Our host for tonight is Jonah Hill, appearing in his fourth hosting gig in just twice as many years. When it comes to hosting, Hill is like one of those basketball players who”s around for forever, and is consistently good, but not necessarily an MVP (This is the time where I would mention an actual basketball player if I knew anything about sports, but one doesn”t become a TV recapper by knowing things about sports). Basically, I was a little surprised to see that Hill is only one hosting gig away from joining the elusive five-timer”s club, but as I watched his past episodes in preparation for tonight, I could see why– he”s a good character actor and thus can bring range to the brief roles he gets in sketches, he breaks approximately once an episode but never more, and he always seems genuinely grateful and excited to be there. All in all, he”s a fun presence, and I”m excited to see what he brings to the show tonight.
Cold Open: A CNN recap of the last week in election news includes clips from Trump”s and Clinton”s stump speeches, and interviews with Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney. The Presidential election is moving more and more rapidly (and, depending on who you ask, more and more frighteningly) with each passing week, and sensibly, the writers chose to address several of the past week”s stories, rather than focusing on just one, in a CNN roundup for tonight”s cold open. Acknowledging that things are much less trainwreck-level interesting on the Democrat side these days, the sketch only included a brief cut to Hillary, discussing how she can bring America together, just like she brought “ten black people and one Muslim person together behind me tonight for this speech!” (No Bernie representation in the sketch, though. Could that be because SNL is a tool of the Democratic elite who are choosing to suppress Bernie? More on that coming tomorrow, from my Facebook friends I met at liberal arts college!).
On the Republican side, the focus went to Donald Trump (“everyone loves me: racists, ugly racists, people who didn”t know they were racists”), Ted Cruz (“When I beat someone it hurts because I still wear my big ugly class ring; That”s right– I”m one of those guys”), and finally, a welcome return from Jason Sudeikis as Mitt Romney, with the best line of the sketch: “For the last nine months, I”ve sat down and watched Donald Trump say something every day that was either racist or sexist. And we in the GOP, the party of the great Ronald Reagan, do not say racist and sexist things. We imply them, subtly, over decades and decades of policy.”
It was a cold open that made sense at this point in the election cycle– more of a catch up on recent happenings than any specific plot idea– and with a few stand out lines and Sudeikis”s return, it provided an entertaining opening to the night. A-
Monologue: After a brief sparring with Kyle Mooney, Jonah Hill brings Future onstage, then joins him in a performance of Jumpman in which Hill happily takes over the Drake parts. If you were wondering why exactly Jonah Hill is the host this week, he came prepared to explain: “It”s been a big year for me. I had a starring role in the Hail Caesar trailer. I saw Deadpool opening day.” Yeah, he”s probably just here because the staff seems to like him. But he showed why they keep asking him back with a fun and breezy monologue, starting with a tiff with Kyle Mooney (Mooney: “What”s it like being a movie star? I mean, can you ask one of your friends?” Hill: “That”s really funny, Kyle. I love your videos that you make. They remind me of how much I miss Andy Samberg”), and ending with an impromptu but very voluntary performance by Hill of Drake”s verse on a Future track (“No, you can”t say any of the n words,” Future explained. “No, of course, not, I never say them,” Hill responded. “Even when you”re alone,” Future clairifed. Cue uncomfortable pause from Hill.). Yes, it ended with a musical number, but one that worked a lot more smoothly than anything involving the cast coming out in some sort of ensemble involving a top hat, so I”m not complaining. B+
Racists For Trump: An advertisement for Donald Trump begins like any other campaign ad, showing Americans hard at work discussing why they find Trump the best candidate. But slowly, the people are revealed to be taking part in obscenely racist activities, from the woman at the ironing board lifting up her KKK robes, to the woman printing a page at work pinning it to a board covered in photos labeled “Muslim.” DAMN; right out the gate, SNL. Any takedowns of Trump on the show this season have had a bit of a hypocritical air to them in light of his earlier hosting gig (#neverforget #jkforgetifyoucan #deargodpleaseforget), but tonight was the most viscerally cruel yet. In fact, this season of SNL thus far could serve as a pretty good capsule example of liberal America”s reaction to Trump (namely: “WHAT?!” “This is funny” “This is funny but also pretty scary” “This is terrifying” “ONLY GOD OR HILLARY CAN SAVE US NOW”). Should SNL have been calling out Trump”s racism much earlier– say, before they gave him a hosting gig? Sure. We all should have. But better late and scathing than never at all. A
Fond du Lac Action News: A news report from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin includes information on the potential of the latest snowstorm to cancel the Winter Carnival, the weather woman”s newest purchase of a Lincoln Navigator, and the sports reporter”s inability to watch more than one game this week as he was dealing with his troublemaking son. There was nothing very special about this sketch, and I can see how it might not go down as a favorite, but it worked for me anyway. In the same way I couldn”t help but laugh whenever the recorded phone conversations on Making a Murderer involved Brendan and his mother just repeating the word “Yeah?” up to ten times before saying anything else (I”m sorry, I know it”s a tragic story, but I”m only human, and Wisconsin accents are funny!), this sketch got me in the way that it nailed down the weird repetitive speech patterns of the Midwest. Also, shoutout to Cecily Strong who is a consistently solid performer and held her own in a pretty basic sketch, particularly with her recounting of Wisconsin conversations: “My friend Janet works at Labatt goes to me, ‘There”s gotta be a solution,” I go, ‘Well, what is it?” she goes, ‘I don”t know,” I go, ‘Okay.”” B+
The Champ: A high school wrestler who just beat an undefeated opponent arrives home with his fellow jocks and cheerleaders after what appears to be the perfect day. But when he sits down with his parents to watch the evening news, he finds that the top story is about how the community came together to convince his opponent to let him win, as they all felt bad about what a loser he was. This was one of those sketches that just got bigger and bigger as it went on, which worked really well in some ways and not so great in others. On the more negative side of things, the interviews with the school janitor about how Hill”s character consistently threw away his poop-covered pants and kept a pumpkin with a hole in it in his locker as a girlfriend felt like grossness for grossness” sake. But I will admit to laughing out loud at Vanessa Bayer as Hill”s mom responding to his shock that he was the lead news story: “I know! And that”s nuts, because the neighbors were murdered tonight. . . And a celebrity did it.” “Who?” “Eric McCormack from Will and Grace.” It was all so very specific, which tends to at least elicit laughter from shock, if nothing more. All in all, it was a weird but funny entry into this season”s digital shorts. B
Oak Ridge Senior Auction: A high school auction raising money for a senior carnival is crashed by a Middle Eastern King”s servant, who is determined to outbid everyone to procure performances from a YouTube-popular band and a couple of Vine stars, of whom his employer”s family happen to be very big fans. Oof. I think this was an idea that could have gone places– the initial shock of seeing Hill”s character pledge so much money for a high school garage band performance, then explain the band”s connection to Middle Eastern royalty, was deserving of a chuckle, but nothing after it could sustain that initial laughter of surprise. And the description of the teens at hand and their hobbies felt like it was written by the Fuller House writers in a desperate attempt to connect with the youths of today (“What are the kids into?” “Youtube!” “Vine!” “Emojis!” “I bet they”d totally spell dunks with an x instead of a ks! These kids today are crazy!”). Again, there was something to the idea at hand, but not nearly enough to make it deserving of this early spot in the show. D+
Weekend Update: Our first Update guest tonight was Girl You Wish You Hadn”t Started a Conversation With at a Party, and she was in fine form, eagerly discussing the plight of African women who “have to walk three miles just to see Zootopia” and trying to “real quick sing all of Hamilton” for a frustrated Michael. With American politics in such a place of insanity right now I wouldn”t have minded a few more presidential election-centric comments (you know she”s Feeling the Bern), but Girl You Wish You Hadn”t Started a Conversation With at a Party“s appearance was, as always, a delight.
For the next segment Che and Jost cut to Vanessa Bayer interviewing 110-year-old woman Flossie Dickey, proud owner of America”s greatest name, as well as star of last week”s greatest and most uncomfortable viral video, in which Dickey refused to engage with a reporter beyond telling her how very ready she was to take a nap. Kate McKinnon could exclusively play old ladies and I would not be disappointed, so she was expectedly great here as Dickey, and Bayer”s slowly mounting frustration turning into rage as the reporter interviewing her was a nice touch.
The last guest of the night was Jay Pharaoh, who was in fine form with a murderer”s row of impressions as he described the latest annual meeting of black comedians (taking place in Eddie Murphy”s personal bowling alley, obviously). If anyone had forgotten what a talent Pharaoh was, they got a pretty great reminder tonight. Pharaoh is honestly one of the more talented and varied impressionists SNL has ever seen, and he proved himself yet again tonight in a bit that was perfect for a little deserved showing off.
Murder Mystery: At an old-timey party, a butler reveals that someone has been murdered, and one of the party attendants must have committed the crime. Everyone claims an alibi except one man, who the other characters slowly realize was the perpetrator of the strange sounds and smells they heard coming from the bathroom earlier, though the man himself is reluctant to admit it. Two-time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill would like to remind you that no matter how important he gets, he is not now, nor will he ever be, above a poop joke. Listen, we”ve all been five years old before. Poop jokes can be funny. But also I watched all of Hill”s old episodes today in preparation, and I”m pretty sure there has been a poop-centric sketch every time he”s hosted. Plus there was a lot of poop talk in that “The Champ” sketch. What I”m saying is, there are other wells to return to, you know? I will admit that I laughed a few times at this one, particularly at Kate McKinnon”s Daisy from Downton Abbey-inspired accent and Cecily Strong”s brash American broad character (“And we were in the library having intercourse on the table! I”m not ashamed, I”m an American!”). And when Hill tells a poop joke, he commits (I will admit to LOLing– as popular YouTube band The Emojis would say– at his reply to “What is the state of the bathroom at this time?”: “Oh my God, not good!”). What I”m saying is, I liked this one a bit in spite of myself. But also, two-time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill, maybe dream bigger next time. C-
Inside SoCal: Two friends from Southern California host a low-rent talk show about the SoCal lifestyle, touching on their friend”s new baby, their old classmate Jessica Cabarra”s breast reduction, and the foreign nature of Indian food. Well, I already revealed with the Fond du Lac sketch that I”m a sucker for a good imitation of a weirdly specific American culture, so I”m a natural target for the Inside SoCal videos. SoCal bro talk is the Valley Girl speech of a new generation, and Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett, and Jonah Hill have their fingers on the pulse in a frighteningly accurate way. The stunted delivery of their thoughts on their friend”s new baby (“Congratulations” “For sure”), Jessica Cabarra”s breast reduction surgery (“I don”t know homies, this is one of the least baller situations in recent memory”) and “world news” (“Indian food, have you ever had it? It”s not like hamburgers or Mexican; it”s more different”) perfectly captured the empty-headedness of modern-day California bros. B+
Silver Star Catering: A group of business associates working through dinner are served by a new catering company, whose employee insists on loudly and graphically describing to his boss over the phone how much the clients loved their food. There”s not much to say here. Jonah Hill uses a funny voice to more and more elaborately insist that his clients love his food. It”s funny for about 45 seconds, then slowly becomes more and more grating, and even mildly offensive when he insists on describing the clients as “raping” the food (Let”s leave those jokes to the Daniel Toshes of the world, yeah, SNL?). It overstays its welcome, even though it”s one of the shortest sketches of the night. It is fine, I”m not mad I watched it, and I will have forgotten its existence by next week. C-
Quotes, Extras, and Final Thoughts
Bobby Moynihan beautifully captured Chris Christie”s dead-eyed look standing behind Trump during his stump speech, with the nice added touch of repeating, “Yes sir, thank you sir, please sir may I have another” like he was a character in a horror movie (which, if we”re being honest, he essentially is).
Mitt Romney describes his preparation for his anti-Trump speech: “I rolled up my thousand-dollar monogrammed sleeves, I took a couple shots of non-alcoholic Kahlua, I did ten women”s push ups, and I went out there and I gave the most aggressive, passionate, well-measured anti-Trump speech I could.”
Kyle Mooney greets Jonah Hill: “Hey Jonah, medium fan here.”
Cecily Strong”s Fond Du Lac reporter”s first best friend was Korean, she explains. “She didn”t speak a word of English, but she had a stand up pool. She always brought me, like, weird gum to school. And you know, I think her sister kinda drowned herself in that pool and, uh, that”s why they, uh, moved away.”
Am I the only one wondering if “Tigers forever” was a subtle “Texas forever” Friday Night Lights reference? I am? Well. A girl can dream.
On the night”s second-biggest news story in The Champ, Cecily Strong reports: “And Eric McCormack is back in the news and get this– it”s twins! That he murdered.”
THOUGHTS ON THE MUSICAL GUEST: Future held his own in the monologue tonight and seemed like a fun guy. I really enjoyed that big fur vest he was wearing, and also his swaying dance moves. And The Weeknd came back for a song! He sounded good, and his hair continues to entrance me. THIS HAS BEEN THOUGHTS ON THE MUSICAL GUEST.
Several good jokes on this week”s weird new discovery in the OJ Simpson trial during Update tonight, but my favorite was Michael Che”s “With Ben Carson dropping out [of the Presidential race], this was not a good week for black guys who may have stabbed people.”
Colin Jost on Trump in the news this week: “Donald Trump went on record and guaranteed that he doesn”t have a small penis. First of all, congratulations. Just to America. Second, I want to point out that if women have a problem with Donald Trump on a physical level, penis size is not even in their top ten complaints. You don”t hear a lot of women say I”m pretty much there on Donald Trump sexually, just waiting on that dong measurement.”
Tonight, Colin Jost described Ted Cruz as a fat dracula and now I will never unsee it.
Speaking of Jost, Flossie Dickey is from Spo-CAN, not Spo-CANE. Eastern Washington expects an apology for your East Coast Ivy League ignorance.
No appearance tonight from Adam Grossman, Hill's recurring character of a six-year-old Benihana-frequenting Borscht-belt style comic that has appeared on every other episode he's hosted. That's too bad, because Adam is a weird, reliably funny character.
Next week, Ariana Grande pulls double-duty as both host and musical guest! Here”s hoping they only block her on her good side!