It says a lot about Tom Hanks that, after guest hosting SNL for the ninth time, he was allowed to do the opening monologue all by himself. While America’s favorite actor was not in every skit, he killed it in each one that he appeared in. Musical guest Lady Gaga effortlessly reminded the world that she is one hell of a performer…Twice.
Hanks put on a cardigan and spoke to his “imaginary” son about the state of the country and the elections. It was not hysterically funny but was geared more to the “favorite dad” tag given the two time Oscar winning performer.
The show’s cold open feature Hanks as moderator of the last presidential debate. Alec Baldwin reprized his Donald Trump and Kate McKinnon made her Hilary the best one of the season. Baldwin, a favorite on SNL who could almost be classed a regular, came back to work with Hanks on the Cockpit sketch.
The skits this week were a mixed bag. Black Jeopardy was a stand out as Hanks play the only white contestant. Wearing a “Make America Great Again” ball cap and a goatee, Tom worked well with Leslie Jones and Sasheer Zamata, and “emcee” Kenan Thompson.
At one point Hanks had Jones breaking character as she struggled to stop laughing. The sketch was also memorable for giving Zamata, one of the most underused cast members on the show, quite a lot of screen time.
Haunted Elevator “with 100 floors of frights” was a close second to the Jeopardy skit. Hanks played “David Pumpkins” a annoying and oddly fright-less stop on several floors. Kate McKinnon and Beck Bennett are confused about this inclusion to the ride.
The punch line is like an overly long “knock-knock” joke when Pumpkins’ promise to “scare the hell out of you,” is eventually delivered.
The rest of the skits, and even Weekend Update, were a tad weak. Leslie Jones was the highlight of the Update segment, with Cecily Strong come in a close second with her “Drunk Girl” act. The jokes by Che and Jost were all aimed at the political candidates. Both Trump and Clinton got their fair share of digs from the hosts.
A Girl’s Halloween and America’s Funniest Pets were the weakest skits this week. Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant and Vanessa Bayer played three girls whose night out ends up in a drunken mess. The highlight of that skit was a green Ken Davidson appearing twice as the Incredible Hulk. Once in the pizza place where one of the girls vomits on their pizza and later in Bryant’s character’s bed.
One of the funnier, and spot on, sketches dealt with CBS. The pre-recorded bit poked fun at the network for losing its award winning comedy shows. Hanks took part in this segment, sadly not available for viewing outside of on-demand or Hulu, and it is slyly funny.
Lady Gaga performed two songs from her new album and they both marked a change to the performers style. “Mommy Monster” lost the overly outlandish costumes and instead focused on her singing and songwriting skills.
Both numbers featured Gaga in a ’60’s style pink hat and more clothes that she usually wears on stage. Whether this was a concession to appearing on television, albeit late night television, or just a move to “tone it down” in deference to the songs, it fit both musical numbers like a Gaga glove.
It is always interesting to watch the cast and guests mingle at the show’s conclusion. Tom Hanks and Lady Gaga were clearly excited to be sharing the show. Hanks’ infectious enthusiasm made the hugs and end of show caring and sharing time a tad more genuine.
Alec Baldwin appeared in the final moments and, above all else, Gaga proved her devotion to fellow musicians.
While both Hanks and Lady Gaga killed it in this episode, as well as Baldwin who showed he can give excellent “straight man,” the writers dropped the high level of comedy that the season started with. There were less “laughs per minute” than there should have been.
SNL continues to air Saturdays on NBC.