Oh, man, when was the last time SNL felt so dangerous? A couple points about this: first of all, we are always told that the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players from the show’s first season were “dangerous.” And if you go back and watch some of those sketches, there are ample examples of why. (Just alone a sketch in which Chevy Chase says the n-word in front of Richard Pryor and Pryor responding “dead honkey” is pretty dangerous.) And I certainly don’t blame SNL now for not being consistently “dangerous.” It’s hard to be “dangerous” when you’ve become the establishment.
(As an aside, I love that the term “Not Ready For Primetime Players” came as a dig toward Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell, which featured its own comedy troupe called The Prime Time Players. And I love The Prime Time Players were Bill Murray, Christopher Guest, and Brian Doyle-Murray, who would all have stints on SNL. I found this so fascinating I once tried to do a piece on this show, going so far to track down a producer. We exchanged emails back and forth for a couple weeks, then he stopped responding. It’s been two years now without a reply, so I can safely assume this isn’t happening now. Alas.)
I think SNL has a tendency to think it’s being “dangerous” by letting someone like Donald Trump host. With the thought process being something like, “Oh, he’s controversial.” But the reality is, the more controversial the host – especially when it’s a politician – the safer the show seems to be. And aside from all the controversy surrounding the Donald Trump show, it was just bad show. He was a bad host and it was objectively bad television.
It’s when SNL books someone like Kristen Stewart – who does not give two fucks (and proved it by saying that word during the monologue) – that SNL can actually try to be provocative. And maybe if anything good actually came from the Donald Trump-hosted show – and don’t let anyone pretend that every single cast member and writer, who have nothing to do with the booking process, heard about that show – is that maybe the people at SNL don’t feel like they are the establishment anymore. Depending on who you talk to, some may feel like they are still hated by some segments who will never forgive them for Trump. So in that case, what do they have to lose? And that’s the kind of attitude that can lead to a show like the one we saw Kristen Stewart host. Was she the best host? No, but she was loose, which made the cast loose, which made the show seem like anything could happen at anytime. Even “Weekend Update” was a complete mess, but at least it was a fun mess where it felt like anything could happen. And then not to mention Melissa McCarthy showing up like a force of nature as Sean Spicer to knock the whole thing out of the park.
This was objectively good television.
Sketch of the Night
“Sean Spicer Press Conference” Like an unannounced whirlwind, Melissa McCarthy just shows up and knocked everyone down who dared stepped in her way. This was a master class in political sketch comedy. McCarthy took two weeks of Sean Spicer’s angry nonsense, squashed it into concentrate, then released it in some sort of crazed hellfire on national television. This was a sort of salvation for anyone who’s dared tried to make sense out of a Sean Spicer press conference. And, my gosh, the look on Bobby Moynihan’s face when McCarthy’s Spicer tries to explain the word “ban.” Also, I don’t know how the cast kept a straight face when McCarthy picked up her podium and started driving it into the press pool. I hope SNL gives McCarthy the Alec Baldwin “show up all the time” deal. This sketch was a force.
“Totinos” See, this was a prerecorded sketch and it even felt dangerous in the fact that we didn’t know where this would wind up. My favorite visual was when it would cut back to “the hungry guys” and we could still see what was going on in the kitchen, only without the score and fancy camera work. Beyond being a great comedy sketch, this was also really well filmed – and I wish this would play at film festivals.
“Kristen Stewart Monologue” What was great about this is how much it looked like Kristen Stewart just wanted to be there. This should not be taken for granted! And SNL did a nice job of giving Stewart a platform to go through all the times that Donald Trump has tweeted about Robert Pattinson (which, frankly, is very strange), then telling Trump he wouldn’t like her because she’s “so gay.” See, we didn’t know where any of this was going. Then of course she drops an f bomb, because it just wouldn’t have felt right unless she had, right? It really set the tone of “Well, I guess anything can happen tonight.”
“Cold Open: Oval Office” I do think the cold opens are now actively written to get under our current president’s skin. As of the second I’m writing this, he hasn’t tweeted about SNL yet, but we all know he won’t be able to resist. I love it when he makes it through Sunday morning without tweeting about SNL, because it’s just eating him up inside. Then by the afternoon he can’t resist anymore and it all comes flowing out. It’s funny, usually the political sketches die down after an election, but now we’re actually getting more of them. This is just how it’s going to be. It’s going to be exhausting, but it will sure as heck make these shows interesting. Though, I do suspect Steve Bannon isn’t offended by the fact he was played by the Grim Reaper, or whatever that costume was supposed to be. This is a guy who has already compared himself favorably to Darth Vader and Satan, so I really doubt he’s feeling too bad about this one.
Average Overall Score for this Show: 7.38
· Dave Chappelle 7.44
· Kristen Stewart 7.38
· Tom Hanks 7.35
· Lin-Manuel Miranda 6.99
· Margot Robbie 6.95
· Aziz Ansari 6.82
· Emma Stone 6.46
· Casey Affleck 6.37
· John Cena 6.17
· Kristen Wiig 6.12
· Felicity Jones 5.97
· Benedict Cumberbatch 5.73
· Emily Blunt 5.45
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.