For better or worse, this month’s teleccast of the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony was basically a practice run for the new season of Saturday Night Live. Co-head writers Michel Che and Colin Jost served as the show’s co-hosts, many current and former cast members showed up for an odd opening musical number, and god himself, Lorne Michaels, served as executive producer. The question is, did the Emmys operation prepare them for this weekend’s SNL premiere with Adam Driver and Kanye West?
Yes and no.
Che and Jost’s latest “Weekend Update” was jam-packed with relevance. Driver, who previously hosted the January 16, 2016 episode from season 41, was yet again perfectly willing and able to do whatever the writers threw at him. And Michaels, in a repeat of Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller’s surprise cameos last year, evidently flexed his considerable power and influence in order to enlist Matt Damon’s help with the cold open.
Unfortunately, most of the relevance in “Weekend Update” had nothing to do with Che or Jost, not everything the writers had for Driver was great, and Damon’s turn as Brett Kavanaugh — which was brilliantly funny — set an impossible bar for the rest of the episode. Even so, despite suffering from many of the same issues that have plagued SNL in recent years, the Driver-hosted premiere was still populated with plenty of memorable sketches and moments. Here are the five that stood out most.
The Brett Kavanaugh hearing cold open
Matt Damon’s name was a top trending topic on Twitter for much of last night and this morning. Not because the actor had said another dumb thing (or things) about the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, but rather due to his fantastic performance as Brett Kavanaugh during the cold open, which spoofed Thursday’s televised hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. From the Supreme Court nominee’s apparent penchant for boozing to his “beautiful, creepy calendars,” Damon knocks it out of the park.
Kanye West performs as a Perrier bottle
Speaking of Twitter trends, Kanye West, the SNL premiere’s musical guest (who replaced Arianna Grande after she canceled for “emotional reasons”), garnered plenty of attention for what he did during (and after) the live broadcast. Social media was especially occupied by Kanye’s pro-Donald Trump rant at the end of the show, which was unsurprisingly cut. Before that story took over Twitter, however, everyone was talking about Kanye and Lil Pump’s “I Love It” performance dressed as bottled water. It’s weird and totally Kanye.
Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon take over “Weekend Update”
While Che and Jost’s latest “Weekend Update” was one of the recurring news sketch’s most relevant entries in recent memory, said relevance had little to do with the duo’s performance. Instead, it stood out primarily because of back-to-back appearances by Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. David’s turn at the desk was wonderful, of course, but McKinnon’s sultry impression of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Leslie Jones’ hilarious Serena Williams outburst collectively stole the show.
Adam Driver makes Pete Davidson break
One of Davidson’s most enjoyable moments, however, came in the form of his struggle not to break character during the “Career Day” sketch. Featuring Adam Driver as the elderly oil baron Abraham H. Parnassus and Davidson as his son, Mortdecai, the sketch itself isn’t the episode’s best, but the pair’s work in it is astounding. Driver fully commits to playing an utterly ridiculous character whom the writers probably concocted before finally finding a place for him. As for Davidson, he can’t look at Driver without giggling.
Kyle Mooney transforms
Despite the hit-or-miss nature of SNL‘s recent seasons, one of its most consistently wonderful elements has been Kyle Mooney’s digital shorts. A cast member since 2013, not all of Mooney’s pre-taped sketches have made it to air, but when they do, they’re usually pretty great. Case in point: “New Look,” which sees Mooney attempting to completely co-opt Davidson’s life and look. He even gets a celebrity girlfriend thanks to a Wendy Williams cameo. It all ends with a Medieval duel between the two, and no, Mooney doesn’t win.
Aside from these five sketches and moments, SNL‘s 44th season premiere featured plenty of other great bits strewn throughout. Aidy Bryant delivered a hilarious performance as Rachel Mitchell, the female prosecutor brought in by the mostly-male Senate Judiciary Committee to question Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Driver’s monologue about the end of the summer also proved quite poignant. But it also featured just as many duds (*coughs* Fortnite sketch *coughs*).
Che, Jost and the writers have less time to prepare for next week’s episode with host Awkwafina and musical guest Travis Scott than they did for the premiere, which came several weeks after their Emmys gig. Considering the YouTube sensation-turned-actress’ newfound popularity following Crazy Rich Asians, however, perhaps this will give them all the preparation they’ll need to churn out just as many (if not more) hits next Saturday night.