Alec Baldwin reprises his Donald Trump while Fred Armisen and Darrell Hammond join in the fun, but it's Chance who steals the show with one brilliant appearance after another.
He is absolutely brilliant in sketch comedy. On a show of veterans at the art form, Chance still carried the show on his back with brilliant performances almost every single time he was out there. He even managed to command the stage opposite surprise performer Jason Momoa, in a brilliantly twisted role.
Alec Baldwin also marked his return as Donald Trump, joined by "SNL" alums Fred Armisen and current announcer Darrell Hammond, reprising his famous Bill Clinton impression. Seriously, this is one of the best impressionists in the game; "SNL" should really trot Darrell out more.
As for Chance, we're still laughing at his aerial love antics with Cecily Strong and more than a little creeped out at his snack-loving teen in the darkest sketch of the night. A fantastic comedic actor, Chance reminds us of a young Will Smith. He may have started in rap, but the sky is truly the limit for this versatile performer.
Even better, his presence appeared to rejuvenate the cast. Sure, there was a lot of minor breaking on the show and plenty of giggles, but it was just indicative of how much fun everyone was having.
And they had every right to their joy, as this was easily the strongest episode of the season, with Alec Baldwin's return as Trump actually coming in as the weakest sketch of the night ... which isn't to say it was bad. It was just such a strong night of comedy.
As usual, we're ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Monologue, Cold Open, "Weekend Update" and any sketches that were cut for time but made their way online. 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.
COLD OPEN: Trump Rally
Fresh off his appearance opposite AOC and other members of Congress, Alex Moffat brought robot Mark Zuckerberg to Alec Baldwin's Trump rally, alongside a litany of supporters, including gun-toting Aidy Bryant and newly-freed ISIS member Pete Davidson. Darrell Hammound reprised his Bill Clinton and Fred Armisen swung by as president of Turkey in a free-wheeling rally punctuated by an intricately-chanting crowd of extras behind him. It was a fun piece, though it may have tried to do too much simply by keeping up with two weeks of Trump Administration activity. A more focused piece might have been stronger rather than a round-up.
MONOLOGUE: Chance the Rapper
After a great first outing, Chance came back to pull double duty again and offered up a bonus rap for his fans in the form of an ode to the Second City and all the other products and companies and things that are second, like Burger King fries and Pespi-Cola. We just imagine these companies being both happy for the free mention, but frustrated that they were called out for being second best. Kyle Mooney joined in and was awkwardly over-the-top, but the whole piece was actually pretty memorable and fun.
Capturing the awkwardness of high school choir styles and ... well, everything ... Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon again struggled to keep it together as the night of a thousand (cast) laughs continued. But their two-part harmonies were deliciously awful, in their defense. The styles themselves could have been funnier or stupider, but the whole premise worked for a late-in-the-show oddball sketch and the performers definitely committed to its local commercial feel.
League of Legends World Championship
Chance was spot-on as a confused NY Knicks commentator trying to figure out what to say about all of this, while Bowen Yang continues to shine in his debut season, killing it as one of the geek victors who blew Chance's mind when a posse of beautiful girls wanted to go backstage with him. This was a great merging of in-touch awareness of the power of video game culture these days presented from an out-of-touch point of view to offer humor for "SNL" fans on both sides. That's a smartly-written sketch as it allows both sides to make fun of one another, while feeling on the "right" side of the piece.
In "The Ditty of the Damned" all the spirits must tell the tale of how they died to scare the living, but Chance kind of didn't want to. When Kenan Thompson's ghost finally forced the issue, wow did they come up with a twisted, perverted and uncomfortable way for him to have died. Yikes!
First Impressions Court
The premise was as simple as it gets, with Chance as a veteran judge who can make his call instantly upon seeing the plaintiff and defendant. Kenan Thompson fought for the chance to actually plead his side of the case and it did not go well. Things continued like this with other plaintiffs and defendants until Bowen Yang's male exocit dancer actually was enough to break Chance. But that was nothing to surprise guest Jason Momoa coming out as a male gigolo who stole from old ladies, Kate McKinnin in this case. Both he and Chance struggled to keep it together, but the whole bit was so beautifully over the top that it didn't matter.
We loved Colin Jost reacting in almost real time to Trump's latest cryptic tweets as a way into the latest White House antics, like the Republican publicity stunt of storming a closed-door Congressional meeting, Rudy Giuliani butt dialing an NBC News reporter, AOC endorsing Sanders and Hillary Clinton going deep state on a candidate no one has ever heard of.
Then, the Trump boys came out and all was right in the world. Honestly, at this point it doesn't matter what they're there to talk about, the physical comedy is brilliant. Alex Moffat is so good at endearing stupidity, mimicking what Mikey Day is doing and then inevitably getting excited about a pretty basid toy. Who needs Alec Baldwin's Trump when "SNL" has his sons so flawlessly on staff?
MIchael Che reconciled Kanye West's new religious turn by deciding he's not necessarily losing his mind, he's just turning into an old white lady, though he didn't quite nail the landing. After a few misfires, he absolutely nailed the punchline for his Mayflower anniversary joke: "Fool me twice, shame on me." Throughout, it looked like the guys were surprised by some of their own punchilnes, but it actually made the segment a little stronger somehow.
What if you made a mistake at work but your work was in space? Sound like every space movie? This was a one-note sketch with a singular joke so dumb it took it a few repeats to get funny, but by the time Ego Nwodim was screaming "No!" into the phone, each mistake was funnier than the last. It really is that easy to make one of these movies. Just take workplace oopsies and add sudden, catastrophic death.
CUT FOR TIME: Drug PSA
What happened when crack cocaine hit the market in the '80s as a cheapter alternative? Well it turns out at least one just-say-no advocate quite cocaine because of how expensive it was. We loved Kenan Thompson as a Sober Brother who was really interested in this new drug the bad kid was shilling, while Chance tried to keep him on the straight and narrow. The message may have been muddled, but the delivery was spot-on.
The final sketch of the night, and one of its funniest. It seems like Chance and the cast just had more and more fun as the night progressed, and by the end their infectious joy was permeating through the screen like their giggles in the sketches themselves. Kenan Thompson was an absolute delight in this dance studio sketch that saw him lamenting the moon three different times before turning more and more into a werewolf. Yes, the premise was that simple, but he sold it beautifully, as did his oddball dancers each time he had to step off to apply more hair.
Tasty Toaster Tarts
Wow did this go dark in a hurry. A typical teen snack commercial with a potentially deadly twist as Mikey Day, Heidi Gardner and Melissa Villasenor wonder how Chance has so many snacks in his cupboard. Did he... murder his parents? "What's in the fridge, Jason?" "Nobody is," Chanswer answers. Oh, he was so good as a giddy commercial teen with a dark side, pausing for a sinister glance from his snack-list monologue. It even came to a perfect conclusion as he finally found the perfect snack.
Love at First Flight
This may be the best use for wire acrobatics we've ever seen. Chance and Cecily Strong fall in love, causing them to hover about three feet off the ground in a bar and fly dangerously around. The premise is so ridiculous the cast can not keep it straight, but the physicality was so perfect throughout -- even though Chance definitely looked like something was pinching at one point. Cecily was particularly strong in this, attacking everything with comedic gusto and making something as simple as digging through her purse while hovering absolutely hilarious.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Cecily Strong killed it on aerial wires and Kyle brought his awkward charm to several sketches on a night that spread the love across the ensemble. In fact, most sketches had four or more of them in it at one time.
But only one cast member really managed to shine with more than one stellar performance and that's the show's most veteran (not including Darrell Hammond). Ironically, it was the sketch cut for time that put Kenan Thompson over the top as he was hilarious as a not-quite-recovered drug addict.
But no moment shined more for him than his turn as a werewolf dance instructor haunted by the moon and a weird variety of window coverings. It was top-notch comedy from a performer who's still killing it in his 17th season on the show!
"Saturday Night Live" returns next week with host Kristen Stewart and musical guest Coldplay.
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