Guest appearances by Jimmy Fallon and Questlove as "SNL" tackles Trump's election denial, Newsmax' support of that denial, and even hip-hop/TikTok culture.
We’re not sure if Timothée Chalamet has a strange sense of humor, or if that’s just how things came down this week, but this was definitely one of the weirdest “Saturday Night Live” installments in quite a while.
Featuring surprise guest appearances by “Tonight Show” mainstays Jimmy Fallon and Questlove -- in different sketches that were both odd in their own way -- we can’t say the night was a total success, but more often than not, the jokes landed with laughs.
Once again, it was the main cast alone in the Cold Open, making us wonder if Jim Carrey and Maya Rudolph are already done as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, or just enjoying some time off? Regardless, it’s nice to see the actual cast opening the show more.
It also gave Kate McKinnon a chance to start working hard on her Dr. Fauci impression (a work in progress), while Heidi Gardner brought a slight daftness to Dr. Birx, which somehow worked perfectly. This week’s show tackled the Covid vaccine, Trump’s election woes and even Dolly Parton’s heroism.
And one of our favorite things happened, as Chloe Fineman offered up her Timothée Chalamet impression on the same show the real Timothée Chalamet was hosting. It’s always a hoot when impression meets reality!
This week saw Cecily Strong add a few more sketch appearances, while Aidy Bryant’s absence continued. Add Kenan Thompson and Chris Redd among the absent this week, and there was opportunity for some of the newcomers to step up, and they all did admirably.
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.
It’s a small world after all! Timothée shared that his mother was a dancer and occasional background player on “SNL” during the mid-1980s cast, even sharing a clip of her almost getting spit on by Chris Farley before cutting to her in the audience. And then, he awkwardly shifted to the piano to do a traditional song monologue all about growing up in New York. It had some cute -- and dark -- details, name-dropping recognizable places and welcoming Staten Island’s Pete Davidson.
Cold Open: Pfizer Vaccine
“We’re doing this vaccine WWII-style. We made England go in first and then we swoop in at the end and steal the spotlight,” is how Kate McKinnon’s Dr. Fauci described the rollout of Pfizer’s emergency use-approved vaccine. She and Heidi Gardner (Dr. Birx) had some fun bits describing things like how to keep the vaccine cold and their distribution plans based largely on regional foods.
Overall, the material was an odd mix of informative and mildly amusing. Even the bras smacking Fauci in the face hit harder than the jokes. Maybe “SNL” realizes that a lot of people are getting their news here, like Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” in the day, so they feel an obligation to make sure that’s at least as clearly stated as their punchlines.
This has to be one of the weirdest songs and sketches we’ve ever seen. After hearing the family was losing the farm, Timothée Chalamet had to say goodbye to his best friend, a literal tiny horse, in song! And yet, we got a glimpse of the bright future that could be ahead -- okay, we’ll admit to being cynical and expecting him to be stepped on at any moment. But his fate lay elsewhere. Seriously, who comes up with this stuff -- and how did they convince Jimmy Fallon to film a cameo?
What fresh monstrosity awaited us in this holiday edition of what’s become a recurring Food Network competition parody. We already knew one of the dishes was going to come to life, but we didn’t quite expect the puckering. Yeah, this one definitely pushed the envelope of decency and good taste, and was incredibly disturbing. Of course, when one contestant actually pulled off her amazing look, the judges and host were nonplussed. Sure, we’ve seen it before, but it’s all so over the top and yet firmly in the gutter, we couldn’t help but laugh along … again.
Pete Davidson and Timothée Chalomet were having way too much fun with this sketch, playing absolute morons trying to “yeet” into a real discussion on the power and influence of hip-hop music and culture. While most rappers have influences dating back to the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, their influence is more TikTok culture and general idiocy. But damn if they weren’t having fun playing it up. Stick around for Questlove offering catharsis for all of us by the end.
A Rona Family Christmas
Covid has affected every aspect of life in America, and it’s definitely left its print on “SNL,” from the masked-up opening credits to constant cold open and “Update” content. But this sketch personified the virus as a middle-class family, complete with daughter Lauren Holt bringing home her “famous” boyfriend, the ‘rona that infected Tom Hanks! We got to meet neighbors, the Herpies, and even their disgraced son who failed to infect New Zealand.
The language of the sketch was extremely clever, breaking down how the virus has spread, taking on Trump’s response and infection, and even exploring some of the common misinformation out there, like COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the regular flu. Once again, it’s like “SNL” has decided to use comedy to try and inform and educate the populace knowing they have one of the largest audiences on television. This time they had more humor mixed in.
This brilliant spoof of Newsmax takes the concept of feeding an audience what they want (even if it’s not based in reality) and applying that to New York Jets fans. It’s a pretty clever way to provide social commentary on partisan news organizations and how they can help foster and push forward dangerous delusions -- to sports fans. Seriously, breaking down a game by showing the Jets were winning after the first quarter and saying that means they won the game is a pretty solid parallel to declaring Trump won based on day-of ballots, dismissing mail-in votes that came in later.
Colin Jost is starting to think Donald Trump may have actually lost the election. He and Michael Che went all in on the new vaccine, Trump’s refusal to purchase 100 million of them in previous opportunities, as well as his refusal to concede the election. And then Che just took some cheap shots at Attorney General William Barr because -- well, because.
To help break down the vaccine, Jost then turned to Kate McKinnon’s Dr. Wenowdis. While the good doctor still Pikachu’d his name in response to all of Jost’s assertions, he also offered a rather scathing -- and accurate -- take on how America has bungled its response to the virus, from the disinterested Federal level to the inconsistent state level down to all the virus deniers who refuse to adhere to any safety guidelines. Even couched in humor, it was still quite a burn, and even the character break at the end was stronger.
After trying to prove to women he was still a catch by sharing Jay-Z’s new marijuana business, Che immediately went extremely juvenile when describing where Biden’s Department of Housing and Urban Development nominee Marcia Fudge used to live. “It’s a thinker!” he insisted, but don’t think on it too much.
Melissa Villaseñor insisted was not dressed as Dolly Parton, insisting it was just a Christmas outfit and “these are my regular big old things.” After denying this was just a bald attempt to get her Dolly impression in the air, she then went right into it while singing Christmas carols, and it is rock solid. We still don’t understand why Melissa doesn’t get more to do on this show. And as good as she is at impressions, it feels like we’ve seen more of them from Chloe Fineman (who’s also very good). Why not pair them up and go crazy?!
Ego Nwodim was absolutely adorable as Dionne Warwick in this reaction to her suddenly going viral for her tweets at other celebrities like Chance the Rapper, The Weeknd and Snoop Dogg. We love that her producer is her niece, who she credits at least in part for her Twitter feed. And throughout, we heard constant commentary about her inexplicable feud with Wendy Williams.
Other than that, this was a rapid-fire blast of guests Dionne had no real interest in interviewing. She didn’t really know who Harry Styles (Timothée Chalamet) was, talked to “Ms. William Eyelash” about other female singers, was terrified of Machine Gun Kelly (and wanted Timothée Chalamet (a giggly Chloe Fineman) to help fix her phone because, “You seem young.” And yet, it all worked under Ego’s consistent portrayal, from mannerisms to Dionne’s unique way of talking.
December to Remember Ad
No one plays inept confidence better than Beck Bennett, and he was simply sublime in this fake Lexus ad as the prototypical holiday commercial dad who buys his wife (Heidi Gardner) a new car for the holiday. Only this one is set in reality and he probably should have consulted her first. From there, the details get more and more outrageous, achieving brilliance in satire when Mikey Day drops in as the neighbor with his thoughts about the car, and the family.
It was also a very good night for the three newcomers to the cast, as Andrew Dismukes, Lauren Holt and Punkie Johnson each appeared in three different sketches. As the season progresses, they’re getting their shot to show they can hack it on the mainstage, which is nice to see.
And while Aidy Bryant remains MIA, Cecily Strong had two key appearances and even the under-utilized Melissa Villaseñor got some notable screen time. Meanwhile, Kate McKinnon continues to be the anchor of this show, while Beck Bennett and Heidi Gardner are emerging as the workhorses.
Heidi is quickly emerging as one of the strongest comedic presences on this show, absolutely owning the fake car commercial, while Pete Davidson seems more committed than ever to the process of the show, performing well in lots of sketches and sliding deep into characters. It’s nice to see.
While we don’t normally just give this prestigious honor to the cast-member who appeared in the most sketches, it was impossible to ignore Beck Bennett this week. Not only was he everywhere, but we got to see so many sides of what he brings to the show.
Like Phil Hartman, Beck is the consummate straight man, with a healthy dose of the ridiculous as needed. He was hilarious as the “Rona” dad, even better as the car ad dad and really sold his crazed Jets fan analyst. Able to to seamlessly go from straight to straight-up absurd, Beck is quickly making a case for going down as one of the best to ever be on this show.
“Saturday Night Live” returns next week with host Kristen Wiig and musical guest Dua Lipa.