Full disclosure from the beginning: I love Saturday Night Live. For years my Sunday morning routine has been to brew a large pot of coffee and watch a recorded version of SNL from the previous night. I watched Farley. I watched Ferrell. I loved Fey and Poehler and Wiig. Kate McKinnon’s tour de force of comedy has been nothing if not a pure treat to watch. The way the show cycles through and creates new comedy powerhouses and adapts with the years and environment will never cease to amaze me.
Now that we’ve gotten formalities and disclaimers out of the way , I’ve been having a tougher time reconciling the current climate of the show. At this point, nobody wants to hear more about the 2016 election or the ever-growing split between the two sides. That’s fine, I get it. SNL has never shied away from skewering anyone that has deserved it, and the current president-elect remains an ever ripe choice for ridicule. It just seems to ring hollow.
Back in 2015 when we were all treating the Donald Trump campaign with kid gloves (you could say that never stopped, but that’s another topic), SNL invited him to host. It was a tacit endorsement, and it’s one that the show is having a hard time shaking. That’s why each new and clever (and usually hilarious) attempt to poke fun at Trump only reminds me of the show enabling him in the early days. It’s something that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to truly set aside.
Luckily, there is more to the show than politics. This week featured host Emma Stone, who is generally just lovely. Every once in a while a host will show up and combine natural charisma and timing enough to seamlessly fit in to the rest of the cast. Justin Timberlake comes to mind as the leader of this phenomenon. Emma Stone belongs in that conversation. From portraying a nasally pin-up model in a poster that comes to life to a foreign member of an office cleaning crew singing suggestive songs about Santa Claus, Stone kills it in every sketch.
For me the best sketch of the night was in the vaunted “10 minutes to 1 am” spot, and portrayed Stone and Kyle Mooney as Mary and Joseph in the nativity scene. Stone’s portrayal as an exasperated Mary not wanting to be around company after giving birth to Jesus was a delight. The audience audibly gasps when Joseph asks Mary to get their guests something to drink because he “doesn’t know where they are”. It’s just great stuff.
For some reason, I just don’t enjoy the recurring High School Theatre sketches. It seems like a good premise, and was probably funny the first time it aired, but now it’s just recycling the same jokes over and over. Maybe that’s the point. Just not for me.
- The cut away to random children standing by, horrified, while Leslie Jones, Cecily Strong, and Stone sang filthy songs about hooking up with Santa Claus was incredible.
- Kate McKinnon’s ability to play off-the-wall, ridiculous characters while everyone else plays themselves will never not be funny, as evidenced by Film Screening with Jones, Stone, and a guesting Jennifer Aniston.
LINES WITHOUT CONTEXT
- “Do not promise me a rack of ribs and show up with a small penis.” – Leslie Jones
- “Police in Canada will soon start making people caught drinking and driving listen to Nickelback. So let that be a lesson to all you drunk drivers out there. Make sure the crash kills you.” – Colin Jost
- Stone: “What part of your body is the toot?” McKinnon: “I’ll give you two guesses and they’re both right.