Our host (and musical guest!) for tonight is Drake, an adorable young Canadian who just makes you want to pinch his precious cheeks, and also a successful rapper. He held his own tonight in an episode that started slow but gained momentum as it went, consistently aided by Drake”s high energy performance.
Cold Open: Chris Christie meets with Donald Trump to give him suggestions for whom he should nominate as his Vice President. These Trump cold opens are starting to feel less like legitimate political satire and more like fiddling while Rome burns. Even the choice to have Darrell Hammond return to play him, rather than sticking with current cast member Taran Killam, feels indicative of where the writers' heads are at: they're still treating Trump as the silly cartoon of the '90's, not the modern threat of today. So this sketch was fine, particularly due to the return of Bobby Moynihan's reliably good Chris Christie impersonation, but it still feels like we're waiting for the writers to find their point of view on Trump, which should not be the case in the season's penultimate episode. C-
Monologue: Drake sings a song about how sad it makes him to see photos of himself consistently turned into internet memes. Any time someone on television actually uses the word meme to make a joke, I picture a room full of old man writers googling, “What are the kids into these days?” But this monologue's meme theme worked, largely because Drake charmed his way through it (Yes, it was another dreaded musical monologue, but those get more of a pass when the host is also the musical guest). Highlights included a quick flash of a meme involving Drake's face being photoshopped onto E.T. in Elliot's basket, and Aidy Bryant moodily wearing a chicken suit because her sketch got cut. Lowlights included NEW GUY being cut to for literally less than three seconds, and not even to make a self-deprecating joke about how sad his whole deal is these days. But then the monologue ended with Drake dancing around the stage as meme letters above and below him said, “When you got a great show and I'm here,” and it was all pretty adorable. B
Car Rental: A couple about to leave on their honeymoon discovers that their rental is not on record at the very disorganized car rental company they planned on using. When the employee helping them calls in his manager, neither of them provide much help at all. This was a strange choice for the first sketch of the night– more chuckle-worthy than laugh-out-loud funny, more mildly entertaining than stand-out. The whole thing might have existed just so that Jay Pharaoh could replace all of his vowel sounds with “ur,” but the good news there is that Pharaoh was clearly having the time of his life doing just that, and his enthusiasm was contagious, even if the sketch around him felt pretty significantly underdeveloped. B-
American Ninja Warrior: A man from a small Texas town ravaged by a tornado decides to compete on American Ninja Warrior to bring a sense of hope back to his community– but his consistent failure at the competition has the opposite effect. Bobby Moynihan functions mostly as a reliable glue guy in the current cast, but when he gets the chance to step up and shine, he does not waste it. I'm not always one for the pratfall school of comedy– every episode of AFV I've ever watched has just made me very nervous about the injuries sustained by each video's hapless subjects– but the sight of Bobby Moynihan trying to run on top of a pool of water brought me pure joy. And it was paired so well with the perfect depiction of the classic reality show dramatic backstory of Moynihan's ravaged hometown. Drake and Beck Bennett did great work as the chipper, bantering hosts Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila, but I sincerely hope Drake's hairline never recedes, because seeing him bald was one of the most frightening sights of my lifetime. A-
Sexy Kinda Evening: An old PBS show hosted by sensual soul musician Dennis Walls and his female backup singers is hindered by the pranks being played by their director, who resents Walls for forgetting his name during rehearsals. There was a lot of potential here, but there was also not a lot of audience laughter, to the point where watching it felt uncomfortable. Points to Drake for giving it his all even when the live audience didn't seem to be feeling it, and negative points to the audience for not laughing whenever Cecily Strong's character asked, “How come is this nasty?” because that was funny, guys. I wouldn't call this one a complete dud– the tiny saxophone gag was genuinely funny, and the physical comedy of the rapidly spinning bed had potential– but the execution just didn't quite work out; the sketch as a whole felt rushed and at times hard to hear, and the premise wasn't established enough early on to lead to ideal results by the end. C
Mr. Patterson: Paul Ryan's assistant suggests a candidate who could replace Trump as the Republican presidential nominee: Mr. Patterson, a grown man with the body of a baby. Baby Boss is simultaneously really clever conceptually, and also just dumb, silly fun. It is one of my favorite recurring sketches, and I don't care wht that says about me. Beck Bennett's baby imitating skills are truly impressive, and pairing this character against Drake's goofball energy worked especially well. Nothing made me laugh out loud more tonight (or maybe this month) than Bennett's panicked reaction of “Where'd he go?! Oh, there he is,” every time Taran Killam held a manilla folder in front of his face to read. A triumphant return for Baby Boss, and the first mark of the episode really picking up for its second half. A