Mike Millburn: Justin Timberlake on Saturday Night Live Recap
“It’s amazing how a new uniform can change your attitude about a guy.” – Bob Uecker, Major League II
Truer words have never been spoken about how I used to view Justin Timberlake. As the lead face of ‘N Sync, he inspired nothing but personal contempt – but then again, so did boy bands in general (except 2gether of course). But once he went solo, I surprisingly found myself able to tolerate his music. In the decade-plus since he dropped Justified, one could safely say I’ve become a fan of his. However, since his split from Joey, JC, Lance and Chris, one thing has become more abundantly clear than anything else:
This dude is pretty damn funny.
That’s right – the same guy who used to slum it with Ryan Gosling in The Mickey Mouse Club has quite the penchant for comedy. So needless to say, I was pretty excited when I found out that JT would be hosting the venerable Saturday Night Live for the fifth time this past weekend. Did his performance stack up to his previous four efforts?
Cold Open – Hugo Chavez memorial: Stories in the news have long been staples of the cold open, and this week’s show was no different. Deceased Venezuelan president (and Sean Penn BFF) Hugo Chavez was the target this week, as a mustachioed Fred Armisen introduced Elton John (Timberlake) to pay Chavez tribute. To the tune of “Candle in the Wind”, Timberlake begins praising random facts about Chavez’s life (how he banned Coke Zero, how capitalism killed Mars, and that the U.S. causes earthquakes). Coupled with the face JT makes as he intros the show, the cold open works. 7.5/10
Monologue: A tricky thing for any host, the monologue often sets the pace for the show. Being that this is Justin’s fifth time hosting, he describes how he has been granted admission to “The Five-Timers Club” and is gracious enough to give us a tour. Some highlights:
- Steve Martin: “I always figured if an ‘N Sync member would make the Five-Timers Club, it would be Joey Fatone”
- Martin Short doing the Three Amigos salute
- Alec Baldwin and Tom Hanks (the last host to get the Five-Timers treatment) watching current cast members Bobby Moynihan and Taran Killam fight to the death
A few other big names show up to wish Justin well, but I won’t spoil them for you. It’s a monologue that’s too good to miss. 9/10
Game Show – It’s A Date: Justin’s last time doing a game show sketch (“What’s That Name?” with Lady Gaga) was outstanding, and this dating show didn’t disappoint either. Bill Hader plays the host, a role he traditionally plays in the show’s game show sketches, and introduces three bachelors who will compete for Vanessa Bayer’s affection. Her choices:
- An architect (Moynihan) who thinks her voice sounds lovely
- The “D*ck in a Box” guys (Andy Samberg and Timberlake) who say she sounds like a real tenderoni and “want to freak her in the back of a PT Cruiser…rental”
- George and Yortuk, the Festrunk Brothers (Dan Akroyd and Steve Martin) – the original wild and crazy guys (watch an episode of SNL from the ‘70s if you’re unfamiliar)
I don’t even know where to start with this sketch. The two duos are clearly the highlights (JT and Samberg’s songs are all great), but Moynihan is also good as the guy who soon realizes he has no chance of winning (“Oh I’m gonna lose!”). This may be one of the best sketches of the entire season. 10/10
[Editor’s Note: I haven’t stopped saying “rail her butt” since I heard the D*ck in a Box guys say it. Line of the night.]
Veganville: Each of Justin’s preceding appearances have seen him dressed in a ridiculous outfit (omelet, a bowl of soup, and a breast implant) doing his best Weird Al impression and changing popular songs that reflect the outfit that he’s wearing. This time he’s a giant piece of tofu, squaring off against a sausage maker (Moynihan) while promoting the healthy restaurant Veganville. If you’ve seen one of these sketches in the past, you know how this goes…except this one has 2 Chainz and a Harlem Shake (“Drink a vegan shake”). Enough said. 9.5/10
Commercial – Nuva Bling: A contraceptive covered in diamonds that doubles as an earring after you’re done using it? Who wouldn’t want to wear that? 9/10
Musical Performance – Suit & Tie: Awesome performance of an awesome song. Jay-Z even showed up on stage wearing enough jewelry to make Mr. T pity the fool. 10/10
Weekend Update: One of the best recurring characters on the show the last few years is Bill Hader’s Stefon, mostly due to the fact that he can never keep a straight face throughout the sketch. This can be attributed to former SNL writer John Mulaney, who used to intentionally change the cue cards before the show in an effort to trip up Hader. More hilarity ensues this time around, as Stefon recommends more of New York’s hottest clubs. If you’ve ever wondered what Donald Duck would sound like having a Vietnam nightmare, you’ll want to check this out. 9/10
Had the episode ended right after Weekend Update, it would’ve been an all-timer. But unfortunately, the writers have to fill 90 minutes each week. Time to begin the steep nose dive.
The Tales of Sober Caligula: Timberlake suits up as Caligula who, to the chagrin of his followers, has abandoned his hedonistic lifestyle to go on the straight and narrow path. No more orgies – now it’s game night! It’s a painful sketch from beginning to end. You’ll be thankful that your DVR has a fast-forward button. 1/10
Maine Justice: Apparently this sketch debuted during Jamie Foxx’s episode in December (which I missed). As far as I’m concerned, it should have stayed in that episode. People in Maine acting like Cajuns? Eh, no thanks… 2.5/10
Musical Performance – Mirrors: A second track of the upcoming album. A little different from Suit & Tie, but still pretty solid. 8.5/10
Movie Trailer – She’s Got a D*ck: JT pines after a girl (Nasim Pedrad) with a secret. I’ll let you guess what it is. 3.5/10
Moet & Chandon: Another sketch from Jamie Foxx’s episode. This one at least has a few laughs, with Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong as former porn stars pitching a champagne whose name they can’t even pronounce. Justin shows up later as Ricky V.I.Penis, an adult film star who only does ‘feminist porn’ and encourages the viewer to drink “Monica & Chandler Champagne”. The porn ‘stache and jean shorts really tie the whole outfit together. And remember – the best gift you can give a loved one is champagne (or is it oral?). 7.5/10
Conclusion: This is the kind of episode the SNL writers are able to do with a host that’s willing to make a fool of himself. Yes, the majority of the sketches were retreads, but that’s not always a bad thing when they’re the right sketches. These ones were definitely the right ones. The “____ville” sketches have gotten progressively better, and anytime Justin teams up with Andy Samberg, it’s typically a hit. If he would have brought back Jimmy Fallon for another edition of Barry Gibb Talk Show, this show would have been perfect. Be that as it may, Justin truly seems to enjoy himself when he hosts, which helps us enjoy it too. 9/10
So there you have it – the latest effort from the newest member of the Five-Timer’s Club. Is it his best overall effort? I would have to say yes; despite the awful Caligula sketch, there were just too many pluses. In fact, I’m going to go as far as to say that Justin Timberlake is the best host the show has had in the last decade. His five shows stack up just as well as any other actor/musician/personality with multiple appearances over the same time frame. And with the news that this episode gave the show its highest ratings in 14 months, I think it’s an open and shut case.
See you next season, JT.
– Mike Millburn