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Saturday Night Live: The Sketches with the Most Hart

After the Christoph Waltz experiment worked out better than anyone could have anticipated, Saturday Night Live retreated to safer ground this week, going with established comic Kevin Hart as host. Unlike its more offbeat predecessor, which went off in some strange, but amusing directions (in that way perfectly complementing Waltz's onscreen persona), this episode was standard Saturday Night Live fare, a series of underwritten sketches that lived and died on the strength of the cast and emcee.

The nice thing about having an experienced comedian like Hart in the mix is that the writers can plug him into a wider range of sketches, trusting that he'll do his best to make even the most dubious material work. (Unlike, say, what happened with the horrendous Adam Levine episode -- easily the lowest point of an already mediocre season -- where it was obvious Levine had no idea what he was doing and the scripts were written around him whenever possible.) And we'll give the guy this: Hart absolutely worked his butt off for 90 minutes, bringing an almost unnatural energy and enthusiasm to this marathon of a broadcast. Based on that alone, SNL should absolutely invite him back... and maybe write him better jokes next time. Here are the sketches that benefitted from the most Hart.

Opening Monologue
As previously stated, Hart's background is stand-up comedy, which means the writers didn't have to trick out his monologue with stunts and star cameos. Instead, he did the revolutionary thing of just taking center stage and -- gasp! -- telling jokes. Opening with an extended riff on a strange experience at Panera Bread, Hart segued into a pretty funny description of the time he auditioned for SNL (spoiler alert: he didn't get the job). Honestly, he looked so comfortable standing there cracking wise, the rest of the cast could have just gone home and let him do his own material for the next hour-and-a-half.
Most Hart-Warming Line: "My closer was Denzel Washington. Reason why I chose Denzel, I'm black, Denzel's black, it was a perfect combination."

Steve Harvey Show: Phobias
Since this is most likely Kenan Thompson's final year (he's currently developing an NBC sitcom with Lorne Michaels... hey, maybe he should be the new star of Up All Night! Everyone else has already quit), all of his recurring characters/impersonations are being given a send-off. Donning Steve Harvey's Italian suits for possibly the final time, Thompson tried to cure Hart's "pho-bye-ya" of horses through the use of an imposing equine puppet. The duo obviously enjoyed ping-ponging off each other, which made up for the fact that the concept of the skit could most generously be described as "half-assed."
Most Hart-Warming Line: "Steve, one time, let me tell you something, I had a horse come up and take my rings. And after he took my rings, he bodyslammed me."

The Situation Room
Although the idea of Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis as the new Pope is a gag that would probably work better as a Tumblr gif than a full sketch, Hart did contribute a spot-on recreation of the young actress's signature "muscle man" pose. She's totally going to play his daughter in the Think Like a Man sequel, right?
Most Hart-Warming Line: Hart-as-Wallis didn't speak much, but the sight of him/her enjoying a horsey ride on a cardinal's back was worth a thousand words.

Really?! With Seth and Kevin
Although the cue cards tripped him up in the beginning, Hart built up a nice head of steam by the end of Weekend Update's recurring rant, which this week tackled the Supreme Court's recent hearing over a challenge to the Voting Rights Act. It was a segment almost worthy of The Daily Show... and that's high praise.
Most Hart-Warming Line: "Nothing is more racist than having one black friend. Zero black friends is somehow less racist than having one black friend."

Z-Shirt
Probably the funniest sketch of the night, this spot-on send-up of those aggressively "cool" '90s commercials (you know, the ones with hyper-color backgrounds and skewed camera angles that recalled the theme song of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) let the full force of Hart's energy loose as he ran through each letter of the alphabet to his increasingly wigged out co-pitchman (Tim Robinson, who is still struggling to find his feet in the current cast). We're sold: where can we buy our own Z-Shirt?
Most Hart-Warming Line: "So many letters!"

Recording Session
Two voiceover actors -- Vanessa Bayer's Patricia and Hart's Dante -- enter the recording studio to audition for a commercial for Dove Chocolate and only one leaves with the gig... and it's not the one you (or they) might think. We can't be the only ones who cracked up at the different way Bayer and Hart said "bubble bath."
Most Hart-Warming Line: "What would I bring if I was trapped on a desert island? A bubble bath! Yeah, best of luck on that, stupid."

As far as the night's worst sketch goes, the Barnes and Noble skit where Bobby Monyihan and Cecily Strong just insulted everyone for five minutes was pretty dire, but we're giving it to The Walking Dead send-up, if only because it was such a missed opportunity. Unlike the Homeland spoof from the Anne Hathaway episode last fall -- which was so dead-on it was scary -- this one felt as though the writers hadn't watched an episode of Dead since Season 1. There's a funny way to talk about the show's depiction of racial politics in a post-zombie invasion society, but this most definitely wasn't it.

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