‘SNL’ Got Into its Election-Year Groove with Jonah Hill

©2016/Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC
It’s hard to believe, but 32-year-old Jonah Hill is well on his way to the Saturday Night Live five-timers’ club after hosting the show for the fourth time this weekend. You can see why he keeps coming back: with his solid combination of comedy and drama chops, and his laid-back attitude, he fits right in with the cast like a good host does, offering support instead of requiring it.

We haven’t seen Hill host the show since 2014, and while we didn’t get to see the return of one of my personal favorites, Adam “I’m six!” Grossman, we did see about five different sketches revolving around news media, a new set of Donald Trump jokes, and a surprise cameo from Jason Sudeikis, adding one more name to Season 41’s growing list of former cast member drop-ins.

As a whole, this episode felt relaxed, with the strongest material put the use in the best places (the cold open, Weekend Update, and the pre-taped stuff). The sketches played off of reliable formats, like a TV news parody, a murder mystery, or a boardroom bit. During the goodbyes, Hill gave extra praise to the show’s staff for being great to work with, and it seems like the feeling is mutual. If he can secure some more Oscar-worth roles, he’ll be making the five-timers’ club in no time.

Next week, Ariana Grande pulls double duty as host and musical guest. For now, let’s take a closer look at Jonah Hill’s fourth stint as host.

CNN Election Center Cold Open

The way this primary election is going, this week in politics could have been fodder for the entire episode. Beck Bennett does his best Jake Tapper for this catch-up on the 2016 Presidential race, with the main focus being on Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Ted “ate a tiny little white booger off my lip” Cruz. Bobby Moynihan put the gift of Chris Christie’s pained expression at Trump’s Super Tuesday press conference to good use, which he perfectly portrayed alongside Darrell Hammond’s Trump (which isn’t even a surprise anymore). Trump’s racist supporters and assertion at Thursday night’s debate that he has a large penis (shudder) led the sketch, with Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon) taking jabs about seeking the diversity vote (side note: she might want to look into using “Stuck in The Middle With You” as her campaign song. It’s catchy!). Next, Taran Killam reprises his Ted Cruz impression and Mitt Romney (Jason Sudeikis) pops by to remind us all of the 2012 election, and how much tamer it was. Remember when “Binders full of women” was the most offensive thing said during a debate?

Jonah Hill Monologue With Future

Last time Jonah Hill hosted, his monologue was crashed by his then-Wolf Of Wall Street co-star Leonardo DiCaprio. Unfortunately, the new Oscar winner didn’t come by this time, but Hill did get some help from musical guest Future. After making fun of himself for “starring role in the trailer for” the new Coen bros. movie Hail, Caesar!, he once again took questions from the audience and was quickly ripped on by Kyle Mooney. To redeem himself, he promptly showed off how he can rap all of Drake’s parts on “Jumpman” alongside Future (or “Fuch,” since they’re so close). Jay Pharoah tries to steal the spotlight, but it’s cool. He gets to show off his skills 10 times more during Weekend Update.

Voters For Trump

At this point in the primary, a lot of Americans are asking themselves: how is Donald Trump getting this far? But perhaps the bigger question is, who are all these Trump supporters? SNL didn’t waste any time answering that question in this political ad parody that identifies the one thing all Trump supporters might have in common: racism. Taran Killam, Vanessa Bayer, Bobby Moynihan, Aidy Bryant, Beck Bennett, and Kyle Mooney play everyday Americans voicing their positive opinions of Trump, like how he’s “authentic” and an actual job creator. But those stock answers and folksy vignettes quickly give way to straight-up Klan meetings. It’s the second Trump-is-Hitler joke of the night (a comparison that has more weight than usual) and certainly not the last one of the election cycle. Let’s just hope Darrell Hammond doesn’t have any plans for a while.

Fon Du Lac News

I’m going to credit the popularity of Making A Murderer for this sketch, which really felt more like a 10-to-1 than pre-Update material, and is basically a tribute to the Wisconsin accent. Local newscasters Trish Wisnouski (Cecily Strong) and Joe Bush (Jonah Hill) deliver the day’s top stories, mostly focusing around a recently released sex offender (Bobby Moynihan). While the reporting may be sub-par, they make sure to add in personal touches, like anecdotes about Trish’s childhood Korean friend’s sister drowning herself in a pool. Aidy Bryant, Vanessa Bayer, and Beck Bennett all get in on the barely-understandable-accent action, and Taran Killam makes one hilarious elderly man while reading the winning lottery numbers. Seriously, they should give that character his own news show.

The Champ

The second pre-taped sketch of the night is a twisted short about a high schooler named Nate (Jonah Hill) who gets a hero’s send-off from his car full of varsity friends (side note: everyone looks adorable here), only to come home and find out that his entire day was a lie. Vanessa Bayer plays his mom (as always) and Bobby Moynihan pulls dad duty as the family watches news anchor Cecily Strong deliver a wildly specific account of the school’s decision to let Nate think he beat the school’s wrestling champ (Taran Killam) in a match. All that aside, Kenan Thompson steals the scene as the school’s overly candid janitor with some of the funniest deliveries of the night. It all ends with a seemingly random shoutout to Eric McCormack, naming him as a double-murderer — which the real-life actor didn’t seem to mind at all.

School Auction

I love the concept of this sketch: what if a mysterious non-parent showed up to a school fundraiser and out-bid all the parents? The added detail that the strangers are also rich Middle Eastern royals makes it even more delightfully bizarre. Thanks to some money-hungry and oddly trusting parents, a student band made up of Sasheer Zamata, Cecily Strong, and Kyle Mooney (a.k.a “The Emojis”) have no choice but to go to Qatar with the King’s servant (Jonah Hill) and perform for his teen daughter. The same goes for basketball/Vine stars played by Jay Pharoah and Pete Davidson. When the Sultan of Kuwait (Taran Killam) gets involved, the bidding gets even more out of hand. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see what a six million dollar senior carnival looks like.

Weekend Update

“Wow, where do we even start this week? Somehow, with O.J. Simpson.” Colin Jost’s first line of the night says it all. This week was nuts. I like how Jost handled the discovery of the knife from OJ’s property (and what has to be the best side effect of our nation’s True Crime doc obsession: actual results) and Che was able to tie O.J. to Friday’s news that Ben Carson dropped out of the Presidential race (“Not a good week for black guys who may have stabbed people.”). Donald Trump’s penis got more attention, as did Carson’s (double shudder), and there was just one joke about the Sanders/Clinton race, at both of their expenses.

Then came this season’s first appearance of Cecily Strong’s Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party, who we haven’t seen since last Spring. Her slurred rundown of the election so far included some great new malapropisms, such as the “Zima Virus,” the “‘Scuse button” and the much-needed question, “Why do we have to labia everything?” Plus, she has moved on from taking basic selfies with Che to using all the Snapchat filters. So 2016.

For the second half, Che and Jost followed up their “The Weeknd Update” bit from October with this week’s musical guest in “News From The Future,” a.k.a. a shot of the rapper kicking a camera out of his dressing room. Che’s next joke about the Catholic Priest who got caught doing cocaine surrounded by Nazi stuff (“Okay, but show me where in the Bible it says you can’t do that?”) got a big laugh from the audience, and Che. The same couldn’t be said for their dig at convicted child molester Jared Fogle, which got a HUGE groan. Oh, SNL studio audience. You’re funny.

Update has been playing around with formatting more this season (see: Jon Rudnitsky’s Dirty Dancing number) and that trend continued with this correspondent report from Vanessa Bayer as she interviews 110-year-old woman Flossie Dickey (Kate McKinnon). If you didn’t watch the real-life Dickey’s unintentionally comical interview, it’s a character tailor-made for McKinnon, despite how few words she actually says. She nails the death stares as Bayer asks about her bucket list, and Bayer keeps the awkward interviewer enthusiasm up throughout. Hilarious.

Jay Pharoah provided a strong finish to a fully packed Update with his report on a secret meeting of black comedians in Hollywood. Said to be a gathering to diffuse Katt Williams’ apparent feud with Kevin Hart, the “meeting” was really a front for Pharaoh to show off his arsenal of spot-on impressions of black comics, including some we’ve seen on the show in sketches (Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock) and some we definitely need to (Dave Chappelle — if only we could time-travel back to his African sabbatical in 2005). I was also impressed by his Tracy Morgan (he even stuck out his belly) and Hannibal Buress, since he’s more of a peer comic.  

Murder Mystery

The combination of a bunch of fancy accents and what’s really an ornate, five-minute poop joke is hard to top. When someone drops dead at an upscale dinner party a la Clue, suspects Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong, Beck Bennett, Kenan Thompson, and Aidy Bryant must answer to Inspector Taran Killam’s line of questioning. And they get to the bottom of it, all right (pun absolutely intended). “It” being Mr. Weston (Jonah Hill) being the mysterious person who needed 24 flushes and a pair of women’s bloomers to get through his scatalogical ordeal. This sketch reminded me a bit of the Mitchell’s Fake Cocaine ad, which was also about public bathroom shaming. I feel like I should tell someone on the writing staff it’s okay, everybody poops.

Inside SoCal: Newer One

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen this recurring Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett sketch that originated from the days of Good Neighbor on YouTube. This time, Todd (Mooney) and Casey (Bennett) report on Southern California’s biggest stories (So. Many. News. Parodies.) including their friend Pat (Taran Killam)’s adorable new baby and the fact that their female friend Jessica (Cecily Strong) is getting a breast reduction. Luckily, Inside SoCal correspondent, a.k.a their friend Keith (Jonah Hill) is at the hospital to investigate the “disaster.” It’s hard to tell what’s more ridiculous: that Photoshopped pic of Cecily with huge breasts and a Sombrero, Keith repeatedly calling her boobs “fatties” or the fact that Casey is just NOW trying Indian food.

Silver Star Catering

Rounding out the night is a short and silly boardroom sketch that fully relies on host Jonah Hill saying words like “Munched!” and “Scarfed!” and other synonyms for “eat” that no one actually uses. Playing an overzealous caterer seems to come pretty easily for Hill. Perhaps that’s what he can turn to if he keeps making fun of himself for not getting enough big roles in Hollywood. Although, he might have to stop saying that the cookies have been “finger-blasted.”

So Shoot, What Else?

  • Oof, Jonah Hill’s burn on Kyle Mooney’s videos “They remind me of how much I miss Andy Samberg” Burn.
  • That photo of “school loser” Jonah Hill on the news holding an ice cream cone should obviously be his new headshot.
  • The audience really liked the Ted Cruz/Fat Dracula joke on Update.
  • I like how both Aidy and Kate try to hold Taran’s name when he flubs his line in the murder mystery sketch. I wish my co-workers were that supportive.
  • That was a huge “Aww!” from the audience when Pete Davidson’s character said “I can’t do this” after learning of his ex’s breast reduction.
  • This week was especially light on Leslie Jones, who’s usually all over the episode. Maybe she’s been busy Ghostbusting?

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