The Only Murders in the Building stars are back in Studio 8H, along with musical guest Brandi Carlile.
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Tonight is special. A special Saturday Night Live episode, a special SNL in Review. We have two returning legends as the hosts: Steve Martin and Martin Short. It's a historic reunion, linking back not simply to the famous Three Amigos episode from season 12, but the Dick Ebersol era — when Short was a cast member — and all the way to the second season of the show and the original Not Ready for Primetime Players, when Martin became a fixture. To put it mildly, tonight's episode carries decades of history with it. 

I am joined tonight by former SNL cast member Gary Kroeger, who was on the show during Short's one-season tenure. He says: "SNL rings true when people and characters from its storied past come back. Steve Martin is part of the legend of SNL and anytime he reconnects, especially after an absence, it is meaningful. SNL is a satire show about current events but its DNA includes all that created the show starting in 1975."

Martin returns to Studio 8H tonight for his 16th time as host, the second most in the show's history (Alec Baldwin holds the record with 17) and his second time with Short. He last hosted in 2009! For Short, it's his fourth gig — each time in December. They are among the oldest hosts to ever appear on the show, eclipsed by only Betty White and a handful of others. Today, Martin and Short are not only living legends but thanks to the success of their comedy-mystery on Hulu, Only Murders in the Building, as well as their live show (which I saw this summer), they remain as relevant as ever. Will we get a Selena Gomez cameo? Chevy Chase? So many possibilities.

I'm excited! Let's check out what lives up to the hype.

Martin Short and Steve Martin SNL

Cold Open

It's Christmastime with Bowen Yang, Kenan Thompson, and Cecily Strong. Mariah Carey has seen her shadow, so the cast members talk about the things you block out and ignore during the holiday.

Then, the singing begins. Yang sings about his mental health, Thompson about his drinking problem. Strong complains about former host Elon Musk. The crowd seems mildly amused.

This is cute, especially when Sarah Sherman and Ego Nwodim join. (Devon Walker continues to play small delivery guy-style walk-on parts.) The Mikey Day conclusion does not land — there's a weird energy gap here, like they were expecting a better audience reaction to sustain the performance. Still, a break from the usual ham-fisted political sketch is welcomed.

Monologue

Steve Martin and Martin Short wax nostalgic about their times on the show. As mentioned, I was able to see Martin and Short this summer — some of the same jokes here, same vibe bouncing off one another. Good-spirited barbs. They read eulogies they prepared for the others' funerals. There are great callouts to Santa Claus 3 and "Dick in a Box." As expected, Selena Gomez pops up in a rushed moment — the crowd erupts. (She hosted last season; Martin appeared in the pre-recorded "American Inventors" sketch.)

"What was Steve really like?" Short wonders.

Kroeger notes that the legendary star once "did a cameo on one show during one of the years I was at SNL. I don't even remember what the reason was. What I remember is that he and I and several others walked to the after-party from Rockefeller Center because it seemed silly to get cars. Steve is a very nice man, but when he is not performing he makes it very clear to leave him alone. Not that he becomes unfriendly or won't converse but don't expect him to turn it on and be funny 'Steve Martin.'"

Thinking back to his overlap with Short, Kroeger recalls: "I was enamored with Marty. He had so much energy and confidence from the moment he walked in the door; he was a performance on wheels. Sincere and kind, but moved through any space as whatever character was going through his mind. I watched and learned. I didn't get to do much with him the year we shared but I yearned for his approval. He always gave me encouragement; a true ensemble player. My favorite memories of him would have to be Ed Grimley sketches. The character was so lovable and so weird. And an audience favorite from day one. I marveled at how complete this characterization was. Ed Grimley was alive. Marty always had a smile, always engaged, and always had a joke if one was needed."

The Science Room

Oh, god. It's this again. Mikey Day and Cecily Strong play two (clearly overaged) child contestants, Josh and Lonnie. They are very stupid. We've seen this in previous episodes with Jason Sudeikis, Adam Driver, and Sam Rockwell. (Cecily again sings for the second time in 20 minutes. Sigh.) As I have said before: I wish characters would repeat in different scenarios, not exact sketch templates.

Day evokes Short's beloved Clifford – a 40-year-old straining to play a kid. Surreal. 

Please Don't Destroy - Chelsea

John's ex, Chelsea (Sarah Sherman), was the worst. She was like pond scum. 

People are circled in and out, until Martin Short gets chided by Michael Che and everyone leaves to get gifts from Steve Martin's apartment. 

Favorite moment: Sarah Sherman's dad. (She talks about him in her stand-up a lot.)

The Holiday Train

Kenan, Cecily, Steve, and Martin are heading to Buffalo on a train. It's like they're in a 1940s MGM number. Cecily begins to sing about snow — sigh. High jinks involving bear costumes ensue.

James Austin Johnson accurately captures the movie archetype train conductor.

Three songs in less than a half hour.

A Visit With Santa

Steve Martin is a mall Santa, with Sprinkles the Elf (Martin Short) as his long-time assistant. He's a cranky elf, who keeps shaming the kids for their gift requests. There's a funny moment where Short stumbles and his legs are visible.

Good to see Andrew Dismukes back — feels like the show has not been utilizing him recently. 

A Christmas Carol

I need Martin Short as Ebenezer Scrooge ASAP. That needs to happen. He would make a great Scrooge!

In this short film, a redeemed Scrooge calls out to a boy (Sarah Sherman) about purchasing a large goose. It's a classic moment from the story's conclusion; he buys everyone a great feast — but here, the coin hits Sherman in the eye, blinding the child. Marcello Hernandez is also maimed. Steve Martin's Ghost of Christmas Past is not much help either. A bloodbath is unleashed. 

The Apple Pay hook is not especially funny — these corporate plugs always feel like advertorial or something. Synergy masking as comedy.

Brandi Carlile — "The Story"

This song was the title track of Carlile's second album, released in April 2007. It was written by Phil Hanseroth and produced by T Bone Burnett. A cover by Sara Ramirez was used on Grey's Anatomy — Dolly Parton and LeAnn Rimes have also covered it. It's a folk-rock jam, love the emotion.

She first performed during the Jason Sudeikis episode in October 2021.

Weekend Update

Colin Jost jokes about Democrat Independent Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Brittney Griner.

Che jokes about Raphael Warnock defeating Herschel Walker in the Georgia senate run-off. Gary Kroeger says: "I'm relieved as is any sentient, rational human being that Warnock won, but there is a substory here that tempers that joy. Herschel Walker was one of the worst candidates in history. Not only for his lying, violent past, and hypocrisy, but the fact that he didn't have a single policy idea. Yet, he garnered over 1.7 million votes. It was close and it never should have been. Imagine if Republicans had put up even a decent candidate, we probably would have lost. When I look at the field of Republicans in office, or running for office in the Trump era, I am terrified that such low-information, far-right, childish, anti-intellectuals like Walker have any legislative power whatsoever. And the door opens for an intelligent, yet viciously sinister candidate like Governor DeSantis to run — and God forbid, win."

The most chaotic holiday shopper Mary Ann Louise Fisher (Ego Nwodim) comes out to discuss her fast Christmas shopping habits and tips. "Every single Ross, that's me," she cops. She messes everything up — for power, to find that one perfect shirt. If your blood sugar drops, JCPenney has secret chicken nuggets they will supply. 

Next up: Kurt and Deb from Wyoming (Mikey Day, Chloe Fineman) wrote a book about keeping the spark alive in the bedroom. Their trick? Celebrity impressions as roleplay. This gives Fineman a venue to impersonate Drew Barrymore, Anna Delvey, Meryl Streep, and Jost's wife, Scarlett Johansson. (In turn, Day does some cartoon voices.) Technically impressive.

How to Treat Your Man With Minky Carmichael

This sketch is what you get if you cross Frank T.J. Mackey, some '90s aesthetic, and Martin Short's classic dancing. It's got the rhythms of a classic Bernie Mac routine. "Slam it!"

Heidi Gardner is funny as his sidekick. And Sarah Sherman could make for a great Mona Lisa Vito, I think?!

This episode has now featured two sketches about Martin Short's penis. Okay. 

Brandi Carlile — "You and Me On The Rock"

The light "You and Me On The Rock" is the second song on Carlile's seventh studio album, In These Silent Days. The song is about relying on family and is loosely based on a children's Bible story about building your house on a solid foundation.

Father of the Bride - Part 8

Annie (Heidi Gardner replacing Kimberly Williams) is 52 now and getting married again. Not only do we get Martin and Short back in their classic roles, but Chloe Fineman gets to dust off her Diane Keaton impression. Fun cameo alert! Former host (and Annie's little brother) Kieran Culkin is back too! (Did we need Selena Gomez back? No, but this is the world we live in.)

Of course, comedy fans who lived during the pandemic will recall the "mini-sequel" that was written and directed by Nancy Meyers, with the plot including a family reunion over Zoom at the request of Matty Banks and depicted George Banks' reaction to 2020.

Important trivia! Earlier this year, Fineman appeared opposite Andy Garcia in the third filmed version of the story, which was released on HBO Max. She's (sort of) playing the Short character, or at least in the wedding planner role.

This is fun. I wish it weren't so flat, just rolling out all the characters so matter-of-factly. Some plot/arc could help the humor and appeal, outside the raw nostalgia. But whatever. I like the joke about Short's accent. 

Final Thoughts

—I am a bit underwhelmed, hate to say it. Y tu? Vote here or whine below.
—Hey! You! Check out some of my recent SNL pieces — I recently interviewed former cast member Jerry Minor. I also wrote about the history of Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer!
—Thank you to Gary Kroeger as always for his thoughts.

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Bowen Yang
Saturday Night Live

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

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