SNL Scorecard: Zach Galifianakis Does His Best to Save a Mediocre Show

Sparked by his "anything can happen" vibe and another brilliant monologue, I had high expectations early on in Zach Galifianakis's return to hosting Saturday Night Live. Unfortunately, the staff around Galifianakis didn't seem to know what to do with him -- and there was a lot of show left for things to go wrong.

It did occur to me along the way that Galifianakis is probably not the easiest guy to write for as a host. When left on his own, as he showed in the monologue, the guy is great at being "Zach Galifianakis." After that (for the most part), it was a crap shoot, and a baffling one to boot: "So you want to shave your head to resemble Mr. T? OK, well, how about right before the good nights?" Seriously, the guy would have done anything, and that stunt is saved for the good nights? Anyway, on to the scorecard...

Sketch of the Night

"Zach Galifianakis Monologue" (Galifianakis): A couple of weeks ago on the SNL: Backstage documentary that aired on NBC, Seth Meyers admitted that the monologue was by far the hardest thing to write -- pretty much having to choose between "questions from the audience" or "surprise walk on." But Galifianakis offered his a one-of-a-kind solution: a steady diet of non sequiturs and an Andy Kaufman-esque lip-sync rendition of "Tomorrow" from Annie to give the best SNL monologue since... well, the last time Galifianakis hosted.

Score: 9.5

The Good

"Comedy Tour" (Galifianakis, Brittain, Moynihan, Thompson): "Ooooo, Funky Boy!" David "Beef Jelly" Winfield, Goran "Funky Boy" Bogdan, Slappy Pappy and Pete "Airhorn" Shultz are the Kings of Catchphrase Comedy and they're back on tour. Somehow, some way, pretty much every single catchphrase that has ever been attempted in the last 30 years of comedy makes an appearance in this sketch. Brittain and Moynihan absolutely kill it here.

Score: 8.5

"Noodles" (Galifianakis, Pedrad, Moynihan, Elliott): Not on Hulu, sadly, this sketch definitely gets the award for oddest of the evening. Two parents try to explain to their kids what has happened to their dog, Noodles, who has died. But every excuse -- like "upstate on a farm" -- has huge holes in the story that the kids point out. Eventually the parents have to admit that Noodles died from autoerotic asphyxiation. (Update: There is a not the greatest YouTube clip available posted below.)

Score: 7.0

"Corn Syrup Commercial" (Pedrad, Wiig): Is it just me or did this one just kind of come out of nowhere? In the sense that it was a commercial parody and it was the second to last sketch of the night, I wanted to dismiss it just because it didn't air in its usual spot after the monologue. Regardless, after a second viewing, it's got a biting, multi-layered message that was a shame to see aired so late in the evening.

Score: 6.5

"March Madness Cold Open" (Thompson, Sudeikis, Pedrad, Hader, Armisen, Samberg, Wiig): Honestly this wasn't a very good sketch. It was almost just a cheap answer to the question, "Hey, how do we get Charlie Sheen into the cold open again?" Two things push it into the good: A (better late than never) Melissa Leo impression and Sudeikis's line about Nicolas Cage's last three films, "That's just an epic run of nonsense."

Score: 6.0

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  • Van Luray says:

    SNL has been mediocre for some time. Since they have become a schiel for the democratic party and has dedicated themselves to rediculing the up and coming Republicans, their writers have lost their edge.
    I used to watch them all the time. They were mostly on my DVR. They had great stuff. Then they went into politics and lost me 50%. I still see the show until the boring stuff shows up. Then I watch the grass grow.
    Today, they are vulnerable for competition. What made them great is being lost.

  • Jamie says:

    I concur with pretty much everything, except that I love Liam the Teenager Who Just Woke Up. But yeah, the Titanic sketch was almost annoyingly throw-away. How incredibly fresh and current, a Titanic sketch. Even worse: they covered that cross-dressing premise IN THE MOVIE.

  • tumblr says:

    Sarah Palin? Michelle Bachmann? Yeah, why bother making fun of people who do a much better job of it themselves?

  • Kristen says:

    After Zach's monologue I had such high expectations for the entire episode. Although this was leaps and bounds in front of Miley's efforts last week, the episode went downhill rather quickly with too many missed opportunities. Unfortunately that's a trend that's becoming too frequent with this show. I still love Zach and his beard, though.

  • Geoff says:

    Decent episode...good show for the women, actually. After the initial excitement of seeing "Winnipeg!" on the screen, the Canadian sketch kinda pissed my friends and I off. 4 minutes of tired annoying stereotypes and godawful accents.

  • Mike Ryan says:

    I've speant four days in Winnipeg... It wasn't like this sketch!

  • flemmy says:

    SCTV did the Canadian bit better thirty years ago. Monty Python did the Titanic bit better forty years ago.

  • tn says:

    My 50+ mother, who's watched SNL since the 70's, turned to me last night and said this was one of the worst episodes shes ever seen. I thought it perfectly summed up these last 2 awful seasons. Bill Hader has been on fire, good for him. I knew this season was in trouble when the writers botched the first episode with Amy Pohler. I mean, how do you have Amy Pohler as the host and have it still suck eggs? That takes "talent".

  • Al says:

    Noodles. Was. Brilliant. It's probably not on Hulu because of music clearance, same as the monologue (also brilliant).
    I thought the cold open's best moments were the little things: Thompson & Sudeikis praising each other's obtuse analogies, Dick Vitale going into cold storage, the Nic Cage joke, & Kim Jong-Il as a 4-time winner who wasn't even on the bracket this year. (I actually just found out about half an hour ago that Charlie Sheen's webcast is a real thing. I thought they'd made it up for the sketch.)
    "Comedy Tour" was clever, but too long...just like real promos for real shared-headline comedy tours.
    This was definitely the weakest "Scared Straight", but I still like the sketch.
    The real downside of the "Talk" sketch was just that nothing seemed to fit together. The only moment that really worked was Whoopi appearing at the end, the randomness of which probably would've been funnier if the rest of the sketch hadn't already seemed so random. (Also, I kinda like the actual show they're spoofing. Sharon Osbourne isn't nearly as manic as she was 10 years ago, & Sara Gilbert is fun. Plus, it's not as catty as The View.)
    Disagree totally on the Digital Short. They were going for cute instead of creepy this time, & it worked. (The one last year was funny too, just a different kind of funny.)
    Agree totally on the rest, especially "Celebrity Scoop" (the & the moose at least made it watchable) & "Titanic" (the ending just made it worse).

  • Jeremy says:

    'The Talk' was pretty funny! Especially Wiig's Chen and Elliot's Remini.It was funny throughout the sketch.

  • milessilverberg says:

    I guess different people grade SNL on different curves. After Zach's classic monologue (which prompted me to praise it as "worthy of the 70s era" all over the net), I actually dug in and watched the rest of the show. Because for once, I actually felt like I did in the 70s -- I had an open mind to what I hadn't seen yet.
    It's amazing how much funnier I found most things once I watched without the crossed-arm "I dare you to be funny" attitude that has been the default position for viewers since the mid-90s. And while sketches like Noodles and Titanic were random, they made me laugh because, hello, funny things happened in them. Thin as they were, they had the same flavor and attitude of many of the 'third-act' sketches in the 70s.
    And I thought the Talk parody was brilliant. Why? Because it showed exactly why the show is lame, and who is really to blame for it. Not poor exec-deer-in-the-headlights Sara Gilbert, but the motley crew she was stuck with, including

  • OldTowneTavern says:

    Mike, what are you seeing? This was an excellent show. Zach G. was fantastic. His opening was joyously unnerving. There's always an air of unpredictability that he brings to the show. But, the rest of the show kept pace. The only dud sketch of the entire night was the Canadian Bob and Doug McKensie rip off. Even Jessie J was good (thankfully she left "Do it Like A Dude" out of the set).

  • Mike says:

    The amateurishly stereotyped "Canadian" Celebrity Scoop sketch was so removed from any present day factor of Canadian identity that it fell flat on it's face right out of the gate. I mean really, did watching that sketch even remotely evoke any thoughts of people like Rachel McAdams, Dan Akroyd, Shania Twain or Ryan Reynolds? Terrible stuff - definitely the low point of a mediocre show.

  • ish says:

    WOW...this episode just clarified why Abby Elliot is one of the worst castmembers EVER!
    I mean "The Talk" sketch was already awkwardly not funny due to Abby's unfunny quips but then she totally drops the ball and screwed up her lines!!
    Watch it over and you can see her come unravel after her jokes don't go over with the crowd and she botches her question is what memorable character...what memorable moment...matter fact what funny joke has she ever even said!?...WHAT..Meryll Streep iceskating?...her godawful Katy Perry...or how bout Khloe Kardashian...UNREAL

  • Al says:

    Abby won me over with her Sally Field "Boniva" commercial last year.

  • RKD says:

    The shaved head bit at the end was a nod to his last hosting stint when he shaved his beard right before the last sketch - the beauty pageant talk show.

  • Mediocre? The prisoner skit was HILARIOUS. And Noodles and Corn Syrup were also good. The Stand Up Comic and Andy Samberg's as the news anchor guest falling asleep was even okay. It certainly wasn't great and had some flat-liners, but mediocre ... ?

  • Scraps says:

    Kids are your Kryptonite, The song 'Tomorrow' from 'Annie' is mine. This digital short was good and the monologue lost me with the song.
    Also, the Canadian sketch was far more racist than the Axe-Ask joke in the monologue...

  • hong kong handshake says:

    "Then they went into politics"
    Not sure how long you've been watching the show, but they've been spoofing republicans AND democrats for decades.
    The writers on SNL skewer lefties all the time. Get over yourself and your butthurt and maybe you'll notice that political comedy on SNL makes fun of all parties and opinions, not just the one you happen to think is superior.
    Btw, saying the show has lost its edge and inferring that it's boring, and then saying you still watch it, well, that sort of undermines your opinion just a little bit.

  • Dun Dun Dun says:

    Canadian isn't a race, it's a nationality. You can't be racist when you're not picking on a race.

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