Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller and Al Pacino drop by, but Leslie Jones steals the show fighting over Weezer, while Michael Che owns Colin Jost in "Weekend Update" battle.
Pete Davidson didn't appear in any live sketches, and barely had any screen-time at all, so it's notable that "Saturday Night Live" had him introduce musical guests Mark Ronson & Miley Cyrus one time, as if to assure everyone he was okay.
After posting a message suggesting thoughts of suicide on Instagram, the comedian then deleted his page, prompting an outpouring of concern from within the Hollywood community and the public at large. So it was good to see that Pete was doing well, even if it was a very light week for him on the show.
According to TMZ, Davidson was initially supposed to appear in more sketches, but had to be cut after he failed to show for dress rehearsals. This explains why a pre-taped segment was all we got. TMZ further reports that the comedian spent the bulk of the episode in his dressing room.
The night was absolutely filled with large ensemble pieces, which clearly could have included Davidson. The cold open even included several recurring guests stars like Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. And while this wasn't a great night with a lot of breakout sketch moments, neither was it a complete dud. It was as if this was the Hallmark Christmas movie of "SNL" episodes. It was inoffensive, but had some warm moments and light laughs throughout.
Leslie Jones made the most of her one appearance, stealing the show by inexplicably proving just how passionate she is about Weezer. And over on "Weekend Update," Michael Che and Colin Jost swapped jokes for Christmas, and Che absolutely owned his cohost in the most uncomfortably hilarious way possible.
As usual, we're ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Cold Open and the regular "Weekend Update" segments. We'll skip the musical guests, because they're not usually funny - unless Ashlee Simpson shows up. We wrap up with a look at the cast-member who had the strongest week.
This audience didn't seem particularly familiar with Barbra Streisand's rapid-fire take on "Jingle Bells," as Cecily Strong was getting plenty of laughs for how fast she was going. The problem is the sketch didn't have much beyond that, as it was the banter between her character and Matt Damon as her piano player and long-time friend. They had absolutely nothing new to say in this style of sketch, so it was mostly an excuse for Cecily to sing, but she was so in character, that didn't come across all that great, either. In the end, the whole sketch just kind of lied there, neither offending nor pleasing.
Alec Baldwin dropped by for another appearance in an oddball sketch about a bunch of cop friends alternating between Christmas sincerity and "breaking balls." The best part of it was the slow unveiling of what has happened to Kyle Mooney's character and how much his friends had to do with it. But while it was intriguing and bizarre, it lacked the gut punch of laughter that plagued so much of this week's show. Maybe all of the humor is just so gentle, it's leaving us feeling a little underwhelmed overall.
CUT FOR TIME: Glitter Litter
Cat poop art. Yup, that's what this pre-taped sketch was about, and it's easy to see why it was cut. It was just kind of stupid, even if it was kind of funny seeing glittered cat poop being used as jewelry and even a grill. The best part, though, was Matt Damon's utter disdain for cats, and honestly, he should have leaned into that more to make this even sharper and stronger.
The Classy Tree
A drunk Santa ornament (Beck Bennett) is relegated to the back of the tree with the other ugly ornaments every family has and keeps for whatever reason. Matt Damon portrayed a "Good Will Hunting" ornament, while Aidy Bryant was that ... thing your kid brought home from kindergarten. The whole thing was a lot of fun, and again rang true, but it reached peak harrowing when a former Christmas angel whose head partially melted off (Cecily Strong) started to sing. Again, there was no sharp satire or laugh-out-loud jokes, but the kind of sweet silliness we anticipate around the holiday season.
Westminster Daddy Show
"Any man can be a father, but it takes a hot, middle-aged man with a big job to be a daddy." Aidy Bryant was all business as a series of daddys were brought out for judging, including business daddy, tweed daddy, golf daddy and in a surprise twist of events, broadcast daddy (announcer Matt Damon). This whole thing was patently absurd, but it was also the kind of timeless humor that will always be good for a gentle laugh. Everyone was so earnestly committed to the ridiculous, that while it never achieved hilarity, it was charmingly amusing.
MONOLOGUE: Matt Damon
Matt Damon wasn't promoting anything, and used his monologue to tell a very sweet story of staying up "too late" with his dad when he was younger to watch "SNL." That's pretty much it. It was a heartwarming story about family and love and laughter and it genuinely pulled at the heartstrings, which is a testament to Matt as an actor, or as a genuine person as he was moved remembering his later father, as well. Usually, sweet and genuine doesn't work, but the magic of the holiday season made this monologue go down smooth.
Happy Christmas, Britain
This one probably went deeper into the Brexit issues Britain is facing than most Americans could handle, as they just don't know that much about it, but everyone can understand the idea of Matt Damon's David Cameron having called for the Brexit vote and then leaving current Prime Minister Theresa May (Kate McKinnon) to actually deal with the follow-through. Aidy was an unexpected delight as Elton John and Mikey Day was amusing as a Voldemort concerned about tarnishing his image by appearing alongside May. Unfortunately, the sketch seemed to get cut off early for time, so it didn't really get to wrap up properly.
COLD OPEN: It's a Wonderful Trump
Kenan Thompson takes Alec Baldwin's Trump into a world where he never won the presidency. This twist on "A Wonderful Life" featured basically everyone who's played a supporting role in Trump's presidency, including Ben Stiller's Michael Cohen, Robert De Niro's Robert Mueller, and even Matt Damon's Brett Kavanaugh in a rare cold open appearance by the host. It was just about how much better off everyone is without him as president, but the bit worked pretty well overall without going too sharp on any digs, like a true feel-good Christmas. Only this one had a twist ending.
"This last week was a pretty bad year for Donald Trump," Colin Jost said to open their political segment, summing things up pretty well. The roundup included a look at Democratic front-runners, which included Obama in a mustache and a DVD box set of "The West Wing." They then spent so much time setting up a "Where's Wes?" travel segment, that there was only one joke they could tell. And they did.
This segment kicked off with an awkward transition from a Boy Scouts joke into a Sex Island joke but at least we know Michael Che has a huge fan in the audience. Later, in our new favorite segment, the boys gave each other jokes for Christmas, meaning Michael got to read jokes that Colin wrote and Michael had never seen before, and vice-versa. And Michael totally won this round with hilariously racist jokes that he could make Colin say on the air. Meanwhile, Colin just went for the gross out. Hopefully, they bring this segment back as a recurring feature.
Heidi Gardner brought back her character Angel (every boxer's girlfriend from every movie about boxing ever) to lament about her boyfriend, Tommy, and the big fight. And while we already know she's taking her kids to her sister's, we were hopeful when Matt Damon showed up as Tommy. Unfortunately, he didn't really bring anything new to the sketch, Che didn't follow up on her claims to be a newscaster now and it kind of just petered out.
Oscar Host Auditions
Just another excuse to see "SNL" impressions like Tiffany Haddish (Ego Nwodim), Michelle Wolf (Kate McKinnon), Chris Hemsworth (Matt Damon), Hannah Gadsby (Aidy Bryant), Rami Malek (Pete Davidson), Michael Strahan (Kenan Thompson), Rachel Brosnahan (Cecily Srong), Amy Sherman-Palladino (Aidy), Sarah Silverman (Melissa Villasenor), Allison Janney (Heidi Gardner), Terry Crews (Kenan), Kanye West (Chris Redd), Roseanne Barr (Aidy), Matthew McConaughey (Matt), and Ellen DeGeneres (Kate). But hey, at least most of them were pretty funny and several were new. We'd love to see these celebs pop up again, for sure. The Hannah jokes were in tune with her special, Tiffany was hilarious, Roseanne had an edge and we loved Ellen wrapping it up with the only offensive thing about her being that she's gay, which the former host (Kevin Hart) doesn't seem to like.
Best Christmas Ever
We've seen this bit before, but it was still cute seeing Cecily Strong and Matt Damon as parents on Christmas night reminiscing about what a wonderful day they had interspersed with flashbacks that proved it was truly a holiday hellscape from which they couldn't escape. What made it work was that both stories could be true. There's nothing more stressful than the chaos of the holidays, but even so, there's something special about them. The moment with the slippers captured what makes the suffering worth it, those little moments of joy.
Why was this so funny? Leslie Jones and Matt Damon ruining a dinner party by arguing over which era of Weezer music is better was so random and so specific that it bordered on ingenious. They were both so committed to their sides, ripping into the other. There is absolutely no reason this should have worked so well, but it was nearly masterful. And this was by far the best sketch performance of Leslie's career thus far.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
So many of the sketches on the night were ensemble pieces, it felt like virtually everyone got some healthy screen time. Only Leslie and Pete appeared in one sketch apiece, but Leslie stole the whole show with her one appearance.
Still, for appearing in seven sketches and bringing something special to each and every one of them, the edge has to go to Aidy Bryant this week. She was brilliant as Elton John, absolutely nailed Hannah Gadsby and Roseanne Barr for the Oscars and cracked us up as Cecily Strong's awful mother in "Best Christmas."
It was her serious demeanor that sold the Westminster Daddy Show, while her unhinged kindergarten Christmas ornament was a wacky highlight in a very weird sketch. A true chameleon on the night, only Beck Bennett and Heidi Gardner appeared in as many sketches, but they couldn't match her diverse brilliance this week.
"Saturday Night Live" returns for the back half of its 44th season in 2019.
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