Saturday Night Live recap: Abbott Elementary star Quinta Brunson hosts with musical guest Lil Yachty
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Hello there - welcome back! Or, more precisely, a hearty welcome to our noble leaders on the island of Manhattan, who have surely been whipping together a delicious 90-minute smorgasbord of comedy for us this week. How could they not? Tonight's host is Quinta Brunson, the extremely talented star, creator, and writer behind Abbott Elementary.
I am joined tonight by former SNL cast member Robin Duke, who is co-starring in Shelved, which just premiered on CTV and is being called Canada's Abbott Elementary. I asked Duke - who also appeared on SCTV and continues to perform in sketch comedy - about appearing in a sketch show then moving onto a sitcom, a la Brunson's trajectory from A Black Lady Sketch Show to Abbott Elementary.
"It's nice to do a character that has an arc. When you're doing sketch, you do it for that one moment. Characters don't really have arcs in a sketch," she replied. "In sitcoms they do! When you're doing sketch, you have to get so much more information out about a character in a short amount of time. Whereas you can gradually reveal a character over a sitcom like Schitt's Creek or Shelved. In sketch, you have to do it in five minutes, which is challenging. To keep it grounded and real, but also make it hilarious."
Actually, that last sentence could also be said about Abbott Elementary's appeal. So let's just lock and load, and see what the show's concocted after a weeks-long hiatus - it's SNL in Review time.
They couldn't resist this: "It's me. Hi. I'm the problem, it's me," says James Austin Johnson's Trump, quoting Taylor Swift. A bunch of easy jokes about the former President's recent indictment. At first, Trump suggests he will go away now, quietly to prison. Just kidding, it is April Fool's Day! He's pulling a Jim from The Office. (Here's some trivia you probably didn't need: tonight's episode is the April 1st show. Who hosted the April 1st show back in 1989? Mel Gibson.) JAJ is so sharp as Trump, yet they have him singing so-so parodies of "Ironic".
Duke said to me: "The writing is really good this year, and different… I like when things are [different], you get a variety." Indeed, there's some moments here. It goes way beyond the Baldwin years!
It is fun to see Kenan Thompson's Don King next to JAJ's Trump. In a curious move, Devon Walker plays Afro Man — this song was the theme song of the film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Back in 2001! Very specific reference. Mikey Day singing "This Boy's A Liar" — strange energy indeed folks.
Brunson is so excited to be here. She's been dreaming about this since she was a kid - instead she took an easier path, creating and starring in a network sitcom. The audience is hanging on her every word, they love it.
She shares a video Barack Obama made for her mom. Her mother was a Philadelphia teacher, which leads to a lovely and sincere moment in which she recognizes the hard work that teachers do, and calls for them to be paid a proper wage.
This was cute and straightforward. Nothing wrong with that.
Andrew Dismukes and Devon Walker are looking to score a little cocaine in a club bathroom. The bathroom attendant, Marcello Hernandez, approaches them with an offer. Brunson leaves a stall, with her own pitch. Jokes about Gwyneth Paltrow's skiing trial ensue and many other very funny tropes about white people (Noah Baumbach, the song "Last Resort") as the various dealers try to one-up each other describing the pureness of their producer.
Good use of the new cast with Kenan. Commenting on the new cast members working alongside established vets, Duke shares: "You really see how people grow after being on the show for a long time, how strong they become. It's hard to judge the new cast, as a lot of them haven't been given that opportunity yet to really play. Whereas the veterans have. I mean, Kenan! C'mon! Phenomenal. He's so easy in front of the camera and loose. Just being his funny stuff, that's hard to do. It takes a while to get that comfortable."
I loved this. Watch it!
"Bridesmaid Cult Documentary"
The latest cult documentary - a la Wild Wild Country - is about women lured into acting as bridesmaids. This is hilarious. Watch it!
Host James Austin Johnson introduces married couples answering questions about one another. As we have seen before, the responses are revealing and embarrassing. Slowly but surely, a newer angle emerges. Kenan's character is petrified that his wife (Brunson) will experience a terrible accident which will force him to give up his dreams to nurse her. (His parents saw a similar fate.) A dark premise, and they mostly execute it, I think.
A strong Kenan episode so far!
Dad (Day) and his daughter (Chloe Fineman) get cut off in traffic by another driver (Brunson). Using exaggerated signs and body language, the two characters antagonize one another.
I like the camera angles and creativity here. And the comedy escalates! Well done. Another good one - watch it!
Lil Yachty first musical performance
"I can see why people like Lil Yachty, but not me though/Not even dissin', it just ain't for me" -Eminem (Also me)
"the BLACK seminole" is the first track off Let's Start Here. It's less "SoundCloud rap" than autotuned psychedelica crossed with Pink Floyd.
Colin Jost and Michael Che tackle the Trump indictment. The Jost jokes flop hard – it turns out Che has told the audience to not laugh. Pretty great moment! Watch this.
A Florida charter school is embroiled in a controversy involving a parent complaint that accused the school of showing students pornography by exposing them to Michelangelo's David statue. To comment? "The world's greatest sculpture and a very pretty boy!" AKA David (Longfellow). This is the second time tonight that Longfellow has been engulfed in paint - pretty clever. David complains how uptight Americans are - in Italy, their version of SNL can show penetration. "Our Matt Foley lived in a man down by the river," he quips. Really good.
Short King Spring is here! Marcello Hernandez, a self-described "petit prince", comes on to discuss. He comes from a proud lineage: Minions, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Beethoven! Meanwhile, Slender Man and Bin Laden — both tall! He leaves with words of encouragement and a startling revelation: Jost himself is a short king. (He's standing at the Update desk, not sitting! Gasp.) Fun segment.
Mrs. Murphy (Heidi Gardner) is giving birth. Her contractions are thirsty seconds apart and she's crowning. Dr. Rogers (Brunson) is her obstetrician. Mrs. Murphy's midwife is Barry (Bowen Yang). Turns out that Yang and Brunson's characters know each other - they met at a BBQ before a Macklemore concert.
Three years later, the same situation happens. This time? Barry pretends to not remember Dr. Rogers. Very silly. We flash back to the BBQ inquisition - then back to Mrs. Murphy's second child being born. Lots of wig changes for Yang. Embuuuurrassing situations unfold. I like this!
Lil Yachty second musical performance
Diana Gordon is back for "drive me crazy" - she kills it on the funky chorus. The rest of the song is a letdown.
It's like Yachty - with the hat, the collaborations, the set, the orchestra - has learned the right lessons about how to be an innovative, boundary-pushing artist. But it's not a recipe.
Top salesman Daniels (Sarah Sherman) is chummy with everyone in the office - but is obviously harassing the new girl Janet (Fineman). Complete with an impression of a sex computer.
Brunson joins the show - together with Daniels they are known as the Penis Brothers. They launch into a musical performance involving, um, Janet.
Wow. (Note who they cast in this sketch... and who they don't. Feels deliberate given the lines they approach here. Yowza.)
"Please Don't Destroy - Street Eats"
"Street Eats" has a strong Lonely Island vibe. The boys try to show their fluency with the "real" New York and embarrass themselves.
— Thank you to Robin Duke! Go watch Shelved!
— What did you think? I thought it was really fun! But don't let me skew things: vote here or weigh in below.
— In case you missed, I recently covered the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize for Adam Sandler. Read the summary story here, or take a gander at my conversation with Judd Apatow, Rob Schneider, Robert Smigel, and Luis Guzmán about Sandler.-I also published this piece in which Kevin Nealon reflects on the unmade 'Hans and Franz' movie and why Arnold Schwarzenegger ultimately turned it down. Check it out.
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The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.