Saturday Night Live recap: Bill Burr hosts, with replacement musical guest Jack White
Welcome back, Coneheads, to SNL in Review! We continue our deep sea exploration of Saturday Night Live season 46. As always, the goings-on at Studio 8H stay interesting. As a result of New York City guidelines around the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, TV productions are not allowed to host audiences unless they consist of employees — so last week's audience was apparently paid, as if they were NBC hired hands. Paid ... to laugh? Let's put that one on the back burner...
Meanwhile, country music star Morgan Wallen's debut musical performance on the show was canceled after videos surfaced of him partying with a large crowd of people and not wearing a mask. He has been replaced by Jack White, who makes his fourth appearance on the show — three solo gigs and a 2002 gig as a member of The White Stripes, performing "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" and "We're Going to Be Friends."
Tonight’s host is stand-up comedian and F Is For Family star, Bill Burr. This should be a treat. I am always a big fan of watching stand-up bred comics adapt to the SNL format — that is partly why the ‘86-’93 golden age is my personal favorite. But Burr also costarred alongside cast member Pete Davidson this summer in The King of Staten Island. Davidson considers Burr a mentor and friend.
And speaking of a #BurrFriend, we are joined tonight by former SNL cast member Jeff Richards, who recently launched a brilliant podcast, The Jeff Richards Show. In each episode, Richards is always mysteriously absent, replaced by a celebrity “guest host," played by Richards. (As proof of concept: Deep Fake teasers with Jamie Kennedy and Bonnie McFarlane are already out.) In fact, one of Jeff’s first guests is first-year cast member Punkie Johnson, making her second appearance on the show tonight. So buckle up everyone, let’s see what the show has in store ... for her and us!
Wednesday’s meeting between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence was billed as the most consequential vice presidential debate in recent memory. The question is: how will SNL’s familiar take, featuring Maya Rudolph returning as Harris and Beck Bennett as Pence, be remembered?
“The thing that will change everyone’s minds,” the show sneers, before Kate McKinnon appears as Susan Page. “I’m speaking,” says Rudolph, reliving Harris’ now-famous response to the vice president. She nails Harris’ smile and “Claire Huxtable” side-eye even while the writing struggles to find a perspective beyond closely mimicking the events themselves. “There’s nothing Maya can’t do and this is no exception. She’s so good at Kamala she should be our vice vice president,” Richards says. Even her pronunciation of “Joebiden” and “Wiggles” elevates the material.
Then things take a weird turn — they cut to Fire Marshall Biden, I mean Jim Carrey. The most notable moment from the Harris-Pence match-up was when a fly landed on the vice president’s head. The internet immediately exploded with merch and memes, including calls for Jeff Goldblum to reprise his classic role from David Cronenberg’s The Fly. Carrey’s Biden teleports to the debate and lands as a fly. Which, given it’s Jim Carrey yammering like an insect, then going “full Goldblum,” is hilarious and odd. Then he vomits...
Kenan Thompson pops up as a reincarnated Herman Cain; Thompson previously played Cain six times during the 2012 presidential race. Not sure trampling on Cain, who died in July after testing positive for the coronavirus in late June, is especially nice, or even that sharp satirically, but the show gets a few points for going dark and weird for once.
(Let’s not ignore Heidi Gardner’s spot-on Jill Biden. I did not know I needed this and yet, I want more.)
One aside, as we get started: It has been over six years since Darrell Hammond took over as the new announcer for the show, replacing the imitable Don Pardo. Richards says Pardo “was a treat and treasure. I would honestly tingle a little when I would see him at the show. Such a gentle, sweet man.” The handoff to Hammond, who turned 64 this week, really has been seamless, though, and preserves a key component, critical to the show’s texture. Richards agrees, “A perfect fit. From one ambassador to another, sharing the same unifying voice.” (Also, FWIW: Hammond is a recent guest on Jeff’s new podcast. Check out their episode here.)
Burr comes out, picks up a handheld microphone, and continues the show’s dark streak. He riffs on the perks of coronavirus, and applauds two-time host Rick Moranis recently getting sucker-punched in NYC. “I’ll probably get canceled for doing that joke.”
He pivots to white women and their recent “woke moment” accomplishments. “The nerve… I don’t want to speak ill of my bitches.” There’s a lot of bold takes here, which is classic Burr. The audience cringes but eventually gives him a round of applause. He’s already addressed his thoughts on Cancel Culture, but you can respect the audacity of critiquing Gay Pride Month. It’s cranky and incendiary. We will see how our friends online react — will the Shane Gillis stans rally to his defense?
“That’s all my time,” he concludes, like he’s wrapping up five at the Cellar.
“Bill Burr reminds me of Jackie Gleason. Honest and full of fire but in the next moment adorable and user friendly. He is compelling and hilarious and a great actor as well,” says Richards.
Bill Burr and Kate McKinnon are a couple that has been self-quarantining for six months. They remark on the “unpresidented” times, which takes them and their friends down a rabbit hole. The next misheard COVID-related cliché that sets them off: noon normal. “We don’t have a deck or outdoor lights… our money goes to drinks!” as they descend to madness. This is pretty wry, touching on how stressful 2020 has been for so many couples and their social networks.
I would have loved to see Heidi Gardner and Chloe Fineman play off Burr here. Kate can be so broad in her comedy these days, it would’ve been interesting to see a more traditional performance style ground the sketch.
Bill Burr is Gil Scott alongside Kenan Thompson and Ego Nwodim, all as football broadcasters. Burr’s enthusiastic about a steak dinner he’s won, not realizing sports coverage has been superseded by another death of an unarmed black man. There is just a hint of Chappelle's Show here, the way Burr gets set up. (You may remember Burr appears in the classic Racial Draft sketch.) It kind of flatlines after the initial premise though.
Pete Davidson, Burr’s pupil and costar, also pops up as the pepper boy. He’s no Adam Sandler or Dana Carvey, but who is?
Enough is Enough
Beck Bennett is Benji, a self-serious, black & white would-be influencer. You know the type. He posts a song onto his account, tagging Leonardo DiCaprio and Jason Momoa, who cameos as himself. “I couldn’t sit by anymore … had to have my voice heard.” His friend, Kevin, calls and tells him to take it down. So does his friend Chelsea. “I’m not famous enough?” he realizes. This is cute and is a nice snapshot of Bennett’s skills at playing oblivious.
First Jack White performance — “Don’t Hurt Yourself” and “Jesus Is Coming Soon”
This kicks off with the chorus from the Beyoncé-Jack White Lemonade collaboration, “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” Pretty high caliber stuff — love the medley crushing legendary Texas bluesman Blind Willie Johnson’s prescient “Jesus Is Coming Soon,” and the riff he does with a guitar given to him by Eddie Van Halen. (R.I.P.) Such a perfect song for 2020 and the pandemic.
Colin Jost compares Donald Trump's recent self-promotional videos filmed at the White House to cheesy Staten Island wedding commercials. Not to be outdone, Michael Che compares him to a drunk driver who survives a fatal collision. To them Trump "had a near-death experience and learned nothing from it." They are pulling no punches.
Dr. Wayne Wenowdis (Kate McKinnon) appears to rebut Trump's televised medical exam. Under an Einstein wig, mustache, and pipe, she mutters, "We know this." A lot. McKinnon gives Jost a blood pressure exam, giggling. They are not socially distancing. Then, she breaks and explains that this character is merely her way to cope. Because no one knows anything — about the election, about COVID, or the world's well-being. Che shakes his head. This is a very Kate-heavy episode, after she was used sparingly during the season premiere.
Next up is Pete Davidson, to discuss J.K. Rowling. Pete has a Harry Potter tattoo and feels betrayed, as a long-time fan, by her recent transphobic comments. He yells about the New York Giants and Alan Dershowitz.
"Vote for Biden!" he concludes.
Bill Burr is Don, a returning mafioso, back from prison. He calls out the “Mexicans” taking over the streets. His fellow made men object to the racial insensitivity. “Is Jamie Kennedy around here?!” he cries out, furious, meaning Ashton Kutcher. You see, even the hardened criminals are woke now. Har-har.
Gladys (Punkie Johnson) has a great line about “you people” — she is apparently a diversity hire for the Mob. “Representation is really important, even in crime… I’m capable.” She shoots Vinnie to prove her value, before objecting to an old-school kiss from her boss. This is a nice use of Punkie.
“Punkie Johnson can riff like no other,” says Richards. “I’ve seen her many times late at night at the Comedy Store and she always made me laugh. She commits hard and takes no prisoners. I love her.”
Sam Adams commercial — Jack-O Boston Ale
Sean S. (Bill Burr) reacts poorly to this “perfect beer for sweater weather.” This is a spiritual cousin to the holiday Dunkin commercial spoof with Casey Affleck from a few seasons back. Not bad, but doesn’t slap like it should. Seen better Boston parodies.
Second Jack White performance — “Lazaretto”
This is the first single from Jack White's second solo album of the same name. This funky, MC Lyte-inspired track came out in 2014 and earned him a Grammy. He concludes this performance with another searing guitar solo. Wow!
- What did you think? Weigh in below or vote here!
- “Rest in Peace, Eddie Van Halen!” says Burr to close out the show.
- A few MIA cast members again — we know Cecily Strong, and I think Aidy Bryant, are out working on other projects, making the veteran contributions a skeleton crew as we get used to new faces. But Melissa Villaseñor?! Is she okay?
- Thank you, Jeff Richards, for your thoughts. Please check out his new podcast which is now streaming on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, and YouTube.