Tina Fey returned to host the 43rd season finale of "Saturday Night Live," and while she didn't make a "Weekend Update" appearance, she absolutely packed this show with so many celebrity guests, she needed extra time to thank them all at the end of the show.
There were a few sketches that seemed to be a sort of tribute to all the characters of the Trump White House the show got to poke fun at this year, which might seem a little weird until you think about how quickly the staff turns over there. "SNL" is going to be gone for three months or more. Who knows who'll be in the White House by then.
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Celebrity guest stars included Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Jerry Seinfeld, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Rock, Fred Armisen, Anne Hathaway, Donald Glover, Tracy Morgan, John Goodman, Lin-Manuel Miranda and several people involved with Tina Fey's "Mean Girls" musical, now on Broadway.
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.
Royal Wedding Reception
Mikey Day took on Prince Harry, while Cecily Strong as Kate Middleton was so excited to not be pregnant for once, "I'm going hard tonight." The sketch was shot as if Harry were presenting a video of his own nuptials, and it was a way for Day and Alex Moffat to pair up as brothers again (much like they do as the Trump boys). This time, though, it was Moffat who played it very straight as Prince William, with Harry ribbing him. Pete Davidson got to rock a Russell Brand impression, while Aidy Bryant was almost unrecognizable as Elton John. And Leslie Jones even showed up as ... Leslie Jones. Honestly, the sketch could have used a joke or at least a plot, but it was literally just Harry moving about and interacting with various personalities, some known and some made up.
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The latest in Dick Wolf's "Chicago" series takes a hard look at Chicago's cut-throat improv comedy scene. Beck Bennett provides the voiceover, and struggles to follow what's going on, who we should be rooting for, and who the hell Greg Amico is. Why is he in the audience/ Is he someone important? Should we care? The sketch was so earnestly ridiculous, we found ourselves totally invested at all the angst. It kind of reminded us of Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," and we're about as eager to tune in.
Tina Fey reprised her Sarah Palin impression to give a musical message to all the characters of the Trump White House. Aidy Bryant joined her as Sarah Huckabee Sanders, imagining her post-WH life, which apparently includes Fox News. Of course, that meant we needed Kate McKinnon's Kellyanne Conway for a verse. Even Fred Armisen's Fred Wolff dropped by, hanging onto his fifteen minutes of fame after interest in his book" Fire & Fury" has faded. Cecily Strong had a verse to sing as Stormy Daniels, followed by John Goodman's Rex Tillerson. Finally, Leslie Jones came out as Omarosa to set the record straight about her firing, and it really did look like a tribute to all these WH players ... the second on the night.
COLD OPEN - Presidential Diner
The first was this Cold Open; a wistful farewell with an all-star cast of some of the Trump administration's favorites running out for one last bow, including Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump, Kate McKinnon as Rudy Giuliani, Ben Stiller as Michael Cohen. Mikey Day as Don Jr., Alex Moffat as Eric Trump and Robert De Niro as Robert Mueller. As quickly as this administration moves, who knows if any of them will still be involved by the Season 44 premiere. The sketch was light on jokes, but it was worth it to see McKinnon's take on Rudy Giuliani, and joke to Cohen, "They even have programs in jail where you can get a real law degree." But the highlight had to be a quick short of Eric parallel parking his Big Wheel outside.
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Alex Moffat returned to his regular parody as Joe Scarborough, alongside Kate McKinnon's Mika Brzezinski and Mikey Day's Willie Geist. McKinnon was absolutely mesmerizing based almost solely on groans and facial expressions as she over-responded to everything Moffat said. Aidy Bryant showed up as Meghan McCain but didn't get a chance to talk at all with Moffat and McKinnon just going on and on until they ultimately dismissed her. Tina Fey followed up as a Russian lawyer to talk about a purported meeting between Don Jr. and the Russians to get some dirt on Hillary Clinton that she said involved a -- what's the American word? -- "bribe." What are the odds we're going to get another summer run of "Weekend Update," as it really feels like the writers are concerned about missing out on so much Trump shenanigans.
MONOLOGUE - Tina Fey
Tina Fey went with the tired "questions from the audience" bit for her monologue, but it was lightened up immediately with the first question. "Do you think the show has too many celebrity cameos these days?" Jerry Seinfeld asked earnestly. She agreed and then cut off Beck Bennett so Benedict Cumberbatch could ask a follow-up. He was followed by Chris Rock and Fred Armisen. Robert DeNiro even slipped in to make sure he was recognizable as Mueller in that previous sketch, "'cause this could be a big break for me." Then Anne Hathaway couldn't believe that that was really Robert DeNiro, and Donald Glover asked about a hat he may have left in the host's dressing room. Finally, Tracy Morgan stepped out with a birthday surprise. It would have been exhausting were the moments not so random and clever at the same time. And we're with Seinfeld. If he only lives a few blocks down, why isn't he on more often?
A fake "Dateline" segment with Tina Fey as the correspondent who catches Beck Bennett as he thinks he's about to meet a prostitute. Everything is going great until she flubs her line and they need to go again, horrifying the would-be pervert in the process. At first, he's horrified that he's been caught, but eventually he's invested in the process and even gives a great, emotional plea. They even call a wrap on him for the production before he gets violently arrested. It's a classic "SNL" sketch that revels in absurdity and defying expectations, but it also knew when and how to get out.
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High School Talent Show
Melissa Villasenor is a goth teen forced into a cringeworthy duet with her PTA mom Tina Fey to Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." Fey came out in full '80s gear, while Villasenor looked she wanted to kill her mother. It could have been a fun little forgettable sketch, but then Kenan Thompson, as the principal, revealed he was sleeping with Fey, which is why he let her run rampant on this performance, and continued to provide commentary of their relationship between the acts. Finally, Villasenor had the song changed to System of a Down's "Chop Suey," which they were able to sing together. Funny and a happy ending?
In this mockumentary, Tina Fey went on and on about how much everyone wanted her to be in the musical, while no one else was really on board with that plan. So of course she strong-armed her way into rehearsal and it was a complete disaster. She has no musical talent whatsoever, and so she decided the best way to express that was with a dig at "Hamilton" creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda. For her offense, he put her in his Burn Book and even started a rap about her, "Let me tell you about this tiny-headed bitch named Tina!" The sketch continued the night's guest star theme by featuring director Casey Nicholaw and co-creator Jeff Richmond, along with much of the show's actual cast, none of whom wanted Fey on the stage with them.
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The guys were in fine form as they tackled the latest developments in Donald Trump, including his reported nightly chats with Fox News pundit Sean Hannity and the one-year anniversary of the Russian probe. Michael Che gave Colin Jost a little side-eye for his use of the word "homey," but the two continue to enjoy a growing rapport, even if it isn't as casual or friendly as Tina Fey with Jimmy Fallon or Amy Poehler.
We were worried that after they showed up in the Cold Open, we wouldn't get treated to a final run for Alex Moffat and Mikey Day as Eric and Don Jr., but they weren't going to do us like that! During the sketch we learned that Eric as a "pornographic" memory and doesn't know what a high-five is.
"Earlier today, 'Suits' actress Meghan Markle married some unemployed dude who still lives with his grandma," Che said, kicking off a non-Trump segment. Before throwing to Kenan Thompson as royal wedding speaker Chicago Bishop Michael Curry. "This must be what it's like to be Darius Rucker," he said of the sea of white faces he spoke in front of.
Finally, they wrapped their segment with a series of jokes from throughout the season that were deemed too offensive to say on the air, and these were bad. Is it wrong, though, that so many of them were also really funny, including one that was the biggest laugh of the night? Comedy is supposed to ride the edge, so we applaud them for letting these see the light of day, even if it's well past their timeliness date.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
It's the season finale, so we're going to do something a little different here. Rather than spotlight our favorite performer of the week, we're going to shine that light on two cast-members who have created one of the strongest duos on the show. This week, they got to share that with us on three different occasions, with two sets of brothers. Alex Moffat and Mikey Day have been stealing every scene they're in together as Eric and Donald Trump, Jr. -- and we got them twice tonight -- but they're every bit as entertaining as brother Princes William and Harry. The comedic timing and chemistry between the two Featured Players is stronger than almost any duo we've seen on the show. They'd be great behind the "Weekend Update" desk, if a need ever arose. So here's a final toast to the both of them, and a hope that they both get promoted to Repertory status for next season.