Saturday Night Live began its 43rd season with a silly, silly show for a decidedly un-silly time. Puerto Rico continues to suffer through the aftereffects of a hurricane without federal aid. The president continues to wage war on professional athletes who oppose police brutality, and millions of poor children just lost their health coverage. SNL touched on these issues (because how could you not?), but wisely didn’t make the audience dwell on them for too long (because how could we possibly?). Instead, the season opener just got really weird with it. Talking chickens, rock flute, and Kate McKinnon full-on giving Ryan Gosling a rimjob were just some of the things that made almost every performer break at one point or another. This episode was the giggliest I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen the Best of Jimmy Fallon compilation. Let’s discuss!
Ya boy Alec is back. Baldwin’s Trump impression has been dividing, to say the least, but I’m interested in how he’s really ramped up the facial contortions. Baldwin squints his eyes away and twists his mouth to the point that he looks more like a Francis Bacon painting than a man. This cold open suffered a little from trying to be too many sketches at the same time. Was it about Puerto Rico? Or the theory that Trump is intentionally stressing out America? When Aidy Bryant’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders guesses that Trump declared war on North Korea four months ago, Trump interjects “Wrong! It was last Friday. See? I’m bending time.” Or was it just an excuse for everybody to get their political impressions on the table early in the season? Kate McKinnon was delightful as racist Keebler elf Jeff Sessions, though she appeared to have some trouble talking around the fake teeth. And Alex Moffat’s Chuck Schumer was really funny, but why was he there? The sketch seemed to be saying that Schumer is colluding with Trump in his plan to destroy our mental health, but shouldn’t that be its own sketch?
There were two constants in Ryan Gosling’s performance: breaking, and wearing shirts that I want. Lotta cool graphic prints! Maroon suit! I think maroon is gonna be huge for fall/winter this year. When I saw Ryan Gosling come out, I thought he looked like he was still in costume for La La Land. It was most likely intentional on the part of wardrobe, because the lion’s share of Gosling’s monologue was about how he Saved Jazz with that movie. He chastens the band for jazzing too loud, because “If you play jazz that loud, then people can’t hear me talk about jazz.” Emma Stone made the second cameo of the night, reminding Gosling that he didn’t Save Jazz—they both did.
Close Encounter 2
This is the sequel to a previous sketch Ryan Gosling couldn’t stop laughing in two years ago. Once again Gosling and Cecily Strong have been abducted by benevolent aliens, who want to show them the meaning of life and why we’re all here. Meanwhile Kate McKinnon’s character keeps getting hit in the breasts by tiny grey weirdos. This time, they also tried to punch her butt back together, since the aliens have never seen a butt before and think something is wrong. This is where the rimjob came into play. All the weird butt stuff the aliens did to McKinnon, McKinnon did to Gosling. This is why television was invented.
A commercial about the false activism of major brands. Tired of being labeled “man” or “woman” or “child” by their clothes, young hip persyns are promoting Woke Jeans, a genderless pant of indeterminate color with no pockets and a zipper that goes all the way from front to butt. Sporting the jeans were new cast members Heidi Gardner and Chris Redd, as well as Ryan Gosling in a jacket I would very much like. This parody wouldn’t have been nearly as effective without the spot-on editing. The timing between jokes and people just shouting “WOKE!” was perfect. Also, those pants are barely parody. In LA, “barf-colored genderless sack” is definitely a Look. Sufficiently advanced parody is indistinguishable from the thing being mocked.
This sketch started with the fact that there is a third, unsung Property Brother, and played a game of “If this is true, what else?” Why would two of three brothers go into real estate and home renovation, leaving one brother to warp into a shunned emotional husk of a person? “When I was 12, I watched a man get hit by a bus,” says Gosling’s non-property brother Tristan. “Some might say that was the day the light inside me dimmed, but I would say that was the moment the darkness began to shine.” My favorite part of the sketch was the audience’s reaction to Tristan, the upsetting brother. It was a sort of “Oh no!” and laugh mixed together.
Aside from the cold open, Update did the most political material of the night, with mixed results. Colin Jost’s Katrina joke bombed. Jost was going for the “oh no!” laugh, but just got an “oh no.” But jokes about Pitbull’s humanitarian efforts killed.
Kate McKinnon guested as Angela Merkel talking about how much she misses Obama. Girl, we feel you. The writers of SNL seem to have always thought that Germany is some sort of bizarro country – just look as “Sprockets.” Germany is apparently where up is down and slutty Angela Merkel is a viable Halloween costume. “That’s me, but with a hat,” she says.
Alex Moffat returned as the Guy Who Just Bought A Boat, a total douche who loves to coin new abbreves (abbreviations) and talk about how bad his wang is at sex. Gosling joined in on the bit as Guy Who Just Joined Soho House, which is quite the “sclusey clu” (exclusive club). I love dumb, insisto termos (insistent terminology). Nothing gets my ha-has a hoo-hooing like very ideosynky speech pats (ideosyncratic speech patterns). But then again, my dong sucks, so maybe I’m totes bi-bi (totally biased).
Every sketch after Weekend Update felt like a 10-to-1 sketch—the traditional slot in SNL where they let someone go really whackadoo. When I saw Aidy Bryant dressed as a chicken/gun moll I legit checked my phone to see if there was still 1/3 of an episode left. Bryant plays a talking chicken in a black-and-white film noir who’s helping the man she loves hide from the police. Gosling’s bank robber has been lying to his chicken girlfriend about lots of things: that they’re going to run away together, that airplanes have egg incubators, and that he doesn’t already have a wife. But he takes the fall for her when she accidentally shoots Kenan Thompson’s innocent bystander. It was true love all along. The sketch then cuts to 20 years later, where the chicken is waiting for Gosling to get out of lockup. For some reason, the chicken is so much funnier in color.
Do you remember those Pizza Hut commercials where they tricked people into thinking they were taste testing a fine Italian eatery, but really they were sampling Pizza Hut’s new spaghetti or whatever? SNL does. Gosling and his fiance (played by Cecily Strong) are duped by Pizza Hut into liking their food. The couple spirals quickly, and Gosling threatens violence on everyone who ever tricked him into thinking he was dining at Terrazano’s, a restaurant that doesn’t exist yet Strong keeps insisting is her favorite. This was my favorite of Ryan Gosling’s shirts, a bold googie architecture-inspired button-down.
In possibly the most relatable content of the episode, Gosling plays a man obsessed with the graphic designer who chose Papyrus as the font for the Avatar logo. Why did he do it? Was it malice or just indifference? What kind of a God would let something like this happen? Kyle Mooney plays the possibly evil graphic designer in one of his few appearances of the night.
The actual last sketch of the night features Kenan Thompson’s singing prowess in a way we haven’t seen since “What’s Up With That?” Thompson leads an R&B band comprised of Mooney on the keys and Gosling playing the rock flute. During the “let me introduce you to the band” segment, Thompson keeps asking questions about Gosling’s salacious love life. The poor flutist tries to bring the show back to the music, but even the audience is more emotionally invested in whatever is going on with Gosling. The whole sketch—and premiere episode—culminates with Leslie Jones ripping a pair of jeans in half while everybody tries not to laugh. It’s the only thing she did live in the episode, and she crushed it. If this what’s in store for season 43, I’m down. I’m very much looking forward to hiding from the world in this nonsense for the next year.