Our host for tonight is Larry David: a comedian, writer, producer and actor who is best known for his work on Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and most recently, playing Bernie Sanders on this season of Saturday Night Live. He also served as a writer on SNL for just one season in the ’80″s before becoming the force behind television”s most popular sitcom, basically making him this show”s Jennifer Hudson. Let”s see how he fares tonight!
Cold Open: Ted Cruz delivers a message to the American people. Taran Killam”s Cruz impression isn”t quite as studied as his Trump, and honestly I”m not totally sure why they don”t still have him playing Trump, or perhaps Marco Rubio, when they could easily pass Ted Cruz on to Bobby Moynihan, who portrayed him well in last season”s The Rock episode. But Killam is a good enough impressionist that he can play just about anyone if he has to, and he”s fared pretty well playing a man who, let”s be honest, is basically a parody of himself already. I”m not sure if SNL has quite the right handle on Cruz as a character yet– he”s a difficult one to figure out in more ways than one– but they”re on the right track by focusing on his undeniable creepiness factor, with choice lines like, “Take a look at your choices and ask yourselves: which one of these guys would be played by Paul Giamatti?” B+
Monologue: Larry David performs a stand up routine covering his grumpy take on hosting the show, the difference between poor schmucks and rich pricks, and his dating life. Whenever a stand-up hosts the show, even though there is no guarantee that they”ll be able to really act, one can always breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they”ll spend their monologue just hanging out and being funny, rather than trying to literally tap dance their way into our hearts (I mean, the tap dancing part is literal, the into our hearts part isn”t. You get it). David”s monologue was breezy and genuinely hilarious, as he wove his curmudgeonly personality into various anecdotes, from his inability to be a good host (“I don”t put out snacks or dips. I can”t remember the last time I had dips in my house. I have a dipless house”) to his parents” fear that he was bulimic as a child (“Who throws up a brisket? Your mother cooks you a brisket and that”s what you do?!”). Naturally, he ended by telling us he wasn”t comfortable with the typical line of “We”ve got a great show for you tonight.”
“Really,” he announced, “what I should be saying is, ‘The show”s so-so. That way, if it”s good, you”ll be surprised.”” It”s looking good so far, Larry. A
FBI Academy: A cadet at the FBI Academy practices spotting innocent civilians versus threatening individuals in a firearms training simulation, but he is continually thrown off by a particularly strange civilian character named Kevin Roberts. As the sketch concept was introduced, I assumed we were up for a politically-charged bit concerning gun rights and police violence. I have no issue with SNL doing more political sketches in such a charged and ridiculous time for political issues, but I have to admit I kind of loved the bizarre left turn this skit ended up taking. The character of Kevin Roberts was so perfectly, uniquely weird, spewing lines like, “I”m Kevin Roberts and I have a very important question: ‘Can a bitch get a donut?”” until I couldn”t help but crack up at the absurdity. Kenan”s increasingly confused and unsettled reaction (“He said he got to second base and I was like, ‘Who would do that with Kevin Roberts?”) only added to the strange charm of the whole thing. The only part that threw me a bit was the ending, in which Cecily”s instructor character tells Kenan to apologize to the dead creator of the game, who turns out to be Kevin Roberts. I”m not really sure this was a sketch that was meant to have a definitive ending, but this one in particular really didn”t work too well for me. B+
Bern Your Enthusiasm: A Curb Your Enthusiasm parody featuring Larry David as Bernie Sanders in the Larry David as Larry David role. It was an interesting and smart choice for the writers to combine the inevitable Curb parody with the inevitable Bernie impression, and overall it worked like a charm. It was pretty impressive how the writers were able to cram a full episode worth of storylines into one short sketch, with Bernie”s refusal to shake the hand of a woman who”d just coughed, to help a woman who”d dislocated her shoulder in a car accident, and to drink office coffee with 2% milk all coming together when he realizes he”s lost the primaries by .2% of the vote, aka the five people he”d angered that day by refusing to engage with them. Helped along by snappy pacing and spot-on performances by the cast members as various Curb characters (a special shout out to Cecily”s pitch-perfect Susie), this was a fun contribution to the evening. A
Bernie Sanderswitski: As life boats are carried out post-shipwreck to save women and children, a wealthy male passenger complains that he isn”t getting a chance to be saved. He is greeted by a fellow passenger named Bernie Sanderswitski, who informs him of the disparities between the 99% and 1%. Was it a top sketch of the season? No, not really. But did Bernie Sanders present himself fairly well, and were there a few laugh lines? Sure! A largely breezy and enjoyable sketch, this was mostly memorable for its Bernie cameo. The writers struck a good balance between a small focus on Bernie”s politics (“Sounds like socialism to me.” “Eh, democratic socialism”) and a larger focus on his little tics (“What”s the difference?” “YUGE difference.” “Huge with a y?”). Overall, it made for a pleasant first appearance from the senator (but possibly not last– it”s easy to forget just how far we still have to go in this election season, and just how many more political SNL cameos are likely to come. Please, Lord, no Ted Cruz). B
Totino”s Pizza Rolls: A doting wife sings the praises of Totino”s Pizza Rolls as a great snack for her “hungry guys” to eat while watching the big game. But as they continue to shout at the TV, she realizes something is wrong– they”re continually chanting the same football-related phrases to a blank screen without a game on it. Last year”s Totino”s Activity Pack was outstanding, and if they had just rehashed that this year I wouldn”t have complained. But Holy Gilda Radner, this pre-taped sketch was weird and wonderful. The increasingly dead-eyed appearances of the guys watching the game (Beck Bennett”s ability to go completely slack is somewhat terrifying) building to their eyes actually going shark black was a nice touch, and nothing made me laugh harder this episode than Vanessa Bayer”s desperate, “What”s happening to my hungry guys?!” Ending with the revelation of the whole scene being a promo for The X Files could have felt like too neat a bow, but it worked for me here. A