The Dr. Strange star hosts for the second time, with musical guest Arcade Fire.
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Saturday Night Live - Season 42
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Hello lowly Conehead nation. We've entered the final stretch of season 47; like that last mile of the Boston Marathon, when Kenmore's Citgo sign is on the horizon, you know the end is near. SNL in Review can be a slog — with the ups and downs, highs and lows of any life experience. Beyond the sunny laugh chamber of 8H, this season has served several stark life reminders: four former Saturday Night Live cast members have died over the last few months, a record. This week, it was season 11 featured player Dan Vitale, who was a friend to this recap column, having contributed four times recently. 

As I noted on Twitter, Dan was always a thoughtful and generous person with me. I will always appreciate the time he took to speak with me, and the quiet dignity he exuded when discussing his time on the show and career/life. A rare, brave soul. RIP. (It goes without saying it would be extremely classy for the show to honor Dan in some way tonight. Despite his brief time on SNL, Lorne Michaels mentored him on several projects, including a sitcom and the infamous New Show).

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Benedict Cumberbatch, Arcade Fire Episode 1824 -- Pictured: Host Benedict Cumberbatch during the monologue on Saturday, May 7, 2022 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Benedict Cumberbatch hosts 'SNL'
| Credit: Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

Tonight's host is The Power of the Dog's Benedict Cumberbatch, who is here peddling the Sam Raimi MCU movie. I can assume we will get at least one Marvel cameo during this episode. This is Cumberbatch's second time hosting — and an interesting choice, given Mother's Day is this weekend. I am joined by former SNL cast member, Mr. Patrick Weathers. Let's dance, shall we?

Cold open

Justice Samuel Alito's recently leaked brief undercutting Roe v. Wade grounds itself on moments in time from the 14th century. We head to that important conversation back in London. Host Benedict Cumberbatch features here, which is always noteworthy. (Drew Barrymore pointed out the rarity during her recent Fly on the Wall podcast episode.) He is joined by James Austin Johnson and Andrew Dismukes to discuss the merits of criminalizing abortion. Cecily Strong appears to lay some logic, while Chris Redd shows up to point out the lack of rights minorities faced for hundreds of years. The point being: you can't base modern laws on centuries old thinking, obviously. 

"An ogre" — a, a woman in her 30s — Kate McKinnon enters to tell the future, and things come full circle. This cold open still has that easy "character enters from stage left" crutch going on. I don't expect these sketches to be overtly ambitious or complex, but surely something less lazy is possible? (If someone at the afterparty reads this, please point it out to Colin Jost, or whoever, and ask him to step it out.)

Still, this is a fraught, deeply sensitive issue and it deserves attention. Does this meet the moment? More preaching to the choir? 

Monologue

Cumberbatch comes out — the writers have only pitched him sketches about Dr. Strange. He asserts he's been in other films; Lorne told him no one saw The Power of the Dog. (Which isn't true, not sure why comedians keep saying that?) Weathers doesn't go in for the comic book genre too much. So fair enough.

"I was beat by Will Smith," is a funny quip, and it gets a good laugh.

Cumberbatch makes a nice tribute to his mother and wife. He makes a couple jokes about his wife giving birth to his three sons while he was busy filming MCU movies. It's a simple and heartwarming monologue. 

Mother's Day Gifts

Aidy Bryant is a mom opening gifts from her husband and children. They are giving her several home decor tchotchkes and signs. They are increasingly crude and insulting. "These are getting pretty specific and personal," she says worriedly.

We have seen this premise with Bryant a few times. Here's the birthday gifts one from last year. No thanks! (Speaking of: Happy birthday. baby Aidy!) 

"We suspect dad has a secret family" — one helluva of a zinger to end on. These have a good energy and are witty. Just wish we wouldn't reuse premise gimmicks like this. Do more (non-Trump) world building!

Blue Bunny

Mikey Day and a flirty Ego Nwodim are leading a focus group — it's one of those. The group of participants includes Kenan Thompson, Heidi Gardner, Melissa Villaseñor and Cumberbatch. (Cumberbatch is playing Mutten, but may be evoking Sam Elliott, who came under criticism for his complaints about Power of the Dog). Cumberbatch and Gardner are "tasting memories of the Dust Bowl… and generations of women." They are lost in their own thoughts, as they give their feedback on the flavors they're tasting. It's dramatic and goofy — so perfect for Gardner's skillset. She wants to "nap" with Mutten's hurt. They find love.

"Got it, it tastes like a widower in pain," notes Nwodim. 

Just Like You

Strong is grounding her daughter (Chloe Fineman) for coming home drunk. They get in an argument, and we get flashbacks to "Sloppy Sandy" throwing up at a party in the '90s. We see her lose her virginity (twice), and get a tattoo.

The grandma (McKinnon) enters and see her throwing her panties at David Bowie back in the '60s. Cumberbatch is the dad, and we see how he fought with Strong in college (she blew his roommate).

Here's the card at the end: "You may not have been a perfect person, but you're the perfect mom." An honest and good message (though, again, they've done this exact format before... it's heartfelt, so fine! I yield.).

Chain Gang

It's a scene out of Cool Hand Luke or The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains. Hot, sweaty manual labor. A group of men sing their woes on a southern chain gang — that old prison song harmonized to pass the time. Cumberbatch confides he snitches to the warden for special treatment. And he sleeps with the warden's wife (Gardner), another confession that slips out in song. Fun to see Day channel former SNL host Strother Martin.

Arcade Fire's first performance

"Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)" is the latest single from Arcade Fire. This performance is flanked by several inflatable tube men you tend to see at car dealerships, which is an offbeat choice. This is a bit of a corny folk rock diddy, probably the weakest track on their new album. 

Weathers calls Arcade Fire "a good choice. I think Saturday Night Live, over the years, has had controversial guests, but the music has always been one of the highlights. When the show hasn't always been as good as it had been — or hoped to be — the musical guest has always come through." 

Weekend Update

The crowd welcomes our heroes, Jost & Che. Jost starts off the segment addressing Mother's Day. Che is self-deprecating in his jokes about the Alito opinion, and suggests Republicans should think of abortion as another Jan. 6-type event.

"Good luck, cancer," Jost cracks as he comments on reports that Putin is having surgery. 

Oh boy — McKinnon appears as Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who asked about safe haven laws during the Supreme Court's hearing on Roe v. Wade. "Do your nine," she rations. I will give SNL credit — this is a tough, splitting issue, and they're leaning in hard mining for humor. "Arby's: we have the babies!" 

The Fainting Couch

The Great War has come to England, and Christian is leaving Cornwall to join the front lines. His sister Amelia (Strong) faints several times, missing the "Fainting Couch" in the process. Each time, she nails the butler Henry (Day), ruining tea. Another standout role for Strong — she gets to trash the set. 

At the sight of blood, her husband (Cumberbatch) gets delirious, spilling hot soup. Turns out both families are prone to such fits as the result of inbreeding.

New Toilet

Day is instructing his miserable, obedient class about the conventions of using the toilet. "No slouching!" he shouts. Cumberbatch appears as a kind of slick, British John Keating — he's there to change everything.

"The ReKline" is the latest innovation in enjoying going to the bathroom. The liberated class erupts, freedom reigns.

Chuck E. Cheese

A young family is waiting for the iconic animatronic performance. However, Reflection of the Mind — an 80s British duo — are replacing the band at Chuck E. Cheese. Bowen Yang and Cumberbatch are hilarious. It's weird, and the music slaps. Dieter would be proud. (And Aristotle Athari gets a brief role, so you have to champion that.) Naturally, inevitably, unfortunately, Strong is given an opportunity to upstage them — as a carrot, no less. "We're all that carrot," deadpans Cumberbatch.

Slightly related: who remembers Pizza Town?

Arcade Fire's "The Lightning I, II" performance 

This is a great song, pounding and exciting. It's one of the new singles off We, the band's latest studio album. A total jam. 

The Understudy

Fineman is the show's understudy when a cast member gets sick. This gives her a great chance to impersonate McKinnon, Strong, Villaseñor and more. Elizabeth Olsen cameos — "the multiverse is real," says Cumberbatch, unnerved. Fineman does a decent "Jewish parrot" impression of Sarah Sherman, and Punkie Johnson gets her Leslie Jones on, playing Chloe back to her.

This is great for Fineman, and I generally like the behind-the-scenes material. Little flimsy or random, since with a large cast these personalities aren't super developed.

Final Thoughts

  • Fun episode. Arcade Fire closes it out with one more performance – also fairly unheard of. Vote here or weigh in below.
  • RIP once again to Dan Vitale. Here's my conversation with Dan from a few years ago. I thought this moment was especially poignant: "Looking back, I realize that was part of history. SNL, the drug culture of the time, the political culture of the time. When I watched the last segment [of The Deuce] — where an aged James Franco comes back — I got chills. It's almost how I feel nowadays at my age. To see what I've seen, and then go out. It was spine tingling… If you think about it, though the show's been on for 40-something years, and gone through so many cast changes, if you add everybody up, it's still a relatively small fraternity." 
  • Thanks to Patrick Weathers. On the recently departed Gilbert Gottfried, Weathers had this to say: "I first met him when he was a stand-up comedian in New York. We were auditioning for Saturday Night Live. There had been a write-up in the New York Daily News about the finalists, the recasting in 1980. They talked about Gilbert's routine and me, my job at Studio 54. He was friends with a few of the other comedians who auditioned, I think one of them was Rick Overton. And of course Joe Piscopo. All through these years, Gilbert was always so distinct, such a unique individual. He never really changed. Through this 40-year period he was always Gilly… [later] I was working at National Lampoon magazine. Gilbert was there, in and out. He did special things there – write something funny, we did some commercials for the radio. So knew him through that period. Then he started doing the voiceovers and having really good success for that with Disney and the Aflac duck. He was always really deadpan, very Gilbert. Extremely original. I don't think there was a Gilbert before Gilbert, and I don't think there will be again." The two of them crossed paths during multiple eras of both men's lives. Weathers notes: "I never saw him do anything malicious to anybody. He was just the sweetest guy. Never a usurper, or a backstabber, or a gossiper. None of that." Another great tribute to a lost member in the show's history. RIP.
  • No Pete Davidson again tonight. He's really going out with a whimper isn't he?

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Saturday Night Live - Season 42
Saturday Night Live

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

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  • 47
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  • Saturdays at 11:30 PM
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  • Lorne Michaels
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