Saturday Night Live
Talking to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, Kit Harington confessed that he felt he spent his week at 8H vascillating between two feelings: “I’m the most unfunny person in the world” and the “I’m the king of comedy.” The truth lies somewhere between these poles. While Harington is best known for scowling and slaying White Walkers on Game of Thrones, he also has a sense of humor about it. (See the Late Night with Seth Meyers sketch about what a bummer it is to have Jon Snow to a dinner party.) Harington landed his first SNL hosting gig at an interesting time, in that writers knew easy GoT jokes and catchphrases would feel hack. Still, they proved hard to avoid entirely …
(As a reminder, these days we list the sketches in order from best to worst.)
Three techies committed to medieval manners (Beck Bennett, Kyle Mooney, and Harrington) get steaming mad at each other when one of their ilk wins Employee of the Month. Words fail them, so the guys move away from their work stations to have a LARP fight with fireballs, arrows, and flutes that lull the other players to sleep. When the boss (Mikey Day) tries to rein things in, he gets assaulted by accusations that he masturbated under the stairwell, and photographic evidence to prove it. (Once again a team, the guys throw many photocopies in the air while yelling “Duplication spell!”) Justice is served, and all is well in the kingdom once again. The depiction of these odd ducks and their committed rituals is pitch perfect, and Harington plays like he’s one of the Good Neighbor guys.
Kit Harington Monologue
As Harington takes the stage, everyone in the audience wants to hear Thrones spoilers. “Bitch, I didn’t come here for sketches,” says one (SNL writer Gary Richardson). Fellow GoT cast member Emilia Clark spends all her scenes talking to a dragon (“just a tennis ball on a pole”), so even she doesn’t know what happens. John Bradley wants to know whether Samwell Tarly will live or die, and whether he and Harington will still hang out. The Night King (Pete Davidson) just wonders why everyone hates him. Rose Leslie, who doesn’t need GoT spoilers as she is “not a nerd,” just wants to know what she and her husband will do for money once the show is over. (Answer: He’ll make jewelry.) It’s a fun little play on fandom, and certainly sets the tone for all the GoT stuff to follow.
New HBO Shows
As HBO airs its final season of Game of Thrones, many of its new shows will be GoT “prequels, sequels, and spinoffs” including the moody tale of forbidden love between Jon Snow (Harington) and undead Daenerys Targaryen (Heidi Gardner), Daria-like animated sitcom Arya, and the hack sitcom starring Sam and Gilly (Kyle Mooney and Cecily Strong) titled the Queen of King’s Landing. There are also crossover shows including Wildling Out and kids shows such as Hodor’s House. Because HBO is going “full Star Wars on this,” there’s even a Law & Order franchise starring Ice-T and Mariska Hargitay. With gags coming from every direction, this is more than enough GoT material for the whole show — surely this, and Harington’s monologue, will be the most-watched sketches of the night.
The jokes in Update’s first half address Biden’s unfolding dilemma and Trump’s visit to the border. Colin Jost isn’t impressed by Biden’s weird apology video, but he doesn’t care for a Republican faction hoping to discredit Biden when the current president is a sexual predator. (“The group is Independent Republicans of New York, or IRoNY.”) Apparently, if the Mexico border was closed, the U.S. would run out of avocados in three weeks. “This guy must really hate white women,” Michael Che says. “Why else would he declare a war on brunch?” Alex Moffat then introduces new character Terry Fink, a film critic who watches every released film with the help of “macrodosing.” Yep, to someone always high on acid, Captain Marvel gets weird when the hero “turns into a bat and has sex with my high school gym teacher,” and Dumbo is a “terrifying journey through hell.” Fink also cheerfully reveals his run-ins with the law and estrangement from his wife. It’s clever and well-performed.
Though Update’s second half includes SNL’s obligatory “winter is coming” joke, there are some funny bits about the school admissions scandal (“Rich people have been finding loopholes to get their kids in college forever. For example: Lacrosse.”) and a Star Wars-themed orgy (“which is just an orgy where you find out the guy in the mask is actually your father”). Kenan Thompson comes on as Charles Barkley, who, as an Auburn grad, was happy they appeared in the Final Four but refused to go because “the only thing black in Minnesota is toenails.” He also considers how he made 50 million over the course of his career, “and gambled away 60 million.” Thompson’s impression isn’t fantastic, and there’s nothing new about Barkley here, but Thompson will always sell his material.
Joe Biden Cold Open
Even after many women came forward to complain about his “touchy-feely” politics, Joe Biden (Jason Sudeikis) can’t understand why his physicality is an issue in the 2020 presidential race. “I’m a hugger, a kisser, and a bit of a sniffer,” he tells his aides (Thompson and Strong). Sensitivity trainer Gwen (Kate McKinnon) arrives to help Biden, but he greets her with head-to-head contact. Why can’t he play ZZ Top’s “Legs” and greet potential Biden voters like Jennifer (Aidy Bryant) with zerbets or noogies? Seems like the only person made happy by his physicality is another voter, Mrs. Douglas (Leslie Jones), who calls him “Obama’s granddaddy” and slaps his butt in delight. The focus of the sketch and depiction of Biden are good, though there aren’t an awful lot of surprises in how things play out. In this way, it may just predict the future.
Cruise Ship Show
While wining and dining on a cruise ship, a couple (Bennett and Gardner) and their table mate (Jones) await a performance from a Frank Sinatra impersonator. When he takes the stage, the performer (Harington) is dressed a lot like Michael Jackson. Though he signals an intention to perform “My Way,” he just gives some crotch thrusts and says the words “my way” to the beat of “Billie Jean.” Apparently, he and his band the Rat Pack Five were an MJ cover band until a few weeks ago, when the realized “people don’t want to see that now.” Still, they brought along their Macaulay Culkin impersonator (McKinnon) because she needs cash with a dental surgery on the way. It’s a good execution of a funny idea, and the sketch is worth it for Harington’s silly dancing alone.
Hosted by Aunt Patty (Bryant) and her beloved Joshua (Harington), this pageant is a celebration of nephews. Why? “They’re fun little scamps,” says Patty, “And they’re not yours.” Boys including Devon (Mooney), Lucas (Day), and Daniel (Chris Redd) parade out and let their aunts (Strong, McKinnon, and Jones) point out their finer qualities. These include knowing how to flaunt it when getting one’s braces taken off, and remembering being an angel. There’s also the parade of “supporting players,” in the form of nieces and pets. Eventually, a nonplussed judge (Thompson) just declares Joshua the winner again. There are some great, weird specifics here, and Bryant’s auntie ditties are worthwhile, but the sketch feels pretty shapeless.
New Video Game
When trying out a new first-person VR game, a Game Stop customer (Davidson) just wants to kick some zombie ass. Unfortunately, authoritative nonplayer character Ethan (Harington) and his underling Ethan (Day) have some interpersonal issues to work out. Each of them pulls the gamer aside to bend his ear about the other guy’s behavior, and asks advice. No matter how the customer tries to skip the insipid dialogue or assault his ostensible allies, he ends up faced with questions such as, “Is Damien mad at me?” When the player finally makes it to the coveted weapon room, Ethan and Damien are locked inside trying to work things out. Even a random zombie (Redd) can’t stop gossiping about these guys. There are funny moments, though it’s easy to feel the customer’s annoyance about the machinations here.
As the bachelorette party gets rowdy, bride-to-be Erin (Strong) and her friends (Bryant, Ego Nwodim, Jones, and Melissa Villaseñor) prepare for a stripper. They are not, however, prepared for Erin’s fiancé Brian (Harington) performing a burlesque act. No, no, this is not stripping, this is “the art of wearing less,” as confirmed by Brian’s surly French burlesque teacher Mary (McKinnon). After his tuck fails, Brian moves on to the finale. Though it is “one of the most bizarre things” she’s ever seen, Erin appreciates the effort — as does Brian’s horny sister. Straight guys stripping or doing drag isn’t exactly new ground, but the weirdo elements — the horny sister and Mary in general — keep it interesting.
Thanks to the Brexit mess, the news is calling May the “worst prime minister” ever. While Sara Bareilles sings the reflective hit from Waitress, “She Used to Be Mine,” May walks the streets. Cars splash her with mud, the Queen’s Guard flip her off, and a bird craps on her fish and chips. Things improve when she makes out with Winston Churchill (Harington) and finds that Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (Moffat) has already accepted her Brexit solution. Then, of course, she wakes up. “Fuck you, at least I’m trying,” she tells her TV. McKinnon is excellent, but the march of woe-is-me gags and weepy tenor miss the mark.
“You can’t put a pricetag on colorectal health,” a technician (Strong) tells her patient (Harington) as he prepares for his anal exam. These two seem to be hitting it off, and then Doctor Demartia (Jones) arrives. The doctor’s dramatically long nails cause no little alarm, though she pleasantly informs the patient she only requires “a clear view of the sugar bowl.” She won’t need a glove, as she doesn’t want to ruin the nails it took her six years to grow, but she does need the help of a strong orderly (Davidson) to pin the patient down. In the end, pun intended, the patient is the clinic’s CEO and it’s all on Undercover Boss. This sketch finally answers the question, “Are those lady’s nails going in my butthole?” but not much more.
Between the techie nerd, the Michaels Jackson impersonator, and the burlesque dancer, the writers really did give Harington a lot of different things to do in this show outside of the obligatory Game of Thrones stuff. He commits to it all, and blends in well with the cast while doing so. (For evidence, watch “Graphics Department,” in which Harington plays right into Bennett and Moody’s stilted rhythms, and is nearly unrecognizable.) The political material is middling, and the show itself has an otherwise standard week in terms of its hits-to-misses ratio. Next week, the show is live once again with a proven, excellent host, Emma Stone.