The scandal was hit hard in her monologue, "Weekend Update," and even throughout the show in other sketches. They even saved a jab for themselves, with a very clever response to Larry David's controversial concentration camp joke made just last week during his hosting monologue.
Haddish proudly proclaimed at the close of the show that she is the first African-American female stand-up comedian to host "SNL" in all the years it's been on the air, which brings up two points: It's about damned time, and what the hell took so long?
Stand-up comedians almost always do well on these kinds of shows because they are used to vamping live and they have a natural sense of reading the room, finding the funny and pursuing it. All in all, it was a successful night for Haddish and the show, even with the absence of Alec Baldwin. Don't worry a few other guest stars snuck in to keep us laughing.
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. Also, in these early episodes, we'd like to see if the new kids are getting any screen time. "SNL" recently added Heidi Gardner, Luke Null, and Chris Redd as featured players.
The Dolphin Who Learned to Speak
OK, who approved this sketch and what on earth were we supposed to think about it? Tackling the sexual proclivities of dolphins, the bit featured Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon recalling their groundbreaking research in the 1960s when they tried to teach a dolphin to talk. And when he came of a more mature age, they got very hands on in keeping him focused when his inclinations turned more sexual. Yes, exactly. It was a weird idea, and it never really became a funny idea. The highlight was Tiffany Haddish as a fellow scientist of the time who thought what they were doing was wrong and gross. But the sketch never really went anywhere, and probably could have just skipped being on the air altogether.
The Lion King Auditions
Every once in awhile these "screen test" sketches can be funny if you can get some fresh and funny takes on the various celebrity impersonations, but that simply didn't happen this week. Almost across the board, these impressions were meh at best. We get that 90 minutes is a lot of show to fill, but wow was this a misfire. We can't see a single impression that really stood out and demanded to be noticed, save maybe Tiffany Haddish's energetic take on Mary J. Blige.
You can tell it's getting late in the show when Tiffany Haddish and Leslie Jones show up in black unicorn costumes to tell Aidy Bryant her horrible future. It's just one bad thing or another with no real punchline that it's building toward. Props to the costuming department for the unicorn costumes, as they look great … especially as the women wore them standing on two legs. But the sketch itself was a little thin. If you're going to go all in on how horrible Bryant's future baby-daddies and kids are going to be, then go all in and make it so awful and weird that it comes out funny again. Instead, it was just depressing.
The sketch went in an unexpected direction by having actual cast members portray the Mortal Kombat-knockoff players, like Mikey Day stepping in as Scorponox, under the control of Pete Davidson. His opponent in the finals, Kenan Thompson tries to find his player and ends up with Boo Boo Jeffries (Haddish). Her greatest strength is her mom; her greatest weakness is fighting.And that's kind of all this sketch had to offer. She never really engaged in the fight and quickly lost. I think this was a sketch that wasn't quite ready, but they decided to go with it anyway. They don't all have to be funny, right? Oh wait...
COLD OPEN - Roy Moore at the White House
With Baldwin unavailable to reprise his "cold open" standard of Donald Trump, the writers had a chance to really explore the Hollywood harassment scandal by straying from the White House setting and stepping deeper into that story. Instead, they simply swapped in Beck Bennett's Mike Pence and ultimately Kate McKinnon's Jeff Sessions to address their own sex scandal in the form of Mikey Day's Senatorial candidate Roy Moore. Yes, the charges are similar, but “SNL” is a Hollywood institution, and it had a real opportunity to explore its own creepiness. Instead, we got Pence name-dropping Louis C.K. and Sessions briefly mentioning Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey as if they wanted to show they know what's going on, but don't really want to get too deep into it. As it stood, the bit wrapped with Sessions surprised that Moore was creepier than he was, and that's just not all that funny.
For those who think "SNL" skews left -- and a solid argument can be made -- this sketch did a pretty good job of showing just how tone-deaf the Democratic party can be. Coming out of the latest election cycle, the Democratic leadership was every bit as awkward as you might have expected, including a brief appearance by Jason Sudeikis as Joe Biden and Larry David as Bernie Sanders. The latter even got a jab at himself talking about people needing to be more sensitive about what they say. “Like these comics who think it's okay to make jokes about concentration camps: that guy should rot in hell,” David's Sanders said, referencing his controversial jokes from last week's show. The highlight of the sketch was Leslie Jones' Donna Brazile promising to tear down this mess of a Democratic establishment and the closing card that the whole disastrous commercial was paid for by Mark Cuban: Republican for President.
Whiskers R We
Kate McKinnon always has fun in this recurring sketch playing with baby kittens and lesbian undertones (sometimes overtones) with her sidekick. Tiffany Haddish was game this time, even if they had trouble wrangling all the kittens in the box in front of them. But that's half the fun of the sketch. It's like live cat memes playing out on your television. And we get to learn such ridiculous things about the cats, like their drug problems and their savvy investments in the stock market. They wrapped it up with Chris Redd as Katt Williams ... get it? 'Cause he's a "cat."
Get Woke with Tamika
Leslie Jones came up with an over-the-top talk show host who was so the opposite of the name of her show she thought “Moonlight” winning the Oscar was the movie. Aidy Bryant frustrated her by trying to talk about women's rights, and Tiffany Haddish frustrated her trying to tell her that "Geostorm" is not about the car. She spent half the sketch talking to her producers and completely unsure of what to do when they didn't have enough chairs for two guests, and when she was ready to be done after four minutes. Jones usually excels at playing variations of herself, so it's nice to see her settle into a fictional character that we could easily see become a recurring sketch on the show.
Tiffany Haddish came out in a dress that might have looked familiar to those fashionistas who pay attention to things like that, but she's having none of it. “It's a $4,000 dress, I'm going to wear this dress multiple times,” she said before warning it might show up in future sketches on the night, at her wedding, at your wedding, hell, anywhere. Keeping her format loose and fun, Haddish clearly had a great time riffing with the crowd, lamenting her net worth of $2 million and wondering where that money is because she can't find it anywhere. While most of her monologue was light and breezy, Haddish did briefly offer some advice to “the fellas” in light of the ongoing Hollywood harassment scandal. “If you got your thing-thing out and she got all her clothes on, you're wrong,” she said. “You're in the wrong.”
We've actually missed our update into the behind-the-scenes whirlwind romance between Kyle Mooney and Leslie Jones. This latest installment came from Beck Bennett's point of view, jealous that he's lost so much time and influence with his friend. Colin Jost, Jonesing for his girl back, concocted an elaborate ruse at the masquerade ball that ultimately brought everyone back together because apparently everyone wants to punch Jost in the face. These are the kinds of short films that humanize the cast outside of silly sketch characters and help audiences connect with them. Plus, the Jones-Jost-Mooney triangle just keeps finding ways to make us laugh, like when Mooney and Jones sent their child off to college this week.
"It's a good week to stay inside because it's 20 degrees outside and everyone you've ever heard of is a sex monster."
One sketch didn't shy away from the ongoing controversy at all diving headfirst into the ugliness that has taken over Hollywood in recent weeks. Cecily Strong came in as Claire from NBC HR to ask what should be fairly obvious questions, like when it's okay to have a sexual relationship with a 14-year old. If she's smoking? In Alabama? You're gay now … how brave! These were bold jokes and pointed, and Strong wrapped it up with a sobering thought, telling Jost that she'd have to be back every week because this isn't only now, "It's just reality for half the population." Lest you think the segment was all serious, Colin Jost and Michael Che found plenty of humor to mine from the usual suspects like politics, O.J. Simpson and even an appearance by the seemingly delusional LaVar Ball, hyping his son's basketball empire -- now if only his performance on the court could match his father's hype machine. Also, mad props to Tiffany Haddish for indeed wearing her monologue dress once more to simply dance through the set.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Chris Redd had a busy week this week as he continues to try and make some inroads onto the air, but the player of the week has to be Leslie Jones. We got another fantastic installment of her ongoing romance with Kyle Mooney, a very weird appearance as the voice of reason in a black unicorn unitard, and she was the highlight of the DNC sketch as the only "woke" person there...ironically, because she was anything but in her talk show debut.
It's hard to get an original character on the air at "Saturday Night Live," but this may be the most polished one yet for Jones in the form of Tamika, the most clueless talk show host going yet. She's surly, irritated with her guests, and has absolutely no idea how a talk show works. In other words, she's perfect to do this again and again.
"Saturday Night Live" returns next week with host Chance the Rapper and musical guest Eminem, airing live coast-to-coast at 11:35 p.m ET/8:35 p.m. PT.