Barely into her full-throttle hosting of “Saturday Night Live,” Miley Cyrus vowed, “There will be no twerking tonight. I used to think twerking was cool, but now that white people are doing it, it seems kinda lame.”
Alas, it was a promise unfulfilled. A parody of her song “We Don’t Stop” featured twerkers white, black and, in one case, orange: a lascivious John Boehner (Taran Killam) celebrating his government shutdown with some pretty aggressive pelvic thrusting.
The video was a highlight of the episode making the most of two supreme “SNL” assets: a young, energetic, game-for-anything host and a big, silly, water-cooler news story.
For the song spoof, Cyrus did her grinding and tongue thrusting in the guise of Michele Bachmann, gloating alongside Boehner in the renamed “We Did Stop” — as in the government. It was practically a shot-by-shot takeoff of Cyrus’ avant-garde video, only here the singing ghost face was an animated Ronald Reagan, and the guy shooting smoke from his crotch was Uncle Sam.
Sang the fake Bachmann, “Everyone in line for early child care/Anybody who planned to see a grizzly bear/We are so shut down.”
Cyrus seemed to savor the chance to address her recent controversies and demonstrate skills beyond foam finger desecration. She showed up in practically every sketch, playing Scarlett Johansson, a bossy head cheerleader, a student falling for the new poetry teacher, a Miami morning anchor and Hillary Clinton as seen in a demented made-for-MTV movie.
And she played herself, a few times, starting with the opening bit backstage at her notorious MTV Video Music Awards performance. There she was confronted by her “Hannah Montana”-era self (Chicago’s Vanessa Bayer, a Miley parodist from way back) and gamely goofed on her recent pro-drug comments (her lyrics about molly are taken as an endorsement of an American Girl doll) and her sordid MTV routine (her dance partner in the giant teddy-bear suit cries, “We shouldn’t be doing this!”)
It was a pretty front-loaded show, and as the sports-delayed episode tipped past midnight, the premises got weirder and the laughs scarcer. In the bizarro cheerleaders sketch, about aliens beaming them into a spacecraft, the most striking moment (not visible in the cleaned-up clip above) came when a stagehand was mistakenly on-camera while hooking up Nasim Pedrad to a harness.
* Wondering what became of Hannah Montana after her show ended? “She was murdered,” Cyrus bluntly declared in her monologue, clearly eager to move on.
* Apparently well-coached since her “Weekend Update” co-anchor debut last week, Oak Park’s Cecily Strong played it a little straighter and stuck the jokes a little better. “Update” seemed eternal, dragged out with lengthy recitals by sportscaster Shannon Sharpe (Jay Pharaoh) and a mom addicted to “Grand Theft Auto” (Kate McKinnon). We won’t fault Bayer as bar mitzvah boy Jacob, as that bit never gets old.
* Next week, Bruce Willis hosts for the second time, 24 years after his first stint on the 30 Rock stage. Lately “SNL” seems kinda into bringing back long-ago hosts, what with the recent deployments of Vince Vaughn (after 14 years away), Jim Carrey (15 years) and Jeff Bridges (27 years).