SNL Power Rankings: Things Get Shouty When Russell Brand’s Around

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Egads, are your ears still ringing after this weekend’s Saturday Night Live? For whatever reason, the Russell Brand hosted episode was one of the shoutiest since the days of Chris Farley, which has left my cochlea buzzing for the last few days. It’s sort of a shame, really, because I am normally quite fond of Russell Brand’s work and was excited to see what he would do when adhering to the rules of sketch comedy. His monologue was one of the best in quite a long time, but the rest of the episode was tainted by the sheer volume of his shrill accent. While I still feel that Get Him To The Greek is an underrated work, I fear that this weekend’s hosting duties turned me off the prospect of going to see Arthur*.

However, Brand (and the cast’s) general shoutiness was NOT the worst part of the episode. Nope, that honor rests with the SNL music booker’s decision to give the stage to Chris Brown on what, for all intents and purposes, was the two-year anniversary of the night he beat the sh*t out of Rihanna. Yes yes, I am a firm believer in second chances, the power of forgiveness, turning the other cheek and all that jive, but this decision by Lorne and his bookers was tone-deaf at best and downright offensive at worst (especially considering the subject matter of Chris Brown’s second song, in which he sang “You already know what time it is / Reach up in the dresser where the condoms is” and promised/threatened to “Leave it in all night”). Ew!

But hey, this isn’t called the SNL Music Power Rankings, is it? Nope, it’s all about how the cast performed. As they say in show biz**, “On with the post!”

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE POWER RANKINGS: 2/12/11 (Host: Russell Brand; Musical Guest: Chris Brown)

1. Bill Hader (40 points): Best Stefon ever? I think so! Not only did Snoozin’ Lucci, Fuji Hauser M.D. and the 12 dancing Jewpids (“They just want you to meet someone nice and settle down”) bring the house down, but now Hader and Seth Meyers are starting to explore the sexual tension that exists between them (or, at least that exists in Stefon’s mind). Will this pave the way for Stefon to appear in a segment that isn’t Weekend Update? Fingers crossed.

On the non-Stefon front, I must say I really enjoy his take on teary Speaker of the House, John Boehner. Rather than just playing him as a cry baby (which would be the easy thing to do), he infuses his impression with a healthy dose of the Cowardly Lion (which, sadly, is pretty much the extent of “political commentary” that the show does these days). Thumbs up!

2. Taran Killam (38 points): Wow, what a huge week for the rookie. Just two episodes ago, Killam scored a goose egg for the week, but just look at him now! His Eminem impression was just as good as anything that Jay Pharoah — who, I think we’d all agree, is a very strong impressionist — has done all season long, but more importantly, he and fellow rook Vanessa Bayer paired up on what I would consider one of the best sketches of the season to this point, “Living Single.” His work as DJ Terry was laden with a deep sense pathos, which isn’t easy to pull off while still getting laughs. I think it’s safe to say that Killam has a real bright future as a Featured Player in front of him.

3. Fred Armisen (29 points): Thanks to appearances of recurring characters like his President Obama and Hosni Mubarek, Armisen racked up a lot of Appearance Points this week. He didn’t exactly kill with any of his characters this week, but I have to mention this again: If you love Armisen like I love Armisen, you have to watch Portlandia on Friday nights on IFC.

4. Kristen Wiig (28 points): This was only the third appearance of Cheryl “Don’t Call Me Surprise Sue” Bryant, the excitable Publisher’s Clearing House type lady, but I’m hoping it was the last. The bit didn’t work when Emma Stone hosted earlier this season and it isn’t working now, mainly because of how it relies on Wiig’s most annoying mannerisms.

5 (tie). Vanessa Bayer, Jason Sudeikis (13 points): Wow, Vanessa Bayer, wow! Her “Living Single” sketch was easily one of the season’s best skits and, in a weird way, it was also kind of one of the bravest? I mean, Bayer really gave Russell Brand the green light to go to town on her in a way that made me feel more than a little uncomfortable at times. Sure, it was all in the name of comedy, but Brand really pushed the boundaries in this sketch and Bayer responded in kind. She’s got some real talent, it will be a pleasure watching her work the boards in Studio 8H for many moons to come.

As for Sudeikis, the “Assassination of George Washington” sketch reminded me a little bit of “Potato Chip” from last season. Sudeikis is really great at portraying blowhards, and his military general in this sketch was aces.

7. Andy Samberg (12 points): I’ve always liked the vibe when Samberg and Hader team up for a sketch (“Laser Cats”!), so it was a joy (albeit a very shouty one) to see their “A Spot Of Tea” sketch.

8. Nasim Pedrad (11 points): Not much to say about Pedrad this week, other than “You can’t win ‘em all.”

9 (tie). Abby Elliott, Bobby Moynihan (10 points): Neither one of these Featured Players has shown much this season. Will either be able to get a character that’s worthy of recurring spots before the season’s out? That’s the big question that will determine whether each of these performers are able to take the next step in their SNL careers, or if they’ll go the way of Chris Parnell or Rachel Dratch (moderately well-liked SNL performers who hang around for a long time but no one really cares much when they leave).

11. Jay Pharoah (8 points): I thought his Weezy was pretty good, but he didn’t: He tweeted on Monday that “Nope didn’t enjoy my performance on update as Wayne as much as I enjoyed Taran’s Emenim lol trust when I do it again it’s gon be #classic.”

12. Kenan Thompson (5 points): A quiet week for Kenan, which is quite alright with me. It wasn’t as if we needed someone else shouting their way through an entire episode, right?

13. Paul Brittain (1 point): A non-speaking appearance in the Gublin & Green commercial was all Brittain got to do this week. Here’s hoping we’ll see a return of “Sex” Ed Vincent sometime soon.

BONUS VIDEO! Are you one of those lamestreamers who had never heard of Arcade Fire before they won the Grammy for Album of the Year on Sunday night? Just another reason you should be watching SNL, fools! Not only has Arcade Fire been the musical guest on the show twice, but they starred in this awesome digital short earlier this year. Take it away, Win!

“Khmer Rouge? SO BOGUS!”

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE POWER RANKINGS: SEASON 36 TOTALS
1. Bill Hader (483 points; Last Week: #1)
2. Kristin Wiig (456 points; Last Week: #2)
3. Fred Armisen (408 points; Last Week: #3)
4. Andy Samberg (377 points; Last Week: #4)
5. Kenan Thompson (339 points; Last Week: #6)
6. Jason Sudeikis (328 points; Last Week: #5)
7 (tie). Bobby Moynihan, ⇑ Nasim Pedrad (269 points; Last Week: #7 and #8, respectively)
9. Vanessa Bayer (234 points; Last Week: #9)
10. ⇑ Taran Killam (229 points; Last Week: #11)
11. ⇓ Abby Elliott (203 points; Last Week: #10)
12. Paul Brittain (172 points; Last Week: #12)
13. Jay Pharoah (149 points; Last Week: #13)

Reference Materials:
Need a refresher on the Scoring System?

Here’s this week’s sketch-by-sketch breakdown:

Also, did you know that we’re showing classic episodes of SNL every night on VH1? It’s true!

*Who am I kidding? I love Greta Gerwig the mostest. I’ll see her in anything.
**They have never once said this in show biz.

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