Critical Consensus: Vocal talent was surprise star of Renner's SNL debut

jfarrow@modbee.comNovember 18, 2012 

Maroon 5 performed this weekend on "Saturday Night Live," but in the eyes — and ears — of many viewers, host Jeremy Renner was the real musical treat. The Sunday morning buzz on the latest episode of NBC's sketch-comedy show was mixed, but online columnists, bloggers and message-board commenters agreed on one thing: The man can really sing.

For his opening monologue, the two-time Academy Award nominee from Modesto performed bits of "rejected" songs he said he wrote for several of his action movies. In a "Bourne Legacy" number set to the tune of Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody," Renner plaintively sang, "You know I'm gonna shoot somebody." And for an "Avengers" song, he took artistic license to shorten a certain superhero's name for the sake of a rhyme: "The Avengers, they're always there, from the Hulk to Iron Man to Captain Amer."

"Renner can really sing. He needs to be in a musical, stat," Tara Fowler wrote in her PopWatch column posted early Sunday on Entertainment Weekly's Web site,

And blogger Drusilla Moorhouse wrote on "Who knew Jeremy Renner is such a talented singer? Everyone who watched his Nov. 17 hosting debut on 'Saturday Night Live,' that's who!"

Of course, lots of friends and family members knew it long before this weekend, including Renner's mother, Valerie Cearley, and sister, Kym Vieira, both of whom went to New York City to be in the audience for his big night.

Her brother's musical talent was a hot topic at the cast and crew after-party, Vieira said. "They were saying he killed it in his opening monologue because it wasn't your typical one. A lot of people don't realize that he sings, that he writes music and that he's got just as much musical talent as he does acting talent, he just really hasn't had a chance to display it."

In addition to his monologue, Renner appeared in five live sketches. In arguably his funniest bit, Renner pokes fun at his "Avengers" character, Hawkeye. When the archer runs out of the 11 arrows he brought to the battle, he tells his fellow superheroes, "I guess I'm done, right? I'll be in the car."

Reminded by Captain America that there are "100,000 aliens out there," Hawkeye replies, "And I killed 11 of them — you're welcome."

Renner also filmed a digital short, "The Standoff," in which he and cast members Bobby Moynihan and Taran Killam play gunmen too busy to stand around looking down the barrels of one another's guns. They make their standoff mobile, picking up a child from dance class, reading her the bedtime story "Goodnight Moon," sleeping, showering, even having Thanksgiving dinner with weapons in hand.

"We all really loved 'The Standoff.' I think that was one of Jeremy's favorites," Vieira said Sunday. "It took them several days to film on multiple locations and they spent a lot of time on that one, and it came off really great. We thought it was just hilarious the way they did it — really cute."

She said her brother was "excited and tired" in the days leading up to Saturday's show. "They worked him sometimes until 2 or 3 in the morning that whole week before, getting all the skits and the filming done. They worked his butt off. He's definitely tired."

An 'overwhelming' experience

As for herself, she found the experience "overwhelming." Just being in New York for the first time would have been excitement enough, she said, let along being with Jeremy, "seeing them prep him and take the photos," and being introduced to her "all-time favorite band," Maroon 5, and heartthrob frontman Adam Levine.

"Of course, you can't take any pictures, you can't take any video," she said, laughing, "so there's no evidence we were even there. Just our brains. But we're so proud, and so excited to have been a part of it. And he killed it — he did such a nice job."

Vieira, her mother and her brother wrapped up their "SNL" experience by attending the after-party — from which Vieira returned to her hotel room at 6 a.m. Sunday. "We did it New York style," she said.

Was her brother glad the tough workweek was over, or sorry to see it end?

"He was having so much fun (at the after-party), it wasn't over for him yet," she said. "So when we talk to him next week, he'll probably comment on it. My first comment to him was, 'OK, are you so relieved now?' He's like, 'It was so much fun — aren't you still having fun?' He was just having a great time. I thought he would be so happy it was over, but he was in the moment, still having so much fun ... I could see it in his eyes."

Bee city editor Deke Farrow can be reached at (209) 578-2327 or


A sampling of what critics, fans and viewers had to say about this weekend's "Saturday Night Live," with host Jeremy Renner:

On the Hollywood Reporter's Web site, writer Aaron Couch wrote: "Jeremy Renner proved tough guys can make comedy sing. ... Nearly all of the sketches starring the franchise-juggling actor were excellent."

In her PopWatch column for, Tara Fowler wrote: "I am a huge Jeremy Renner fan ... But wow, that was a painful episode of 'Saturday Night Live,' wasn't it? I'm not even sure who to blame for it. There was a lot of speculation about what kind of host Renner would make because he's mainly known for being an action star (indeed, the actor even said so in his opening monologue), but I know for a fact that Renner can do comedy. Maybe I was the only one who watched the short-lived cop series 'The Unusuals,' but that show was funny! And Renner, playing Detective Jason Walsh, was funny in it. ... Of course, live comedy is a different beast, but I still can't help the feeling that Renner was wasted."

From commenters on the message board at

• "Renner was game for 'The Avengers.' I love it when the hosts point out the logical inconsistencies of their big roles. 'The Standoff' was great."

• "Renner seems like a nice guy, and he definitely has some solid musical chops, but he seemed so nervous, he really couldn't breathe life into any skit."

Commenters on The Bee's Facebook page:

• Christina Reeves: "He's a doll! The beginning piano part made me crush on him a little ... But I do have to say that all in all, it wasn't the best 'SNL.' The skits were a bit boring."

• Jessica Due: "He was pretty good. Also, he has a pretty good singing voice; I was impressed!"

• Laurie Clevidence Ramos: "The opening with him singing & playing the piano was the best part, he's super talented. The rest of it was a snoozer!"

• Angela Doty Brooks: "He's a much better musician than I would have thought and has a great singing voice, but not particularly funny."

Story continues below video from show

Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service