Kevin Hart hosted Saturday Night Live for the second time this weekend, as he played an insecure James Brown, a dog-walker in Brooklyn and a castle-dwelling guy who hates singing. But was the episode a winner? Read on to find out.
The cold open gave the show a chance to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., along with referencing recent issues involving diversity. The best joke might have been the one calling out Selma’s Oscar snubs.
Hart’s monologue was strong, ranging from calling out the raccoon in his yard that’s a “bitch,” to pointing out that his wife would fight a mountain lion for him. “I think that’s sweet, but I think it’s stupid,” he quipped. There was nothing fancy to this monologue, but he did some solid stand-up.
Any chance for Kate McKinnon to dust off her amazing impersonation of Justin Bieber is more than welcome, so this week’s episode brought a parody of the Biebs’ recent Calvin Klein photo shoot. “Yo, my pee-pee’s in there,” an immature Bieber said about his underwear.
Hart’s first sketch saw him play a creepy TV show host who keeps a dungeon behind his desk for people whose Instagram accounts bother him. “This is about you trying to show off your little orangutan nipples,” he told one contestant who had tweeted a shirtless selfie to honor the Charlie Hebdo victims.
The sketches kept on getting stronger from there. Hart joined Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah as three Bushwick pals with surprising interests, including artisanal mayonnaise. “You act like somebody put gluten in your muffin or something,” one of them said.
Also great was Hart as James Brown, who apparently doesn’t know what rhetorical questions are. When the singer wanted to know if each of his bandmates thought the song should get funkier, one replied, “This is pretty good where we’re at, funk-wise.”
Weekend Update took more potshots at the Oscars, with Michael Che saying that an Oscar could provide a black actor with “great future roles, like Snow Dogs or Catwoman or maybe even a Weightwatchers commercial.” Also enjoyable was a gag about Zookeeper 2: Rhino Escape, but that might just be because we love Zookeeper and are thrilled whenever it still seems remotely relevant (which, let’s face it, it’s not).
In a later sketch, Hart was preparing to flee from a dragon, but his pals kept insisting on singing. “Hey, whose little pants are these?” he asked while frantically trying to pack for them. Hart also played a rapper who called out his friends and a version of himself, as he found his long-lost son.
All told, this was an excellent episode, as Hart proved to be an energetic and hilarious host, not to mention a good sport. Almost every sketch had a decent gag, and many sketches were superb. It was a great way to start the year, SNL. Please keep it up.
This article originally appeared in THR.com.