SNL Ranked: Dwayne Johnson Truly Is Franchise Viagra
SNL returns with an all-new episode, bringing Dwayne Johnson back to, uh, rock the stage for the fourth time as guest host. Johnson has charisma almost as big as his formidable biceps, and it’s always a treat to see him flex his comedic muscles. Okay, enough with the brawny puns. Johnson really delivers on his promise in this week’s episode, which is, aside from a couple of hiccups, almost entirely perfect. Read on for your weekly SNL sketch rankings.
New Disney Movie (Davidson, Johnson, Killam, Pharoah, Strong, Moynihan, Mooney)
Johnson truly is Franchise Viagra. This week’s SNL has been consistently hilarious, and the Fast and Furious-style trailer for Disney’s live-action Bambi (complete with appropriate font!) is no exception. I only wish Strong’s Michelle Rodriguez had more to do, but the rest of it is outstanding. Johnson is effortless as a totally jacked Bambi, and Killam plays Vin Diesel playing Thumper with utter, gravelly, slurring perfection. When the butterfly lands on Bambi’s nose — magic. Come for Fast and Furious Bambi, stay for Jay Pharoah’s Ludacris singing “Wam Bam Bambi.” I didn’t think I would get “Franchise Viagra” out of my head until that happened.
Dinner Date (Bayer, Thompson, Johnson, Strong, Bennett)
What’s funnier in this sketch? Johnson playing what is, essentially, an Andrew Dice Clay protege, or Strong’s daffy British arm candy introducing herself by saying she’s “vajazzled”? Or is it Strong’s “Banana” song? Or all the bro-boner jokes? Or the way Bayer keeps asking Thompson if he’s hard? Yet another sketch concept that’s usually just okay (normal couple interacts with wacky couple at dinner) is totally elevated to something special with Johnson. He’s really inspiring SNL to bring its A-game this week.
The Jungle (Johnson, McKinnon, Davidson, Mooney, Bennett)
What begins as a sketch that might be the weakest of the night develops into an outrageous punchline that really pays off, thanks in part to McKinnon’s desperate Ms. Reese, who wants nothing more than to climb Dr. Bones like a tree. McKinnon acts as the instigator, helping to escalate the sketch from one physical gag to the next, as Dr. Bones is hit with poison darts and “Short Long” (good lord) insists on sucking the poison out while McKinnon despairs. Even though you know where this is probably headed, you have no idea just how far they go with it until Johnson shouts “Cartwheel up to me!”
Dwayne Johnson’s Franchise Viagra Monologue (Johnson, Strong, McKinnon, Zamata, Bryant)
Normally I have a mild allergic reaction to guest hosts performing songs during the monologue, but so far, we’re two for two this week: not only did Johnson deliver the first really hilarious cold open in a long, long time, but he beautifully pulled off a song. “Franchise Viagra” isn’t just funny, it’s perfectly performed and totally accurate. Need to beef up your franchise (literally and figuratively)? Call Dwayne Johnson. Frozen 2, a new Home Alone, The Theory of Everything (“but he’s good looking” — wow)…you name it, he’ll be there. He even finds a way to make Zero Dark 31 work.
WWE Promo Shoot (Mooney, Johnson, Moynihan, Killam)
Johnson was the king of smack talk during his wrestling career, so it’s pretty funny to see him play a horrifically costumed wrestler named Koko Watchout, whose idea of smack talk is dredging up embarrassing secrets and personal drama about his competitor, Trashyard Mutt. The way Killam resolves to remain professional while holding the mic in front of Johnson really enhances this bit, but Johnson steals it, obviously, energetically delivering lines about herpes and Catfishing. I wonder how often wrestlers want to insult each other on camera with stuff like this. Killam kills it at the end with a flamboyant exit.
Brogaine (Mooney, Bennett, Davidson, Thompson, Johnson)
This week’s Mooney-Bennett joint would only be a bit better if Mooney had a more heavier frat dude accent, but Bennett has the natural vocal inflection to really pull it off. Davidson looks like he can barely keep himself from laughing at a fake bald Bennett, who needs a little help from Brogaine, “For College-Age Guys.” Bennett and Mooney’s shorts are typically more specific in their humor, and this one plays a bit more broad, poking fun at the recent Oklahoma frat racist chant and throwing out phrases like Bud-Heavy and a Borat impression (to be fair, that’s very college bro). I am kind of a sucker for a Borat impression, though.
The Rock Obama Cold Open (Pharoah, Killam, Mooney, Moynihan, Zamata, Johnson, Jones, Bennett)
I do not think I’ve laughed this hard at a cold open in a long time. If it had ended right after Obama turned into The Rock Obama (not the first time it’s happened, by the way), with Zamata’s cartoonish “You turned Barack Obama into The Rock Obama,” that would have been totally perfect. It’s fun to watch Johnson toss people around and break their bones, even though the dialogue at that point feels like filler. Thankfully the sketch gets wild again when Zamata’s Michelle She-Hulks-Out into Leslie Jones — seriously on-point.
I wonder if this was another Mooney sketch that would have been cut for time if two of the three last sketches weren’t so tepid. Mooney doing his awkward, bumbling interviews with random strangers is always, always hilarious. He get the weirdest responses out of people who are just happy to talk to someone with a microphone and a camera — except for a couple of kids who are really camera/stranger-shy. It’s great seeing him interact with kids, speaking with an even more juvenile mumble than they do.
Weekend Update (Jost, Che, McKinnon, Thompson)
Olya! She opens with an Eminem joke, and I love her. Olya’s gleeful expression of her innate cynicism is so amazing, her essence summed up perfectly when she asks Colin “What is dreams?” She really brings the pop culture references and has the second best banana joke of the entire episode. Jost also gets to deliver one of his funniest bits in a while, poking fun at The Jinx’s opening credits, which is pretty accurate.
Thompson returns as Willie, Michael Che’s impossibly optimistic neighbor. He’s a good companion piece for Olya, using his optimism and bright delivery to sneak in anecdotes about the dark things from his life. He’s not as funny as Olya though, and definitely not my favorite, but he still got me to snort with “Wolves raped your dog, Willie!”
Improv Show (Zamata, Bryant, Mooney, Davidson, Bennett, McKinnon, Strong)
Everything about this sketch nails it — from the energetically annoying improv group with a too-basic name (Prince Charmin) to McKinnon’s impeccable impression of Robert Durst. She not only gets the vocal inflection down, but she absolutely kills his facial tics. Mooney also deserves recognition for playing the kind of corny improv guy who plays up his false modesty and casual attitude in a very specifically annoying way. Bonus shout out to Strong’s Jeanine Pirro. It’s mostly not laugh out loud funny, but there’s a certain humor to the recognition and specificity.
Oh boy. Genderflect is a fake campaign encouraging customers to have a dialogue with Pep Boys mechanics about gender identity and sexuality — blending the sort of social outreach you might expect from Whole Foods (or, yeah, Starbucks) with blue collar midwesterners. It’s that special kind of well-meaning ignorance that’s hilariously baffling and makes you embarrassed for the person who says things like, “Oh, so you’re gay? Can you say ‘that’s gay’ about something?” I think this one could have gone just a step farther, but Get Hard should take note: this is how you do jokes about sexuality.
Interrogation (Johnson, Bayer, Killam)
Johnson’s detective is confrontational, inappropriately honest and makes terrible analogies, so he’s cut from the same cloth as his WWE character from earlier in the episode. The lines are there, but with Bayer and Killam playing it so straight, the sketch lacks the energy to back Johnson up. It was smart to sandwich the Durst-Improv sketch between this and Cooking With Paul, as both are the weaker points in the episode and needed something to keep the audience going.
Cooking With Paul (Thompson, Johnson)
This seems like a concept that sounded really strong but just couldn’t deliver the content to back it up. “Three-time convicted sex offender out on parole hosts a cooking show with his weary probation officer” definitely sounds like an exciting pitch, and while Johnson has to keep himself from cracking a couple of times, only he and Thompson (along with a really loud dude laughing in the audience) seem to find the sketch amusing. It was an almost entirely perfect episode, but there had to be at least one mediocre bit.