Brie Larson helps 'SNL' celebrate Mother's Day with a charming and consistently fun episode.
Credit: Dana Edelson/NBC
Bowen Yang

SNL kicked off its final stretch of the season celebrating Mother’s Day, so who better than to host but the actress behind one of 2015’s most powerful (and award-winning) motherhood roles?

Yes, while Room and this episode of SNL shared a focus on mothers, Brie Larson’s part in each couldn’t have been more different, as she joined the sketch show’s cast for a consistent, if unsurprising, episode.

In fact, the biggest surprise of the night came in the cold open, which saw Dana Carvey return as Church Lady to interview ”Lucifer in the flesh” Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Though it’s always great to see Carvey back in the wig and blazer of perhaps his most iconic SNL character, the night would prove to offer much more biting takes on the competitors for the Republican presidential nomination.

But the show did take plenty of time to celebrate Mother’s Day to often funny results — even if Larson was often saddled with playing the straight woman to the other cast members. (Surrounded by the show’s female cast during a solid baby shower sketch, she essentially is asked to play the set-up to the punchlines of the other cast members as they explain the cult-ish behavior of women in their neighborhood.) But she jumped in with an infectious energy and joy from the start, including a monologue that included an appearance from her real mom.

Larson found laughs where she could, and admirably ceded the spotlight as a worthy team player when asked. But her lack of starring roles created an odd paradox for the episode: the show was funny even if Larson wasn’t the main reason why.

Still, she proved herself a valuable player (and worthy of a return where she’s given a bit more to do) in a strong episode with sketches like…

The Dangers of the Afterlife

Though a refresh of a previous sketch, the panel of three women who were dead for 55 minutes delivered some of the biggest laughs of the night thanks to the awkward post-death experience of Kate McKinnon’s character, Ms. Rafferty. While Cecily Strong and Brie Larson’s once-deceased characters enjoyed a beautiful, uplifting visit into the afterlife, Rafferty’s guardian angel, Keith, was apparently new to the job. Though it’s a delight to see McKinnon on the verge of breaking, she is hilarious her own right while explaining how Keith forced her to be “Donald Duck’ing it” with “fun bun and mud gun out in full view.”

Quiz Whiz 2018

The night’s sole game show sketch set in 2018 and requiring two contestants to name Ted Cruz (while having no clue who he is) didn’t really work until its twist ending. But the idea, and Larson’s commitment to it, make for a fantastic turn when her character is revealed to be Heidi Cruz. Throw in an odd salute to 2018’s President Trump and the sketch feels like the show is finally starting to figure out how to tackle the Republican side of the presidential campaign. Now it just needs to learn how to make the entire sketch funny.

Weekend Update

Colin Jost and Michael Che’s era of Weekend Update has been a spotty one, but the two cohosts have started to actually seem comfortable behind the desk this season. This week’s episode is perhaps one of — if not the — best examples of how much they’ve grown, as the duo came out of the gate swinging with some great commentary on Donald Trump becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, his taco bowl photo, and the general feelings toward his and Hillary Clinton’s imminent nominations.

But the two found some great humor in a few of the smaller jokes as well, whether it be about the Rio 2016 Olympics or a man arrested for stuffing a python down his pants.Their strength this week proved particularly noticeable as they weren’t consistently outshined by the guests visiting the Update desk, save for Laura Persons. Vanessa Bayer has played hilarious child characters before on Update, but Laura’s penchant for discussing adult topics (“Herpes is when your downstairs says ‘Ai yi yi!’”) makes for one of her best yet.

Cast MVP

Kate McKinnon brought life to every sketch she was in, lifting even the most average of bits with her commitment to each character (a random model included with Trump’s family to her cult-ish mother at a baby shower). She’s easily the standout of the night’s Game of Thrones parody of Spoiler Jon Snow’s revival End Spoiler, playing a wide-eyed, restless Melisandre who herself can’t even believe how much time is being spent watching a dead body on a table.

Musical Moment

Alicia Keys returned to Studio 8H with two of her new songs, “In Common” and “Hallelujah,” and though the former may have just been released as a leading single, it was the latter that proved to be the night’s better performance. The sound mixing seemed off for “In Common,” burying Keys’ vocals, whereas “Hallelujah” lets her shine thanks to simple but effective instrumentation and Keys’ powerful vocals.

Odds and ends:

  • The Baby Shower‘s final twist wasn’t the night’s biggest laugh, but the sketch included some of the night’s best lines, such as “Bathrooms are oceans, but the kitchen is a farm,” “There are only seven bags in this entire county because of women like us, women with good taste and the foresight to save,” and Aidy Bryant’s excellent delivery of “What’s in motion cannot be undone.”
  • Sasheer Zamata’s appearance on Weekend Update may be the most time the show has given her this season in the spotlight. Though the segment demonstrated just how much sitting behind the Update desk is an acquired skill, she still snuck in a few great lines while discussing Larry Wilmore’s use of the N-word at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
  • The hologram album of old music stars singing the hits of today wasn’t the best iteration of this sketch (the impressions aren’t all specific enough to make them all worthy of the time), but it’s tough to beat Beck Bennett’s great line: “And of course you can’t mention singing holograms without Tupac showing up.”

Episode Recaps

Bowen Yang
Saturday Night Live

The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.

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