Until this fall, the Bronx-born and Ireland-raised 23-year-old actor Saoirse Ronan was best known for her dramatic roles including Oscar-nominated performances in adaptations of Ian McEwan’s Atonement and Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn. Her latest turn — as the willful yet confused Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson in Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird — has certainly allowed filmgoers to see her in a different light. (Of course, she was also the hero’s love interest in Grand Budapest Hotel, but her role wasn’t quite so large.) Lady Bird certainly shows a playful and self-aware quality in Ronan’s work, which bodes well for an evening of sketch comedy.
White House Christmas Cold Open
On the eve of a big Christmas party, Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) can’t enjoy the tax-cut bill because of haunting visions à la A Christmas Carol. Michael Flynn (Mikey Day) drops by in chains as the Jacob Marley figure, before ghosts of the the past (Billy Bush, as played by Alex Moffat), the present (Vladimir Putin, as played by Beck Bennett), and future (Hillary Clinton, as played by Kate McKinnon) warn Trump about what’s to come. It’s a tried and true structure and has a cogent message about the trouble that Trump is in since news of Flynn’s guilty plea surfaced yesterday. What it lacks, however, is real bite.
Saoirse Ronan Monologue
At the top of Ronan’s monologue, she acknowledges that she is “extremely Irish” with “an extremely Irish name” that is difficult for Americans to say properly. In order to avoid mispronunciations like the ones she gets from Leslie Jones (“Circe! Sushi?”), Ronan sings a little ditty about her name that she ostensibly wrote when she was a child. It’s a catchy tune, but lyrically complicated and a bit too difficult to reproduce here. “Honey,” Kate McKinnon says, “The song is not as helpful as you think.” Nevertheless, Ronan tries to get other cast members onboard, including Beck Bennett — who has a very dumb song about his name that he wants to share. It’s simple and fun and addresses the elephant in the room. By the way, “Saoirse” rhymes with “inertia.”
This spoof of the new Jersey Shore spinoff on MTV introduces a cast of feisty, horny, and drunken co-eds sure to lure in viewers. Despite the fact that the show was filmed during Hurricane Irma, Kyler (Day) is boning everyone in sight while Epcot (Heidi Gardner) and Quartney (Aidy Bryant) discover they are both the children of Hulk Hogan. Eventually, all the fun and games are interrupted by a deadly intrusion that’s a byproduct of the bad weather. The sketch isn’t aiming for much, but it’s worth watching for its last surprise moment.
American Girl Store
Just outside of an American Girl Doll shop, a reporter (Kenan Thompson) speaks with Thomas (Day) and Debbie (Ronan) about a gas leak and subsequent explosion in the store. Despite the traumatic events, all anyone is interested in is the fact that Thomas was not only buying a doll, but arguing with a clerk about how the doll’s hair looked. No one is buying the excuse that Thomas was picking up a doll as a gift. Even café waitress Becca (Gardner) knows Thomas slipped her $20 and asked for a window table because his doll was “new money, not trolley trash.” The premise isn’t funny on its own, so the sketch itself doesn’t have far to go; the studio audience seemed to enjoy it, though.
Welcome to Hell
Against a backdrop of animated lollipops, a group of girls (Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, and Ronan) sing a song for the guys. They know it’s been tough for men, finding out powerful heroes are “habitual predators” and having House of Cards ruined, but these girls have unfortunately been dealing with terrible men since puberty. “Welcome to Hell” is a candy-colored pop world created to inform guys that, for women, life is like a maze that’s “all full of boners.” The list of things ruined by men is hefty, including “parking and walking and Uber and ponytails,” so it’s about time that men knew it. The song is both smart and funny, not so much an “I told you so,” as it is an “I can’t believe it look this long for you to get your head out of your ass.”
In this incredibly fast-paced sketch, the guy running the returns desk at Kmart (Day) fields all kinds of requests from customers. One guy (Thompson) accidentally bought a ladies’ hand muff, and would like a man’s muff; a couple (Davidson and Gardner) wants to return faulty pregnancy tests, though it was the man who peed on the stick; a woman (Bryant) returns a particular sort of birdseed, and we understand why because the parrot on her shoulders appears to have crapped all over her. This sketch is all quick hits, like a series of blackouts strung together; it’s a great break from SNL’s usual pacing and standard characterization, and just lets the players create a character, do a quick gag, and get out.
Sad office worker Evans (Mooney) gets picked on by his rival (Bennett) because he is slow — that is, Evans does not run around the office to deliver files anymore. Evans’s cohort Lindsay (Ronan) remembers a time when Evans did indeed run around the office, and encourages him to get back to it despite the hole in his pants. A training montage and race to impress the boss (Greta Gerwig, in frizzy wig) follow. A play on corny ’80s movies, it still bears the hallmarks of a Mooney-Bennett joint: It’s purposefully stilted, makes mountains out of molehills, and has more than a few absurd interjections. It’s pleasantly goofy, though it won’t convert anyone who doesn’t already love the rhythms of these two.
This week, Update comes out of the gate running. Its first half is an exhausted excoriation of Trump, the conservative media, and influential predators. Of Michael Flynn’s confession, Colin Jost says, “It’s just refreshing to see a powerful man plead guilty to something other than sexual harassment.” And though Trump has survived a lot of scandal in his short presidency, Michael Che imagines the next year will find the president “in prison cornrowing some brother named Lunchmeat’s hair.” At the end of this half, Kate McKinnon comes out as U.K. prime minister Theresa May, whose back-and-forth with Trump about his retweeting of racist, anti-Muslim videos has never made her “feel more alive.” For May, saying Trump was “wrong,” was the start of a flame war that helped her “dunk on a thirsty bitch.” McKinnon’s retrained sing-song is a joy.
The second half is more scattered and hit-or-miss, though the anchors tackle Matt Lauer’s firing: “On Wednesday, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was lit — and so was Ann Curry.” The last several minutes of the segment see the return of the Duncans, a married couple in which the wife (Jones) happily physically destroys the husband (Day) in the bedroom. Sure, they’re in love and have done everything in the Kama Sutra, but the guy is wearing a neck brace and complaining about new sex positions his wife invented such as “You’re a Chair Now.” This bit felt more fun the first time, and lingers a bit too long.
At the Orange Park Acres Tennis Club, this annual bachelor auction is bringing in as much as $1,600 per date. Then the auctioneer (Day) brings up pro-shop employee Chad (Pete Davidson). Yes, it’s the airheaded yet agreeable 20-something who has popped up in SNL films for the past couple of years — and he drives the rich, classy ladies in the audience wild, naturally. The bidding gets more intense as Chad shows off his special talents: doing a dance he invented and giving everyone a taste of his Jim-Carrey-as-the-Grinch impression. Eventually, one weirdo guy (Kenan Thompson) appears out of nowhere, offers $10 million and demands that Chad be “cleaned and taken to my lodge.” (“Are you okay with this?” asks the auctioneer. Inevitably, Chad answers, “Okay.”) When the real John McEnroe shows up and none of the ladies will bid on him, it’s hard for the “bad boy of tennis” to accept it.
Late for Class
In the first two minutes of this sketch, a kid (Luke Null) enters a full classroom and picks on everybody he sees. He hits on a girl (Ronan) and then calls her a lesbian, lights a cigarette and puts it in another student’s hand, steals one classmate’s yarmulke, and throws another kid’s lunch out the window. After his longwinded, unfunny rant is done, his teacher (Thompson) comes forward. “I have never seen as anything as misguided and brazen as your behavior these last three minutes,” he says. “Especially seeing as you are new here.” Yes, the would-be bully called everyone by the wrong name and tortured them because he “just wanted to make a splash.” Joke’s on him: Everyone in the room stands for mutual respect, plus the new kid’s name is Brody Chode. This sketch starts with a really, really long walk, but bless SNL for taking a chance on it. It pays off.
On Irish airline Aer Lingus, the stewardesses Colleen and Brianna (Ronan and Strong) do their best to update passengers about the flight delay, which has primarily to do with a dog on the runway. Because the dog has “sad eyes and the soul of Oscar Wilde,” everyone will just have to wait. In the meantime, Maeve (Bryant) announces the in-flight menu is potatoes, potatoes, and salmon — oh wait, the salmon is also potatoes. The sketch doesn’t have a lot of direction to it, it’s more of a hodgepodge of Irish clichés writ large and some sidebars about junk. That said, it’s light, fast-paced, and silly enough to succeed. Bonus: Most of the SNL actors who try the Irish accent do a pretty good job with it.
In a generally fun show, Saoirse Ronan proves herself an adept host with an arsenal of accents. She sings pop hits, plays the trashy Southerner, and jumps into the role of some bizarre ’80s fantasy mentor without straining in the least. Sure, some ideas don’t really work, but it’s worth lauding SNL for trying a couple of sketches with unusual pacing (“Late for Class” and “Return Counter”). And though the cold open doesn’t have a lot of weight to it, Update helps to make up for the political heft that’s missing.