Even if you haven’t seen Tiffany Haddish’s emphatic, oft-raunchy stand-up, you’ve probably seen one of the projects that arrived as a result of it. Key and Peele’s Keanu and The Carmichael Show certainly provided glimpses of what she is capable of onstage, and this summer’s giddy, bawdy Girls Trip best translated her stage persona. By the time audiences flocked to the movie, everyone took notice of Haddish’s talent. (Anyone who has seen Girls Trip’s “grapefruit scene,” or, say, her incredibly charming swamp-tour anecdote on Kimmel, won’t forget it.) Haddish is also the first black female comic to host SNL, as shocking as that sounds. Should be interesting to see how down and dirty SNL gets, and if musical guest and former host Taylor Swift makes her way into the mix.
Roy Moore and Jeff Sessions Cold Open
Vice-President Mike Pence (Beck Bennett) quizzes the Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore (Mikey Day) about allegations of his predatory behavior with children. Though Pence thinks Alabamans might vote for Moore anyway, dressing “like Woody from Toy Story” isn’t helping to convince voters that Moore isn’t into young girls. Once Pence leaves, a toothy, bug-eyed Jeff Sessions (Kate McKinnon) creeps out from a tiny cabinet to cheer on Moore and consult with his “daddy,” who is a stuffed possum. The structure of this one isn’t rock solid, but there are some fine punches landed here, and it’s a step up from other cold opens this season. It’s also good to have a break from Alec Baldwin’s cartoonish Trump.
Tiffany Haddish Monologue
Haddish is a stand-up, so it makes sense that she’d use this space to do her own material up top. The resulting monologue is a whirlwind, covering Haddish’s finances, her history in foster care, Donald Trump’s hair, sexual assault, and why a fashion faux pas won’t keep her from wearing her Alexander McQueen dress (that she bought for the Girls Trip red carpet) again and again. She then punctuates her excitement about the dress with some seriously energetic dance moves — in heels, no less. Although the monologue feels pretty loose, Haddish has great bits including a tip for potential predators (“If you’ve got your thing out, and she’s got all her clothes on, you’re in the wrong”) and sells all of it with sheer personality.
When gamers Sonic Goon (Pete Davidson) and Bone Donkey (Kenan Thompson) prepare to play a round of Death Fight 12 at a convention, character choice is key. While Goon chooses Mortal Kombat knock-off Scorponox (Mikey Day), Donkey gets stuck with Boo Boo Jeffries, a lady in a pink jacket and fanny pack. (At this point, anyone following along at home might suspect that this sketch, like Police Trainer and Haunted Elevator, was written by Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell.) Boo Boo’s strength: her relationship with her mom. Boo Boo’s weaknesses: fighting and the fact that she “gets weird in groups.” When Scorponox punches Boo Boo, she just says, “No,” and walks away. Then Boo Boo’s sister’s husband, Mark, shows up, and hell most definitely does not break loose. The fun premise and character work make this one a winner.
Lion King Auditions
After announcing that the new, live-action Lion King remake will star Beyoncé and Donald Glover, SNL presents a reel of rejected celebrity auditions. The impressions that follow are all very quick hits, and while everyone from Oprah to John Oliver take a shot, it’s really just enough time for a player to demonstrate that they have a basic sense of the person they’re portraying. Among the notable ones: Bennett’s Nick Offerman, which is perfectly dry and unenthused; Kenan Thompson’s LL Cool J, which is mostly grinning and holding his chin; and Heidi Gardner’s spacey, amazed Kristen Schaal. If SNL requires a new compilation of micro-impressions every week, this one comes in a pretty fun package.
Message From the DNC
After Tuesday’s electoral wins in Virginia, New Jersey, and New York, members of the DNC celebrate their wins and do their best to fire up the Democratic base. “We haven’t felt this confident since the day before Trump won,” says Chuck Schumer (Moffat). Sadly, he, Nancy Pelosi (McKinnon), Diane Feinstein (Cecily Strong), Tim Kaine (Day), Bernie Sanders (Larry David), and “team player” Donna Brazile (Jones) aren’t young bucks with bold ideas. They concede that future elections will require help from the “mouth-breathers from Wisconsin” and “window-lickers from Ohio,” and are excited to work on what they believe to be the big issues, such as “converting Confederate monuments into statues of prominent lesbian poets.” Hillary Clinton (McKinnon) can’t resist showing up and pleading for just one more chance, and “maybe a chance after that.” It’s an enjoyable jab the faintly smug legislators probably deserve.
Beck and Kyle
The biggest and best chapter of the ongoing romantic saga between Kyle Mooney and Leslie Jones begins when Bennett laments his waning connection with his former best friend. Then Colin Jost proposes a crazy, secret plan to confuse both Jones and Mooney at the ostensibly annual SNL Masquerade Ball. (Lorne Michaels loves it because “the cast gets to let loose, and there’s always a random hookup.”) While the masked Jost pretends to be Mooney, Bennett pretends to be Leslie, and the two jilted guys nearly fool the respective objects of their affection. Eventually, though, everyone just ends up punching the crap out of Jost. Previous Mooney-Jones relationship sketches didn’t quite reach the level of opulence and absurdity here, and it works well.
“It’s a good weekend to stay inside since it’s 20 degrees out, and everyone you’ve ever heard of is a sex monster.” Colin Jost’s jokes about the large number of men in entertainment and politics recently accused of sexual assault acknowledge the awful situation without preachiness. He and Michael Che even address the Louis C.K. allegations, which many in comedy have avoided. (“The guy who always jokes about masturbating wasn’t joking about masturbating?”) The first half of Update also talks about Trump’s trip abroad and the “vain and catty” way in which he and Kim Jong Un go at it. Then, Cecily Strong comes on as Claire from H.R. to give a seminar about harassment in the workplace. Sample quiz question: “When is it appropriate for an adult to have a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old? A) “When’s she 14, but smoking a cigarette.” B) “14, but it’s Alabama.” C) “14, but you’re gay now, how brave.” It’s as much a display of simmering anger as it is a character piece, and feels like a necessary catharsis.
The second half of Update pokes fun at remaining headlines from the week. The gags include: “The state of Vermont has officially recognized Ultimate Frisbee as a high-school varsity sport … dad!” Haddish, who promised she’d wear her fancy dress in two other sketches tonight, does a walk-on to much fanfare aided by Redd. Finally, Kenan Thompson plays the braggadocious NBA dad LaVar Ball, who is all to happy to go on about his son, Lakers’ rookie Lonzo, and his other kids LiAngelo and LaMelo. The bit ends with a pair of new, fantastical shoes to outdo his $500 Big Baller brand LaVar-Iccis; the new shoes are $700,000 apiece, must be purchased separately, and have chicken rotisseries inside.
The Last Black Unicorn
Three kids track down the legendary Last Black Unicorn (Haddish), who tells them all about the future. Two of the three youngsters (Bennett and Melissa Villaseñor) get married and have lovely kids; the single girl, Marine, (Aidy Bryant) marries her true love, but only after having five different kids from five different fathers. Oh, and her children are huffing paint, dealing drugs, or they’re all like the “really angry white kid you graduate with that joined the Army and you’re like, Good luck, Army.” Things only get worse for Marie from there, and the appearance of a second Last Black Unicorn (Jones) doesn’t make it better. The tone of all the terrible news doesn’t feel quite right in this sketch, but this is as close as SNL gets to letting Haddish cut loose.
Get Woke With Tamika
Socially conscious talk-show host Tamika (Jones) invites guests — including feminist author Megan (Bryant) and Instagram butt model Bianca (Haddish) — to consider the important issues of the day. Up top, Tamika pretty much eliminates any need to talk about discrimination (“It’s wrong”), progress (“It’s right”), and House of Cards (“I liked it”), so what’s left? For the most part, Tamika gets frustrated with her guests’ opinions and negotiates with neglectful producers via headset. This one’s a little heady, and involves a bit more subtlety in regard to its dialogue, and unfortunately Jones doesn’t quite nail it. Here’s hoping she gets further chances to play outside of her obvious strengths, though.
The Dolphin Who Learned to Speak
This filmed piece explores the life of Gerald the dolphin, who was trained by two scientists (McKinnon and Bryant) to speak English. Once he reached sexual maturity, though, Gerald got unruly. To address his underlying urges, one of the ladies wondered if she ought to just “yank him off real quick?” Things escalate from there. Eventually, Gerald is speaking only to say, “Hand. Now. Who gonna J me O?” and another grossed-out scientist (Haddish) witnesses all of it. In a week full of masturbation talk, this extended handjob joke is simple, clear, and full of nice little jokes. And kudos to the writers who found a way to incorporate an episode of Radiolab into the show.
Whiskers R We
Kooky cat lady Barbara DeDrew does what she does best, introducing her audience to tiny, adoptable kittens alongside a special guest — in this case, it’s flirty, sweater-wearing cat-lover Claudia (Haddish). Between the McKinnon magic and a bunch of cute felines, the formula of this recurring sketch is a successful one. One kitten is from Colorado (“You can tell because she loves to smoke reefer”), one called Boingo is addicted to PCP, and one hairless cat became hairless because it “shed everything off for a gay circuit party.” Eventually, DeDrew gets a boob massage and Katt Williams (Redd) makes a quick appearance. This one’s tried and true, and it works well as the last sketch of the night.
This episode is a nice rebound from a rough week with Larry David: The silly stuff is nicely diverting, and the political sketches have a kick to them. Haddish owns the spotlight and holds her own, even though there weren’t any wildly memorable parts for her to play. In any case, she gives an absorbing, high-energy performance that should be enough to bring her back to Studio 8H soon enough.