By Claire Zulkey
11:15 AM EST, January 26, 2014
Even though he’s been nominated twice now for Academy Awards, it’s still a little hard to stop thinking of Jonah Hill as that roly-poly comedic acolyte of Judd Apatow (specifically, as this guy.) Perhaps it’s time to admit he’s a real actor in addition to a comic presence.
Both sides of Hill were on display Saturday night when he hosted “SNL” for the third time. Some sketches were as broad and loud and demeaning as could possibly be. In one scene, he played a man forced to admit he clogged a toilet on a game show. In another, he was punched in the face by a horse. In one scene that recalled the spirit of Chris Farley, he played a man trying to impress his boss at a dinner party who painted his face with makeup and screamed in the bathroom about his “infant penis syndrome.” (The cold open, about the U.S. Men’s Heterosexual Figure Skating Championship, which did not feature Hill, also was reminiscent of Farley, specifically the time he skated with Nancy Kerrigan.)
Hill’s more subtle comedic side came out, though, in sketches such as “Inside SoCal,” which was a quieter and possibly more accurate “The Californians.” In the Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett-helmed video, some California youngsters report from a “kicker,” but all the enthusiasm of a teenage house party is watered down to a laid-back-ness that’s nearly comatose, making their jargony observations sound hilariously sad (like Hill saying his dad was “definitely the No. 1 gangster in my life, it's just, like, sometimes I feel, like, I'm not, like, that sick of a son.”)
Hill also appeared in “Me,” a parody of the film “Her,” in which the protagonist falls in love with an operating system that’s voiced by himself. “I think you can go higher,” Hill’s voice encourages, as Hill tries on the high-waisted pants worn by Joaquin Phoenix in “Her.” Eventually, Hill essentially has sex with himself (via a surrogate played by his “Superbad” co-star Michael Cera.) Recalling “Superbad”'s pillow-talk scene, Cera says, post coitus, “The future’s weird, huh?” “Yeah, super weird," replies Hill. Super weird indeed.
Cera wasn’t the only co-star of Hill’s to stop by. In the monologue, Hill bragged he had to convince Martin Scorsese to cast Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Then DiCaprio emerged, talking Hill out of being a “big shot,” but ultimately made him feel safe again by re-creating the iconic Jack and Rose flying pose from “Titanic” (with Hill as Rose, naturally.)
Finally, even though it didn’t feature Hill or any other special guests, anyone suffering from the repeated beatings that this winter has been delivering should watch “The Hit,” a video about three hit men who stop and contemplate the beauty of winter, but with an ending that feels depressingly apt.
“SNL” returns with another veteran host next week: Melissa McCarthy, with musical guest Imagine Dragons.
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