Lady Gaga returns to the 'SNL' stage tonight as both host and musical guest! No surprise there, since Gaga's success is largely thanks to her ability to perform. She can sing, she can dance, and she really knows how to work a stage ... but can she, you know, act? We saw a little of what she can do last time around, but this week 'SNL' puts her talents to the test and gives her a show all her own. Read on for our review of tonight's all-new episode of 'SNL'! 

CBC News Toronto

Taran Killam hosts a Toronto news program interviewing Mayor Rob Ford about his crack scandal. Bobby Moynihan plays a delightfully jovial Ford, who you just can't help but forgive for being a scoundrel because he's like your friendly uncle, but he's no Chris Farley. I mean, come on. Moynihan skewers Ford's press conferences, wherein he goes into absurdly profane outbursts, later sweetly apologizing at yet another press conference. Eventually Ford goes on '60 Minutes' because Americans will believe anything. Hell, earlier this week most of us believed that Andy Kaufman was still alive.

Opening Monologue

That dress. Is Lady Gaga performing with the Rockettes? Right away she launches into a version of her song "Applause," which I forgive her for because A. She's a pop star, B. It's appropriate for her monologue, and C. We haven't had a single musical opener all season. Gaga puts a jokey spin on it, earning "cheap applause" by pandering to the audience by asking if they love New York, if they want to end childhood obesity, and if they love teachers, like "Diane" (Aidy Bryant, planted in the audience). I also really love her banter with Moynihan as a fake perv in the audience and the segue into her spin on "New York, New York."

Paxil Presidential Strength

Talk about 'White House Down.' 'SNL' satirizes anti-depression medication commercials with Paxil Presidential Strength, a medication for Obama, who is suffering from "Second Term Depression," in which even his own friends have turned on him. Paxil Presidential Strength is just what he needs to turn those approval ratings upside down. It also treats symptoms like "Benghazi, the NSA scandal, and Obamacare website problems." Bonus: Paxil Republican Strength!

Waking Up With Kimye

Jay Pharaoh and Nasim Pedrad are Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, hosting their very own morning talk show, featuring their in-house family band, "The Kardashian 11." (Most of them play triangle.) Let me tell you about how great this sketch is: Pharaoh's random Kanye yelling and "HAUGHHH" noises, a dressed-down and dorky Gaga, Pedrad's obliviousness, "intergalactic icon," the Simon machine ... it's all just kind of amazing. Especially when Kanye gets pissed that Gaga, playing an Apple store Genius, for calling herself a genius, and yells about how he's a god. It's also great in how it supposes that Kanye is sort of enabling Kim into believing that she's a genius just by, you know, daring to have thoughts while standing next to him.

WHAAAT? The Worst Cover Songs of All Time

Taran Killam plays a really great Adam Duritz, guys. And here he is selling us an album of the worst cover songs of all time, featuring Britney Spears (Noel Wells) singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," Rick Ross (Kenan Thompson) doing Anna Kendrick's "Cups," Lana Del Rey and Nathan Lane (Cecily Strong and Bobby Moynihan) doing Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me," and Adele (Aidy Bryant) covering the theme song from 'L.A. Law.' And then 'SNL' does something so kinda brilliant and cheeky and maybe a little too on the nose (and possibly already a little dated) -- they have Gaga herself cover Madonna's "Express Yourself," which is just Madonna's beat with Gaga's lyrics to "Born This Way," which, as we all know, is ... well, it's exactly what "Born This Way" already is.

But the rest of the sketch! It's an awesome intersection of modern pop and 90s references that's just impeccable. So far we're five for five tonight, if we're counting the opening monologue, and I am. If we're going by consistency, this is the best 'SNL' of the season, and maybe the best episode in a long time.

Weekend Update

Kenan Thompson stops by as Mr. Senior, the "common sense correspondent" here to comment on the Christmas tree going up in Rockefeller Center. And he's saying what's been on all of our minds for years! Why are we jumping between Halloween and Christmas so quickly? Mr. Senior gives us a special on-location report outside 30 Rock, yelling at various holiday celebrators and employees for daring to get in the spirit. He's no Drunk Uncle. This is our first dud of the night, but not that bad.

Taran Killam comes by as Jebediah Atkinson, the one negative critic of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address, whose review was retracted from a newspaper. Killam reads the first draft of his hilariously cruel, pun-tastic review. "With dialogue that clunky, I'm surprised he was shot by an actor. Too soon?!" And, delight of all delights, he's reviewed ALL of the speeches over the years! God, I hope Jebediah comes back sometime soon. He's wonderful.

Co-Op Board Interview

Cecily Strong hosts a co-op board interview with two prospective tenants, played by Vanessa Bayer and Beck Bennett. The eccentric neighbors all over-share about their personal lives -- sex, bathroom habits, etc. Lady Gaga plays a woman who believes she inspired Marisa Tomei's character in Cousin Vinny (I'm sure she's been getting that Tomei comparison for years), and Kate McKinnon makes her first appearance of the night as a deranged woman who gives birth to broccoli. The joke here being that everyone here should probably be screened more than this couple. It's a fairly funny sketch, but nowhere near as great as Kimye and WHAAAT?!


A film study class for kid actors, where students will learn how to perform scenes from serious films. Vanessa Bayer plays a Disney-level kid actor like so well, it's almost terrifying. Her cadence is uncanny, and I mean that in the sincerest form of the word. Bayer is joined by Gaga and Killam, who do scenes from films like 'Training Day' and 'The Social Network,' trying to G-rate it down a bit. This sort of reminds me of when 'SNL' used to do those 'Law and Order' audition sketches, where the actors took the bit parts way too seriously. Spotlightz! does things a bit differently, and I think it works as commentary on the popularity of those viral internet videos of kids performing G-rated, truncated versions of stuff like 'Breaking Bad' -- which is also satirized here. But at least those videos are cute; this sketch just starts to get grating after a while when the novelty wears off.

Blockbuster's Closing

Bobby Moynihan, Taran Killam, Mike O'Brien, and Beck Bennett play Blockbuster employees despondent over the closing of the store in this pre-recorded sketch. The guys attack a Redbox, ceremoniously bury DVDs, and give a 'Croods' cardboard standee a viking funeral before finding a makeshift gypsy haven of fellow former Blockbuster workers led by a mystical queen (Lady Gaga) ... in reality, they've been dreaming, and they now work at Best Buy. It's a nice follow-up to last week's similar dream-themed Ice Cream short. (But also, like, who really misses Blockbuster? That place killed local video stores. Death to Blockbuster!)

Wilson Elementary School Talent Pageant

Aidy Bryant hosts a fourth grade talent pageant, where John Milhiser and Lady Gaga play the overzealous parents of a girl named Ashley ... and they are NUTS. They're slapping each other's butts and dancing along, and yelling at their daughter, and they're kind of, like, getting off on it. This is some incredibly weird stuff. I really don't think I have the capacity to describe what just happened on this sketch, but it's blissfully short, so there's that.

Future Lady Gaga

Gaga plays a future version of herself, a little elderly Stefani Germanotta, who calls her building's super to fix a broken light bulb, but desperately tries to convince him that she was once a famous person that people called "Lady Gaga." Her little old woman track jacket and gold medallion and smeared lipstick are too adorable. Actually, this is probably how I'll look in about 20 years. She's like a cross between the lady gremlin in 'Gremlins 2' and Janine in 'Ghostbusters.'

Rosé Zone

Like the NFL RedZone, which features the best sports moments for all the men in one place, the Rosé Zone features the trashiest reality TV show moments for the ladies! From 'Toddlers and Tiaras' to the Kardashians, it's all here. "Just hot garbage, 24/7." You know, for women who want to see women doing horrible things and not eating salads.

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