It was an eventful week off for SNL. Pete Davidson took week-two host Kim Kardashian out to dinner in beautiful Staten Island. Don’t knock the food in Staten Island; where do you think the Italians went after Whole Foods moved into Brooklyn? Ed Sheeran caught COVID but quickly recovered, in another example of Great Britain’s superior health-care system. Ego Nwodim had a delightful guest-starring role in HBO’s Love Life, alongside scene-stealing Punkie Johnson. And of course, the three Please Don’t Destroy boys and James Austin Johnson were featured in Vulture’s Comedians You Should Know and Will Know in 2021. (Not that I disagree with my colleagues, but I think we know them.)
Kieran Culkin takes over as host this week. He plays the kinetic and unpredictable younger brother Roman Roy on HBO’s hit series Succession. Obviously, he’s hilarious on it, but the tone of SNL and Succession could not be more different. Can his sarcastic quips and demented outbursts translate to SNL’s goofy fun?
- Aaron Rodgers Trump Cold Open
- Kieran Culkin Monologue
- Cancelling Cable
- Car Heist
- Dionne Warwick Talk Show
- Men’s Room
- The Jockey
- Ed Sheeran: “Shivers”
- Weekend Update (Ice Cube on Refusing the Covid-19 Vaccine/Goober The Clown on Abortion)
- Ed Sheeran: “Overpass Graffiti”
- Please Don’t Destroy: Calling Angie
Way Too Accurate Satire of Fox News
Cecily Strong returns as Jeanine Pirro and SNL uncorks another solid cold open. The audience was a little tepid here, and I think it’s because Jeanine Pirro praising Aaron Rodgers, Governor-elect Youngkin, and a parent concerned about critical race theory feels almost too much like an actual Fox News show. “Prejudice is fine, but ‘Pride’ is a term that has been co-opted by the gays.” Then we get James Austin Johnson’s incredible Trump impression. “The movie was rotten, just ask the tomatoes.” The audience again was a bit muted at first. But they gave James a lot of time to ingratiate himself, and his Trump “thinking out loud” impression will prove to be a weapon in future episodes.
Macaulay Culkin Throwback Clip
During his monologue, Kieran explains that not only did he briefly appear in his brother Macaulay’s SNL episode, he asked Kevin Nealon to pick him up. This was a very short monologue, but I think part of that is that we actually know very little about Kieran outside of Succession. He gave the obligatory “This is a dream come true” and was out.
Most Triggering Sketch
While Kieran gets triggered trying to cancel his cable, the audience is also triggered as so much of this is all too real. “We can use one of your security questions: What city did your mom lose her virginity in?” This is a fun sketch, ending with Bowen as Spectrum itself. “May I interest you in free Disney+ to keep your service?” One of SNL’s solutions to dealing with the largest cast ever is having several sketches where you rotate quickly between several characters. I’m pretty sure this was Melissa, Aidy, and Sarah’s only appearance of the night.
Sketch That Runs Out of Gas
The “Car Heist” is a classic heist movie setup and the entire joke is … Ghost can’t drive a stick. And? That’s it? It always feels like a wasted opportunity when a digital sketch doesn’t hit. It feels less like a sketch and more of an actual scene from some godforsaken Ocean’s Eleven knockoff.
Dionne Warwick asks Dionne Warwick Why She’s So Perfect
“I’m not perfect; I’m just very, very good.” It’s a nice moment. Ego returns as the disinterested diva Dionne, quickly moving through a slew of celebrities. The only thing I don’t like about this sketch is we have Punkie as Dionne’s niece Brittani, in reference to Dionne’s real-life niece who she claimed helped her with her tweets. But Punkie isn’t given any funny lines and basically just says “Hi.” Are they trying to help Punkie get her SAG card? More on this later.
Weekly Reminder That SNL Should Feature Bowen More
Inner-monologue sketches are actually hard to pull off. Audiences can get ahead of you, and the sketch can sometimes meander while we wait for the next aside. But this is the best sketch of the night. Bowen kicks it off, and Chris, Andrew, and Kieran all heightened beautifully. Andrew is having a little bit of a breakout episode. (“You guys have any plans for the summa time? Why would they? It’s November.”) Not sure if a line or exit was missed on the live broadcast after Tracy Morgan’s entrance because it doesn’t feel like all the guys jumping together and yelling “yay!” was part of the script.
Weirdest Sketch of the Night
In “The Jockey,” Kieran Culkin rides a horse like a skateboard and sings about it? Another digital clunker. It feels like an idea that would have done better on another show.
Michael Che Dating-Preference Reference of the Week
“Political experts say that the Republicans victory in Virginia’s governor’s race was fueled by support by white women who didn’t go to college, which just so happens to be the same group I target on Tinder.”
Gutsiest Character of the Week
Cecily Strong is Goober the clown who wants to talk about abortion and is here to try and make it fun. Abortion is a difficult subject matter (Cecily even suggests they disable the comments), but Cecily attacks the sketch with poise and conviction. Her horn not honking is a dangerous moment where a lesser performer might let the sketch fall apart, but Cecily is so committed she just keeps going. Inspired performance.
Best Rap of the Week
Kieran Culkin has a special surprise for Wake Up Rhode Island viewers, as he’s dressed up as Turkey Tom with a rap. However, he’s interrupted by a severe weather announcement that he didn’t prepare for because he was busy writing his rap. This is Kieran’s best sketch, utilizing his bizarro energy as he continues to try to do his rap despite Cecily’s objections. Punkie is yet again given too little but nails her line (“The sea took them!”).
Best Tutorial on How to Get Back With Your Ex-Girlfriend
If you’re trying to get back together with your girlfriend, it’s probably best not to start with, “Hey Ange. It’s me, it’s John … Fuck you.” John’s efforts to win his ex back only go downhill from there. Please Don’t Destroy is back with another video in their now-familiar SNL office, and it’s another hit. Whether or not it airs on the broadcast, we need a new one of these every week. I also hope we can get some more hosts guest-starring, like when Rami popped up in week three.
I wrote earlier that Punkie’s character was wasted in the Dionne Warwick sketch, as they slipped her in as a reference to the real-life Brittani. When you work in a reference like that, you really need to echo the relationship between the two people and, hello, work in a joke. I’m obviously not a joke-writer at the caliber of someone who writes at SNL, but something along the lines of “Are you gonna finally ask the questions I wrote for you, auntie?” “No.” You never want to have a cast member just “exist” in a comedy sketch. They actually did this to Punkie in the “Cars 4” sketch, where she just sat there as the sound engineer and her lines were basically “rolling” and “on you.” Lazy writing for a performer who doesn’t need much to get big laughs.
Cecily Strong’s strong performances as Jeanine Pirro and Goober the Clown give her my MVP this week. Cecily is an all-around talent. She does strong impressions, can play weird, and she was excellent in the “Weatherman” sketch, asking Kieran to take off his turkey hat. Also, if you haven’t seen her in Schmigadoon!, do yourself a favor. It’s a real treat to watch a performer play every comedy note with such grounded conviction.
Overall, this episode was okay. I think “Men’s Bathroom” was a high high, but the writers didn’t really know what to do with Kieran. I was also hoping that this week would be the return of Kate McKinnon, and we only got one very brief Aidy appearance. SNL is starting to strain dealing with the largest cast in history. Every week Darrell Hammond announces like ten people who don’t appear on the episode, except for Mikey Day, who seems to be in charge of casting. I know they want to keep as many people as possible until season 50, but this is really turning into The Island of Dr. Lorneau. If people want to leave and do other stuff, let them leave. If you announce a popular cast member who is either barely on the show or not on at all, that’s not “just how SNL is.” That’s false advertising.