When it comes to SNL, we rarely delve too deeply into a host’s delivery. There are so many moving parts to the production of an SNL episode — last-minute rewrites and prop construction and wardrobe quick changes — that a host has but a narrow range within which to succeed or fail. They either fit nicely into the machine, like Alec Baldwin or Justin Timberlake, or, like Justin Bieber or Jennifer Lawrence, they clatter around within it like a forgotten wrench under the hood.
Then someone like Melissa McCarthy comes along. At first it’s a mystery why the Groundling never worked on the show as a regular cast member, but upon second thought it becomes clear. She breaks the rules. Whenever McCarthy enters a scene, whatever governing premise from the moment before is now forced to merge with the catastrophically insecure human being who is making a mess all over the room. (I say human being, because to describe McCarthy’s fully realized and nuanced work as a character seems like an understatement.) Melissa McCarthy is the scene. Her sketches have structure, patterns, and jokes, but they are all rooted in the psyche of Sheila Kelly, Casey Battersix, Jean Corerra, Barb Kelner, Veronica Shanks, or Nanelle. Hell, McCarthy even subverted the monologue — usually the most composed segment of the night — milking it near the band for several minutes before eventually hitting her mark (somewhat wobbly) downstage.