The best way to experience SNL Presents: A Very Gilly Christmas was to record it and then scan through for the best stuff. I approached this special with some dread, because Kristen Wiig’s giddy imp Gilly is a joke that wears thin fast, so the prospect of the moppet hosting for two hours was daunting.
But Gilly was kept to a minimum — used almost as a live-action cartoon, interacting mostly with Will Forte’s teacher (“Gilly? Gilly!”) in very brief sketches. Good idea.
Leading off the night was a clip of John Malkovich reading his annotated version of “The Night Before Christmas.”
To me, this was an okay bit, but too long for its minimal amusement. I imagine NBC lost a lot of viewers watching in real-time, starting the show off this way.
Twenty minutes in, though, we hit comedy gold: Steve Martin doing a fresh intro to his terrific “Christmas Wish” list-piece. It’s first-rate Martin, that mixture of comic self-absorption and absurd exaggeration. The video isn’t available, but you can listen to it here:
Soon after, we got the sketch a lot of you had been asking for here earlier today: Alec Baldwin recreating his Glengarry Glen Ross speech as a bullying elf:
Yes, A Very Gilly Christmas included Adam Sandler doing “The Hanukkah Song.” Just as good, musically speaking, was a Robert Smigel “TV Funhouse” animation I’d nearly forgotten but found freshly funny: “Christmastime for the Jews,” sung by the fantastic Darlene Love:
Justin Timberlake popped up twice. There was that excellent sketch in which, dressed as a Cup O’ Soup, he out-performed a street-corner Salvation Army Santa (Forte). And of course, “D— in a Box” was included:
There was a fine selection of older clips, such as Dan Aykroyd as the pinky-ringed, thuggish businessman Irwin Mainway, who sold “dangerous Christmas toys” such as the “Bag O’ Glass.”
And I have enormous admiration for SNL‘s 12th-season take on It’s A Wonderful Life, with Dana Carvey a perfect Jimmy Stewart, kicking the dickens out of Jon Lovitz’s Mr. Potter:
There were quick but terrific glimpses of an eager Eddie Murphy as Mr. Robinson, and the late, great Phil Hartman doing his (literally) steaming Frankenstein’s monster.
The special culminated in the sketch you’d expect. Exhorting us all to “rise above the vulgar,” Alec Baldwin set up a new introduction to his 1998 “Schweddy Balls” sketch:
All in all, a very astute collection of SNL holiday moments.
Which ones were your favorites? And were there any Christmas sketches they didn’t include that you wish they had?