We learned two things this week: John Cena is an expert entertainer, and he’s actually pretty funny, too. A pro wrestler for over 15 years, Cena holds an insane number of records and championships, and is one of the WWE’s most beloved performers of all time – and it’s easy to see why, judging by how naturally he took to Saturday Night Live’s format and how willing he was to play with it. Perhaps unexpectedly, Cena ended up steering this episode towards the top of this season’s rankings so far – from a fun monologue that played to his strengths to a handful of light but well played sketches to several big hits, this week had a little bit of everything.
The Lead with Jake Tapper Cold Open
Spacey Trump shill Kellyanne Conway (Kate McKinnon) is back in top form (that is, smugly idiotic, in contrast to the weary / saintly Conway we’ve seen in recent weeks), facing off against Jake Tapper (Beck Bennett) and his doubt about Trump’s staff picks. Appointing a climate change denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Tapper asks? Yes, he’s ready to protect us all from the environment, Conway smiles.
And, because beloved drama Breaking Bad is ending this week (oh wait, it’s not, this was an incredibly random but totally welcome extended cameo), Bryan Cranston stops by as Walter White, Trump’s improbable pick to lead the DEA.
Heading into the holidays, we could use some fun – like, in the form of a song, maybe about a timeless topic like A Real New York Christmas? Actor / wrestling superstar John Cena is the perfect person to bring the cheer. Or, he would be, if he could get through his monologue without SNL’s aspiring wrestlers trying to ambush him.
First comes a fake out from Bobby Moynihan, who walks on as New York Santa (Santa with a Yankees hat, duh) but rips off his robes to reveal THE WADDLER, the cutest crab-walking wrestler we ever did see. Next, Leslie Jones jumps out, but her attitude melts the second she sees Cena’s truly astoundingly large arms. Kenan Thompson manages to get a hit in, but instantly regrets it because out come those sleeve-resisting arms.
Hook A Hunk
Between episodes of “Teen Mom,” “Teen Wolf,” and “Teen Wolf Mom,” MTV dating show “Hook A Hunk” is going horribly wrong – instead of flirting with her three hot hunks, single lady Michelle falls for host Ryan Math (Cena). While the contestants (Bennett, Kyle Mooney, and Mikey Day) are busy throwing out suggestive puns, Michelle and Ryan cycle through soul-wrenching phases of their budding relationship. In the end, everyone makes out (except magician Frank), so it’s almost a full win.
The Karate Teen
If this sketch was an 80s movie, persevering runt Jeffy LeHart (Day) would face and defeat his ultimate enemy, Sammy Knox (Cena), at the San Fernando Valley Karate Championships. But this sketch shows what would really happen in such a wildly uneven match: a beating so bad, it knocks you out of your pants. No amount of training (from zen master Thompson) can prepare you for the force of the Wolfclaw Dojo.
College is more about life lessons than fact-y things, as University of Alabama students Miles and Heather (Day and Vanessa Bayer) learn the hard way when their well-researched physics projects rank lower than a football star’s inaccurate report on bananas. Judging professors Bennett, Thompson, and Aidy Bryant – with coach Moynihan hovering nearby – are clearly biased, especially when earnest Ray (Cena) announces he’ll leave sports for studying if he gets anything less than an A. (As a side note, if someone made a print of Cena’s banana board I’d probably buy it and put it in my kitchen because I’m an idiot.)
Dyke & Fats Save Christmas
HALLELUJAH, DYKE AND FATS ARE BACK! Guys – Dyke and Fats are my favorite, and there’s no greater gift I could have gotten this holiday season than a second installment of Detective TV’s best vintage buddy cop sitcom. This time, Chicago cops Dyke (McKinnon, aka Les Dykawitz) and Fats (Bryant, aka Chubbina Fatzarelli) are out to save Christmas, and they’re getting into some hilariously stereotypical hijinks on the way!
It’s been awhile since a sketch got its own feature length spinoff – 2010’s underrated Macgruber was the last – and honestly, how easily can you see Dyke and Fats translating to the big screen? Especially with SNL co-head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider behind it?? Seriously, where can I start this petition.
The weekend on Update, Colin Jost and Michael Che talk about Trump’s staff picks, plus news on job stealing robots, black Santas, and the sketchiness of Long Island.
To comment on Donald Trump taking over her title of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, German chancellor Angela Merkel (McKinnon) drops by to tell us how she’s been coping – mostly with adult coloring books and lots of “German screaming” – and to give some informed insight on America’s growing nationalism.
And to talk about fake news and firearms, the woman who’s always yelling under Che’s window, Cathy Anne (Cecily Strong) stops by.
Where’d Your Money Go?
Charles Barkley (Thompson) hosts the highly watchable game show, “Where’d Your Money Go?,” where athletes are prompted to save – not spend – their seemingly infinite fortunes. Despite the game’s only rule being “don’t spend money,” contestants Rob Gronknowski (Cena), Conor McGregor (Alex Moffatt), and John Daly (Moynihan) spend hypothetical millions on cheetahs, sketchy restaurants, and strippers. Moffatt’s McGregor is SO good here (even though weirdly, I thought it was Justin Timberlake for a sec the first time I saw it), and Moynihan’s sleazy sports drink salesman was great (especially for those more familiar with comedian Jon Daly’s take on the athlete than with the golfer himself).
Joanne & The Tree
Sometimes, the holidays are more about obsessively upholding tradition than enjoying the company of your peers. Like at this office party, where everyone loses their mind when mild-mannered Joanne (Bryant) tumbles out an open window – not because she might be hurt, but because she brought the tree with her, and without it well what’s the fucking point. As sweet Joanne clings to the side of a high-rise, her co-workers try to coax the tree back in, proving people really can come together for the right reasons.
Through Donald’s Eyes
This hallucinatory dreamscape of a sketch is one of the smartest and most deeply biting political pieces SNL has aired in years. Shot literally “Through Donald’s Eyes,” the sketch takes us through a day in the life of a sleepy-eyed, hot-tempered sociopath as he wanders through his marbled and candled estate. At every waking moment surrounded by soft voices – of Kellyanne (McKinnon), Mike Pence (Bennett), and Melania (Strong) – cooing compliments, Don breezes through his day. Catching a glimpse of himself in a mirror, he sees what he so desperately wants to be: a‘uge handed, handsome big boy, just like John Cena.
When his delusional harmony is challenged – by like, the reminder that he’s got a job to do – we see, through Donald’s eyes, a babyish, almost raccoon-like anger that’s more scared than scary. This sketch hits on Don’s most obvious and most deeply personal insecurities, and it’s the exact type of laughing-at-you humor that’s sorely missing from Baldwin’s now almost cartoonish Trump. And, as Strong said during her Update segment, we know he’s watching – wonder if he got it?
If only we could all live as truly and fully as Carol (Bryant), a bookseller at the adult-oriented Scorched Corset. To the tolerant annoyance of her boss (Thompson), Carol’s turned her workplace into her ultimate fantasy by hiring her own personal stockboy, Jean-George (Cena). Sure, she’s paying him out of her own salary, but it’s a small price for on-demand romantic interludes among the stacks, complete with soft breezes and sexy lighting.
Another owl-centric closing sketch, and it’s just as delightful as Benedict Cumberbatch’s. In this round of reality show “United States of Talent,” owl tamer brothers Yoet and Bogdan Klovok (Day and Cena) perform for the competition’s sole judge, Tay-Tay Dubbs (Thompson). And it’s a big night – it’s their first show since their mighty owl, Majesty, flew head first into a stone wall. It turns out “rear end” tissue isn’t quite the same as brain tissue, because despite all medical efforts, Majesty’s just not quite right.
Every single time I hear John Cena’s name, I think of Joe Mande and Noah Garfinkel’s “Ultimate John Cena Fan Video”, and now you can too (Mande and Garfinkel made this for their old live show, Totally J/K, and there’s more amazing stuff– like “the Ultimate Johnny Galecki Fan Video” – on their YouTube):
Would love to read an interview with SNL’s costume department; generally because it seems like an intense / fun job where one accumulates lots of stories, and also I could not stop noticing how huge John Cena’s sleeves had to be in every scene, so, was mentally giving them lots of applause for that.
Next week: the last SNL of 2016 will feature the dream team of host Casey Affleck and musical guest / human angel Chance the Rapper.