Fresh off of filming her upcoming feature film The Boss, Melissa McCarthy handled her fourth-and-1/16th-time hosting Saturday Night Live with aplomb. No surprise there, considering she was nominated for an Emmy for each of her previous three times hosting the show in 2011, 2013, and almost exactly two years ago in 2014.
There are some hosts who seem like challenges for the writers and cast to work with (most athletes, for example) or even work around (Donald Trump, obviously), and then there are people like Melissa McCarthy, who make it feel like the show just gained another solid cast member. Although this episode saw a ratings dip for SNL, it was a great show with hardly any dead weight. Darrell Hammond once again came back but to play someone other than Donald Trump, Beyonce’s “Formation” got a thorough examination, and they even got Kanye West to appear in a sketch.
Next week the show goes dark, returning March 5 with host Jonah Hill, who will also be celebrating his fourth (but not 1/16th) time hosting SNL. In the meantime, let’s take a look at how Melissa McCarthy did:
Hillary Clinton Cold Open
With much of SNL’s political focus on the GOP race and Bernie Sanders as of late, this week the show returned to Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton impersonation for a cold open that avoided both Thursday’s Democratic and Saturday’s Republican debate. This one took a slightly more out-of-the-box approach to mocking Hillary’s problem with Millennials, played by Taran Killam, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, and Vanessa Bayer, who explain over brunch why they can only get excited about Sanders (“Hillary is the most qualified candidate in history, but at the same time, eh?”). Meanwhile, McKinnon does her best Bonnie Raitt as Hillary belts out, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” while descending onto their table in her blue “Kim Jong Un” jacket on a floral swing. Cecily Strong pops in to make a point about Gloria Steinem telling young women it’s their feminist duty to support Hills, and practically-featured-player Darrell Hammond put his Trump impression aside to play Bill Clinton while Hillary does seductive kicks on top of a piano. Side note: I like how Beck Bennett has come to own Jeb Bush, despite looking nothing like him.
Melissa McCarthy Monologue
These days, the song-and-dance monologue is best done ironically, so Melissa McCarthy’s was right on point. At first, she makes it seem like she’s going to pull an Oprah and give everyone in the audience a free car, but she was really just looking for a lost glove that was “Missin’ its sister.” The big number begins when she breaks into a song and dance routine about joining the illustrious SNL “Five-Timers Club,” when it’s really only her fourth time hosting. Kenan Thompson gets more laughs by putting a stop to the nonsense with a blunt, “The 40th doesn’t count, baby girl!” and then presenting McCarthy with a banana wearing a smoking jacket and special sunglasses to commemorate her joining the “4 and 1/16-Timer’s Club.” Sure, why not? On with the sketches!
The Day Beyonce Turned Black
SNL could hardly do this show without addressing the most important U.S. cultural event of last week – no, not the Super Bowl – Beyonce’s “Formation” video and the halftime show that followed. They decided to channel the racially charged discussions that followed both with a horror movie trailer in which white people (Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, Vanessa Bayer, Bobby Moynihan, Kate McKinnon, Beck Bennet) discover that Beyonce is (gasp) “unapologetically black,” and maybe they won’t relate to everything that she sings about. I liked how this sketch diffused the conversation about the hardly-a-controversy, even if it does almost feel like old news by now. And, similar to the show’s take on #OscarsSoWhite last month, it’s also a good reminder that SNL couldn’t even do a sketch like this just a couple years ago due to a lack of diversity in the cast.
Okay, this was hilarious, and probably the best use of Melissa McCarthy’s physical comedy since the ranch dressing sketch in 2011. If you’ve ever wondered how scary movies obtain those night vision shots of test audiences getting scared for their promos, you’ll love this footage presented by focus group leader Cecily Strong of superstar test audience member Dottie (Melissa McCarthy). I almost spilled my own drink when Dottie dumped her soda backwards onto Kenan Thompson’s lap (side note: where did that second soda come from?) and once again when she threw up and punched Cecily Strong in the back of the head. She might even rival Leslie Jones when it comes to who has the funniest fake scream.
Continuing the movie theme, this next sketch was also one of the funniest of the night. Melissa McCarthy pulls mom duty next to son Pete Davidson and dad Bobby Moynihan, who have all sat down to watch the first Terminator movie as a family. Anyone who has had the unfortunate experience of watching a sex scene with their parents will relate to these outrageous inner monologues, with everyone trying to ease the tension in their own way (which also happens to be the worst way possible). From thinking too hard about nipples to repeatedly singing the Farmers Insurance jingle, the situation comes to a boil when Davidson’s character announces he’s a virgin and storms off. I mean, who hasn’t had a family movie night end like that?
Once again, Colin Jost and Michael Che got to respond to a Saturday Night GOP debate in real time. This week’s political material was on par, with jokes about why you can’t boo Donald Trump, jabs at Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and a list of things Hillary needs to be honest about. That list includes everything from Benghazi and her support of DOMA, to more obscure things like her pressuring Huma Abedin to divorce Anthony Weiner, and “taking furniture from the White House.”
Che also commented on the “outrage” over Beyonce’s “Formation” video, and joked about Kanye’s tweet on Bill Cosby being innocent: “When you’re that dope you can say whatever you want.” And the first of two O.J. Simpson references of the night got a huge laugh, because everything from the ‘90s is cool again!
Vanessa Bayer is the perfect vessel for Jennifer Aniston’s decade-defining character Rachel, and the upcoming Friends reunion gave this a timely peg. Even if the impression really is all in the overalls, wig and an ability to act surprised no matter what the conversation, Bayer nails it. The added bit that New York establishing shots haunt Rachel’s existence is just a bonus.
In a truly, “Hey, why not?” moment of the show, Denver Broncos linebacker and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller took the desk to explain scientists’ recent confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves. What follows is a series of disses and taunts at Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton that I barely understood! Sorry. Go sports?
Of course, I had nothing but love for Leslie Jones on Valentine’s Day, especially her calling Colin Jost a “Sexy dollop of Miracle Whip.” Her piano player Manuel (Kenan Thompson) provided the perfect soundtrack to her list of qualities in a potential mate, including confidence, punctuality, a tight ass, and a deep hatred for avocados. She’ll also make you seriously rethink wanting to receive flowers from a date. Do they really smell like death? No. Will they now? Yes.
Okay, did I say the test audience sketch was the best use of Melissa McCarthy? Because I take that back. This was definitely her shining sketch, if not because she is excellent at negging Kyle Mooney, then because she freely used her fingers to force-feed him his own drink. Cecily Strong (along with her giant feather boa) provides pick-up coaching for Vanessa Bayer, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and McCarthy, with Leslie Jones acting like she’s about to crack up the entire time. Mooney, along with Kenan Thompson and Pete Davidson, play victim to the ladies’ newfound manhunting skills, but only McCarthy’s character has learned what it takes to really wow a guy (name-dropping her uncle Jesse and his trundle bed, and grooming him like a cat). Clearly, she’s the only one who would be going home with someone that night – and possibly murdering them.
Kyle vs. Kanye
This is probably the closest we’re going to get to a Vh1 Behind The Music of Kyle Mooney. I have a feeling that it wasn’t an easy task to get Kanye to appear in a sketch, so this pre-taped bit about Mooney preparing for an impromptu rap battle with him was a good call in terms of minimum Kanye screen time vs. maximum effect. Mooney builds up to the moment when Kanye completely slays him with footage of himself as a young breakdancer/rapper. Plus, we got to hear Kanye acknowledge the “I love you like Kanye loves Kanye” meme in rap form, no less.
The weakest sketch in an otherwise solid episode was this one featuring an otherwise solid combination: Leslie Jones and Melissa McCarthy. When a white man (Taran Killam) gives up his seat to Jones, she thinks it’s a nice gesture. That is until McCarthy starts talking and reveals that she a) just now watched Roots, b) did not understand the movie The Help and c) can’t pick up on social cues, like her seat-mate asking the driver to tuck-and-roll on the highway to get away from her. Both ladies are funny in their own way, but the jokes get repetitive without really heightening, and the whole thing ends with a Speed joke, so…
Whiskers R We
Okay, you have to admit this is was a hilarious palate cleanser after Kanye West’s final performance. Going from abstract hip-hop performance to Barbara DeDrew (Kate McKinnon) and Tabby-tha (Melissa McCarthy) advertising quirky, adoptable kittens was quite the transition. Another one of McKinnon’s recurring 10-to-1 sketches, she first paired her lesbian, cat-loving character with Charlize Theron in 2014, then Reese Witherspoon in 2015. This time, Melissa McCarthy fits right into the role with lines like, “A cat is a ticket to fun!” She also seems totally comfortable feeling up Kate McKinnon at length while pretending to stroke a cat. Side note: whenever I see this sketch, I always wonder if one of the cats is going to freak out, and I have to say that hairless one was definitely on the edge.
So, Shoot. What Else?