Finally, with an episode that’s “like, so gay, dude” and that doesn’t fucking care, and that features one of the most lovingly crafted and executed cameos in the show’s history, Saturday Night Live has found its best current self.
Political parody is – shocker!! – super hard to pull off at all, let alone week after week, when the eyes of the world are on you and no matter what you do or say, someone’s going to get pissed. One of the most historic and beloved shows in television history, SNL owes a lot of its legacy to the early years of Ivy League-informed, comparatively uncensored political commentary. One can’t help but wonder how original head writer Michael O’Donoghue – a brilliant and unapologetically insane National Lampoon co-founder and a pioneer with his unique brand of socially-focused black comedy – might spin things in 2017.
But through decades of cast turnovers, increased network and sponsor involvement, and the rise of the 24-hour news cycle, SNL – once the only source of edgy, topical commentary – has been buried by, among other things, Twitter, where a million aspiring Weekend Update anchors offer wry and hyper-timely hot takes without worrying about offending anyone. Michael O’Donoghue didn’t have to answer to Comcast execs, and SNL, which premiered the year after Nixon’s resignation, would never have had the disgraced politician appear on air. But in a year that saw a 30% rise in the show’s space for product placements, and the election of a controversial former host, SNL shares little but a legacy with its former, risker years.
Which is why it was so damn refreshing to see so many shining, truly opinionated moments in this week’s episode. Sure, pleasing everyone is tricky, but the political climate is more divisive than ever, and it’s (arguably?) the time for loud voices to take advantage of their volume – so there’s been a lot of criticism aimed SNL’s way, by people (like me) who hold on to hope that a comedy show calling the president a “little white bitch” might help change the world.
It won’t, probably. But this week, SNL – helmed by first-time host Kristen Stewart, who was so awesome and adorable and excited to be there – seemed to hit the stride its been struggling to find for awhile. From the continuing references to Bannon’s behind-the-scenes maneuverings to a monologue highlighting Don’s bizarre obsession with celebrity to Melissa McCarthy’s seriously masterful jab at the current admin’s sheer ineptitude, this week’s episode pushed all the right buttons.
Oval Office Cold Open
It’s still a little weird, though, when Skeletor-Bannon – portrayed as a cackling ghoulish overlord, as in life – enters to laughter and applause, because those are sounds of approval and that is not what this man (even a caricatured version) should elicit. Sort of same with Don played as a harmless baby, puppeted into fits of rage and placated with colors and puzzles.
But then, if he was Hitler-ier, he’d probably be flattered, and like we said, this is all very hard to pull off. So, let’s just give Kenan Thompson one billion life points for screaming “You cannot even walk down stairs, you little white bitch” at an effigy of Trump with such passion it almost didn’t seem like acting!
Every single person who watched this monologue wants to be Kristen Stewart’s best friend now. From her Veronica Lodge-takes-Manhattan fishnet ensemble to her compulsive hand-wringing and her gossipy speculation on Don’s obsession with her ex to the “um yup whatever”-ness of her casual “I’m like, so gay, dude,” this girl owns every room without even realizing it. She was clearly so into being there (and so comfortable in front of an audience) that when she let an F-bomb drop, she seemed crestfallen, since Lorne’s made such a huge issue of it in the past (sowwie, Jenny Slate and Casey Wilson). But given how goddamn good this episode was thanks to her (and the fact that it’s not 1974) we’re thinking it’s probably not a huge deal anymore.
With all these executive orders flying around, the government must be rushing to keep all their websites and whatever up to date – probably, SNL is doing them a favor by putting together this TSA welcome video that concisely and politely explains our new customs process to prospective travelers. Sure, it might be a little hastily edited, but the harried Homeland Security agent tasked with correcting the clip (Beck Bennett) had a lot to do that day.
Two eager RAs (Cecily Strong and Mikey Day) try to force some fun into an underage drinkers’ worst nightmare: Dry Fridays, a sober pizza party where saddies tell stories about that one time they threw up and ruined their shoes in an attempt to deter “problem” partiers. But when mysterious badass Courtney shares her rock bottom moments, her no-hawk hairdo, and some helpful advice (never blackout on Mr. Shinto’s island), she makes being messy seem kind of cool (except for the hair thing, she should really pop that beanie back on).
When it comes to the Big Game, there’s only one thing ladies know about: feeding their hungry guys. Unless your friend’s hot sister Sabine shows up while you’re making your hungry guys some Totino’s. If that happens, then you end up knowing a lot more – like, how to draw flattering charcoal portraits, and speak French like a New Wave star, and use pizza rolls as sex toys.
Sean Spicer Press Conference
Out of nowhere, Melissa McCarthy comes blazing onto the White House Press Room set, suited up and already angrily out of breath – as one must be to accurately capture cartoonish press secretary Sean Spicer’s true essence.
McCarthy blazes flawlessly through a scene that sends her careening across the stage, thrusting a podium into Vanessa Bayer’s face, pumping up a Super Soaker, and running through a gauntlet of punny props, all while sprinkling an appropriate amount of rage and unnecessary finger quotes throughout for added authenticity. Her exaggerated, well-studied take on this bitingly scripted character piece was just so perfect, so artfully cruel in its truthful detail and heightened failure, that it felt historic to watch.
If I had a kid, I would’ve woken them up during Melissa McCarthy’s Spicer like it were the moon landing.— Jesse David Fox (@JesseDavidFox) February 5, 2017
More of THIS, please – of powerful people stopping by to say something, to showcase their range, to point fingers at foolishness by mirroring it back so twisted it’s impossible to ignore.
Between a few minor fudge-ups, Jost and Che cover the travel ban, the Bowling Green non-event, and the proper punishment for bringing tuna on a plane.
Plus, notable New Englander David Ortiz stops by to give his Superbowl predictions, and to promote some of his new endorsements.
Celebrity Family Feud: Super Bowl Edition
It’s Falcons fans vs Patriots fans in this Super Bowl feud that pits Justin Bieber (McKinnon), Samuel L. Jackson (Leslie Jones), Paula Deen (Bryant), and Roger Goodell (Bennett) against Gisele (Stewart), Bill Belichick (Bobby Moynihan), Casey Affleck (Alex Moffatt), and Lady Gaga (Melissa Villasenor). Moynihan’s creepy doll laugh will haunt you, and the pointed digs at Affleck will make you wonder what went on behind the scenes when he hosted.
Nothing completely derails my movie watching experience like characters glossing over crucial planning details (“A date tonight? I’d love to, see you then, byeee!”) – I get too caught up wondering whether it’ll be a plot point that nobody knows where they’re going, or if maybe I’m missing out on some internationally-agreed-upon social contract whereby all important meetings occur at the same time and place. It’s like how on Catfish, when they first meet the Catfish, everyone’s all nervous and surprised but also the cameras are already inside their house, and it makes you think just a little too much – you know? No? ANYWAYS, this very realistic romantic short finally addresses that maddening movie trope, by showing what really happens after all those (seemingly) perfect meet cutes.
Another thing I’ve spent far too much time wondering: what like, a typical Tuesday would be for the Bucket family, that ragged quartet of grandparents who spent all day playing footsie in an adult-sized crib while their sweet grandchild, Charlie, sacrificed his youth to support them (until he gets his own candy shop, but that’s a different book). Granted, Roald Dahl was a pretty twisted motherfucker, so its no surprise his stories tended to focus on families with dark and bizarre backstories (lots of orphans, and abusive parents, and Struwwelpeter-violent warnings to young readers that bad behavior earns really bad punishments) – so it’s natural to wonder, what if Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was really about a family that lied to a poor little boy?