Saturday Night Live Season 42, Episode 8: Emma Stone could probably be a cast member

Has the cold hard reality of life got you down? Is the winter holiday stressful? Is the possibility of a nuclear winter holiday even more stressful? Then sit down by the fire and watch SNL. It’s pretty much all I got.

How’s the Cold Open?

You know, I’m not super comfortable that me and the President-Elect have the same Saturday night plans. We can’t both be sitting at home yelling at entertainment on the internet.

Baldwin’s impression is good and at this point he’s pretty much settled into the groove of it. Big, loud buffoonery with a hint of petulance at every turn. Baldwin’s choosing to go with Trump as a moron who stumbled his way into the office through a little help from evil. Baldwin’s funny and plays it well.

To be honest with you, I’d be slightly less in love with the general direction of the Trump stuff if we didn’t have constant proof of how much it bothers the actual man himself. Nothing shows the effectiveness of satire quite like the powerful being rankled, and boy is he rankled.

But McKinnon’s Conway is fun in this one, even if she’s not super reflective of the actual person. The conceit that they keep telling us that this is all really happening is a particularly fun one that I hope recurs. And Bannon’s appearance is brilliant, one that I hope they keep up.

It seems like they’re setting the table for Trump-era SNL work. If it’s Baldwin from here on? That’s perfectly fine, I’m growing increasingly okay with it. They seem to be finding their feet and their direction, let’s see how this goes. Maybe we’ll find some laughs in our Brave New “Too-On-The-Nose-For-Bad-80s-Satire” World.

Who’s Hosting?

Emma Stone is probably one of the quieter great hosts this show’s had. Her appeal as a star has always been solid comic timing and a whole of lot of charisma, which helps. But on SNL, she has that great ability to just melt in with the case, never overriding the bit and never sitting in the background. She’s a lot of fun to watch on this show and she’s got a great quality where, no matter what the cast, she’s always able to play off everybody. Stone could be in this cast and no one would bat an eye, she’s so willing to play along and so game for any role they throw her.

What Sketches Are Worth Watching?

“Wells for Boys”

Following immediately out of my discussion of how great a host Emma Stone is is this pre-filmed sketch. It’s a great piece of writing and such a great little concept that it would be funny as is. I feel you little sad kid. I feel you.

But Emma Stone sells the hell out of it, pitching the performance juuust right. I want to give her an MVP Award just for that “EVERYTHING IS FOR YOU! AND THIS ONE THING IS FOR HIM”line reading. Moynihan’s quiet bafflement is aces too.

“High School Theatre Show with Emma Stone”

This sketch could happen 100 times and I would never not laugh my ass off the whole way through.

The apparently very large theater kid contingent in SNL‘s writers room always nails these high-school theater sketches, and their recurring one is still probably the best. From Bayer and Thompson’s perfectly undersold contempt/confusion to the super super super earnestness of the kids, it’s just so specific and so good. You always get the sense that you know the performers and the writers have totally been in this show.

“The Christmas Candle”

My new favorite Christmas tradition is the “Ladies of SNL” pre-filmed song.This one is one of those weird novelty Christmas songs with just the right amount of video-taped detail and conviction to work super well. I don’t know if this is a parody, but it totally feels like one.

“The Hunt for Hil”

I don’t know if I necessarily found this one hilarious, but this is one where the fun of the premise and the total verisimilitude of the whole thing makes it work. This one was just enough based on the idea that I liked it, and I’m always down for more Bennett and Mooney in my life.

Plus, this:

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“Film Screening”

Debbette Goldry, like the “Strange Experience” sketches, is pretty much the argument for Kate McKinnon as the show’s current star. It’s a character essentially founded on letting McKinnon go hogwild for the length of the sketch while everyone around her tries not to break.

Which is totally fine by me. Goldry is hilarious and the sketch does let actresses air actual grievance in a constructive way while letting McKinnon get the laughs. Plus I love that shit that’s just a little too dark, and actresses getting paid out of the props budget and injected with pancake batter is pretty much right around that.

“Jesus’ Birth”

A nice low-key premise that works because of Stone and Mooney’s performance. It’s weird and seems like a good way to bring the mood down to a close. That last joke is great.

“Emma Stone Monologue”

Color me surprised. They had a chance to do a musical monologue and they didn’t take it.

Warm feelings for that already, but this is just delightful. The high school conceit is fun and any chance Bayer gets to play a sniping high school mean girl should be cherished. And it’s a sore reminder that this show needs way more Moynihan, considering how much he can do with so little

What Didn’t Work?

“Math Dream”

Look, there were some funny performances, especially McKinnon, but the ramp up took way too long on this joke. There were like 4 minutes of set-up in an 8 minute sketch. The premise was right quirky, but the writing was just a little too loose. That plus Davidson’s stomach-churning brain-freeze just wrecked any momentum this sketch could have had.

“Singing Cleaners”

To be honest, this was just a little too weird for my blood without any hit home. We do have”Santa Baby,” the story of a girl who wants to have a great night with Santa, so the shock at them singing sexual Christmas songs came out of nowhere. The details are fun, but the core is just not all there.

Weekend Update!

Jost and Che are now settling into a focused on Trump groove and it’s good for them. The two clearly have a lot more for Trump now that he’s the main object of satire and the jokes seem to hit nicely, even if they are still largely glancing blows. The Taiwan stuff is weaker, but everything else is actually wringing out laughs. I also want to give props for spending time on other issues, particularly Standing Rock. The line from Che about the cops spraying Native Americans with water on Thanksgiving while wondering “Are we the bad guys?” is cutting in the way SNL might should be more often.

Two correspondent bits this week.

The first was a good ol’ fashioned Leslie Jones bit. Her delivery is always funnier than the material, this week in particular. It’s some weird unfocused bit about dick size, but hey, she’s a funny enough lady.

The second is a sort of…mixed bag SNL thing.  It’s called a “sneaker-upper” where the cast member who does an impression is surprised by the actual person they’re impersonating. In this case, Jennifer Anniston comes in while Vanessa Bayer does her “Rachel from Friends” character. Fey famously hated this style of bit, and I can’t say I love it. Even with Anniston and Bayer being a lot of fun to watch together, it feels cheap, designed for reaction over laughs. But people like it, so who am I to judge?

Did You Actually Watch The Musical Guest?

Nope.

Just…why would I?

MVPs!

I like to avoid going obvious and labeling Kate McKinnon perennial MVP, just when she goes above and beyond. This is one of those times. She did great show-stopper performances across a number of sketches and just generally reminded us why she’s an Emmy winner.

Season so far:

Kate McKinnon – 2
Cecily Strong – 2
Beck Bennett – 1
Jost and Che – 1
Leslie Jones – 1
Ensemble – 1

Final Thoughts!

This is a great little episode anchored by one of the show’s better hosts. A few weak spots, but man, Emma Stone missed a calling in sketch comedy. Plus, the show seems to be figuring out what to do with Trump. Is it all there? No, but it’s getting interesting, that’s what matters.

Season Rankings (Shamelessly stolen from SNL Scorecard)

  1. Dave Chappelle
  2. Tom Hanks
  3. Lin-Manuel Miranda
  4. Emma Stone
  5. Kristen Wiig
  6. Margot Robbie
  7. Benedict Cumberbatch
  8. Emily Blunt

Next time: JOHN CENA. Seriously, watch Trainwreck and get pumped.

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