SNL Digest: James Franco/Nicki Minaj (12/6/14)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "James Franco" Episode 1670 -- Pictured: (l-r) Nicki Minaj and James Franco on December 4, 2014 -- (Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC)
(Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC)

James Franco and Nicki Minaj keep things running smoothly on the 40th season of Saturday Night Live

After the live spectacle of Thursday’s rendition of Peter Pan1, it’s good to get back to the other live showcase NBC puts on.  James Franco has hosted a few times before, but, being in multiple different grad programs, he also made a documentary following the behind-the-scenes of the last time John Malkovich hosted that’s now available in full on Hulu.  It’s nothing Oscar-worthy, but if you’re like me and you’ve read about SNL’s process, but want to just see it for yourself, it’s worth the time2.  Enough about that, though.  How was this week’s episode?

Well, after a few weeks off, SNL seems to be doing pretty well. Just as he blends into the background of the SNL documentary, James Franco seemed to blend in and become part of the ensemble, which I tend to like.

What You Missed:


The Interview doesn’t look great, but the fact that Sony appears to have been hacked because of it is great monologue fodder.  The jokes are a bit predictable (especially after Seth Rogen shows up), but this was short, sweet, and to the point.

Peter Pan Live!

If SNL didn’t take on the live musical like they did last year, I was going to be heavily disappointed.  This was exactly what I wanted and it was great.  Also, I would like to point out that I called this on Friday:


Star Wars Trailer

I’m at a reasonable level of excitement for the new Star Wars movie, but this knocked it out of the park for me.  Bobby as Leia having issues with R2D2 killed me.

Jingle Ballerz

I don’t know who’s responsible on the writing side, but SNL has been nailing MTV’s desperate-to-seem-hip-and-edgy tone.  This was another sketch that’s just a collection of impressions, but I tend to like those.  I’m still not sure about what kind of thing is going on between James Franco and Riff Raff, but it’s nice to see that get played on.  Sasheer’s Rihanna was a little weak, as was Nicki Minaj’s Beyonce, but the reappearance of Kate McKinnon as Justin Bieber and Jay Pharaoh as Kanye West made up for it.


Mike O’Brien was a writer for SNL for a while, then was in the cast last year, and now has moved back to the writing team in a role Albert Brooks had when SNL first started, providing short films.  His first contribution this year ended up as a web exclusive, but this offering was really good.  I can’t say it was laugh-out-loud funny, but it had some interesting ideas

Magic Bridge

This was more a showcase for Cecily Strong’s Kathy-Ann than any major thing from James Franco, but it worked for me.

Weekend Update

  • The coverage of the Staten Island trial at the top of Weekend Update was great.  Excellent interplay between Che and Jost.
  • Anthony Crispino!  He’s okay.  The bit’s getting a little old.
  • Leslie Jones continues to be a treasure as an Update correspondent
  • “I don’t know how the debate turned out, because once I googled the phrase ‘Black Peter’, work took away my internet” “Well, it was your second time.”3
  • Nicki Minaj, bless her heart, can not impersonate Kim Kardashian.  Also, it’s at least a few weeks too late to talk about the Paper Magazine cover

Jeremy’s Brain

James Franco – Jeremy’s Brain (Nicki Minaj… by IdolxMuzic

This one isn’t on Yahoo Screen or Hulu, so catch it while it’s hot.

As a trivia know-it-all, this sketch was made for me, with James Franco as the decider of what knowledge gets forgotten to remember a new password.  Particularly great: Taran as the lead singer of Savage Garden4 and Aidy as the word ‘Rhombus’ volunteering to leave and taking the “Bye Bye Bye” dance with her.

Political Ad

This sketch may have had me from the opening setting this in small town Minnesota5.  This was a great rebuttal from the person who the 4-Year-Old mayor beat out going to ridiculous lengths for every claim the child made.

What You Didn’t Miss:

  • The cold open in this week was in the right place (the reaction and protests to what’s been going on with the Ferguson and Staten Island cases), but was a little too toothless and went through the same jokes it does every time Keenan plays Ferguson.  It could have gone further (and Weekend Update did a better job with this).
  • I love the Cryssuls Girls, but their ad for Sunsinker Yacuts6 felt rushed when Nicki Minaj’s second performance ran long.  I think there was more desire to do this sketch than actual time for it.

We’re back next week with a bunch of first-timers!  Sherlock and The Hobbit‘s Martin Freeman and singer Charli XCX are running the show.  See you then!

  1. which felt really long to me when I caught it OnDemand, if only because I’m not familiar with the original musical and there was just so much of it, despite some great and less-than-great performances from the cast – looking at you, Walken.  
  2. plus, there are worse ways to waste 90 minutes  
  3. fun fact: one time at a work holiday party where all the employees from our Amsterdam office were also in attendance, I had to sit through 20 minutes of a co-worker showing me photos of a Christmas parade, including plenty of Black Peters.  It was awkward, to say the least  
  4. followed by a heck of a quick change into Billy Zane from Titanic  
  5. Side note: why are TV “kid mayor” stories always seemingly set in Minnesota?  Ben Wyatt on Parks & Rec, and now this…  
  6. Sunseeker Yachts  

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About Ben Smith 252 Articles
Ben has been writing about TV, music, and pop culture in some form or another since 2009, including stints at Mental Floss and Temporary Obsession. When not solving puzzles of some sort or consuming pop culture at a frightening pace, he can be found collecting shiny pieces of the internet at E-mail: