The "Crazy Rich Asians" star steps into her weirdness as "SNL" tackles the #MeToo anniversary, Trump's presidential alert, Ted Cruz and the Halloween season.
Awkwafina is edgy and hilarious in her own stuff, but she seemed mostly toned down throughout her debut appearance on "Saturday Night Live."
The "Crazy Rich Asians" star came to life the most during a baby shower sketch later in the night, while her first appearance outside of the monologue offered very stiff line deliveries, telling us she got more comfortable as the night progressed.
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Impressively, the show tackled the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation vote both in the cold open and during "Weekend Update," so you know they were hustling to finish writing this show up to the last minute. Sure, it was a safe bet he'd get in, but still it was an impressively fast turnaround, giving them the first comedy response to the news.
They even addressed their own controversy, with Pete Davidson returning to the "Weekend Update" desk to talk about Kanye West's off-script pro-Trump rant that drew rave reviews from the president (who hadn't seen it) and looks of discomfort from the cast before they edged off the stage.
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.
Okay, this sketch was pretty stupid and we're still trying to figure out how it was the first sketch of the night after the monologue. Two dance crews come out and compete, only one of them did so with game show themes. The problem was none of the dancing was particularly memorable for being good or bad. Even the addition of Travis Scott as a Mariah Carey backup dancer who apparently only dances with his arms didn't inject anything into the bland bit. The theme songs were the only joke and it wasn't funny enough.
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MONOLOGUE - Akwkafina
"I was gonna come out dressed like a water bottle, but apparently someone did that last week," Awkwafina cracked at the top of her monologue, poking fun at her name. She cracked a few jokes about her grandma possibly watching the wrong network tonight and her dad sounding like Trump, and admitted she was more a "Rebuilding My Credit Asian" than a "Crazy Rich Asian." She then took a moment to credit Lucy Liu's hosting of "SNL" back in 2000 as a pivotal moment in her young life, redefining what might be possible for an Asian-American woman. Awkwafina's incredibly dry delivery kept her jokes from hitting quite hard enough; she needed more time to draw you into her approach to see funny the way she does, and she just didn't have it.
This obvious sketch had a cute twist ending that made it fun. The bulk of it was about the kind of nonsense Trump could send through the Presidential Alert system, namely the same kind of things he tweets about only even more inane and pointless. But the twist was that the whole thing was a Cricket Wireless commercial, because their service is so bad you won't even get the alerts. Suddenly, you might find a reason to want awful service. The whole bit was executed well enough, with good reactions from the cast, but there wasn't anything fresh at all until that closing moment, which kept it from being a totally lazy sketch.
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What if Cleopatra had modern-day stylists? It turned out as weird as it sounds, with Cecily Strong taking on the Cleopatra role while Awkwafina led a team featuring Kenan Thompson's Xerxes and Kate McKinnon's Becky. Yes, it was weird anachronistic moments like that that actually made this work at all. When Xerxes showed her a vase with her picture painted on it, she demanded he delete it, which he did by smashing it to the ground. This was a History Channel special, which added another layer of funny because you can imagine that it's the network's fault this is so historically ridiculous. By the end, Cleopatra was bickering with Alex Moffat's Caesar and it was all a little too twee. But mostly, the sketch had no real punch at the end, which would have been nice.
New York Film Festival
Marion Cotillard (Cecily Strong), Allison Janney (Heidi Gardner) and Sandra Oh (Awkwafina) are joined by Debette Goldry, one of Kate McKinnon's most ridiculous characters. She wasn't as outrageous as in previous appearances, but she's always a fun counterpoint to add levity to discussions about #MeToo and issues of sexual harassment in Hollywood. But without any ridiculously over-the-top stories or antics, the whole sketch fell a little flat.
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COLD OPEN - Kavanaugh Confirmation
"SNL" kicked off its night with a wild "locker room"-style post-game interview for the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation, so either they threw this together in a hurry or they anticipated the result. Honestly, it's probably the latter as it was pretty evident how things were going to go down. The whole thing was fun, though they could have leaned a little more into how awkward and angry Heidi Gardner must have been as the female reporter interviewing the exuberant GOP. Beck Bennett was a lot of fun as Mitch McConnell, complete with prosthetic neck he tried to suck his chin all the way through, but McKinnon still hasn't quite found her take on Lindsey Graham, even with some of the best lines. "This was for the fans," McKinnon said of the protesters. "And I know they agree with us because they were all shouting #MeToo!"
So You're Willing to Date a Magician
This sketch mostly worked, despite the fact Pete Davidson couldn't get through his lines and both Awkwafina and Leslie Jones broke several times. All four magicians were funny and uniquely different, though Alex Moffat and Heidi Gardner as a brother-sister team who go everywhere together was particularly humorous. We're not sure what Davidson was supposed to be doing at the end when he crawled over to Awkwafina and popped up, but it was just weird. Was he supposed to do another self-harm gag? As it stood, the ending deflated what would have been one of the night's strongest character-driven sketches.
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The Pumpkin Patch
It's a good thing this aired late in the night, because it was totally about boning pumpkins. Mikey Day confronted three of his employees at a pumpkin patch after they got caught doing the deed, egged on by Awkwafina, and had to fire them all. It was uncomfortable and funny, but then took a turn to creepy when he left them with a parting gift of a trunk full of pumpkins. Like ... ew! But despite our best efforts to believe we were better than this, we did laugh.
Cecily Strong invited her dog walker Deedee (Awkwafina) to Heidi Gardner's baby shower because she's so cool. And she totally had Cecily's back as the only single one in this group of friends. We loved that Cecily was both put out and so arrogant and cocky, calling herself the cute one in the group. Then Awkwafina wanted to get rid of all the baby stuff to make her feel better ... at a baby shower. We're not sure what her strategy was smacking the balloons around -- one hand was holding a slice of pizza -- but it was rather pointlessly funny.
Ted Cruz Hype
It was the awkwardness that made this sketch work, with Kenan Thompson and Awkwafina working as an enthusiastic hype team for Ted Cruz (Beck Bennett). Cruz immediately set off feedback in the mic multiple times before breaking it. He even flopped dribbling a basketball and shooting off confetti. The message was clear, there is no way to make him look fun and hip. He even broke his own nose trying to dab. It was short and sweet and kept the laughs coming from top to bottom.
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"50 is the lowest number of votes for a Justice in history, but keep in mind it's also the most yeses Kavanaugh has ever heard," Colin Jost said, going for the low-hanging fruit. Again, though, props to "SNL" for being this timely with their content. He then called out Kavanaugh for lying under oath during the interview, saying, "That's like cheating on your wife during the wedding." The jokes were sharp and funny, with a brilliant "Law & Order" parody of the proceedings. Then, Michael Che asked if the five GOP women who voted for Kavanaugh were hostages. This is when "SNL" can shine, when it's bold and biting in its satire and jokes.
Everybody's favorite bros -- at least this version of them -- dropped by "Saturday Night Liberals" to talk about their plans for the upcoming midterms. As always, Alex Moffat and Mikey Day absolutely slay in these characters, with Moffat's Eric a particular delight responding to and reacting to everything day's Don Jr. says. When Don suggested they could tell jokes, Eric chimed in with, "What did the gay, black, Jew--"
Michael Che had a great callback to the jokes about Trump's "scary times" for young men in America quote as they moved on to other topics. They poked fun at Starbucks baristas complaining about hypodermic needles (they use them as stirrers at 7-Eleven), gay penguins stealing a baby penguin, and a kid barber. Spoiler alert: they suck.
Finally, "SNL" addressed the elephant in the room, with Pete Davidson reflecting back on Kanye West's impromptu pro-Trump speech. First up, he said they'd considered having Michael Che do it, "because Che's black, but I'm crazy and we both know which side of Kanye is at the wheel right now." He called it one of the most awkward things, "and I've seen Chevy Chase talk to an intern." It was a pretty blistering attack on Kanye's behavior, with Davidson suggesting that he just take his medicine. "Being mentally ill doesn't give you permission to be a jackass," he explained. It was both funny and well reasoned. West deleted his Twitter and Instagram accounts before "SNL" on Saturday, as reported by TMZ, so any response he may have remains unknown ... for now.
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK
The guys had the strongest night, with Beck Bennett's Mitch McConnell working really well, and both Mikey Day and Alex Moffat slaying as Don Jr. and Eric Trump on "Weekend Update." Moffat was also hilarious as half of a brother-sister magician duo and douchey Caesar, while Day played it straight in one of the night's most uncomfortably funny sketches, "The Pumpkin Patch" and Bennet was funny again as hapless Ted Cruz.
But we have to give the edge to Moffat for his clueless Eric Trump. This week, he was terrified by Day's exploding fist, and the way he kept eying it after only added to the conviction of his performance in the role. Then, his interactions with the puppet were just perfect. This is one of the funniest impressions in the history of the show, and Moffat always nails it.
"Saturday Night Live" continues next week with host Seth Meyers and musical guest Paul Simon, Saturday at 11:35 p.m. et on NBC.
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