Poor January Jones. It has, I think, been a long time since a host on SNL has been this bad. Stilted delivery, stumbling over words and that weird, low-energy negativity that works for Betty Draper but so does not work for a live comedy show. There were many lowlights, but the NYT’s Dave Itzkoff caught one of the most glaringly bad: Visibly and audibly asking “Which camera?” in her first live sketch. We’ve got the painful moment here:
This is not the only reason that last night’s show was one of the worst in recent memory, and it’s not like there weren’t good moments — the Joe Biden cold open, Darrell Hammond spoofing Lou Dobbs, Jones spoofing archaic Mad Men values in a “Ladies Guide To Party Planning” video, Bill Hader‘s take on Dr. Jekyll and what Mr. Hyde really did — but the tone is set in the monologue and that isn’t just about the host, it’s about what the writers elect to do with that host. Making the monologue about spoofing Mad Men — and making it all about the guys i the audience — was a lazy way to use her, especially since SNL did Mad Men so well last year when Jon Hamm hosted. Repeating the Joanie joke (Joanie’s hot; has a voluptuous, swaying butt) was even worse, and a wasted opportunity for a reveal — after the production that was made of watching Joanie mount the stage from behind, I was expecting to see Andy Samberg‘s face when she turned around (which would have salvaged somewhat). Alas, it was Abby Elliott, in the same costume as Casey Wilson from last year. Lame.
It’s hard not to compare Jones with Hamm — he was awesome, funny, natural, she was…not — but compare for a moment the material they were given. Hamm shone just as well in roles outside his Don Draper persona (“Jon Hamm’s John Hamm“; umm this one); even the Mad Men parody wasn’t just a parody, but had the clever A-Holes twist. Jones’ Betty Draper was well-used in the “Ladies Guide”) but everywhere else she was a pretty prop. She was clearly willing to take risks — the “Rear Window” sketch showed that, and did so well, if ickily (yes I laughed, what can I say, it’s the payoff of well-done bathroom humor. Didn’t feel the same about the digital short). Where was Jones dressed up a la Lady Gaga on “Deep House Dish?” Where was she made up to do any sort of impression? Half the joke of Taylor Swift as Kate Gosselin was the hair. Where was Jones playing someone from the news? (She actually has just the right energy to have played crazy Michele Bachmann.) Or she could have been Hermione, trying to get Harry and Ron to hurry and fight Voldemort while they giggle and eat Cheetos after smoking pot. Alas, the most innovative, out of the box depictions of Jones on SNL last night occurred in the commercial-break portraits. Those hinted at promise no one bothered to uncover.
Jones didn’t serve SNL very well last night, but they didn’t serve her, either. A host takes a huge risk when they come on — essentially the risk of falling flat like January Jones. Even seeing that she’s awkward onstage, nervously reliant on cue cards — so what, she wouldn’t be the first. It was up to them to help her there. Making it worthwhile for her to have been on the show would it have made it worthwhile for them to have had her.
Anyway! If after all that you still want to see last night’s show, well, here you go: Monologue; The Awkward Return of A Different Hoda; Rear Window, filled with puns and smells; Lou Dobbs and Kim Kardashian; and Kristen Wiig chewing up scenery like no ones’ business coming up if only you click here.
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