Apes, Nut-Shots and J-Pop: Jonah Hill Survives SNL

I happen to really like Jonah Hill. Of course, there are people who don’t, and one of those people contacted an evil voodoo queen named Pontchartrain de Glapion and paid 60 dollars to stick Jonah Hill with an SNL sketch about raping a primate — which wouldn’t have even necessarily been so eerie and disturbing other than for the fact that the primate was played so well by Fred Armisen (who was almost unrecognizable). His eyes were so haunted, and I felt icky while watching it, like I had been sucked into a YouTube mash-up of A Child Called “It” and Project Nim. Other than that, though, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

Oh, you know, it was just okay, because everybody was psyched to go on vacation for three weeks. The contrast between Hill’s scene load and Lindsay Lohan’s was notable, of course, largely due to his reprise of six-year-old comic monologist Adam Grossman (previously) and the fact that he was saddled with two verses of “I’ll CU When U Get There.” He also got hit in the nuts with tennis balls 6,000 times — my sources haven’t yet responded on whether or not that was also juju from Madame de Glapion, but it’s probably safe to assume that it was. Hill’s Lids employee/heart rate test subject was strangely evocative of a zombie Kenny Powers, adding to the list of Kenny Powers variations currently on record. Hill managed himself well, though the ratings this week dipped 21 percent from last week’s episode, hosted by office supplies and Debbie Harry. The question is, asks the angry SNL viewer on a riverboat, has Jonah Hill ever managed to do something completely unexpected and to dazzle your eyes out of their sockets?

Maybe not, but his performance was smooth; plus, I’m always interested in male celebrities whose body fat is monitored as unapologetically as, say, Jessica Simpson’s. Because — even though we contradict ourselves when we’re not being horrible — we’re so used to the ruthlessness with which we dissect female celebrity weight loss and gain, it’s kind of interesting to see how we do the same to a dude. Time has been spent on the prominence of his ears on his slenderized head, ink spilled to express fear that he might disappear, and articles devoted to re-creating his sushi diet. His appearance is no longer a reliable cornerstone of the essence of Jonah Hill, malleable as it’s proven to be, and though he never quite deviates from whatever it is he’s doing — the everyman who could use an Ativan — he’s evolved into a different kind of actor than we probably assumed he’d be at the outset of his career. His Oscar nomination was the final earthquake that shook his peninsula from the (venerable! I like to vacation there!) Seth Rogen Republic and sent him floating off into the unchartered bay, powering his sails with the energy generated by his downward fist pump.

He had a certain gravitas when he sported shrinking glasses and ballooning scarves to match his Academy Award nomination ego in the pre-recorded portion of his opener (and then Tom Hanks and his Academy Award materialized, always welcome), and maintained his cool where Lohan was shaky while relying on strangely positioned cue cards in busy scenes. The cue cards are a necessary part of a show with a constantly evolving script, so I think it’s fairer to judge a host’s performance on how well they are able to read what’s in front of them — there’s no way to know who’s given the benefit of a script resembling the rehearsal’s, which is obviously a huge advantage — because remember what it can be like when reading proves too hard?

Though he just kind of mumbled through another installment of “J-Pop America Fun Time Now!” I admit that I have no idea what he was supposed to do with it. Watching “J-Pop America Fun Time Now!” makes me feel like the lone adult on a carousel ride with a lot of little children and people taking pictures from behind the fence: self-conscious and as though I am being somehow offensive just by taking an ignorant spin on a stationary pony.

The Voodoo Queen can now retire for nearly a month to eat Spanish moss in a cemetery somewhere. CU when we get there.

Filed Under: Jonah Hill, Lindsay Lohan, NBC, SNL

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Tess Lynch is a contributing writer to Grantland.

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