Not Bad For An Unknown Host


When I first started this challenge, I would get nervous whenever I’d see an unfamiliar name amongst the lineup of hosts, thinking that I’d remember them from the episode if it was any good, or that they would have returned for multiple visits if they were any good at hosting. It didn’t take long for me to learn that these episodes with strangers as host are often some of my favorites.

I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say that these episodes end up the best content wise but they usually turn out to be pretty fun to watch. I think this is due to the fact that, not knowing the host makes an old show feel like it’s new with the potential to find a sketch that I completely forgot about since I clearly don’t remember the original airing or any of the reruns.

Granted, I’ve forgotten about many sketches no matter who’s the host but usually, with the bigger named hosts, I remember at least a couple of sketches from each night. At least up until this point in the challenge when I was still watching SNL religiously back when these episodes aired. I’m kind of looking forward to upcoming seasons where my viewing habits started to get more spotty thanks to the increase in entertainment options along with the distractions that come with getting old.

As for tonight’s episode, I had no idea who Joan Allen was based on her name alone. Even after a quick internet search, I still had no idea who she was based on her modern pictures. I did recognize a few titles in her resume but mainly only films where she had just a supporting role and not the films where she was the star. Then I saw her on stage for her monolog and she looked familiar with the short hair. This is when I remembered her from those supporting roles but it didn’t help at all as far as setting up any sort of expectation for the night.

Right out the gate, she made me nervous as her very first joke was about how she had absolutely zero experience working in comedy. Though this is always said as a joke, I’d say about ninety percent of the time when a host gives a warning it usually turns out to be true but thankfully, she followed the joke up by pointing out that we shouldn’t be too concerned because she had plenty of experience working in front of a live audience from her years working in theater.

I think her ability to act live without feeling the pressure was the saving grace of this episode because I wouldn’t say that this was anywhere near the funniest of shows that I’ve seen but our host was able to keep up or at least not get in the casts’ way while still being utilized throughout the night.

There’s nothing that I hate more than episodes that have on a host only to hide them in the background which sometimes happens with actors/actresses who are mostly known for their dramatic work, which always leaves me wondering why they booked them in the first place. I’d prefer to watch a bad episode where the host is involved over a mediocre show where the cast is in control of the wheel. Luckily, tonight was neither since Joan Allen was in every sketch which led the overall night to be slightly above average.

Alright, it’s now time to move on from sharing my views in order to share what I actually viewed, with that, I give you…

The Wicker Breakdown:

  1. This week's show started with a sketch called Opposites Attract which first had Will Ferrell as Bob Livingston helping Chris Parnell as Newt Gingrich pack up his office after taking Newt’s job as The Speaker Of The House. Eventually, Darrell Hammond as President Clinton entered the room and he and Newt reflected upon the time they’ve spent together through song and dance after forcing Livingston to leave. Of course, with this being the opening sketch the song and dance built to the announcement of, “Live from New York…”

  2. Joan Allen then officially opened the show with a monolog about how she is out of her element working in comedy and how she thinks she’ll do fine thanks to her experience working live as an actress who often worked at the Steppenwolf Theaters. This led a burn-out character played by Will Ferrell to interrupt as a Steppenwolf fan who wanted our host to sing the band’s hit song Magic Carpet Ride.

  3. This was followed by a fake ad for The Jenson Mint which offered a fake currency that allowed the rich to look like good guys while handing out fake cash to hobos. These coins and bills not only cost more than the real currency that it was meant to replace, it was marked as stolen so that if a homeless person did attempt to cash it in, they’d only end up in jail.

  4. This was followed by another parody of Martha Stewart Living with Ana Gasteyer as Martha who tried to host her usual show while also having to take the abuse of her overbearing mother who was played by our host Joan Allen.

  5. VH-1 Spirituality Awards was a parody of a reward show for spiritual leaders that allowed the cast and the host to try out some obscure impersonations of celebrities and religious figures of the day to make fun of the award show format in general.

  6. Chris Kattan’s mumble-mouthed, Suel Forrester then returned but this time as a lawyer who no one could understand as he tried to interrogate special guest John Goodman.

  7. Space, The Infinite Frontier also returned for another installment where Will Ferrell played the recently passed Harry Caray to continue his space-themed learning show, even though in the world of the sketch he was also dead which really confused his guest who was played by Joan Allen.

  8. Once again, Colin Quinn gave us the news. This week, Cheri Oteri’s pill-popping character dropped in to comment on a new drug that claimed to be side-effect-free that she had her eye on.

  9. Jewel then took to the stage to perform Hands.

  10. Learning With Jennifer Tilly had Joan Allen as herself along with Jimmy Fallon as French Stewart unwillingly ended up as guests on Cheri Oteri as Jennifer Tilly’s talk show where there wasn’t much learning at all.

  11. Southern Gals had all of the females of the show acting as Southerners as they took in the sights of New York City and we got to see their small town reactions to coping with the big city world. In the sketch, we caught the women in a pizza shop taking a break from their tourist trap filled activities as opposed to a sketch where they could have taken to the street with video cameras for some prerecorded material.

  12. Jewel then returned to the stage to perform Down So Long.

  13. Tarmac Talk had Jimmy Fallon as Jerry Seinfeld who had to endure being a guest on a talk show that was set up on a windy airport tarmac in order to share his observations about airline food while he and the hosts kept getting blown around the set whenever a plane would come or go.

  14. Finally, Joan Allen closed the show by thanking the audience and saying her goodnights.

Since this did end up being a slightly above average episode, it wasn’t as easy to find these three favorite moments as usual, but here’s what I managed to come up with. First, I loved Space, The Infinite Frontier: The Postmortem Show because, as I said before, Will Ferrell as Harry Caray is one of my favorite character of all time and I liked this as an awkward act of remembering the late sports announcer who had recently died at the time. Next, I really liked Tarmac Talk because I like the stunts involved in blowing everyone all around the room. Finally, I was a fan of the return of Suel Forrester because this mumble-mouthed character is another one that always cracks me up.


Watch More From Joan Allen:

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Matt Bunker

I started out with a goal of becoming a paid screenwriter. I had no interest in any other aspect of filmmaking. I received and scholarship to The Vancouver Film School's Writing for Film and Television program where I graduated in 2005. I fell in love with being on set during my first non-school produced short, . I loved being around all the creative people, seeing people having fun while working. The whole liking your job was a new world to me, so I decided to give it a shot. I volunteered for any project I could, doing what ever was needed. The set was my Film School this time. While working as a PA on a feature I was informed that the DP wanted the three tallest PAs to help out in the grip and electric department. That is when I found the department that felt like the best fit for me while I continued to write.