Bill Hader’s Big ‘SNL’ Reunion

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Bill Hader has always struck me as more of an ensemble player, in the vein of Phil Hartman and Chris Parnell. It’s not that he can’t carry a sketch, it’s that he seems to have more fun in bigger group pieces. Almost every character Hader performed in this episode was a stone cold freak, and that is beautiful thing. It just requires tempering. Hader is neon orange, a color that pops best when juxtaposed with beige. Perhaps that’s why one of the most successful pieces of the night was Stefon interacting with Colin Jost. And perhaps that is also why so many SNL alums popped in to play with Hader one more time. Documentary Now! collaborator Fred Armisen was there, as was John Goodman, John Mulaney, and a picture of Vanessa Bayer. Jon Hamm was in the audience, apparently, and came up for goodbyes. Guys, it’s so important to watch the goodbyes. I don’t think you can call yourself a true SNL fan and not have some compulsive need to see who Leslie Jones hugs first, and whether the cast is warm to the host or insularly hugs each other instead.

Cold Open

Alex Moffat dives into his truck of bland white men and pulls out an Anderson Cooper. I love how different each boring white guy is that Moffat brings to the table; it’s a rich vein. Cooper is interviewing shitcanned Rex Tillerson (John Goodman), as well as Michael Wolff (Fred Armisen) and the Mooch (Bill Hader). Cameos are fun, but maybe one per sketch is a good idea. I love Armisen’s disinterested vulture take on Wolff, but this felt like a disservice to John Goodman. If you’ve got the Goods, show ‘em off! Any time where John Goodman is offscreen is time wasted.

Monologue

Short and sweet and format-busting. Bill Hader gave us all a glimpse of how the comedy sausage is made. First of all, I love when people aren’t coy about what they’re plugging. Hats off to Hader for fully disclosing his #spon. And any chance to see a quick-change done by the fucking pros at 30 Rock is alright by me.

The Californians

When I moved to LA, I thought I’d be on the highway waaaaay more, and that’s thanks to The Californians. Everybody’s favorite unintelligible coastal elites are back, and this time Kate McKinnon is the maid. Sorry, not a maid, an estate manager from Marina del Rey. There are plenty of emotional twists and turns: Rosa has been deported, Devin sired a son with her, and the 101 is backed up because Trump is in town. But the biggest twist of all came from Pete Davidson calling out everyone’s insane attempts at a Cali drawl. “I’m from Encino, and I’ve never heard anything like that before.” Whoa.

Kiss Me I’m Irish

The Irish internet was not kind to this sketch, and it’s not hard to understand why. First of all, is it even a stereotype that the Irish sleep with their cousins? Second of all, can I have at least one more joke? Even a xenophobic one would do. Maybe something about rampant alcoholism or potatoes or riding a horse to a wedding. We as a society need to do better at mocking the Irish.

Girlfriends Game Night

A girls game night is interrupted when one friend brings her way older husband to the party, then has perfunctory sex with him in front of everybody. Don’t worry, it’s just to get pregnant, and she’s got a courtesy blanket so you don’t see anything. This is the sketch to watch if you want to see justified breaking. Melissa Villaseñor gets shoved three feet across a set by a motorized wheelchair – you’re a sociopath if that doesn’t make you break. Is it bad that I found Horace and Jeanie’s relationship oddly sweet? He makes fun jokes in French, stands up for his lady, and is a giving lover. What more could one want?

Jurassic Park Screen Tests

If you’re going to do a cavalcade of impressions, please God make it a taped segment. For one thing, it means the people who truly excel at the artform can get more than one in. For another, editing tightens it all up. Live impression-paloozas like last week’s “Feud” sketch are saggy and shapeless. The quick-hit structure of the screen test sketches means you don’t notice that there is no structure to the sketch. It disorients you and is over quickly, so you don’t notice that nothing has really happened. Also, Hader’s Alan Alda is revelatory.

Weekend Update

Kate McKinnon is yet another Trump Admin. official, this time Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The hair was too long and the eyes were too alive, but McKinnon nailed DeVos’ particular brand of nonsense word salad. “I think the problem is that the words that were coming out of my mouth were bad,” she says, referring to her abysmal 60 Minutes interview, “and that is because they came from my brain.” DeVos may have turned Michigan public education into a blighted hellscape, but she sure is fun to laugh at.

Pete Davidson also came by for his continuing therapy session/desk bit. This time it’s to laud Kevin Love for speaking out about mental health while also bragging about how much crazier he is. “Stay in your lane,” says Davidson. “I can’t stay in my lane because I’m on a ton of klonopin right now.” I love Davidson’s transparency about his mental health, and I hope more people are moved by his example and throw shade on Love.  

Stefon! When this bit started, I was wondering whether John Mulaney came through to write, since he had penned all previous Stefons. So when Mulaney came on for his cameo, I literally burst into song. I’m also glad they nodded at how fucked it was to use the M-slur in all the previous sketches, and how switching to “little person” doesn’t actually address the othering the sketches had been doing.

Sacred Rock

There have been some close encounters occuring in Sedona, and only one Swedish reiki healer is left to tell the tale. It’s truly insane this wasn’t the 10-to-1. Everything was bananas about this sketch: Hader’s accent, especially saying “wookie cookie,” the music stings, and all the people floating away. You rarely see wirework on SNL, and that’s a damn shame.

CBC Report

All I’m going to say about this sketch is that the real CBC sexual harassment scandal had fewer uses of the word “sore-y” and more vivid descriptions of women being choked. Arcade Fire’s roll call was funny, but they’ve been in better sketches.

Undercover Office Potty

A man is so inconvenienced by his need to use the bathroom that he uses a modern day chamber pot. Thing is, chamber pots were emptied by, like, servants. This guy just buys another covert shit receptacle until he’s inundated with stinky lamps. A silly sketch, well done, and with less of a gross-out factor than you’d assume from the premise. I knew one of the lamps was going to spill, and I’m just glad it didn’t happen until the very end.  

Photo by Will Heath/NBC.

Bill Hader’s Big ‘SNL’ Reunion