'Saturday Night Live' recap: Ed Helms hosted -- or did he?

Ed Helms is a terrific comedian. He’s proven that over and over again as a correspondent on The Daily Show, Andy Bernard on The Office, Stu in The Hangover, and Tim in Cedar Rapids. But you wouldn’t know it from his first SNL hosting stint last night. In fact, you might not even have known that Helms hosted the show at all if you tuned in after the opening monologue. The actor barely had two minutes of screen time in the first hour, and his only lead part in a sketch came in a tepid, Republican candidate fauxmercial near the very end of the show. Not that he didn’t do his best in his brief moments on screen — but when the credits rolled, we found ourselves wondering less about how he was than where he was.

At least things started on a decent note. The Wolf Blitzer cold open left us cold as usual, but Helms delivered his one moment of really inspired comedy in his monologue, when he stripped down to a star-spangled unitard and demonstrated his (surprisingly good) baton-twirling skills. (NBC hasn’t posted the clip.)

Then came a re-used corn syrup commercial, followed by the umpteenth edition of “What’s Up With That?”, this time with Paul Simon, Glee‘s Chris Colfer and Bill Hader’s Lindsey Buckingham. Helms made a fun cameo for a few seconds as Sexy Banjo Man — and was immediately overshadowed by an appearance from the real Lindsey Buckingham.

Next we got a nice change of pace: A new edition of Rob Smigel’s classic “Ambiguously Gay Duo” cartoon that morphed into a live action sketch, starring Jon Hamm and Jimmy Fallon as the crimefighters, with Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell and Helms as the villains. The video (which took the place of the usual digital short) didn’t have a ton of big laughs, but we give it credit for trying something so conceptual — and packing so many great stars into one sketch.

Paul Simon’s musical interludes were pretty enough, but the show could’ve used a more high-energy performer to make up for the middling sketches.

Then came more leftovers: a “Weekend Update” filled with reused characters, a new version of the sketch (does it have an official name?) where a group of guys deliver zingy stories in between verses of a song — this time, Cat Stevens’ “Wild World.” Except, sadly, none of the stories were all that zingy this time — including Helms’ lines about Porta-Potty photography. At least the Human Centipede reference at the end was unexpected. (Paging Clark Collis…)

The show wrapped up with a string of one-joke sketches: “One Take Tony” (with Helms as an old-time movie director), Kirsten Wiig as a dance-crazy Ann-Margret, and Helms’ one starring part as an anonymous Republican candidate in a campaign ad.

Overall, it was a snooze of a show — all the more disappointing since Helms had such promise as a host. In fact, our biggest jolt of excitement all night might’ve come when they flashed the names of the guests for next week’s season finale: Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga. Here’s hoping they’ll help SNL end this season on a high.


Comments (178 total) Add your comment
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  • DTO

    I dig Ed Helms, but that show was boring. When ads for THE HANGOVER PART 2 and BRIDESMAIDS are funnier than the show you’re actually watching, the show is in trouble.

    • Miffy

      I’ve never been able to stomach Ed Helms, with his stupid songs and his giant horseteeth. He isn’t nearly as funny as he thinks he is.

      • jake jenkins

        I agree. Ed Helms is awful and not very funny. He should have stayed on The Daily Show. Also, he does have terrible horse teeth. Man, he floped so hard on SNL it was actually shocking. Bad sign for the Hangover 2.

      • matt

        But let me guess, you think Will Ferrell is hilarious for the same reasons.

      • Matt

        “matt” is not me. Don’t let him fool you. I’m wondering if Will Ferrell backed into his grandma, or something. Can anyone confirm that?

  • Marshal Knight

    I thought it wasn’t funny at all really, but Weekend Update had a few good laughs and I really enjoyed the Ann-Margaret sketch…LOVED IT!

    • Sue

      Arrgh! I didn’t see the Ann Margaret thing.. Hope it’s repeated…

      • Alicia

        It was hilarious! If you are even familiar with Ann Margaret, you would appreciate this sketch. I do love Kirsten Wiig. I don’t care that some people don’t like her…she brightens up the cast! Well done!

      • Ann-Margaret

        That sketch was NOT funny.

      • Ann-Margret

        I thought it was the cat’s pyjamas. Note the cultured British spelling of “pyjamas.” Note it again.

    • Richie

      Got to agree. I think Wiig did an amazing send-up of Ann Margaret.

  • Daniel

    I think the writers and powers are saving their mojo for Timberlake/Gaga next week.

    That said, this was an atrocious episode. High points: Ambiguously Gay Duo redux; Paul Simon; heck, even What up with that was kinda decent–and when that’s gem original sketch, you know you’re in trouble. (The real) Lindsey Buckingham showed up, and I enjoyed watching Paul Simon in the background grooving to Lindsey playing “Big Love” guitar solo. Also like imagining the conversation with Chris Colfer with the producers, “Hey Chris, we want you for a sketch, but you’re just going to sit there. You in?” He was a good sport.

    Rest: Pretty much trash. No agreement on the throwing paper away–thought it was bad; so was Update, and all the guests (including Will Smith via Jay Pharoah); Singing guys was subpar, cold open bad, it was just all around a heartbreakingly weak episode.

    • cinders23

      Even Lindsay Buckingham coming out didn’t wake up the audience. I was thinking they may not have know who he was! He obviously lives in CA, lots of work done on his face. Course I could say that about Paul Simon, too. Yup, I kept waiting for Ed Helms to be in a clever sketch. It just didn’t happen, which is too bad cuz I think Ed Helms is multi-talented and very funny.

  • Skye Hill

    What the hell is EW pimping Ed Helms for? I like the guy but it became immediately apparent during his monologue that he was too nervous for the gig. He stumbled over ALL of his lines. There’s no wonder why they removed most of the skits that involved him. He’s not made for live TV.

    • mickey

      That was my feeling too. He just ended up being so nervous for live television that they had to pull him from alot of the skits.

    • DTO

      Put him in a movie or a scripted TV show or a taped segment for TDS and he’s great, but he lacks the ease in front of a crowd that many of his TDS alums have. Or maybe he knew he had bad material to work with and was perplexed about what to do with it.

      • erin

        um, SNL is a scripted TV show. It’s not improv.

      • Joker’s Lady

        He wasn’t nervous! He’s been a stand up comedian and played at banjo concerts live, I didn’t see the nervousness, you wanna see nerves, watch jesse eisenberg’s opening monologue.

    • joe

      Ed Helms was with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade and has worked as a stand-up. He wasn’t nervous.

  • NPP

    I think SNL may be trying to top themselves when it comes to worst episode of the year. It’s sad that there have been some flat out bombs this year and only two or three truly funny shows this season. Other than the cold opening, which I liked the tone of, there was nothing funny on last night’s episode.

  • JLAJRC

    THis episode will be known for one thing only. The now CLASSIC LIve action Gay Duo sketch. I now want a movie.

  • Lizzie

    Ambiguously Gay Duo was SO FUNNY! But all i could look at was Jon Hamms really big neck!!

    • TorontoTom

      “Quick, Gary – come on my back!”

    • Sue

      Think all the SNL energy was put into that bit and all the other stuff was just fluff……

    • Tom

      Anyone know who played the Lizard in the live action part? Everyone else turned out to be someone famous so it’d be interesting to know who it was

      • Big Bad Voodoo Lou

        Probably Armisen. He can play every race there is, so why not be a lizardman too?

      • Colleen

        It was Fred Armisen. Only funny part of the show.

  • Donald

    It was an excruciating show with an emphasis on one-note characters who exist only to be annoying. It may be time to bring back Jean Doumanian.

    • Kelisha888

      Ouch!!

  • noa

    oops- it’s not Ken Tucker! how confusing. anyway, Adam- hope this answers your question.

  • MV

    I DVR the show every week. I did not know who Ed Helms was until he mentioned The Hangover. WTF were they thinking having him host? The only time I laughed was when Kristen Wiig did Ann-Margret. They should of had Betty White host again. SOMETHING, ANYTHING would have been better!

    • Daniel

      Also former Daily Show correspondant, and on the Office.

      • Sara

        Just because you don’t know him doesn’t mean he’s not funny. Some of the best shows this season have been hosted by lesser-known but still famous people (Galifinakis, Eisenberg) while A-listers have sucked (Robert de Niro.) That being said, the episode was weak overall, but I did enjoy the Anne Margaret and ambiguously gay duo sketches. And, of course, Paul Simon. I actually found Ed’s nervousness endearing and wish they would have at least given him a few more opportunities to prove himself. It was not his fault the show was lame. He was virtually MIA, as were Nasim, Paul, and Taran.

      • Matt

        Right on the money, Sara; everything is becoming so niche now, anyways, they should focus on lesser-known actors (who are on shows/projects with cult followings), who would be good at comedy. Like some of the character actors on Mad Men. I felt like they missed a chance to have more actors from Lost. They could have even had a bunch of cast members host on the same night. People don’t get as excitd about A-Listers anymore. And like you said, a component of that apathy is probably from the fact that they oftentimes suck.

    • joe

      Ed Helms is not exactly unknown. Sorry he’s never been on Dancing with the Stars, where the REAL celebrities are.
      The suckiness of the show cannot be blamed on him in any stretch of the imagination.

  • MOO

    I just have one question. Where the hell was Loren Michaels? Did he not see a Titanic size disaster in the making? That show was beyond BAD.

    • David

      Lorne Michaels is the problem! He allows sub-par writing and allows the writers to overuse old sketches and characters. SNL does little that is imaginative. They are at their best when they do parodies, but they seem to have lost the art of even making those funny.

      SNL needs a new executive producer and a whole new batch of comedy writers.

    • Tempi

      That was what I was thinking during the show! I haven’t watched SNL in at least 10 years but I watched last night to see Ed Helms but he wasn’t there. You hear about how hard it is to get skits on air because Lorne is so picky but as I watched that garbage I thought “This is the cream of the crop? Then this crop needs cut.”

      • Joker’s Lady

        Maybe in his old age, he’s kind of given up on quality? like old college professors who just give all A’s or all F’s because they’re bored with their job. I think it’s time for Loren Michaels to go, I was pissed when he said that Wig was the best comedian on the show, I was like what about Armisen or Hader?

      • Lisa London

        I love him to bits but isn’t Seth Meyers the head writer? Shouldn’t he share some of the blame? It’s his job to get good writing on screen.

  • Mads

    Can we sign a petition that will discontinue the “What’s Up With That” sketch. It’s the same every time and it’s not funny.

    • Sue

      Agreed..he could stay in character but do something else..

    • Misha Lauenstein

      They should have enough segments now to release a DVD of all What’s Up With That episodes.

      • Toots

        Uh oh, I smell a “What’s Up With That?” movie!!!!

    • TimoD

      I agree 100%!! When “What’s Up with That” is the first sketch after the monologue you know the entire show will be bad – so it’s off to bed. And enough of the Barack Obama opening sketches – they are consistenly terrible!

  • Susan

    A lot of the show was boring but I found the “Ambiguously Gay Duo” short film was really very funny. Best thing on the show last night.

  • KH

    I thought the opening monologue was really weak. The “whats up with That” sketch was very funny as was the “Ambiguously Gay Duo” sketch. Paul Simon still was it. His songs where very unique. The show overall this week was good. Ed Helms was MIA though. Kristen Wig’s Ann Margaret was a surprisingly good character for her.

    • Pope Carmelita I

      I remember soon after Kristen Wiig appeared, she did an impression of Megan Mullally (in Karen Walker mode), and she nailed it. I thought “She’s one to watch”

      I never saw her do Megan again, and as we all know she seemed to create a stable of obnoxious and annoying characters and ran them into the ground. She has already declared Penelope and Gilly retired (thankfully). Maybe Penelope should take over “What’s Up With That?” and then never have any of those skits again. (It would be in Penelope’s character, and would be the only twist that would warrant WUWT again. And could actually be funny…and have Lindsay Buckingham back to explain his twin)

      Or will she do Ann-Margaret every week now and run that into the ground too? Your move, Kristen…

  • TC

    I was thinking the same thing, too – where WAS he?? I’ve been waiting for Ed Helms to host SNL for awhile, and I was so excited to see what he would do. He was so underused – it was such a shame. Who wrote these sketches?! It was like when Brian Cranston hosted – two very talented actors and comedians forced to submit to terribly unfunny sketches on SNL. He could’ve sang some song on the piano, like he did in the promo (would’ve loved to hear some version of “what do tigers dream of”) – and used his impressive banjo skills to better use. Retire that damn “what’s up with that” sketch, please.

    • SaraS

      Not only was Ed missing, but EVERY female SNL member was as well. Why doesn’t anyone get a line except for Kristen Wiig? Oh, it’s because Lorne thinks she’s one of the “top three or four ever”. So unfair.

      • frank

        Will someone explain the fascination with Kristen Wiig?just don’t get her.

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