Rescheduled musical guest Morgan Wallen gets the chance to appear in a sketch all about the night of maskless partying that got him booted from the show two months ago.
After being mostly absent for the first six weeks of the season, Cecily Strong made a triumphant return, almost as if in response to the internet’s certainty that she was already punking everyone as one of Rudy Giuliani’s actual election fraud witnesses.
She joins Morgan Wallen, who was originally scheduled to appear back in Week 2 before a night of maskless partying got him booted from the show. “Saturday Night Live” even booked him for a sketch poking fun at his poor decision-making skills, which was both funny and a little odd.
We hope it doesn’t encourage more musical guests to make bad decisions very publicly before appearing on “SNL” in hopes of scoring a sketch about it.
It’s also worth noting that this episode didn’t feature any guest stars for its political opening, meaning the actual cast got the chance to really take that spotlight and showcase what they do. In fact, they were so good throughout the night, we didn’t even realize the lack of guest stars until it was all over.
Okay, there was one guest star, but it was a very brief appearance and a pretty funny one that was, dare we say, two decades in the making!
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.
What a strange and meandering trip down memory lane to the last time Jason Bateman hosted this show, some 15 years ago, paying particular attention to an actual chimpanzee that joined him in a sketch and gave him a bit of a scare during the closing credits. It was classic Jason from the delivery to the twists of the story and even an unexpected dark turn toward the end. We could easily see Michael Bluth sharing this story on an episode of “Arrested Development.” Maybe they should have got Ron Howard to narrate us out of it.
The challenges of life in 2020 as Bowen Yang’s cabaret proprietor attempts to make a go of shifting his business outdoors. The sketch also covered all the ways some businesses try to bend the rules (must serve food with alcohol) to survive during the Covid shutdown. His singing with Cecily Strong’s not-quite Liza Minelli knockoff was reminiscent of a lot of “SNL” characters of yore -- and a lot of variety shows of yore, too -- but the sketch itself never really found the funny in its premise. Rather it just danced around the edges of what could have been good setups that were never fully explored comedically.
Morgan Wallen Parties
Apparently, Morgan Wallen got rewarded for botching his planned appearance earlier this season by going out partying maskless the week of the show with a sketch all about him going out partying maskless the week of the show. At the same time, it’s great to see “SNL” put itself in the spotlight for skewering, as this was a pretty big pop culture moment.
The sketch itself had some funny moments, with first Jason Bateman then Bowen Yang sliding in as versions of him from the future -- though not as far as he might have hoped -- to try and encourage him not to party too hard. But mostly it was about Morgan publicly thanking the show and his fans for giving him a second chance after screwing up. He even wrote-a-song-about-it-like-to-hear-it-here-it-goes. Jason got the best (host-based) joke, though, which was almost worth the price of admission alone.
20 years later, Eminem’s “Stan” gets the Christmas makeover never knew it needed. Props to Pete Davidson for some rock solid parody lyrics, as well as Kate McKinnon and Bowen Yang for sliding into the Dido and Elton John roles, respectively. Not only was the song legitimately funny, but Pete’s unhinged delivery was flawless, escalating perfectly throughout the video. And the props department put together a near flawless recreation of the original music video. We don’t know why we’re getting this parody two decades later but it’s got us jamming like the turn of the century all over again.
As always, Kyle knows how to speak to the awkward weirdos of the world, and this song/sketch about being the guy who “kills the bit” when trying to carry on a running joke speaks a lot of truth to uncomfortable silence. This last sketch spot on the night has kind of been given to Kyle’s unique comic voice, but it’s a brilliant one. Yes, these sketches are awkward, but we imagine Kyle is, too, and he’s definitely not alone in that. Plus, after we’re done cringing, we usually find ourselves laughing.
A reprise opportunity for Kate McKinnon’s young teen Megan to again lie and lie and lie about all the things she didn’t do as Jason Bateman’s dad character details the horrific disaster that started with a menstrual stain and ended with an epic disaster in the laundry. Props to wardrobe and makeup and whoever gussied up Kate with that sudsy hairstyle bouncing in Jason’s face. Her look sold the ridiculousness of what happened just as much as her abject denial of it. It’s a fun bit, even with the same cheesy ending, and Jason (of course) plays straight man beautifully.
Cold Open: Congressional Hearing
It wasn’t quite Girl You WIsh You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party, but it was pretty damned close. From the moment this witness hit the actual stand giving actual testimony for Rudy Giuliani, the internet decided she was some combination of former “SNL” star Victoria Jackson and Cecily Strong’s “Update” character, so it was an expected delight to see Cecily slide effortlessly into the role.
Lauren Holt had nothing to do, but got to say the “Live” line, which was surely a thrill. Kate McKinnon was obviously flawless as Giuliani, but we enjoyed her string of witnesses -- plus Cecily coming back again and again -- including an unexpected callback to a sketch from the last show. Is it wrong to say we’re going to be a little disappointed when the real-world circus calms down and doesn’t give “SNL” material like this to work with?
The boys are clearly loosened up and excited that Trump is on his way out the door, with Colin Jost agreeing with all of Trump’s wild election fraud conspiracy theories and Michael Che bringing out the cringe with his theory on Trump’s terms for a Jared Kushner pardon. Um… gross. It was a fired-up start to a solid segment.
Pete Davidson then slid out to comment on Staten Island’s big protest against indoor dining restrictions. After ripping on his hometown for awhile, Pete then addressed the online outrage that he dare do a table read of “It’s a Wonderful Life” for charity because -- honestly, it feels like the pandemic has triggered random outrage bursts. “I’m famously depressed and have the complexion of someone in a black-and-white movie, he said in his own defense.
Che was able to celebrate Melania’s brighter Christmas theme for 2020, though her “Eyes Wide Shut” look might have been more appropriate this year. We weren’t expecting Jost’s white rage “Hamilton” joke, which made it even funnier. Che then went dark about the 102-year-old woman who survived Spanish Flu and Coronavirus (twice!). It was another light and lively segment.
Heidi Gardner then wrapped things up as her teen movie critic, Bailey Gismert, who’s still totally crushing on Che. Her whole bit was about how you can’t do anything anymore because it’s politically incorrect, from Tom Hanks playing the mentally handicapped in “Forrest Gump” to having plastic bags in “American Beauty.” And then we learned her film crush and it’s ... even more disturbing than Che. She has this character down so well, we can picture parents of teen girls just cringing and nodding along throughout like, she gets it!
This was another of those unexpectedly poignant and touching -- still hilarious -- messages about parenthood that “SNL” has done so well lately. This time, it was three daughters talking to their mothers about how the pandemic means they won’t be able to come home for dinner. Punkie Johnson really got a chance to shine as Ego’s mother, while Heidi and Kate were perfect as the other two mothers falling apart in different ways at the thought of their daughters not coming home. After a whole lot of drama, it wrapped up with a very sweet result and message that left us surprisingly moved. Who knew?
Sometimes stupid is just funny, and that was definitely the case here. Santa (Jason Bateman) and Mrs. Claus (Cecily Strong) were in giant inflatable balls for Covid safety, but really it was just an opportunity for a lot of chaos and physical comedy. A little slow to start, but we were definitely laughing out loud by the end when they took out Mikey Day and Melissa Villaseñor. And huge props to everyone for just going with it, because we’re almost certain they had way less control of this one than it might have looked … and it looked like very little control.
Chloe Fineman was tied for most sketch appearances with Pete Davidson, though hers were all more in the supporting role and he took the lead as “Stu” and himself on “Update,” not to mention his manic stoner with Morgan Wallen.
But we got more memorable work even than that out of Heidi Garnder, both as Update’s teen critic and one of the distraught moms with Punkie Johnson and Kate McKinnon, Kate, as always, was stellar and consistent, bringing back Rudy Giuliani and cracking us up as teen disaster Megan.
But she doesn’t score the top prize this week as we have to throw all our appreciation to the returning Cecily Strong, who kept it going all night long. First, she slayed as Giuliani’s crackpot election fraud witness, followed by an unhinged lounge singer and then her brilliant physicality as Mrs. Claus in a ball.
One of the show’s best-ever sketch performers, we’re thrilled to have her back, for however long that might be. We’ve long theorized this bloated cast may thin out by year’s end -- and especially if the Trump circus starts winding down.
With the longest-tenured non-Kenan cast-members all being women, we actually suspect having Kristen Wiig host the last show of the season might be their perfect way for any and all of them (Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant) to ride off into the sunset alongside a modern “SNL” legend.
Or maybe we’re overthinking everything. We’ll find out in two weeks!
But first, Timothée Chalamet takes the reins next week with musical guest Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.