"Saturday Night Live" wrapped its 36th season this past weekend, and put the night's two superstar guests, Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake, behind the wheel with predictably excellent results. A wise move after last week's yawnfest with Ed Helms, and a surefire win with the revisits of man of JT's classic "SNL" gags and characters. Oh yeah, and Lady Gaga showed off a dominatrix faux-pregnant belly during her performance.
The week's cold open focused on IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a refreshing departure at least from the stale Obama bit. How exactly we get to Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah arguing about euros and the German debit crisis, but we know the formula these days on SNL, and we aren't expecting laughs at least until the opening monologue. Hey, at least they're consistent.
Cue hosting all-star Justin Timberlake, dapper in a three-piece and ready to send off the season on a high note. Of course, the obligatory musical number comes out, specifically about telling Lorne Michaels he's "not gonna sing tonight" – complete with his signature falsetto and a moment with a genuinely swooning audience member. If the man weren't such a blinding goddamned talent I'd be talking about the crowd drowning in cheese instead of praising his champion command of the act.
Kristen Wiig's teabag-pumping harpist is blown out on the street by JT's beer-slinging Liquorville karaoke character, a reprise of his "Bring It On Down" sketch, dropping revised lyrics to snippets from B.o.B, Flo Rida, Rhianna and more. It's a predictable but ever-consistently chucklicious bit – until Gaga shows up and weirds the entire scene out. Awkward and overdramatic, but hell, she gets credit for taking part – and throwing deep cleavage.
The Digital Short… the dreaded third installment of the "Dick in a Box" jam. Last up was "Mother Lover," now we've got the Color Me Badd style with Gaga in a threesome for "The Golden Rule," which should be called "It's Not Gay When It's in a Three-Way". After cameos from "moms" Patricia Clarkson and Susan Sarandon, we dive deep into the carnal absurdity with Two Jack Trippers and a Chrissy – "oh, you guys are still here…". Helicopter dick? Well played, boys.
Lady Gaga's appearance provided the theatrical absurdity, but she pulled off her medley of "Edge of Glory" and "Judas" quite well. Not much else to say about the first performance, but an onstage costume change in her second performance ("Born This Way") found Mother Monster saddled with a prosthetic latex-covered pregnancy belly. Her crew hoisted her onto a throne and caressed her body as glitter rained down onto the pop diva in a sort of Liberace-afterbirth effect that was as entertaining as it was disturbing.
Weekend Update followed, wherein Seth Meyers chiefly obliterated Arnold Schwarzenegger for his extra-marital offenses. It's a gold mine of comic potential, but the octane only goes so high on the subject matter. Bradley Cooper plays along well as a guest on "Get In The Cage" with a phenomenally funny Sandberg impression of Hollywood weirdo Nicolas Cage.
Am I terrible for hoping this is the final Update with Meyers as sole host? He does a fine job, but the show's midway mark has relied far more on guests of late than actual substance from the faux-anchor.
What's My Name, Celebrity Edition! It's hard not to laugh at JT as an awkward player who can't remember his one-night stand's name or even that of his former N'Sync bandmate Chris. Gaga as a fan-adoring detail master worked as well.
The creeptastic Love Tunnel skit maintains its charm, with a soon-to-be-murdered Jason Sudeikis weirded out by the animatronic oglers and Nasim Pedrad barely able to keep from passing out entirely when kissing Timberlake, by the looks of it. Seriously. Girl was flushed.
Jimmy Fallon returned to his comedic alma mater to reprise his role as half the dynamic duo of the Barry Gibb Talk Show, with Timberlake back as the pathetically apathetic sidekick Robin Gibb to Fallon's spazzy karate-chopping Barry as he grilled guests about the U.S. debt. The harmonized "We suckled at the same teat!" line sent soda spraying from my mouth across the living room.
"I'm Barry effin' Gibb! I survived the Rapture!"
SNL has a knack for making us forget recent pitfalls by bringing the laughs the following week, and the last episode of the 2010-2011 season followed suit. A very solid exit for a very inconsistent season. I've been an SNL fan since I was literally in utero, and seen enough highs and lows to fill a Cheech & Chong after-school special about manic depression. No matter how it treats us, however, some love affairs we just can't break away from. See you next fall with a new crop of castmembers, hosts and, hopefully, more consistent laughs.