This weekend marked former Saturday Night Live cast member Tracy Morgan’s triumphant return to Studio 8H after recovering from the horrific car accident that severely injured him and took the life of his friend James McNair. The third episode of the 41st season followed a strong show by host Amy Schumer and served as a fitting tribute to Morgan’s legacy as well as another strong dive into the 2016 election with an unforgettable cameo by former SNL writer Larry David as Bernie Sanders (which is apparently Sanders-approved).
In addition to David, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Jane Krakowski, and Jack McBrayer provided a mini-30 Rock reunion, and we saw the return of both Brian Fellow and Astronaut Jones – just like when Morgan hosted back in 2009. It marks another strong episode of the 41st season before the show takes a two-week hiatus, after which Donald Trump takes his turn as host and then, well, God help us all.
Democratic Debate Cold Open
Congratulations to new cast member Jon Rudnitsky for his first impression on the show as Anderson Cooper. The requisite recap of the first Democratic debate of the 2016 election featured Alec Baldwin as a spot-on Jim Webb, while Taran Killam and Kyle Mooney filled in as Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee, and as Cooper said, “Now that we’ve met those people, let’s bring out the real candidates.” Of course, Kate McKinnon’s Hillary hasn’t run out of of one-liners (“I think you’re really gonna like the Hillary Clinton that my team and I created for this debate”) but much like the actual debate, Bernie Sanders stole the show as Larry David fulfilled the Internet’s wish and dialed it up to 10 for the impression. Whether or not SNL’s premonition of of a Clinton/Sanders ticket comes true, I could watch a lot more of the two of them interacting on SNL, especially if it involves McKinnon saying, “He’s Trap Queen by Fetty Wap.”
Tracy Morgan Monologue
Tracy Morgan’s monologue set the tone for the love fest that would be his return as host, and made it hard to believe that his accident occurred just one year ago. Jokes about his mental capacity gave way to a homecoming to his 30 Rock family and might have reminded viewers of the live episodes taped at the SNL studio back in 2010 and 2012. In fact, the flashback scene featuring Fey, Baldwin, Krakowski and McBrayer had a lot of fun at 2012’s expense with those Smash chyrons. Who else totally forgot about that show?
Family Feud: Extended Family
It seems like every other week there’s a viral Family Feud clip featuring Steve Harvey reacting incredulously to a raunchy answer (that he provoked) so it’s refreshing to see SNL find a more realistic way to make the show hilariously awkward. Leslie Jones and Tracy Morgan play perfectly off each other while Kenan Thompson’s Steve Harvey sets them up for joke after joke. When it comes to SNL’s game show sketches, it’s best when the premise is made clear right away and they just let the strongest players run with it (and, let Leslie Jones scream).
Brian Fellow’s Safari Planet: A Beaver and a Camel
Brian Fellow may not be an accredited zoologist, but he is one of the best characters from Tracy Morgan’s seven-year stint on SNL. There’s just something about his 6th grade-level understanding of wildlife and increasingly random series of thought bubbles. Pete Davidson, who was just a child when Brian Fellows first appeared, gets to be the one at whom Fellow yells, “You’re a liar, skinny man!” while Aidy Bryant deals with a camel named Elizabeth who does a really good job getting in the way of the camera. Also: camels are huge!
Mitchell’s Fake Cocaine
Every once in awhile there comes an SNL commercial parody that makes you wonder, “Why doesn’t this exist in real life?” Just kidding, this one is totally insane. Beck Bennett stars in this ad for Mitchell’s Fake Cocaine, a powder that will make your friends think you were doing coke instead of pooping at a party. The sketch could have stopped there, but the addition of a fake poop spray designed to disguise your cocaine use (and more screaming from Leslie Jones) takes it to another level.
Colin Jost and Michael Che continue to demonstrate that their handling of Weekend Update is best done with a free-form back-and-forth on a single subject rather than the ping-ponging of disjoined one-liners (sorry, that was a lot of hyphens). The point is that when they team up on subjects like gun control last week, or the 2016 election this week, their natural, standup comic voices emerge from the news anchor copy and actually make good points (like there shouldn’t be any more “failing up” to President). Tina Fey made a second cameo to show us all the magic of “arm butts” and showed us what it might have looked like if she had gotten the chance to pose for Playboy. This was followed by a strange bit from Michael Che about aliens invading (which appeared to cause Jost to lose it) and then Kenan Thompson brought back his desk character Willie to talk about Halloween. The highlight was another reprisal by Tracy Morgan of his character Woodrow, the homeless man who sang “Take a doo-doo pie” to Britney Spears back in 1999. It almost makes you wonder why they didn’t do that with Demi Lovato.
Good Morning Song
Imagine watching the beginning of Beauty And The Beast and having Tracy Morgan disrupt it with talk of a horse taking a whiz. Taran Killam, Cecily Strong, Bobby Moynihan and basically the rest of the cast join in for this musical sketch that sees Morgan awkwardly approving of homosexuality (Hey, remember when that was something people were mad about?).
In the second pre-recorded sketch of the night, Taran Killam plays a boyfriend trying to stand up for his girlfriend (Sasheer Zamata) after a guy (Tracy Morgan) bothers her, only to realize that his invitation to “tango” is referring to dancing and not a bar fight. It’s one of those sketches that immediately goes to crazy town, but you just let it. You almost feel bad for Tracy Morgan’s character when he says, “You don’t wanna put a rose in my mouth?!”
Yo! Where Jackie Chan At Right Now?
Okay, sure! I love hyper-specific talk show sketches with call-in guests. This sketch is pure nonsense but you can imagine it being really, really funny in the writers’ room. On TV, it serves as yet another dumping ground for the cast’s various impressions, including Chris Tucker (Jay Pharoah), Chuck Norris (Kyle Mooney), Steven Segal (Bobby Moynihan), Owen Wilson (Taran Killam), Sasheer Zamata (the lady from Carmen Sandiego), Young Osama Bin Laden (Pete Davidson–— whose father died on 9/11, BTW) and Leslie Jones as just Leslie Jones. Side note: it appears that Jackie Chan is doing well.
Astronaut Jones: The Martian
Okay, I have to say I was looking forward to this more than the return of any other Tracy Morgan character. And, just like when he hosted back in 2009, I realized that my favorite part of this sketch is the opening sequence – which not only holds up, but serves as a time capsule of Morgan’s younger self. I thought they were somehow going to make this a parody of the new Matt Damon movie, but instead Demi Lovato makes a cameo as a hot Martian who sets up Astronaut Jones for a show-closing butt joke. P.S. Morgan/Goldfarb Productions 4 Lyfe!
So shoot, what else?