Anne Hathaway may not be known as one of the most publicly political celebrities in Hollywood, but, when it comes to Saturday Night Live, the actress and politics go together about as well as Catwoman and black latex. Take Hathaway's first appearance on SNL — the actress oversaw an October 2008 episode that brought us the now-classic parody of Sarah Palin and Joe Biden's vice presidential debate. ("I believe marriage is meant to be a sacred institution between two unwilling teenagers.") And now, just over four years later, Hathaway has come full circle, hosting the sketch comedy show for the third time just days after President Obama was re-elected for a second term, inviting a stellar, if a bit bittersweet, Romney sign-off. But Saturday's show managed to shine the more it strayed away from politics. And the more it featured its host. Because Hathaway continued to prove to SNL audiences that Catwoman bares some sharp comedic claws.
And, sure enough, the beginning of SNL started with a farewell — what was likely the final sketch to feature Jason Sudeikis as the conceding presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. The sketch — which featured a disappointed, milk-swigging Romney who still showed Mormon-approved optimism — was well-written, if a bit oddly staged. (The silence-filled gaps between Taran Killam's amusing Tagg/Matt/Josh Romney pop-ups felt longer than the wait to hear Obama's Tuesday night victory speech.) Still, the scene was a nice departure from the ripped-from-the-TV-screen political sketches of yore, and bonus points for the series' take down of election night's real loser, when Josh Romney tells his father to come to the living room: "Donald Trump is doing a very amusing thing where he's racist."
Sudeikis again seemed to acknowledge his final months with SNL — the actor is leaving the show in January — during Hathaway's monologue, during which he talked about his "wild ride" on the show and what he's learned "after you've been here for eight seasons." But the Les Misérables star's voice eventually took center stage during the fifth musical monologue of the season. (For the record, there have only been seven new episodes — WWJRS? That is, What Will Jeremy Renner Sing?) Of course, this one made more sense than the rest — Hathaway's voice alone would be enough to invite awe, but the Les Mis-inspired tune (about the thrills of Sunday for the SNL cast) was more than chuckle-worthy, reminiscent of Steve Martin's memorable "Not Gonna Phone It In" monologue in 1991. (And Hathaway's Stefon impression? It. Had. Everything.) With the new cast, are the SNL glory days of the '90s back?
The series is certainly allowing its newbies to flex their comedy muscles more than previous featured players. New cast members Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant headlined the first post-monologue sketch of the night as, respectively, a teen and her best friend-turned-third wheel. It was an amusing sketch that showcased Bryant's droll talents — and certainly hit home for any girl who ever attended high school — even if the spot seemed more appropriate for the back third of the show. (But, speaking of the '90s, did the sketch — and Hathaway's valley girl impression of the new bad girl in school — remind anyone of SNL's "Delta Delta Delta" days?)
But the next sketch, the pre-taped "Legend of Mokiki," was far from SNL convention. Featuring episode MVP Killam as a human experiment who becomes famous for doing a dance called "the sloppy swish" — and Hathaway as the poor soul who falls in love with him — the sketch was as random as it was obvious that it came out of a late-night, exhausted writing session. But even when shorts like these make little sense, it's impossible not to enjoy the glimpse we get into the deranged inter-workings of the writers' minds.
More audience-friendly was the following sketch, which proved Hathaway has another celebrity impression under her belt: Homeland's Emmy-winning Claire Danes. The actress' take on Carrie Matheson, complete with the character's patented ugly cry, was flawless — even simple phrases like "And do what?" were indistinguishable from her Showtime counterpart. But Hathaway wasn't the only one to score in the sketch — Bill Hader's Saul was as impeccable as the actor's Alan Alda, and Killam, once again, stole the scene with his Agent Brody, whose "mouth is so small, it's hard to hear the words."
Far less tasty was the lazy McDonald's sketch, featuring Strong and Bobby Moynihan as two delinquent employees dead-set on insulting all of their colleagues, and Hathaway's uptight boss. But Moynihan more than made up for the groan-worthy sketch with his Drunk Uncle, yet again the highlight of Weekend Update. ("If Nationwide is on my side, how come Obama is president? Jews-papers!") Unfortunately, the rest of Weekend Update wasn't nearly as funny — in fact, the writing proved to be just as progressive as Moynihan's uncle, who lamented in his day "You couldn't vote unless you had a cane, monocle, top hat, fancy!" Seth Meyers using the record number of women elected to office as an opportunity to make a joke about pantsuits? Really, Seth? Really?! And a joke about all women hating sports to boot? I say it again: Really?! Thank god for Moynihan and Hader, and Fred Armisen, who made up for the lackluster segment — which included a predictable Obama impression from Jay Pharaoh — with their gay couple from Maine, who are celebrating their newly established ability to wed by registering with L.L.Bean.
But SNL was quickly back in business with the brilliant Kate McKinnon as a cheerfully exhausted Ellen DeGeneres. The sketch was more or less an opportunity for the episode to showcase Hathaway's hysterical Katie Holmes impression, but McKinnon also inspired laughs as the controversy-adverse daytime host. ("It was a big week in politics, so I'm going to talk about eating some popcorn yesterday.") And Hathaway proved her physical comedy prowess with a unique sketch about the conception of Grant Wood's American Gothic painting, which, in SNL's world, really portrayed two goofy models who loved corn puppets.
SNL closed out the show with a "Happy Fun Ball"-esque sketch for "Flaritin," a medication for those who suffer "a made-up allergy" to gluten, cigarette smoke, yogurt, rice, meat deodorant, squirrel dander, Los Angeles, small penises, rap, and Italians for attention. But, strangely enough, any portion of the show that didn't include Hathaway — including musical guest Rihanna's bizarre performance of "Diamonds," which looked to be set in front of a karaoke music video — suffered without the host. She even managed to invite a laugh in her goodbye, telling the audience, "Thank you so much to Katie Holmes and Claire Danes." Would it be too much to call our Catwoman the cat's pajamas? (Yes. Yes it would.)
What did you think of Saturday's show? Did Hathaway's taste of Les Mis in the monologue enough to keep you wanting more?
[Image Credit: NBC]