Saturday Night Live Review: Melissa McCarthy Hosts

Our host tonight is Melissa McCarthy, who allegedly burst onto the scene in 2011″s Bridesmaids, but anyone who tells you that doesn”t know about Sookie from Gilmore Girls and thus probably shouldn”t be trusted. Since Bridesmaids, McCarthy has been a consistent force in the American comedy scene, largely due to her collaborations with director Paul Feig on The Heat, Spy, and the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot with SNL“s own Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Kristen Wiig. This is her fourth time hosting in the last five years, clearly marking her as a favorite among the cast and crew, and it isn”t hard to see why– she tends to turn out memorable characters and her extensive background in sketch comedy lends an air of professionalism and an ability to stay on her toes.

Cold Open: As a group of restaurant diners discuss their likelihood to vote for Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton invisibly enters the room and sings Bonnie Raitt”s I Can”t Make You Love Me. After hearing his name mentioned, Jeb Bush joins in the singing, but discovers being unseen by the people in the room is yet another thing he can”t accomplish. Just as much as Hillary Clinton refused to see any obstacles in her path to the White House until recently, so, it seems, did the Saturday Night Live writers. Kate McKinnon”s impersonation has relied heavily on references not only to Hillary”s intense determination to become President, but also on the perceived inevitability of it all. So just as Hillary has had to reevaluate the way this presidential race will look, so has the crew at SNL. Tonight”s cold open did that by veering left from McKinnon”s typical depiction of Clinton as desperate to the point of near-insanity, instead making her still somewhat desperate but in a more resigned fashion (which really is fairly reflective of Hillary”s shifting attitudes throughout the actual campaign). It wasn”t the best political sketch, but it provided a fun and simple concept, and finished strongly with Jeb!”s closing appearance. This ending provided a perfect way for the SNL crew (who do seem to lean toward Hillary as a candidate) to remind us that even at a low point, Hillary”s still got a lot more going for her than many of her alleged rivals (Poor, poor Jeb. No one”s ever done less to earn a permanent exclamation mark at the end of their name). B

Monologue: Melissa McCarthy puts on a big song-and-dance number to celebrate her official entry into the five timer”s club, only to have Kenan remind her that she”s only technically hosted four and one sixteenth times, as her bit on the 40th anniversary episode didn”t really count. McCarthy consistently brings a high energy to her hosting monologues, with songs, dance numbers, and even aerial fight choreography in the mix. She continued the trend tonight, and though this concept probably would have worked just as well with McCarthy simply talking about her induction into the five-timer”s club instead of putting on an elaborate show about it, she is something of an inherently physical performer, so it made sense. Also, a banana with a face drawn on it wearing a tiny five-timer”s club jacket now officially gets filed away into my “images I didn”t need, but am awfully glad I got to see anyway” list. B

The Day Beyonce Turned Black: This film trailer depicts what happens after Beyonce releases the music video for her black woman anthem Formation, which causes white people across America to find that their beloved star is actually a black person with opinions about race. As a result, chaos ensues across the nation. If any sketch from tonight gets shared on my Facebook feed by some rando from high school this week, my money”s on this one. Out of a fine but not particularly memorable episode, this bit stands out as not only the most shareable, but clearly the best (which would put me in an awkward position of agreeing with randos from high school on Facebook). As Michael Che iterated during Weekend Update, the reaction to Formation hasn”t been quite as controversial as Buzzfeed articles want us to think, but still, the general reaction in certain circles to the unabashed blackness of this new single has been unsettling, if hard to pin down. This sketch explains it in a way that is succinct and satisfying, best summed up in Cecily Strong”s terrified reaction to Bobby Moynihan”s assertion that maybe “this song isn”t for us”: “But usually everything is!” It was over the top in a way that made absolute sense, and it did what good satire should– exaggerated a concept to prove just how ridiculous it is in even in its simplest form. A

Test Screening: After a test screening for a new horror film, participants are shown videos of their reactions during the viewing, revealing that one audience member in particular had some rather extreme reactions to the footage. I think one of the major reasons Melissa McCarthy keeps getting invited back to SNL (other than being an obviously talented comedic actress) is that it has been very easy from the get go for the cast and crew to realize exactly how they could best utilize her talents; in short, give her a crazy wig and a funny sweater and then just let her go wild. Physical comedy isn”t my favorite form of humor, but I will fully admit that McCarthy is a champion at it, and even I couldn”t help but laugh at her screaming while dumping a soda over her shoulder in fear. Then she started projectile vomiting and it maybe veered a little far for me. Still, this was a funny enough sketch and a good showcase for McCarthy”s talents early in the show. B-

Movie Night: A teenage boy and his parents attempt to salvage the awkwardness of sitting through a sex scene together during a family screening of Terminator. Running narration from all three of them keeps us updated on their thoughts. It”s nice when sketch comedy takes an occasional break from the absurd and moves into more banal, relatable material like this, and though this sketch perhaps went on a couple beats too long, it made for a good addition to the night. Each character was clearly defined by their internal monologue– Moynihan as the well-meaning but skeevy dad (“Now they”ll know I have a Mr. Skin account”), McCarthy as the well-meaning but nerdy mom (“I wish I hadn”t started touching Tommy”s thigh again when I brought up the rubbers”), and Pete Davidson and his tiny baby face as the well-meaning but slowly-dying-from-embarrassment teen who, after rambling about how long the guy on screen was lasting and how his parents were probably hot back in the day, finally declares “Ew, what am I saying? I hate the Terminator! Also I”m a virgin, okay see you guys!,” providing a solid ending to this sketch and a much-needed ending to poor Tommy”s night. A-

Weekend Update: Let”s get the most important thing out of the way first: Vanessa Bayer”s Rachel from Friends impersonation is the greatest gift SNL has given us in a long while, and this had better not be the last we see of it. Just like with her Miley Cyrus impression, Bayer managed to take a person I didn”t even realize had exceedingly obvious mannerisms, then imitated them so perfectly that I could never go back to not seeing them. A good reminder that Vanessa Bayer is a treasure we don”t appreciate often enough.

The first of the other two Update guests was Von Miller. Miller is a football player for the Denver Broncos who won MVP at the Super Bowl, and those are all facts I definitely knew before he was introduced on Update tonight because I definitely watched the whole Super Bowl closely and didn”t miss the ending because my sister called me during the fourth quarter to discuss the latest episode of Jane the Virgin. Miller was brought on to discuss the new scientific discovery of gravitational waves, since he studied science in college (“Yeah, I guess you could say that I did,” he replied when Che asked him if this was true). He went on to describe gravitational pull only in metaphors relating to him winning at the Super Bowl (“Now these forces are colliding like gravity waves, like when I collided with Cam Newton, forcing the fumble”). It was a good “athlete being charming by being even halfway decent at reading cue cards moment.” Also I really dug his glasses, so he gets a pass.