Well, that was a heck of a show. This didn’t turn into the massive reunion show that a lot of us expected, even though a few former cast members did show up. (I mean, that “Farewell Mr. Bunting” sketch alone.) This was a pretty good season overall with quite a few highs (Larry David as Kevin Roberts, “Space Pants”) and a huge low (Trump hosting) that put an unfortunate early black eye on this 41st season.
And I’ll try to make this short, but this will most likely be the final SNL Scorecard. (I’ve said this before, so you don’t have to believe me.) But it’s been six years. Six years is a long time! A big reason I pitched SNL Scorecard in 2010 was because of “Potato Chip,” which is a big reason I wanted to do such a large piece this past week on a seven-year-old sketch. It just felt, back then, a lot of great sketches were being overlooked in the “Three Skits from SNL!”-type recaps that everyone did back then. I pitched “let’s cover every sketch that airs” to pretty much every website and, finally, S.T. VanAirsdale at Movieline said “yes.” Today, a lot of outlets do this and this is a great thing! Anyway, this paragraph is already longer than I’d hoped but I will add: Covering “SNL” on a weekly basis for six years has been an honor. What these people do on a weekly basis is a minor miracle, every time. (I’ve watched it all come together one week first hand; it really is remarkable.) Also: I’ll still be doing something next season. There’s no way I’d be able to stop cold turkey. It just won’t be … this.
Okay! Sorry about the digression! So, one last time, here is your Scorecard:
Sketch of the Night
“Farewell Mr. Bunting” (Armisen, Davidson, Ensemble) Like there was any doubt. My goodness, the setup in this sketch is extraordinary. When the students stand up on their desks and each say, “I sing my song for all to hear,” it’s kind of actually emotional. And then “it” happens. I screamed out loud, “Oh my God.” I don’t think I’ve ever been more shocked during an SNL sketch. (And when you speak of Mikey Day and Colin Jost, speak well, because they wrote us this gem.)
“High School Theatre Show” (Ensemble) These are always so impressive. Though, I do want to know why Vanessa Bayer and Kenan Thompson’s characters keep coming to these productions. Sure, there are family commitments, but maybe it’s time to start making some excuses. With something like this, it’s hard to top the first time it was performed because it was just so different. Now, it’s not different anymore, but it’s still great. I hope these never stop.
“New Girlfriend” (Bryant, Mooney, Sudeikis, Armisen, Bayer, Bennett) I love how Jason Sudeikis shows up, not to play a returning favorite, but instead as the straight man to Armisen’s Regine. My goodness, I’ve never seen Vanessa Bayer break character before. She’s usually a rock. But, nope, not during this. (Somehow Sudeikis kept it together. Maybe that’s why he was brought back. Maybe Jason Sudeikis is the only human being on Earth who would not start laughing midway through this sketch.)
“Fred Armisen Monologue” (Armisen) I hope Armisen actually does do a one man show someday. Between this and “One Man Show” (one of my favorite sketches of the last few years) with Tommy Palmese, Armisen knows exactly how to perform a fake one man show that feels a lot like a real one man show. If you’ve ever been to a real one man show, you know this is true. I want this to happen.
“Weekend Update” (Jost, Che, Rudolph, Thompson) Jost and Che have become good at this! I say this every week. Then I say that I say that every week. But they really have become pillars of consistency, which any season of SNL desperately needs. It was great to see Maya Rudolph show up. What’s interesting is she didn’t play some sort of classic character. She played Dilma Rousseff, who is going to be in the news more and more as the summer goes on and we get closer to the Olympics. What a mess.
And then there’s Willie. (One of Questlove’s favorites: a character he loves so much he tweets me about it at 4:58 a.m.)
— Questlove Gomez (@questlove) May 22, 2016
This was my favorite Willie. Kenan Thompson had an energy tonight with this character I hadn’t quite seen before. Kenan is the alpha dog at SNL. When you’re around the set, you always know where Kenan is. Anyway, if (if!) this is it for him (I hope its not), I’m glad we got to see one last great Willie.
“Cold Open: Hillary & Bernie” (McKinnon, David, Thompson, Ensemble) What seemed like just your average political cold open (which, yes, the show has had trouble with this year gaining momentum) only with noticeably more energy, turned into something pretty wonderful. I do wonder what next season will be like for Kate McKinnon. Obviously she has a huge movie coming out this summer, Ghostbusters, and of course she will still be performing Hillary Clinton. But it looks like there might be some changes involving her closest collaborators on the show. Anyway, she’ll be fine! But this will be an interesting summer for her.
“Escape Pod” (Armisen, Bennett, Killam, Strong, McKinnon) This feels like the biggest “throwaway” sketch of the night, and even it’s really funny. (By “throwaway,” I mean it’s just not anything grandiose or involves any special guests showing up.) I mean, it’s true, even if you’re the only one who gets to escape, you would want a meal and an in-flight movie. It’s not your fault you have to select all that stuff before the pod departs.
“The Harkin Brothers” (Ensemble) Sure, this is an excuse to get everyone together one last time. Not everything can be that “Goodnight Saigon” sketch from a few years ago. But it was still nice.
“Digital Short: Finest Girl” (Samberg, Bayer, Armisen, Pharoah) So, I have seen Popstar. And the way this song is used in Popstar is pretty glorious. So, I come with a weird bias because the first time I heard this song was in a completely different context and I enjoyed it more than I did here. (Honestly, a big reason is probably just because of all the bleeps. This is a song that really works in a rated-R movie and maybe not on network television when half the song is bleeped out.)
“Expedition” (Armisen, Ensemble) What a weird thing. And its placement in the show is especially weird. To be fair, the studio audience seemed to love it.
Average Score for this Show: 7.46
· Fred Armisen 7.46
· Ariana Grande 7.21
· Tracy Morgan 7.12
· Larry David 7.08
· Elizabeth Banks 6.98
· Amy Schumer 6.53
· Peter Dinklage 6.37
· Chris Hemsworth 6.35
· Brie Larson 6.17
· Ryan Gosling 6.07
· Adam Driver 5.98
· Tina Fey and Amy Poehler 5.90
· Melissa McCarthy 5.79
· Matthew McConaughey 5.78
· Drake 5.75
· Julia Louis-Dreyfus 5.71
· Russell Crowe 5.56
· Miley Cyrus 5.41
· Ronda Rousey 5.09
· Jonah Hill 4.80
· Donald Trump 4.48
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.