SNL: Amy Poehler Returns, And Brings Her Former Cast Mates With Her

The 36th season of Saturday Night Live premiered last night, and though former cast member Amy Poehler was the night's host, she wasn't the only blast from the past who made an appearance.

After a cold open featuring Kristen Wiig as Christine O'Donnell, Poehler took the stage and described the strange, anxiety-ridden dreams she used to have while she was a cast member on SNL, setting up cameos from Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, and honorary cast member Justin Timberlake. It was a fun and exciting way to kick off the show—and the season—but at the same time slightly depressing, in that it was a reminder of how much the presence of all of the show's guests, including Poehler, is missed on the SNL stage. Still: four new cast members were introduced tonight, as well, and every season brings the promise of memorable characters and sketches, so perhaps it's best to look forward instead of looking back.

Maya Rudolph also returned to the show in order to reprise her Bronx Beat character alongside Poehler, in a skit wherein musical guest Katy Perry took an opportunity to address her recent Sesame Street scandal:



The show was a bit of a mixed bag: Poehler's return to the Weekend Update desk (including the requisite "Really?!?" sketch) was welcome, and newcomer Jay Pharaoh delivered a spot-on Will Smith impression that stood out just as much as a guest appearance by NY Gov. David Patterson, who finally appeared on the show after years of ridicule by his SNL alter-ego, Fred Armisen, to chastise the show for mocking his blindness. A "Ground Zero Mosque" commercial was also pretty great—getting more and more offensive and ridiculous as it went on, and ending with a zinger that wrapped everything up and put things into a pretty hilarious context.

Like last season, however, the show seemed to rely on 7th grade humor somewhat often: pube jokes, fart jokes, and, thanks to a disappointing digital short, booger jokes) that seemed kind of tired (though it might just be that booger/fart jokes aren't really my thing). It also felt, at times, that the show was somewhat fragmented: here's a Fred sketch, here's an Andy sketch, here's an Amy sketch, etc, and some cast members, including Kenan Thompson, Bobby Moynihan, and the great Nasim Pedrad, barely had any screentime at all. The best bits were the ones wherein the show seemed to be working as an ensemble, like this bizarre-in-a-marvelous way "Ladies Who Lunch" skit, starring Poehler, Bill Hader, Abby Elliott, Kristen Wiig, and newbie Vanessa Bayer as tiny-hat-obsessed fashionistas:




All in all, not a bad start to the season. Next week: Bryan Cranston and Kanye West, who, earlier this year, dissed SNL in his song, "Power." Should be interesting to see how they'll handle that.

Want to watch the show for yourself? NBC has clips up here.