'SNL' Host Louis C.K. Stays In His Comfort Zone While Musical Guest Sam Smith Shines

Comedian Louis C.K. hosted SNL for the second time last night with musical guest Sam Smith. C.K. is a revered stand-up comedian, star of his own critically acclaimed television show Louie, recipient of a staggering 25 Emmy Award nominations (one for his previous SNL hosting gig), and a film actor with an increasingly impressive resumé. (He had standout roles in last year’s Oscar-nominated movies American Hustle and Blue Jasmine.) Little known fact: C.K. used to write “Saturday TV Funhouse” sketches for SNL throughout the ‘90s and the ‘00s! Put simply, C.K. is no stranger to the world of comedy. And after watching his hilariously awkward promos for the show with one of my favorite cast members, Kenan Thompson, I was expecting great things from the accomplished comic! Sadly, he let me down.

We never got to see C.K. step outside of his comfort zone last night. He did stand-up during his opening monologue, and his most successful sketch, “Mr. Big Stuff,” came to a grinding halt in the middle so that he could — you guessed it — do more stand-up! C.K. didn’t create any new or memorable characters and he was a part of some of the worst sketches of the evening (though that’s not entirely his fault). After a two-week break, I was looking forward to SNL’s return — but I was hoping for a stronger episode than this!

Thankfully, English singer-songwriter Sam Smith was there to save the day. You may not know him yet, but Smith is a rising star both at home and in the United States. “Money on My Mind,” the second single from Smith’s upcoming debut album, In the Lonely Hour, has already gone number one in the United Kingdom, and he’s a featured artist on Naughty Boy’s “La La La,” a song that’s just now starting to climb the charts in the United States. First, Smith performed “Stay with Me,” a mid-tempo ballad with an uplifting chorus and hints of pop, R&B, and gospel. Oh my gosh — he sounded absolutely incredible! I’m not sure that the haircut is working for him, but he sounded incredible. Next up was “Lay Me Down,” which was an even greater showcase of Smith’s insanely versatile voice, if that's possible. Does he remind anyone else of Boy George? Just a little bit? Critics tend to be harsh on SNL newbies (Lana Del Rey, anyone?), but Smith doesn’t have anything to worry about — he was fantastic!

Check out my rundown of last night’s Must Watch and Must Miss sketches below!

Must Watch

Cleaning Product

I’m a sucker for SNL’s phony commercials, so this sketch is right up my alley. Vanessa Bayer plays a busy mom who is just fed up with her family members constantly spilling their drinks! Juice, coffee, milk, you name it — it all ends up on the floor! Thankfully, mom has found a new cleaning solution that’s more efficient and much more cost effective than paper towels: suits from Joseph A. Bank! With Joseph A. Bank’s unique “Buy 1 Get 3” pricing, you can afford to stock up on cheap suits to clean up your everyday messes. They even come in a convenient pop-up dispenser! They’re great for sopping up pet stains, blotting bacon grease, or acting as a diaper for your baby! When dad (Taran Killam) accidentally gets one of his regular suits mixed up with a Joseph A. Bank suit, his ensemble literally falls apart the moment it comes into contact with water. Luckily, he just laughs it off. Ah, it’s funny because it's true.

Weekend Update

For the first time in a long time, the Weekend Update guests don’t upstage the hosts! Admittedly, there’s only one guest — Jay Pharoah doing an impression of a sports journalist I’ve never heard of — but still! (What are sports? Ack!) This sketch is all about anchors Colin Jost and Cecily Strong and their snappy joke delivery. Some of my favorite news story zingers include: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s alter ego “Trish Trishtie,” NYC’s growing “street Elmo” problem, and Ukraine’s Combat Dolphins, a.k.a. “the toys your grandmother bought you when you asked for Ninja Turtles.” Oh, grandmas. Will you ever learn?

Healthcare.gov Meeting Cold Open

A political cold open that’s actually funny? Imagine that! Impressed by the success of his Between Two Ferns appearance with actor Zach Galifianakis, President Obama (Pharoah) asks the White House’s new social media expert Mara (Noel Wells) if she has any other ideas to boost healthcare enrollment. Oh, does she ever! First, to get things going on Instagram, Mara snaps a shot of the president holding a "healthcare.gov" sign while “vaping” on an e-cigarette and wearing Pharrell’s giant wizard hat. Next, she wants to break Ellen’s record for the most retweeted picture of all time by staging a photo shoot with Kim Kardashian, Harry Styles, Batkid, and a cat dressed as Princess Elsa from Frozen (Nasim Pedrad is hysterical as Kim K, as usual). Finally, Mara wants to get a photo of the president laying a smooch on Justin Bieber — it’s guaranteed to go viral. Obama is unsure about all of these campaigns, but he agrees to go along with them with a little convincing from his assistant Mike (Killam). Honestly, I’ll take any excuse to see Kate McKinnon do her Biebs impression.

Must Miss

Private Eyes

What in the world is happening here? Bayer and C.K. are private eyes who are looking to take their relationship to the next level. Bayer invites C.K. over late at night and tells him to wear just his pajamas, but when he arrives and begins to make strange sexual requests, she starts to have second thoughts. Basically, the whole sketch is just C.K.’s character trying to pressure Bayer’s character into having sex with him. Is that funny? No. And to think, with the sprightly background music and their Waiting for Guffman-style line delivery, I thought the two were going to break into a fun song about being detectives at the beginning of the sketch! How wrong I was. Bobby Moynihan makes one of his only appearances of the night midway through as an eye-patch wearing assailant. He’s only on screen for about two seconds before he’s thrown out a window, but his cameo is a welcome distraction.

That’s it for this week! Tune in next Saturday for first-time host Anna Kendrick and musical guest Pharrell. Will Kendrick be forced to sing “Cups” during her opening monologue? Will Pharrell’s now iconic hat make another appearance? You’ve got to tune in to find out!

Image: NBC