‘SNL’ Recap: Martin Short And Paul McCartney

This was a busy, frenetic, enjoyable Christmas episode of SNL, with not only Martin Short and Paul McCartney in Studio 8H, but also Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson, “Nirvana,” Carrie Brownstein, Kristen Wiig, Alec Baldwin, and some dude holding a llama making appearances. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Before the episode aired, I guessed that SNL would handle what happened in Newtown with a flashback sketch, set in 1791 when the Second Amendment was adopted. (Yesterday was its 221st anniversary.) Playing the revisionist history angle, something along the lines of the Forefathers admitting that it was risky to allow American citizens the right to keep and bear arms, but considering it took a minute to load a musket, certainly nothing bad would ever happen. It would have been the least controversial way for the series to make a statement, while offending the smallest amount of people possible.

Well, for better or worse, that’s not what SNL did. Instead, they got the New York City Children’s Chorus to sing a somber version of “Silent Night.” It was touching and sad and probably the right thing to do (the cries of “too soon” would have been deafening otherwise)…and yet, I still wish SNL had handled what happened more head on. Bringing in the kids was a way of acknowledging the tragedy, without actually acknowledging it all.

Again, probably the wise thing to do, and maybe this makes me a monster, but this felt like an opportunity for the show to revisit their long-standing history of F*CK YOU GUNS (and, with all due respect to President Obama, now IS the time to talk about gun control). But they didn’t, and neither will The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, both of which are on break until 2013. Oh well, I guess it’s up to Fox News to provide us with the unintentional humor in “VIDEO GAMES DID IT.” (See, that’s the kind of terrible non-joke we’re left with without SNL‘s take.)

MOVING ON. “Royal Family Doctor” looked to be a disaster when the gap-toothed Short walked through the door, but by the time he got to “her Downton Abbey,” I was pulling a Hader and couldn’t resist from some suppressed laughter. Rupert is the exact kind of caricature of a human being that Short excels at.

Secret shame: I have a soft spot for SNL sketches that exist merely to show’s off the cast’s abilities at impressions, so I loved the sh*t out of “You’re a Rat Bastard, Charlie Brown.” The cutaways to the horrified kids made for a decent punchline, but I could watch Short’s Larry David, Nasim’s Kristin Chenoweth, Hader’s Al Pacino, Taran Killan’s Michael Keaton, and especially Kate’s Edie Falco all day.

As a good little mentsh who’s been to a handful of bar mitzvahs, let me tell you: SPOT. ON. But don’t tell my parents I said that! Seriously, don’t, I was never mitzvahed; it’s a touchy subject.

“Can I do a minstrel show really quick?” Always amusing, but was anyone else hoping for an appearance from either Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, or both?

If “What’s Up with That” was 20 minutes long and appeared in every episode, I would be ecstatic. There’s something about this sketch that does it for me — maybe it’s Kenan’s increasingly sweaty face, maybe it’s J-Suds’ Running Man dance, maybe it’s Fred’s saxophone playing, maybe it’s Lindsey Buckingham. OK, it’s all those things, plus last night’s iteration featured the one-two punch of my secret girlfriend Carrie Brownstein and Samuel L. Jackson, who maybe stopped himself from saying “f*ck,” but definitely let loose a “bullsh*t.” (Kenan’s “that costs money” response was fantastic.) PLUS, there was a breakdancing Tiny Tim.

If this was the final “What’s Up with That?” I’m glad they saved the best for last.

Ultimately pointless and not very funny, but still fun seeing two improv veterans letting their comedic instincts guide them (even if they broke the “Yes, and…” rule once or twice).

“Wonderful Christmas Time” is garbage, but the sketch set-up, with tyrannical Caleb and quietly sad Monty, and specifically McCartney’s surprisingly decent comic timing, slightly redeemed it. OK, that’s not true — the song’s still terrible, but at least he didn’t sing “Ebony and Ivory” with Drunk Uncle?