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TV Review: Hugh Laurie Hosting Saturday Night Live

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Disclaimer: I am one of the millions of Americans who discovered Hugh Laurie on FOX's House. I am a fan of both the man and the show.

I was still chuckling the next day over the sight of six-foot-three Hugh Laurie in drag, wearing a super short skirt and three-inch-spike heels, jumping onto a hospital bed during a skit on Saturday Day Night Live the night of October 28. It was so silly, and Hugh seemed to be having a good time. It was very much more British than some of the other skits (drag is standard British comic fare); maybe that's why he seemed more relaxed than earlier in the show.

I am no fan of SNL. I never even watched it in its heyday. I only watched this episode because Hugh Laurie was hosting, and I must say, it wasn't all that amusing, even with Hugh. How do they write this show? They have writers, I know. But do the guests get to collaborate? In a way, I hope not, because the opening monologue was unexceptional, and I know Hugh can do better (he co-wrote his hit comedy sketch series with partner Stephen Fry, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, after all). The monologue had a few humorous moments, like when Hugh was trying to explain he was from England and could he please have a map to point out where it is, and they rolled out a map of the United States. But his calling the audience "Sweet Cheeks" made me wince. It was a pale imitation of what he and Stephen Fry once did at a benefit concert, where they called the huge (tens of thousands) audience "Colin." (Colin seemed to be their amusing generic name for anyone and anything, and it was much handier to name that large a crowd than the hundred or so who fit in the studio of SNL.)

Hugh seemed genuinely embarrassed by the huge response of the crowd when he was introduced, but he got through the monologue. The first sketch up afterward, of ghost busters thinking a fart was a communication from the afterlife, was a cute joke that went on too long. The skit of Hugh being the guy who travels ahead of the Queen and makes all her strange demands known wasn't very comical to me, but Hugh did so much better than the woman in the skit with him. He sang his song "All We Gotta Do" nicely and even elicited a laugh from my husband, but he did it better on ABOFAL, where it first appeared. During the drag sketch, though, Hugh seemed to hit his stride, and he gave an energetic performance in the last skit, even though it was a pretty unfunny shtick about lawyers who make strange noises when happy.

Overall, I think Hugh Laurie acquitted himself well and proved he hasn't lost his comic chops. (He really is game, having also done Inside the Actor's Studio this year, as well as playing a silly game about etiquette on Ellen DeGeneres' show.) SNL, however, blew its chance with me, an infrequent viewer who could have been convinced to watch more often. How it continues to go on and produce successful spinoffs is beyond me.

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About Nancy Fontaine

Nancy Fontaine is a librarian and freelance writer living in New Hampshire with her husband, two cats, and every four years during presidential primary season, the national press.
  • Ellen

    I agree! I stopped watching SNL after Mike Myers left, and now I know why. The opening skit, about the fart joke, went on for what seemed an eternity. Hugh seemed so far above his material! The skit with him in drag was hilarious, though, if only for the sight of such a tall drink of water in such a short, short skirt and such high, high heels!

  • I only watched because of Hugh Laurie, too, and it made me realize why I stopped watching SNL. I liked the opening monologue and the Queen sketch, and have to admit I laughed at the fart sketch, though it went on way too long, and loved his protest song (though it’s from A Bit of Fry and Laurie so many of us rabid HL fans had heard it before). But other than that, even his presence couldn’t sustain my interest.

    And I couldn’t believe they didn’t do a House parody. Maybe he didn’t want to, but it seemed like a huge missed opportunity. How could you go wrong with the man himself mocking his biggest role?

  • LOL, Ellen! A tall drink of water indeed! He has great legs…

    Diane, I laughed at the fart sketch too. I don’t mind that they didn’t mock House, though. I’m not sure why. Sombeody on British TV did some great House parodies (which I saw on YouTube). SNL would have butchered it, I think.

  • HouseNut

    I too only watched SNL to see Hugh. I think I may have enjoyed his performance much more if I wasn’t already a Hugh Laurie Junkie and if I hadn’t saturated myself with every and anything that he’s done. I think if I’d seen him perform the parody song from Fry & Laurie on SNL without having seen it on Fry & Laurie, I’d of been in total awe. I kinda envy those who didn’t know this other side of Hugh already. The last sketch I thought was the best. I totally enjoyed seeing Hugh in drag. The sketch wasn’t funny, but Hugh was. I was expecting a House parody and I kinda wish they’d done one. Why they missed that opporunity I haven’t a clue.

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