Chris Rock, Jimmy Fallon and Kristen Wiig help welcome Sandler back to the fold after nearly 24 years, with a beautiful tribute to the late Chris Farley.
And he brought it with some friends from his time and beyond on "SNL," too, with the surprise returns of Chris Rock, Jimmy Fallon and Kristen Wiig, with the latter creeping up again later in a brilliant sketch cameo.
Adam totally brought back some of his most iconic characters from film and "SNL," though not always in ways you might expect, and gave a touching tribute to "SNL" alum Chris Farley, a larger-than-life personality taken too soon. It was surprisingly poignant while still spotlighting how brilliantly funny Farley was.
Adam was sharper as a performer, more disciplined and more versatile. And the show was smarter, too -- if a little more off-kilter -- with him in the lead.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the rejection of the political cold open. Instead, we got a genre-themed edition of "Family Feud."
Kenan Thompson kicked it off with some of the best jabs at "Game of Thrones" latest episode. "I gotta be honest. I didn't see the last episode," he said as Steve Harvey. "I mean, I watched it, but I couldn't see it."
Later, he cracked a joke about the thousand-year-old Melisandre who ages to her actual years without her necklace, saying he gets her totally. "I take off this shirt and I just puddle out into a poop emoji."
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.
Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney headed this '80s power ballad about clothes being little more than holes for our various extremities. Okay, they said our clothes holes cover our body holes and yeah, this was pretty weird. Adam Sandler came in for a solo verse and it didn't get any less strange. Beck and Kyle often wrap up the show with their stranger content, but it looks like Adam's weird sensibilities pulled this one toward the top. Not sure it was worthy.
Well we didn't expect a life lesson in a silly sketch about Italian vacations, but Adam Sandler pointedly made clear that if you're sad stateside, you'll still be the same sad you in Italy. It was actually a pretty on-point statement about the importance of truly dealing with mental health issues rather than looking for a quick fix via a vacation or something else. It won't fix a faltering marriage or deep-rooted issues. Fascinatingly, it wasn't funny but it was so very true.
All the fake schmaltz of an erectile dysfunction medication ad without the erectile dysfunction pill, just don't tell Adam Sandler. He totally thinks this massive thing is a suppository pill that doesn't dissolve and is reusable. Yeah, that's one way to trick your husband into trying something. There's a lot of fake ads and not all of them are funny, but there's only one Rectix and it totally was.
COLD OPEN - Family Feud
It was a bit of a surprise to see "SNL" reject the political cold open, but if there was ever a week people truly cared about something else, it was this one. Instead, we got a star-studded edition of the "Feud," starring the casts from "Game of Thrones" and "Avengers: Endgame." The whole thing was a lot of ridiculous fun, but extra kudos to the makeup work done on Beck Bennett to transform him into Thanos and the half-assed effort on Leslie Jones to make her Groot. But the real stars were Mikey Day's Tormund Giantsbane and Melissa Villasenor's plucky Arya Stark who checked a huge item off her bucket list recently.
CUT FOR TIME: Chad's Journey
Pete Davidson's Chad stupidly orchestrates his own demise, frustrating the angel who greets him into the afterlife, Mikey Day, with his stupidity. But best of all, it gave us the inevitable performance of Adam Sandler as his father, Brad. And yes, he's basically the same imbecile. How this character has such legs is remarkable, but Pete plays it with such sincerity that he's endearing his own very, very, very stupid way.
Okay, this sounded really unfunny on paper, but then it was so ridiculous it was kind of adorable. Mikey Day was a war-zone reporter reduced to communicating via Snapchat and the filters were making him all chibi. Mikey played it very straight, but the filters were hilarious. Beck Bennett made it even better delighting at every filter, even when Adam Sandler's militia leader warned of blood flowing as a clapping bunny: "He better hop to it."
MONOLOGUE - Adam Sandler
It probably shouldn't come as a huge surprise that Adam Sandler kicked off his return to "SNL" with a song; it was one of his most famous elements when he was part of the cast all those years ago. He sang a pretty funny song about getting fired by NBC alongside Chris Farley, and even brought out Chris Rock to sing the same thing. Then Pete Davidson tried to join in only to be told he wasn't fired. "I wasn't?" he asked. "How is that even possible?" It was a great little revenge moment and he laughed way less than he used to when he was part of the cast.
It was Adam Sandler's turn to be hit on by Kate McKinnon's disgusting and desperate bar patron as Kenan Thompson looked for any escape from the horror unfolding before him. Props to the makeup department for Adam's horrific-looking combover, or should we call it comb-forward. The sketch took a unique twist when Kristen Wiig rise up as Adam's wife ... turns out they're seeking a third. And they are both awful. Bonus points for pulling off a three-way "Lady and the Tramp."
Colin Jost and Michael Che dug into William Barr's "chicken" no-show, the latest in the Mueller report and the most important political news of the week ... what's up with Sonic the Hedgehog's human teeth?
Kate McKinnon then swung by as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was enjoying the crowd a little too much. She then broke down what separates her from the other candidates in her "clown car," namely that she has plans and they have parkour in Starbucks (Beto O'Rourke) and piano playing and fluent Klingon (Pete Buttigieg).
The boys then jumped into the box of random news to trash the Catholic Church, Mark Zuckerberg and poor, poor Peeps. It took the crowd a second to pick up on Che's "transient anus" joke, but once they caught up to him, it was like it was their birthdays.
Finally, Adam Sandler reprised Opera Man after more than two decades away and he may have been sharper than ever. The jokes were flying fast and furious with digs at Biden and Trump and really everything that's been going on, including his own long absence. It was a triumphant and brilliant return.
The whole setup of this sketch was Chris Redd asking Adam Sandler where he gets all his characters from. Then we meet the rest of his extended family and find out. Even better, the family was a little concerned that he was cribbing their style for his movie and sketch roles. Kristen Wiig and Jimmy Fallon rounded out the cast homages in what was a great homage to his ridiculousness.
The only thing that could have made this beautiful song better would be if David Spade had showed up. Anyone who was around during the magical years Chris Farley was part of this show, or even during his short movie career, could feel every bit of heart that Adam Sandler put into this original song about his dear friend, taken too soon following too closely on the heels of his heroes. Chris Farley was a treasure and it was so touching that "SNL" and Adam honored him with such sincerity and humor more than 20 years after his death.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Adam Sandler really brought a sense of fun and family to the night. The cast was clearly excited to have him and the joy they were feeling could be felt throughout the night.
This one came down to a toss-up between Kenan Thompson, Mikey Day, Beck Bennett and Kate McKinnon, as they each had busy nights and played well with their host. But while Beck was probably more in line with Adam's goofball approach to comedy, Kate had funnier moments and more of them than Kenan and Mikey.
Her Elizabeth Warren is always a hoot and she killed it again by proving just how fearless a performer she is with scene chewers Adam Sandler and Kristen Wiig with her recurring "Last Call" bit. And then Brienne of Tarth's terrifying smile put her over the edge.
"Saturday Night Live" airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m .ET on NBC.
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