How’s the Cold Open?
Another week off from Baldwin’s Trump is another week in which I don’t have to complain about it, so let’s all be grateful for that.
Instead, we get Moffatt and Day’s Eric and Don Jr. which I could honestly watch every week. Day and Moffat’s comedic chemistry is pretty delightful and the double act of “God’s Perfect Manchild with Patrick Bateman” is the most comedically potent parody of any of the Trump associates. Moffatt’s wondrous reactions are near perfect.
The conceit of a meeting with Julian Assange is pretty thin here, McKinnon playing Assange with a barely there accent and taking a back seat pretty quickly. It’s all about the increasingly popular Eric and Don Jr. impression and the great characterizations there (the relationship between them is almost genuinely kind of sweet). Also, that Minions backpack is just too good.
There’s also something really nice about making fun of these people for being legitimate morons, not devious masterminds. Like the real world, these are people playing at being way more brilliant than they are.
Chance the Rapper is such a positive and charismatic musician that I’m shocked it took as long as it did for him to get in front of the camera. Having essentially gotten a test audition with a couple sketch appearances during last year’s Casey Affleck show, Chance takes the hosting gig with as much aplomb as Tiffany Haddish did last week.
Hell, perhaps even more. Chance is a shockingly polished performer here, hitting every role with as much precision and charisma as in his music with a lot of extra game and goofiness. He goes big, he goes small. If the universe is just, this should mark a recurring performer for SNL as big as Timberlake.
What Sketches Are Worth Watching?
This is a sketch where the production value of it is really what helps sell the joke. Now, be clear, this is a great piece of writing and performance. Chris Redd repeatedly sliding in with “a little bit of crack in it” as well as the name DJ Grand Wizard Karate are both comedic masterstrokes. But the largely serious appearances of Common and Questlove as well as the great costuming and aged videos really make it feel like this particularly bizarre chapter from the history of Hip-Hop.
This one is perhaps the best show-off for Chance all night. It’s a pretty solid bit of bewilderment, never over-the-top, just wringing the comedic potential of someone in a situation they know absolutely nothing about. The ability of the writing to make everything around him sound completely impenetrable with Chance’s smart underplaying just really has this sketch singing.
The disproportionate socio-economic effect of The Batman is a pretty well-worn joke among comic book fans, but it’s still pretty fun to see it come up in the mainstream. Bennett’s increasingly embarrassed Bruce Wayne is the centerpiece here, but I love how everyone tells basically the same story (he broke his jaw in 3 places!). Just kind of a solidly goofy sketch that doesn’t have that “Fellow Kids” vibe a lot of SNL geek culture sketches have.
“Family Feud: Harvey Family Thanksgiving”
I’m usually not a big fan of the Celebrity Family Feud sketches, but regular Family Feud ones here really tend to work, a usually solid premise anchored by Thompson’s greatly enjoyable Steve Harvey impression. Even if you can kind of tell where this is going, Chance’s performance deserves to give you the little surprise of his back story. There’s also a wonderful Forrest Gump reference that had me rolling on the floor.
“Come Back, Barack”
Kind of a sequel to last year’s “Jingle Barack,” “Come Back, Barack” is another sketch that really works on how good the production is. The R&B song here hits all those tropes (the “I want you back, baby” song) so dead-on and all three of the performers (Chance, Kenan, and Redd) have such great comedic chemistry that it feels like an actual lost R&B group. I also love the little twist it takes during the spoken-word breakdown.
“Porn Pizza Delivery”
Hey, it’s been a while since we’ve seen this one! Bryant’s delightfully clueless child against the deliberately bizarre porn actors will never not make me laugh, Heidi Gardner fills into this one incredibly well. And man, Chance is just an absolute delight in everything he does tonight.
This one is almost there. The song falls apart a little bit towards the end, but Chance has such cheer and skill that he sells it well past where it needs to. Musical monologues only make sense when the performer is a musician.
This one has an adorable sort of energy with those right little dark touches that make a sketch like this fun, but I think it ends up riding on the same joke too long without ever deepening it and you end up just feeling like “I get it.”
Another week, another person accused of sexual assault associated with SNL that they have to address. Again, Weekend Update remains the place to do it and Jost and Che hit right up top and hit a few jokes on it. No excusing, even if they did use it as a pivot to talk about Trump’s own hypocrisy. But they’re hitting pretty hard lately with some actual good jokes. It’s just nice when Jost and Che’s chemistry is actually backed up by some solid writing.
An extended Weekend Update brought us three correspondents this week.
We’ve got McKinnon bringing back her breakout Jeff Sessions. Sessions is basically non-human at this point, a possum wearing person skin. Seeing her twist her way around the shady lies and attempted folksy charm of Sessions is always a delight and the increasingly disturbing details added to his body and his character have given this character a little more life than you might expect.
After that is Kyle Mooney’s Bruce Chandling, who is definitely an acquired taste, an anti-comedy character on a show that definitely doesn’t indulge in that all too often. But fortunately I’ve acquired that taste. The sublime confidence in terrible material going into deep despair is so suited to Mooney’s awkwardness that Chandling is a welcome delight.
Finally, a Pete Davidson bit, a little different this time for having Jost along for the ride. The bit is about the different reactions Davidson and Jost’s home of Staten Island have to their career, and the interplay is actually pretty sharp here, two young guys, one clean-cut and one very much not. There’s something that SNL could do with that. It’s a solidly charming bit.
Did You Actually Watch The Musical Guest?
They gave Eminem a Prince spot, so seemed worth giving it a shot. The new stuff still doesn’t work for me as much and there’s something that always amuses me about rappers with big symphonic backing. Probably because of this:
I’m gonna give Redd the shout-out. It’s always difficult for a new player to break-in and it was really impressive how much face-time he got this episode. Redd and Thompson seem to be a potent combo and he seems to vibe with the hosts well. Plus he’s just a great performer.
Kate McKinnon – 1
Aidy Bryant – 1
Cecily Strong – 1
Heidi Gardner – 1
Kenan Thompson – 1
Chris Redd – 1
This is one of those episodes that while nothing really stood out, everything was delightful and really solidly written. Production and writing and performance were all fairly tight, the slack that tended to really tended to hurt the early part of this season seems gone. It also helped that Chance the Rapper hosted his ass off.
Season Rankings (Shamelessly stolen from SNL Scorecard)
Next Time: Saoirse Ronan joins U2 on the single most Irish episode of SNL ever.