Stiller Fades Into ‘SNL’ Gig

Ben Stiller was only hosting “Saturday Night Live” for the second time Saturday, though he was a cast member himself for the briefest time in 1989.

That’s the role he seemed to play this week as host, acting more like an ensemble member, fading into sketches, taking smaller roles in sketches or disappearing from them altogether.

From the first part of the episode you might have think Jason Sudeikis was hosting; he was in three different sketches, playing Mitt Romney, Hank Williams Jr., and the first of a series of plane riders who meet their future selves.

Stiller, for his part, was missing from the Romney bit, played a representative of Bocephus, and was in the third retirement planning commercial much later.

You’d be hard pressed to say he had a really starring role in any sketch.

Stiller portrayed Mandy Patinkin in a sketch in which Hugh Jackman put in a cameo as Daniel Radcliffe; he put on his Zoolander persona accompanying Bill Hader’s Stefon’s bit on Weekend Update.

Stiller’s opening monologue featured the most elaborate set decoration for a sketch in recent memory – involving a Willy Wonka fantasyland of Jewish food, for a song he did with Andy Samberg, as the Jewish Willy Wonka.

Stiller was part of the ensemble for a costume party sketch involving Kristin Wiig’s wiggly Shanna bit – but anybody else could have filled in. Same with a V-neck shirt-off digital short and an elaborate takeoff of “Moneyball.”

The show’s funniest bit, from Under-Underground Records’ hyper hucksters DJ Supersoak and Lil Blaster, advertising a festival called the Columbus Day Assblast, used Stiller for just a moment – as a slow-talking spiritual adviser Eckhart Tolle.

Stiller used to do a pretty good Bono impersonation, but he’s less convincing as Bruce Springsteen, doing a commercial for a new release called “Just the Stories,” featuring only his autobiographical banter between songs.

These little ads at the end of the show seemed there just to fill time to the end, designed to be easily dropped if other things ran long.(It didn’t).

In the end the most surprising moment of the show came when Kenny G (and not Stiller dressed as Kenny G) stood in with the musical guests Foster the People – the best use of schlock on the show since Michael Bolton stepped in with Lonely Planet Island.

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