Will Ferrell returned to his glorious, glorious roots on Saturday Night Live last weekend, only the third time the former cast member has hosted the show (despite three 'Best Of' compilation DVDs). The performance was a nostalgically delightful one, but either Will's battling an illness or the man simply had a bit of trouble finding a home among the 2012 cast and tempo of the show.
Trust me, that's hard to say. I've been a lifetime SNL fan, and Will Ferrell is among my three favorite Saturday Night Live cast members of all time (the other two being Eddie Murphy and… we'll get to that another time). But there was an odd sense of dissonance between Ferrell and the production that only shone through in moments, yet was a poignantly discernible turn to diehards.
The show started out with Barack Obama (Fred Armisen) and Joe Biden (Jason Sudeikis), with the latter going into full hormonal-teen mode. Ferrell naturally reanimated his iconic George W. Bush character, playing Biden's "imaginary friend" George. After Obama left, Bush came out of the closet to hang out with his buddy Biden. "Everybody says I've got a big mouth, but it's my big mouth that got things done this time!" Biden said, exasperated. Biden continued how "politics isn't fair" — he doesn't like it when people give the president all the credit.
"I feel ya," Ferrell's Bush comforted him. "I used to catch grief all the time from President Cheney." Then, the best line of the entire skit, and possibly the whole night: "Mission Accomplished! I don't know what it means, It's just something I like to say when a problem isn't solved, but I don't like to talk about it anymore."
Mother's Day was a heavy theme, particularly in the monologue, for which Ferrell pulled his real-life mom onstage "I know what I'm about to say could cause some controversy, but I love my mom!" he exclaimed. "There ya go TMZ — that's for you." While he's used to having writers feed him words through an earpiece, this time he chose to speak from the heart… and with absurd awkwardness: "The words I'm saying right now are from my brain place to my mouth hole."
The nostalgia overload was strong throughout the rest of the episode. At Dance Like No One's Judging: LGBT Prom 2012, Ferrell brought on the long-missing Ana Gasteyer for their popular Marty and Bobbie Culp bit, who together head up the "rapidly dwindling music department" at Alta Dena Middle School. The duo pulled off a medley of Adele's "Rumor Has It," Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass," and One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful," among others. Sadly, the skit fell a bit flat in the fact that those of us who remember the skit from its original days either don't know or absolutely despise the songs referenced on Saturday.
The next former SNL cast member to come out of the woodwork was Will Forte, back for ESPN Classics as Greg Stink with Pete Twinkle (Sudeikis). It was pure glory in the most awkwardly gross of ways:
Ferrell was fantastic as oblivious correspondent Randy Feather, as Sudeikis deviously peppered in plugs for the show's sponsors Stayfree Maxi Pads: "I see London, I see China, I see one very happy vagina;" "when you have your monthly boo boo, put one of these near your hoo hoo;" and "when your uterine lining looks like the elevator from The Shining."
Another oddball skit that somehow came off with a win: Anniversary Interruptions.
However, the night's most massive highlight barely had anything to do with Will. Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Justin Bieber (inexplicably in place of Akiva Schaffer) recruited Natalie Portman, Justin Timberlake, Julian Casablancas and one heavily pirated Michael Bolton to pay tribute to the trios’ most well-known Digital Shorts – on the anniversary of their 100th short.
“Tonight we are celebrating our 100th short. Congratulations to us, truly a major milestone, Guess what we’re going to do? We’re gonna suck our own dicks!” The meta-auto-fellatio is on another level entirely. See for yourself below.
Musical guest Usher took to the stage to promote his new album, Looking For Myself, which is set to drop June 12. The seven-time Grammy winner first performed "Scream," the second single from Looking For Myself, then came back later to perform his hit single, "Climax".
Overall, the return of Will Ferrell to SNL was a welcome one, albeit just a bit muted in the funny. It's not likely that more than a skit or two will find its way onto the fourth volume of The Best of Will Ferrell, but we can forgive the man for not hitting it out of the park, after such an incredible track record of success.
Besides, we've got Anchorman 2 to look forward to.