more from decider

What's New On Netflix August 2017: Netflix Movies, Netflix Shows, Netflix Originals, And More
What's New On Netflix August 2017: Netflix Movies, Netflix Shows, Netflix...
What's New On Amazon Prime Video August 2017: 'The Tick', 'Nick & Megan: Summer of 69', Meryl Streep, And More
What's New On Amazon Prime Video August 2017: 'The Tick', 'Nick &...
What's New On Hulu August 2017: 'Spider-Man,' 'Difficult People,' 'Saw,' And More
What's New On Hulu August 2017: 'Spider-Man,' 'Difficult People,' 'Saw,'...
What's New On HBO Now August 2017: 'The Ring,' 'Incredible Hulk,' 'Fantastic Beasts,' And More
What's New On HBO Now August 2017: 'The Ring,' 'Incredible Hulk,'...
The 12 Best Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix: August 2017
The 12 Best Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix: August 2017
What's New On Showtime August 2017: 'Ray Donovan', 'Hell or High Water', 'Whitney: Can I Be Me', And More
What's New On Showtime August 2017: 'Ray Donovan', 'Hell or High Water',...
What’s New On STARZ August 2017: 'Charlie's Angels,' 'The Patriot,' 'The Birdcage,' And More
What’s New On STARZ August 2017: 'Charlie's Angels,' 'The Patriot,' 'The...
What's New On Sundance Now August 2017: 'Bronson,' 'All Good Things,' 'Take This Waltz,' And More
What's New On Sundance Now August 2017: 'Bronson,' 'All Good Things,'...
What's New On Shudder August 2017: 'Cooties,' 'Battle Royale,' 'The Wraith,' And More
What's New On Shudder August 2017: 'Cooties,' 'Battle Royale,' 'The...
The Best Reviewed Titles Added To Netflix In August
The Best Reviewed Titles Added To Netflix In August
The Best Reviewed Titles Added To Hulu In August
The Best Reviewed Titles Added To Hulu In August
What's New On BritBox August 2017: 'In The Dark,' 'Vera,' 'Life of Crime,' And More
What's New On BritBox August 2017: 'In The Dark,' 'Vera,' 'Life of Crime,'...

‘Saturday Night Live’ Recap: Ryan Gosling Has A Case Of The Giggles

Where to Stream

Saturday Night Live

Hey girl – Ryan Gosling can’t stop laughing. Do you find that sexy – or maybe just annoying?

Hosting Saturday Night Live for the first time last night, Gosling brought his A-game, if “a” stands for “Attack of the Giggles.” The episode was a mixed bag at best, at least partially because Gosling, an actor far more experienced at drama than at comedy, rarely found a comedic rhythm, and couldn’t stop laughing throughout the night.

It’s telling that his best sketch was a pre-taped bit. Gosling and Vanessa Bayer play a couple at a Christmas party whose demeanor shifts from friendly neighbor to Natural Born Killers when they hear the host tell his young son that Santa Claus is in the house. They violently demand to see Santa, and Gosling uses his movie star intensity to menace his host, including smashing a candy cane to make a shiv.

While Bayer commands the screen in a rare display of a dark side, Gosling brings all his formidable charisma to the role of a man willing to do anything – and I mean anything – to meet Santa Claus.

But the presence that oozes through the screen in a situation where Gosling presumably had multiple takes was nowhere to be found in Studio 8H, as he was unable to conjure his on-screen charisma in the live setting. Most of his sketches found him struggling to view the cue cards, and failing to maintain even the slightest semblance of composure in the face of tepid punchlines.

After a throw-away Donald Trump cold open, Gosling’s monologue focused on his Canadian heritage, as surprise guest Mike Myers showed him reasons to be proud of being Canadian, including an adorable Canadian Christmas character who puts children in a sack and beats them. Even here, as they sing of drinking Molsons and clubbing seals, Gosling almost breaks.

An on-the-mark pre-taped bit for a dating app for women called Settl — “There’s nothing wrong with the guys on Settl. They’re just normal guys with characteristics I’m now willing to overlook.” – was followed by Gosling, Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong debriefing NSA agents Aidy Bryant and Bobby Moynihan about their time aboard an alien spaceship. The joke is that while Strong and Gosling had angelic experiences, McKinnon’s was marked by aliens watching her pee and slapping her boobs, all of which seemed to happen without the boss alien’s consent. (“They just stared while I peed. I don’t think I was dealing with the top brass.”)

Bryant, atypically, broke from the get-go, and Gosling followed right along. By the sketch’s end, even McKinnon was struggling not to laugh, and an unfortunately precedent had been set. Some actors do better than others at keeping it together when their scene partners break. Gosling had no self-discipline in that area the entire show, at times seeming like an audience member who snuck onto the set.

The less said about the ill-advised sketch where Bryant’s hyper-sexualized 13-year-old, at a friend’s slumber party, gets the hots for Gosling’s suburban dad, the better, except to say that Gosling’s role was all set-up, no punchline, and without any sense of comedic timing.

Weekend Update was its usual mixed bag. Co-host Michael Che continued to improve, as his takes on race have grown more pointed, while Strong delivered a sharp portrayal of a pointless character, a tech correspondent who does nothing but flirt with co-host Colin Jost for no discernible or comedic reason.

Bobby Moynihan’s second-hand-news guy Anthony Crispino brought on a friend, third-hand-news guy Angelo, marking the first time tonight Gosling got through a character without cracking up. He does a near-perfect imitation of Crispino, and together, as he and Moynihan report all the news they mishear – including talking about the new film, “Star Wars and the Four Jamaicans” – Gosling matches Crispino’s trademark high-pitched keen to a tee. It’s a funny bit, and Gosling nails it.

Between this and the Santa sketch, it starts to become clear that Gosling’s portrayals grow stronger the more he has to invest in a character. For both the UFO and suburban dad sketches, Gosling played a normal, everyday guy. Thinking about his screen roles, he often understates roles like that, a quality that gives him a brooding intensity on-screen, but a flat affect on stage. For Angelo and his Santa sketch character, he has more scenery to chew, more notes to play. For future appearances, this can serve as a guideline – for biggest laughs, let Gosling act, with a capital “A.”

His next sketch finds him playing himself, as childhood friend Kyle Mooney interrupts his GQ interview to humiliate him with tales of his singing and dancing as a child. Mooney’s game performance aside, the sketch goes nowhere, and even as a thinly-veiled excuse for Gosling to bring his Mickey Mouse Club singing & dancing skills to the fore, we get brief, unexciting snippets of each. Even here, as the sketch fizzles, Gosling can’t hold it together. Somewhere in his mind, he’s watching a funnier episode than the studio audience.

It’s telling that the other funniest sketch of the night is another pre-taped bit, and one that Gosling’s not in, as Taran Killam and Moynihan skewer George Clooney and Danny DeVito’s ridiculous and unavoidable Nespresso commercial.

Gosling’s other passable role is a take on NBC’s broadcast this week of “The Wiz” live, with Gosling playing the Scarecrow from the original The Wizard of Oz dropped onto the set of the current show. Here, Gosling is in full Scarecrow make-up and costume, and has a character to play, imitating Ray Bolger’s famous portrayal and showing off his dancing skills for real this time.

The final sketch marked the return of Bayer and Thompson’s horny masochistic elves, trying to get Moynihan’s Santa to punish them for failing to make the toys on time. Gosling is a third elf, once again playing a character close to himself and demonstrating nothing, and again laughing where he shouldn’t.

Given Gosling’s A-list status, he’ll certainly host again at some point, and hopefully the show’s writers will take note of what worked here and what didn’t. Ryan Gosling is a big screen actor and star, and needed bigger roles to bring out his best. Gosling as an unremarkable man-on-the-street is as unappealing for live comedy as it might be to his legion of adoring fans.

Larry Getlen is the author of the book Conversations with Carlin. His greatest wish is to see Stefon enjoy a cheeseburger at John Belushi’s diner. Follow him on Twitter at @larrygetlen.

Decider

Get the Newsletter.

Sign up for news, stories, offers, and more, all from Decider's Webby Award-nominated newsletter.

By clicking above you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

X