One of the standout sketches on Saturday Night Live this week — and there were many — was an ode to the tsunami of compliments that await most of us upon going home for Thanksgiving. For the host, Cameron Diaz, however, all of the positive notices she receives from returning to the show owe nothing to familial goodwill and everything to the fact that she crushed it.
Cameron Diaz has been hosting SNL since There’s Something About Mary came out a distressing 16 years ago. (R.I.P. my youth.) In addition to appearing on the show a number of times since, she has spent the intervening years acting as the gamest goofball in comedies like The Sweetest Thing and last summer’s Sex Tape. This kind of thing is old hat to her. When Diaz is involved with a funny project, she presents herself as essentially the living embodiment of Gillian Flynn’s “Cool Girl”: hot, knows her way around a joke, down for whatever. Last night, she was all those things and more, bringing an upbeat energy to all of her sketches and effortlessly steering the show toward a second excellent episode in a row.
Capitol Hill Cold Open
The show begins with a pretty inventive, topical spin on Schoolhouse Rock’s much-loved “I’m Just a Bill.” In this iteration — you may recall Family Guy’s take before it — Kenan plays a humble immigration bill, singing about its impending struggle to get through Congress. He’s trumped, though, when Jay Pharoah’s President Obama introduces an executive order played by Bobby Moynihan. Rather than fight the red tape Kenan’s bill was singing about, Moynihan’s executive order “pretty much just happens,” sending the bill hurtling down the Capitol Hill steps in the process. (So many steps.) It’s the most flattering portrayal of Obama on SNL in some time, marking the president’s power move on immigration this week.
Cameron Diaz Monologue
As someone whose job involves interviewing celebrities from time to time, I’ve become keenly aware of when they are tired of answering dumb questions. During her monologue, Cameron Diaz does not appear legitimately drained from her Annie press push; however, this setup does allow her to field ridiculous queries from plants in the audience, including Leslie Jones, who wants to know about Shrek’s actual temperament, and Beck Bennett, who’d like Diaz to be his celebrity hall pass. The host establishes her straight-man bona fides here, which makes it funny to see her go big and broad in the very next sketch.
Back Home Ballers
The above-mentioned song about returning home for the holidays and being fêted like a conquering warrior is a sequel of sorts to last year’s glorious “(Do It In My) Twin Bed.” Everyone is introduced this time, however, with glamorous rap-video entrances (including Aidy Bryant, once again billed as “Lil Baby Aidy”), and showier ensembles to match. Starting with Cecily Strong’s pronunciation on “Our parents are rull happy to see us” and chugging on through to Leslie Jones’s Missy Elliot–esque tribute to bowls of things, it’s a very funny song that’s also kind of a jam.
The requisite sketch referencing the thing the host is there to promote arrives early this week, as ever. In this instance, Vanessa Bayer’s traditional Annie squares off against Leslie Jones’s new Annie, the speculated offspring of Wyclef Jean and Bonnie Raitt. This was the linchpin in what would prove to be a big night for Jones overall.
Some of the writers must have incinerated all the weed Woody Harrelson left behind after his visit last week. How else to explain something so bizarre and unexpected as Nest-spresso? Taran Killam and Kate McKinnon play urban farmers who appear to reside in Portlandia, getting a lesson in egg tech from Vanessa Bayer. It’s a fake infomercial for a device that provides instant incubation to fertilized eggs — unless you put them in the wrong way. Bayer does a great job hitting the beats of her knowing neighbor who doesn’t know enough. It’s a crime that she’s been largely underused this season.
High School Theater Show
“A collection of moments, whispers to America” is the best possible version of every on-the-nose subversive performance art piece you’ve ever excused yourself from seeing. Austere Kraftwerkian tunes accompany a high-school class’s beyond-earnest indictments of corporate America. Cameron Diaz and five members of the cast are just stilted enough to be idealistic teenagers, but the real star here might be the wardrobe artist who nails the newsboy hats and half-shirt couture of theater geeks.
The great thing about Kate McKinnon is that she doesn’t just generate laughs when playing outsize personalities like German Chancellor Angela Merkel — she also seems like she’s having a great time doing it. That is exceedingly the case this week when her Merkel teaches Colin Jost how to “German Kiss,” which is when you pull your lips over your teeth and make a sustained heave at each other like owls in heat. Killam and Strong are also funny as Charlie Manson and his new bride, who loves the way his eyes “dart around like hagfish in a bucket,” but the most talked-about moment from this extra-large “Weekend Update” will be Michael Che’s hot take on Bill Cosby. You can hear the audience not quite warming up to his jokey suggestion of one day forgiving the embattled comedian/alleged serial rapist.
Office Boss With Cameron Diaz
It’s been a year since Beck Bennett made his SNL bones with a tour-de-force physical performance of a boss with the body of a baby. When he reprised the role in last May’s Louis C.K. episode, the sketch seemed one-note and lame and diminished the appeal of the original iteration. While no subsequent versions of this routine will ever be as surprising as the first, last night’s benefited from the twist of Cameron Diaz portraying the baby boss’s pregnant wife. Having the host be a wacky part of the action rather than merely reacting to it mixed things up a bit and is representative of what Diaz brought to the table all night.
Dr. David and Buggles
Kenan Thompson plays the host of an Animal Planet–type show a week after the episode during which a sidekick monkey ripped off his dick and balls. I cannot believe this sketch exists, but I am so happy it does.
The first Good Neighbor sketch in what feels like a while features Kyle Mooney as a high-school student stuck inside an enormous black shirt. That’s not the focus of the sketch, but the shirt sort of stole the show for me. The specificity of his character’s grievances against rival Beck Bennett (namely, that Bennett made him drink out of the same bowl as his German shepherd, Sammy) are the kind of offbeat little details that make these digital shorts a treat much of the time.
Poetry Class With Cameron Diaz
Vanessa Bayer brings back her substitute poetry teacher character, and she’s joined by Cameron Diaz’s overtly sexual slam poetress. It takes a little long to get going, but this sketch is worth it for the reaction shots from Pete Davidson, who is mostly absent this episode.
You didn’t see many phone-sex ads on TV these days — mainly because you don’t see much actual TV in general anymore — so there’s something of a nostalgia factor to this parody. Armed with mood lighting, boudoir eyes, Nordic doll hair, and ridiculous names like “Latouch,” the local ladies of Night Murmurs make for questionable seductresses. This sketch outstays its welcome, but prior to that it’s increasingly weird in the ways Diaz, Strong, and McKinnon attempt to entice viewers to call and explain what they expect in return.
While some slowness toward the end defused the overall impact of this episode, between it and last week’s Woody Harrelson–hosted barnburner, SNL is on an impressive run heading into its Thanksgiving hiatus. Let’s hope everyone maintains their mojo when they return from being pampered by their parents for untold days on end.