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‘SNL’ Ranked: J.K. Simmons Is Totally Our Tempo

NBC

After the disappointment that was last week’s episode with country superstar Blake Shelton, we could desperately use another great show from ‘SNL.’ Recent Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee J.K. Simmons has arrived to perk things up a bit, bringing his versatile character actor chops to the stage as this week’s host. But did he live up to our expectations? Read on for this week’s ‘SNL’ rankings!

The Jay Z Story (Mike O’Brien, Sasheer Zamata, Jason Sudeikis, Ensemble)

It’s always great to see Mike O’Brien pop up on the show, and I’ve missed him a lot since he was relegated to the writing staff. His shorts are consistently great and some of the most creative work on ‘SNL.’ O’Brien is the whitest guy and the last guy you’d expect to play a rapper like Jay-Z, which makes this piece inherently funny, and similarly, Jason Sudeikis and J.K. Simmons are like the total opposites of Kanye and Nas. Sasheer Zamata’s Beyonce is really kind of perfect—I wish she was in it a bit more!

Microsoft Assistant (J.K. Simmons, Aidy Bryant, Bobby Moynihan)

Not only did the ‘Goof Troop’ reference make me happy, but the Helvetica Bonham Carter joke absolutely slays. We as a society are not making enough jokes about Microsoft Word assistants, and Moynihan’s Pushy is perfectly obnoxious. This sketch isn’t afraid of getting a little weird and crazy, which is when I find ‘SNL’ is often at its best.

Teacher Snow Day (Ensemble)

You think kids are the only ones rewarded by a snow day? SNOW WAY (sorry). Turns out, teachers get pretty rowdy and thuggish on snow days, doing drugs and partying down in this awesome music video. Even J.K. Simmons gets a delightful rap verse, and we finally get to see the actor doing something a bit goofier in this episode—sans pants, too.

Miss Trash 2015 (J.K. Simmons, Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer)

Although there’s a brief hiccup in the beginning where we can’t hear Simmons singing the intro over the music, the sketch recovers beautifully. And while the ladies are individually funny with their trashy characters, Simmons’ descriptions of them are way more hilarious, especially with that typical unflappable pageant host charm.

Totino’s Super Bowl Commercial (J.K. Simmons, Vanessa Bayer, Bobby Moynihan, Beck Bennett, Jay Pharoah)

Oh man, I love this. It totally plays on the stereotype of a wife existing as nothing more than food service for her husband and friends during the Super Bowl, giving her a little “activity pack” that comes with a package of Totino’s Pizza Rolls to keep her occupied. Bayer plays up the simple, easily entertained wife, and although it’s just a really funny and simple sketch, it’s surprisingly sort of layered, reflecting not just the way some men perceive women during these events, but the way we perceive how some men probably perceive women. It’s stereotypes on stereotypes!

Weekend Update (Colin Jost, Michael Che, Cecily Strong, Taran Killam)

Jost and Che are definitely more smooth this week, and we get a visit from Cecily Strong’s One Dimensional Female Character From a Male Driven Comedy, whose appropriately flat delivery really makes this concept work. This is also our second bit of the night (following the Totino’s commercial) that plays with laughable female stereotypes, and both handled their ideas beautifully. But where the Totino’s thing was more laugh out loud funny, Strong’s character is smirk-inducing. Speaking of flat deliveries that work, Jost’s “Latin princess” punchline is excellent. And Jebidiah Atkinson returns! He is one of my absolute favorites. So pompous and catty. He’s like an old-timey version of Billy Eichner.

Career Day (J.K. Simmons, Ensemble)

Whaaaaaat. I wanted Simmons to get goofier, and I got my wish. Simmons plays a parent on Career Day who tells his son’s class about how he’s a “Japanese Messy Boy,” a man who is paid by wealthy and powerful Japanese business women to dress like a little boy and devour food like a messy little kid. How many parents these days don’t go to their kids’ Career Day because they have an “adult” profession? Simmons is so good-natured while describing the weirdest stuff, and the humor is really enhanced by small moments from Leslie Jones and Pete Davidson. I think my only wish for this whole episode would be seeing Jones and Simmons paired together more. Actually, my only wish for every week is more Jones, period.

Monologue (J.K. Simmons, Kyle Mooney, Pete Davidson, Leslie Jones, Aidy Bryant, Fred Armisen)

Never in a million years did I think we’d see Simmons hosting ‘SNL,’ and I am so, so glad that he is. He’s already winning us over with little self-aware jokes about his roles in the M&Ms and Farmer’s Insurance commercials, and of course he’s opening the show with a ‘Whiplash’ bit with Kyle Mooney, Pete Davidson, and Leslie Jones as drummers. (P.S. last week I thought Mooney got a hair cut, but he thankfully did not!) And we get a surprise appearance from Fred Armisen, who is actually a fantastic drummer! Instead of just rehashing ‘Whiplash,’ Simmons takes the opportunity to crack on the actors, but Leslie Jones is not even having it. Having a forceful presence like Jones go up against the naturally intimidating Simmons is pretty much perfect.

Casablanca (Kenan Thompson, J.K. Simmons, Kate McKinnon, Taran Killam)

Oh, yes! Cinema Classics is back. And this time we’ve got an alternate ending to ‘Casablanca,’ with McKinnon doing an incredibly goofy Ingrid Bergman, though her eyes remain firmly glued to reading her lines, which is a little distracting. Simmons does the straight guy thing while McKinnon hams it up about concentration camps (right?!). My only complaint is that so far this week Simmons has been doing a lot of straight man stuff, and I really want to see him go wacky before this episode is over.

Super Bowl Shut Down Cold Open (Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharoah, Taran Killam, Ensemble)

Shout out to dreadlocked footballs! I do not “get” football, but even I can appreciate this week’s cold open, with Thompson and Pharoah playing Seattle Seahawks players hosting their own show. Pharoah is the real star, delivering (or shouting) some excellent one-liners. Killam’s approach here totally reminds me of Michael Pitt on ‘Hannibal.’

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