New rule! Either Donald Trump has to cool his boots or Saturday Night Live has to stop taking weeks off. The previous new show may technically have aired just 14 days ago, but that’s more like 14 months in Trump-time and last night’s SNL struggled to even list, let alone lampoon, the different ways this country’s new commander-in-chief has been fulfilling his campaign promises/hastening a global apocalypse (depending on your political mindset).
Inauguration crowd size. The “unfair” media. The Muslim ban. The Trump administration’s insistence that pretty much everyone loves the Muslim ban. Kellyanne Conway’s Bowling Green massacre gaffe. Trump’s criticisms of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hosting of The Apprentice. The proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall and Trump’s insistence that Mexico will pay for it. “Bad hombres.” All of these, and many more, were touched on in the cold open, which found Alec Baldwin’s Trump and a Grim Reaper-ized Steve Bannon cutting a swathe (or should that be scythe?) through the world of international diplomacy while Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner were away marking Shabbat. Or, as Baldwin summed up the situation, “When the Jews are away the goys will play!”
Trump also featured heavily in host Kristen Stewart’s monologue, during which she gamely, and surprisingly, brought up her own personal history to recall his tweets about her former relationship with Robert Pattinson and Trump’s repeated recommendation to Pattinson that he not get back with his Twilight costar after they split up. Despite the fact that Stewart insisted this really happened and the fact that Donald Trump is, well, Donald Trump, your writer cannot have been the only person who immediately started Googling to find out if she was kidding.
Turns out she wasn’t.
Stewart also made a rare public reference to her sexuality (“Donald, if you didn’t like me then, you’re really probably not going to like me now. Because I’m hosting SNL and I’m, like, so gay, dude”) and accidentally dropped the f-bomb (“We’ve got a good show and I totally care that I’m here because it’s the coolest f–king thing ever”). All in all, the monologue seemed destined to be the most memorable and talked-about aspect of the show.
And then this happened…
Best Sketch: Sean Spicer Press Conference
No offense to Melissa McCarthy, but if you had asked me before last night who should portray White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, the Bridesmaids and Gilmore Girls star might well have not featured among my top 1,000 choices — which is proof positive as to why your writer should never be consulted about such things. McCarthy’s depiction of Spicer as the lies-spouting, bastard child of an angry Mickey Rooney and Roddy Piper in They Live was an instant classic — an impersonation that captures something true about the real-life person while managing to be a hilarious character in its own right, comically comparable to Kate McKinnon’s Conway or even Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush. There were too many highlights to mention here; to be honest, the whole sketch was one big highlight — but the moment when McCarthy picked up the press secretary podium to physically assault Vanessa Bayer’s journalist for asking, “Are you okay?” literally brought tears to this writer’s eyes.
Oh, also: “Radical moose-lambs.”
Best Short: Totino’s with Kristen Stewart
In last year’s pre-Super Bowl Totino’s commercial parody, Vanessa Bayer’s pizza rolls-dispensing wife of Beck Bennett’s football nut discovered that her hubby and his fellow “hungry guys” weren’t sports fans at all but rather black-eyed monsters as the short transformed into an X-Files ad. This time around, Bayer’s character enjoyed a happier, and sexier, change in her fortunes as Stewart, playing the sultry sister of Alex Moffat’s character, began putting the moves on her hostess.
“What about my hungry guys?” asked Bayer.
“What are you hungry for?” replied Stewart.
Before long, the two were speaking French, getting naked, and utilizing a certain salty snack as a foreplay tool.
(The unintended kicker? This actually made me want to buy some Totino’s way more than the product’s actual commercial, which screened later in the night.)
Best Short Honorable Mention: Welcome Video
This sharp takedown of Trump’s recent executive order on immigration may actually be as good, if not better, than the Totino’s video. But as a green card holder myself, it ultimately seemed less funny than out-and-out terrifying.
Worst Sketch: Dry Fridays
There’s nothing inherently wrong about mining comedy from binge-drinking or even alcoholism — but if you’re going to tackle a subject like that, you’d really better make sure to come up with better material. Stewart again proved herself game as a college student recalling her boozy misadventures at a college meet-up for underage imbibers and her refusal to replace her beanie and thus save everyone from having to see her ill-advised “no-hawk” was a nice running gag. But “Dry Fridays” still felt like a glass half-empty situation.
Weekend Update Highlights
Michael Che’s easygoing and decidedly un-anchor-like demeanor behind the Weekend Update desk can be a genuine delight, but at times he has looked like the comedy horse is getting away from him. Last night, he began confidently with an assault on the president: “Donald Trump has signed 18 executive orders in his first 12 days as president. Now, that sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that — it is a lot.” However, Che later saw that aforementioned nag gallop straight out of view as he mangled a joke about Bill O’Reilly’s interview with Trump so badly that he decided to take another crack at it with barely more intelligible results, all the while telling co-anchor Colin Jost to “Shut up,” albeit in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. Jost himself later screwed up outro-ing Kenan Thompson — who reprised his reliably amusing turn as David Ortiz — which prompted Che to improv the best Update line of the night: “You just saved my job.” (Ed. note: Some of the parts discussed here were edited out of Weekend Update before the clips were put on Hulu.)
Best Musical Moment: “Scars to Your Beautiful”
I can’t say I gave Alessia Cara’s performance of her hit my full attention. But I will say that, for better or worse, the Canadian songbird’s warbling did not overly distract your writer as he set about fact-checking Stewart’s monologue and mentally rescreening the Sean Spicer sketch.
Cast MVP: Melissa McCarthy
This was a tough call, with Bayer, Bennett, Thompson, McKinnon, and Pete Davidson, among others, all ably enhancing multiple sketches. But, really, the award has to go to McCarthy. True, she was a guest performer, but what a performance, and it’s a safe bet that she will have a gig depicting Spicer on the show for as long as she likes — or, at least, for as long as he keeps his.