by Aprille Hanson
When you think Blake Shelton in terms of a variety show, he’s certainly a little more “Hee Haw” than “Saturday Night Live.” So, Shelton brought “Hee Haw” to ‘SNL’ on his first hosting gig Jan. 24.
It was only a matter of time when Shelton, a judge (really the judge) on the hit NBC singing competition “The Voice,” would take center stage at Studio 8H. The big question was how would this off-the-cuff, irreverently funny Southern man handle reading cue cards and doing skits that were way out of the box?
Turns out, a country boy can survive hosting ‘SNL’ … and actually do a great job.
After a funny opening regarding the NFL “Deflate-gate” scandal, Shelton came out to a monologue mimicking “Hee Haw,” with the cast by his side, as he strummed his guitar on a hay bale. Some of the cast, all dressed in overalls or big country dresses, “got” the gist of the 1960s-1980s show, which favored one-liners. Others, just tried to tell dirty jokes while Leslie Jones hysterically, wearing a blonde wig, kept saying no, she just did not get this at all, she was not OK with it.
It spring-boarded from there, featuring country-esque sketches like “Farm Hunk” where Shelton was essentially “The Bachelor” and the female cast kept up a revolving door of who would sit by him, each one saying “Can I steal him a sec,” something that really does happen on “The Bachelor.” Each time, the girls would get crazier, whether it was bringing him a live Macaw or telling him he’d have to feed her her meds in bits of cheese. The most laugh-out line was Shelton saying he’d probably kick off the two black contestants, because that’s how it works. It was hysterical and sad because it’s really how the show tends to go.
Other stand-out skits were “Family Feud” where Shelton played with his ‘Voice’ teammates, most notably Taran Killam playing Adam Levine. It was inevitable, as host Steve Harvey (played by Kenan Thompson) explained of the relationship of Shelton and Levine, when the two suggestively sunk behind their podiums. Shelton also did well playing a horrified parole board member to Kenan’s jailed man who eats people in a parody of “The Shawshank Redemption.”
But, the show wasn’t without low points. “Weekend Update” wasn’t worth talking about, the first time this season where it’s fallen really flat. Shelton’s “Topeka Today” sketch where he helped an old man pay tribute to his widow Joan starts off as a love song, but quickly turns into how much he hated her. It was unexpected, but it went on a little long. The plus side, is Shelton could sing the phone book and it’d still sound great with his smooth Southern voice.
The worst was definitely “Wishin’ Boot.” It was mocking the “message” type songs that many country artists gravitate towards by singing how in troubled times, the wishing boot appears to provide food, love and even protection. It lost me when an imposter boot pulled a knife on Shelton. However, it did redeem itself at the end when Kate McKinnon said they’d be making a shit ton of money on that song.
Shelton of course killed it with his performances of “Neon Light” and “Boys ‘Round Here.” However, ‘Boys’ has gotten old – he should have opted for “My Eyes” or his newest hit with Ashley Monroe “Lonely Tonight.” If he wanted to stay upbeat, he could have performed “Doin’ What She Likes” which was another recent major hit for him.
The best performance came at the end of the night where Killam plays a magician performing a show and Shelton as the skeptic in the audience. It was the one time where a skit focused on Shelton and gave him the ability to show off some comedic timing. When the magician convinces the skeptic that there’s no catch, it’s actually magic, Shelton exclaims “OH MY GOD” and goes up on stage to beg the magician to “make me rich.” As Killam tries to continue with the show, Shelton has perfect comedic timing listing off his demands – making him rich, guns for hands and finally the ability to go down on himself.
It was the type of humor that Shelton can pull off.
‘SNL’ in the hands of Shelton could have easily been stale and forced. But Shelton proved that he encompasses the word “performer” in more than just being a country singer.