The Curb Your Enthusiam star hosts a pretty pretty disappointing show
Nine years ago, your writer had the unforgettable experience of shadowing the Saturday Night Live cast as Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler, Will Forte et al. created that week’s Amy Adam-hosted episode. In truth, I have rarely had a bad word to say about the show since. Certainly SNL has endured some low points in the years between. But to track a group of comedians and writers as they come up with an hour or so of funny — or even just funny-ish — material from a standing start in six days and then present those sketches and jokes live to an audience of millions is as close to seeing real-life magic as you are ever likely to witness. So, it gives me zero pleasure to say that last night’s Larry David-hosted episode was decidedly un-magical, with the rabbit of comedy repeatedly refusing to emerge from the hat of humor.
Things seemed off almost from the start. David has already caught flak for making jokes about the Holocaust in his opening monologue, which seems strange given that (a) such humor is essentially his brand and (b) his routine was far less offensive than the ill-conceived gibberish that now routinely emanates from the breathing-holes of certain elected officials. The crime here was not a lack of taste but a lack of decent punchlines. It was a deficiency which would plague the remainder of a show which, your recapper must reluctantly concede, was often pretty pretty disappointing.
The show did get off to a somewhat sturdy start with Alec Baldwin’s always grotesque President Trump visiting the recently indicted Paul Manafort, played by Alex Moffat. “God, you’re screwed, you’re so, so screwed,” Trump informed his former campaign manager. “It’s a shame you’re going to prison, because I was about to give you a yuuuge tax break. We’re calling my tax plan ‘cut, cut, cut’ because it was named while I was having a small stroke. Speaking of cuts, do you have a good shiv that you can bring with you to prison, Paul? Because after the stuff I’ve said about certain ethnic groups, they are really going to go to town on you in prison.”
Trump then insisted they continue their conversation naked in the shower so he could make sure Manafort wasn’t wearing a wire. Before long they were joined by Beck Bennett’s fully clothed Vice President Pence (Manafort: “Mike Pence, why are you wearing a suit in the shower?” Pence: “Well, because I’m not married to the water!”) and then Kate McKinnon’s loofah-carrying and tail-sporting Jeff Sessions. The sketch concluded with Trump revealing his plan to dress up Manafort like a turkey and then pardon him, which was both a strong ending and, if pursued in real-life, might not actually be the strangest thing to have occurred in the political arena over the past year or so.
Best Sketch: “The Price Is Right Celebrity Edition”
“Spoiled for choice” is not a phrase that comes to mind when choosing best sketch this week. But “The Price Is Right Celebrity Edition” did have its moments. Among them? McKinnon’s predictably bananas take on Tilda Swinton, who claimed to have been watching the show since she was “a little girl growing up on the planet Krypton” and later bid “David Bowie’s soul” on a washing machine.
Weakest Sketch: “Fresh Takes”
“Fresh Takes” had the good idea of applying the panel format of a cable news channel to a show on the fictitious Lincoln High School’s Home Room TV. However, David’s gossip-mongering history teacher swiftly crossed the line from comedic to simply creepy.
Best Digital Short: “The Baby Step”
In a skit that takes full, glorious advantage of David’s Scrooge-like public persona, “The Baby Step” found the host stoutly refusing to participate in a nightmarish, toddler-themed music video featuring Kenan Thompson and musical guest Miley Cyrus, among others. “Oh my god, this is unbelievable,” the Curb Your Enthusiasm star declared, after finally arriving at the shoot of the clip. “Kenan, what are you doing? You’re wearing a diaper? For this? Come on!”
Weekend Update Highlights
Predictably, Colin Jost made hay with the beleaguered figure of Paul Manafort, first pointing out his resemblance to Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore and then delving deeper into the details of his case. “It was reported that Manafort has three different U.S. passports and traveled to Mexico, China, and Ecuador with a phone he registered using an alias,” Jost intoned. “So, I don’t know what he’s guilty of, but it’s definitely not nothing. No one has three passports, a burner phone, and good intentions — except maybe Santa Claus.”
But it was Michael Che and his genuine sense of righteous anger who really impressed when considering the subject. “President Trump lashed out on Twitter about the indictments from the Russia probe,” he said. “And the unfair news coverage, probably, and I’m sure he brought up ‘Crooked’ Hillary agin. Look, I’ve got to be honest, I can’t read any more of this guy’s tweets. I’m tired of watching the president of the United States having an emotional breakdown on social media, like he’s Tyrese.” Even that end-of-his-rope tirade was, well, trumped by Moffat and Mikey Day’s return as the president’s adult sons and, in particular, the former’s turn as Eric, a gentleman apparently convinced that onetime Trump staffer George Papadopoulos is in fact named Doctor Octopus.
Best Musical Moment: Miley Cyrus
That the singer chose to belt out the bluesy “Bad Mood” was ironic given Cyrus did her very best to improve viewers’ spirits throughout the show, also performing “I Would Die for You” and contributing to an array of sketches, even appearing onscreen with fiancé Liam Hemsworth for “The Price is Right Celebrity Edition.”
Cast MVP: Alex Moffat
As ever, seemingly, the award could have gone to McKinnon, this time for her takes on Sessions and Swinton. But Moffat repeatedly impressed and, in an often forgettable episode, the look of sheer joy on the comedian’s face as his Eric Trump discovered the joy of tasting Fun Dip sugar will be a sweet memory for some time to come.
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