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SUNDAY MORNING LIVE: Paul Rudd Hosts a Funny (and Weird) 'SNL' Thanks to Help from Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig and Bill Brasky

Welcome to Edition No. 29 of Sunday Morning Live, Popculturology's look at the latest episode of Saturday Night Live. All of your questions about the Paul Rudd-hosted episode will soon be answered.

How'd Paul Rudd do?

You don't get invited back to host SNL for the third time if Lorne Michaels isn't sure you're going to be a great host. (Well, SNL did invite Lindsay Lohan back two seasons ago, which resulted in one of the worst SNL episodes in years.) Rudd was versatile and funny, turning in one of the best SNLs of the season. It was a weird episode, but a good weird. Many of the sketches were the kind that have you laughing as you're asking yourself why you're laughing.

Rudd did have some help though, bringing most of the Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues cast with him. Will Ferrell has been everywhere promoting the movie, so it only made sense that he, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen tagged along with Rudd for this SNL. For the most part, they didn't overshadow Rudd's hosting effort, only appearing in the cold open and the closing Bill Brasky sketch. Yes, SNL brought back Bill Brasky for the first time since 1998.

Unfortunately, NBC didn't post Rudd's monologue online, which is a shame since you now won't be able to see Rudd, his Anchorman castmates and One Direction come together to sing Afternoon Delight.

Rudd's episode currently stands as the highlight of the season, although we'll see if that's still the case after Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake are in charge of the upcoming Christmas episode.

What were the best sketches of the night?

Let's start with the cold open, because everyone loves Wiig. (Or, at least that's what we're told we're supposed to do.) Suspicion was high that SNL would spoof NBC's Sound of Music Live somehow, and SNL didn't disappoint on that one. The sketch started out as a "condensed" version of the musical, quickly moving through the story. SNL could've probably stuck with this angle and still delivered a quality opener. Instead, the Sound of Music Live sketch turned into another episode of the Lawrence Welk Show, bringing back Wiig as Dooneese, the woman with a massive forehead and tiny hands, and Armisen as Welk.

I'm torn on whether or not this was a good move for SNL. Was it funny? Yup. It's hard to keep from laughing as Wiig and those baby hands violate the personal space of the SNL cast. Was it necessary though? It's one thing for SNL to bring back a character or sketch with a purpose. Maybe a former castmember is hosting or maybe an iconic sketch once again has a new hook. Nothing about The Sound of Music Live required Wiig's Dooneese. By SNL bringing her back, they basically told the world that they didn't have any better ideas or qualified castmembers to spoof the televised musical.

Like many of this episode's sketches, the Santa's workshop sketch delivered a ton of killer lines. Sure, there were the visual gags like the elves themselves and Santa's svelte new look, but it was the insults hurled between Santa and his elves that really got me. Rudd's Santa threatening his elves that, "If I find candy, I will kill you with your tiny hammer" and Kenan Thompson's elf saying that Santa's new Chili's bartender girlfriend was "his ho ho ho right there" were my favorites.

I wasn't sure where this sketch was going at first. It seemed like a pretty high-concept idea — a lonely woman's former lovers appearing to her as she remembered them. The first two boyfriends, played by Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah, were suave ... that fell apart when Victor, an airport Papa John's employee who had hooked up with Cecily Strong's character, showed up to shatter the mood.

Once again, I gotta applaud the writers for the one-liners in this sketch. When Strong's character insisted she didn't remember Rudd's Victor, the Papa John's worker tried to jog her memory by saying, "I done you so hard, you dropped your phone in the toilet. I grabbed it right out. I don't care. I'm not fancy."

Nasim Pedrad played a former female lover of the woman's, with Pedrad and Strong almost kissing before Victor interrupted. Is this a trend now for SNL? The show already had Kate McKinnon kiss Pedrad a few weeks ago.

When I mentioned this episode having sketches that caused you to laugh even though you were questioning your laughter, the sketch featuring Rudd and Vanessa Bayer playing a couple going through a divorce, with Kenan and Pedrad playing their divorce lawyers was the one I was thinking about.

The sketch bounced back and forth between two running jokes. The first was that every mean thing the couple had to say about each other was actually a misinterpreted truth. For example, Bayer's character called Rudd's character's new girlfriend a witch, which Rudd's character responded to with, "She's not a witch — she’s a secular Wiccan."

Then there was the running joke that Fleetwood Mac's I Don't Want to Know kept playing. Whenever it would play, Rudd and Bayer's characters would stop squabbling and start dancing to the music. Like the Your Love sketch when Josh Hutcherson hosted, I'd love to hear about the genesis of this sketch. Is there a big Fleetwood Mac fan on the SNL writing staff?

Like the monologue, this sketch wasn't posted online.

Wow, it didn't take long for SNL to bring back Killam's 1860's newspaper critic. The character, who was born when Weekend Update poked fun at the newspaper that ran a correction for its article critical of the Gettysburg Address, was instantly Killam's strongest Weekend Update segment. I'm surprised that they went back to this character so quickly. At least Killam slyly acknowledged this during the bit, saying, "It was only three weeks ago. Run things into the ground much?"

And then there was the Bill Brasky sketch. As someone born in 1985, I was only 13 the last time a new Bill Brasky sketch aired. I've seen these sketches in reruns or best-of collections, but this weekend's Brasky redux was the first time I've seen an installment live. With Ferrell, the one actor who's been in all the Brasky sketches, was joined by Killam, Rudd and Koechner, with Thompson coming in toward the end.

As a How I Met Your Mother fan, I would be offended by Rudd saying, "Brasky's colonoscopy tape got higher ratings than How I Met Your Mother," but I'm pretty sure "Brasky's colonoscopy tape" is just another name for Two and a Half Men.

How about any shorts or commercials?

Rudd played Dan Charles, a grown-man who's apparently One Direction's biggest fan. Hey, the guy missed the birth of his child to see One Direction in person. Fun fact: Dan Charles is the name of NPR's food and agriculture correspondent.

"Are we gonna get in trouble for this?" Pharoah asked at the end of the commercial for White Christmas. I don't think so, Jay, but in a season where SNL was under the microscope for its lack of diversity, I'm not sure if boiling down movies targeted at black audiences to their most mockable elements was the best idea.

How was Weekend Update?

Killam's 1860s newspaper critic was the highlight of Weekend Update, but he wasn't the only guest this weekend.

SNL brought back Bayer's Jacob, the bar mitzvah boy, again. I'm not quite sure if the show can keep this character fresh anymore. For the most part, Jacob's jokes were the same as always. He never goes off script. He thanks his family. He tells his brother that he loves him.

The redeeming part of this Jacob visit to Weekend Update was the character's slight breakdown over the fact that he might not see Seth Meyers again. I'm almost certain this was the first time Meyers has openly discussed his impending departure from Weekend Update during an episode.

Anything else worth mentioning?

Following up the energy from the monologue with One Direction and the Anchorman 2 cast singing Afternoon Delight with an Al Sharpton political sketch isn't the brightest idea. Luckily the show was able to recover from this stumble, but c'mon, SNL, don't kill our buzz.

While I appreciated Rudd's character being an unpaid Huffington Post correspondent, the only time I want to see the Huffington Post on SNL is when Pedrad is playing Arianna Huffington.

When Michelangelo was ready to unveil the second statue, I really thought it was going to be Ferrell reprising the homeless guy who posed for painting classes character. Michelangelo totally could've followed up a sculpture with a "tiny peen" with Ferrell's The Stinker.

What's next?

SNL is back on Dec. 14 with John Goodman hosting and Kings of Leon as the musical guest.

Previous editions of Sunday Morning Live

Nov. 24, 2013: Josh Hutcherson
Nov. 17, 2013: Lady Gaga
Nov. 3, 2013: Kerry Washington
Oct. 27, 2013: Edward Norton
Oct. 13, 2013: Bruce Willis
Oct. 6, 2013: Miley Cyrus
Sept. 29, 2013: Tina Fey
SUNDAY MORNING LIVE: Paul Rudd Hosts a Funny (and Weird) 'SNL' Thanks to Help from Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig and Bill Brasky Reviewed by Bill Kuchman on 12/08/2013 Rating: 5

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