SNL: Felicity Jones, Sturgill Simpson and Alec Baldwin – Trumping Again

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

With President-Elect Trump due to be inaugurated in a mere five days, SNL will, as they have thus far, have enough Donald Trump material from the orange one himself to keep Alec Baldwin gainfully employed and off the streets for the next for years. (Or until the new president is booted off the world stage courtesy of the quickest impeachment in history.)

First time SNL host Felicity Jones, who made the world fall in love with her in The Theory of Everything and then became the geek world’s pin up in Rogue One, did a pretty good job. As usual SNL drafted in its biggest gun, Tina Fey, to come on and help the new kid out.

(Perhaps the funniest line in the entire episode was Tina’s assertion that SNL is needlessly and endlessly “over” reviewed. Sounded a bit “Trump-like” but that could have been from over-thinking the gag.)

Keeping in mind that Jones had to follow what may well be the funniest cold open on SNL ever the Star Wars star came across very well.  She also managed to do at least as well as all the other British actors who have hosted the show this season.

SNL, like Hollywood, seems to be in danger of being taken over by the English actors who are in practically everything at the moment.  (Followed closely by the Aussies and the Kiwis…just saying.) Lorne Michaels and his writers could have subtitled this season “The Brits are Coming.”

The real focus though, especially in this latter part of the season, will obviously be on Donald Trump. Simply put, by “Trumping again” this episode and the ones following will be funniest when picking on Donald’s latest behavior.

Baldwin’s interpretation may not be to Trump’s liking but to be fair, he comes across better than the real deal. Donald Trump, as witnessed in his latest conference, came across as an odious bully; angry, aggressive and not the least bit presidential.

SNL had some good skits, but once again, Weekend Update was the real winner on this episode. Pete Davidson with his segment on “first impressions” was funny and spot on. Sadly, Michael Che, who rocks these segments with his on point social observations is not included in the YouTube videos on offer for viewing.

For those who want to check out Michael and Colin, head over to Hulu or On Demand streaming.

The Susan B. Anthony sketch was funny and felt like another example of showing how fair we have come just to slide back once more into mediocrity.  The film review skit, “Sex Robot 3 and the escape to Boobs Mountain” was amusing but it felt a little too like the Emily Blunt sketch as a Quesadilla promoting robot earlier in the season.

Sturgill Simpson managed to rock out on both of his sessions. This “country” entertainer has managed to leave rock-a-billy so far behind that he has, seemingly, invented a whole new category of rock, country and jazz.  Entertainer extraordinaire, Simpson was brilliant and exciting.

The pharmaceutical sketch was good mainly for allowing the beautiful and talented Sasheer Samata yet another chance to be more than a background performer.

Sadly, apart from the “Update” portion, the cold open and the presence, however brief, of that comic goddess Tina Fey, this episode was not overly noteworthy.  The continuing mickey take of The Bachelor is beyond old but, at least this time the writers did not feature the SNL cast all doing their best “cor blimey” accents.

SNL airs Saturdays on NBC.

 

SNL: John Cena and Maren Morris – Slapping Donald Trump

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

It seems oddly fitting that the Saturday Night Live episode that so accurately depicts the inner workings of the president elect does not offer up the pre-recorded segment on its YouTube channel. Season 42, episode eight of SNL, which saw John Cena as guest host and Maren Morris as the musical guest, gave the “resident” Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) a rest.

The show’s cold open featured Kellyanne Conway (Kate Mckinnon) and Walter White, aka Heisenberg (Bryan Cranston). This deviation from the “normal” open with the show mercilessly poking fun at Trump was amusing but referencing “Breaking Bad” (a show that ended in 2013) was not very topical.

The entire episode was a tad “meh” with some of the skits hitting their marks while others barely raised a smile. As The Guardian so aptly pointed out, John Cena is no Dwayne Johnson although he does manage to emit a similar sort of base sincerity from every pore like “The Rock.”

Cena appeared in several skits and his monologue was not overly funny despite help from some of the SNL regulars. It was delivered, however, with that trademark Cena sincerity.

The science skit was amusing, but once again, it was not overly funny.  The comedy was not new, this was “retread comedy” at best.  The Weekend Update was spot on this week with Michael Che nailing a number of pithy punchlines.

Colin Jost got one brilliant zinger in; lambasting not only the president elect but the SNL network NBC. This is also not available on YouTube for sharing either. (Although the entire show can be watched on Hulu.)

It could well be that the writers are having difficulty seeing the funny side of Trump. His latest peccadilloes have occurred too close to the upcoming presidential inauguration to be chuckle-worthy.

They did try with “Through Donald’s Eyes.” A pre-recorded look at how Donald Trump sees the world.  It was funny, but it was also scary as hell. Too much like a glimpse into the madness of a new leader who seems to have more in common with King George III to be really amusing, the skit could not even evoke hollow laughter.

What the sketch really felt like was a variation on a scene in the 2007 comedy film Wild Hogs.  In the film, the quartet of middle-class white-collar bikers are introduced to a game that involves “slapping the bull’s arse.”

Not understanding the rules of this new game the biker’s slap the creature’s nether region twice. The second time proves hazardous as the men are chased by the irate animal.

Trump, in this instance, is the bull (The presidential elect certainly acts like a bull in a China shop – as pointed out by Patton Oswalt.) and he has been slapped in the nethers more than once by SNL.  Only this time, they opted to play down the humor and to point out the obvious.

At the end of the sketch, Donald is attracted to himself (John Cena who wears the suit, red tie and a Trump-ish wig). This clearly points to Donald being, at the very least, a narcissist who cannot see past his own reflection. The man certainly cannot see past his own hubris.

Rather than end the review by pointing out John Cena’s initial, less than stellar, SNL  hosting gig, we will leave you with the Cecily Strong and Michael Che “pizzagate” sketch from “Weekend Update.”

SNL: Emma Stone, Shawn Mendes and Sticking It to Trump (Review)

Saturday Night Live - Season 42

Emma Stone hosted her third SNL and Alec Baldwin managed to stick to president elect Donald Trump yet again. Shawn Mendes provided the musical talent on the night and Stone did very well despite the uneven pacing of the show’s skits.

The cold open, with Kate McKinnon playing Trump’s mouthpiece again, was spot on. The Twitter lambasting upset Donald who took to Twitter for real to complain…yet again.

The open was nearly the highlight of the episode. However, Weekend Update was on top form with their skewering of Trump. Each joke drove the nail home with a sledgehammer.

Picking on the man’s tweets as well as his Taiwan faux pas was the run up to taking on the political debacle that is Standing Rock.  Leslie Jones came on to talk sexual inadequacies for all those women in long term relationships while Vanessa Bayer give great Rachel Green from “Friends.”

Sadly, the skits were uneven. The pre-recorded Christmas  candle advert was amusing but not actually that funny. The “Hunt for Hil” however was more on point with the documentary feel of the search for a Clinton in hiding.

Jennifer Anniston joined the fun for the McKinnon laugh riot that was “Women in Film.” Anniston worked perfectly with Kate’s old “battle-axe” with the non-PC memories and the sexual innuendoes as well as outright saucy sexual jokes.

The other fake advert, “Wells for Boys” was funny and a tad pithy.  Stone played off the young actor who “starred” in the advert.

This episode was better in terms of overall skits, although the improve section felt off. Emma Stone killed it as the grumpy virgin Mary who spends the entire skit moaning about her lot in life.

Stone is an old hand by now and she managed to make the most of her third stint as host.  The best bits of the show by far though were the jibs aimed at Donald Trump, made all the more sweet by his almost predictable reaction on Twitter the day after.

 

SNL: Kristen Wiig, The XX – More SMH Than SNL

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

The Dave Chappelle guest host show was going to be a hard act to follow and Kristen Wiig, with musical guest The XX, were tasked to deliver. Sadly this episode was more SMH than SNL. It says a lot when one of the funnier sketches was cut for time…

Alec Baldwin came back for what will obviously be a standard act for SNL throughout Trump’s presidency.  Or at least as long as the president elect can still be found funny…

The cold open was amusing but, like the rest of the skits this week, felt a tad flat. Perhaps having Trump on his own, without McKinnon’s Hillary is not as entertaining.  It could also be that the stark reality of the recent election results caught the writers off guard.

The theme of a delusional Trump and McKinnon’s distressed Kellyanne Conway and Trump Googling ISIS was funny, but perhaps a bit too close to the mark.

It was a crowd pleaser (Jason Sudeikis popped in as Mitt Romney for some topical humor) and the punch line for the skit was Trump’s backing away from all his campaign pledges. The open does end on a scary note; Trump asks for reassurance that Pence will “do everything.”

Wiig’s monologue was fairly humorous and included the usual cameo appearances that seem to be included with every SNL alumni hosting. Steve Martin and Will Forte slid in for a bar or two of Kristen’s Thanksgiving song.

The punchline was Kristen getting everything muddled up about the upcoming holiday. Once again, the opening monologue was amusing – especially the ukulele, “personal” guitar  and stool schtick – but otherwise it was merely functional.

(H0wever there was one highpoint. The 10 kinds of meat “like they’d murdered a zoo” was brilliant.)

The most relevant and spot on skit was a pre-recorded segment. “The Bubble” may well be taking the mickey out of all the horrified liberals who still cannot believe the election results, but it also pointed out the huge disparity between the left and the right.

“Secret Word” was the first live skit and featured an audio cameo by Bill Hader, another SNL alumni and Wiig’s co-star from The Skeleton Twins. Wiig definitely ruled in this one. Although she never quite surpassed the “warm up” exercises her character recited.

Next up was a sketch that was more clever than funny.  “Anderson Cooper 360” was amusing but then hit sublime when the punchline was delivered…The panel and Anderson Cooper are all “Westworld” robots.

The pre-recorded Target commercial was a return to the old days of SNL when their fake adverts seemed so real. It was, though, not that amusing. A bit of a misfire that was followed by the “QVC Audition” skit which was was more annoying than funny. It says something when the most noticeable part of the sketch is the fluttering backdrop of the house next door.

Even the pairing of McKinnon and Wiig for another standard SNL feature “Whiskers R We” was not up to its usual standard of belly laughs.  Although Kate struggling  to remain in character was funny when  Kristen’s character struggled to find that nipple.

And while referencing a SNL cast member working overtime to hold back those unwelcome laughs…The funniest bit of the “Surprise Lady: Thanksgiving” was Leslie Jones struggling to stop laughing at Wiig’s antics in the sketch.

“Weekend Update” was spot on this week. It was all politics and very on point. Michael Che and Colin Yost were spot on and Pete Davidson was brilliant.  Davidson’s Staten Island as the herpes of boroughs was hysterical. Although his best bit was the Kanye West crack…

“If it isn’t over a sick beat, we don’t wanna listen to anything Kanye West has to say…Every again”

Keenan Thompson earned huge yucks with the cockroach pie gag.

“Macy’s Parade Balloons” sketch was, along with Surprise Lady, the best sketch of the show.  The balloons terrorizing the family watching the parade from a brilliant vantage point was hysterical.  (Bobby Moynihan’s clown, however was terrifying.)

The best bit of the sketch was Madeline (Wiig) dropping Kristen Chenoweth and Woody riding Pennywise the clown across the screen.

All in all this episode was a hard sell. Dave Chappelle killing it the  previous week left Wiig with a tough act to follow. Each skit  did have at least one thing that stood out, rather than an entire sketch that tickled the funny bone.

Major kudos to Kristen Wiig for her closing remarks:

“Please stand with Standing Rock”

Amen, Kristen, amen.

 

SNL: Benedict Cumberbatch, Solange, Dana Carvey and Bill Murray (Recap/Review)

Saturday Night Live - Season 42

SNL is being invaded by the British this season. Emily Blunt hosted the third episode of season 42 and heartthrob Benedict Cumberbatch stepped up to the mic for episode five thanks to Doctor Strange. The episode was  a bit funnier than Emily’s so either different writers were used or Benedict is just easier to write for.

The Best overall skit of the night was the “Weekend at Grammy’s” aka Surprise Bachelorette Party. Where Aidy Bryant plays dead as a doornail Grammy whose surprise stripper party carries on regardless. It could have been a tribute to Weekend At Bernie’s.

The Best Gag of the Night Award goes to Colin Yost on Weekend Update with the foreigner’s learning to run for their lives at the New York Marathon in case Trump is elected.

The highlights of the episode had more to do with the Chicago Cubs, Dana Carvey, aka Church Lady and Bill Murray leading his beloved Cubs in a “The Voice” singing sketch.

The only thing disappointing about Carvey’s bit on the “news” was “SATAN” was only used once. This however was soon forgiven when he did the  little song. (The “all of Hollywood is gay except for” gag was also very funny.)

The “Weekend Update” crowning moment had to be Murray though.  It was important enough that Michael Che and Colin Yost got out from behind the desk to participate in the segment.

The rest of the live skits were a mixed bag, somewhat on par with the so-so status of fellow Brit Blunt’s appearance on the show. It seems that the guys and gals in the writers bullpen have a hard time translating for “foreign guests.”

A pre-recorded “toilet humor” sketch had Cumberbatch as a Bond-ian type who has the only cool (Koohl. Get it?) toilet in an Orwellian society where sitting on the commode is meant to be humiliating.

As fake SNL adverts go, this was more clever than funny but it matched the tone of the evening. The overall theme was focused on why Benedict Cumberbatch is so hot.

The cold open to the show had Alec Baldwin reprise his crowd pleasing Donald Trump and Kate McKinnon as Hilary Clinton for the last time before the presidential election next week.

While the open was amusing it did feel a bit too much like the run up to the 2016 election…overly long.

The Most Impressive Performance (of a SNL regular) Award  belonged to Cecily Strong with her openmouthed delivery of a hysterically funny “English” accent. No doubt the performer was coached by the expert Benedict Cumberbatch.

Various members of the cast have tried out their versions of English pronunciations and imitations but only Strong nailed it. All teeth and shortened “T’s” Cecily was very nearly spot on.

“Why is Benedict Cumberbatch Hot” was a waste of time and felt, quite frankly, like filler.

The Chicago Cubs tributes were cute and special (Not Dana Carvey special.) and the delight of Bill Murray heightened the song they performed. The professional athletes did well in the “Bachelorette” skit and the “Weekend Update” segment.

Solange, as musical guest, proved that in terms of genes, the Knowles family got more than their fair share in the talent pool. Beyonce’s kid sister delivered two splendid performances that pleased the studio audience and the folks watching at home.

This episode was, perhaps, more special because of Carvey, Murray and the Chicago Cubs than Benedict Cumberbatch and that is a shame. The Doctor Strange star is, by his own right, funny.

Anyone doubting that should check Benedict out on YouTube clips from The Graham Norton Show or head over to BBC America to see the talkshow in it’s entirety.

SNL, aka Saturday Night Live, airs Saturdays on NBC.