It’s been 28 days since the last episode of Saturday Night Live, which in the President Donald Trump era equates to roughly 35 episodes’ worth of material. And the return was worth the wait as Sam Rockwell and company turned in a strong episode, packed with celebrity cameos, Bryan Singer pool party jokes, bleeps, missed bleeps, and dog heads.
Fresh off his Golden Globes win for his performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Rockwell made his SNL debut and, unsurprisingly, proved to be a delightful fit. ”Most of you probably know me as that guy from that movie, you know who I’m talking about, not the main guy, but the other guy,” he introduced himself during his monologue. “And when you see him, you’re like, ‘Oh, this guy, I like this guy, he’s pretty good.’ Well, thank you, that’s me.”
The prolific actor, who has been working in Hollywood for 30 years, went on to share some troubling news. “Just last week, the worst thing that can happen to a character actor happened to me — I won an award,” he said. “Did I just go from actor to big-ass deal?” He’s a full-fledged movie star now, and we all know what that means: dancing and singing down a red carpet, fighting off ninjas, getting hounded by the paparazzi, winning over the ladies (even if they can’t kiss because of “a whole HR meeting”), and kicking Colin Jost through a door (no wonder everyone wants to win these awards so bad!).
What did the busy cold open not have? Fred Armisen! Bill Murray!! Oprah!!! (Okay, Leslie Jones as Oprah.) But with Alec Baldwin still enjoying his Christmas break or off quizzing Leah Remini on Match Game, SNL’s 2018 began with Morning Joe tackling the two big Trump headlines of the last week-plus: Fire and Fury and “s—hole countries.” And when Joe Scarborough (Alex Moffat) and Mika Brzezinski (Kate McKinnon) weren’t making us and Willie Geist (Mikey Day) uncomfortable with their creepy sexual innuendo, they brought on two high-profile guests to discuss the news.
First, Armisen returned to Studio 8H as Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff, who revealed the one thing he left out of his White House tell-all were the “baby races.” What is a baby race? Well, the president would force “babies of different ethnicities” to race toward a bowl of goldfish crackers, and he would usually bet “a thousand bucks on the black one.”
They were then joined by Steve Bannon, who has morphed from the Grim Reaper to Bill Murray. Despite being out of the White House and recently booted from Breitbart and SiriusXM, Bannon, a.k.a. the “king of kingmakers,” isn’t letting that stop him from thinking big. “The Bannon dynasty is dawning,” he says. “I’m working on a web series for Crackle, it’s called Cucks in Cars Getting Coffee.” He’s even auditioning future political candidates, including Jared Fogle and Logan Paul. Speaking of presidential candidates, Oprah Winfrey (Jones) appears by satellite to tease her possible candidacy. “There’s only one job more powerful than being president,” she says. “Being Oprah!”
Best Sketch: “Fashion Panel”
The times are changing, so E!’s The Look — tagline: “It’s okay [to watch], you also read books” — has adapted a “fashion-positive” approach, which is proving to be a struggle for hosts Dean Swizz (Rockwell) and his “favorite woman equal,” Rochelle Kootz (Cecily Strong). Descriptions like “beautiful” aren’t allowed, instead replaced by “empowered” and “she definitely looks as good as a man, if not better.” After finishing the new segment “I Respect Her Choice,” they bring on special guest and Rockwell’s Three Billboards costar Frances McDormand (played by who else but McKinnon). The sketch alludes to a few of McDormand’s memorable moments from the Golden Globes, whether she’s waving off the camera or constantly getting bleeped. “I’m not cursing, it’s just the tone of my voice,” she says.
Best Accidental Use of the F-word/Worst Sketch: “Science Show”
The first sketch of the night would have easily been forgettable if not for the fact that Rockwell dropped an unbleeped expletive. Portraying a science teacher on a ’90s PBS show, Rockwell grew increasingly frustrated with his two student helpers. “You can’t be this f—ing stupid,” he declared, immediately covering his mouth. “I’m sorry, you kids aren’t stupid.” What a way to make a mark in your first ever SNL sketch!
Best Short: “Tucci Gang”
Pete Davidson’s Lil Pump is back with another hot new track. This time, he’s got character actor Sam Rockwell joining him for a salute to fellow character actor Stanley Tucci: “Some of you don’t know that name, but that’s that guy from The Hunger Games.” “Tucci Gang” features Rockwell dressed as Tucci and both impressively dancing and riding a tiger as Lil Pump raps, “If you don’t like Stan, you’re a dick. He adds value to your flick.” This trend will surely continue in the Oscar nominee’s next film, Show Dogs.
Best Use of a Dog’s Head: “Genetics Lab”
The final sketch of the night is usually when the show gets truly weird, and that was definitely the case here. A tour of a genetics lab leads to the discovery of Dr. Goldman’s (Rockwell) latest project: “a dog-head guy.” It’s a smashing success, as the the $35 million creation can solve a Rubik’s cube, make phone calls, and eat a sandwich. This is especially emotional for Dr. Goldman, since it’s his dog’s head on his dead brother’s body. It’s always a treat when SNL doesn’t deliver a complete clunker at 12:50 a.m.
“Weekend Update” Highlights
With plenty of material to work with, Colin Jost and Michael Che kicked off “Weekend Update” by addressing President Trump’s “s—hole countries” comments, or “S-hole” as NBC suggested they say (Jost ignored the censors). “The most insane thing is that Trump said all of his racist stuff right before Martin Luther King Day, which is like pounding a case of beer on your way to rehab,” Jost quipped. Meanwhile, Che was surprised that the president didn’t use even more offensive language. “When someone asked me if I heard what Donald Trump called Haiti and Africa, I was like, ‘Oh boy, did it start with an N?,’” he said. “It would be news if Trump said, ‘You know what we need more of in this country? Haitians.'”
Following Oprah ‘s powerful speech at Sunday’s Golden Globes, many are pushing for the mogul to run for president. Don’t count Che among them. “Can’t we just have a regular one for a while?,” he asked. “Just a regular, boring old white-dude president that smiles and shape-shifts into a lizard at night. I’m tired of all these fun ideas for president. I miss boring politics. I miss when people would ask me, ‘Hey, did you hear what the president said?,’ and I’d be like, ‘No.’” Well, Che clearly doesn’t book the “Weekend Update” guests, because Oprah (Jones) made her second appearance of the episode and brought longtime partner Stedman Graham (Chris Redd), who really wants to be the “first Stedman.” Why is Oprah considering a run for the White House? “I need to get white women back on track,” said Jones-as-Winfrey. “Ever since I’ve been off the air, they’ve been off the track.” And she’s definitely got a shot — unless her opponent is bread. “All my life I’ve lost to bread,” she says. “Please don’t make me run against bread.”
Best Musical Moment: “Bad at Love”
Rockwell wasn’t the only one making his SNL debut. Halsey served as the night’s musical guest, as the singer performed her hits “Bad at Love” and “Him & I,” with rapper and boyfriend G-Eazy joining her for the latter number. But “Bad at Love” wins best musical moment, for giving a decked-out-in-yellow Halsey the solo spotlight.
Cast MVP: Chris Redd
If this was just straight-up MVP, then it would be Rockwell, who appeared in every sketch and almost all the shorts. But since it’s cast MVP, let’s go with Redd, who only 10 episodes into his SNL career has already become a constant and hilarious presence, which isn’t an easy thing to do for a newcomer.
Another week, another SNL hosting debut. Golden Globe nominee and Oscar contender Jessica Chastain is in the building for next Saturday’s episode, with Troye Sivan as musical guest.
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