SNL Scorecard: Did Russell Brand Somehow Just Host the Best Show of the Season?

Never once in my life have I ever uttered the words, "You know what this movie needs? A little more Russell Brand." So when I heard Brand would be hosting an entire episode of Saturday Night Live (with confirmed a-hole Chris Brown as musical guest, to boot), I braced myself for the worst. My mistake: I have no idea how, but Brand just hosted the best SNL of the season.

I've had a theory for a while about nights like this: When SNL has a host who doesn't come with a huge built-in fan base or pre-written material (like Miley Cyrus will on both counts) and has no reservations about possible material -- especially in cases like Brand's, when expectations are already low -- this sparks the writers' creativity. And Lorne Michaels is likelier to let some edgier stuff air because, well, he's got nothing to lose. This was one of those nights. On to the scorecard...

Sketch of the Night

"British Movie " (Hader, Armisen, Brand): It's the new trailer for the new "Extremely British" Cannes award winner, Don' You Go Rounin' Roun to Re Ro, a film that's getting accolades such as "I don't thing I heard a single consonant." I have no idea where this came from -- Christ, it looks real! -- but this is the best thing to air on SNL all season. Our first perfect 10.

Score: 10

The Good

"Spider-Man Lawsuit" (Armisen, Moynihan, Killam): On any other show, this mock TV spot would have been the best sketch of the night. Armisen plays the chief of a sleazy personal-injury law firm that specializes in clients who have either performed in or attended Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark. Even "insulted the legacy of Spider-Man" is reason enough for a suit. Unfortunately, it seems that his awarded compensation usually involves... more tickets to Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. The best part: Armisen swinging by in-between scene changes.

Score: 9.0

"Weekend Update" (Meyers, Armisen, Killam, Pharoah, Hader): Meyers was, as usual of late, on. His best joke of the night involved a riff on congressman Christopher Lee and the need for an app that removes the cell phone from any picture. (Aquaman wasn't bad, either). Armisen was fine as Mubarak; Pharoah and Killam make an eerily good team as Lil Wayne and Eminem ("Knife!"), but of course the big news is that Bill Hader's Stefon is back. Stefon was great as always, but is it just me or did it look like Hader was kind of, let's say, embellishing one of his "breaks" around the 3:18 mark during the "human suitcases" line? I mean, imagine a Stefon without Hader laughing; would it be half as good? That's all I'm saying.

Score: 8.0

"Royal Taster" (Brand, Hader, Killam): This has to rank as one of the most over-the-top sketches in the history of SNL: Brand plays a king who treats his cook terribly -- so bad, in fact, that the cook point blank tells the King that he's going to poison him. Hader and Brand mug their way through and, somehow (I'm giving Hader most of the credit), it's funny. As an added bonus, you can now say that you've seen The King's Speech! (Sure, that line is such a non sequitur to the rest of the sketch but, really, why the hell not?)

Score: 7.0

"Russell Brand Monologue" (Brand): As stated, I'm not a huge Russell Brand fan, but Michaels was wise to just let Brand get on stage and do his thing. It was kind of a nice throwback to the old days of SNL when the host would do a whole routine on stage. Say what you will, but it is refreshing to have a host that can entertain the audience for almost a full eight and half minutes. To put this in perspective, Jesse Eisenberg's monologue was only four and half minutes.

Score: 6.5

"Livin' Single" (Bayer, Brand, Killam): What a week for Vanessa Bayer: Not only will Miley Cyrus be hosting in two weeks, but she gets a brand-new starring sketch. This sketch was fine, but the scene of Bayer riding around on Russell Brand put it over the line to enjoyable.

Score: 6.0

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  • Mike Ryan says:

    Not that I'm aware of?

  • Mace says:

    Couldn't agree more about "British Movie" and Stefon. During the Stefon bit, it almost seemed as if Hader had never seen his lines before reading them on the cue cards. It kinda looked like he would read them to himself, crack up about them, and then try to deliver them. Is it possible the writers prank him with totally new material for the live broadcast?

  • Ingrid says:

    I loved the British Movie skit. The critics quotes had me in tears.
    Eminem/Li'l Wayne were awesome. Stefon is Stefon, I am tired of him by now. The political stuff was boring, except for the George Washington skit, which I would have ranked higher than Mike did. Overall, Brand was funny and a good sport.

  • Patrick McEvoy-Halston says:

    "British Movie" was excellent. For me, on par with "Jeff'd."

  • Geoff says:

    Average for the season, but the season hasn't had a truly bad episode yet. British Movie, Royal Taster, and Weekend Update were all brilliant. The rest of the show was generally OK, with the exception of A Spot of Tea, which was the most annoying thing I've seen in years, and Brand's mustache in that sketch was really disturbing...
    I liked the closing sketch - missed opportunities maybe, but the sheer lunacy of Nancy Pelosi stabbing George Washington had me rolling.
    Fantastic show for Taran Killam. Hopefully this guy will be around for years. I want to like Vanessa, but she always sounds like she's yelling - she needs to dial it down a bit and let the mics do their work. Major kudos should also go to the costuming and set design people this week - a lot of period pieces this week, and everything looked really good!

  • Al says:

    "Vacation Giveaway" was god-awful as always. "George Washington" didn't really go anywhere. "A Spot of Tea" was mediocre.
    But I really loved the rest of this episode (minus Chris Brown, of course). Brand surprised me right out of the gate; I had no idea his stand-up was so...coherent!

  • Al says:

    Oy, I forgot to mention why I was so surprised: Aside from Brand's reputation, I saw him on The Late Late Show a few weeks ago, & he was a completely out-of-control, gibbering lunatic who almost broke Craig Ferguson's robot sidekick. Brand on SNL, however, was a total 180 of that.

  • lord-z says:

    As I understand it, the writers rewrite Stefon before airtime, so Hader is not always entirely sure how it is going to go. Though, yes, Hader seems to have taken everyone loving him cracking as Stefon as a carte-blance to crack in other sketches.

  • casting couch says:

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: DAMN HULU VIDEOS! I can't see them outside the US of A.

  • chuck says:

    "Livin' Single" felt like a peek into the show two seasons from now, and I didn't like what I saw.

  • Lorie says:

    Thanks for writing my post! I agree except I'm only tired of Stefon 'cause Hader can not stay in character and I would've ranked Brand's monolouge higher than Mike did.

  • APNDR says:

    Brand was much better than I expected, and I totally agree with you on the 10 for the British Movie sketch. And, in Hader's defense, I totally lost it on the "human suitcase" line too.
    But I can't quite believe that an SNL that has yet another overused Kristin Wiig recurring character sketch (and so early in the show) could be the top show of the season....

  • Justine says:

    I was definitely surprised at how much I loved Russell, he was great 😀 As for the Bill Hader issue, I don't care what he does cause I love him and he laughs mostly only when he's on the news, and it's okay cause Stefon is my fave 😀

  • Lisa says:

    That was definitely worth a 10, and I have seen my fair share of British movies.

  • Scraps says:

    Best of the season? Meh, this episode didn't do anything for me. I did like Samberg yelling "SEISMOGRAPH" in a old lady british accent though!

  • wtfwuwatching says:

    Best of the season???? You need professional help.