "Weekend Update" appearance as Jedbidiah Atkinson, the editorial writer who penned the dismissive review of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in Harrisburg, Pa.'s The Patriot & Union. The real editorial was just recanted by The Patriot & Union's successor, The Patriot-News — 150 years later — but Killam has fun as the catty panner of all great speeches. You can hear anchor Seth Meyers laughing out loud during most of the segment.
I don't know if they can find a reason to bring the Atkinson character back, but I'd be surprised if Killam isn't a regular guest at "Weekend Update."