It’s been a tough week. You’ve had a lot on your plate and it seems like the country’s having a hard time too.It seems like no one understands.
But Tom Hanks understands.
And dammit, he and SNL are here to help.
How’s the Cold Open?
I’m sorta gonna miss these. Baldwin’s Trump is a satiric powerhouse, a direct refutation to the idea that you couldn’t really have attacked Trump with comedy. Knowing Trump hates it makes it all the better. His monstrous visage twisting and spitting out words that are modulated just enough from Trump’s own is a rare sort of cathartic delight. Combined with Baldwin’s remarkable comedic partnership with McKinnon’s cocky Clinton (settle in folks!), these sketches are one of the few pieces of comedy out of the election that has some form of satisfaction to it, rather than contributing to further indignant rage.
I’m sorta not gonna miss these. As these debate sketches have become more important than they ever have, they show the strain of the format. I know I’m a broken record, but the show says it best when Hanks’ Chris Wallace says “It’s like the third Lord Of The Rings movie. You don’t really wanna watch but hey you’ve come this far.” Nothing is more ridiculous than what actually happened, and for all the remarkable performance, it pretty much just comes down to reopening the psychic wounds of America. I’m looking forward to the show getting to write scenes for these characters, and not just throwing up reference after reference that still doesn’t come close to the real thing.
I mean, a presidential candidate yelled “NO, YOU’RE THE PUPPET” like a Muppet having an existential crisis. What comedy writer can beat that?
In the Halls of the SNL Greats, Tom Hanks has his own special exhibit. Despite all his years of gravitas and awards and Jimmy Stewart-esque moral authority, he returns every time to SNL as the same ol’ goofball that got his career started on Bosom Buddies. Hanks is game for anything, skilled beyond belief, and as much fun as a host gets. Long may he reign.
What Sketches Are Worth Watching?
I’m gonna preface this whole thing with the fact that I love “Kevin Roberts” more than I love most members of my family and the overwhelming majority of people that I know. This is basically the same sketch. A character so bizarre that it breaks an entire experience.
It is, however, just as amazing the second time. That music. The B-boy Skeletons. The deadpan questioning. And Tom Hanks as the apparently legendary David S. Pumpkins. There are few things better in this life. Just watch.
“Black Jeopardy with Tom Hanks”
Most episodes are lucky to have one all-timer. This one has two.
“Black Jeopardy” is great, but a little bit formulaic at this point. It’s okay, that happens with recurring SNL sketches. This one turns it on its head by telegraphing the obvious joke and then flipping it upside down. What did Warren Beatty say in Bulworth? “White people got more in common with colored people than they do with rich people.”
It’s an incredibly smart pivot and actually fairly thoughtful and hopeful as an examination of class and racial lines. Plus, one of my favorite sketch endings in a while. This is fantastic work with phenomenal performances out of the whole cast.
Though it will never replace Dumb Tom Hanks in Celebrity Jeopardy in my heart.
I yelled “YES!” out loud at my TV when this one came on. Baldwin is the other SNL all-timer host and seeing him and Hanks together is a rare treat. It did not disappoint, Hanks is having a lot of fun getting to play Sully as a bit of a prima donna and Baldwin is a phenomenal straight man to that character.
“A Girl’s Halloween”
The kind of sketch that’s just a little too real. While I’m not going to be cool enough to say I’ve been here, I’ve seen this happen a thousand times, and I’ve cleaned up the vomit more than once or twice. The strength of this cast’s female performers never shines through more than in these pre-filmed bits, and this is a great one. It’s also nice to see a showcase for Bryant (who’s been missing for a little while), who gets the chance to do some A+ physical comedy.
For the second week in a row, a sketch that feels like it’s made for the life I live. A parody of the recent dramedy trend, it’s a sketch about the new CBS comedy Broken about “a family of adjunct professors all diagnosed with depression on the same day.” If you keep up with the modern age of television, you’ve seen pretty much all of these scenes at one point or another. The filmmaking is on point here, replicating the washed out Instagram look, and Cecily’s ability to sell dramatic acting for comedy in sketches produces probably my favorite jokes.
“Fans are saying ‘This is a drama'”
“Tom Hanks Monologue”
Dammit, we needed this. Hanks is America’s Dad, and that monologue makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. After watching this, I really do think things are gonna be alright. It’s a little more variety show than comedy show, but for something like this, that’s alright in my book.
“America’s Funniest Pets”
A great 10-to-1 (actually a 5-to-1, this show ran long) sketch, Cecily and McKinnon’s French weirdos clash with Hanks’ excitable Ron Howard over a low-rent funny animals clip show. I’m a sucker for dark descriptions played for laughs, and I’m a sucker for Cecily and McKinnon doing basically anything. Combined with Hanks clearly having a lot of fun with his Ron Howard impression, this is a weird little sketch that could.
“Halloween Block Party”
I thought I wasn’t gonna like this one. But it kept going, everything kept getting weirder and weirder and by the time they had written in a love triangle between a Dracula, a witch, and a zombie (“They wrote in a love triangle with their own daughter?”), I was sold. A sketch that coasts entirely on performance, but hey, if it works, it works.
What Didn’t Work?
This will be rare, I swear to you. But there really wasn’t a bad sketch in the lineup tonight. Everything had a few big, solid laughs and a lot of heart. They brought their A-game for Hanks.
You know, it’s a shame. I think seeing Jost and Che hit such heights on the Lin-Manuel Miranda episode has pointed out their other weaknesses for me. Most of their material here is election, and their delivery feels slack. The jokes are strong, but the urgency is gone, they feel like they don’t really care. The best Weekend Update hosts were so disconnected to the point of comedy in and of itself (Norm McDonald) or so passionately “Can you believe this?!” (Amy, Tina, and Seth). These guys can be better, but their initial joviality about it is starting to feel like they don’t have their skin in the game. That disconnect stands to harm them when the material is less urgent again.
Jost on why Trump is like Kramer: “He’s high-energy, his plans were insane, and it’s only a matter of time before he yells out the ‘n’ word onstage”
Che on Trump’s respect for women: “Compared to them, Trump is Tina Fey, I guess.”
Che: “A woman gave birth while in line at a Wal Mart, said the janitor’s resignation letter.”
Fortunately, the two correspondents save the night.
The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started A Conversation With At A Party, no matter how many times it shows up, will never not be funny to me. Partially because I have definitely started a conversation with this person, both at parties and not at parties. Partially because the drunken malapropisms are always funny and the Cecily always finds a way to sell some new bit of wackiness (“I need to go to Cuba before white people ruin it”).
Leslie Jones comes on as herself and gets the chance to address the hacking that happened to her over the summer, due to the particularly dickbag detractors (One of her key ring leaders was Milo Yiannopoulos, you can find his statement here) of her role in the new Ghostbusters. Jones kills the chance, reclaiming the incident and staring down every one of them to tell them that she’s not taking it. An attempt to shame her into silence leads her to roar back. Plus, a reminder that she’s a stand-up and she can write the hell out of a joke.
“I am very comfortable with who I am. I keep my porn in a folder labeled ‘porn.’”
“The guy who played the crackhead in the movie Friday has a whole hour on my feet.”
“If you want to see me naked, just ask!”
Did You Actually Watch The Musical Guest?
Sorry, I do like Lady Gaga, but I’m doing Black Mirror recaps and I had to get through an episode!
I’m going with Cecily Strong again. While no “Melania Moments” (SAD!), I love a strong utility player and Cecily is all around committed and skilled and funny every time she shows up. From The Girl You Wish… to her showing in “Funny New Show,” this was a great night for her.
Season so far:
Cecily Strong – 2
Kate McKinnon – 1
Jost and Che – 1
As we go into our first break, we have to admire that the show’s given two of it’s strongest episodes in years right off the bat this season. Thanks to his comfort, Tom Hanks lets the show really explore and it’s clear some of the best material was being saved for him. It was consistently funny, daring, and even a little bit cathartic and heartwarming. This is SNL at its best, a comedy high-wire act that leaves you feeling better than you came in.
Season Rankings (Shamelessly stolen from SNL Scorecard)