‘SNL’ Ended The Year With A Rare Apolitical Cold Open About The ’95th Annual Christmas Awards’

SNL Cold Opens aren’t always great. Some are actively bad. The one last week, though, was a rarity: a true epic misfire. It saw the live sketch show taking on a powder keg situation: university students protesting Israel’s continued attacks on Palestine. To say they didn’t handle it well would be an understatement. Original star Cecily Strong even pulled out at the last moment, allegedly because it left her “uncomfortable.”

Perhaps that explains the rabidly apolitical Cold Open that kicked off the final SNL of 2023, a sketch so anodyne that it might actually be worse.

The subject is the “95th Annual Christmas Awards,” hosted by “two people from the E! Network you’ve never heard of,” played by Heidi Gardner and Bowen Yang. That we never actually learn their lines is the best joke of the sketch. The other jokes are all very safe and easy. They hand out accolades for “Most Disappointing Gift Given to a 10-Year-Old Boy” and “Most Unwelcome Uninvited Guest,” whose nominees included “COVID.”

As with last week’s controversial opener, Kenan Thompson swooped in at the end to save the day, not with better material so much as peerless delivery. He played the winner of the special “Bravery in the Service of Their Family” award, winning for “Grandpa Needs Help In the Bathroom.”

“You never want to get that phone call,” Thompson said. “But when you do, you go in there, grit your teeth and try not to make eye contact. I’m horrified to accept this award.”

It’s tradition that the night’s guest host not appear in the Cold Open, but given that this week was lorded over by alum Kate McKinnon, and given that McKinnon does a mean Rudy Giuliani, and given that Rudy Giuliani had quite another wacky week, surely they could have made an exception.

You can watch the SNL Cold Open in the video above.